Ducati monster 797
new entry-level monster packs a decent punch. Is it the ideal first step?
I’ve just returned from a long vacation and my workout regime is in complete disarray. And looks like I am going to miss my gym session again today — blame the early morning photo shoot. But I’m not complaining because I will be astride the new Monster 797. One look at it, and you know that the design remains true to the first Monster that was launched some 24 years ago. Yes, the same one that kick-started this segment, and over the years, no other manufacturer has managed to match the magic of the Italian — old-school and pure muscle. Round headlight, curvaceous fuel tank, bare trellis frame, minimalistic rear... simple and beautifully executed. And, in this particular red paint, it appears even more gorgeous.
I swing my leg over and both my feet comfortably reach the ground. The saddle height of 805 millimetres will be fine for most riders of average build, though it is not adjustable. One has to bend forward to reach the wide handlebar. The foot-pegs, however, aren’t very rear-set and are amenable to a relaxed position. It makes the riding stance sporty without being uncomfortable, and ideal for city use. There’s a black-and-white digital console which provides basic information, though at this price tag the bike does deserve something better. The display has the tachometer right on top with a large speedometer beneath it and a clock snd other tell-tale lights for engine oil temperature, low fuel etc. You don’t get a fuel-gauge or a gear indicator but it does display average speed and journey time.
The Ducati Monster 797 doesn’t intimidate the rider, which is fabulous for newbies on the big bike scene
The 797 is the most affordable one in the famed Monster family, for it has been positioned below the recently launched 821. It’s also the only air-cooled Monster on offer today. So, it’s back to basics for this no-frills model whose sole intention is to instil passion in the purest form. The bike borrows the 803-cc L-twin from the Ducati Scrambler range and continues to make a modest 73 PS that peaks at 8,250 rpm. I crank it up using the self-starter which also doubles up as the engine kill switch. The low clatter on idling is rather impressive and is unlike many other Ducatis. This makes the 797 much more refined compared to the 796, the lastgeneration entry-level Monster.
The big difference is that the new bike doesn’t intimidate the rider, which is fabulous for newbies on the big bike scene. Its linear power delivery and refined fuelling has been designed to make this bike more approachable and, thus, able to cater to a wider audience. That’s why the 67 Nm of torque is available at just 5,750 rpm, peaking at much lower revs than most of its competitors. This gives it a wider spread of torque, so even while pottering around town in third or fourth gear, a twist of the wrist is enough to make it surge ahead without having to shift down. There’s no juddering or that sensation of stalling the bike even when one slows down in a higher gear. This instils great confidence, especially while riding around in a leisurely manner.
At lower speeds, the six-speed gearbox feels a mite clunky and one has to struggle to get the bike in neutral. However, the good part is that the 797, like its older sibling, gets the APTC
(Adler Power Torque Plate Clutch). Like a slipper clutch, the system prevents the rear wheel from locking up while shedding gears. More importantly, APTC makes the clutch feel light so that long rides don’t leave you with a sore left arm. The only let-down is that unlike the brake lever, the clutch lever is not adjustable. It’s disappointing that a stunner like the Monster has skipped something that’s available on bikes onefourth its price.
Cost-cutting is also evident since it doesn’t offer riding modes or traction control but does get ABS. Remember, the idea here is to keep it simple for the rider and too much technology can be overwhelming for some. To be honest, this basic Monster has such a tractable motor that you really don’t need the modes. Twist the throttle, and there’s a healthy gush of power. Ride it right and it can go from 0 to 100 km/h in less than five seconds. And that’s thrilling enough. It’s quick to reach 150 km/h and can hold on to the speed without sounding stressed, although, in my case, the wind blast made it difficult for me to hold on to that speed. I could also feel some vibrations on the handlebar and footpegs when the engine crossed the 6,000rpm mark. On long jaunts it is best to keep the revs low and make most of the meaty mid-range. This way you can keep the engine heat in check too. But what really disappointed me was its muted exhaust note. For a bike this cool and with a devilish moniker, one expects it to be more beastly sounding than what it actually is. I’m sure Ducati wouldn’t have disappointed us on this count had it not been for the strict European norms.
What I really liked was the comfortable ride. Usually, bigger bikes are pretty firmly set up which makes them great around the racetrack, but a nightmare for city use. The Monster’s chunky 43-mm Kayaba front fork isn’t adjustable but does a great job of soaking in the road undulations. The rear shock-absorber is on the left side of the bike and gets pre-load adjustment. Even on a terrible road surface, I didn’t feel much stress on my wrist or back, for the suspension irons out practically everything. In hindsight, as one goes faster, the ride becomes slightly bouncy as it hits tiny road bumps. The wide turning radius is
another weak link in respect of this Monster. It made taking a U-turn on narrow hilly roads quite tedious.
Talking about winding roads, this hardly feels like a 193-kg bike while riding. The chassis is new and is paired with a more cost-effective double-sided swingarm. However, this doesn’t take away from the handling of the bike. The weight is pretty centralized and a light push on the bar is enough to make it change direction. The motorcycle remains composed in long sweeping corners even while maintaining threedigit speeds. It’s quick but not razorsharp and this makes it forgiving even for less skilled riders.
Sometimes while riding at lower speeds, the almost perpendicular rake angle makes the steering twitch if you hit a pothole unprepared. But fret not, as you have solid Pirelli tyres to rescue you in every situation. During our shoot, we experienced varied road surfaces, including tarmac, cement stretches and some slippery bits, too, and the Rosso II took everything in its stride offering inspiring grip at all times. The tyre grip also complements the fabulous Brembo brakes which come with switchable ABS. The brakes provide a sharp bite and, thanks to the sticky rubber, I could hardly feel the ABS working.
Having ridden for over 200 km, we headed back to office, which is right in the heart of the city, and by then the indication for the low fuel light was on. This hinted at an approximate fuel economy of close to 20 km/l on the highway and in the city; it should return close to over 15 km/l, decent for a bike of this size. What could have been better is the price. At Rs 8.03 lakh (exshowroom, Delhi) it’s not as wellequipped and comes with a simple air-cooled engine and many would consider the slightly more premium Monster 821. This also puts the 797 right between the Kawasaki Z900 and Triumph Street Triple S, both better equipped than this Monster. If you still sign that cheque, it’ll be purely for the spectacular design, lineage, and that desirable Italian badge.
A simple, easy to read console and displays average speed and journey time, but misses out on fuel-gauge or a gear indicator
With the costeffective doublesided swingarm the 797 feels quick but not razor-sharp
The 803cc L-twin is borrowed from the Scrambler range
The chassis protrudes near the foot-peg, so you can’t tuck in your feet properly
Old-school, pure muscle design makes the Monster very appealing