Ducati ushers the Monster into a new aluminum age
With a recent string of changes, Ducati is carving a future through the thick fabric of its own tradition; it ditched the V2 for a V4 in its superbike, the new Multistrada traded the desmo for springs and now, behold, a Monster with no trellis frame.
Since 1993, when designer Miguel Galluzzi defined the legendary shape of the Ducati M900 Monster, its steel trellis frame represented more than just a structural element of the motorcycle. Along with the V2, the round headlight, it became one of the core elements that visually identifies any Monster.
As the Monster family evolved and expanded over the years to span a range from 400 to 1200 cc, these key characteristics offered a solid base to build on. Even when the classic headlight gave room to modern tech with LED and DRL and odd shapes, the tank-frame-engine combo was there to certify the bike’s provenance.
The new Monster keeps its name plain and clear of numbers relating to its engine capacity, as it marks a turning point in the bloodline by becoming the first model in the dynasty’s 28 years to fit its V2 into an aluminum frame. In fact, the motor hangs from its cylinder heads attached to a short front frame inspired by the Panigale V4 superbike. At the rear lurks another surprise, in the shape of the subframe made of Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer.
This drastic change offers a huge benefit on the scales, as the new Monster sheds some 18 kg (39.7 lb) compared to the Monster 821 it replaces, for a total of 188 kg (414.5 lb) in running order.
One thing that’s not expected to change is the familiar feel every Monster transmits once you throw a leg over the saddle, though Ducati says tweaks to the seating layout will sit the rider slightly more upright and bring the handlebars a bit closer.
At 820 mm (32.3 in) the seat height doesn’t sound intimidating, but in any case the bike can be furnished with a lower 800-mm (31.5-in) seat and can go even lower to 775 mm (30.5 in) if fitted with an optional suspension lowering kit.
With such significant gains in weight, the addition of the liquid-cooled 937 cc Testastretta 11° V2 guaranties ample support for a sporty disposition. The previous model ran on the smaller Testastretta version of 821 cc, upgrading now to the bigger version that has already been put to good use in several models such as the Multistrada, Hypermotard and SuperSport.
It produces 111 hp (82 kW) at 9,250 rpm and 93 Nm (69 lb-ft) at 6,500 rpm, very close to what the Monster 821 could do. What will probably make all the difference is the way torque is delivered, reaching its maximum 1,250 rpm earlier. Combined with the larger capacity, logic suggests a fatter torque curve all over the rev range, despite a measly gain of 8 Nm (6 lb-ft) in max value.
Ducati’s selection of equipment gives an idea of how the new Monster will be positioned in the market. The suspension includes non-adjustable 43 mm front forks coupled with a rear monoshock in a cantilever arrangement that can be tuned only for spring preload.
Brakes are handled by Brembo, as usual, employing the radial M4.32 monobloc calipers supported by Cornering ABS.
As for the electronics, Ducati went for a kit that includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control and ABS. Most of these systems offer some level of adjustability and it all becomes simpler with the application of three riding modes; sport, touring and urban.
Each mode dials in preset values for each electronic system, engine power and throttle response. Sport and touring modes give the rider the full 111-hp output, while in urban mode the Testastretta provides only 75 hp and the safety systems have their sensitivity settings turned all the way up.
Ducati is also introducing the Monster Plus, though adding a small windscreen and a rear seat cover hardly supports the notion of a separate model. These two plastic add-on bits are the only things that set the two new Monsters apart – they even share the same color schemes.
The 2021 Monster will be the entry model to the family, sitting below the 147-hp Monster 1200 which continues unchanged into 2021. In a segment where it faces tough and diverse competition, it aims for a careful balance between the archetypal Monster sportsbike character and friendly practicality. In this sense the new generation doesn’t invest in high-end suspension or the hippest bags of electronic tricks usually found on Panigale and Multistrada models, but rather focuses on building an inviting and non-intimidating character that’ll still show its teeth on request.
Ducati does employ some more useful kits in the standard package, like a two-way quickshifter, auto-cancelling indicators and slipper clutch, but also makes sure to highlight the practical side of the Monster; oil services at very optimistic 15,000 km (9,321 mile) intervals and valve inspection every 30,000 km (18,641 miles).
The 2021 Ducati Monster is scheduled to hit the markets in April 2021, a turning point for the family history that coincides with another important milestone – the end of the line for the Monster 797, the last air-cooled desmodue (as in two-valve desmo) model in the Monster stable.
Times they are-a-changing indeed.