It impressed on track, but is the new Monster as much fun on the road?
Cange is the only constant,” said Heraclitus. 2,500 years later the ancient Greek philosopher’s proclamation is still relevant. But while change is necessary, it is also risky in this world of ‘cancel culture’. Take the Ducati Monster for example. It needed to evolve to stay relevant, but also retain the essence that has earned it a loyal fan following over three decades. The latest generation version treads a new direction, but does it offer the same feeling that has made the Monster iconic?
Redesigning an icon
What played a bigger role in making the Monster an icon was its design. Above all else, it’s the trellis frame and round headlamp that have been its biggest identity. And the new one ditches both in favour of a Panigale V4-derived space-age aluminium monocoque frame and snazzy-looking oval headlamp. Besides helping with substantial weight savings (18 kilos lesser than its predecessor!) the new Monster is a lot slimmer now.
In fact the first time you see it you will be as surprised as I was at how compact it is, because it’s nearly as compact as a KTM 390 Duke! The design is a stark departure from older Monsters too. Gone are the brawny lines and you now get svelte bodywork. The new Monster looks like it underwent a diet and a year of CrossFit and I quite dig the new styling.
Every part has been redesigned thoughtfully, be it the all-LED headlamp or the neat packaging, like the turn indicators integrated into the bodywork and featuring Audi-inspired dynamic LEDs. The bike retains the Monster silhouette though with the slim yet aggressively shaped fuel tank, sharp tailpiece and twin stacked end cans.
Fit-finish levels are very premium including the paint sheen, quality of levers and switchgear that offers excellent tactility. Overall, the Monster treads a different path now and I like it.
The Monster is also brimming with tech. A crisp 4.3-inch colour TFT display impresses with its brightness, high definition, viewability and intuitive layout. With the optional Bluetooth module, the screen also allows for music and call controls.
Even more impressive is the vast bouquet of IMU-based rider aids that you normally see on more expensive superbikes. All three power modes (Urban, Touring and Sport) let you customise power delivery, traction control, wheelie control and cornering ABS. The bi-directional quickshifter is now standard and the Monster even gets launch control! More on these later.
Friendly but fierce
The Monster shares its liquid-cooled 937cc L-twin engine with the Multistrada V2 and SuperSport both and delivers 111PS and 93Nm here. Performance at low to mid revs is good and there is a strong shove above 4,000rpm that tapers closer to the 10,000rpm redline.
This one also offers smoother throttle responses with a sense of urgency as compared to the previous Monsters, though it could be even smoother. There is ample grunt at low revs, so riding in a higher gear in traffic is possible, but in typical V-twin fashion the motor loathes anything below 3,000rpm. Clutch action is light and the new Monster does not heat up too much in traffic, adding to its likeable manners in city. There is no dearth of performance on the highway and overtakes are a cinch, though windblast can strain your neck.
Touring mode offers softer throttle responses and is useful in most situations. The Monster was quick to change demeanour when I switched to Sport mode on our favourite hill road though. With sharpened responses, it feels more engaging to ride and rewards full-bore corner exits with the front wheel leaving tarmac momentarily. Power delivery remains linear, allowing you to explore more performance. Electronics help, working hard but discreetly. I kept fiddling with the electronics as I got more comfortable, dialling down intervention to a minimum. I stopped short of switching off traction control though and still found the Monster to be rideable and friendly. With minimum intervention the power delivery felt linear but getting the rear to step out is easy if you ride hamfistedly. Hard riding is also rewarded with a growl from the intake and crackles and pops from the exhaust on closing the throttle at high revs, which is quite addictive!
The quickshifter is an improvement on previous Ducatis and works flawlessly at full throttle but could be slicker when used at part throttle. And while it is friendly, you do need a certain degree of experience to ride the Monster hard. That said, on the limit, it does not scare you silly like its predecessors and I miss that.
Swing a leg over and you will be surprised at how comfortable the ergonomics are now. Earlier you leaned forward to reach the handlebars, but this one gets more relaxed ergonomics thanks to a revised riding position with the handlebar sitting closer to the rider, seat height going up to 820mm and the footpegs being moved back and lower. The increased seat height is accessible though, thanks to the bike’s narrow profile. With compact dimensions and 188kg kerb weight, this Monster feels like a KTM 390 Duke dialled up to 11!
43mm upside forks are non-adjustable and the monoshock only allows preload adjustment, a bit of a miss, but you don’t miss it on the road. With the Panigale-inspired frame, lightweight wheels and sharp, 24 degree rake, the Monster feels like an eager puppy around corners. It attacks corners aggressively and offers agility that borders on twitchiness. The suspension does a fantastic job of soaking up mid-corner bumps, while the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III rubber ensures you always have ample grip. Compared to older Monsters this one also feels more forgiving around corners, while being the most entertaining Monster till date.
Ride is firm as you would expect but the bike is able to soak up most road imperfections, save for the odd rut or uneven expansion joints. It is equipped with a Brembo radial master cylinder and Brembo M4.32 calipers upfront, that clamp onto twin 320mm discs. The brakes offer good feedback and help shed speeds quickly, but there were moments when I wished for more stopping power. ABS works well with minimal intervention, and at its lowest settings you can even slide the rear out momentarily before the system intervenes.
The right direction
With the new Monster, Ducati sets off in a new direction. That of a sharper, lighter and friendlier naked. To evolve, some sacrifices are inevitable and the new Monster loses some likeable traits of its predecessors. That said, the new Monster is a better machine in every aspect and pushes the performance benchmark further for the iconic name. With prices starting from Rs 11.82 lakh ex-showroom, the Monster is significantly more expensive than its rivals. That said, you do buy into a premium brand and the new Monster does offer a more holistic riding experience, while feeling like a Ducati should. Is it worthy of the Monster name? We think it is.