First Ride Review: 2017 Ducati Monster 797

The newest Monsterino to join the Ducati family.

2017 Monster 797 through the S-bends.
With a short wheelbase, light 425-lb. weight, and eager 803cc engine, the Monster happily flicks through S-bends.Photo: Ducati

Ducati says: “Gateway to the Ducati World” Motorcyclist says: “As long as you’ve got the cash.”

Speak the word "naked", and these days a few bike models come to mind. Arguably the one that started the segment, back in the early '90s, was a bike designed by Miguel Galuzzi, which some describe as a superbike without fairings. One that garnered less than flattering feedback from Ducati's higher ups: "It's not finished yet, right? It looks like a monster!" And so, the Monster was born. Beginning with the M900 for the 1993 model year, Ducati's entry level bike has gone through many iterations over its two and a half decades, with sizes ranging from 620 to the latest 1200.

Through each generation of the naked bike, Ducati has kept at least two sizes in the lineup. With the 821 as the current middleweight Monster, and the 1200 S and 1200 R leading the charge as the heavyweights, the new 797 steps in as the entry level Monster, lovingly referred to as “Il Monsterino.” Cradled in a new steel-trellis frame, the 797’s 803cc engine is borrowed from the Scrambler line, and is paired with the fuel tank of the Monster 1200.

2017 Ducati 797 gauge
Giving all the pertinent information, the 797’s LCD gauge is ready for the Ducati Multimedia System (DMS), which allows Bluetooth connection between the bike and your smartphone to communicate music info, phone calls, and messages.Photo: Ducati
2017 Ducati Monster 797 left side
The ergonomic setup of the 797 is approachable enough for short riders, while still roomy enough to not feel cramped.Photo: Ducati

Our setting to test ride the new baby Monster was the gorgeous French Riviera, with routes along the coast and up into the nearby mountains providing plenty of twisties for adequate seat time. Heavy cloud cover and rain was in the forecast, and while it certainly was not the ideal weather to be riding a sporty naked bike, it gave us an opportunity to test the 797’s handling in the wet.

Swinging a leg over the 797 revealed its reasonable 31.7-inch seat height. I consider myself a vertically-challenged rider (with a 30-inch inseam), but I found this seat height completely manageable. Shorter riders will be relieved to know that there is an optional lower seat that shaves off 0.8 inches, while taller riders can opt for the Comfort seat, providing an added 0.8 inches of saddle elevation and increased… well… comfort.

Overhead cornering shot of 2017 Ducati Monster 797
Handling in the wet weather was no problem on the Monster 797. While it lacks traction control, it does come with ABS standard.Photo: Ducati

The Monster feels light and compact, and carries its 425 pounds (claimed, wet) low enough to be stable even at slow speeds. The reach to the handlebar is close and comfortable, while the footpegs are a little lower and farther forward than on its 1,198cc big brother. Ducati claims the new 797 is undemanding fun, and considering I hardly thought about the bike while riding it, I can confirm that claim. This baby Duc is approachable and easy to handle.

Twist the throttle, and the sound of the air-cooled desmo-due V-twin engine growls as the 797 pulls away with a beginner-friendly 51 lb.-ft. of torque. Throttle response is immediate, delivering a smooth, linear power output—this entry level Monster still gives enough power to navigate traffic, passing slower cars on twisty roads quickly enough to avoid any pucker moments. Interesting to note that, despite its larger displacement, the claimed 75-horsepower output is five fewer than its 696 predecessor. We have new Euro 4 restrictions to thank for that.

2017 Ducati Brembo brakes
Dual Brembo 4-piston brakes grip 320mm discs up front to bring the Monster 797 to a stop confidently.Photo: Ducati
Ducati Monster 797 right side
The 797 bears a strong family resemblance to its big brother, the Monster 1200, thanks in part to sharing the same tank and headlight.]Photo: Ducati

Riding through town, the 797’s suspension transferred more of the road’s surface texture changes than I would consider ideal. Rolling over large speed bumps, and mid-town ruts in the road was not punishing, but the suspension was certainly a little on the firm side. The KYB upside-down fork soaks up the road well enough, and the Sachs rear shock is adjustable for preload and rebound damping. Our test bikes were set up mid range, and felt firm enough for a rider weighing about 160 to 180 lbs. I did not take the time to play with the settings, but I suspect there was enough room for adjustment to make the bike slightly less abrasive over bumps and ruts.

2017 Monster 797 swingarm
The Sachs shock is adjustable for spring preload and rebound, while the dual-sided aluminum swingarm was inspired by the triangular shape of the 696’s setup.Photo: Ducati

That firmer suspension certainly helped the bike feel planted in the turns. Leaning into corners is nearly effortless, requiring the bare minimum of input, thanks in part to the 56.5-inch wheelbase (the shortest Monster to date) proving the bike is flickable through a quick succession of S-bends. Mid cornering stability was confidence inspiring, except on the rare occasion I placed a wheel on a rain-slick manhole cover, causing the tire to step out. No fault of the bike, of course, however the lack of traction control in that situation is noted. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires gave enough grip when returning rubber to asphalt, restoring traction and faith in the compound.

When it came time to scrub speed, grabbing a handful of the right lever supplied ample stopping power, as the dual Brembo four-pot calipers gripped the 320mm discs. A respectable setup, considering those are the same size as a 959 Panigale and the new SuperSport. The brakes provided plenty of stopping power and rider confidence, especially considering the aid of a Bosch ABS system as standard equipment. Shifting was near effortless with a slip-and-grip clutch, reducing lever effort, which was especially appreciated with limited grip strength in my left hand.

Left cornering action shot of 2017 Monster 797
Even in deep lean, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires kept the Monster 797 stuck to the road like Velcro.Photo: Ducati
Ducati Monster 797 headlight
The 797 is equipped with a headlight borrowed from its bigger brother, the Monster 1200, which includes an LED position light.Photo: Ducati

Considering Ducati touts the 797 as the most accessible of its naked segment, the newest member of the Monster family is a great bike for new Ducatisti. At $9,295 for Ducati Red (and $9,395 for the Star White Silk or Dark Stealth colors), it’s on the steeper side for a beginner rider’s budget, but if you want a new Monster, this is the most affordable way to get your hands on one. The 797 Plus, with a small flyscreen and rear seat cowl, will set you back another $400. Ducati tells us the newest Monster will be available in early May.

2017 Ducati Monster exhaust
The Monster 797’s exhaust has been sound-engineered to retain an appealing L-twin purr, while still complying with Euro 4 standards. Likely the first part to be upgraded by Ducatisti.Photo: Ducati

As an owner of a first-gen M900, I can tell you the new 797 is worthy of the Monster moniker. It fits the mold of a friendly, approachable, suitable bike for the beginner rider, aside perhaps from the price. With its accessible ergonomics, usable power, maneuverable size, and overall simplicity, the Monster 797 lives up to Ducati’s claim of it being “undemanding fun.” When a motorcycle delivers an effortlessly enjoyable riding experience without requiring much from the rider, it has done its job, spreading the gospel of two wheels.

2017 Ducati Monster in red, black and white
The Monster 797 comes in timeless Ducati Red for $9,295, or $100 more for Star White Silk or Dark Stealth. Add the Plus package for $400, and you get a body color-matched flyscreen and seat cowl.Photo: Ducati

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
With the Scrambler Icon’s engine, and the Monster 1200’s tank and headlight, the 797 fills the entry level spot in the Monster lineup.
TECH
PRICE $9,295 Ducati Red; $9,395 Star White Silk and Dark Stealth
ENGINE 803cc air-cooled 90° V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 75.0 hp @ 8250 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 50.8 lb.-ft. @ 5250 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 43mm fork; 5.1 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo one-piston calipers, 245mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.0°/3.5 in.
WHEELBASE 56.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.7 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.4 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 425 lb. wet
AVAILABLE May 2017
CONTACT ducati.com
VERDICT
With a short wheelbase, light weight, and eager 803cc engine, Ducati’s new entry level Monster proves to be approachable, maneuverable, and well proportioned. A great bike for a beginner or mild mannered intermediate rider.

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