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The Monster 797 is the baby of the Monster family. Known to Ducatisti as the Monsterino (little monster), this Monster requires almost no effort to ride.
But, like all Monsters, push it harder and it starts to show it’s talents.
Sporty handling is a cornerstone of the Ducati brand and even in the wet, this little Monster is both agile and positive, eager to devour corner after corner.
The Stranglers once wrote a song called “Nice in Nice". It may not be their finest work but they’re not wrong, especially if you ride a motorcycle. In the south of France you rarely encounter more than 100m in a straight line before you hit a curve and the scenery is breathtaking. At least, it would be if the sun were out, and if it wasn’t raining. But alas, the weather is bad the new Monster 797 feels like it couldn’t care less.
Replacing the aging 696 as their entry level bike, Ducati describe the new Monster as “more Monster than any other Monster” and it feels it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the first Monster M900 was revealed to the world, but here we are. The Monster has always been about stripped down, bare-to-the-bones riding, and the new 797 visually manages to continue the story.
Some of the styling, such as the sculpted tank and skinny tail are direct from it’s bigger 1200cc sibling. The stubby pipe sits underneath an 803cc Desmodue engine that is also found in the Scrambler, and the whole lot sits in that iconic trellis frame.
The engineering looks to be top-notch too. Aside from the emissions sensors on the exhaust pipe, nothing looks out of place, and it positively screams quality. The whole package looks both compact and fast, just like a good Monster should, especially in the “white with red trim” package I rode. The Cote D’Azur is known for being the playground of the rich and stylish, and the Monster 797 looks right at home here.
There really is nothing extraneous on the Monster 797. The engine is air cooled, unlike the rest of the Monster range. ABS is standard, just as it is on all new bikes, thanks to recent EU legislation, but there are no riding modes, no traction control and a distinct lack of anything designed to “help you ride”. That’s because the Monsterino doesn’t need them. It is the motorcycle reduced to it’s purest form: sit on the bike, twist the throttle and go.
The engine at just 75hp/55kW doesn’t sound like much. In modern terms, maybe it isn’t, but this is a motorcycle designed to be ridden on the road. Torque is more important than outright power, and the 797 makes 80% of it’s 51lb-ft/ 68.9nM of torque as soon as 3,500rpm. In short, there’s always power available.
Nice get’s sun 325 days of the year. Ducati have planned a loop for us tomorrow, owing to the fact that highly anticipated thunderstorms are expected all day, we’re allowed to head out for a little blast while it’s still dry. And what a blast. The capability of the Monster is obvious from the start. In most cases, it takes a little while to get used to a new bike; to feel how it turns in, how the throttle responds, and, most importantly, how the brakes feel. Not so with the Ducati. It feels instantly familiar and welcoming.
Corners are where it counts, and the Monsterino is both light and precise. The firm suspension means it tracks the road nicely, as you’d expect a Ducati to do, but still manages to feel comfortable. The lack of weight (193kg/425lb wet) makes it easy to move, too. No matter how hard I pushed it, it never felt like I was fighting it, and the only reason I wasn’t going faster was me.
The next day's weather is downright nasty in Théoule-sur-Mer. This is the most beautiful stretch of the French Riviera. Certainly the topography is completely different from the gently-rising hills of Cannes and Nice to the northeast. Here, the Esterel massif dips right down to the sea, carving out coves and inlets with jagged spikes of ochre rock. The contrast between the azur sea and the coppery cliffs is stunning. Read more
The rain starts the minute the kickstand goes up and only lets up when the sun goes down. The roads here aren’t made for rain, and are frequently slippy, but even without traction control, the Ducati felt composed and stable. No rain mode means you need a steady throttle hand, especially on the painted parts of the road, and by design this throttle is nice and precise. No surprises, and each micro twist of the wrist is translated perfectly to traction.
After a little under two hours, and a thorough soaking, we head back in. The rain has managed to fill my waterproof boots and is on the verge of making it through my Gore-Tex jacket. My ear-to-ear grin however doesn’t really tell the story of how cold my hands and ass are, or how desperately I need a cup of coffee for warmth.
In the afternoon, the weather is worse. The rain falls harder and the waves are pounding the elegant black and red Monsters positioned by the hotel swimming pool. It’s not letting up, and I could spend the afternoon reading, sitting in the sauna or just watching the MotoGP qualifiers. Instead, I wring as much water out my jeans and boots as I can, and gear up. Despite the discomfort, and the fact it’s 12C outside, during the worst storm in these parts for years, I just want to ride the Monster some more.
There’s many reasons for that. The ergonomics somehow feel just right. I’m 6’, and there’s no unnatural contortion required to place feet on the pegs, unlike some sportier bikes. Despite the 805mm/31.5” inches seat height, the narrow engine means it doesn’t feel over tall, though there is a lower seat should you feel the need. Hands fall naturally to the wide bars, which means posture felt entirely relaxed. It’s a major reason the Monsterino feels so easy to ride. And the same seemed to be true for all the other journalists I talked to, both taller or shorter than me, including a number of women riders.
There’s a reason Ducati sell so many Monsters. They’re pure. They’re stylish, and they’re a damn sight cooler than most other bikes. They are also unadulterated fun. The Monster 797 is the easiest bike in the range to ride at once for newbies and capable enough for improving riders, as well as those more experienced riders who want something uncomplicated yet capable. If you think this is “not enough bike for you”, Ducati also have the 821, which makes around 35hp more and adds in the more familiar electronics.
Starting at US$9,295 / CDN$10,495, it’s not the cheapest mid-range motorcycle available, but then this isn’t intended to be a cut-price bike. You’re getting what you pay for; a bike that truly lives up to it’s name.
Monster 797 Options
The Red model is standard, priced at US$9,295 / CDN$10,495.
The Plus Model, which adds a fly-screen and rear seat cowl for US$9,695 / $CDN$11,095
The Monster 797 also comes in two further color options - Star White Silk (as reviewed) and Stealth Black. Both these are available for an extra $100
Should the Monster797 be too tall, there’s also a lowered seat (20mm lower) at US$279 / CDN$$299.53
There’s also a full range of accessories from bar ends to carbon bits. Check your local Ducati dealer or http://monster797.ducati.com for more information.