Monsters are generally feared, mostly portrayed as colossal beings adamant on destroying the world. But sometimes a handful of them come along that are revered as heroes, or even gods for that matter. They are no less intimidating or fear inducing, but you know they are one of the better guys, like Godzilla for one and the Ducati Monster for another. These days, the name ‘Monster’ is synonymous with Ducati. Since the first M900 came along in 1993, the naked–for the lack of a better word–monster has enjoyed a cult status across the world. It is a favourite among riders and the custom bike brigade alike. This year, the icon turns 25 and when I was handed the keys to the new Monster 821, the smile would’ve put Godzilla’s set of ivories to shame.
Rosso Corsa is the colour of choice for most fast Italian machines, even Ducati. But I have to admit, the Monster 821 does look dashing in yellow. The beautifully contoured tank, which harks back to the original M900, along with the blacked out Trellis frame and the almost raw metal shade of the exhaust manifold give the motorcycle a menacing look. Its aggressive stance is accentuated by the low set bars, thick USD forks, blacked out alloys and that snugly-fit L-twin engine. The headlamp features a DRL strip similar to the one on the 1200. Above the main lamp sits a full-colour TFT screen which displays all the information you’d ever need.
The rider’s perch is well rounded and the height adjustable from 785-810mm. The tail ends with a cowl on the pillion seat, also finished in yellow, below which sits a black twin-pipe stainless steel exhaust with aluminium end caps, also inspired from the bigger 1200.
Sitting on blacked out 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, the bike is shod with super grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIIs (120/70 up front and a 180/55 at the rear). No matter where you look at it from, it looks absolutely stunning.
Heart of the Monster
The engine on the Monster 821 is the same as before. The 821cc L-twin Testastretta makes 109PS of max power at 9250rpm and 86Nm of peak torque at 7750rpm and comes mated to a 6-speed gearbox. While most of the power sits at the top end of the rev range, the 821 does offer strong mid-range torque. It also comes with three riding modes - Urban, Touring and Sport - along with an 8-level Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and a 3-level Bosch ABS systems as standard.
All engine and rider aid configurations are completely customisable via the toggle switch and the indicator cancel switch on the left switchgear. However, there are preset configurations for each riding mode as well.
Thumb the starter and the engine wakes up with a grunt and quickly settles down at idle, which can best be described as a badly malfunctioning generator. Going off the line in Urban mode, the response from the the ride-by-wire throttle is borderline lazy. Also, in this mode the bike reduces the peak power to 75PS and a flick of the right wrist barely sends the tacho past 2000rpm. It’s as if the engine and throttle seem to be relaxing on a beach chair and prodding them to go quicker is almost met with a frown and a scowl. Though, with its easy throttle, Urban mode is geared towards navigating slow moving traffic, but is rendered rather unusable because of the typical characteristic of the Testastretta. The 821 seems to have an unbridled hatred towards riding in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Below 3000rpm and at a crawling pace, it feels jittery and jerky. And you have to constantly give your right wrist a twist to avoid stalling. The engine heat in traffic is quite unbearable as well. Therefore, the best course of action is to find an alternate route and leave the traffic behind.
That is where the Touring mode comes into play. It gives the rider access to the full 109PS but it’s delivered progressively, which gives you better control over the throttle in moving traffic. You can choose to wring it, and it responds immediately, but it is far from vicious. When you eventually find yourself on an open stretch of road, you can close the throttle and toggle through the modes and select sport and unleash the true fury of the 821cc Testastretta.
In Sport mode, the Monster 821 shows its true colours. The throttle response is neck-snapping and immediate as the bike lunges forward. The revs climb with renewed purpose and you are engulfed in a throaty symphony from the exhaust, complete with burbles, crackles and overruns. The only way to cope with the acceleration is to crouch on the tank and hold on to the handlebars. And as the revs climb past 6000rpm, the whole bike tingles and vibrates. But don’t get me wrong; it is by no means an unpleasant sensation. You can barely spot anything in the mirrors but you don’t care. The Monster feels alive and so do you.
The 6-speed gearbox now features taller gearing, allowing you to hold on to gears a bit longer. It has also made the engine much more tractable, especially in moving traffic. You can leave it in second (or even third) and forget about it. The bike can pull away from 20kmph in third and from 50kmph in sixth with relative ease. There is an initial protest and judder but it settles down quickly. The mileage too is adequate, it can do around 300km on a full tank of fuel if ridden cautiously with a few fun stints in between.
That said, my favourite mode was Touring as it was the perfect mix of power and poise. It gives you all the power to play whilst leaving a small room for error, whereas Sport mode takes no prisoners. You have to be on your toes all the time.
Chassis and Suspension
Like all Monsters, the 821 uses an exposed Trellis frame setup that not only looks good but provides ample chassis stiffness as well. It has also been one of the key contributors to the Monster’s handling prowess over the years. As the frame is linked to the cylinder heads and uses the engine as a stressed member, it offers increased torsional rigidity. It also adds to the vibes a fair bit, but the handling trade off far outweighs the discomfort.
The Monster uses a 43mm USD fork at the front and a preload adjustable monoshock at the rear, which can be helpful when you have a pillion on board.
Monster A Go Go
Let’s start with the seating position first. The rider’s triangle is spot on. The seat is well rounded and comfortable, while the footpegs are perfectly placed for a balance between a sporty and a relaxed riding position. Plus, there is ample clearance to really lean into corners. The pillion seat, too, is spacious and comfortable. The handlebars are just the right distance from the seat so you can ride upright or lean on the tank without much of a compromise on comfort.
With a wheelbase of 1480mm, it feels compact enough and the front rake of 23.4 degrees is superbike sharp, which is partly why the front end feels so sharp at all times. Add to that an incredibly stiff chassis and you get a bike that filters through traffic like a KTM 390. The flickability is almost telepathic and with Touring mode on, it can zip through gaps most motorists wouldn’t even consider.
The suspension setup, though, is on the softer side which translates to a pliant ride at sedate speeds, especially in the city. Out on the highway though, uneven surfaces at speeds above 80kmph do tend to unsettle the bike a fair bit. It doesn’t glide over undulations the way we would’ve liked and the wallow intensifies in the corners with a pillion on board. On smooth tarmac, however, the Monster is an absolute beast to ride. The front stays glued to the tarmac like a strip of Velcro, thanks to the supremely grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIIs. You get a feeling of almost endless traction. The bike constantly eggs you to go faster, lean lower and power sooner out of corners. Even when you think you’re at full lean, there is still space to push a little further. The more you push it, the more confidence it inspires, and even with the DTC set at 1, it never runs out of grip. Plus, the slimmer tank gives you space to move around a fair bit and hang off a bit more, which adds to the rider’s confidence. Honestly, you’d have to be an utter tool to upset the bike.
You get a feeling of almost endless traction. The bike constantly eggs you to go faster, lean lower and power sooner out of corners. Even when you think you’re at full lean, there is still space to push a little further. The more you push it, the more confidence it inspires, and even with the DTC set at 1, it never runs out of grip. Plus, the slimmer tank gives you space to move around a fair bit and hang off a bit more, which adds to the rider’s confidence. Honestly, you’d have to be an utter tool to upset the bike.
As for the brakes, it comes with a twin 320mm M4 Brembo setup up at the front with semi floating rotors and 4-piston calipers, while the rear gets a 245mm double piston setup. The brakes are sharp, progressive and provide plenty of feel. The brake lever is adjustable for travel and the slightest of taps from the right finger plummets speed instantaneously.
The 821 comes with a 2-year/unlimited km warranty with service intervals between 15,000km or 1 year. The Desmodromic valves clearance check is due every 30,000km and the average service cost per year is approximately Rs 28,000, which, in our opinion, is quite affordable for an exotic Italian motorcycle.
While the 821 is cut from the same cloth as the Monster 1200, it is a much friendlier animal. It is the ideal bike for novice and intermediate riders who are just starting out their journey towards really powerful motorcycles. It balances outright performance with a friendly nature and has a progressive learning curve, which would help riders improve their riding skills. Having said that, it can be equally potent in the hands of experienced riders as well. The handling is properly sporty and the rear set pegs and a relatively higher seating position translate into some mad lean angles. The limited suspension adjustability might put some off, though. In my opinion, the 821 can be an ideal touring companion. It has a large enough tank, a strong mid-range, offers a fairly pliant ride and has a seating position comfortable enough to ride all day. Barring the heating issues in traffic, it’s very difficult to fault this friendly monster.
Yes, at Rs 9.51 lakh ex-showroom it is a bit more expensive than the Triumph Street Triple S, which is priced at Rs 9.30 Lakh. But for its immense Italian flair wrapped around an extremely potent package, it’s definitely worth paying Rs 21,000 more.