The world’s motorcycling press went bonkers when Ducati introduced the new Monster 821 late last year. Everyone was curious as to what Ducati would do with the Monster considering that Triumph’s Street Triple and Yamaha’s MT-09 were so good at what they do, that Ducati’s Monster was and would have continued to be relegated to just a bike with a grand brand, rather than a bike with tricks.
But Ducati delivered exactly what was expected of a brand with arguably the most fans in the world.
The new 821 is much more than just an update to the old 796, or a 1200 with a smaller 821cc engine, it holds its own in the entire Ducati range. And judging by the way it rides, looks and with all of its other smart features, the new 821 is going to open doors to a new generation of Ducatisti as the entry level Ducati.
Ducati says that the new Monster will also tempt many existing ‘Monsteristi’ to trade in their old machines for the new. We believe them, because the 821 really is, simply said, the most revolutionary Monster ever. That much credit is due because the new Monster features an entirely new frame, water-cooled engine from the Hypermotard, a new (much much better) seat, and a new overall design that looks the part.
We breakdown exactly what makes the new Ducati Monster 821 so awesome:
Almost perfect. While previously the sitting position of the Monster was sporty with a slight forward lean, this time it is comfortable with a near upright sitting position, and little pressure on your wrists. The handlebar is set 40mm closer to the rider than the 796, and it is also 40mm higher. This does mean that you have to bear the brunt of the wind at speeds of over 120km/h. You could crunch down over the tank, which is fine when in attack mode, but not so comfortable when cruising long distances. But it was fine throughout a long day of riding through tiny Thai roads, mountain squeezes and town traffic.
But there is the slight issue of the rear foot pegs getting in your way when you want to ride on the balls of your feet. This forces your legs out into an awkward position, which is again not very comfortable, so if you are not planning to carry any pillions, perhaps some aftermarket foot pegs would work better. The rubber foot pegs are also slippery when wet.
Great news for newbie and shorter riders though, for the first time on the Monster, the seat is adjustable. On the previous Monster, we had the 795 for shorter riders, while the 796 was considered to be the “normal” bike with seat positioned at 800mm from the ground.
Now however, the standard seat can be adjusted to be set as low as 745mm, or as high as 810mm from the ground. There is also an accessory seat that is able to take it down to 745mm or up to 835mm, but there is an extra charge of course.
Throughout the ride, I had the seat set at 810mm, but my 5’10” frame still found it a little too cramped for comfort. So the accessory seat is a must if you are tall, or short.
Ouh, and the seat is also bigger and wider with grab rails for the passenger. The seat features 80mm foam thickness for the rider, and 70mm for the passenger. The rider’s seat is also 27mm longer and 34mm wider than before, while the passenger gets 29mm more bum space.
The chassis is an all new steel trellis frame that is attached to the cylinder heads, which gives it 99% torsional stiffness, 67% flex-torsional stiffness, and all the while weighing in at 1.23 kilograms lighter. The subframe too is attached to the cylinder heads and is 1.1 kilograms lighter.
The new Ducati Monster 821 however loses out on the sexy single-sided swing-arm, and instead gets the cast aluminium double-sided swing arm in the name of saving cost. We do suspect that the mid-life refresher to the 821 will feature a single-sider, avid Ducatisti might remember that the 795 too was introduced with a double-sider, while the 796 featured the single-sider.
The suspension consists of 43mm Kayaba forks up front with cast top and bottom triple clamps. Sadly, and again in the name of budget, the forks are not adjustable. The rear consists of a single, adjustable Sachs shock attached to the cylinder head. It comes with variable stiffness spring and a cantilever design.
Overall the suspension felt good around town with the suspension soaking up bumps and such quite elegantly. But it felt a little too soft when trying to take a corner at speed, which made it frustratingly difficult to hold a line. But to be fair, this is an entry level Ducati, or as Ducati calls it “Premium entry” Monster and it is all quite nicely set up for entry level riders.
FUEL TANK & CONSUMPTION:
Beautifully crafted steel tank which takes after the Monster 1200. At 17.5 litres, it has increased in size and volume and now stores 4 litres more fuel, which gives it better range. There is no official figure on fuel consumption, but our test ride showed an average fuel consumption of 4.5-litres for every 100km at an average speed of 80km/h.
Felt soggy initially but as with every other Ducati, were up for the bite when a bite was required. The front brake lever prefers a two-finger operation but the twin 320mm front discs with mono bloc front brake calliper never once felt inadequate. If anything, the rear felt like it could do with a bit more initial bite. There were moments when the rear could not cope and the fronts had to be summoned to help out.
WHEELS & TYRES:
The design of the 10-spoke alloys is the same as the Panigale and the Multistrada, and are shod in sticky Pirelli Diablo Rosso 2 tyres which can trace their roots back to World Supersport racing. No complaints here.
The new, second generation 821cc Testastretta 11 water-cooled engine marks the end of the old air-cooled, 803cc engine from the old 796. While that it is sad because the old really was a brute of an engine at high rpms, the new is the same engine that powers the Hypermotard with just 2 more horsepower. It features 112hp@9,250rpm and torque is rated at 89Nm@7,750rpm. That power can be limited to 75hp in Urban riding mode, but we will get to that later.
It achieves this increase in power with a new, bigger throttle body that is placed inside the airbox. This works to increase torque at low to mid range rpms, which is a major step up because the old engine was quite an effort to ride at low speeds.
It is also a fully-stressed chassis member with Panigale-style attachment points for the Trellis frame.
The engine is a good balance of power and the efficiency we mentioned earlier. While the Monster 1200 was a brutish machine that required muscle to handle, the smaller, lighter 821 engine means that you can actually use more of its available power. And combined with that new lightweight frame, you can stop later, accelerate earlier, and flick the bike around corners easier.
It is also more robust now as Ducati says that the engine will only need a valve clearance check at every 30,000km interval, while the oil change with Shell Advance lubricant takes place at 15,000km.
The sound out of the exhaust is also amazing, in fact I would go so far to say that the Monster finally sounds like a proper Ducati without having to change the entire system. Check out the video below:
Now this one depends on personal preference, if you are the old school type, perhaps you would like to manage your own power. But personally, I loved the three Riding Modes – Sport, Touring and Urban.
There is the addition of the new Ducati Safety Pack (DSP) with three-level ABS and eight-level Ducati Traction Control integrated to the system.
It is easy to change between the three modes too as the monochrome LCD screen (also lifted from the Hypermotard, not the Technicolour version sadly) clearly displays which mode you are in, a touch of a button located at the indicator selector lets you select between the mode with just a quick shut of the throttle to confirm your selection.
Each mode offers varying power delivery, ABS and traction control interference as the charts below show:
SO HOW IS IT LIKE:
The new Ducati Monster 821 has matured to be a friendlier, yet all the more fun machine.
And though Ducati says that its new 821 is positioned towards new riders, the combination of a lightweight frame and a very capable engine means that it can be a lot of fun for seasoned riders too. The suspension does need some sorting out before you can truly start attacking corners. It also comes with a new slipper clutch to stop the rear wheel from locking during hard downshifting. The supermoto like wide handle bars and short wheel base, also contribute to the fun handling, but there is a feeling that it still isn’t as agile or as precise as a Triumph Speed Triple. Best leave that to a wheel-to-wheel comparison.
The new engine is also torque rich, which means you don’t need to be constantly downshifting, especially in traffic. This was a major problem with the old engine where you could only split through traffic in first or second gear, which was really irritating. You also don’t get any of that rude judder from the engine, now you can simply rely on the abundance of torque to get you going without downshifting.
And then there is the new gearbox that uses a cable-actuated wet slipper clutch and offers quick, precise gear shifts. The kind you want when you need to quickly down shift to prepare for a hard corner.
And Ducati has also made good progress with the mirrors, which are now made of aluminium. The old plastic, bunny-eared ones were odd to look at, and absolutely rubbish when on the move. This time however, that blurry rear view is now a tad better, but still untrustworthy. Looking over your shoulder is the best practise here.
All in all, the new baby Ducati is better than it has ever been without comprising on performance. It is not entirely perfect, but that only leaves room for the mid-life model to be all the more better, and with the addition of a single-sided swing arm, just to complete the package. Yes, we are that confident that the update will have a single sider.
There is no news yet on when it will make it to the Malaysian market, but expect it to be here in the next 2-3 months.