Launchpad With a blend of sizzling Italian style and strong performance, the Ducati Monster 796 should make a sensible big bike for India

Of all the exotic bike manufacturers currently selling big bikes in India, Ducati certainly seems to be bullish about its prospects.

After offering its motorcycle line-up through dealerships in Mumbai and New Delhi, with more outlets expected in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, the Italian bike maker is looking at a packed Indian schedule with fast-approaching launch dates for its groundbreaking and versatile Multistrada 1200 as well as the spanking new Monster 796.

At first glance, it's easy to recognise the 796 as a Monster family member. Showing off that well-known brawny stance and smart detailing that the Italians take so much pride in, the naked 796's front is characterised by a chic, low-set triple parabola headlight. Capped by a dinky bikini fairing, the 796's instruments are a clear-to-decipher, all-digital affair that include a tachometer, speedometer, clock, maintenance warning and low oil-pressure readouts. This also doubles up as the control panel for Ducati's Data Analyser (DDA) data acquisition kit that can be fitted on as an accessory.

The 796's large, muscular 15-litre fuel tank is sculpted to perfection, smartly bisected by a black strip that runs the length of the tank. The 796's trellis frame — a Ducati trademark — finished in red sits exposed on this bike as a visual treat.

A wide riding saddle leads up to the Duke's slender tail fairing and LED brake warning lights, which sit atop meaty, twin underseat exhausts.

Ducati has confirmed the 796 as an addition to the Monster family, not a replacement for the 696cc Monster. Powered by a four-stroke, 803cc, L-twin, air- and oil-cooled engine, the 796 outputs maximum power of 87bhp at 8250rpm, with peak torque a healthy 8kgm at 6250rpm.

The 796 uses a 2-1-2 exhaust system to expel its waste gases. A catalytic converter helps it meet Euro 3 (BS III) emission norms. Using a six-speed gearbox, the 796 also features a slipper clutch to allow riders to downshift safely from high speed.

The 796 deploys a steel trellis frame with the rear sub-frame cast from aluminium.

Up front, the bike uses chunky, 43mm upside-down Showa forks, while its single rear shock absorber is allied to a single-sided alloy swingarm and can be adjusted for rebound and compression damping.

Braking is via 320mm dual discs in front and a 245mm rear disc brake, with ABS offered as an optional extra.

The Monster 796 will be available in Ducati traditional red, as well as white or black, and buyers may additionally choose from 10 other shades in Ducati's Monster Art range.

Ducati has confirmed that the Monster 796 goes on sale across India by September 2010. It will be interesting to see whether the premium Italian motorcycle manufacturer is able to price the 796 to compete eye-to-eye with big bikes rivals such as Honda's supremely practical CB1000R.

With its heady blend of sizzling Italian style and strong performance, the Monster 796 should make a sensible big bike for India.

TECHNICAL DATA

Price — Rs 12 lakh (est.)

On sale — September 2010

L/W/H — 2114/784/1079mm

Wheelbase — 1450mm

Fuel tank — 15 litres/ 13.5 litres (ABS)

Dry weight — 167kg / 169kg (ABS)

Engine layout — L-twin, air and oil-cooled,

four-stroke

Power — 87bhp at 8250rpm

Torque — 8kgm at 6250rpm

Gearbox — 6-speed, 1-down, 5-up

Front suspension — Upside-down forks

Rear suspension — Adjustable monoshock, single-side swingarm

Front brake — 320mm discs

Rear brake — 245mm disc

Wheels — 5-spoke alloy

Rim size (f-r) — 17 inches

Tyre size (f-r) — 120/70 x 17, 180/55 x 17 inches