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A Monsterly performance!

Ducati’s ‘cheap’ offering for Asia is exhilarating to ride, but you need to be a biker in heart and body

autos Updated: Jun 29, 2012 00:35 IST
Hari Warrier

Take a little monster. Take a big monster. Mix, stir, bake, and voila, what do you get? A little monster, a Monster for the Asian markets.

That is more or less how the world reacted when iconic bike-maker Ducati unveiled the Monster 795, designed with the Asian audience in mind, in Malaysia last year. Monster 696 multiplied by Monster 796 (which was at that time available in India for about Rs 9.5 lakh) is equal to Monster 795.

Is it so simple, though? Admittedly, the 795 bears physical resemblance to the smaller 696, while being powered by the 803-cc engine of the bigger Monster. The fancy rear single swing arm was dispensed with for the economy of a conventional swing arm. But is that all there is to the Monster 795? Let us take a closer look.

For starters, there is the price point. The 795 was announced as the cheapest bike in the Ducati range, starting at R6.99 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. But the response at the Delhi Auto Expo this January, where it was unveiled, was so phenomenal that the company slashed this to R6.09 lakh the very next day. (Reportedly, this is only for the first 300 http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/29-06-biz3.jpgbookings.)

Then there are the features. Ducati is a revered name in the racing world. The Monster 795 is not a scrubbed down version of European bikes, it is a genuine track-worthy machine — one of its features is a lap-meter.

Taking the seat, which is on the frugal side but still a fairly comfortable two-seater, the first thing that hits you is the stance, which relies heavily on the palms. The bike curves down, with the headlight accent making the stance appear even more pronouncedly crouching, a track athlete poised for the starter’s gun.

The twin exhausts on either side, the tubular frame, the brute of a fuel-tank, the lights, all physicalise the Monster tag. But is the performance also monsterly?

Press the self-start, and the engine roars to life. “Room filling sound”, as they call it.

The clutch lever is pleasantly smooth (company says a definite improvement on the 796); the clicking into gear is definitive. Rev, rev, declutch, and we’re off.

Ok, this driving stance thing needs a bit of familiarisation. The handlebar is spartan and straight, and coupled with the seat and fuel tank, it means the rider has to sort of wriggle into the best position that will not kill his wrists and his lower back, at the same time be comfortable for a long ride. It will need a few miles under the belt to figure that out.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/29-06-biz5.jpg

Six gears, linear progression — and you would be hard pressed to go beyond the fourth, because you have already touched 75 and are braking for the approaching roundabout (or intersection or hump or the vehicle in front…). On a highway, the sixth gear will come into play, but in city conditions? Hmmmm. Rev hard and you can hit 150 in the third, so this one needs thinking.

Braking is a breeze, despite the lack of ABS. And thank goodness for it, if this is going to be a series of starts and stops. One irritating factor is the dependence on revs — the moment you de-throttle, the momentum is gone, and you need to change gears. You can hold a speed at the appropriate gear for any time, though. In city drive, we could not gohttp://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/29-06-biz4.jpg beyond the fourth without throwing the engine off its stride.

The fuel consumption is not at all bad, in the region of 22 kpl over about 500 kms of start-stop stuff and good, hard core speedriding on highways.

The Monster has the heart to kiss the 200 kph mark, but it is a naked bike, with a racing posture. That means the rider has to be in good physical shape if he doesn’t want to end up with aching muscles or worse.

Before trying anything fancy, do take the time out to find the right aerodynamics. We spent nearly 200 kms finetuning our saddle-position before trying to hit high speeds. Admittedly, tough, with the Monster straining at the leash for a free run.

The patience did payoff, with a couple of exhilarating long rides. But this a mean mistress to maintain.