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2015 Ducati Monster 821 First Ride

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Earlier this year we sampled the 2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S and found it to be the best Monster yet. The water-cooled Testastretta 11 engine, Brembo brakes and Ohlins suspension made for a package that blew our Italian loafers off. Now I’m in the home of Ducati (Bolonga, Italy) to take a spin on the logical next chapter in the Monster story – the 2015 Monster 821. The spec sheet isn’t quite as lofty as the 1200 but there is plenty to like about the 821. In fact, the Monster 821 is my favorite naked Ducati thus far.

Ducati followed the formula used for the larger 1200cc Monster, fitting a liquid-cooled engine, a longer wheelbase and a more comfortable perch for both rider and passenger. While the biggest Monster targets more experienced riders, Ducati claims the intended customer for the 821 is existing Monsteristi, brand-switchers and new riders. Women fit the demo for the Monster 821 as well. After a day on the bike I would say that this new mid-sized Monster is a great fit for just about anyone.



Starting with the chassis, the 821 gets a small trellis frame that bolts to the cylinder heads of the Testastretta. Ducati’s numbers show the new chassis is 99% stiffer than the outgoing Monster 796’s unit while being 2.71 pounds lighter. The steel trellis subframe is also 2.43 pounds less than the 796’s rear frame. Even so, the 821’s wet weight of 453 pounds is 38 pounds above the 796. Some of that additional weight comes from the additional 1.02 gallons of fuel capacity. The rest we assume is the radiator, cooling system components and the physically larger engine.

Although every dimension of the 821 is larger it feels light and small, especially once underway. Handling in the city is nimble and fleet-footed, changing direction with an ease and quickness that the larger 1200 just can’t match.

During the first half of our day on the 821, the rain kept our speeds and aggression in check, and the only impression I was able to get was how light the medium Monster felt. Not really a complete review. Luckily later in the day the skies cleared, the pavement dried up and I was able to flog the 821. Turn-in is light, tipping in with a just a little body English and the rest of the corner is just as good – as long as the road is smooth.



The non-adjustable 43mm Kayaba front fork and Sachs cantilever rear shock are sprung softly and damped to match. In the city the ride is comfortable, but when hustling through bumpy corners the chassis can become upset. This makes it more difficult to hold a line at breakneck speed, but at 85 to 90% speed it is perfectly acceptable. While this may seem like a serious dig on the 821, I still feel the 821 is easier to handle at almost any speed than the larger Monster. It made me grin ear to ear even when it was bucking around in the rough sections of pavement.

Ducati followed the formula used for the larger 1200cc Monster  fitting a liquid-cooled Testastretta engine to the Monster 821.
Toggling through the riding modes is simple on the Monsters LCD dash  but making changes to traction control and ABS settings is more cumbersome than the TFT displays on the Monster 1200.
Crack the throttle to the stop in Sport mode in first and second gear and the front wheel will rise  but without the snap of larger displacement naked bikes.
(Above) Ducati followed the formula used for the larger 1200cc Monster, fitting a liquid-cooled Testastretta engine to the Monster 821. (Middle) Toggling through the riding modes is simple on the Monster’s LCD dash, but making changes to traction control and ABS settings is more cumbersome than the TFT displays on the Monster 1200. (Below) Crack the throttle to the stop in Sport mode in first and second gear and the front wheel will rise, but without the snap of larger displacement naked bikes.
The 821.1cc, 112-horsepower Testastretta 11 is lively yet easy to handle. Crack the throttle to the stop in Sport mode in first and second gear and the front wheel will rise, but without the snap of larger displacement naked bikes. The engine torques off the bottom with a satisfying grunt that is also very easy to reign in. The mid-range is healthy while the top-end tapers off as you reach the 11,000 rpm limit.

In Touring the power is slightly tempered with a less sharp throttle response. The Ducati Safety Pack’s traction control is also raised to level 4 from the Sport setting of 2. ABS is also increased from Level 1 (which will allow to the rear wheel to lift) to Level 2, which prevents the rear wheel from lifting too high. The third riding mode, Urban, is docile with 75hp, Level 6 traction control and Level 3 ABS. This setting worked well on the rain-slick roads in the mountains above Bologna. The engine character of the 821 is just sporty enough to entertain the most hardcore riders but also less-threatening to new or less experienced riders. Very few powerplants span such a wide range.

Toggling through the riding modes is simple on the Monster’s LCD dash, but making changes to traction control and ABS settings is more cumbersome than the TFT displays on the Monster 1200, Panigale and Diavel. Once you figure out the system, it is fairly straightforward but still more tedious.

The seating position of the Monster 821 is fairly upright with just a slight bend forward to the bars, which have been moved back 40mm and up 40mm for a more relaxed reach. The new seat mirrors the 1200’s unit with more padding and an adjustable height of 30.9” to 31.9” that makes for an easy reach to the pavement. Everything feels solid and placed perfectly for all day comfort. The only criticisms of the rider area would be that the rubber footpegs become unnervingly slick when wet and a slit in the rear fender allows for water to fling all over the rider’s back.

Braking performance from the M83 Monbloc front calipers and radial mount master cylinder is less refined that we have come to expect from Ducati. The initial lever movement would vary from soft and mushy to grabby depending on the speed of your trigger finger. Once you adapted to the lever the power was there to stop you with authority and never let me down. The rear brake offers a mushy feel as well.

So why with its flaws would I say the Monster 821 is the best example yet? At $11,495 the 821 is more affordable while still offering up plenty of power, a nimble chassis and all-day long comfort. Yes, the suspension may be a touch soft and the brakes may not be as stellar as the Monster 1200’s, but for the price you can’t beat the fun-per-dollar ratio from the 821. Not to mention, it is easier to ride 95% of the time. It’s everything Monsters have been from the start – a sum much greater than its less exotic parts that puts a smile on your face every time you crack the throttle.


2015 Ducati Monster 821 First Ride

Handling in the city is nimble and fleet-footed  changing direction with an ease and quickness that the larger 1200 just cant match. The new seat mirrors the 1200s unit with more padding and an adjustable height of 30.9 to 31.9. The engine character of the 821 is just sporty enough to entertain the most hardcore riders but also less-treating to new or less experienced riders.
The 821.1cc  112-horsepower Testastretta 11 is lively yet easy to handle. The mid-range is healthy while the top-end tapers off as you reach the 11 000 rpm limit. The non-adjustable 43mm Kayaba front fork and Sachs cantilever rear shock are sprung softly and damped to match.
2015 Ducati Monster 821 First Ride
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2015 Ducati Monster 821 Specs
The 821 is everything Monsters have been from the start - a sum much greater than its less exotic parts that puts a smile on your face every time you crack the throttle.
Engine: 821cc Testastretta 11º liquid-cooled Desmodromic
Bore x Stroke: 88 x 67.5mm
Compression Ratio: 12.8:1
Fuel Injection: Continental fuel injection, 53mm Mikuni throttle bodies with full ride-by-wire
Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1=37/15; 2=30/17; 3=28/20; 4=26/22; 5=24/23; 6=23/24
Primary Drive: Straight cut gears, 1.85:1
Final Drive: Chain, Front Sprocket 15, Rear Sprocket 46
Clutch: APTC slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with control cable
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame attached to the cylinder head
Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
Rake: 24.3º
Trail: 3.7 inches
Total Steering Lock: 60º
Front Suspension: Upside down non-adjustable 43mm forks
Rear Suspension: Fully adjustable Sachs with progressive linkage
Front Brake: 2x320mm semi-floating discs, radially attached Brembo Monobloc four piston calipers, radial pump with ABS
Rear Brake: 245mm disc, two-piston caliper with ABS
Front Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy 3.50x17
Rear Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy 5.50x17
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear Tire: 180/60 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Fuel Tank: 4.6 gallons
Weight: 453 pounds
MSRP: $11,495 USD
 
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Comments
BigRon   July 19, 2014 09:56 AM
Nice write up. It would be helpful to know the test riders height and inseam. Being a taller rider it would be valuable information especially when comparing the riding position of different bikes in a shoot out. My issues typically are with the peg height and location. Bars and risers are fairly inexpensive to swap out if the stock cables are retained when compared to rear sets. Thanks
Justin Dawes   July 3, 2014 05:19 PM
@nplateau - it can get toasty, but noting like the Panigale's as there is plenty of space for the heat to disperse. rather than being focused on your leg like the sportbikes. Granted it was not very hot in the rain... but it is not a deal breaker.
Nplateau77   July 3, 2014 03:23 PM
Hey Justing, nice first ride write-up. I have read elsewhere that there are some issues in regards to how much heat the 821 throws off from the right side where the exhaust plumbing is. What are your thoughts in regards to this? Being a Southern California rider, how much of an issue do you think this could be, in relation to comfort, during our scorching summers?
OutOfTheBox   July 3, 2014 12:43 PM
Hey Justin, not saying that your relative observations are meaningless, just that I would hate to see you get outright silly with them like some other writers who I won't mention again. One of them is more than enough for the world. But seriously don't you guys have an app/phone combo that you can use to make 1/4-mile and 0-60 measurements, at least relatively-accurately? Good enough for a first-ride? Also something that would measure rate of turn, lean-angle, tilt-rate would be good...it might not be able to measure the input forces, but that's ok as a measurement of rate alone would be great. You take 100 measurements of tilt and turn-rate and you'll get a general idea of how easy the bike is to lean over and turn. Seems like you guys would have gotten a offer of tech support from some geeks at UCSD or Caltech and by now this would be a nonissue. Thanks & good luck.
Justin Dawes   July 3, 2014 09:59 AM
@OutOfTheBox - First ride press introductions are always a subjective endeavor, and there is no chance for objective testing on site. My position is to be an expert at subjective reviews of motorcycles when it is required, such as at press introductions. Shootouts are where we can get plenty of hard numbers and we do. As for my comparisons being meaningless between the 1200 and 821 - at times it helps readers to give them a frame of reference whether that is a similar model or a previous model. The 821 has more in common with the 1200 than it does with the 796 it replaces. I've also ridden the 1200 quite a bit and know it's handling traits well. So I am not merely assuming that just because it's slightly lighter and has less inertial force that the 821 feels lighter. It does because it does. There is no number you can put on a feeling. You as a reader either have to trust that I am qualified or I am not to make appraisals of handling and performance based on my 15+ years of testing motorcycles. We aren't all BS'ers...
Troll5000   July 3, 2014 05:44 AM
@OutOfTheBox... No matter what the weight or size of two machines, a bike equipped with a smaller cc engine will always feel lighter and turn into corners easier. I've ridden many bikes and if you have any experience at all, it's blatantly obvious. The reason is the crankshaft inertia. A bigger-engine machine will always want to continue to go straight when you try to bend it over. You can prove this theory to yourself. Get a 20" bicycle wheel (off the bike of course), hold the axle with both hands, spin it and then try to lean it left and right. Do the same with a 26" mountain bike wheel. The 26" wheel is much harder to man handle back and forth even if it weighs less than the 20" wheel. Physics and math don't lie, my man.
OutOfTheBox   July 2, 2014 03:56 PM
"Although every dimension of the 821 is larger it feels light and small, especially once underway. Handling in the city is nimble and fleet-footed, changing direction with an ease and quickness that the larger 1200 just can’t match." Careful, Justin, keep this up and soon you'll be writing like Wes Siler....one of the worst things about a purely-subjective review is that you slip into these fairly-meaningless comparisons (though to reach WS levels of silliness you also have to leap to fairly-ludicrous conclusions from them). I think it's safe to say that a 1200cc version of an 800cc bike can't handle with the same ease and quickness. How much more difficult is it, how much slower? This is something that I would love to test objectively one day because people are always yapping on about how much slower the handling is of say a Gixxer 1000 or a Busa than a Gixxer 600 or a Ninja 300 despite the fact that the wheelbase and curb-weight are almost the same. Now we have the same nonsense with streetfighters, where the conclusion is based on either an obvious relation (1200cc bike bigger & heavier than an 800cc bike) or a flawed assumption (because one bike is bigger & heavier than the other, the handling must be a lot worse...proportionally worse, in relation to the differences in engine-size). Or just an outright falsehood (i.e. W.S.) that sounds great to the unwise. Anyway just don't slip down that rabbit-hole. I would like to see some hard, independent performance data for this bike, similarly with other reviews going forward. Thanks.