Last year, a select group of international media had the opportunity to test the all-new Ducati Monster 797 during the Ducati Riding Experience in Thailand. I distinctly remember being green with envy as pictures floated over via social media of the gorgeous new generation Italian stallion prancing through the roads of Bangkok. Little did I know that I would be given the opportunity to check the bike out for myself when it arrived on our shores.
Delivered by Ducati Philippines in upgraded 797+ guise, this represents not only the entry-level bike in the Monster line-up, but also, my first experience with the famed Italian (but German-owned) motorcycle brand.
The Monster is the quintessential naked bike. Since coming into existence, it changed the perception of nakeds from the boring and stale image of a universal Japanese motorcycle (UJM) into a sexy and desirable machine. It single-handedly revived a type of motorcycle that for the longest time, had remained the same.
The 797+ is the newest iteration of the Monster formula, but it keeps everything that makes a Monster, well, a Monster. The signature exposed blood-red trellis frame peeks out from the satin white finish of the unit I received, lending an air of sophistication and Italian style to a type of bike that tends to look the same from brand to brand.
Stares followed everywhere I took the bike, and it oozed sex appeal wherever it went. The 'plus' designation of the 797+ adds cosmetic upgrades to the bike, including a satin white rear seat cover and a small and stylish windscreen.
The 797+ is a small bike. Thanks to the lack of a radiator and the slimness of the frame, squeezing the tank between my thighs provided a secure grip while weaving through traffic.
The control surfaces of the bike—from the clutch, to the brake, and to the shifter—all exuded quality. The only problem arose from the seat, which, because of the contour, made your butt fit on the bike in only one position. This means that I couldn’t change my seating position in any way, which would lead to soreness or, at the very least, a numb butt after riding for prolonged periods.
The 797+ is the entry-level Monster in the range, and being such it is equipped with a torquey and friendly 803cc L-Twin. Majority of the torque finds its way to the ground from around 3,500rpm, and the bike pulls strongly all the way until the shift indicator lights up around 11,000rpm.
Despite such torque and power, what let me down the most was the sound. I came into the bike expecting to hear the signature bark of a desmodromic twin, but the 797+ sounded more like a sewing machine than a motorcycle. A growl is present behind the whine, but the lack of an exhaust note to match the aggressive looks means that the first thing you should buy when picking up a 797+ is one of the many available aftermarket exhausts that can do the engine justice.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed transmission, which, although well-geared, has the typical Ducati shortcoming of not being able to shift to neutral with any ease whatsoever. There was a time that the transmission was actually in neutral, so I could walk the bike, but the neutral light refused to come on, meaning I still had to engage the clutch to start it. This could probably be because the bike hasn’t been broken in yet, but I was hoping this issue would have been resolved by Ducati by now.
RIDE AND HANDLING
There’s no ifs or buts, the Monster handles like a sport bike. From the aggressive riding position to the stiff shocks, the 797+ is relatively firm and bumpy over potholes, but that's the price you pay for handling as sharp as this.
From the turn-in to the roadholding while leaning, the Monster gobbles up corners and can easily keep up with bikes that have better straight-line speed. Its nimbleness, a function of the relatively light weight and narrow stature, makes it so that the bike is an ideal urban attacker, darting between cars at the slightest twist of the throttle.
The bike has a trip computer on the screen, giving basic information and an easy-to-read rpm and speedometer. Toggling through the options was just a quick flick of a lever on the left-hand grip, and the system was intuitive enough to use for a person unfamiliar with modern Ducatis.
The Monster comes standard with ABS, a must for modern high-end bikes, and a feature that makes it even more ideal for a beginner ride.
The purity of a naked bike is prevalent in this, the essential naked sports bike. The Monster 797+ may be the baby of the Monster range, but it stands to be the ideal platform for newbie riders moving up to big bikes, or experienced riders who want something that embodies the purity of the motorcycle.
The Monster is still the benchmark of naked desirability, and an ideal way of owning your very first Ducati.
SPECS: DUCATI MONSTER 797+
Engine: 803cc air-cooled, 2-cylinder, DOHC
Power: 73hp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 67Nm @ 5,750rpm
Final drive: Chain
UPDATE as of June 11, 2018: The 45th Tokyo Motorcycle Show in Odaiba was held from March 23 to 25 this year. The photos and videos shared by their visitors might have caused confusion among netizens since they have almost the same group of motorcycle companies showing off their latest hardware and technology. Moto Sapiens attended the Tokyo Motorcycle Show. This year, 135 companies with 882 exhibit booths showed off their latest two- and three-wheelers, modern electric bikes, accessories, and even riding paraphernalia. There were launch events of new motorcycles, relaunching of face-lifted units, and even revivals of classics by Japanese, European, American, and—wait—two Taiwanese brands.