The Epitome Of What A Naked Sportbike Should Be

Ducati’s iconic Monster line gets an upgrade with the updated Monster 821. Newly revised for 2018, the Monster 821 benefits from some trickle-down engineering from its big brother, the Monster 1200, and a host of new design touches all its own. A new tank, tail section, headlight and muffler gives it an all-new variation on the classic Monster look with due consideration for the original Monster 900. Duc’s Testastretta L-twin powerplant serves up streetfighter performance with 109 horsepower tucked away in the stable and a host of safety systems to aid the rider in keeping it all under control. Not an entry-level ride by any stretch of the imagination, the Monster 821 does offer an experienced rider a mercurial platform that can shift personalities at the touch of a button for a wide range of conditions and skill levels.

Continue reading for my review of the Ducati Monster 821.

  • 2018 Ducati Monster 821
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    L-Twin
  • Displacement:
    821 cc
  • Price:
    11995
  • Price:

Design

2018 Ducati Monster 821
- image 773555
The new Monster 821 is the epitome of what a naked sportbike should be: muscular, yet lean with no excess weight from non-essential equipment to be found.

The new Monster 821 is the epitome of what a naked sportbike should be: muscular, yet lean with no excess weight from non-essential equipment to be found. A beefy front end, exposed Trellis frame and tiny tail give the 821 an all-up-front look that just accentuates its aggressive nature and makes it look kinda like a big cat about to pounce. Fans of the family will likely recognize the round headlight and fuel tank as the same used by the Monster 1200 with a very special detail in the tank clip that hails back to the family’s origins in 1992.

A short-rise handlebar lets the rider push off for a near-vertical posture for a relaxed attitude with plenty of room to tuck in over the curve of the fuel tank for those times when you’re feeling a little more aggressive. The rear of the tank tapers to a narrow waist ahead of the deep-scoop saddle to form a knee pocket that pulls the leg in out of the slipstream and gives you a knee-hanger if you’re inclined to do a little pegdragging.

An adjustable saddle gives you a choice in seat height with a 30.9-inch setting and a 31.8-inch one without having to change the seat or suspension components. Behind the pilot, a monochrome cover disguises the two-up nature of the seat with subframe-mount, flip-up footpegs to complete the pillion gear, and I gotta say the cover really sells the race-tastic vibe the Monster is rockin’.

Though the LED taillight comes neatly tucked beneath the tip of the tail, the hangy-downy mudguard/plateholder kind of spoils the look of the clean rear end just a bit, but an aftermarket hugger will take care of that quite nicely. Even the exhaust looks fast as the header pipe winds like a rollercoaster around and back to the upswept mufflers that’ll stay clear of the ground no matter how deeply you lean to the right, well, unless you go all the way over, of course.

Chassis

2018 Ducati Monster 821
- image 773623
The factory bestowed the 821 with agile handling and the ability to shrug off the torsional effects of hard cornering for stability and predictable tracking in the curves.

Large diameter steel tubing forms the well-visible Trellis frame, especially on the red model that carries the same red paint as the sheet metal so it stands in stark contrast to the blackout innards. That’s a nice touch that I really like ’cause it uses the structure itself as part of the overall aesthetic. Ducati uses the engine as a stressed unit in order to keep weight down, and that also has the effect of shifting the visual weight of the engine forward as well while showcasing the powerplant itself.

Agile handling comes by virtue of the 24.3-degree rake and 3.67 inches of trail with a stiff, 43 mm usd front end that shrugs off the torsional effects of hard cornering for stability and predictable tracking in the curves. Interestingly, the rear shock mounts directly to the rear cylinder head and the yoke-style aluminum swingarm for yet another stressor on the engine. It goes beyond the vanilla with adjustable rebound damping paired with the expected spring-preload tweak.

A pair of 17-inch, cast-alloy rims help keep the unsprung weight low with a fetching 10-spoke design and all-around Pirelli Diablo Rosso III hoops. Dual, 320 mm discs work with Brembo M4-32 monobloc calipers to slow the front wheel via pressure from the axial pump at the hand lever. Out back, another Brembo caliper bites a 245 mm disc to complete the brakes with a Bosch 9.1MP anti-lock brake system that provides three levels of intervention and anti rear lift-up prevention as part of Ducati’s Safety Pack.

Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame linked to cylinder heads
Rake: 24.3°
Trail: 93.2 mm (3.67 in)
Front Suspension: Ø 43 mm usd fork
Rear Suspension: Progressive linkage with adjustable monoshock, Aluminum double-sided swingarm
Wheel Travel (Front/Rear): 5.12 in / 5.51 in
Front Brake: 2 x Ø 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted monobloc Brembo M4-32 caliper, 4-piston, axial pump with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Rear Brake: Ø 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Front Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 3.5" x 17"
Rear Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 5.5" x 17"
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III

Drivetrain

2018 Ducati Monster 821
- image 773528
The Desmodromic engine uses a separate push-open/pull-closed cam for positive valve closure with none of the problems associated with high-rpm harmonic valve float.

Ducati powers the Monster 821 with its Desmodromic Testastretta 11-degree engine. The “11-degree” bit comes from the number of degrees of rotation where valve overlap occurs as both the intake and exhaust valves are both open simultaneously around TDC of the exhaust stroke. As for the “Desmodromic” part, that’s all about the special valvetrain system Ducati uses. Where most engines use a push-open cam and return spring to actuate each poppet, Desmo engines use a separate push-open/pull-closed cam for positive valve closure with none of the problems associated with high-rpm harmonic valve float. The oversquare mill runs an 88 mm bore and 67.5 mm stroke with a smokin’ 12.8-to-1 compression ratio and liquid-cooling to deal with the waste heat, of which there is plenty, but at least the lack of body panels will allow it to vent effectively to atmosphere and not turn your engine compartment into an oven; more like a space heater, if anything.

A ride-by-wire throttle control serves as the human interface with the electronic induction system. Dual 53 mm throttle bodies and electronic fuel injection manages the engine with a little help from some secondary systems. As part of the Ducati Safety Pack, the Monster offers riders the ability to dial in three separate Riding Modes that deliver power with differing attitudes — Sport, Touring, and Urban — the last of which actually reduces power output from the stock 109 ponies down to 75. The Riding Modes bundle the variable ABS responses and intervention levels from the Traction Control System to serve as a one-stop shop for transforming the bike between three disinct personalities. No matter which mode you use, it seems the full 63 pound-feet of torque are available at 7,750 rpm and power flows through a six-speed gearbox with a slipper clutch for some backtorque mitigation and rear wheel hop prevention.

Engine: Testastretta 11°, L-Twin, 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, Water cooled
Displacement: 821 cc (50.1 cu in)
Bore x Stroke: 88 x 67.5 mm (3.46 x 2.66 in)
Compression Ratio: 12.8:1
Power: 109 hp @ 9,250 rpm
Torque: 63 lb-ft @ 7,750 rpm
Fuel Injection: Electronic fuel injection system, Ø 53 mm throttle bodies, Full Ride-by-Wire
Exhaust: 2-1 system, Two lambda probes, Stainless steel muffler with aluminum end cap
Gearbox: 6 speed
Final Drive: Chain drive, Front sprocket Z15, Rear sprocket Z46
Clutch: Slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with mechanical control

Pricing

2018 Ducati Monster 821
- image 773534
MSRP is a pretty good deal at $12k when you consider how much bike you get for your buck.

A 2018 Monster 821 will set you back $11,995 MSRP. You can score one in Red with the monochrome Trellis frame and black innards while the yellow model runs a black frame and the black model is, well, pretty much black all over.

Warranty: 24 months, Unlimited mileage
Colors: Ducati Red, Dark Stealth, Ducati Yellow
Price: $11,995

Competitors

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z900
- image 708006
2018 Ducati Monster 821
- image 773267
The Kawi doesn't really have anything like the Ducati's TC and Rider Modes, so more power with potentially less control and fewer power management options, but that's also reflected in the price difference.

In the U.S. market, this Italian Stallion will likely find the stiffest competition coming from the Japanese sector, and I reckon Kawasaki’s Z900 will be one of the main contenders. The looks of the Z900 are typical Kawi; modern, dramatic and extreme. Strong streetfighter DNA gives the “Z” a similar engine-dominant design that sees the mill well exposed with the rest of the bike wrapped around it like a jewel in a setting. A dramatic fuel-tank hump and saddle-height differential puts the rider in the Z more than on it to an even greater degree than the Monster with an almost comical rise to the narrow pillion pad. Yeah, I’m not feelin’ the looks of the Kawi, especially not compared to the sex-on-wheels Ducati brings to the table.

Kawi picks up a win with its 41 mm, usd front suspension that provides adjustable rebound damping as well as spring preload and the same in back. Brake-disc diameter falls off a bit on the Z with 300 mm discs, but otherwise, the anchors are fairly equal in function with ABS across the board though the Duc certainly seems to carry components from a shelf or two higher than the Kawi’s brake gear.

The Z gets some back in its four-cylinder powerplant, in the raw numbers, at least. It boasts a few more cubes with a total of 948 cc in the barrels, and size matters here, a lot. Kawi claims a total of 126 horsepower and 73 pounds o’ grunt to completely outperform the Monster. Where’s the trade off, you ask? Well, it’s in the electronic engine controls, namely, the Kawi doesn’t really have anything like the Ducati’s TC and Rider Modes, so more power with potentially less control and fewer power management options.

Besides the raw power, the Z’s biggest selling point is its price point. At $8,799, the Z900 provides a capable bike for a much-friendlier tag, but it won’t be nearly as refined as the Monster.

He Said

“Love it! Ducati never disappoints, and the revised 821 is no exception with its muscular good looks. I’ve always liked the Monster family, and it seems to get better with each new model. The tech is a real under-the-hood turn on as well, though I’m glad I don’t have to try and troubleshoot anything that sophisticated.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Love the TFT instrumentation. It’s the first digital instrumentation that I can read at a glance; it’s very clear no matter the lighting. On the inside, there is a lot of sameness in the 821 from last year and now outside, there is a lot of sameness with the 1200. I do like the sound better this year even though the new muffler saps just a skosh of power and torque, you really can’t tell the difference in the heinie dyno.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Testastretta 11°, L-Twin, 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, Water cooled
Displacement: 821 cc (50.1 cu in)
Bore x Stroke: 88 x 67.5 mm (3.46 x 2.66 in)
Compression Ratio: 12.8:1
Power: 109 hp @ 9,250 rpm
Torque: 63 lb-ft @ 7,750 rpm
Fuel Injection: Electronic fuel injection system, Ø 53 mm throttle bodies, Full Ride-by-Wire
Exhaust: 2-1 system, Two lambda probes, Stainless steel muffler with aluminum end cap
Gearbox: 6 speed
Primary Drive: Straight cut gears, Ratio 1.85:1
Ratio: 1=37/15, 2=30/17, 3=28/20, 4=26/22, 5=24/23, 6=23/24
Final Drive: Chain drive, Front sprocket Z15, Rear sprocket Z46
Clutch: Slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with mechanical control
Chassis:
Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame linked to cylinder heads
Rake: 24.3°
Trail: 93.2 mm (3.67 in)
Front Suspension: Ø 43 mm usd fork
Rear Suspension: Progressive linkage with adjustable monoshock, Aluminum double-sided swingarm
Wheel Travel (Front/Rear): 5.12 in / 5.51 in
Front Brake: 2 x Ø 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted monobloc Brembo M4-32 caliper, 4-piston, axial pump with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Rear Brake: Ø 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper with Bosch ABS as standard equipment
Front Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 3.5" x 17"
Rear Wheel: 10-spoke light alloy, 5.5" x 17"
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wet Weight (No Fuel): 430 lb
Wet Weight (KERB): 454 lb
Seat Height: Adjustable 30.91 in - 31.89 in
Wheelbase: 58.27 in
Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.36 US gal
Fuel Consumption: 43.6 mpg
Number of Seat: Dual Seat
Details:
Safety Equipment: Riding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Safety Pack (Bosch ABS + Ducati Traction Control DTC)
Standard Equipment: TFT color display, Passenger seat cover
Options: Quickshift up&down(DQS), Ducati Multimedia System (DMS), Anti-theft system, Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA)
Warranty: 24 months, Unlimited mileage
Colors: Ducati Red, Dark Stealth, Ducati Yellow
Price: $11,995

References

Kawasaki Z900

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z900
- image 738360

See our review of the Kawasaki Z900.

Ducati Monster 1200

2015 - 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 / 1200 S / 1200 R
- image 650082

See our review of the Ducati Monster 1200.

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

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