Every time Ducati musters up the courage to step outside its comfort zone and build a bike aimed at a new audience it knocks it out of the park — most recently with the Scrambler and the subsequent sub-brand that followed. Ducati worked the same magic back in ‘93 when it built the first Monster M900, effectively creating its own Porsche 911. In the 25 years since, 320,000 Monsters have been built, but the bike has barely changed and it’s one of the brand’s most widely loved and most recognizable creations.
Ducati’s Monster married a superbike engine to a Super Sport frame and created somewhat of a new genre with the “naked” sportbike — a modern cafe racer of sorts. It was an undeniable hit. It was different. It was beautiful. It could handle the canyon roads as well as a race bike could tackle the track and it came with three different engine options: the M600, M750, and M900. Until now, we’ve had the all-new Monster 1200 and 797; and now, the latest update: the middleweight 821. For 2018, in keeping with tradition, Ducati brought its iconic, entry-level roadster into the modern era with an incredibly minimalistic approach.
I have to use the term “updated” loosely, though. The engine in the new 821 is the same 821cc Testastretta L-Twin engine from the outgoing model, but gets a host of modern hardware from the bigger, more technologically advanced 1200. Looking at the 797 and the 821 side-by-side, you might say they’re both entry-level models; if the 797 is the base model, with no options ticked, the 821 is the upgraded sport package.
For some, and understandably so, the 147-horsepower Monster 1200 may prove to be too much bike and the 797 too small and rudimentary. The 821 comes in as the Goldilocks option: it utilizes the same frame, brakes, tank and headlight, the beautiful, if intricate, color TFT instrument display and traction control and ride mode system as the more expensive 1200 — but delivers it all in a much more manageable, affordable package. In that respect, Ducati is one of the few manufacturers making an entry-level bike with top-level state of the art tech, instead of holding out just because the engine is on the smaller side of the spectrum.
That seems to be the magic of the Monster. The Scrambler may be its own sub-brand, but the Monster has its own following under the larger Ducati umbrella. It offers the same styling with different levels of performance, attracting a wider array of riders. It’s succeeded with an architecture Ducati got right the first time and has simply fined tuned over the years in small, minute increments like Porsche has done with the 911. Its basic architecture makes for a fantastically handling and great looking bike. The Monster can make a superbike rider just as happy on mountain roads as it can a sport standard rider.
The 821 certainly isn’t a paradigm shift in the Monster universe, but what it gets right is bringing upper-echelon sportbike technology within the grasp of new riders — or riders not interested in spending nearly $18,000 for what should be standard on any modern sport bike.
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