Monsters Inc.

As a kid, your mum might have put you to bed, telling you stories of a monster that would gobble you up if you didn’t sleep on time. Now meet a Monster of a different kind – a Monster that might put a smile on your face every time you look at it!
Story: Adhish Alawani    Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The previous three days had been spent in the scorching heat of Chennai. I was on the racetrack, attending the California Superbike School and almost 140 laps around the 3.71-km circuit had left me with most of my energy drained. It was then followed by an interminably long train journey back to Pune that took its toll on my posterior and back. Nevertheless, I was still willing to ride from Mumbai to Pune, a distance of 200 km. After all, a hardcore motorcycle enthusiast would never complain, especially when the motorcycle in question is a Ducati!

The clock was ticking and the anxiety to hop on to the red, naked Monster was on the rise. The papers and indemnity letter were being prepared and checked. An hour or so later, the documents were in order and with the leathers zipped up, the helmet strapped, gloves on and key in the ignition, I was ready for the ride. However, there was one more hurdle to be surmounted before I could hit the highway and open the throttle: the chaotic traffic from Worli to Panvel. Never has this journey succeeded in keeping me from being frustrated until, of course, when I tackled it on the Monster. Each and every car in the front made a small place for itself in my rear-view mirror within moments. Indeed, all traffic seemed to be evaporating into thin air as I approached it. Gaps between vehicles were becoming more and more prominent and easier to slip through, thanks to the lightweight (167 kilograms) Ducati with its optimally upright riding posture and a wide handlebar. Manoeuvring through Mumbai’s traffic was never so easy.

However, while I was really enjoying flicking the bike through the congested roads, there was something else that was troubling me and that was the heat being emitted by the air-cooled 803-cc engine. Considering that I could hardly get into the third gear in city traffic (blame the L-Twin motor that needs to be kept spinning to stave off snatching), there was no denying the fact that the engine was always in higher rpm, leading to greater heat generation.

The 90-degree twin cylinder engine produces a peak power of 88 PS at 8,250 rpm (that’s a little short of the red line) and 78 Nm of maximum torque at 6,250 rpm (which forms the mid range revs). The two-digit figures might seem to be on a slightly lower side to those who have had time with the Japanese four-cylinder motorcycles in this segment. However, don’t go by their face value. The way the torque plays with you is extremely joyful. Every time the throttle is whacked open, there is a vaguely sliding rear and slightly floating front that’s enough to give you the kicks you paid for. Not just that. If you decide to be more playful, there is a clutch in your left hand, which, when used in a little abusive manner, will give you a fair chance to experience the roads on a single wheel. Talking of the clutch, it was quite surprising to see that the clutch lever is just as soft and easy to pull as the one found on a Jap. That ensures stress-free riding all day long. Oddly though, the same can’t be said about the gear shift lever that managed to leave me with an aching toe despite the fact that I was wearing riding boots.

The Monster 796, when put to an extreme acceleration test, managed to clock 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds from standstill, which is decent enough for an 800-cc street machine. It went all the way up until 201 km/h on the speedo
(191 km/h true) before Aspi ran out of road and had to hit the amazingly efficient Brembo brakes. We reckon the bike would be able to gather another 10 km/h if it is given enough time and space. However, one would hardly be doing those speeds even on the highways where the windblast forces one to cling on to the handlebar once past 150 km/h. All said, the engine couldn’t be termed anywhere close to ‘refined’ with its vee twin bark reminding you of the Italian rawness every time the throttle was opened.

Riding from Panvel to Pune was quick, really quick considering the fact that almost all the while I was busy playing with the motorcycle, be it the fast straights or the exciting twisties. The Monster, with its low seat, high and wide handlebar and the not so aggressively positioned foot pegs, provided a comfortable ride on the highway. Negotiating the corners was good too. However, a little tweak to the suspension set-up by stiffening it up might eliminate the little wallowing feeling in bumpy corners. That, of course, will be at the cost of comfortable city riding.

Upon reaching Pune, I got off the saddle with a wide grin that had been plastered on my face right from the moment I picked up the bike in Worli. By Jove, there was a lot more to the Ducati than I had imagined! It was torquey, playful, comfortable, enjoyable, exciting and the list would go on and on. In fact, I was so engrossed in the ride all the while that I completely forgot the lunch break I had planned at Lonavala. I walked a few steps away from the bike and gave the 796 a glance that any mortal would give a sexy Italian.

There is always a lot of scope to talk about an Italian motorcycle when it comes to designing and styling. The Monster is no exception. It’s a beautifully crafted machine that spells out its aggressive character from every possible angle. It all starts from the horizontally bisected headlight and goes up to the huge cans at the end covering the elements in between like the curvaceous tank, trellis frame painted in red, single sided swingarm and the Y-designed alloys. Appreciating the beauty really takes a lot of time and some more.

After spending a couple of days and over 500 kilometres in the saddle of the Monster, there were a couple of complaints too. My pillion was rarely happy and blamed the narrow seat and sudden on/off power delivery (due to the twin cylinder motor running in low gears all the time) for the discomfort caused. The speedometer read-out is pretty small and suits very few people’s taste. Toggling through the various menus in the instrumentation console is also awkward with the switch placed far away from where the thumb would generally be.

Leaving the console as a subjective matter, I settled down to give my verdict on this Monster and so took its price
into consideration now. Normally a customer would look at this bit first. But I decided to exempt the bike on that count initially owing to the fact that it’s an Italian bike under scanner and price comes only after the exclusivity and soul of the motorcycle. To my extreme surprise, I discovered that the Monster 796 comes with a price tag of Rs 9.17 lakh! That’s cheaper than every other competitor in its segment (the segment essentially comprises all the naked motorcycles up to 1,300 cc. The Harleys, being cruisers, are not considered).

So, what you get from a Monster 796 is a soulful Italian machine priced most competitively and powered just right to cater to most of your riding requirements – from daily office/college commutes to weekend rides down the highway and up the twisties. Add a little more dough and you get ABS as an option. For seekers after greater power, there is the option of the Monster 1100 too!

1.The headlamp design on the 796 has been retained from the previous versions. It still has the same character
2.The instrumentation console is definitely a tiny one compared to this monstrous bike
3.The exposed 90-degree V-twin engine heats you up a lot
4.Single-sided swingarm and the Y-design alloys make for a beautiful rear end

Every time the throttle is whacked open, there is a vaguely sliding rear and a slightly floating front that’s enough to give you the kicks you paid for

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