Is the middleweight naked Ducati Monster 821 still the default choice for riders in the Age Of The Scrambler?
Photos: Lionel Kong, Derryn Wong
The Ducati Monster 821 is, on the face of things, the default, middleweight Monster we’ve always known and loved.
Once upon a time if you wanted a Ducati that didn’t break the bank, or your back, the default choice was the Monster. And a middleweight Monster combined most of the thrills of a Ducati without the sportsbike pain, and more everyday user-friendliness.
In sales, the Italian brand’s naked bike was arguably its main machine for many years, more so than the superbikes which grab headlines and eyeballs.
Yet, the Monster is no longer the ‘default Ducati’, with the rebirth of the Scrambler model as the most popular choice for Ducati riders these days. So where does that leave the Monster 821 in 2020?
First introduced in 2015, it slots above the entry-level Monster 797 and below the fast and fiery Monster 1200 range. In car terms, if the Monster is a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the 821 would be nudging toward the high-performance C 43 end of things – fast, but still grounded and very daily-usable.
The bike last received an update in 2018, with a new headlight and mild styling updates on the tank and bodywork, including the tail section. The biggest update a rider will notice is the digitised LCD display, now a full-colour unit.
The tank has been resculpted to give the bike a more of a hunched, ready-to-pounce look – Ducati says it’s supposed to look more like the original M900 monster of the 90s, complete with a fuel-tank locking widget that doesn’t actually lock anything.
But it’s still a Monster, and a Ducati, so it looks fast even on when sat on the sidestand.
Currently you can have it in any colour you want as long as it’s red (shown here) or matte black – the latter is the special Stealth colour option that makes the Monster look extra menacing.
The seating position is sporty but not severe, as there’s only a slight forward crouch without extreme reach to the handlebars. If you plan on carrying passengers, the passenger pegs are now separate from the rider’s set, thankfully, and the bike tested here has a removable passenger seat cowl, so it only looks like a monoposto.
In what is a classic Italian bike feature, the beautiful upswept exhaust can foul your right boot, though it doesn’t actually make riding uncomfortable. In other words, the Monster is largely free of ergonomic irritations that plagued Italians of the past.
Those who yearn for the immediate blast of a roaring V-twin should adjust their expectations #becauseeuro4. Like all other bikes, even Harleys, the 821 has a gentle bark upon startup and is not the sort of bike to buy if you want to annoy your neighbours every day. Euro 4 hasn’t totally killed the twin-cylinder spirit though, it’s still an exciting engine to listen to, much more so in motion than stationary.
Obviously the weather gods meant for us to test how the fast, exciting Italian deals with drudgery, which is why most of our multi-day test ride took place in the rain. For that, the smooth and sometimes characterless power delivery of an inline four is what you want, but it’s not as if the 821 is a bucking, screaming monster on Singapore’s roads.
Ducati’s current Testastretta 11-degree engine is big part of that – read this for a more in-depth explanation – is already far more biddable than an Italian L-twin of yore, and while it’s not quite as flexible as a scooter, you’re not doing the left-foot tap dance constantly at urban speeds either. The optional up-down quickshifter is highly recommended for Singapore.
The engine is also tamed by Ducati’s three ride modes (Urban, Touring, Sport), plus traction control and ABS, though there’s no cornering ABS sadly. It was no fun tip-toeing around in the wet, but the smoothness and un-jerky nature of the engine made it quite bearable.
Once a few hours of sunlight peeked through the clouds we were able to glimpse at what the Monster 821 is like in normal conditions. 112hp doesn’t sound like much compared to the roided-out supernakeds of today, but it’s more than enough for your average Singaporean rider.
It has an obviously sporty setup, stiff but not bone-crushing. You could further tailor that to your needs, since the rear shock is fully-adjustable, though not the forks.
Even so, it delivers a sensible balance for most. It tracks positively in corners and while eager to turn, doesn’t scare the willies out of new riders by being too eager, either. There’s plenty to mine here, if this is your first big, fast bike, and the power also means you can (eventually) go touring and extend your sport riding horizons in future, and that 112hp will bring you much further than the Scrambler in terms of rider development.
The only drawback is the price-to-performance comparison: Triumph’s ever capable Street Triple is a key competitor, cheaper, and has nearly as much charisma with its loveable triple-cylinder powerplant. BMW’s new F 900 R roadster also recently landed here and looks impressive on paper, but we’ve yet to test it out.
Still, if you’ve always wanted something fast, red, and Italian in your life without trading in your wife/husband in the bargain, the Ducati 821 represents a realistic, sensible ride with the requisite amount of Italian exoticness to spice up a rider’s life.
|Engine||821cc, 8V, L-twin|
|Power||112hp at 9250rpm|
|Torque||89.4Nm at 7750rpm|
|Top Speed||Not revealed|
|Verdict||The ‘sensible’ Ducati to buy in Singapore, with the right mix of power, personality, and ease|
*OTR = On-The-Road, inclusive six-month Road Tax, COE, without insurance