2004 Ducati Monster 620 Motorcycle: Cheap Thrills, Italian-style

How to say "beginner motorcycle" in Italian. From the April 2004 issue of Motorcyclist magazine. By Marc Cook.

Europeans always seem to do budget bikes differently. Style often wins over content, particularly for manufacturers who have to work especially hard to trim the sticker to fit a newbie's budget. So it is with the Ducati Monster 620, a sub-$7000, demi-entry-level motorcycle that embraces all the style and soul of its larger Monster brethren yet gains entry into the category by rigorous cost cutting.

Let's start with what's good: the look. More than a decade after the first Monster hit the streets, this one still strikes a fine pose, with great proportions, a fine color palette and an undefinable attitude. Yet it's also sized right for smaller riders—the 620 has a lower seat than the other monsters—and while still apparently a bit larger than the diminutive Honda 599, it's browsing in the right rack. If you value the cut of the suit more than the feel of the material, here you go...

Powering the M620 is an air-cooled, 618cc V-twin with fuel injection. It's a fine little engine, if slightly down on power, especially compared with the more modern SV650 powerplant. Still, it's nearly as charismatic as the larger Duc engines, with a decent hillock of a torque curve and spot-on injection. Even so, in a street race any of the Japanese budget 600s would leave it for well-dressed roadkill.

For 2004, Ducati has tweaked the little Monster, giving the $6999 colored version—this year in red or yellow with a metallic gray frame and wheels—a small cockpit fairing, plus a six-speed transmission and back-torque-limiting clutch. The Dark version, at $6499, retains the five-speed box and conventional (hydraulically operated) clutch, loses the fly screen and makes do with a single front disc brake. Shown is the very trick Capirex replica model, which retails for $7495.

Go ahead...you deserve it.

Can you tell it apart from the larger, more expensive Monsters? Hardly.