By : RAHIL SHAIKH
Ever wondered what living with a Ducati feels like? Let me tell you. For me, personally, it is out of the ordinary! My KTM Duke 390, which I thought was a furnace in the beginning, in retrospect, is a relatively simple motorcycle to live with. Having lived with the Ducati Monster 821 for the past few weeks, I have now grown to love my Duke 390 more than ever. Don’t get me wrong, the Monster 821 is a work of art, but maybe in Mumbai traffic, it is still work in progress. How did I land up with this Ducati? Let’s just say that this motorcycle saved my friend’s life and since then, it has been with me for some much-needed TLC.
Calling the Monster 821 thirsty would be an understatement because in the two weeks that the motorcycle has been with me I have topped it up twice already. Maybe I ride a lot or maybe it drinks a bit too much, who knows? However, the more I ride it on the highways, the more I fall in love with it. The guys at Ducati have done a phenomenal job with the Monster 821 and I can’t wait to get my hands on the recently launched lighter and more aggressive variant of it. However, I think the essence of the Monster being a front-heavy, untameable beast, died when the Italians got a sleeker and sharper looking Monster this year. The 2017, Monster 821, that I am currently riding has a lot of accessories on it. The Evotech frame slider, Ducati performance LED indicators, Termignoni exhaust and carbon fibre bits here and there are all add ons that my friend’s motorcycle sports. And that Termignoni exhaust, OMG! There can’t possibly be a better way of drawing attention and I mean that. I have, in the last few weeks, lost count of how many times people have turned around to listen to the beautiful L-Twin engine and that Termignoni soundtrack. Especially while sitting in traffic, be prepared to rattle off FE (Fuel Efficiency) figures to all and sundry. And if you’re introverted and like keeping to yourself, there’s good news. You can just pretend you didn’t hear them and nobody will doubt that even for even a second.
As the name suggests, the Ducati Monster 821 is powered by an 821cc, 11-degree, L-Twin, Testastretta, liquid-cooled engine that puts out 110 bhp and 89 Nm of torque. Ducati has mated the engine to a 6-speed gearbox and has provided a suite of electronics with it. Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and ABS are standard on the motorcycle along with three power modes, Urban, Touring and Sport. The Urban mode sees all the safety systems at maximum alert, whereas the Sport mode is where they have minimal interference and gives almost all the control to the rider. The Touring mode is the middle ground and I think that it is the best mode for our highways. The Sport mode is thrilling, but I would rather use it on the track than on our roads. The Urban mode is good for traffic and the restricted power output in this mode makes it a bit less jumpy in Mumbai’s bumper-to-bumper traffic. Speaking of Mumbai traffic, that’s precisely the reason why most of the superbikes in Mumbai come out after midnight. It is just impossible to ride the Monster in peak Mumbai traffic. First, all the modes on offer are as useless in traffic. The clutch is heavy and if you are not used to it, get ready for some serious cramps in your left hand. Then comes space… every other two-wheeler near yours is on the verge of scratching the exhaust or in brushing distance of your mirrors. Not to mention, how all eyes are on you, sometimes admiration, at other times just pure detestation. I have lost count of the number of times other riders have come up and hit the back of the motorcycle just because they were in a hurry to get ahead. All this adds to the anxiety to ride it in peak-time traffic. On top of that, the Ducati Monster 821, gets very hot. If you are not wearing jeans, get ready for burn marks on your inner thighs in start-stop traffic. Once, when I rode the motorcycle to South Mumbai, I kept cursing myself for the two hours that I was stuck in peak traffic on a particularly busy stretch of road. However, post-midnight, the motorcycle is a dream, especially while riding on beautiful stretches such as Marine Drive, with the salty wind in your face and the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, it is just the most beautiful experience ever!
However, the Monster 821 isn’t flawless. It is front heavy and by that, I mean, it is a task to manoeuvre it in traffic. Besides traffic, the motorcycle also requires a proper technique to tackle corners because without that, it is bound to misbehave. It does not go into corners as a KTM does and it took me a while to figure that out. But once you get a hang of how the motorcycle handles at corners, it is a hoot to ride. Every single detail of the motorcycle is special. For instance, even the handle, in a full lock on either side, is just a cm away from hitting the enormous tank and this precision is what the Italians are known for. That, and beautiful motorcycles. The sculpted tank of the Monster 821 is beautiful and especially in this exotic red colour, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Your thighs grip the tank properly and you do not have to struggle to find grip on the motorcycle, as you have to do with some others. The seat is soft and along with track days, I think, touring on the Monster 821 will be an enjoyable experience. What I did not like about the motorcycle is that, even with the hefty price tag, Ducati has not offered a fuel indicator or a gear indicator. Who wouldn’t want to know how much fuel is left, instead what I get is an orange “Low Fuel” sign which is enough to put any rider into panic mode, especially if one isn’t anywhere near a gas-station. I too faced a panic attack in Powai traffic because of the fuel warning light flashing in my face, luckily it was only Powai, which thankfully has several gas stations in the vicinity. At gas stations it is a different story altogether. While mostly people have only walked straight up to me and asked me about the motorcycle, on one occasion, a man asked me to switch off the engine as it was giving him a “headache”. That is Termignoni for you, you either love the symphony of the L-Twin or you are startled with its pops and bangs.
I just love staring at that L-Twin engine, but the more I look at it, the more I feel the heat underneath the seat because one head of the L-Twin engine is just below the seat and it does become quite a steamy affair, both in traffic as well as on open highways. The vibrations are a part of the Ducati experience, but you actually learn to overlook it because the Monster 821, is such a beautiful machine! Also, it is vital to never ever lose concentration while riding it, because it can be quite an unforgiving machine. The Pirellis do a wonderful job of transferring the 89 Nm of torque to the ground. However, they also sometimes tend to lose some grip under hard acceleration, which leads to a playful fishtail.
Overall, living with the Ducati has its ups and downs, but mostly it's the beautiful riding moments with the Ducati that you will cherish. Top speed runs and the frequent questions from people at traffic signals are stories that you will go home and tell your friends and family about, not the bits where your lower body felt like it was on fire. I have fallen in love with the Ducati Monster 821 and have half a mind not to return it, but then that fuel bill receipt on my desk has done its job of jolting me out of my dream. Someday, surely.