For the 60-something passer-by who was checking out the Monster 695 in front of my chiropractorís office, it didnít seem to matter much that this was Ducatiís entry-level bike. He spent at least 20 minutes examining the baby Duc, even dropping to his knees at one point to get a multifaceted gander at this Italian beauty.
Thatís a lot of ogling for a bike that retails for just $7795, and itís one of the key factors that makes the littlest Monster so desirable. The ď695Ē decals on its sidecovers are nearly the only clue that divulges its bargain MSRP, as it has many of the typical Ducati accoutrements such as its V-Twin motor, an inverted fork, the handsome trellis frame and the iconic visage of the Monsterís timeless styling that helped kick off the naked sportbike genre in 1993. The fact that the 695 boasts the lowest seat height and price tag of any Ducati matters little to the countless heads that frequently swiveled in its direction.
The first small-bore Monster on North American shores was the carbureted 600, followed in 2002 with the fuel-injected 620 version. Both are fun and reasonably affordable, but the output from the docile air-cooled motors can be diplomatically best described as modest. The original 583cc version pumped out a limp 51 horsepower. A new cylinder head and a 3.5mm increase in the stroke of the í02 version bumped displacement from 583cc to 618cc, combining with larger intake and exhaust valves to boost claimed horsepower to 60 at 9500 rpm. Importantly, its rev limit was bumped from 8700 rpm to 10,200 revs.
Now, five years later, the little Monster has grown again. Using essentially the same crankcases, Ducati engineers have radically reworked the reciprocating internals. An extra 77cc of motivation is on tap thanks to an 8mm larger cylinder bore (to 88mm), and this despite a shorter stroke (61.5 to 57.2mm). This more oversquare architecture results in 17% lower piston speeds, and the bigger bore allowed for bigger valves: 2mm larger on the intakes and up 3mm on the exhaust side.
The result is a claimed 73 ponies, a healthy 21.7% boost to the corral. And its peak power is now located down at 8500 rpm, so it doesnít need to be thrashed as hard as the previous mill to access adequate grunt. Peak torque of 45 ft-lbs arrives at 6750 rpm, and it is doled out in steady doses that have no problem moving the bikeís claimed 370 lbs.
Swinging a leg over this invigorated little Monster is easy due to its 30.3-inch seat height, low enough to feel manageable even to my petite 5í4Ē wife and making it ideal for short or unsteady riders. The downside of the low seat is a tight distance to the pegs, so tall riders will feel cramped. My 5-foot-8 body fit well, and the bike is surprisingly comfortable for something with such a short seat-to-peg distance.
The 695 motor chugs to life with the typical 90-degree V-Twin rumble. This newly puffed-up motor is similar in character to the larger Ducati V-Twins Ė kind of like porridge, in that itís a little bit lumpy but at the same time is smooth. Although it is fuel-injected, throttle response isnít perfect, with seemingly a lean condition that invokes some stumbles and partial-throttle surging.
Helping aid the less burly among us is the use of an Adler Power Torque Clutch, a Ducati exclusive. The hydraulic unit features the dual benefits of a light clutch pull and a back-torque-limiting design, the latter commonly called a ďslipper clutch.Ē It isnít foolproof, as this fool would know, but it greatly reduces the chance of wheel hop during high-rpm downshifts. This makes it fun to bang down through the gears and hear the V-Twin purr its bass-y tone on the overrun without much danger of getting squirrelly.
But all is not perfect with this clutch player. Although lever pull is quite light and the dog-legged lever makes an easier reach, the clutch has narrow engagement point at the end of its travel and comes in rather abruptly. It wouldnít dissuade us from buying the 695, but it will make for jerky getaways among some entry-level riders. The other beef about the clutch is that itís attached to this transmission, the least-polished aspect of the 695. Shift action is relatively heavy, and it wasnít uncommon to find a false neutral between the taller gears.
Quick turn-in response is aided by the wide, flat handlebar that ensures maximum leverage, allowing this unlikely hero to tear apart a tight canyon road nearly as well as anything on two wheels. A skinny-ish 160/60-17 rear tire aids agility without much of a grip penalty.
It takes a bit of an effort for a light rider to drag the left-side muffler in corners; husky riders will want to dial in more preload on the Sachs shock that is also adjustable for rebound damping. The 43mm inverted Marzocchi fork has no adjustment provisions.
Stopping power from the Brembo twin-piston calipers gripping dual 300mm discs up front is more than adequate for the road, with quick speed retardation despite their relatively old technology. Feedback is nonetheless quite good, aided by braided stainless-steel brake lines Ė a nice touch for a bargainy Italian bike. The single 245mm disc at the rear proved to be easy to modulate without locking up Ė a benefit for a newbie rider who might be intimidated by the front brake.
The naked Monster series makes it an unlikely candidate for touring, but it is more competent in this regard than you might think. Although equipped with an upright handlebar, the 695ís riding position is slightly leaned forward into the wind, which makes the naked bike quite suitable for cruising at highway speeds. Dialing 5000 rpm in top gear rings up 80 mph on the speedo, a range that provides decent thrust without undue vibration. A diminutive 3.6-gallon fuel tank ensures relatively short stints in the saddle, with a range of about 150 miles while sipping a gallon of gas every 45 or so miles.
Instrumentation is basic, consisting of a pair of analog dials for velocity and engine revs. We appreciated having the built-in clock, but a gear-position indicator would be a nice addition, especially for the bikeís intended market. Adjustable levers would also be appreciated on this entry-level bike, especially the front brake lever which is fairly far away. And while weíre bitching, a limited amount of steering lock makes it tough to maneuver in tight places and can catch out the unwary.
The 695 gathers plenty of envious looks, and we especially admire the color combo of our test bike, as the red frame looks da bomb set against the black tank and wheels. (The 695 can also be ordered in red or matte black.)
But building a bike to a price point forces some unglamorous compromises. The plastic rear hugger fender looks cheap in its dull black finish, and the flexy front fender doesnít follow the arc of the 120/60-17 tire. The professional snipers among us also bitched about the large and ungainly dual mufflers, but thatís part of the price of meeting stringent Euro 3 and EPA emission standards.
Iím lucky enough to have access to nearly every motorcycle built these days, and Iíve ridden most everything available in the past 10 years during my motojournalism career. Through it all, the humble Suzuki SV650 remains one of most smile-inducing motorbikes Iíve ridden, despite its unassuming dyno chart that is dwarfed by larger, more expensive machines.
And here is Ducatiís retort to the venerable SV. The Monster 695ís air-cooled, two-valve V-Twin doesnít breathe as easy as the Suzukiís liquid-cooled, four-valve V-Twin, but its extra 50cc helps it come close in overall power. The Duc has a slight edge in handling prowess, and its lower seat height will be seen as a real benefit by some. The Suzookís bargain $5999 price tag is a huge advantage, but the Asian bike canít come close to matching the cool factor of the bike from Bologna.
So where does that leave the little but lovable Monster? We think that depends on who you are.
And this makes for an ideal segue for the introduction of a new feature at MO.
|The Perfect Bike ForÖ|
|Ö an aficionado of la macchine bella with shallow pockets and a short inseam who doesnít mind spending a little extra lire on items that contribute to their stylish persona.|
- Italian sportbike fun at a blue-collar price
- Historic racing pedigree
- People think you have more money than you actually do
- Fuel mapping needs a compass
- Basketball players need not apply
- Have to clutch it to wheelie (itís quite possible this means nothing to you)