Ducati Monster Test by Vicko, Images by RbMotoLens
Confession time. Even though I’m yet to own one – I’m a fan. It probably began in my teens when like many others I was captivated by Foggy and Frankie banging bars with our Aussie Troys. In fact a Ducati was arguably the first road bike that I lusted after.
Thinking about it more now, pretty much every Ducati that’s ever rolled off the production line has been distinctly different in one way or another from most other manufacturer’s offerings. While they’ve made the occasional mis-step from a design perspective, they’ve mostly been confident enough to break new ground and/or go their own direction.
Looking at the current line-up for instance – they have some incredible bikes. The Panigale, Superleggera, Multistrada and Hypermotard in particular would all have a spot in my shed in a heartbeat.
So when I look at the new Monster, I must admit that I don’t really know how to feel. Remove the Ducati stickers and to my eyes at least, it could be built by any number of brands. It doesn’t seem distinctive, or to have much in the way of any uniqueness about it. It certainly doesn’t look to have any Monster (or Ducati) DNA and seems quite busy and disjointed overall.
The trellis frame is no more – as the engine is now a stressed member which allows for a thinner mid section. To me that is a bit disappointing from a styling point of view.
I get that they’ve redesigned this bike with more of a youth market in mind, and that thinner mid-section is going to be slightly more user friendly – but I’m just not convinced by the styling. The old bikes weren’t exactly fatties…
Anyway, enough of my sentimentality and subjectivity. What’s it actually like?
Let’s start with some quick specs for those not familiar.
It packs a 937 cc L-twin pumping out 111 hp and 93 Nm – don’t call it a V-twin or the purist will come at you with pitch forks.
Tips the scales at 166 kg dry – 18 kg less than the previous model.
Nice low 820 mm seat height.
Steering circle of 5.3 m.
$18 and a half grand plus ride away.
So on paper – it sounds like the ideal urban commuter. A light, mid-size naked twin with solid mid-range and thoroughly usable geometry. At a tight price for a Ducati too. Those bean counters have been at work. It still seems odd thinking of a 937 cc twin as mid-size mind you, but there you go.
Throw a leg over and you immediately notice the size of the bike. It really is tiny. Not cramped tiny, but surprisingly compact. How they manage to pack almost 1000 cc of twin cylinder donk into these modern packages still baffles me.
The lack of weight is noticeable wheeling it around. It’s super light and easy to manoeuvre when parking or getting on and off. Usability gets a big tick there. Riding position is good too.
Bar-seat-peg layout is comfortable, quite upright as you’d expect. Seat feels quite firm and flat. More-so than it looks. So it’s not designed to be a tourer. Mind you – a range of about 250 km puts a limit on that anyway. I don’t think you’d want to spend more than a few hours in that saddle. My butt was telling me that two hours was enough.
Start it up and it’s almost un-Ducati quiet. Quite socially conscious this one. That twin muffler set-up with its positively tiny outlets is begging to be replaced with something else, that lets a little more boom-boom out.. You won’t be relying on that exhaust note to alert drivers of your presence that’s for sure.
The dash lay-out seems a bit cluttered and small in comparison to my recent experience on the Speed Triple, and the dash controls aren’t entirely intuitive either. It’s usable once you get used to it, but there are plenty of better executions out there.
It has a lap timer in there too… and launch control which seems a bit gimmicky for this type of bike, but ok. It has those but no cruise control. I know which would be more useful.
As per most bikes these days it comes with multiple ride modes – Sport, Touring and Urban. All seem to give full power but dial up or down rider aids like down traction and wheelie control and ABS as appropriate. Sport mode allowed wheelies. So… that’s where I stayed.
Ease the clutch out and the first reaction is one of surprise. It’s certainly got some torque for a little bike. What a lovely driveline. Pulls smoothly off the bottom and tractors along just off idle. Fuelling is near perfect. Get it up in the meaty mid-range around four grand and it’s giving you some good shove.
Bearing in mind that peak torque arrives at six and a half grand, it revs freely all the way through the top end too. Though in practise you rarely need to use it. Keep it above three grand in that meaty mid-range and you’re motoring along just fine. No doubt that low overall weight helps make the most of that output.
It’s a right doddle to loft the front on. Second gear, a little throttle hesitation then full gas is all that’s needed for shenanigans – and it’ll hold it up for at least another two gears… Which is always going to get a tick from me.
The gearbox is an absolute delight too. Slipper clutch and quick shift are lovely. Great lever feel and the shift is smooth, positive and faultless. It doesn’t matter if you’re at closed throttle, part throttle, full throttle, front wheel up or down – this thing finds the next cog for you and never misses a beat. It’s mint.
All in all the driveline is nearly faultless. Brakes too are terrific. Brembo four-piston monoblocs seem like perhaps a bit of overkill, but the pad choice is perfect and it’s not overly aggressive in any way. Lovely feel and plenty of power.
Around town the Ducati Monster is entirely user friendly. Heaps of steering lock for ducking in between cars at lights and the suspension soaks up little surface changes just fine. It’s quite softly sprung and tuned to the comfort side more than performance.
Steering is natural and intuitive, it tips over nicely and overall feels agile yet completely composed when cornering. On smooth roads it’s everything you’d expect.
Out on some of our more ‘ordinary’ Aussie roads however, the level of suspension spec’ starts to be shown up. It doesn’t like big bumps. Both the front and back end do very little to dampen decent hits. Find a pot-hole when upright and that force kicks you straight in the backside and goes up your spine. I took a few brutal whacks on my road loop in the Otways.
And hit something mid-corner at even a moderate lean-angle and it gets, well – things get busy pretty quickly. That line you were on? Yeah you’re not on that any more, you’re on another one. It’s not exactly confidence inspiring even for more experienced riders.
I didn’t feel like I wanted to trust it to really have a proper crack at my local twisties after I took the first couple of hits and had the bike react that way. Which was a major downer. Perhaps the bean counters, tasked with keeping costs low on an entry level bike, have pulled things back a step too far with the build spec’ on this one.
Admittedly I’m a bit past my prime in terms of weight, but I’m still under 90 kegs. Perhaps a lighter rider would fare better..?
Now traditionally Ducati would have an ‘S’ model, with better suspension and maybe a steering damper that could transform this bike, but that doesn’t seem to be available at this point. Which brings me neatly back full circle.
Even after having it for some time, this is a bike I really don’t know how I feel about. Such a genuinely lovely driveline, but it’s hamstrung by what is underdone suspension. And if the design brief is aimed at younger, less experienced riders, I’m not convinced that’s the compromise they should be making.
I like the Ducati Monster 937 because
A lovely, torquey usable engine. Gobs of mid-range torque.
That gearbox is a delight.
Small, light, incredibly user friendly to ride around town.
Likes a wheelie too.
I’d like the Ducati M937 more if:
That suspension wasn’t quite so underdone at both ends – it doesn’t handle big hits at all.
Subjectively the styling seems a little.. un-Ducati?
…as does the exhaust note.
2022 Ducati Monster Specifications
Testatretta 11°, V2 – 90°, 4 valves per cylinder, desmodromic valvetrain, liquid cooled, 937 cc (57 cu in)
Bore x Stroke
94 mm x 67.5 mm
111 hp (82 kW) @ 9,250 rpm
9.5 kgm (93 Nm, 69 lb ft) @ 6,500 rpm
Electronic fuel injection system, Ø 53 mm throttle bodies with Ride-by-Wire system
Slipper and self-servo multiplate wet clutch with hydraulic control
Wayne loves all things motorsport, but lives for two wheels. Mountain bikes, dirt bikes, adventure bikes, road bikes, race bikes, the lot.
An ex riding coach and road racer wannabe who simultaneously ran out of talent and money.
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