2017 Ducati Monster 797

Back to basics was major goal of  Ducati with this all new Monster 797

You’re all probably familiar with the name. Over the past years, Ducati has produced many versions of the Monster, each representing an evolution in iconic styling and engineering. This time, attention is on building a smaller, much smoother, more-accessible bike for those entry-level riders who were overlooked when the Monster 696, 795 and 796 were removed from the lineup in 2015. More than just straightforward and simple, however, Ducati also intended for the bike to be capable enough so that even more experienced riders could appreciate. The first Monster was launched to the public just a bit over 20 years ago at a trade show.  Usually new bikes are always shown to group of Italian dealers  before launching it for  public viewing.

These dealers I heard, found the Monster design of Ducati’s Miguel Galuzzi, was both lukewarm and confused. Their confusion stemmed from the fact that all sport bikes included fairings up to that point. As all sportbikes were the growing segment in the mid nineties.  Superbike racing was the center for Ducati’s marketing campaign with the 851 and 888 Superbikes.

Well not the Monster, and that is what I like about this bike too. The frame and motor are exposed. Without the added bits and look of Voltes V superbike plastic.  The original Monster’s trellis frame and engine are clearly visible.  All you have is the tank, seat, frame engine and wheels, that’s it and nothing more. The design is so simple that you dont even get a seat cowl at the back.  And thus the “naked bike” category was born.  Though I admit I have a weakness for Naked bikes as my first bike in the mid eighties was a 1978 Honda CB750 four. So a bike like the Ducati Monster 797 brings back fond memories of simplicity in design of earlier bikes I had.

The problem for Ducati is that, since dropping the smaller Monster from the lineup in 2015, the only true entry-level bike it had was the Scrambler. And, although a hip modern retro bike, the Scrambler’s styling isn’t for everyone.  Though Scrambler sales were up to the roof when it was introduced, Ducati simply needed a new, entry-level “sportier naked bike”.

Hopefully, the 797 signifies a return to that more-accessible design. Being 28 pounds lighter than the current entry level Testatretta watercooled  Monster 821, overall smaller, this bike should definitely appeal to a newer rider and also to the experienced  rider looking to get into a budget friendly ownership.  The lighter weight is really felt when we took the all new 797 around Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Motorsport Track which is primarily used for DRE – Ducati Riding Experience courses.

The new 797 really does pay its respects to the original, right down to the very nice aluminum clasp that look like ski boots clamps which holds down the front of its 4.4-gallon steel fuel tank, reminiscent of earlier Monsters.  The tank actually looks very similar to the bigger Monster 821 and 1200 siblings.  The air-cooled 803cc engine is very reliable and has pleasingly long service intervals of 12,000kms, but with our road conditions here in the Philippines, best to cut those maintenance schedules to half.  Though the cam belts still need changing every 25,000 kilometers, that too I will cut to 15,000kms. The quality of finish appears high and Ducati tends not to skimp when it comes to small items such as fasteners. A usual trait from a premium branded bike.

The steel trellis frame is also an important design element; the red frame and alloy cooling fins are now a classic combination or you can go dark and get a black bike with black frame which I like most really.  It comes complete with passenger grab rails which provide a good place for bungee hooks. The single round headlight incorporates a couple of LED marker lights, which you’ll find in the tail and turnsignal lights as well.

Ducati claims that this 797 motor provides really smooth power delivery and better control of the fuel mixture. Well, that they hit bang on, as this one comes into the power really smoothly when you roll it on and makes nice, linear thrust right up to the rev limiter. I did squeeze  some quick laps at the Motorsport park track, and this  Monster 797 is a bike you can make rapid progress upon in the curves, quick to dive into corners either on the gas or the brakes, with full-size Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires providing plenty of grip at both ends. I was just wondering why they didn’t use the newer and current production Rosso lll tires. Nevertheless,  the handling was still simply exceptional. It is simple, fun, handles well thanks to its light weight and is pleasingly devoid of these modern electronic aids. You don’t get traction control or power modes on the Monster 797, but ABS is standard and so are Brembo monoblock radial brake calipers and a USB port under the seat. Ducati’s Multimedia System can be retro fitted but the inverted forks are non-adjustable and the shock only has spring preload and rebound damping adjustment.

The suspension is a bit on the firm side which suits my riding style, but it is designed really to deliver sporty handling. I also noticed the Brembo brakes bite hard and is a big improvement over discontinued 796 model.

This is a bike that you just get on and enjoy without the need to even read the instruction manual!  I’m so glad Ducati came back with an aircooled Monster that is more refined than the 796 model. Though gone is the single swingarm design, but this was done to bring down the cost.  Over-all,  Ducati hit the nail head on with this 797, and this is one bike that will get the attention of the Ducatisti looking for a Ducati Monster that will fully satisfy their needs in terms Iconic design, quality, premium ownership and and most of all, simplicity.