Monster for the Masses
Though it’s not accurate to call the 821 a poor man’s Monster, it’s a Ducati with an accessible price point and a high-end feel.
To ride, mind and body in the wind with nothing else between you and the road than a simple and stylish motorcycle oozing of character. Such was the idea that made the original Monster a success. After entirely rethinking the platform for the first time in 2014 with the Monster 1200, Ducati is now introducing a more affordable Monster 821 for 2015.
Smaller, more accessible versions of the big and desirable models are nothing new at Ducati. What IS new, is to find in these smaller displacement options machines that offer an authentic sampling of the ride experience the flagship bikes provide. Last year, the 899 Panigale—a smaller version of the 1199—accomplished exactly that and, for 2015, the same can be said for the 821 Monster compared to the top of the line 1200.
Starting at about $2,800 less than the cost of a base 1200 Monster ($11,990 for the Dark version) the new 821 is remarkably faithful to the bigger bike’s design. Some expected cost cutting measures have taken place, the most obvious being the replacement of the single-side swingarm with a conventional, double-sided one, along with the adoption of plainer wheels and a less exotic exhaust system. While these changes result in the smaller Monster offering a tad less sex appeal than the 1200, in no way does it look compromised. On the contrary, it’s a beautiful bike with proportions just as attractive as the 1200’s.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Monster 821 is its liquid-cooled 821cc Testastretta V-Twin. Derived from the recently introduced Hypermotard engine, at 112 hp it produces 23 horsepower less than the 135-hp Monster 1200 motor. Not only is this engine considerably more satisfying than the outgoing Monster 796’s air-cooled V-Twin, but thanks to a pleasant amount of torque at low and mid revs, followed by an exciting punch approaching redline (not to mention a deep, melodious, and unusually loud exhaust note), the 821 has the ability to satisfy an impressively wide range of riders.
In spite of its lesser status versus the flagship 1200, all versions of the 821 ($11,990 Dark, $12,490 Monster 821 and $13,290 Stripe) come standard with a full electronic suite featuring traction control, ABS and three ride modes: Sport, Touring and Urban. Because all these functions can be accessed and selected without navigating endless menus and without having to reprogram everything each time the ignition is cut, the 821’s electronics aren’t intrusive or annoying. Which certainly can’t be said about many bikes equipped with similar rider aids. Furthermore, as power is limited to a very manageable 75 hp when Urban mode is selected, there is no reason why the 821 couldn’t take the role of a first bike.
Just like the 1200 on which it’s based, the Monster 821 handles like a street bike rather than like a stripped-down track bike. For the rider, this means a twisty back road will involve some work rather than feel like everything happens almost too easily. The nervous steering sometimes found on more track-oriented platforms is absent in this case. Contributing to the confidence-inspiring nature of the chassis is an upright riding position that is easy on the upper body, but that somewhat cramps the legs, especially for taller riders. As on the 1200, the backs of the rider’s boots are in almost constant contact with the rear footpegs. Finally, while suspension and brakes can’t be qualified as exceptional, both still work very well.
It’s refreshing to now be able to highly recommend something else in Ducati’s lineup than only the top of the crop models. The Monster 821 actually offers more than just savings compared to the 1200 as it is one of the rare bikes which, thanks to intermediate levels of displacement and performance, are both exciting enough to satisfy an experienced rider and docile enough to welcome a novice. At about 12 grand and up, it’s not exactly cheap, but if the budget is there, then opting for a less-than-top-of-the-line Monster will have never been as attractive.
-Bertrand Gahel Issue #308, Jan/Feb 2015