Ducati Monster 797 review

The Ducati Monster 797 is the go-to entry-level motorbike from the brand's range, giving you all the essential elements of the Ducati experience

Great entry-level Ducati
Clunky gearbox

RECENTLY IT seems that every time I go somewhere in Europe that should be warm, sunny and dry, the sky opens and the fun dries up.

That’s why, after checking the weather for the launch location of the new Ducati Monster 797 and seeing black clouds, double rain drops and lightning bolts on my weather app, I was considering the bike’s tagline of ‘Let’s have fun’ with some cynicism. Don’t get me wrong, riding in the rain is fine, but the prospect of being soaked down to my ball bag for the umpteenth time this year isn’t one that filled me with joy.

With the rain promising to piss all over my dream of a glorious day’s riding in the south of France, some immediate action was called for and within an hour of landing in Nice, I was out on the bike for a hastily organised photo session before the next day’s soggy ride.

Actually, soggy is an understatement, but sure enough, regardless of the conditions, the Monster 797 quickly proved itself as a fun bike – it’s so easy-going, light and simple that it invites a fun time from the moment you get moving. 

Ducati Monster 797: Price and Design

This key thing to know about this new small-capacity Monster is that it’s been created with a back-to-basics philosophy - it’s a bike that’s been designed to be the perfect entry into Ducati, especially for new riders. Being a Ducati, it’s a premium product and it comes with a premium price – one that starts t £7,895 and rises to £8,250 for the 797+ (with its fly screen and pillion seat cover). That’s a fair whack more than the competition – a Yamaha MT-07 will set you back £6,099 and the Suzuki SV650 just £5,699 although you can argue that neither of those bikes is as an aspirational product, and it doesn’t seem so bad when you look at the £89 a month PCP plan, which is less than the MT-07’s monthly PCP repayments.

The 797 is very likeable because of its simplicity and ease of use; there are no riding modes or traction control settings to faff with – you just turn the key and go, and therein lies its allure. In fact, Stefano Terabuci (product manager for the 797) says that this bike is more Monster than any other Monsters…

Ducati Monster 797: Engine

… Perhaps that’s also because with its stripped-back ethos, the 797 shares some common touch points with the first 600cc Monster. Like the M600, the Monster 797 is powered by an air-cooled V-twin, housed in a new tubular steel trellis frame, and it too has a double-sided swingarm. The engine is the 803cc Desmodue lump from the Scrambler family (itself derived from the Monster 796), which puts out 75hp at 8,250rpm and 50.8lb/ft torque at 5,750 rpm. Service intervals are at 7,456 miles.

It smoothly delivers unintimidating power, with good torque in the middle of the rev range and beginner-friendly punch on tap when it’s spinning between 4,000 and 7,000rpm. Although the digital rev counter indicates this engine spins up to 12,000rpm, it’s lying - there’s not much beyond 7,500rpm apart from the easily-found rev limiter at a little over 8,000rpm.

The engine has the torque to ensure the Monster will be a confident city bike, while being capable when the skyscrapers become blurred hedges at the periphery of your vision because it quickly and smoothly gets up to and beyond 60/70mph. It's not a hugely exciting engine - not as much as the MT-07 and I’m sure it feels a little flatter than the V-twin in the SV650. A bit more nosie and drama would help sort that; bin the ugly silencer for something with Termignoni on the side of it and the Monster 797 will immediately take a step towards feeling much more Ducati. 

Perhaps I can't criticise too much because the friendly and predictable response from the throttle, plus a lovely light action slipper clutch means the 797’s powertrain feels spot on for this entry level bike. But it's not out of the woods just yet: the gearbox is a bit clunky and could be fiddly to get into neutral – a problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that the neutral light takes a second or two to come on once you’ve hooked it.

Ducati Monster 797: Handling and Suspension

And like the M600, the 797 is also compact and easy to get on and ride. As you’d expect from a bike aimed at newer or younger riders, there’s nothing intimidating or complex about it and it’s free from confounding menus, buttons and features that’ll make you wish you had the handbook handy every time you pop to the shops. The lack of electronics beyond the Bosch ABS system means that the LCD dash screen is as basic and clear as they come – there’s not even a gear position indicator or consumption information, neither of which I missed too much. Whether you think Ducati missed a trick by leaving off traction control is a matter for debate but the rear Pirelli Rosso II tyre was untroubled by the drenched French tarmac and performed solidly in the dry too.

Although the Monster 797 is one of Ducati’s most stripped-back bikes, that doesn’t mean the factory has kitted it out with bargain basement parts. Usually on beginner bikes such as this, it’s reasonable to expect traditional forks and fairly basic brake setup but the Monster 797 uses a 43mm USD Kayaba fork and Brembo M3.32 front calipers, so it’s got a front end that looks proper, innit.

The front suspension performs well and although it’s soft, is nicely damped and the result is a comfortable and controlled ride feel from the front. In the rear, the preload-adjustable side-mounted Sachs shock quietly got on with soaking up the road and didn’t give me anything to complain about.

The front pair of Brembo M3.32 four-piston calipers feel spot on for this bike and offer plenty of power and good feel through the adjustable front brakes lever, without the kind of aggressive bite that might catch out new riders.

And there are no surprises with the way it handles and its ergonomics. With a fuelled wet weight of 193kg, its lighter than the SV650 but not the 182kg fuelled-and-ready MT-07 and it definitely feels light and effortless to turn. It feels that way from the moment you swing a leg over and flick up the side stand – the ow weight also means it’s easy to push and paddle about with – so if you’re short and weedy like me, you’ll get on well with it. The low 805mm seat height means it should be manageable for a lot people, but if you’re really not that leggy, Ducati sells a 20mm lower seat.

Balance at slow speed is impeccable and there’s plenty of steering lock on offer. The 797’s delicate feel also means that it’s great on a fast-flowing road – changing direction doesn’t require any muscling or hustling, and the ease with which it behaves is precisely how an entry level bike should feel.

Ducati Monster 797: Comfort

When I rode the Monster 1200S at the end of last year, the thing that immediately struck me was how aggressive the riding position is, like you’re sitting on top of the tank. Although the Monster 797 shares the same tank as the 1200 and 821, its ergonomics are more relaxed than both those bikes – you’re pitched forward less and the pegs aren’t as high and set back. Its 1,435mm wheelbase is also shorter than the 821’s. The result is that, even though the Monster 797 is a compact bike, the ride position manages to feel comfortable and welcoming, with a relaxed reach to the bars and none of the attack-mode feel of the 1200.

Looks-wise, it’s definitely a Monster – one that manages to integrate modern touches, like the headlight from the 1200 with nods to its heritage courtesy of the frame and air-cooled engine with those cooling fins. It easily outclasses the MT and SV with its premium feel. Other modern touches include the LED rear light and USB port under the seat.

Should I buy the Ducati Monster 797?

Simply put, the Monster 797 is a simple entry-level bike – one devoid of all but the most essential ingredients. It is unfussy, undemanding and accessible, and its light, easy handling means it still retains a sporty character, so even though the rain tried its hardest to suck the enjoyment out of the test ride, the 797 managed to bring a smile to my face.

Ducati Monster 797: Specifications

  • Model tested: Ducati Monster 797
  • Price: £7,895
  • Engine: air-cooled 803cc Desmodue four-valve
  • Power: 75hp at 8,250rpm
  • Torque: 50.8lb/ft at5,750rpm
  • Chassis: tubular steel trellis
  • Suspension: front – 43mm non-adjustable USD Kayaba fork / Rear – Preload-adjustable Sachs shock
  • Brakes: front – Two four-piston Brembo M4.32 calipers and 320mm semi-floating discs / Rear – Single-piston caliper and 245mm disc
  • Tyres: Pirelli Rosso II (120/70 ZR17 front, 180/55 ZR17 rear)
  • Weight: 193kg (wet, with fuel)
  • Fuel capacity: 16.5 litres
  • Seat height: 805mm
  • Colours: ‘Star White Silk’, ‘Dark Stealth’, ‘Ducati Red’
  • Availability: start of April