2021 Ducati Monster 937 first ride review
The Monster has changed many forms over the years - the stripped-superbike look of the original, modern retro styling on a few others, a friendly urban runabout for models like the 797 to now the 2021 Monster 937 - a sleek and sporty motorcycle that looks more like the naked sibling of a track-bred Panigale than the friendly Ducati Supersport 950. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that it swaps its iconic trellis frame for a track-bike inspired aluminium monocoque - and that happens to be its biggest talking point. So let's find out why Ducati did it and what difference it makes to the Monster.
Since most buyers buy naked motorcycles for their design, let's begin here. The new monocoque certainly doesn't attract attention like the trellis - a signature that is often found on European motorcycles, which is a genre where Ducati sits at the helm as the most exotic of them all. Ducati claims that spot not only for that sexy Italian styling but also the function of all its exotic components.
The form of this Ducati is still every bit Italian - a bit too Italian with the very Brutale-like oval headlamp - but this is unmistakably a Monster. It has all the traditional elements too - the lean stance, the low seat, beefy canisters, the hunchback (or bison-back) tank and even a tiny fly screen. But that is where the reminiscence of the lineage ends. Instead of going with the modern-retro tide, the new Monster looks new-age with its dual-barrel exhaust and neatly integrated LED lighting in the tail, the face and the tank. The latter being the oh-so-Audi sequential type blinkers. They are a bit gimmicky for my liking, but the younger riders are likely to love them.
Continuing with the modernities, even the 4.3 inch TFT instrumentation looks like it came straight out of the Panigale with a full-colour display and complex controls for an advanced electronics suite that has stuff like a cornering brake-, wheelie- and launch control. The latter may be apt for places like the Buddh International Circuit where we sampled the motorcycle, but honestly, for a motorcycle that is likely to spend more time outside a café than in a pit lane, it's nothing more than a conversation-starter. It will still need you to dump the clutch manually and I found the manual launch of the bike to be far more intuitive than the assisted one. To each his own, though.
The new chassis
Back to the monocoque chassis - it holds the 90° V-twin engine from the top, the subframe attaches to the rear of the vertical cylinder and the swingarm attaches to the bottom of the engine. This makes the setup more compact than before and makes the Monster noticeably nimbler. The Monster's sharp handling character is safeguarded, if not bettered, but the lighter feel is more welcoming than before especially at speed. Those looking to stretch beyond a Triumph Trident or Street Triple R to get this Ducati as their first premium motorcycle will particularly appreciate the agility of the new Monster. It is the pursuit of this friendly character that pushed Ducati to let go of the trellis frame and the benefits are certainly welcoming. To add perspective, the new frame setup, comprising of the aluminium mainframe and glass-fibre reinforced polymer sub-frame is now 37% lighter than the trellis configuration. Adding to it the lighter wheels, engine and swingarm, the new Monster is 18kg lighter than the 821, putting it in the same weight class as the 890 Duke!
Ride and handling
What that means for you is that around the winding roads or while simply navigating through traffic, the Monster won't feel like a lot of work, especially when compared to the Kawasaki Z900 or the BMW F 900 R. The wheelbase is 35mm shorter too, which contributes further to the humble feel of the new Monster. It still isn't as nimble as a Street Triple R though, nor does it feel as flexible on the engine or the suspension departments. If you want Street Triple levels of sharpness but with the grunt of a Ducati twin, the upcoming Streetfighter V2 could be your cup of tea.
The Monster 937 loses on adjustable suspension even if you were to choose the range-topping Plus variant (which simply gets you a fly screen and a rear seat cowl) - which is a downer for its asking price. But this suspension isn't budget class. Out of the box, the setup is firm, feels well thought of, has progressive damping and more importantly, predictable rebound. Under hard braking for the track, it has a pronounced dive but one that you will quickly get used to. The firm damping would need you to slow down for the harsh stuff but otherwise, potholes or bad roads won't be a big concern. At 202mm, ground clearance isn't a matter of worry and is in fact in the adventure bike zone.
Should you carry a pillion on short rides, there is preload adjustment for the rear monoshock. The Monster 937 has two seat height options ranging from 800-820mm and a lowering kit (comprising of shorter fork springs, monoshock spring and side stand) can be installed to bring the ride height down to 775mm. Ducati couldn't confirm how much the lowering kit affects the ground clearance, but I believe the deficit won't be worrisome.
The pegs have been lowered by 10mm and the handlebars tucked in by 65mm - so getting that comfortable, urban riding posture is easy and the bike feels roomy even for taller riders. Around the track, the lowered pegs scrape quite early and with no feelers on them, it can get unnerving for new riders - but on the street, it shouldn't be a matter of worry. With the elevated tank, the rider's seat has a bucketed feel like most Ducatis and while day-long rides are doable, the Monster's intent is more urban than touring. But there is a touring mode alongside the Sport and Urban, and all these will alter the throttle response and the level of electronic intervention.
The Monster 950 feels like, well, a playful pocket monster and will take you from point A to B with a smile inside your helmet. The throttle response is crisp and the electronics ensure that it doesn't feel overwhelming. There is a standard bi-directional quick-shifter too.
Most Ducati twins are a bit lumpy on the power delivery especially around the low-end, and this one is no different. But the new engine is tuned to offer 20% more torque around the 6,000rpm mark, and the peak torque is also available earlier than the 821, helping the Monster pull effortlessly even if you are in the wrong gear. It still manages excellent top-end performance too. If you find the road or track to exploit the upper limits of its rev range, the 937cc engine has what I like to call a second powerband beyond the 7,000rpm mark. Once you experience it, it almost feels like there is some sort of a cylinder-deactivation function that was only running on one cylinder until 7k and went all guns blazing beyond that mark. There is, however, no such trickery. What it has is a V-twin engine tuned in typical Ducati fashion to give the gutsy riders a little extra something to remind them why they chose a Ducati over the others.
To that effect, the Monster sounds nothing like its competitors. This is the same engine that does duty in the Multistrada 950 (now called Multistrada V2) and puts out similar power and torque, but the lighter form of the Monster makes it one of the quickest applications for this motor, managing nought to 100kmph sprint of 3.5s (claimed) - that's Multistrada V4 territory! The downsides of this engine are its low-end vibrations which you will notice often at city speeds where it intends to spend most of its time. We didn't get a chance to test the motorcycle in the urban environment so I can't comment much on the Monster's heat management, but the big radiator up front should tell you that it is going to be better than the previous iterations. All these aspects are left for a real-world road test, but I can assure you is that the Monster will be a hoot to ride in the urban environment and negotiating even the tiniest of gaps is going to be fun - just as you would expect of a Monster.
The Monster 950 is different in many ways than its predecessors, but it still feels like it's a part of that lineage because it's still true to the intent of the original - look and feel like a stripped-out superbike. A cracker of an engine, a friendly new chassis and a fresh new design sum up the motorcycle. The pricing is a bit on the higher side, but it's certainly worth considering if you are shopping for a quick middleweight naked that feels more premium than the completion. One word of advice though - do insist on a longish test ride before you make your decision - because like most Ducatis (and most things Italian), it is going to be an acquired taste that's very different from its competitors.
Photography Asif Zubairi
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