The previous decade, I mean …
Got together with Pete, Trent and Richard last night, and Pete had the latest issue of Motorcycle News featuring Ducati’s reinvention of the Monster, the 696 (you’ve got to check out this Ducati promo, it’s a giggle).
Riding to work the same morning, I had been thinking of how, for me, the Monster would have to be the bike of the 1990s.
I remember when my mate Dave bought his. It was the year 1997, I think. I had a Cagiva Elefant 900 back then, and riding a bike with the 750 Ducati engine was a revelation.
The pig-headed, snatchy, lumpy low-end, dry-clutched 900 engine is fun in its way, once you get used to it. Dave’s Monster was fun right from the word go – a willing engine that pulled right off the line and a really flickable frame. My arms were splayed out to grip the bars, and my grin was almost as wide. The all-round nicer engine is the reason I have the 750 version of the Elefant these days.
Dave bought his Monster at a bargain clearance price, with free helmet thrown in. Apparently the 750 was a bit of an orphan in the Ducati model range – and Dave felt disappointed afterwards that it only had a single front disc. The back brake made a weird moaning sound, too. But with some nice custom touches including a Shelby Cobra-style blue with white racing stripes paint scheme he managed to turn it into a prize-winner as best Monster at the Ducati concourse in Queensland.
Apart from being a sweet unit itself, the Monster launched the naked-bike revolution, becoming as much of a style icon as the 916 and doing much, much more than the top-line superbike to save Ducati as a bike maker. I have never really liked the inevitable four-valve variant, the S4R, which just has too much underslung bulk and stuff hanging off it generally, ruining the simple roadster look.
The new Monster loses the full-trellis frame in favour of a hybrid arrangement of trellis main and aluminium subframe. It seems a shame, as the exposed full-trellis was to me the most eye-catching thing about the Monster. The new one looks a bit like Ducati’s designer got halfway along the bike and then forgot who he was working for. Or like a Japanese copy of the original Monster. But progress is progress, I suppose.
There are other things I don’t like – the headlight being the most obvious. All round the bike just seems to borrow a bit too much from the Brutale – made by MV Agusta, which used to be Cagiva, which used to own Ducati and took with it, when they split, the design guru Massimo Tamburini, responsible for bikes like the Paso, superbikes from the 851 through to the 916, and then the MV Agusta F4.
Lamentably from my perspective, the Monster no longer traces its tail-light back to the Cagiva Elefant. That means another Elefant part that we can currently source from Ducati goes on the endangered list.
So can the new Monster conquer the Noughties? Not with that headlight, I reckon.