The Ducatisti don’t need to be told how great the Monster lineup is, but the Monster 696 blew the other bikes away in our shootout when it came to the subjective scoring. The Duc scored 10s for engine performance, engine character, drivetrain, brakes, handling/suspension and appearance. During the objective performance tests, however, the only top spot earned by the Monster was its sprightly 422-pound curb weight (63 pounds less than the heavy Yamaha).
I think the sexy appearance and sound of the Italian bike has a way of affecting how the female brain interprets everything about it. While the objective performance numbers told one story, our experience onboard told another.
When you want the power, it is there. It’s fun to accelerate the Monster through all the gears. And it never felt like you needed more gears. There were times I didn’t even use fifth or sixth on the highway, as it had plenty of steam on tap. Halfway through the day, we all started to gravitate towards wanting more time on the Italian bike. No catfights broke out, but plenty of passive aggressive responses like, “Oh no, problem. I don’t mind waiting. You go first,” could be heard.
The 2012 Ducati Monster 696 took perfect 10’s in subjective scoring of engine performance and character – with test riders wooed by the tones of the signature L-Twin powerplant.
“The V-Twin power has low-end torque that pulls all the way through the powerband,” explains Sarah of the Duc’s playful engine. And Tania knew within the first few minutes why they call it a Monster, saying. “When you want the power, it is there.”
The Ducati Twin sounds intoxicating. From the minute you start the bike, the rumble makes you feel like you’re on a powerful, performance-oriented motorcycle. Considering how emotional the riding experience can be, the Ducati’s play on the senses can’t be overstated.
We also enjoyed how you can hear the bike coming from a distance. It is a signature characteristic of the Ducati engine and just wonderful. “Nothing sounds as good as a V-Twin sportbike,” adds Sarah.
The Ducati drivetrain is smooth, slick and refined from the clutch down to the transmission. It just seemed to do everything well. The clutch fit our smaller and larger-handed riders and engaged consistently without issue. The levers on the Ducati are adjustable and were well positioned for all our riders.
Suspension was stiff on the Monster, which was just right for the more advanced riders in our group. It allowed the bike to handle exceptionally well in the corners. On the highway, some riders felt the bike was a little too stiff, especially for extended straight-line cruising.
It is no fluke the Ducati feels like it has a great suspension package. For those riders who thrive on fine-tuning the feel of the ride, the rear suspension on this bike is a Sachs monoshock unit with progressive linkage. This translates to a wide spectrum of both spring and damping settings. Up front, an inverted Marzocchi fork ensures outstanding rider comfort.
“I had confidence that the Ducati would stick to the road. It responded instantly to my body position and input. It goes where you want it to go,” says Tania.
The compact size and shorter wheelbase of the Ducati made it easy for testers to maneuver in tight spaces.
We all liked how the compact size and shorter wheelbase made it super easy to navigate, even during the tightest parking lot maneuvers.
The Ducati’s binders were some of the best I had ever experienced. The brakes up front are 320mm floating discs gripped by four-piston, radially mounted calipers. In the back, you’ll find a similar, but slightly larger 245mm floating disc working with a twin-piston caliper. What does it all mean? Powerful brakes. Great feel and feedback. Good for riders of all abilities.
“The Brembo brakes worked like a charm. They felt great and stopped perfectly,” adds Vicki.
ABS is a nice feature, although a sizeable percentage of Americans still prefer to ride without it. The Ducati brakes may have required a little more squeeze than the Triumph, but once you were firm with the lever, the stopping power felt totally adequate.
While the Ducati’s stopping power did feel great from the pilot’s seat, the actual braking test proved the Italian Stallion required a bit more stopping distance (18.6 feet) than the best in class Triumph Street Triple. I think the Brembo equipment combined with higher rider confidence gave us the perception we were stopping on a dime.
This “user friendly” bike feels low to the ground and we could all back the bike up with ease while sitting. This is a rare occurrence for someone like me at 5’3”. I don’t mind resting a bike on my hip to push it backwards. I do it almost every time I go out. The fact that I didn’t have to do it with the Ducati Monster was awesome. I thought to myself “Oh, this is how tall people back up.”
We enjoyed the graph-like tachometer and large speedo. The instrumentation panel included plenty of information including a little wrench icon for maintenance needed and a lap timer. I found myself really looking down to see the speedo, but I was having too much fun to be truly inconvenienced.
The Ducati has no fuel gauge, just an early warning light that goes off when the fuel level gets low. We all agreed that we prefer the feeling of knowing how much you have left in the tank. “This is important on the Monster,” Tania admits. “Especially since I can’t seem to go slow.”
Other complaints over the instrumentation revolve around the forward-biased riding position. “It’s a weird sensation to feel like you’re on top of the front wheel and the instruments were directly under my chin, so I had to look down to check them,” says Sarah. “They were small and difficult to read, too.”
I loved how it felt like 98% of the bike was under or behind me. I thought I preferred more fairing and instrumentation up front, but this bike proved that personal theory inaccurate.
The Ducati stands out in a crowd, looking hot in Ferrari red with the signature trellis frame. Some naked bikes tend to look like they lost a fairing on the road Tania joked, but the Ducati looks well planned and complete. It feels like the designers paid close attention to every nook and cranny, and from any angle, at any distance, this bike is motorcycle eye candy. The bike is a work of art.
“What is sexier than a Ducati with a V-Twin sport engine and trellis frame and of course, Italian aesthetics?” sums up Sarah. “The Monster defines art on two wheels with the bonus of exceptional performance.”