The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.9
The Ducati Monster 821 may carry a slight price premium over other equivalent naked motorcycles, but it’s superbly finished, features one of the most characterful engines on sale and is wonderfully intuitive and easy to ride. That said, limited practicality and a compromised riding position hold it back from full honours.
Reasons to buy
- The original naked motorcycle
- Hugely flexible and characterful engine
- Gearbox ratios well set up for road use
At a glance
The original ‘naked’ concept of a saddle, tank, engine, two wheels and handlebars has come a long way since the original Monster M900 of 1993, but the essence remains the same. What was originally conceived as a ‘parts bin special’ is still that, but the parts in use today have spawned a remarkable and highly specified range of Monster models. Aesthetically, the 821 is cleaner-looking than its bigger-capacity Monster 1200 sibling, because it doesn’t need an oil cooler. The Monster 821 comes in four colours: red, white (pictured), a top-spec Stripe version or an entry-level Dark version, which omits a seat cowl and gives a matt black finish to the tank, frame and seat unit.
On any Ducati Monster, you tend to sit quite upright, but your shoulders hunch over a set of wide, supermoto-style bars. It gives you a positive and alert view ahead, while your lower eyeline is, oddly, fairing-free and instead filled by road and a large, digital screen. Unfortunately, those with big feet may find the passenger footrest hangers conspire to compromise space and comfort, especially if you like riding on the balls of your feet. Shorter riders will have no trouble getting comfy, though, thanks to a standard seat that can be adjusted between 785mm - 810mm, as well as a further low-seat option that further reduces the height to 745mm.
As you would expect from an Italian manufacturer, practicality is decidedly idiosyncratic. On the one hand, the hazard lights function – activated by holding down the indicator cancel button for four seconds – is a nice touch, as is an under-seat toolkit and bungee loops. However, the headlight’s main beam is poor, the pillion grab rails are set too low to be useful, and installing a sat-nav is made complex thanks to the battery being located next to the swingarm pivot. Further, how Ducati can manufacture a brilliant digital screen that can be adjusted for brightness, monitor service intervals and reveal air temperature, yet can’t inform you how much fuel you have or what gear you’re in, is absurd.
Performance & braking
The original Monster’s air-cooled rattle has long been replaced in favour of progress and a water jacket. Here, the liquid-cooled 821 Testastretta engine develops 111bhp at 9,250rpm and 66lb ft of torque at 7,750rpm. Like its bigger brother, the Monster 1200, it has three performance modes that riders can toggle between: Sport and Touring give maximum power, although the latter gets a slightly softer throttle response, while Urban reduces your output to 74bhp. The severity of ABS and traction control varies accordingly, too, but the gearing is perfectly suited to road use and the instant response from the excellent twin 320mm front discs is consistent. Restricted licence-holders will also be pleased to hear that the Monster 821 can be specified with an A2-compliant restrictor kit.
Ride & handling
In keeping with the Monster philosophy, the 821 has a relatively simple suspension set-up, featuring non-adjustable 43mm front forks and a preload- and rebound-damping adjustable shock. Adjustable forks are available on the top-spec Monster 821 Stripe, which also gets a small headlamp cowl, but the standard set-up is firm and focused enough to inspire confidence on all manner of road surfaces. It doesn’t soak up road imperfections like a Triumph Street Triple, but not much does. The steering isn’t heavy, but it responds better to strong, positive inputs.
The Monster 821 carries a slight price premium over other equivalent middleweight naked motorcycles, but it is justified with a top level finish and strong residual values. This version of the Monster also achieves 60mpg on the combined run, making it a compelling blend of performance and efficiency.
Aside from a small number of owners citing some electrical gremlins and fuelling issues, this is a Ducati that can comfortably be used as a daily rider and does not require mollycoddling in bubblewrap. The chain rarely needs adjusting, either.
Warranty & servicing
All bikes receive a 24-month unlimited-mileage warranty, provided all servicing is performed by an official Ducati franchise. After an initial checkup at 600 miles, all minor and major maintenance intervals are only spaced every 7,500 miles and 18,000 miles, respectively.
Standard equipment on the Monster is light, but owners can access a tome of official parts and accessories that includes a Termignoni exhaust with stacked twin-carbon end cans, carbon front mudguard, smoked windscreen, Ohlins adjustable steering damper and a pair of semi-rigid, 25-litre panniers.
The arrival of the hipster-friendly Scrambler may be attracting all the plaudits, but the Ducati Monster remains one of the most important and successful motorcycles in modern history. What’s more, the 821 has an appealing blend of performance, price and authenticity that, in many ways, makes it a more attractive proposition than the bigger-capacity Monster 1200.