2017 Kawasaki Z900: First Look
- Mar 31, 2017
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Bologna dove corre la passione (Italian for “Bologna, where passion runs”) - is the motto Ducati swears by. And that’s what, Ducati says, is the driving force behind the new Monster 821.
Passion certainly is what drives Monsteristi – fans of the Monster - who have made it the single highest selling Ducati model, accounting for nearly one half of Ducati sales worldwide. Muscular, aggressive looks accentuated by the exposed engine and trellis frame are the trademark design cues of the Monster.
And that design, complemented by raw appeal and performance, has continued for years over various models of the Monster since it was first introduced in 1993. The new 821 is no different and carries forward the Monster name and appeal, but in a new guise with all the tech bells and whistles of a modern motorcycle.
The 821 - at least the one to be sold in India and Asia - however, is not manufactured in Bologna. Like all Ducatis to be sold in India, it will be made in the factory in Thailand - the only Ducati manufacturing facility outside Italy. The 821 then, will be the “premium entry” Monster replacing the 795 and 796, which are no longer in production and will be available at special offer prices till stocks last.
And as Ducati looks to make a new beginning in India, it is again the Monster - which the company hopes - will create a new breed of Monsteristi, this time on Indian shores. As David James, Ducati Asia Marketing Director, puts it – the 821 will seduce new riders and expert riders alike to fall in love all over again with the Monster.
So, what’s new on the 821?
Well, it’s all new – new engine, new chassis, new ergonomics, and a host of electronic rider aids only available in the much more expensive Monster 1200. Aesthetically, the 821 carries forward the all-muscle legacy of the Monster family quite appropriately, but now it looks even bulkier with a bulging 17.5 litre tank.
Ten-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels – the same design as the Panigale and the Multistrada – shod with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber with racing derived profile, are said to even increase damping capability.
The powerplant is a new Testastretta 11 degree 821.1cc L-Twin (Ducati-speak for V-Twin), which makes 112PS at 9250rpm and maximum torque of 89.2Nm at 7750rpm. We’ll get to what these numbers mean soon, but what’s to be noted is that valve clearance checks on the engine need to be done at 30,000km, so there’s no headache on major maintenance to owners. And Shell Advance Ultra engine oil with PurePlus technology (developed by Shell with technical partner Ducati Corse) allows oil changes at 15,000 km intervals.
Those apart, other significant technical features on the 821 include a new throttle body with full ride-by-wire technology, which provides torque at low and mid rpms. Then there’s the wet clutch – with a slipper function enabling aggressive downshifts, say on a corner, without wheel lock up and a light feel at the lever enabled by reduced spring tension.
Swing a leg over the Monster 821 and you are greeted with friendly ergonomics. The standard seat height, at 810mm, is comfortable enough for my average height. Of course, it can be reduced to 785mm as well, after removing a couple of screws and a plastic mount under the seat.
For riders over six feet and even for shorter riders, the 821 could be made more manageable with accessory low and tall seats, increasing the range from 745mm at the lowest to 835mm at the tallest if needed. The 821's wide, flat handlebar has been pulled back and higher than earlier Monsters, making it less aggressive and even touring friendly.
Switch on the ignition and the neatly laid out LCD display comes to life, displaying the rev counter at the top of the display with a large read out for speed with displays below for fuel consumption, odo reading, ambient temperature, engine temperature and the three riding modes – Urban, Touring and Sport. The riding modes can be selected with the indicator kill switch; short press to choose, long press to select. Of course, these can be further customized with different levels of ABS and Traction Control settings.
Flip the engine kill switch to ‘on’, thumb the starter and the Monster rumbles to life, and the note on the stock exhaust in a 2-1-2 layout is quite meaty and bassy when revved. I like the sound, and it suits the Monster’s looks, particularly when given a dose of the right wrist.
We roll out through the morning traffic of Chiang Mai and the Monster doesn't feel unwieldy or uncomfortable in 30-40kmph speeds around town. On Touring mode, you would assume that the bike would have smooth and well-behaved power delivery, but even with small inputs on the throttle, the 821 lurches ahead with urgency. Extended periods in bumper-to-bumper stop-go traffic however, is not quite what the 821 will be happy about.
The pull of the torque is quite agreeable indeed, pulling cleanly from low and mid revs, while negotiating traffic on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. But it's on open roads out in the countryside where the 821 comes into its element. It loves to be revved hard and 5000rpm in top gear is good enough to set a steady 125-130kmph cruising speed.
The first 125 odd km of the ride was ridden on the Touring mode, and although throttle response has been toned down on Touring, compared to Sport, it does provide adequate juice to keep you entertained, and of course, there’s no power restriction on this mode, giving you access to the full 112PS of the engine.
After the first stop, I switched over to Sport mode, which allows crisper throttle response and the least electronic aid intrusion. Touring is adequate, but Sport is where the fun begins and throttle response is cleaner and crisper, and give the throttle a wring and the 821 feels even more responsive and rears ahead with more urgency.
Newer riders may find the throttle response a little too much, because the front does tend to get light when revved through the gears, and the front wheel certainly feels willing to head skywards, if desired.
For beginners and new riders, Urban mode is recommended, because it limits power to 75PS, and both traction control and ABS are set up higher to provide a safety net.
Apart from the standard three riding modes, the Ducati Safety Pack also provides four separate levels of ABS, with 1 being the least intrusive and 4 being the most. Similarly, Traction Control gets eight settings – Level 1 with least electronic interference and Level 8 with the most and providing the most safety for newer riders.
On Touring mode, ABS is set to default at Level 2 and TC at Level 4, but of course, these can be customized further according to individual preferences, and turned off completely, if one so desires.
Through the sweeping curves and tight twisties of northern Thailand, the 821 begs to be revved harder. This is a bike which likes being revved, and 5000 revs and above is where all the fun is, although those used to smooth in-line motors may find it a tad vibey at higher revs, but that’s just the nature of V-Twin motors.
The steel trellis frame, attached to the cylinder heads of the L-twin, provides stability and a level of confidence, which is quite commendable. And it’s a good thing, because even newer riders will appreciate this sense of stability and confidence the 821 inspires.
The roads we are riding on don’t quite provide the kind of broken tarmac we encounter here in India. But even then, the suspension and tyres work well to provide adequate cushioning and grip over uneven surfaces and undulations on the shoulder.
The suspension is a bit on the stiffer side, so I’m not sure about the level of comfort over extended periods in broken terrain. But this is a bike which will bring a grin every time you whack open the throttle and hear that rumbling L-twin note.
The Monster 821 will be launched sometime in mid-June, in the region of around Rs 9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). So that pits it squarely against the likes of the Triumph Street Triple and the Kawasaki Z800. The Monster 821 will be available in two shades – Ducati Red and a matte black Dark Stealth.
It’s a sexy looking motorcycle from all angles and I would any day prefer the stunning Ducati Red over the matte black paint scheme. It’s a Ducati, and combined with all the advanced electronic rider aids, performance and stability, the Monster 821 indeed makes a very good case for itself. So, get ready to seduce and be seduced, by the new Ducati Monster 821.
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