Ducati Monster 796 (2009) review

The Ducati Monster 796 (2009) is a good-looking middleweight that delivers a fun riding experience

Mid range version of Ducati's Monster has a lovely soundtrack and is very comfy.
Another £1500 buys the 1100 Monster..

Ducati Monster 796 (2009): Design

Regardless of engine capacity a Ducati Monster always seems to be more than the sum of its parts. Somehow, the Italians have bred a distinctive character into this model range and owners often seem as attracted to the name as the rideability, which has undoubtedly improved over recent years.

The ‘new generation’ 696 Monster, launched in 2008 was the first of its kind to record five figure sales in one year. It’s no surprise really, not only has Ducati sold more than 225,000 Monsters since 1994, this entry level version adopted a new riding position that was a noticeable improvement over the stretched out versions that had preceded it.

The Monster 1100 came six months later, combining practical new ergonomics with the impressive power of the Hypermotard/Multistrada 1078cc air cooled L-twin engine. And now there’s another addition to the family, the Monster 796.

This new middleweight is the most comfortable Monster yet. The tapered aluminium handlebars are 20mm higher and the four-point adjustable levers make life easier still. The 800mm seat height is 10mm lower than the 1100 Monster and while it’s retained the traditional trellis frame, a new subframe makes aftermarket pillion grabhandles easier to add.

Ducati Monster 796 (2009): Engine

It’s supposed to sit neatly between the 696 and 1100, so it’s powered by the 803cc Desmodue engine which offers a friendly 85.7 bhp at 8250 rpm and 58ft/lb of torque at 6250 rpm over the 696’s 79bhp and 50ft/lb. There’s nothing really crazy-new about it, it’s simply another Monster – no bad thing.

Ducati Monster 796 (2009): Suspension and Handling

The Italians have a habit of picking the twistiest roads imaginable to highlight a bike’s agility and this launch was no different. Endless switchbacks curled around hillsides like strands of twisted spaghetti, demanding full attention. Weighing a manageable 167kg (169 with ABS) it flicks from side to side with reassuring stability. The Showa 43mm usd forks are non-adjustable yet absorb most challenges without too much complaint. The rear benefits from a preload and rebound adjustable Sachs monoshock.

This Monster delivers a decent ride, satisfying a sporty rider’s fix for kneedown action (with 30mm more ground clearance than the 696). But slower corners need slightly more input on the bars than Yamaha’s new naked middleweight FZ8 and if the asphalt is less than smooth, the front-end feels worked. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. And while the steering lock is certainly less restrictive than on some of the original Monsters, it’s still limited.

Should I buy the Ducati Monster 796 (2009)?

It’s tough to find serious fault with the 796. It’s predictably sexy-looking, fun to ride and even the mirrors are OK. It’s the kind of bike that will encourage a relative newbie rather than scare them. And advanced riders won’t get bored waiting for an adrenalin rush. Snapping the throttle back won’t exactly turn the world inside out, but it will inject a few giggles into your ride. And should you need to scrub speed in a hurry, grabbing a fistful hauls the anchors on progressively and very effectively.

The ABS (available as an optional extra) feels far more refined than on the Multistrada 1200. It’s the same system with different software. Where it sometimes kicks in prematurely on the adventure bike, I couldn’t provoke the Monster on asphalt. It’s an impressive, unobtrusive safety net.

The Monster 796 is a middleweight with all the sex appeal of its bigger brother, more poke than the entry-level version and the most comfortable riding position of all. Ducati launched its Monster Art project last year which is basically ten additional colours over the three standard options (in this case red, white and black) that comes in the form of a kit. You simply switch the tank panels, front mudguard bikini fairing and single seat cover for the replacement colours you prefer. Ducati has gone one step further for the 796 Monster by introducing Logomania. It retains three of the most popular Monster Art colour schemes and adds seven more to celebrate various significant bikes and events throughout Ducati’s history. That’s one for every day of the week…

Ducati Monster 796 (2009): Specifications

  • Price: £6995 (ABS version £7695)
  • Top speed: 130mph (est)
  • Front suspension: 43mm USD
  • Rear suspension: Monoshock
  • Adjustment: preload and rebound
  • Front brakes: 2 x 320mm discs, four-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 246mm disc, twin-piston caliper
  • Dry weight: 167kg
  • Seat height: 800mm
  • Fuel capacity: 15-litres
  • Colour options: red, white,  black
  • Engine: 796cc, 2-valve per cylinder L-twin
  • Power: 85.7bhp @ 8250rpm
  • Torque: 58ft/lb @ 8250rpm
  • Bore & Stroke: 88 x 66mm
  • Compression ratio: 11:1 F