Ducati created the naked bike back in 1993 with the launch of the original Monster -- a stripped-back, fairingless (aka naked) sport bike with more upright geometry that was focused on street riding and, more importantly, fun. That formula has more or less gone on unchanged for almost 30 years, but with the introduction of a totally reworked Monster, that changes, and it changes for the better.
The new Ducati Monster is powered by a liquid-cooled L-twin engine that displaces 937 cc and produces 111 horsepower at 9,250 rpm and 69 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm. Those numbers aren't huge increases compared with the outgoing Monster 821, but the performance figures don't tell the whole story.
The real win comes in the form of weight reduction. The 2022 Monster weighs in at an obscenely light 366 pounds, a 32-pound reduction from its predecessors. In fact, despite its larger displacement, the Monster's new engine is 5.5 pounds lighter than before. The Monster's engine revs freely and makes the kind of violent, lopey sound I've come to love and expect from a 90-degree twin engine. The increased displacement helps lower the engine's torque peak, which makes it easier to ride the Monster at sane speeds around town.
The bike's engine is paired with a six-speed sequential transmission that appreciates a good, solid kick to get it to shift gears. That's pretty typical of Ducatis in my experience, as is the hydraulic, wet-plate clutch that doesn't especially love to be slipped. It's not awful, though, and is something that a rider quickly gets used to after a bit of saddle time. Besides, thanks to the standard Ducati Safety Pack system and its up-and-down quickshifter, you're not using the clutch all that often anyway.
Ducati opted to ditch the Monster's classic steel trellis frame in favor of a lighter cast-aluminum spar frame. The frame change is good for a 9.9-pound weight savings, and a new glass-fiber-reinforced-polymer rear subframe saves an additional 4.2 pounds. This weight loss is especially noticeable during cornering, though the frame remains remarkably stiff.
Further enhancing cornering are a fixed 43mm upside-down fork and a rear shock that is adjustable for preload only. This setup is a far cry from the ultrahigh-tech stuff you'd see on a Panigale or a Multistrada, but it does the job well enough.
Braking is handled by Brembo, and in typical Ducati fashion, the feel at the lever is excellent with plenty of stopping power and fade resistance. Part of this brilliance comes from Ducati's standard lean-sensitive antilock braking system, but it's also helped out by further weight reduction in the wheels (3.8 pounds), which cuts down on unsprung mass.
The new Monster also has some subtler changes that make it a more comfortable and accessible bike than its predecessors. These include lower footpegs and a slightly taller handlebar that's positioned closer to the rider. Ducati also opted to keep the Monster super wasp-waisted with its extra-narrow seat, making it much easier for shorter riders to flat-foot at stops. The stock bike has a standover height of just 32.3 inches, and if that's not low enough, Ducati offers a lower seat and a lowering spring kit that drops the bike's standover height farther to 30.5 inches.
On the road, the new Monster is as friendly and engaging as ever, with great power and proportions that make it a breeze to get through traffic, and a pure joy on a canyon road, as well. The Monster feels like a less raw machine than previous iterations, but that, along with the lighter weight and all-sizes-friendly dimensions, means that it should appeal to more riders, including new ones. A louder exhaust and more suspension adjustability would make it damn near perfect. The 2021 Ducati Monster and Monster Plus are available now, with prices starting at $11,995 and$12,495, respectively. The Monster Plus has everything the standard bike has but adds a body-colored passenger seat cover and a small flyscreen.
Ducati's latest is different from its forebears in several ways, but at its heart, it's still a true Monster that offers a comfortable, engaging and approachable riding experience for a not-too-crazy amount of money. If you can live with the changed looks, then I recommend the hell out of this bike.