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Motorcycle Review: 2014 Ducati Monster 696, 796, 821, 1200, 1200S

The sexiest sportbike and its history with women

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
5/14/2014

Story updated 5/28/2014: Ducati announced an all-new Monster model today, the 821, a mid-size entry for the third generation of the iconic naked model. 
Powered by the latest edition of Ducati’s 821 Testastretta 11-degree engine, the new Monster combines 112 horsepower and 65.9 foot-pounds of torque with a lightweight of 395.7 pounds dry weight. The 821 will be in dealerships in July.

Review Ducati Monster 821
The Monster 821 is dressed in Ducati red with red frame and black wheels or star white silk with red frame and matte red wheels. Both red and white versions are equipped with color-matched single-seat covers. The Monster 821 Dark (not shown) comes in dark stealth with black frame and black wheels.

The Monster. An unusual name for a motorcycle model, yet that hasn’t stopped thousands of women from owning one since the lightweight naked motorcycle was introduced in 1993. The Monster name came about because the design of the bike started out as a styling exercise, a motorcycle born out of a hodge-podge of parts lying around Ducati’s design shop.

Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster woman riding desert road
On a recent test ride of the Ducati Monster 696. I’m wearing the Levante Jacket by REV’IT reviewed here.

I’ve test ridden a lot of motorcycles over the years, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Ducati Monster. There’s something cool, sexy and unique about the cute Italian motorcycle that allows those of us who like to part from the ordinary make one heck of a statement when riding it. From the naked design and throaty sound, to what Ducati red stands for—exotic, luxury, iconic—Ducati’s marketing machine does a great job appealing to a buyers' senses and emotions that’s nearly on par with how Harley-Davidson attracts its faithful.

There have been many Monster models that have come and gone over the years. Honestly I’ve had a hard time keeping up with which one was out and what new one was introduced. It is a revolving door for this model family.

Ducati and Women
Back in the early 2000s, Ducati was noticeably courting women riders with ad campaigns that featured women. A motorcycle manufacturer putting its “money where its mouth is" is something I notice.

The company also held women-only motorcycling events and rides both in the U.S. and in Italy. And as a leading female motorcycle journalist, I was invited and flown by Ducati to Bologna, Italy, to tour the factory, test ride the new Ducati bikes and celebrate the milestone of the 100,000 Monster rolling of the assembly line.

Ducati, as a company, has gone through many changes over the last decade—too many to explore in this short review article—the most significant, however, was being purchased by Audi in 2012.

As an ardent observer of all things women and motorcycling for the last two decades, Ducati’s industry leading marketing to women efforts in the early 2000s have taken a back seat while the company has been working to refine its message to attract its core customers, men, and later, adjust its business model under its new owner.

That said, I strongly believe in the Monster as a unique and qualified motorcycle ideal for women riders. And in keeping with our mission to provide you, the WRN reader, with information on motorcycles that are most favorable to women (and riders of shorter stature), there’s no denying the qualities of the Ducati Monster 696 and the 796. In 2014, Ducati introduced the Monster 1200 and 1200S. Here are highlights of each model.

Ducati Monster 696 Test Ride
I took a 2013 Monster 696 for a spin and everything remains the same for model year 2014. The 696, more than any other Monster, exhibits the “less-is-more” philosophy with its small-ish frame, low weight, minimalist styling and nimble handling. No bulkiness here at all.

Straddling the lightweight motorcycle feels comfortable and easy. The seating position has the rider leaning forward to reach the handlebars. The handgrips are not as low as as what you'd find on a sportbike—they are wider and slightly higher—still after just 10 miles, I needed to upright myself to stretch out my back and release pressure on my wrists. But this is because I’m not used to this riding position. That said, I enjoyed every moment of leaning down into the fuel tank as my arms easily reached the semi-wide handlebars.

Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 woman riding
The Monster 696 goes right where I point it, almost before I point it—it’s that responsive! It’s one of the most nimble motorcycles I’ve ever ridden and if I knew how to do a wheelie, I could probably do it with this bike.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster handle bars
Here's the view from the rider's seat.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 woman rider
At 5-feet-7, I easily flatfoot the 30.3-inch seat height on the narrow profile Ducati Monster 696. The bike weighs just 408 pounds so women much shorter than me should be able to maneuver this motorcycle around in parking lots.


The 696 is Ducati’s entry level motorcycle; but would this be a good motorcycle for beginning riders? My answer is yes it is for confident beginners desiring a sporty ride. The motorcycle inspires confidence, meaning that for riders still familiarizing themselves with how to handle and maneuver a motorcycle, the 696 blends right into your body, unlike some motorcycles that feel like an odd extension. The 696 fits the rider quickly and easily. It doesn't feel top heavy. 

Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 profile
The 696 engine produces 80 horsepower and 50.6 foot pounds of torque, just enough power, I think, for around-town trips and short jaunts on the highway. For longer distances, I’d choose the 796 for its added boost in power.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 brakes
The “designer” Brembo brakes do an amazing job of stopping you; one must be careful though of squeezing the touchy brakes too much as they’re very powerful.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 brake clutch levers
The brake and clutch levers are adjustable by turning this knob to one of four settings to accommodate smaller hands.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 696 male rider
The Monster 696 seems small underneath my 6-foot 3-inch 200-pound husband, Norm. Sure a man can ride this motorcycle, but if there ever was a sportbike meant to fit a woman (and riders of smaller stature), this is it.


Ducati Monster 796

Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 796 road rider
With an engine displacement of 803cc delivering 87 horsepower with 58 foot pounds of torque, the Monster 796 offers a little more fire and power to your ride without increasing weight too much.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 796 red profile
Seat height is 31.5 inches, a little more than an inch higher than its younger sister. That means for the average height woman, less leg length is available to move the bike around. Being a confident rider is essential.



Ducati Monster 1200 and 1200S
Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 1200 red profile
This new generation Monster 1200 has an all new chassis, larger fuel tank, Ride By Wire throttle technology, and improved ergonomics that include Ducati’s first ever adjustable seat height from 30.9 inches to 31.8 inches.


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster 1200S red profile
The Monster 1200S has a performance package: more horsepower, from 135 to 145, and the bike sports a few custom styling details like a carbon fiber front mudguard and machined rims. The weight remains the same for both at 461 pounds.


Ducati boasts service intervals on the 696 and 796 at 7,500 miles, and the 1200 at an impressive 18,000 miles.

Price List:
696: $9,295
796: $10,495
1200: starts $13,495
1200S: starts at $15,995


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN! "Lovin' My Ducati Monster"
Send us your best photo of you "lovin your Ducati Monster," and we will post it here and on our Women Riders Now Facebook page. Send to me at gschmitt@womenridersnow.com and we'll let you know when your picture is posted. Here's one more shot of me to get things started!

Monster 696 Review Genevieve Schmitt
Here's my shot of me lovin' the Ducati Monster 696. Send us your photo of "you lovin' your Monster."


Motorcycle review 2014 Ducati Monster Krystle Hanifin
Krystle Hanifin says "This is my "man" and I after a nice long ride up the Million Dollar Highway."


Motorcycle review ducati monster 796 white red frame
Amanda King on her 2012 Ducati Monster 696. She says she just bought it and has “fallen in love.” Read Amanda's full review of her 796 here and find out what modifications she did to the bike.

 
Barb Bresson, from Sandy, Oregon, says, "I love my little Monster!" of her 2007 Monster 695.
Barb Bresson, from Sandy, Oregon, says, "I love my little Monster!" of her 2007 Monster 695.



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