The Bike That Saved Ducati

And It Wasn’t Always Called The Monster

By Marc Cook, Photography by Kevin Wing, Motorcyclist Archives, Ducati

As the Monster neared production, its name had not been settled. Galluzzi had casually named it for a popular toy in Italy: finger-high monsters that kids loved. “Every time I would come back to the U.S. from Italy, my sons would ask, ‘Did you get me a monster?’ It seemed right for the bike.” But the marketing department was not convinced; in fact, the staff was concerned that the name had a negative connotation in the U.S. Debate continued until after the bike was shown at the 1992 Cologne show, where it was called the M900. Galluzzi recalls a conversation at Cologne with an importer, who had seen the early mockup and had followed the bike’s development, knowing that it was called il mostro internally. He told Galluzzi, “Why don’t you just call it Monster? That’s perfect!”

And so it was. Immediate success in the press and in the marketplace at first, with strong sales lasting far longer than anyone dared predict. New versions arrived almost every year—different engine displacements and types (air- and liquid-cooled), a wide range of trim levels, different suspension and wheels and brakes—enough to make the purchasing department crazy. But even with sales still strong, Bologna realized the Monster had grown too long in tooth. In 2002 work began on a replacement, which had to be one of the toughest assignments in the company.

“Changing the Monster was difficult,” says Andrea Ferraresi, who was head of Ducati’s design center for the Monster’s first major rework that debuted for the 2008 model year. “We modified the bike quite a lot over the years, but were careful not to lose sight of what the Monster was supposed to be.” It is fitting that the final iteration of the first-generation Monster—okay, you can say it was Version 1.5—reflected a lot of the initial hopes of its designer. Where Galluzzi hoped for a four-valve engine, the S4RS used the latest Testastretta powerplant. The high pipes had mufflers in a cross section not too dissimilar to those of the first Monster mockup. And, most important, the bodywork itself, what there was of it, could easily pass for that of the very first Monster’s.

Working to sketch a replacement for a legend might seem daunting, but designer Bart Janssen-Groesbeek says it was not. “I had a lot of fun doing the project, but as you can imagine, from the outside, it was seen with more trepidation. We blacked out the current bike, made just a profile view, a silhouette. That was our starting point. The Monster is unique. If you see it in a shadow, walk up to it from 20 meters, there’s only one bike it can be. That was, in essence, our starting point.”

The second-gen chassis would be all new, featuring a composite of steel-tube trellis architecture—so much a visual signature of the Monster—with cast-aluminum subsections made possible by then-new casting techniques. Janssen-Groesbeek reflects briefly on the benefits of this generation. “An important difference between now and when Galluzzi did the original Monster is that he had to use an existing chassis. Ducati was not in a position to design a new chassis for the Monster then. We approached it the other way around, designing an entirely new chassis. We were able to do a few things. For example, we could make the tail look higher without raising the seat height, which is important to the Monster customer. We could create a bit of daylight between the frame and the wheel, which increases the bike’s visual rake, without raising the seat.”

Ultimately, Ducati was able to refresh the Monster without losing any of its charm. In fact, the company correctly simplified the options, which once were vast, down to a pair of air-cooled, two-valve engines (a third was added later). For those who wanted a more serious Monster, there was the Hypermotard and the Streetfighter. With this lineup, the Monster could return to its role as elemental motorcycle.

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