Ducati Monster 821: Review
- by Arun Mohan Nadar
- Oct 3, 2016
- Views : 18911
The new Ducati Monster 821 gets the benefit of electronic goodies, improved cycle parts and, of course, more power
“Release the clutch cautiously and go easy on the throttle,” these were the instructions given to me by the Ducati sales representative as I left the showroom to ride the first big bike of my life in 2010. I must admit, I was nervous and excited, but the scorching heat emitting from the engine, heavy clutch and leaned-forward riding posture, in conjunction with Mumbai traffic, was making me sweat like bricks. I started to question why everyone used to go gaga while talking about performance bikes when they are so difficult to ride in the city. My question was answered when I saw an empty patch of road and rolled the throttle of the blood red Ducati Monster 796.
I felt as if someone has kicked me in the chest as the Ducati accelerated in the rate of knots and I struggled to hold onto the handlebar. This euphoria of speed lasted for just a few seconds but it had me addicted for a lifetime with that dose of adrenaline. Since then, I have been privileged enough to ride some fantastic examples of motorcycle engineering in my journey with ZigWheels. But the bike I was about to ride and review was special as it’s the successor to the first big bike I rode – the new Monster 821. With the Monster 821, Ducati has tried to make its most popular motorcycle more suitable for daily use. Have Ducati tamed the Monster too much in pursuit of practicality or does it still possess that wow factor associated with the older bike? Let’s find out…
Design & Features:
The Ducati Monster can be credited as the forefather of the modern naked motorcycle. The large fuel tank, mass-forward design proportions and the petite tail section was what made the original Monster click among the masses since 1993. The new Monster 821 also carries forward this design lineage, albeit in much more petite dimensions. One is welcomed by the oblong-shaped headlight which now gets LED daytime running lamps integrated into it. The bulbous fuel tank shape has been carried forward which give it a butch and mass forward appeal without the use of tank extensions. The trellis frame, although much smaller than its predecessor, has been draped in red and flows beautifully with the overall design.
The burly L-twin motor adds that aura of muscle while the tail section is a neatly sculpted unit with a LED tail lamp. A vital design change on the new Monster 821 are the conventional side pipes instead of the under seat unit as seen on its predecessor, and twin swingarm. While modern streetbikes are adapting a sharper design language, the Monster 821 continues to adopt curves and is more Monica Bellucci than Kate Moss. Overall, I feel the designers have been successful in capturing the Monster aura while updating it with modern touches. The new motorcycle also features a completely redesigned all-digital LCD instrument console. The large screen has a white backlight and is easy to read on the go and under direct sunlight.
It displays a plethora of information like ride modes, speedometer, tachometer, odometer, engine temperature etc., but misses on gear position indicator. Switch gear quality is impressive but the same can't be said about the overall finish. The wiring could have been better hidden and the hose running from the cooling system looks crude and very much un-Italian. Paint quality is impressive but few of the plastic panels rattled. The media bike that we rode was provided with the optional rear seat cowl which is easy to put and remove with the help of an Allen key.
Engine and Performance:
Among the major changes on the new Ducati Monster 821 is the introduction of an all-new engine. Understandably so, power figures have seen an increment – 114PS and 90Nmof peak torque. Starting the powerplant comes with its own set of drama – flip the knob on the handlebar and underneath sits the starter button. Push it and the L-Twin jumps to life with a thunderous note. My experience with the Monster 796 had somewhat made me sceptical but I was in for a pleasant surprise. The clutch felt unexpectedly light and I was riding the bike without any trouble despite the Ducati dealership being located in one of the most congested part of Mumbai. I was in “Urban” mode, which cuts down power to 77PS, and highest level of traction control. The Monster 796 was a task to ride in traffic with its leaned-forward riding position and the scalding heat from the air-cooled motor. Gladly, Ducati has tried to address the above issues on the new bike. The handlebar position is much more relaxed while the mildly rear-set pegs result in a comfortable riding posture.
Also, Ducati engineers have given the Monster 821 the benefit of liquid-cooling, which honestly has made the new Monster more bearable in city traffic, but it can’t match the heat dissipation skills of its Japanese rivals. Out on the open roads, though, the Monster 821 felt in its comfort zone as it munched miles with the appetite of a hungry carnivore. Power delivery was good but I felt that the new bike was kind of toned down. This meant I switched to “Sport” mode and all my assumptions of the Monster 821 being a docile machine were blow into smithereens. It felt as if the Monster had gulped down ten Red Bulls. Argh, that didn’t sound right but you get the drift.
Throttle response felt livelier and once you hit the mid-range, the Ducati picks momentum with urgency. Adding to the rider’s sensation is the wild roar from the twin pipes that will make James Hetfield grin. As part of the Ducati Safety Pack, it features eight level of traction control which can be manually set for the three ride modes (Urban, Touring and Sport) or can be switched off -- if you feel like Casey Stoner. The electronic aids haven’t dulled down the new motorcycle completely as it has the hint of madness about its performance with the front lifting even in third gear. But the rider will require the patience of a monk for setting the ride modes and traction control owing to its irritating UI. Also the 6-speed gearbox didn’t perform satisfactorily and I encountered false neutrals on many occasions.
Ride, Handling and Braking:
Another worthwhile change in the Ducati Monster 821 is the compact trellis frame that has been mounted directly onto the cylinder heads and the engine itself. Apart from this, even the monoshock and the rear sub-frame are connected to the motor. The Monster 821 relishes sweeping and flowing corners while on the tight twisties also it felt composed. It isn’t a bike built for fast cornering but is more focussed on road use with a very communicative chassis and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber offering ample grip. Another surprising aspect of the Monster 821 is its supple ride quality.
The Italian machine glided over the monsoon-abused roads with authority, thereby indicating Ducati’s focus on making the bike more conducive to road use. Braking hardware has also been improved with twin 320mm semi-floating discs being anchored by radially mounted Monobloc Brembo M4-32 callipers at front and 245mm single disc unit doing duty at rear. Braking performance is impressive with good bite and feel, while the Bosch 9MP ABS system helps the rider avoid sticky situations. The Monster 821 tips the scale at 205kg but the bike is easy to push while parking and also the low saddle height makes it better suited for shorter riders. But the wide turning radius is a bit disappointing for an otherwise well-packaged motorcycle.
Being an Italian offering, the Monster 821 commands a premium over its rivals. The Ducati Monster 821 retails for around Rs 10.25 lakh, (ex-showroom, Delhi) which is honestly a lot of moolah for an 800cc naked bike. But then again, the Ducati Monster 821 isn’t any run-of-the mill streetbike but a successor to one of the most popular bikes globally. Yet, heritage isn’t what that makes the new motorcycle special -- the gorgeous styling, thunderous motor and impressive handling dynamics add up for a wonderful motorcycling experience.
The Monster 821, in my opinion, is also the most useable motorcycle from the Ducati family, be it your daily office commute, short ride to the café or the weekend rides with a pillion to nearby hotspots. I agree that the bike might feel a handful while taking U-turns and the engine heat can be annoying but these are minor problems. The electronic aids and the overall road-specific changes by Ducati engineers have made the new Monster 821 more rider-friendly. But despite the above, it still has a wild alter ego and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes on to become among the highest selling models from the Italian maker in near future.