It is not the smallest Monster that Ducati has ever built.
It is an Italian thoroughbred that still remains a dream to the thousands of
motorcyclists out there. It has a more than 20-year heritage and distinct
Italian beauty that discerning motorcycle enthusiasts appreciate and envy. So
what the Monster 795 is, simply, the best value Ducati Monster ever!
As a significant portion of its large motorcycle riding
population becomes more mature and successful, the market for big bikes in Asia
has been steadily growing. Aided by reduction in taxes within the region, this
trend was helped by major manufacturers like Honda and Kawasaki which offered
brand new big bikes from their Thailand plants at more affordable prices. To
strengthen its global market share, Ducati released the Monster 795 in Asia to
attract the more affluent and more discerning riders into the Ducati ownership
experience. Like any manufacturer would do, Ducati created a bike that would
suit its target market best. Hence, the Monster 795 was crafted and is now a
unique model to the Asian markets.
Ducati created its own category within the naked standard
motorcycles when they introduced the award-winning M900 Monster way back in
1993. Designed by Miguel Angel Galluzzi, its overly aggressive but minimalist
styling was radical but classy and sexy – at that time it was a giant departure
from Ducati’s svelte and sensuous supersport lines. More importantly, it was also
a very useable and practical day-to-day motorcycle unlike the weekend-only superbikes.
It was a game changer for naked bikes and is credited to being the first urban
street fighter model to be offered by a manufacturer.
The Monster’s exposed air-cooled, 90-degree L-twin engine,
big exhaust, trellis frame, stepped seat, aggressive riding position and
massive tires became its trademark features. In fact, Il Mostro’s ‘less-is more’
philosophy became a template or inspiration for other manufacturers to come up
with their own naked street fighters. It also saved Ducati from extinction as
it became its biggest selling model for many years and generated the cash flow
it needed to develop its more high profile superbikes.
Now, after two decades of success in the market, the Monster
is in its second generation with three models in the family: the entry level 696,
the middle ground 796 and the 1100 flagship model – the numbers pertaining to
their respective engine sizes. Within these engine models are different
variants and editions with brake and suspension upgrades or commemorative
themes to celebrate milestones or famous Ducati racers. And since 2011, the
Monster 795 was added to the family for Asia.
We don’t share the perspective of some international
reviewers of this bike since we feel they are looking at it from the wrong point
of view. The correct way to look at the Monster 795 is not as a de-tuned 796 or
1100 but rather as an upgraded 696 – which is what it actually is. It’s not a
“cost-down” 796 but rather an “up-spec” 696! Considering it was intended to be
sold at a price level lower than a 696, it is unfair to compare it to anything
else and complain of what it does not have.
The majority of the target market in the region could easily
afford a 696 but desires more power and stature than the Monster’s smallest
model. Also, the average Asian rider is physically smaller than Europeans or Americans.
Hence, Ducati took the smaller 696’s chassis and upgraded the engine from that
of the 796. The result is a bike that is a better fit for Asian riders with a
lower seat height (only 30 inches) and a shorter reach (higher) handlebar with
the added oomph of the 803cc engine. In our opinion, it is a simple and
straightforward but sensible product planning strategy executed by Ducati.
The 803cc fuel-injected 2-valve Desmodromic engine from the
796 is a significant improvement from the 696cc unit. It is also equipped with
unique massive dual under seat exhaust pipes and matched to a 6-speed manual
transmission via a hydraulic wet multi-plate clutch. The increase in
performance is 7 hp in maximum power and 9 Nm of maximum torque respectively. More
importantly, the 803cc engine achieves these figures at much lower rpm levels
(750 rpm lower for maximum power and a massive 1,500 rpm lower for maximum
torque) making the 795 a lot more relaxed to ride at lower speeds or highway cruising.
Although it is still not as smooth, tractable or as powerful as other
middleweight Japanese bikes, the 795 is significantly better at city traffic
speeds than the 696 since the engine can spin at a more relaxed level. Also,
absolute performance is much better than the 696 since the 795 is only 4
kilograms heavier and weighs exactly the same as the 796 at 167 kilograms.
Chassis-wise, the 795 is exactly the same as the 696 using a
tubular chrome moly steel trellis frame with a casted aluminum rear sub frame.
Suspension is handled by 43mm upside-down forks and a monoshock with double
sided swing arm at the rear. The wheels are also the same 17-inch, 3-spoke
light alloy wheels and ZR-rated Pirelli Angel ST tires as the 696. Brakes are
impressive Brembos as well with twin 320mm discs at the front clamped by
4-piston radial calipers and a 245mm disc with 2-piston caliper combo at the
rear. The stiff chassis and suspension combo give a responsive handling while
the brakes are impressively strong.
It is important to point out that the single-sided swing arm
and side exhausts are not standard items on the 696 and is only available to
the 796 and 1100 variants so it’s wrong to expect it on the 795. Also, the 795
looks exactly the same as the 696 with the exception of the color-keyed
passenger seat cover and the tiny wind deflector on the headlamps in some
Riding the 795 is unmistakably a genuine Ducati experience.
Part of the appeal and character of a Monster is the visceral riding feeling it
provides. It’s not about smooth lazy cruising or fast corner carving. It’s all
about taming a beautiful temperamental motorcycle that rewards the rider after
mastering and getting used to its eccentricity. Also, it’s about getting used
to the stares of admirations and sometimes even envy from people as you ride
The riding position is relatively more upright compared to a
regular sport Ducati thanks to the lower seat height and the wider handlebars
that are also mounted higher. It is more tolerable for commuting and to ride slowly
in heavy traffic. However, the riding position is still aggressive and the
suspension is still on the firm side compared to other standard bikes and will
strain your arms and wrists on long rides if you want to just cruise along but
then again, you are buying a Ducati and this is the character of the bike. That
said, less experienced or older riders would benefit from a higher set of
handlebars to ease the stress on the wrists and back. On the bright side, this
same aggressive riding position makes cornering feel more natural and makes the
Monster feel at home on fast twisties.
The Monster makes you think that the bike underneath your
crotch is alive. You can feel the engine at all rpm levels. It feels relaxed only
above 4,000 rpm and is happiest at above 7,000 all the way to its 8,250 rpm red
line. While the engine always feel that it has enough torque to get you out in
any situation, taking a gear lower than usual will smoothen the ride and also
gets you in the better part of the power band.
Unlike the other modern and technically refined models in
today’s Ducati lineup – namely the Panigale, Streetfighter, Diavel, Multistrada
and the Hypermotard – the Monster is the only remaining range that still employ
air-cooling in its engines. Part of the brand’s character is its air-cooled
L-twin engine and for those just buying their first Ducati, the 795 will ensure
that you will not miss out the classic Ducati experience.
After knowing the 795 properly, a 696 on steroids at
significantly lower price, anybody can truly appreciate Ducati’s effort to
bring so much motorcycling exotica in a package more apt for us Asians. Honestly,
the fact that it is assembled in Thailand does not matter at all, especially to
those who will finally be able to buy their first Italian dream bike. Long time
Ducatisti who are now on their third or fourth Ducks and has been immersed in
the Ducati lifestyle that no doubt the bike brings to its owners, might fuss
about the shortcomings of the 795 compared to their current more expensive and
faster Italian steeds. But once they realize that the purity and character of a
Ducati that they covet are still largely present and intact in the 795, they
will probably wish that the 795 has been around years ago so that it could be
their first Ducati. It is indeed the genuine article! There has never been a better
time to make your dream to become a Ducatista come true than now with the
– Al Camba
This was published in Maximum TORQUE’s 2013 Issue Number 1