WE headed out to the east coast of Italy, a stone’s throw from the Misano circuit to test out the ‘new’ Ducati Monster 821.
The new 821 celebrates the silver anniversary of the Monster, but whether you can really claim the title of “new” is sort of debatable.
The 2018 Monster 821 is pretty much the same bike as last year’s outgoing model; same engine, trellis frame and suspension.
There’s a couple choice additions and a number of optional accessories, but the majority of the changes are so subtle you wouldn’t notice them unless you looked at a spec sheet.
The new tank for instance, as beautifully sculpted as it is, actually holds a litre less fuel than the outgoing bike. The re-shaped seat and tail as well are both kind of hard to notice, as are the new footpegs and led position lights.
The real eye catchers are the TFT full colour dash and new mufflers, but what Ducati bizarrely seem most proud of is the return of the yellow paint. Seems a bit mad, but we guess it is good to have yellow Ducatis back in the fold.
When it comes to middleweight naked bikes, riders are almost spoilt for choice now. The Monster definitely isn’t the rudest or the fastest, but pleasingly it does still have its place.
The 821cc Testastretta 11° L-twin retains the same enjoyable character and with 109hp and 86ftlb of torque on tap, there’s still plenty of fun to be had on the twisties; it’s just a shame about the gearing.
Second offers a real nice zing to it, but first – like many bikes – is redundant and all the others feel a little over overgeared. It can make the 821 feel lazy, even in sport mode.
That’s not to say it’s slow, but part of us wants a bit more oomph, which the aftermarket Termignoni might provide, but we couldn’t say currently since they will only be available once they hit dealers.
Handling wise, the Italians have dropped the back end to make the 821 more road going. The result is a bike that handles quite differently from others in its class.
Steering is initiated from the hips and the front does what it wants. Ground clearance can still be an issue, but it’s not as bad as last year since the pillion footpegs are now separate, compared to the one big block they were before.
Once again the highlight of the Ducati experience is the brakes. The dual radially mounted M4-32 calipers are arguably better than the bike needs, but they are an asset and a definite USP.
At 10 grand, the Monster 821 does have one big downside, and it’s a pretty odd one for Ducati – the non-adjustable front forks.
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The stock 43mm Kayaba fork setup isn’t bad by any means. It did everything we asked of it even on bumpy Italian roads, and at 6ft2 and 15 stone BJ felt the range of damping was really quite good.
But, ultimately It seems very un-Ducati like to prevent even a little fiddling, and even more of a deal breaker now at this price point to lack at least some adjustment for the front.
It might not be quite as big an issue for some riders, but again for that price point, it’s no small thing.
With regard to riding modes, you get three: sport, touring and urban. We’d probably never bother with urban since it knocks 30 per cent power, but touring could be useful, giving the full 109hp 86ftlb torque, but not as eagerly/ Sport, of course lets out the full beans.
For the UK, the Monster 821 is definitely a bike we could see ourselves bratting around the Welsh countryside. It’s not a track bike, and if you want a hooligan bike that you can prat around on, you’re probably better off with an MT09.
But, if you want something classy, that will still hooligan up if you work for it, then the 821 is still a good option. If you are looking at this category, go try them all, but do give the Ducati a look.
It might have a slower pace, but sometimes it’s more about character and the way it feels for you than anything else.