The Monster 795 is Ducati's made-for-Asia motorcycle.
It's no secret that India's restrictive taxation and import policies act as a barrier for foreign companies to sell their wares here. To bypass this, the company would have to make dedicated and pin-point efforts. Ducati has done precisely that to create the Monster 795.
This street naked motorcycle promises to get you past the weekday grind and the weekend fun trip, all at a cost that makes for the cheapest Ducati in the country. The Rs 5.99 lakh price tag sounds unbelievable and makes you wonder if Ducati have had to cut any corners. What better way than a 180km ride in Thailand to find out?
The Monster family is iconic. The minimal bodywork, the performance-oriented engines and city-ready packaging have won a quarter of a million fans since 1993. Its versatile nature and muscular looks make the Monster a good fit for the Indian market.
The 795 is a hybrid — a combination of two existing Monsters. The chassis of the entry level 696 offers greater convenience for shorter riders, thanks to a seat height that is lower by 30mm. Chrome handlebars (sourced from India) replace the alloy ones on the 796 and are set 20mm higher to make the riding position less aggressive. But when it comes to power, it is the 803cc motor from the Monster 796, with all of its 87 untamed horses, that Ducati considered the right fit.
Cast your eyes over the 795 and you know that it is a Monster through and through. The parabola headlamp, the muscular tank, the stepped and floating seat, and the cannon-like exhausts are hallmarks of Ducati's street naked motorcycle range. So, you might wonder, where has Ducati skimped? Apart from using the 696's double-sided alloy swingarm in place of the stylish but expensive single-sided unit of the 796, Ducati hasn't cut any corners. The digital instrument cluster, the suspension and brakes are all the same as those on the 796. The tyres though are smaller, as these have been picked from the 696 parts rack.
The bulk of the price reduction is because the import duty is down from 60 per cent to 10 per cent, under the free-trade regulations. After all it is assembled at Ducati's new plant in Thailand and then exported to India. Don't fret, most of the parts are shipped from Italy to Thailand for assembly and so the 795 lives up to the Ducati standards of fit and quality quite easily.
Straddling the Monster 795, I thumb the starter. The L-twin motor catches immediately and settles into a pulsing idle. The light-action, hydraulic clutch is a pleasant surprise as I shift through the gears and head out of the parking lot. Despite the raised handlebar, the riding position is still quite sporty since the footpegs are positioned quite aggressively. The wide handlebars give a good amount of leverage though.
The Monster puts you at ease instantly; the controls feel familiar and respond to inputs perfectly.
The Monster is meant to be both practical and sporty. Lower in the rev range, the short-stroke motor accelerated in a quick yet measured manner, but once past the 4500rpm mark, a frenetic and addictive edge crept in. The digital rev graph climbs undeterred, ignores the three flashing shift lights and hits the 8500rpm red line in one massive leap.
Performance is solid and you can expect a 0-100kph time of a little over four seconds. The Monster never felt short of breath, with the numbers on the speedo climbing effortlessly when given the slightest chance. Despite lacking a deflector, the wind blast wasn't enough to force us to slow down.
The steering is quick and there's a planted feel around corners that keeps the rider feeling well in control. Even blasting over a choppy stretch of tarmac didn't unsettle the Monster.
However, we did have to tip-toe around the tighter corners. The almost glass-like concrete, the pulsing torque of the V-twin and the factory-fresh, un-scrubbed 120/60x17-inch front and 160/60x17-inch rear Pirelli Angel tyres meant that powering out of these corners required the gentlest of inputs to keep the rear wheel from sliding out. The riding stance makes these fast rides all the more riveting, although long rides take a toll on the lower back.
The appeal of the Monster range lies in its ability to blend performance biking with everyday riding. In our 796 road test (March 2011), we found the 803cc motor to be geared a bit tall and that remains the case with the 795. The Monster 795's engine prefers to be kept buzzing even at low city speeds. Although torque is ample, the power pulses can be discomfiting if ridden at a low rpm. However, the light clutch and the nice, mechanical action of the six-speed gearbox are a pleasure.
On the smooth Thai roads the forks felt pliant and even soaked up the bumps. Manoeuvrability in city traffic was a bit restricted because of the tight lock-to-lock steering movement though. On a narrow road, quite a bit of shuffling back and forth was required to make a simple U-turn.
It's almost impossible to weigh a Ducati purely on merit. Their vividly etched character and sheer brand strength often tips the scale in their favour. But, more often than not, merit alone is enough.
The 795's red-blooded styling, blistering performance and handling prowess are very impressive. However, its poor low-speed manoeuvrability could make it a shade awkward to ride in our traffic-choked cities. Also, Ducati's Indian dealership network and aftersales service and spare parts support need to match the superb product line-up. But, for many riders, the shortcomings would be nothing compared to the dream of owning a Ducati.