Used Bike

Buyer Guide: Ducati Monster

Getting up close and personal with Ducati’s iconic Monster by the people who live with it day in, day out...

Click to view: Ducati Monster owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

Genre busting is an over-used phrase, but it’s completely accurate when applied to Ducati’s Monster. When it was launched in 1993 we hadn’t seen anything like it before. Somewhere between retro and streetfighter, Monsters are minimal, stiff, purposeful and very cool. The original 900 version was crafted from an 888 Superbike chassis with calmer steering plus the ancient, but effective, 900SS V-twin engine and upright bars.

The result was a unique bike with sharp looks and plenty of personality. It’s a great town tool although a poor steering lock and firm suspension stops it from being King of the urban jungle. It really shines on smooth back roads but, once again, that hard suspension pisses on the bonfire if the surface deteriorates. The original bike isn’t that great over distance but later models got a small but effective bikini fairing, which makes a big difference to wind blast and can be fairly easily fitted to most naked models without if required. It’s still no tourer though.

All that makes it sound like it’s flawed. In a way it is, but no machine does everything well and the Monster is still a very competent all round bike. It’s a very desirable machine and one you buy for emotional not logical reasons, like most Italian bikes. It’s a superb bike to ride and a great entry into Ducati ownership.

A survey like the one this article is based on only works when you don’t cast the net too wide. We’ve included all air-cooled monsters in this article except the very latest 696 and 1100 models which are so new they’re barely second hand bikes.

Like all Ducatis, some pub experts will tell you they’re unreliable. But 75 owners filled in our survey and they’ve covered a massive 829,372 miles between them on their Monsters, so believe what you read here, not what the pub expert says.

Ducati Monster Specifications

Monster M600

Engine a/c, 4v, carb’d, v-twin, 583cc Power 53bhp @ 8,250rpm Torque 37ftlb @ 7,000rpm Dry weight 175kg Seat height 770mm Fuel capacity 16L Top speed 115mph

Monster M620ie

Engine a/c, 4v, injected, v-twin, 618cc Power 63bhp @ 9,500rpm Torque 41ftlb @ 6,750rpm Dry weight 168kg Seat height 770mm Fuel capacity 15L Top speed 120mph

Monster 695

Engine a/c, 4v, injected, v-twin, 695cc Power 73bhp @ 8,500rpm Torque 45ftlb @ 6,750rpm Dry weight 168kg Seat height 770mm Fuel capacity 14L Top speed 125mph

Monster M900

Engine a/c, 4v, carb’d, v-twin, 904cc Power 73bhp @ 7,000rpm Torque 56ftlb @ 6,000rpm Dry weight 185kg Seat height 770mm Fuel capacity 16L Top speed 125mph

Monster S2R

Engine a/c, 4v, injected, v-twin, 803cc (992cc) Power 77bhp @8,250rpm (95bhp) Torque 54ftlb @ 6,500rpm (69ftlb) Dry weight 173kg (178kg) Seat height 800mm Fuel capacity 15L Top speed 130mph (140mph)

The nuts & bolts

Reliability
The preconception is that Ducatis are expensive to service. All bikes in the survey need attention every 6,000 miles except the 695 which has 7,500 mile intervals and work required is pretty similar on all models. Services alternate between major and minor. Valve clearances should be checked every service and cam belts (unusual for a motorbike) need changing every major service. Prices at main dealers can be high – as much as £300 for the minor and £700 for the major. But the actual amounts paid are generally much lower.

Averages in the survey were £231 for the minor and £423 for the major service. Some owners keep costs down by skipping work which may not be 100% necessary like the changing the fork oil every major service and others use independent mechanics rather than Ducati main dealers which seem to charge around half as much. Be wary of letting any spanner monkey service your Monster – timing belts and Desmodromic valves need skill to get right although many owners say they’re simple once you know how. Services should be done every year even if the bike’s unused – in fact it’s a commonly held belief letting these engines sit idle for long periods is not good for them.

Fuel consumption’s a mixed bag. Average figures from our survey were: 1000cc; 42mpg, 900cc; 43mpg, 800cc; 41mpg, 750cc; 43mpg, 695cc; 50mpg, 620cc; 43mpg, 600cc; 53mpg. The overall average was 44mpg. It looks like riding style dictates fuel consumption as much as engine capacity.

Dealers and culture
Ducati main dealers are pretty widespread and seem to look after customers very well. But they’re not cheap. Good independent experts (like ‘Ducati John’ near Leeds 0113 2829933) know the bikes extremely well and charge less than official agents.

There’s loads of great websites crammed with advice and banter such as the excellent ukmonster.co.uk, ducatisiti.co.uk, ducati-upnorth.com, ducatisportingclub.com and italiansportsbikeclub.com.

Owner Case Study: “...Mine’s done almost 50,000 miles...”

Sarah Bird bought a second hand M900Sie five years ago with about 5,000 miles on the clock. Since then she’s taken it to 47,000

“She’s a lovely bike, really good in and out of town. I commute about 150 miles a week but I don’t need an excuse to take her out for fun. She’s been very reliable over all those miles. The rear wheel bearing was replaced at 35,000 miles and I’ve just had new front brake discs, but those are consumables. A breather hose deteriorated and I did have a problem with the clutch slave cylinder, but that was when I started riding in London so maybe all the stop/start riding didn’t help. I went through several genuine units pretty rapidly then I tried an aftermarket one from MPL which sorted it. It costs about £60 and is made from billet aluminium.

“My Monster has got Öhlins suspension and I had the shock serviced about two weeks ago - I probably should have done it sooner. I had the fork springs and oil done too, together they make a huge difference.

“I had Suzukis before and the Ducati’s nicer to ride but costs more to service. I pay £400 or £500 every time.

“She’s a lovely bike and I’m dreading the day she dies. I can’t think of another bike I’d rather have.”

What goes wrong
Much less than the Internet scaremongers would have you believe. We asked how many times has your bike gone wrong beyond normal wear and tear? 40 people said never, 23 said just once, 12 said a few times and none said loads of times. That’s better than Aprilia Tuonos and Triumph T595s/955is we surveyed recently. It’s about the same as Ducati’s 749 and 999 range, which is impressive as the Monsters are generally much older machines.

So what specific problems are there? There’s very little pattern and most are minor. Four owners needed to replace their clutch slave cylinders. Ten had problems with electrics many of which were thought to be due to them getting damp – several owners said their bikes didn’t like getting wet and could run poorly or not start if they got a soaking. Three bikes suffered major engine problems. One 2005 S2R 800 didn’t run well from new but was cured when the rear cylinder and piston were replaced at the 600 mile service. A low mile 1996 900 burned out a piston but the owner says this was caused by a fuel blockage. One owner of a 2003 1000Sie told us their bike needed two new cylinder heads at 12,000 miles due to valve guide issues and they say it’s a known problem on early twin spark engines. Overall that’s impressive. Okay, it may not be quite as good as the best of the Japanese machines but these Monsters should not be thought of as unreliable, especially if you take measures to keep the electrics dry.

What would our owners check if they were buying another similar Monster? In no particular order: service history - especially cambelt changes, all three keys plus the code card present if it’s got a factory immobiliser, lock stops for damage, listen for piston slap and look for exhaust smoke which can indicate worn valve guides, base gasket leaks, clutch operation, flaky engine paint, clock function and damage and that it’s ‘been ridden, not hidden’.

The finish is pretty good – except for the engine. Almost half the owners surveyed said they were disappointed with the paint bubbling or flaking off. Some thought ACF50 helped prevent this happening. There’s a few grumbles about footrest hangers corroding but other than that most owners are pretty happy with their Duke’s finish.

Tyres and brakes
All models up to the 800 take 120/60-17 and 160/60-17 tyres. The 900 gets 120/70-17 and 170/60-17. The 1000 and the S2R models all get 120/70-17 and 180/55-17s. Those last ones are the most popular so have the biggest range of rubber available but the others aren’t short of choice. Owners use a huge range of tyres from the ultra sticky to sports touring.

The most popular are: Pirelli Diablo (23%), Michelin Pilot Power (9%) and Pirelli Diablo Corsa III (5%). Tyre life again varies massively depending on riding style and choice of rubber but here’s the average life-span in miles for each engine size: 600cc: 7,778 front, 4,889 rear; 620cc: 6,000 front, 5,750 rear; 695cc: 7,500 front, 5,000 rear; 750cc: 10,750 front, 6,450 rear; 800cc: 5,060 front, 3,900 rear; 900cc: 6,857 front, 4,500 rear; 1000cc: 5,030 front, 3,567 rear.

EBC and the original Brembo brake pads are both joint first for popularity with 24% of owners using each. Third is Ferodo with 7%.

Your Reviews

The Ducati Monster comes in a variety of different engine guises, we have them all registered in our owners' reviews section and they are waiting for your input. Log your thoughts and impressions of this fantastic naked here.

Owner Case Study: “...I’ve owned seven Monsters...”

Dave Rabbetts has been a bike nut for years and has owned over 200 machines. But the Monster’s been his favourite since 2002

“I’ve got a 620ie at the moment as well as an S4RS. I’ve also owned a 750, two 900s, carb’d and injected, as well as some liquid-cooled ones – an S4, an S4R and my current S4RS. I love them. They’re easy to handle and work on and they’ve got real character too.

“The air-cooled bikes of 750cc and below feel a bit slow, especially after the more powerful liquid-cooled ones. The 900s are quick enough though. I get great fuel consumption from my 620ie – about 55mpg.

“The only problem I’ve had with all my Monsters was the wiring loom rubbed on the headstock on one of the 900s and wore through. I’m a qualified mechanic so I do all my own servicing, it’s not difficult.

“They’re excellent for everything except two up touring. A pillion gets fairly uncomfy after about 100 miles or so. I’ve done 300 or 400 mile days solo with no problems.

“I’ve had loads of bikes over the years but I like the Ducatis best. I think for looks, handling and engine performance they’re hard to beat.”

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