An Approachable Naked Monster

Ducati added to its “Monster” family in 2017 with the accessible and relatively rider-friendly “797” version of its popular naked bike. This ride uses the same 803 cc mill that drives the full-size Scramblers, so while it isn’t a net-new engine, it is a proven one. Dual front brakes with ABS, Pirelli tires and fat Kayaba forks are but some of the features included in what looks to be the closest to an “entry level” ride that the Monster family has managed to date. I was eager to take a look at this new ride ever since it was revealed at the Milan show, and what I see so far does not disappoint. For 2018, the Monster 797 Plus replaces the base model with some extra goodies added in. Join me while I delve into the details to see what Duc has in store for us.

Continue reading for my review of the Ducati Monster 797 and 797 Plus.

  • 2017 - 2018 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
  • Year:
    2017- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    L-Twin
  • Displacement:
    803 cc
  • Price:
    9295
  • Price:

Design

2017 - 2018 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
- image 698220
It's got the same beefy-yet-wirey look one expects, but the size and displacement make it less intimidating than some of its big brothers.

DNA from the original “Monster” survives the passage of time from 1992 all the way into 2018 in the new Monster 797 Plus. This is very apparent in the tank shape and overall panache, and even the exposed frame hints at the original. A seriously chopped front fender leads the way over a fat front tire with beefy front forks that lends the impression of great strength and there’s a round headlight can that makes yet another connection to the past. A distinction of the Plus over the base 797 is a new headlight fairing that makes for a smoother entry.

In spite of the lack of pullback in the bars, the relaxed-jockey footrests and seat position form a rider’s triangle that allows for a relaxed, upright riding posture far removed from the typical sportbike posture. As always with this family, the exposed frame serves as a crucial design element, so it’s no surprise that Duc shoots it in red paint to offset it against the blackout engine components, you know, just in case it was too subtle where it runs uncovered from steering head to subframe.

The flylines are classic Il Mostro as they tumble down to a deep-scoop saddle that sits at only 31.69 inches off the ground, which is good news for the shorter riders out there. The Plus adds a passenger seat cover to the standard equipment for the stadium p-pad that tapers off to nothing ahead of the minimal rear fender and tag holder, and while that windtunnel-tested ass end makes for a nice, racy touch, I’d hate to be the passenger. Just sayin’.

Beyond that, I gotta’ say I’m loving the looks of this new Monster. It’s got the same beefy-yet-wirey look one expects, but the size and displacement make it less intimidating than some of its big brothers.

Chassis

2017 - 2018 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
- image 731763
A Trellis frame pulls double duty as the skeleton that holds it all together and as an aesthetic feature essential to the family look.

A Trellis frame pulls double duty as the skeleton that holds it all together and as an aesthetic feature essential to the family look. Tubular-steel members make up the welded assembly with a yoke-style, cast-aluminum swingarm to mount the rear wheel. The swingarm comes in a boomerang shape that not only looks edgy, but the apex serves as a convenient spot to mount the short, coil-over rear shock.

Steering-head geometry trends toward the agile end of the spectrum with a 24-degree rake and 3.54 inches of trail, and the 43 mm, inverted Kayaba forks push the wheelbase out to 56.5 inches. Symmetrical, 17-inch, cast-allow wheels come in a ten-spoke configuration that’s both stylish and lightweight with Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso II tires for the final connection to the pavement. Sachs provides the rear monoshock, and it comes with the courtesy spring-preload adjustment plus adjustable rebound damping. All this makes for a plush ride with 5.12 inches of travel up front and 5.91 inches in back.

Dual, four-pot, Monobloc Brembo calipers bite huge, 320 mm front discs for the buk of the stopping power with a single-pot caliper and 245 mm disc to slow the rear and all-around Bosch 9.1 MP ABS protection as part of the standard equipment package.

Drivetrain

2017 - 2018 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
- image 698221
The Desmodue L-Twin cranks out 50.8 pound-feet of torque at 5,750 rpm backed up by 75 horsepower at 8,250; pretty exciting stuff considering this smallest Monster is Ducati's entry sportbike.

Nothing clutters up the look of a naked bike quite like a radiator, but Ducati neatly sidestepped that problem with a good, old-fashioned air-cooled engine. Duc’s Desmodue L-Twin cranks out 50.8 pound-feet of torque at 5,750 RPM backed up by 75 horsepower at 8,250; pretty exciting stuff considering this smallest Monster tips the scales at a mere 425 pounds soaking wet.

Oversquare, the lump runs an 88 mm bore and 66 mm stroke with a total displacement of 803 cc, and of course, Ducati’s signature Desmodromic valvetrain times the two-valve heads. Compression is middle-of-the-range at 11-to-1, so you can count on mid-grade at the least, and maybe even premium to keep it from pinging and dieseling. A pair of 50 mm throttle bodies feeds the Monster’s mill with a 2-into-1 header ahead of the stainless-steel muffler with a catalyst to help it meet Euro 4 emissions standards.

A six-speed transmission crunches the ratios to keep the engine in the powerband and sends power to the rear wheel through a tough, chain final drive. I’m a little surprised at the lack of a slipper clutch and traction control. I mean, I know it’s meant to be a beginner’s bike, and it only packs 800 cubes, but I submit that since the next tier of bikes up from there mostly pack slip-and-assist clutches, I reckon a trainer bike ought to include it as well.

Pricing

2017 - 2018 Ducati Monster 797 / 797 Plus
- image 731762
MSRP runs about the same as last year for Red, White Silk, or Dark Stealth.

The factory keeps prices just below the $10K mark with a $9,295 sticker on its base “Red” model. Star White Silk or Dark Stealth run a skosh more at $9,395 .

Competitors

2015 - 2017 KTM 690 DUKE ABS
- image 698222
2017 - 2018 Suzuki SV650 ABS
- image 664059

Naked sportbikes are fairly ubiquitous with many manufacturers actively competing for a slice of the market, so I had plenty of options for my head-to-head look. First I headed a bit North to Austria for the KTM 690 Duke, then looked to the Far East and found the SV650 ABS from Suzuki. “But they both have smaller engines,” you say? True, but they all are meant to act as somewhat introductory rides and are likely to appeal to the same sort of buyers, so here we go.

“Naked” is a poorly-defined category that varies from builder to builder, and of the three, the Duc comes off leaving the least amount to the imagination. The SV650 runs a close second, but the cheek fairings, subframe enclose and radiator shrouds close the Duke in quite a bit, leaving it a skosh less-naked-than-naked. KTM comes off looking a trifle stodgy against the sexy curves of the Duc, and to a lesser degree, the Suzuki, not to mention that the SV650 is water cooled, so its looks are marred by the big radiator up under the steering head. In short, the Monster wins the beauty contest.

The requisite Trellis frame makes an appearance on all three bikes, and steel tubing is the material of choice across the board. It also seems that all three manufacturers agree on using the engine as a stressed member to complete the frame assembly in order to save weight. KTM joins Duc in the inverted-fork club, leaving the Suzuki looking a bit dated and tame with its right-way-up stems. Both the Monster and the SV650 come with dual front brakes, but KTM cuts that back and relies on a single 320 mm front brake, and all three come with ABS.

Suzuki runs the smallest mill with a 645 cc, water-cooled parallel-twin that spins out a claimed 75 ponies with 47 pounds o’ grunt, but comes with a better electronics package . KTM comes in second with a liquid-cooled, 690 cc thumper and 72 ponies with a whole slew of electronic goodies to include traction control and rider modes, and so Duc’s size advantage doesn’t necessarily translate to higher performance since it only manages 75 ponies and 50 pounds with little electronic wizardry.

At the till, Ducati comes off looking the proudest with a $9,295 sticker. KTM comes in second at $9K and Suzuki gets an easy win with a $7,499 MSRP.

He Said

“I love the new Monster: unintimidating and accessible. This ride should prove popular with the masses, and was certainly one of the stars of the Milan show a few months ago. Honestly, this is just the kind of sportbike I would buy if I were in the market, though Zero would be a close contender.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Ducati started the naked bike genre in 1993 with the Monster M900. Twenty+ years later, the Monster is still a monster with a loyal following. The 797 brings Ducati back from the Scrambler-fest it’s been enjoying for the last couple of years and relaunches that ’90s styling that made it so popular."

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine: L-Twin cylinder, 2 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, air cooled
Displacement: 803 cc (49 cu in)
Bore X stroke: 88 x 66 mm (3.46 x 2.60 in)
Compression ratio: 11,0:1
Power: 55 kW (75 hp) @ 8.250 rpm
Torque: 68.9 Nm (50.8 lb-ft) @ 5,750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection system, 50 mm throttle bodies
Exhaust: 2-1 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, single stainless steel muffler with aluminum cover
TRANSMISSION:
Gearbox: 6 speed
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.85:1
Ratio: 1=32/13 2=30/18 3=28/21 4=26/23 5=22/22 6=24/26
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket Z15; Rear sprocket Z46
Clutch: APTC wet multiplate clutch with mechanical control
CHASSIS:
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspension: 43 mm Kayaba USD forkm
Front wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 3.50" x 17"
Front tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 120/70 ZR17
Rear suspension: Sachs monoshock, pre-load and rebound adjustable
Rear wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 5.50" x 17"
Rear tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 180/55 ZR17
Wheel travel (front/rear): 130 mm (5.12 in) - 150 mm (5.91 in)
Front brake: 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M4.32 calipers, 4-piston, axial pump with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, 1-piston caliper with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Instrumentation: LCD
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS:
Dry weight: 175 (386 lb)
Kerb weight: 193 (425lb)
Kerb weight (no fuel): 184 kg (406 lb)
Seat height: 805 mm (31.69 in)
Wheelbase: 1,435 mm (56.50 in)
Rake: 24°
Front wheel: trail 90 mm (3.54 in)
Fuel tank capacity: 16.5 l - 4.36 gallon (US)
Number of seats: Dual seat
DETAILS:
Standard Equipment: Bosch ABS, LED position light and tail light, USB power socket, DMS ready; 797 Plus also includes Passenger seat cover and windshield
Warrant: 24 months unlimited mileage
Colors: Red, White Silk, Dark Stealth
Price: Red: $9,295, White Silk or Dark Stealth: $9,395

References

KTM 690 Duke

2015 - 2017 KTM 690 DUKE ABS
- image 722450

See our review of the KTM 690 Duke.

Suzuki SV650

2017 - 2018 Suzuki SV650 ABS
- image 664038

See our review of the Suzuki SV650.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: ducati.com, ktm.com, suzukicycles.com

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