Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ducati Monster 821: First impressions

It is big and red. The signature trellis frame, also in the racy red, lurks below the bulbous tank. The meaty fat twin with the Testrastretta 11 badge and snaky bent-pipes have me hooked. All I need to do is key in, thumb the starter and ride away. But the twin barrel sawed-off shotgun-like exhaust has me distracted. Do I like it? Or not? What I do not like, for sure, is the missing single-sided swing arm – the Monster trademark.

The wide handlebar is flat and the seating comfortable. The big 17.5-litre tank is cut out nicely for the knees. The posture is leaned forward owing to the rear set foot-pegs. You feel the 205 kg weighing on the handlebar until you open the throttle. As compared to the 696 or the 796, the steering is on the heavier side but still easily manoeuverable and relays feedback precisely. Set up on the softer side, the ride is plush. The Ducati was poised all the way and did not lose composure even over an unmarked speed-hump. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIs do an excellent job holding on to everything they tread upon – tarmac, concrete, paver blocks whether wet, damp or dry.

The four-valve liquid-cooled fuel injected 90-degree V-twin motor is potent. It develops 111bhp of power at 9250rpm as it revs to 11000rpm before the electronic limiter cuts in. The torque kicks in from almost as low as 4000rpm, peaking out at 89.4Nm at 7750rpm. The Monster hurtles you forward earnestly, making you smile while not really scaring you white. Power delivery is relentless through the gears, across 100kmph in second, nearing 150 in third while you lean forward to keep the Monster on two.

The L-twin crackles to life after a misfire or two, settling into a crude burble at idling and the over-square L-twin settles into a throaty whine while cruising. The note is crisp and loud and the engine internals make their presence felt. You can cruise comfortably at about 2500-3000rpm in traffic, below which, the typical V-twin shudder puts you off. Like all other Ducatis, the crankcase is a stressed member of the frame. While this does transmit the vibrations and harshness from the engine on to the frame, they are almost unable to reach you at higher revs.

The six-speed gearbox is a dream. Pull the clutch and unlike most big bikes that do so with a heart-breaking clunk, the Ducati gearbox eases into first. As you open up, it slides into successive gears with a click at the toe. For down-shifts, you have to get used to the ways of the Monster to realise how easy it is to go down gear after gear. The ratios are nicely laid out and you always find one to settle in. The Brembo disc brakes are wonderful. The front brake has a nice bite when you tap the lever and feels progressive. The 320mm twin-disc setup in the front, coupled with the single disc in the rear, provide ample braking force for you to cut down speed quickly.

The eight-step Ducati Traction control and the three-step Bosch9MP ABS ensure that you get the best of the available grip and are not intrusive. The three riding modes - Sport, Touring and Urban – provide different engine maps suitable for each of the situations. You can switch modes on the fly from 75bhp in Urban to the full 110 horses on tap in Sport.

At 9.56 lakh, the Ducati Monster 821 asks a hefty premium over the Triumph Street Triple or the Kawasaki Z800. The Ducati is as powerful as the Z800. The LED signatures in the headlamp, aggressive but not overt styling and the magic of proportions exude the Italian touch. The Street Triple, with its nimble ways and lighter weight, is quite close to the Monster in riding pleasure but loses out on power. When it comes to spares and service, the Ducati history in India has not been really glorious. But, if I am wanting a boy toy - for a leisurely weekend ride or to look at from the bedroom window– the Ducati will certainly be the undisputed first on my list.

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