The problem with motorcycles (apart from the fact that they’re addictive) is that you’re at the mercy of the elements when you’re out riding. On a nice, cool and dry day, blatting around on a motorcycle is just about the perfect pastime, but when the heat and humidity are cranked right up, you sometimes begin to wonder if your time may have been better spent elsewhere, preferably an elsewhere stocked with chilled liquids and lithe supermodels. I was beginning to have feelings along these lines out in the countryside near Chiang Mai, Thailand, where the temperature must have been at least 37 degrees, with a humidity level of ‘Deluge’, but given that alternative options were non-existent, I did the next best thing, which was to drop a gear and whack open my Monster 821’s throttle. With a great big ‘braaaap!’ from its exhaust, the bike catapulted itself down the road, which wasn’t quite as exhilarating as it sounds, because I had to almost immediately brake in order to avoid riding straight up the exhaust of the 821 in front – for this I blame the limitations of convoy-riding. Still, methinks one doth complain too much, and everything I’ve mentioned so far falls squarely under the ‘First World Problems’ category – the Monster 821 is a delightful machine, and I’d be on a plane to Chiang Mai in a flash if I was offered the opportunity to ride it there again.
Ducati wouldn’t be half the company it is today if not for the Monster, which has been its top-selling model for close to two decades. Il Mostro, as the Italians call it, has seen extensive changes made to it over the years, but what has not changed is its USP – it’s still a structurally simple, good looking, fun-to-ride motorcycle. We’ve had experience of the Monster 795 and 796 in India, during Ducati’s earlier foray into the country, and they were both very enjoyable; the 821, however, is the best yet, and it will replace the other two models and become the entry-level Monster, until such time as the Monster 1200 decides to drop by here.
Given that the original Monster was a parts-bin creation, with elements from other Ducatis going into it, it isn’t surprising to learn that the 821 carries on in the same vein; it’s essentially a Monster 1200 with an engine from the Hypermotard model and a few structural changes. Gone is the 1200’s single-sided swingarm, for example, and its TFT instrumentation screen; the 821 makes do with a double-sided unit and an LCD screen. The iconic trellis frame is very much in existence, attached directly to the bike’s cylinder heads, and in comparison to the outgoing Monster 796, the 821 has a 30mm longer wheelbase, a longer and wider seat and a handlebar that’s 40mm taller and closer to the rider, for a more upright stance (I can vouch for the bike’s increased comfort levels). As for the engine, it has received a few tweaks, including a bigger airbox and a slight bump up in power to 112 bhp, from the Hypermotard’s 110 bhp. The 796’s dual underseat exhausts make way for a 2x1x2 exhaust unit that looks very similar to the one on the Diavel, and a slipper clutch is also present, to smooth out gear changes (the Hypermotard was a bit of a lurching mess, in this regard). Visually, the Monster is still a lively looking machine, with its head-down stance giving it a sense of real aggression; you’ll get a lot of attention on it, suffice to say.
The V-twin engine has gained in refinement, and although it will never worry a triple or inline-four engine in this department, it’s still an improvement over the 796. In typical V-twin fashion, there’s lots of usable torque right from the get go, and you don’t have to rev the engine into the stratosphere in order to make rapid progress; this is especially useful in city riding conditions, where the lower end of the rev range comes into play. You have three engine modes to choose from – Urban, Touring and Sport – and each alters the engine’s responsiveness appropriately; in fact, Urban mode cuts peak power to 75 bhp, and it actually works very well. Sport is, of course, the mode to be in if you can at all help it, because it’s where the Monster is able to give vent to its basest emotions, transforming into a fast, loud and thoroughly enjoyable motorcycle. You can also program the ABS and traction control according to your needs, but the drawback is that it takes a while to figure out all the settings on the instrument panel (like I said, just leave the damn thing in sport and let it rip). Throttle response throughout is crisp and linear and the gearbox is much slicker than the 796, apart from the odd false neutral while shifting from 5th to 6th; the brakes are superb, both in their bite and the feel they transmit.
The Monster’s suspension (adjustable at the rear for spring preload) is tuned towards the softer side of the scale, given that the bike is aimed at riders who are starting out in motorcycling. In practice, this means a pliant and quite plush quality of ride, especially in urban conditions, and a reassuring sense of balance and stability in most situations. Straight line ability is rock solid, and it’s only when you really hurl the bike really hard into corners that it bounces around a little bit, off imperfections on the road’s surface. Otherwise, the Monster is eager to please, feeling easy during turn-in and light on its side when you’re fully leaned over. All told, the Monster 821 is a very welcome addition to the Ducati lineup, possibly providing better value than the full-bore Monster 1200. It’s the sort of bike that will entertain seasoned riders and novices alike, and is a significant improvement in every way over the 796. When it’s launched here, expect a price-tag of Rs 9.3 lakh, ex-showroom; for that money, you’ll have a motorcycle that you’ll want to ride every day, regardless of how hot and humid it is out there – after all, there’s nothing like going faster to keep you cool.