2018 Ducati Monster 821

Editor Score: 84.5%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 14/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 9.25/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.75/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score84.5/100

In the fall of 1992 Ducati introduced its first ever Monster, the M900. It was a bike aimed outside of the company’s typical sportbike targets, a simple roadster that blended the frame from an 851 superbike with the air-cooled 904cc motor from the Super Sport series. Designer Miguel Galluzzi draped that first Monster in a bare minimum of bodywork to create an elemental “naked” roadster. It was a smashing success that some people even claim financially saved a struggling Ducati. Now, after 25 years and more than 320,000 Monsters produced, a financially secure and seriously competitive Ducati has assembled the world’s moto press in Rimini, Italy, to test the new 2018 Monster 821.

2018 Ducati Monster 821 Reveal
2017 Ducati Monster 797 First Ride
2017 Ducati Monster 1200S First Ride

The bike that started it all, this is Miguel Galluzzi’s original M900 Monster now residing in the museum at Ducati’s factory, as originally introduced in the fall of 1992.

More of a cosmetic refresh than a whole “new” motorcycle, the 2018 Monster 821 is a well-integrated blend of components from last year’s Monster 821 and 1200 models. It basically uses the frame, brakes, Euro-4 silencer, fuel tank, headlight, color TFT instrument display, footpegs, bodywork, and miscellaneous hardware from the Monster 1200 as desirable upgrades to the Monster 821 for 2018. It combines that extensive list of borrowed Monster 1200 hardware with the existing 821cc Testastretta 11° engine, 43mm inverted fork, and spring preload and rebound damping adjustable rear shock connected to a double-sided swingarm from last year’s 821. There you have it, a new Ducati is born!

Clean and purposeful, the new Monster 821 follows the Monster 1200 in a return to basic Monster goodness.

With a clear eye on the past, the new 821 features retro original M900 touches like its cool exposed gas tank latch and the exact same shade of yellow paint. Obviously, it looks a whole lot like a Monster 1200, and that’s not a bad thing, seeing as that bike in particular really does a nice job of simplifying the somewhat busy aesthetic we’ve seen in recent liquid-cooled Monsters. I say Ducati was wise to hoist that M900-inspired styling direction upon the 1200 and new 821cc versions.

If a yellow bike with a black frame ain’t your bag, then the 821 is also available in red with a red frame, or black with a black frame. All three 2018 Monster 821 color schemes come with black wheels.

Everybody loves a little mechanical porn from time to time.

Following a quick technical briefing and a long meal, we retired for the night with visions of strafed apexes dancing in our heads. Snuggle the pillow, then splash some water on your face in the morning, and poof it’s time to ride…. Sunny, damp and chilly.  Following the pragmatic application of two turns of extra rear spring preload to suit my weight and a pinch more rebound damping for the shock, I thumbed the Monster 821 to life and dutifully followed my designated group out into the still sleeping city of Rimini.

The test route was about 100 miles in length, with only about 10 of them being within Rimini’s city limits, proper. It doesn’t take much city riding to discover that the 821, like all Monsters, is a fine platform on which to negotiate a city’s streets. It also didn’t take but a moment to observe that the gearbox can be particularly notchy when cold, and that the exhaust headers’ heat shield intrudes a bit into the space that the rider’s right shin might otherwise occupy. That was a minor annoyance for a few minutes, until a modified – more bow-legged – riding position somewhat alleviated the issue.

My mama always told me to look through the corner! Note bow-legged stance required to keep right shin from pressing against headers’ heat shield.

Slightly more problematic is the fact that the new peg brackets aren’t entirely successful at relieving the boot interference problems that were such an annoyance with the old one-piece units. It’s much improved, but the leading edge of the right rear passenger peg bracket is close enough to the rider’s peg that a large boot and a balls of the feet foot position frequently results in contact with the back of the right boot heel, which really is an unnecessary inconvenience.

The bulk of the ride is medium-speed twisty stuff, which is of course ideal for an Italian Monster. The pace picked up a bit as soon as we were out of town, and the Monster 821 proceeded to reveal itself as a friendly and amenable bike that suits a wide range of riding styles. That is mostly thanks to its stable chassis coupled with wide high-leverage handlebars. It’s a bike that manages to be both stable and nimble at the same time – and, dare I say, almost SV650-like in its accessibility. That’s a real compliment.

Of course, the 821 would peel the skin off an SV650 in any real contest of speed, thanks to more power and torque as well as the far superior quality and tuning of Ducati’s suspension components. No, this is a European roadster through and through. Aside from a slightly notchy gearbox on the low-mileage example in the test ride and a very slight tendency to steer a bit wide on corner exits, I’d say it’s just about perfect for navigating twisty countryside.

Although it is an easy bike to ride, the Monster 821 is also capable of blurring the scenery just fine, thank you.

The seating isn’t quite as cramped as on some other Monsters I’ve ridden over the past couple decades and is partially helped by the fact the stock seat can be adjusted to one of two heights. It’s 31.9” tall in the high mounting position, and about an inch shorter in the low position.  Thankfully MO’s test unit was in the high position and my long legs and old knees were pretty comfortable throughout the relatively short ride.

Although the 821 seems very friendly and accessible in general, there are two spots where its dynamic performance might catch new riders out:  Its monoblock Brembo M4.32 front calipers squeeze aggressive sets of front brake pads that provide very good stopping power with a strong initial bite on the dual 320mm front rotors that is quite similar to what you’d expect to find on a supersport or superbike. That’s great for experienced sport riders, but perhaps not so great for ham-fisted newbies. Likewise, when ridden in Sport mode, the 821’s throttle response is extremely aggressive right off idle and it requires a calm and smooth wrist to cleanly accelerate an 821 out of a tight first-gear hairpin in Sport mode. So, newer or less-confident riders would be best served by riding it in the noticeably less aggressive Urban or Touring modes and only using Sport mode to train throttle smoothness in less stressful settings away from tight hairpins or parked cars.

In contrast to the somewhat touchy front brakes, the Monster 821’s awesome rear brake (245mm rotor, two-piston caliper) is blessed with a nice and progressive rear master cylinder and rear brake pads. It was easily one of the best rear brake setups I’ve had the pleasure of using in a series of tight hairpins. Of course, I loved the fronts, too, and they do provide the vast majority of raw stopping power, but the rear really shines in mid-corner finesse situations or as a stabilizing influence around the apex of a hairpin. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

San Leo has been called the most beautiful city in Italy. It makes a mighty fine mid-ride lunch stop.

Perched in the middle of the Marecchia Valley, in Romagna between the Marche region and the Republic of San Marino, San Leo is the capital of the principality of Montefeltro and has been called the most beautiful city in Italy. We spent an extended lunch stop there, which provided plenty of time for us to admire the bright yellow Monsters scattered around the church square in the center of town.

The new 821’s overall styling is sporty and muscular, keying in on iconic Monster styling queues. I really like the round headlight and the slightly more retro looking new tank with the funky-retro clip behind the ignition key compared to the droopy-eyed and boring-tanked 2017 Monster 821. In general the overall restyle was fairly gentle. It still looks a lot like, uh, a Monster. Ducati’s official position on it is that the restyle was “only what was needed, nothing more.”

The 821’s new full color TFT display offered good readability in all lighting conditions and showed a reasonable amount of data like speed, rpm, current ride mode, TC and ABS levels, as well as a bar graph fuel gauge. Although there is a clock display in Urban and Touring modes, it does not appear on the bright TFT screen when in Sport mode. That’s a real bummer for the more obnoxious riders among us who would otherwise commute in Sport mode. Aside from superior daylight legibility, another nice benefit to using the 1200’s entire TFT display assembly is that it makes the 2018 Monster 821 fully compatible with Bluetooth integration through the optional Ducati Multimedia Interface.

If your eyes were located just below your nipples, this would be your view of the Monster’s new color TFT display screen. Although this is a real picture, the TFT screen in the photo is probably simulated… the good news is that the real thing really was that easy to read during our 100-mile test ride.

In the end, I think the new Monster would make a fantastic and stylish first Ducati for any rider with more than six months of riding experience under their belt. Ducati wasn’t B.S.-ing when it claimed the new 821 is the “Best Balanced Monster.”  The new Monster 821 will be arriving at U.S. Ducati dealerships in December with a suggested base MSRP of $11,995 just in time for Christmas!

Will we be seeing an 821cc version of a Multistrada next, when Ducati pulls the wraps off the new Panigale V-4 and three or four other additional new 2018 models two nights before EICMA on November 5?  A guy can hope!

2018 Electronics Highlights

Three Ride Modes

Sport = (Least restrictive ABS setting + least restrictive DTC setting + maximum throttle response coupled with full power output)

Tour = (Moderate ABS setting + moderate DTC setting + moderate throttle response coupled with full power output)

Urban = (Conservative ABS setting + conservative DTC setting + mild throttle response coupled with 75% of engine power output)

Three Power Modes

High = 109 hp with maximum throttle response (but occasionally a little abrupt off the bottom)

Medium = 109 hp with moderate throttle response

Low = 75 hp with gentle throttle response

Three-level Bosch ABS

Eight-level Ducati Traction Control (DTC)

Related Reading:
2018 Ducati Monster 821 Reveal
2017 Ducati Monster 797 First Ride
2017 Ducati Monster 1200S First Ride

 

 

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Ducati Communities

  • Jon Jones

    Hats off to this awesome company.

  • Born to Ride

    I stopped reading at “notchy gearbox”. I will absolutely not buy another monster until they fix that shit. Every single one I’ve ridden since they went to the testastretta has been atrocious. Well, except for the $20k OTD M1200R. That thing was fantastic on every level.

    • StripleStrom

      seriously… in this time and for well over 10 grand, it’s inexcusable.

      • Born to Ride

        It’s even more inexcusable on the $17k 1200s.

    • Vrooom

      While I agree, I own a modern BMW that was $20K+ new that has a gear box that belongs in a John Deere. Seriously you shouldn’t hear a sound that is similar to dropping a rock in a metal bucket when downshifting, especially over the motor turning 6K.

      • 12er

        My K1200RS was like that, my Ducati only slightly better. Duc though has a cool “oil change needed” feature. Not only does it have the warning for service, about 1k before its due you get a false neutral between 5th and 6th that gets worse until you change the oil.

        • Born to Ride

          Haha that’s how I know it’s time to change the oil on my Multistrada, except my false neutral is between 4th and 5th. Otherwise though it shifts just fine. The air cooled gearboxes are superior to the testastretta by a mile in my experience.

        • Vrooom

          I once complained to a dealer that the new bike I’d bought seemed to have 3 neutrals, he replied that the second two are free. Coincidentally the BMW I was referring to is a K1200GT, probably the same transmission with different gearing.

  • Buzz

    We’re talking about going to Rimini next year for the MotoGP race.

    Glad you got to see some of it.

  • JMDGT

    I don’t see this as an equal to the STRS but I like this bike. Without riding this Monster I cannot make a judgment on the gear box. I can only imagine the sacrifice made test riding this bike in the most beautiful city in Italy. Lucky bastards. I would like these mid size bikes better if they had single sided swing arms.

    • Max Wellian

      I don’t want to buy another stand for the garage, so I’ll take a double.

  • Rocky Stonepebble

    I want the 1992 M900.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      You got the money?

  • Old MOron

    Ah, the elemental roadster, my favorite bike.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      The only reason I still go for sportbikes, is the wind/elements protection of the fairing. Otherwise, I’d be all over a roadster (so long as it didn’t look like a Japanese child’s toy).

      • StripleStrom

        After owning a Speed Triple, I have to agree. I love the look of a Roadster, but the fairing is a functional improvement.

      • Old MOron

        Yup, I get it.
        I’m lucky to live in SoCal, so I don’t have to worry about the elements.

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Lucky dog. I’m east of ‘Trawna’.

          But, what about the wind?

          • Old MOron

            That’s the best part 🙂

          • Old MOron

            Ha ha, when I first read your post, I thought you were referring to Trona, a desolate mining town near Death Valley. Then I realized there’s nothing east of Trona, so I googled up your locale. Hey, you’re close to VS headquarters. Tell those hosers to stop annoying us with intrusive advertising.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Trawna, Kanadastan.

            Who is VS?

          • Old MOron
          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Wow. Been coming here, on and off, for years. Did not know they were locally owned. That’s an artsy/chic part of town they are in.

          • VerticalScope, Inc. Owner and publisher of Motorcycle.com

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Yes. Thanks.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Thank you, Sean. Whilst we’re chatting, what say you get somebody to whitelist me so that my posts stop getting marked as spam after a couple of days.

            There may be some (though I doubt it) that wish to peruse my bon mots.

          • Sure buddy, stop posting SPAM all the time and you’ll get MO whitelisted after a couple more decades. But seriously, I’ll report it to your fellow Canadians up in HQ.

          • Rocky Stonepebble
  • lennon2017

    This assumption on Ducati/Audi’s part that their brand is so lush with kudos and adoration that people will STILL look past the market and extoll the rolling sex that is the tank shaped like the back of a raging bull is tired tired tired. If people are perhaps the most conscious about where they spend their dough or monthly allotments that they’ve ever been, a basic naked over $10k without the refinements to suspension that warrant looking at in the face of supersports and their componentry is dull effing dullness. The Monster was Ducati’s saving grace, most particularly the 6xxs. Now? I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at this coming from a company which unashamedly sells a 400cc scrambler lite for about a grand less than the initial hit.

    • Max Wellian

      I don’t know what you just said, but I like the bike. I’d consider it if I was looking. Easy on the eyes, plenty of power, gets A’s in suspension handling and braking. That exhaust would really have to be annoying to knock it off my shortlist.

  • Jordan Andrew

    I like my 2015 and plan on keeping it, however It would be hard for me to pick the new ‘17 821 over the new Trumpets….

  • allworld

    This is my favorite motorcycle segment, sub liter nakeds/streetfighters or roadsters, what ever name you prefer. The Monster comes in at #3, on my list, behind the Street Triple and Brutale.
    The Monster has had my attention for a while, since I had a chance to ride one a few years back in the Alps for a week, and loved it. Like most bikes there are always a few checks in the negative column, and this bike is no exception. None of which would be a deal breaker for me. Since this is mostly an upgrade I would look for a leftover 17, and try for the deal. Ducati should consider a “sport-touring” version of this similar to the MV Turismo Veloce, likewise, Triumph to do the same with the Street Triple.

  • Vrooom

    It’s a nice, beautiful bike. Usually the Ducati gear boxes get a bit better over time, but they’re never quite smooth. While the price is quite a bit a higher than some of the Japanese competition, that’s a lot of electronics to get for the price.

  • kenneth_moore

    I’m glad Ducati wasn’t sold again. I think they’ve done well during their 5 years with Audi. The new V4, the Supersport, a redesigned Diavel…it takes stability to build and grow a product line. I just wish Ducatis were more accessible in terms of availability. They’re more a boutique product than commodity in my area.

    • Old MOron

      You forgot to count Desmo Dovi’s title challenge in the “done well” column.

      • kenneth_moore

        Good point. A successful racing campaign needs stability, engineering depth, and carloads of cash from the factory.

  • Blake Newton

    I see no reason to go with a 2018 when my local dealer has a 2016 for thousands less. There is no way that the 2018 is that much better. Plus….I’m not enamored with the new paint. I liked the 2017 grey and the 2016 white a whole lot more and in person it is clinched. The biggest issue with the 821 has not been addressed though and will take either a new exhaust or different peg arrangements to improve it. Other issues are the awful mirrors and rear fender which apparently are mandated by the same charming folk who decided that the 1976 Maserati Khamsin needed a better bumper. (Look at U.S. vs euro masers to prove my point). I digress. It is easy to find parts that work. It takes ten seconds with a dremel to remove to chronically ugly cop bait aftermarket tags on most exhaust systems and a few minutes to go to bar ends.