Ducati Monster 796 : First Impressions
Being afflicted as so many of us are with a sort of big-bore delirium, the small displacement bikes in Ducati’s lineup mostly occupy this dark, fuzzy space at the edges of my vision. I know they’re there, but I can’t really make out the details past the big, beautiful 1200cc beasts in front of me. I’ve ridden the older 620/750/800 series in the past, but they were pretty quickly forgotten. So, when I got the orders to tack some miles on our shiny new Monster 796, I shrugged and grabbed the keys without much ado.
Before I even made it to the highway on-ramp, I realized I’d been missing an obvious truth: small + lightweight + torquey = fun. I can’t stress how nimble and confidence-inspiring and punchy and just out-and-out grin-inducing fun this bike is. It lacks the big power, wheel-spinning stomp of it’s big brother, but in a way it’s more enjoyable than the 1100 for exactly that reason. You can be greedy with the throttle and there’s no theatrics: it just spools up happily and goes.
Less rotating mass and less overall weight make for a bike that changes direction quicker than the big Monster and, despite the non-adjustable fork and shock, feels very planted and communicates well through the bars and pegs. I tip the scales at maybe 175 lbs in full gear, so I’m probably right on target for the factory damping, which I found a bit soft but surprisingly good over road seams and bumps. I love the ease with which you can alter a line mid-corner on this thing, giving the confidence to really banzai an entry, straighten it up on the throttle and drive out with a big, silly grin. The stock Pirelli Rosso Corsas definitely contribute here: great tires with smooth turn in and tons of grip. It’s a nice little perk to see such good rubber on a bike straight from the factory.
Ultimately, I was hard pressed to find something I don’t like about the M796: it completely exceeded my expectations. It would be an effortless ride for beginners, but it’s also a great little toy for experienced riders. On surface roads and in the tight stuff, it’s brilliant. Could it have more power? Sure. But really, it doesn’t need or want for any more. It’ll put a smile on your face leaving a light or a corner. The light clutch pull and quick-revving motor make low-speed, heavy traffic work a breeze. Highway duty is no sweat either, with gearing tall enough to keep vibes down at speed but still accelerate nicely, and on the top end it’ll do plenty more than enough to upset Johnny Law. The chassis, borrowed heavily from the Monster 1100, is rock solid stable with good, progressive brakes and comfy ergonomics. You even get the classic Duc look with the single-sided swingarm, a cool finishing touch over the 696. I’ll definitely be sneaking this bike out of the line-up again very soon and, given most of the 2012 Ducati model range to choose from, that’s a pretty big (and until recently, unexpected) compliment for the Monster 796.
Photo Credit also to Nic Cuarta… So Pretty!