2021 Ducati Monster First Ride Review: The friendliest fiend around!

The Ducati Monster goes through its most significant update yet, ditching the iconic trellis frame and getting a near litre-class engine
The 2021 Ducati Monster in action at the Buddh International Circuit
The 2021 Ducati Monster in action at the Buddh International CircuitShot by Abhishek Benny

Meet the new Ducati Monster. I know what you’re thinking – no trellis frame, is it really a Monster? Instead you’ve got a frame that shares its philosophy with the Panigale V4. Nostalgia may have been thrown out of the window, but there's an argument to say that this is more a Monster than the one that came before it. Bear with me. The Monster has always been a street naked that brought superbike tech to the road. Back in 1993, the original Monster was based on the same frame that underpinned the Ducati 851 superbike. It brought what was cutting edge at the time, in to a more accessible package. Chassis tech has evolved since then. Ducati’s modern superbikes — the Panigale V4 in particular — use a completely new frame design and the Monster has followed suite. It may not share the same frame, but it shares the same philosophy. Isn’t that exactly what the Monster did close to 30 years ago?

2021 Ducati Monster styling

The 2021 Ducati Monster follows the retro route in terms of desgin, but it adds a futuristic touch as well
The 2021 Ducati Monster follows the retro route in terms of desgin, but it adds a futuristic touch as wellShot by Abhishek Benny

Before we talk about the riding, let’s first talk about the styling because that was a huge part of what made the Monster the icon that it is. The 2021 Monster looks completely different and whether that is for better or for worse — that is for you to decide. There’s certainly a resemble to the previous Monster in how the tank is shaped, though it is now more chiselled than before. The fact that there’s no bright-coloured trellis below it means it ends up looking very different. The headlamp looks completely different as well — no longer is it the simple round headlamp, there’s this oblong shape with a similarly shaped DRL inside. The Monster’s retro styling now has a touch of futuristic to it. The rear is a very flattering angle, the tail section, the taillight, it all looks very good. My opinion? I think it lacks that nostalgia that we yearn for in the Monster, but leave that aside for a moment and you have a handsome looking motorcycle. It looks lean, sinewy and purposeful even when standing still. I’d like the one with the contrasting red wheels please!

2021 Ducati Monster engine

The Monster gets a new engine for 2021 as well. It’s a familiar one if you’ve been on other middleweight Ducatis — a 937cc Testastretta L-twin motor shared with bikes like the Supersport 950 and the Multistrada 950. Power stands at 109bhp and 93Nm of torque, so power is down on something like a Street triple R but it has the benchmark for torque. In terms of delivery, it’s very characterful. It revs out enthusiastically and delivers a strong punch in the mid range. Ducati claims to have worked on the low end torque — and that’s something that’s noticeable. Using the mid range to get out of slower corners, the Monster pulls really energetically particularly in Sport mode. The Monster gets an up-down quick shifter that worked well with the hard shifting on the track, and I’m keen to see how it will work in real world traffic. That said, the suite of rider aids were a welcome safety net and allowed you to harness the performance of the Monster without worrying too much about the consequences. Cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control work seamlessly in the background. And there’s launch control as well!

2021 Ducati Monster ride and handling

With a sharper steering head angle and a dry weight of 166kg, the 2021 Ducati Monster is quite agile
With a sharper steering head angle and a dry weight of 166kg, the 2021 Ducati Monster is quite agileShot by Abhishek Benny

A huge change for the 2021 Monster from the old one is the weight saving. The new frame which is split in two parts — with its front half bolted to the front cylinder head and the rear half bolted to the rear cylinder head, the engine acting as a stressed member — is lighter. There’s weight savings in the wheels and swingarm as well, all adding up to a total weight saving of 18kg. Dry weight of the Monster now stands at 166kg. Combine that with the tweaks to the chassis like a sharper steering head angle (by 7 degrees!) and you have a Monster that is very nimble! The suspension set up is fairly straightforward — non-adjustable USDs up front and a rear monoshock that is adjustable for preload.

And that's how you do a knee-down!
And that's how you do a knee-down!Shot by Abhishek Benny

When it comes to the way it handles, the turn-in is sharp and the bike feels light on its feet. Its very easy to get it leaned over in corners — you have good leverage from the wide handlebars — and keep it leaned over. Fast directions are super easy as well, the motorcycle flicking from one side to the other effortlessly. Grip levels are impressive, helped in no small part by the Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3s. The bike was at home on the track, but I suspect it will be a proper corner carver out on the road. That nimbleness combined with the drive from the engine should make it really entertaining on narrower roads. Its super easy to manage as well. At no point does it feel heavy, cumbersome or unwieldy.
As for ride quality, its close to impossible to tell how it fares on the butter smooth track. We’re looking forward to riding it on the road, and understanding how it performs in the environment most buyers will put it through.

2021 Ducati Monster verdict

The 2021 Ducati Monster will be a great fit for beginners and experienced riders alike
The 2021 Ducati Monster will be a great fit for beginners and experienced riders alikeShot by Abhishek Benny

So what do I make of the Ducati Monster? Well, I think on the face of it, the lack of the trellis frame takes away from the nostalgia that used to surround something like a Monster 821. It lacks that direct lineage to the original. But in philosophy, it is closer to the original than ever before. And put it amongst its peers — the likes of the KTM 790 Duke (which isn’t on sale anymore) or the Triumph Street Triple R — and it holds its own very confidently. The performance and handling are there, and it is brimming with character. I was skeptical before I climbed on the saddle in the morning but the Ducati Monster turned out to be incredibly fun to thrash around the circuit. Whether you’re a beginner looking to step in to the world of exotic Italian metal, or an experienced rider looking for a motorcycle to have a really good time on, the Monster is up for it. At Rs 11 lakh (ex-showroom) it is a little more pricey than say, the Triple R. And that price is hard to justify as the Monster doesn’t push the game ahead from its rivals in any significant manner. But Ducatis, they always have a draw, don’t they?

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India