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First Ride: The New 2021 Ducati Monster Is a Lighter—and More Powerful—Beast

The 111 hp model has a bolstered engine, improved torque delivery and a polarizing new look.

Riding the 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle. Photo by Gregor Halenda, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

There are few motorcycles more important to Ducati than the Monster. Since the model’s debut at the 1992 Intermot Show in Cologne, variants badged as Monster have gone on to sell over 350,000 units worldwide. The bike itself has become a benchmark in style, lauded for its simplistic design that keeps the ethos of easy riding at heart while giving a sprinkling of punk attitude to boot.

For this year, the Monster 821 has been replaced by a new 937 cc edition that’s far more than just a slap of new paint and an increase in engine displacement. The new iteration houses a revised version of the same motor found in the Supersport and the Hypermotard, but with its compression increased to 13.3:1 and output claimed to be 111 hp at 9,250 rpm. Those are respectable numbers, but the big difference is in torque, where this new model’s 69 ft lbs of torque outshine that of the 821 spectacularly from the 4,000 rpm to 8,000 rpm range, maintaining a nearly 20 ft lb advantage.

The 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle in San Francisco.

The 2021 Ducati Monster.  Photo by Gregor Halenda, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

This beefier motor makes for a much easier and enjoyable ride. There’s more punch across a wider range of revs, and I wasn’t constantly shifting gears on the new Ducati Quick Shift–equipped gearbox to stay within the Monster’s sweet spot throughout my test ride in San Francisco. But there’s a bit of a lull in drive from 3,000 rpm to 4,000 rpm, and when the torque does rush back in—you’ll know.

You can affect much of the Monster’s behavior via the adjustable riding modes—of which you get three levels in Sport, Touring and Urban—and each allows you to adjust individual parameters. The Monster’s IMU mitigates the eight-stage traction control, three-stage Cornering ABS and four-stage wheelie control, and it also dictates the cut time for the quick shifter. Unfortunately, there’s no cruise control, which is disappointing.

A close-up of the engine on the 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle.

The bike’s 937 cc motor makes 111 hp and 69 ft lbs of torque.  Photo by Gregor Halenda, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

The $11,895 base model and the $12,095 Monster +, which comes with a small accessory screen and passenger seat cover, are the first motorcycles to bear the famous Monster name without a steel trellis frame. Once considered holy ground for Ducati, the steel trellis is slowly moving towards extinction, with the Monster utilizing a front-frame design similar to that found on the Panigale V4 superbike. The frame is essentially split in two, with the front half bolted to the front cylinder head and the rear half—consisting of the subframe and seat unit—bolted to the rear cylinder head. The engine itself hangs in the middle as a fully stressed member.

The 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle.

The new model features Sport, Touring and Urban ride modes, each allowing for adjustment of individual parameters.  Photo by Mike Levin, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

The new chassis, and the diet the remainder of the motorcycle has gone on, equates to a 40-pound weight reduction, with the company claiming the new Monster will tip the scales at 414 pounds ready to ride with a full 3.7-gallon tank of gas.

The result is an exceptional increase in agility. I was thoroughly impressed with how the new Monster darted from corner to corner with ease, even with suspension that has no adjustment on the front and only preload on the rear. That’s a surprising aspect given the price, but the ride quality is still exceptional at the medium-level range of speed you’ll most likely remain in with this machine.

Riding the 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle in San Francisco.

Darting from corner to corner on San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street.  Photo by Gregor Halenda, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

One area of the new Monster that has sent internet forums and social media raging is the styling. Although LED lighting abounds on the new Monster, that’s not the talking point. It’s that this is the biggest deviation of the classic Monster aesthetic since 1992, which ultimately amounts to blasphemy according to many Ducatisti. Personally, I like the look. A design is only classic if it doesn’t date, and I felt the original design was beginning to age. Besides, Ducati is really after new riders with this bike, so a fresh face might be just the ticket required.

Riding the 2021 Ducati Monster motorcycle.

The 2021 edition’s 40-pound weight reduction equates to an exceptional increase in agility.  Photo by Gregor Halenda, courtesy of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.

Whether you like the design or not, there’s no denying that the ride experience is worthy. The Monster is a very accessible machine for any skill level, offering something for everyone, and it certainly fills some pretty big shoes rather nicely.

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