First Impression: 1997 Ducati M750 Monster
Ducati's first Monster, the 900, was born in 1993 and sired by the Argentinean Miguel Angel Galuzzi. Two years later, Ducati begat another Monster -- the M600. Now, in 1997, with the advent of the M750, their family is complete.
If you don't know anything about the eccentric Monster family it will be very difficult for you, at first sight, to distinguish differences between the nearly identical looking 900, 600 and 750. Thanks to my local Ducati dealer here in Barcelona, Spain, I can now offer assistance in distinguishing the differences between members of this strange family, all dressed in curious designs and surprisingly easy for anybody to ride.
The M750's signature gold painted multi-tubular trellis frame -- similar in style to its close cousins the Supersports, 916 and the new ST2 -- is identical throughout the Monster family. Wheelbase and seat height are identical as well. This simple design includes a fat, 4.3 gallon fuel tank and an attractive removable seat cowl. The spartan instrument panel features a white faced speedometer and a large assortment of indicators -- neutral, turn signals, oil pressure, high beams, battery charge, fuel and side stand lights. Unfortunately, due to a defect in the Monster family's genetic code, the tachometer is missing.
The M750's bodywork and suspension boast of its Italian lineage. Upside-down Marzocchi forks grace the front end; however, only the spring preload is adjustable. A single Sachs-Boge shock with spring preload and rebound damping adjustment forms the rear suspension. A pair of 17-inch Brembo three-spoked alloy wheels shod with Dunlop Sportmax II tires act as our road-grip insurance. The M750 stops up front by a single 320 mm front Brembo rotor -- dual rotors stop the 900 Monster -- and a four-piston Brembo Gold Series caliper. A single 245 mm Brembo rotor is found at the rear. Unlike the M900, this little Monster isn't adorned with carbon fiber.
The engine is Ducati's well-known 748cc air-cooled, two-valve, 90-degree desmodromic V-twin designed by the late Fabio Taglioni. It is equipped with a pair of 38 mm Mikuni carburetors. The fuel-injection system found in other Ducati models like the 916 or ST2, has been left out. The middleweight Monster has the same engine configuration that powers the 750 SS, albeit with a few horses taken off -- a claimed 64 bhp at 8000 rpm compared with the 750 SS's 66 bhp at 8500 rpm -- to improve mid-range grunt. Thanks to its torquey power, it's the kind of engine that allows you to forget frequent shifting. And in spite of its nearly antiquated design, the M750 engine sounds sweet and feels almost vibrationless.
The Monster 750 moves nimbly in city traffic, thanks to its light, 388-pound claimed dry weight, and it lends itself well toward day-to-day commuting. The only real flaw I noticed in urban conditions is poor steering due in part to its frame type and the upside-down front fork. Shifting through the Ducati's gearbox is pleasant and precise, although sometimes you'll miss a gear. It's a Ducati, after all.
Heading for the twisties, the machine becomes very easy to handle. Its powerband is delightful through the corners, and if you find yourself diving in too hot, you can count on the one-finger action Brembo brakes to inspire confidence. Unfortunately the M750's softly-sprung front fork allows for terrible front end dive. Rider ergonomics are comfortable, and there is a good relationship between handlebars, seat and footpegs, but the low-mounted pegs will drag during spirited cornering. Like most naked bikes, aerodynamics are poor and windblast is severe at speeds greater than 85 mph.
The little Monster's small details make it unique. You can raise the fuel tank like a car engine hood to perform most mechanical tasks. In cold weather conditions you can turn on a petcock found on the oil cooling system and warm up the carburetors quickly using engine oil. Of course, there are a few areas that could use improvement: A centerstand would be very helpful for chain maintenance; a tachometer would be nice to have for keeping an eye on engine revs; and the passenger seat is small and, needless to say, uncomfortable.
Ducati's new Monster 750 is a charming, easy-to-ride motorcycle and a welcome addition to the family. That unmistakable sound, their striking silhouette and (for a Ducati) relatively cheap maintenance costs are responsible for much of the Monster family's popularity throughout Europe. Who knows, now with the M750 in the fold, could Ducati duplicate this success worldwide?
Note: the Author would like to thank Motos Bordoy, 179 Valencia Street, 08011 Barcelona, Spain, for providing the Monster 750.
Manufacturer: Ducati Model: 1997 M750 Monster Price: $7495 (U.S.) Engine: Air-cooled, 2-valve, 90-degree V-twin, 4-stroke Bore x stroke: 88 x 61.5 mm Displacement: 748 cc Carburation: 2 Mikuni BDST 38 mm Transmission: 5-speed Wheelbase: 56.3 in. (1430 mm) Fuel Capacity: 4.3 gal. (16.5 L) Claimed Dry Weight: 388 lb. (176 Kg.) Color Schemes: Black, yellow, red, silver*
*Silver only in U.S.