Ducati Monster 821 Ridden

Ducati Monster 821 Ridden

Among the many things I wish for, being reincarnated as Rossi quite rightly tops the list. Forget the way he rides, have you seen his girlfriend? (Linda Morselli. Google. Now.) But on a need-basis what I really, really want is to be able to write as fast as Rossi can ride. A week is what it usually takes for a proper story to materialise from my keyboard but this one has taken the better part of two. And the person whose elastic is about to snap is squarely to blame.

You see, the editor has always hankered after a Monster. When the invite came to sample the Monster 821 in Thailand I magnanimously offered to let him pack his boots, head to Chiang Mai and suss it out. But, turns out, when it comes to bikes he trusts my judgment more than his own and wanted to be absolutely sure before signing any cheques. This story is the basis on which he’ll buy a bike – that too after a very long time – and the consequences of getting it wrong are easy enough to imagine.

Of course the editor is not the only one keenly looking at the Monster; in fact the Monster is Ducati’s best selling motorcycle, as intrinsic to Ducati as Pizza Margherita is to Italy. You might hanker after a Panigale but, forget the fact that it costs an eye-watering amount of money, where are you going to ride it unless you have a race track close by? The Monster is the saner option, blazingly red, beautifully naked and so usable, our man Dipayan rode his seven-year-old Monster 695 all the way from Kolkata to Pune a month ago (issue #20). The Monster has also been the traditional entry point into the world of Ducati, and that’s why crowds went nuts at the 2012 Auto Expo where the Asia-specific Monster 795 was launched at Rs. 6.99 lakh.

You can still get the 795, even the 796, till stocks last with the two Ducati dealers in Mumbai and Gurgaon, but the 821 essentially replaces the two and has been getting the editor all hot and bothered.

What’s new he asks? A lot, though the new Monster retains its friendly manners and gorgeous looks. It’s simply amazing how the design guys in Bologna continue to churn out eye-catching Monsters generation after generation. The new one has in fact been designed keeping in mind Asian riders – not that the Ed is a shorty – with a lower, adjustable seat and is manufactured in Thailand for the Asian region, a clear indication of Ducati’s focus here.

At first glance, the new Monster is more muscular and compact. Understandably so, as it also plays the role of a slightly more aggressive naked in the Ducati line-up, filling the void left by the Streetfighter. The exposed trellis frame and fuel tank are quick to grab attention, just like every Monster, and both are all-new. In fact, the new Monster follows in the footsteps of the Panigale superbike and has the top of the trellis mounted onto the front L-twin cylinder head. The rear subframe is mounted onto the rear cylinder head and the swingarm is mounted directly onto the engine crankcase making it a part of the chassis, like the superbike. Adding to the compactness of the motorcycle is the headlight that sits close to the fuel tank, a trend that began with the previous generation.

The tank is larger by 4 litres, the 17.5 litre tank endowing the bike with a longer range. On the whole the Monster 821 is beautiful looking though, as the Ed points out, the 1200’s single-sided swingarm would have been most welcome. I was glad to note the muscular tank lends it more character as do the smaller, more compact side mounted exhausts that replace the bulbous looking underseat units. Powering this new Monster is the same liquid-cooled L-twin motor displacing 821cc that debuted on the Hypermotard first. It is noteworthy that while all previous generations were powered by air-cooled motors, the new Monster 1200 introduced liquid-cooling and the 821 follows suit.

In the Monster, the engine puts out 1bhp more than the Hypermotard, thanks to a larger airbox and new exhaust system. The 110bhp of power and 89Nm of torque are, for the, record 50 per cent more than the original M900 launched in 1993! It also gets ride-by-wire, the same electronics as the Hypermotard (save for a lap timer) and the Ed, I’m sure, will love the safety net afforded by the three riding modes that will allow him to select between eight traction control and three ABS levels.

It was a sweltering day in the picturesque town of Chiang Mai, pretty much like the Indian summer. The riding conditions weren’t very different either as the roads, though vastly better, were a bit scruffy. The Monster 821 feels easy to get used to – it took me barely a few minutes to feel at home – and it seemed to egg me to ride harder. It didn’t take time to realize that urban mode is only good for newbies though, as it drops power output to 75bhp and feels relatively tame.

I stuck to sport mode for the rest of the day, as touring mode offers the full 110bhp too, but in a softer manner. This new Monster doesn’t grumble at low speeds as much as the 796 did and felt comfortable even at a crawl though there is a bit of judder below 3000rpm, typical of a V-twin. On the highway I could open the throttle wide, where the second generation Testastretta 11° motor, offered the wealth of its mid-range. To the uninitiated, Testastretta is the name of the family of engines and 11 degrees refers to the valve overlap in the combustion cycle, at which point the inlet and outlet valves are both open to maximise performance by reducing the time gap between the cycles.

Cross 5000rpm and the 821 offers a heady rush, pulling cleanly. The surge gets stronger as revs climb, and hard acceleration even at triple digit speeds is a given. The Monster’s forte after all, is its brilliant initial and midrange grunt, and that’s what made getting the front wheel up on just the power without teasing the clutch, quite easy. The 240km route Ducati chose offered an interesting mix of hill roads dotted with fast corners and arrow straight sections allowing us to experience the motorcycle in varied conditions. Straight-line ability was remarkable but the bike seemed to excel around corners, offering sportsbike- like sharpness and agility. It offers ample confidence to enter corners fast and chuck the bike in before accelerating hard out of it. The slightly canted-forward riding stance adds to the sporty feel as well.

The light trellis frame and grippy Pirelli rubber aided by the electronics make the Monster 821 that perfect machine for a satiating ride around the hills, not to mention good fun for track days. The suspension setup is taut but not too firm and should offer good ride quality on our roads. A throaty V-twin exhaust note accompanies the theatrics and an aftermarket pair of Termignonis though should take care of its slightly muted note. Fit-finish levels are nice, save for a few areas where the welds could have been better finished. Paint and build quality otherwise is spotless, and the bike feels premium with a smooth, even sheen and nice to touch plastics. With its kind of performance and that achingly beautiful design, the Monster 821 is easy to fall in love with, especially in that trademark Ducati red (the Ed will have to pay half a lakh rupees more, just for the colour!).

Should he buy it?

After two weeks of hammering away at the keyboard I can confidently say, in print, that there is very little reason not to. The new Monster carries forward the legacy of the previous generations – a comfortable everyday motorcycle that is sporty and offers great usable performance. The sophisticated electronics are enough to justify the slight premium over the Triumph Street Triple and Kawasaki Z800 (the base 821 Dark is priced at `9 lakh ex- Delhi). And with more Ducati dealerships in the pipeline, service issues will not be, well, an issue. But most of all, it looks drop dead gorgeous and isn’t that why the Ed wants to buy a Ducati in the first place?

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