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Road-Testing Ducati's Smart, Stylish 2017 Monster 797

Forbes logo Forbes 10/16/2017 Josh Max, Contributor


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That intrusive but common question was asked by a curious passerby in Upper Manhattan as we photographed the gorgeous test Monster 797 in leafy Fort Tryon Park.

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Not knowing the price as we’d only ridden the bike around 30 minutes after picking it up from the Soho Ducati dealership, we offered, “Don’t know – I would guess around $15,000.”  How wrong we were – the bike starts at $9,295, a small price to pay for this much style and Italian craft.

The Monster 797  (aka “Il Monsterino”) is marketed a an ideal starter bike, but there’s also good news for gents under 5’9, and ladies of similar (lack of) stature – the seat height is but 31.7 inches. There’s even an optional lower seat shaving 0.8 inches, and if you’re a longer person you can buy the Comfort seat, raising the platform of your keister by 0.8 inches. The bike weighs a mere 425 pounds, making it particularly easy to maneuver through Manhattan’s beat-up streets, and it’s fairly quiet even when giving it the gun.

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The other great thing about the Monster 797 is that it isn’t particularly monstrous acceleration – wise, unlike some Ducati’s we’ve tested (the 999R, for example) where you blast to 90 MPH in first gear. The 797’s get-up-and-go is more a gradual process, dependent, of course, on the driver’s wrists. Its smart steel Ducati signature trellis frame houses an 803cc, 75 horsepower @8250 rpm engine pinched from Ducati’s Scrambler line, and its fuel tank comes from the Monster 1200.

Though it’s marketed, rightly so, as a beginner’s bike, you won’t feel as though you’re driving a lessor machine. This is by far the most mellow Ducati we’ve ever tested by comparison, though as usual finding neutral is sometimes a frustrating task. That’s offset by an easy-squeeze clutch, so when we hit the 10th red traffic light and chose to give up the up-toe/down toe attempt to locate “N,” our left hand didn’t cramp up. Much.

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Suspension is fairly rigid and the turning circle is tight and fun and efficient – again, making it good for city use – and the rider can adjust suspension to their liking. It’s also the shortest Monster the company’s made, with a 56.5-inch wheelbase. Tires come courtesy of Pirello Diablo Rosso II, and Brembo four-pot calipers clamp quickly to the bike’s 320mm discs. Bosche ABS brakes keep both tires firmly planted when you brake, and for an extra $400 you can outfit the bike with a mini flyscreen and rear seat cowl. It’s powered by an 803cc, 75 horsepower @8250 rpm engine pinched from Ducati’s Scrambler line, and its fuel tank comes from the Monster 1200.

We only spent a short time with the Monster – it came to about two hours total – but it was enough to get the feel of it and recommend it to fans of the brand, to beginner bikers, and to those of us to whom the phrase “You must have played some basketball in high school!” has never been and never will be  uttered.

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