But Just as Incredible

The Ducati Monster 797 Is a More Refined, Mature Scrambler

October 6, 2017 Cars : Motorcycles By Photo by Matt Neundorf

Ever since its reintroduction in 2014, Ducati’s Scrambler has heralded a visible shift in the motorcycle industry’s push to cater to newer riders. Now, those starting a life on two wheels are spoiled for choice, with everything from a pint-sized a fun machine or Dakar-inspired enduro to a capable yet mild-mannered adventure bike. Not surprisingly, this revised concentration has caused Ducati to rethink its original entry-level model, the Monster.

There’s just one problem. In terms of specifications, there’s little that separates the new Monster 797 from the Scrambler. Both bikes are powered by the very same 803cc Desmodromic L-Twin engine and feature the exact same transmission. Peak horsepower and torque arrive at the same spot on the tachometer, so there are no tuning differences here either. And both bikes weigh a smidge over 400 pounds. So the question stands: Do these two Ducatis differ enough to coexist, or are they just a case of badge engineering?

The Scrambler Icon, as an entire package, is fantastically approachable. The ergonomics are neutral and comfortable, and the low, flat seat is welcoming. The single disc front brake set-up is easy to modulate with a decent initial bite and the capable front suspension soaks up urban decay and rural rumbles with ease. Very little effort is needed to get the maximum experience out of this bike.

2017 Ducati Scrambler Icon

Engine: 803cc L-Twin
Horsepower: 75
Torque: 50 lb-ft
Weight: 410 lbs
Price: $8,895 (base)

Sold as the “just right” model in between the off-road-friendly Desert Sled and the apex hungry Cafe Racer, the Icon won’t balk at fire roads, groomed trails or any heated runs through the canyons, but it still prefers city life to the more extreme rides. With that said, the engine, no matter its guise, feels plenty torquey. Enough to keep an experienced rider grinning like an idiot, but polished enough not to punish a rookie’s minor input errors.

The Monster 797, on the other hand, is a much more composed, refined machine. In 24 years of evolution, the Miguel Galuzzi–penned classic has changed very little visually, and that’s a good thing. You can’t help but be pulled in by that bright red trellis frame and matching wheels. The voluptuous tank and tapered tail remain hallmarks of a decidedly sexy beast that will always draw a gaze. There’s a sporting intent to its iconic stance that’s placed the Monster firmly in the Ducatisti fold.

Behind the bars, the Monster is no quicker than the Scrambler, but it feels faster. The Monster’s riding position is a touch more aggressive, leaning the rider further forward, but it doesn’t sacrifice comfort. I found the added reach, taller seat and lower footpegs to be just right for my six-foot frame, and the new wider bars surrender a relaxed control. Another standout difference with the Scrambler is when you fire the Monster up — the exhaust note hits the ear as a surprise. Even though the engine, pipes and muffler are identical to the Scrambler, somehow the Monster has a more sinister snarl.

2017 Ducati Monster 797

Engine: 803cc L-Twin
Horsepower: 75
Torque: 50 lb-ft
Weight: 410 lbs
Price: $9,295 (base)

The other impressions of speed are owed to a tighter wheelbase and the fact that everything mechanical interacts more smoothly on this bike. The clutch pull is light; first gear slots with a snick instead of the Scrambler’s clunk. The Monster’s smaller 17-inch front wheel and wider bars make the initial turn-in feel so direct. The abrupt fuelling that gives the Scrambler such a raucous character, is nonexistent here, so any mid-corner corrections so common with newer riders won’t upset any balance. As a whole, through smoothness, it inspires confidence in equal measures to the Scrambler’s playfulness. In true Ducati fashion, the Monster 797 will have you yearning for the twistiest patches of tarmac you can find. I loved the last-generation Monster 1200S but this one, the 797, the Bambino, may have taken its place in my heart.

And there’s the real magic. Ducati has figured out how to amplify the individual character of each of these machines while using many of the same parts. Component sharing is commonplace in the motorcycle industry — rampant, even. Sure it’s an easy way to mitigate engine and build costs, but what the Scrambler Icon and Monster 797 show is that, with even just a few minor changes, you can have two wildly different bikes that show off the same fantastic engine.

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