Among Ducati's most famous and enduring models is the Monster. First launched in 1992, the model recently celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. If you're shopping for one, you have three versions to choose from; the 797, the 821, and the 1200, with the numbers corresponding to its displacement.
Middle children like the Monster 821 are often overlooked for either the elder (larger) or younger (smaller) sibling, but in the case of the 821, its dynamics and agility make a convincing case.
Ducati Philippines was kind enough to lend us one for the weekend. We've joined the Ducati Redvolution Ride to Baguio with it, and cruised around a few days after.
The 821 is relatively fresh as far as design goes with a new headlight, a slimmer tank, and a redesigned tail section. As far as tech, its engine is now Euro-4 compliant, a Ducati Safety Pack suite with ABS, eight levels of traction control, and three riding modes.
Finally, there's that new full-color TFT screen with auto day/night mode.
Propelling it is an 821cc 90-degree Testastretta II L-twin. that generates 110.5 PS (109 Hp) and 85 Nm of torque, paired to a six-speed transmission. It's brought to a stop with twin discs in front and a single disc in the rear with Brembo calipers and ABS. It may not have the sexy single-sided swingarm of other Ducatis, but the beautiful trellis frame under the tank and snaking exhaust pipes make up for it. Our unit even had the optional Termignoni carbon twin exhaust pipes.
Ducati really insists that you use the kill switch and not the keys to turn off the engine, and its starting mechanism is evidence of that. You have to slide it down from the off mode to start it up. That's the only unusual thing about it. Thanks to the Termignoni cans, the Monster is not very subtle and quickly draws attention.
The 821 doesn't have much low end power, as such, you'll find yourself revving a lot more to get moving from a standstill. In the city, keeping it around 4,000-5,000 rpm should be more than enough to cruise comfortably. Switching to Urban mode helps a great deal, by making the throttle less sensitive and the ABS and traction control more so. You'll feel some uncomfortable jerking if you keep it any lower. Keeping revs relatively high should be fine if you've got the stock exhausts, but with the Termignoni, it can get loud when riding in the city.
It's easy to squeeze between cars thanks to the bike's fairly narrow footprint for an 800cc. Handlebar mounted mirrors let you clear sidemirrors easily when squeezing through cars. The only problem is the short steering lock. It's narrower than a Scrambler and makes it difficult squeezing through lanes in gridlocked city traffic or maneuvering in tight parking spaces. Be wary of the heat from the engine. When stuck in traffic for a while, it gets really hot and uncomfortable.
The ride itself is a bit taut, so avoid any bumps and potholes when you can. Nonetheless, it makes up for it with a very comfortable seat and touring-style riding stance. You're just a bit leaned forward but not enough to be tiring.
Being a naked bike, with no fairing or windshield, it will be difficult to maintain higher speeds on the highways. Though that should be expected.
More open roads is where the Monster is best enjoyed. Pick up some speed and the riding mode switches automatically from Urban to Touring. This brings ABS and traction control a notch down and makes the throttle a little more sensitive. Open stretches let you really play with the 821's broad upper power band. In these higher revs, the power delivery is so much more progressive, paired with the delightful guttural roar from the exhaust. It truly encourages you to shift much later as it keeps pushing right up to the redline.
For some real thrill, switch the riding mode to Sport. This gives the most instant response and paints the most accurate picture of how much power this 821 really has, which is quite a lot. It gets a little bit more jerky, but definitely will bring smiles if you're on a highway.
The gear shifts are enjoyably crisp. There's a very metallic feel to it, and it's easy to figure out just how much pressure is needed (not much) to get it up or down a gear. It's also easy to find neutral at stoplights.
It also comes with very reassuring braking feel. There wasn't much initial bite, though squeeze harder and it's much easier to modulate from there. You can also squeeze quite a great deal before the ABS and traction control kick in.
The most enjoyable part of the Monster is its ergonomics. It may be called a Monster, but it's certainly not intimidating to ride. The narrow tank is quite easy to grip. The handlebar grips are also smaller than most bikes. It tips the scales at just 206 kg, so while it is a big bike by definition, feels more like a 400cc street bike at times. These all come together to make the Monster 821 feel like a tossable toy, in a good way. It's so light, agile and responsive that you're somewhat encouraged to take on that corner a little faster, lean a little further, switch directions more quickly, and pour on that throttle whenever possible. ABS and traction do kick in from time to time, but not as often as you think, allowing for quite a bit of hooliganism.
Our few days with the Mosnter 821 got us an average of 18.8 -20 km/l. You can expect a range of anywhere from 200-250 kilometers with a full tank. It's not exactly efficient, but then again, you shouldn't be looking to buy a Ducati if that's your biggest concern.
The Scrambler may make for a great all-around bike, but if you want exciting weekend rides, go for the Monster 821. It's a little bit of a hooligan. It has the handling and power to keep up with some of the faster Ducatis, but is still comfortable enough on longer rides. It's perfectly positioned as a model to move up to from a Scrambler, before taking on the much more precise and less forgiving Panigale.