Ducati Monster 696 vs. Aprilia Shiver SL 750 - Naked In The Middle

Updated Icon Or The New Naked From Noale?

On paper, these nudists could be from the same colony, and rightly so. Both were fathered by Miguel Galluzzi, albeit 15 years apart and from the drawing tables of different factories. Their $9K price tags, 90-degree V-twin engines, trellis frames and full exposure substantiate a shared ancestry and mission. Beyond that, the Shiver 750 and Monster 696 are separated by more than the 100 miles between Aprilia's Noale works and Ducati's in Bologna.

If you think Aprilia is trying to snag sales from Ducati with the Shiver SL 750, you're right. This mix of sharp lines and sculpted angles is every bit as striking as the Ducati's flowing shape, with an equally intoxicating exhaust note. Powered by a liquid-cooled 749cc twin of the firm's own design, the Shiver boasts advanced electronics and an exotic air that exudes unmistakable Italian style.

Meanwhile, the air-cooled Monster is more refined than ever. No unsightly hoses or dangling wires. Nothing looks out of place. Even Euro 3 emissions components are tucked carefully out of sight, leaving nothing but a curvaceous expanse of clean Bologna architecture. Like any European supermodel, the Shiver has a good side, proudly displaying a gold frame, horizontal Sachs shock, trussed swingarm and slick, split-spoke wheels. But beware the left, where unsightly plumbing and electronic paraphernalia radiate from the cylinders to converge on a Costco-sized charcoal canister. Behind that? The rectifier glares back from a rat's nest of multi-colored wires.

Ducati's Monster has earned more than its share of laurels since the first one left the factory in 1993, yet the 696 is the first cautiously comprehensive makeover of the emblematic Italian best-seller. The net effect is a considerably more modern motorcycle. But despite il Mostro's status as the attainable ticket for aspiring Italophiles, another all-new naked is planning a coup.

Toss a leg over the 696 and average-sized humans notice several inches of air between them and a seat hovering 30 inches above the pavement. Outstretched in either direction, average-length arms can palm the headlight and taillight simultaneously. It's small enough that most riders can dominate the bike halfway through their first tank of fuel. Better still, odd ergonomics are a thing of the past. The new seating position is less of a stretch to the bars with more room between seat and pegs, making the 696 comfortable enough to sit through a full 4-gallon fuel tank-usually about 150 miles. The only issue is a steeply slanted seat that butts up against the rounded base of the fuel tank, leading to some potentially painful anatomical contact for male riders.

Out on the road, the 409-pound Monster's low-speed agility is phenomenal with a good bit more steering lock than its predecessors, and stability is rock-solid. Non-adjustable levers sit far enough from the grips to make large hands stretch, conflicting with the Ducati's otherwise compact accommodations. Meanwhile, the Aprilia is a different sort of Italian. A higher 32-inch seat and shorter reach to the handlebar that towers 4.5 inches over the Ducati's enforce an upright riding posture that's more supermoto than standard. Adjustable controls and a comprehensive instrument pod make it clear you're riding a well-thought-out machine. Speed, rpm, gear position, engine temp, air temp and time are discernable at a glance, and you can toggle through more information via the button on the left bar. Mirrors are large, delivering a clear rear view regardless of speed.

The Shiver is great for taking on city traffic, but its tall stance and center of mass make it a bit top-heavy at single-digit speeds. The under-tail exhaust system sounds great, but its proximity to the seat is a recipe for roasted hams. Seat heat disappears on the freeway, but that erect posture can turn into a major pain, unfurling your torso like a sail and straining your wrists and neck. The Monster's sportier riding position is better for highway travel. Its slight forward cant lets you lean into the wind. And back in the city, dual mufflers mounted a comfortable distance from your butt radiate no discernable heat.

Both Aprilia and Ducati spec a 43mm Showa inverted fork followed by a Sachs rear shock. Both send brake fluid through stainless lines to four-piston calipers that bite 320mm rotors. Initial bite and feel are indistinguishable from the cockpit at first, but Ducati's Brembos shed speed faster and more confidently, mainly because the little Monster is a whopping 78 lbs. lighter.

Roll the Shiver's throttle open and you may discern an interesting sensation within the ensuing surge of thrust. Servo-operated throttle butterflies open and close at a variable rate relative to what's happening at the grip, tailoring throttle response to where and how you're riding via Aprilia's Ride-By-Wire system-the first such technology of its kind. Switchable electronics let you choose between three distinct personalities with the push of a button: Sport, Touring and Rain.

Off The Record
Ari Henning

I keep fielding the same question: "Which one wins?" In all honesty, the Monster and the Shiver almost rest evenly on my cerebral scale of judgment. The determining factor for me was confidence. If I'm going to get absorbed in my ride, confidence in handling is paramount, and I just couldn't trust the Shiver to do what I wanted it to do. With the Monster, I was confident in its handling, its appeal and in its ability to make every ride a good one, whether jetting to work or hitting the hills.
Age: 23 Height: 5'10" Weight: 165 lbs Inseam: 33 in.

In Sport mode, the front Dunlop snaps up quickly with a handful of throttle in first gear, followed by a willing flow of power all the way to the 9800-rpm redline-800 revs above the Monster's. Best suited for power wheelies and track days, the more abrupt Sport setting takes more effort than it's worth on the street. The Touring setting offers the best ridability for everyday commuting or weekend corner-carving missions, smoothing out power delivery without squelching peak output. Cutting power by 25 percent, Rain is best left for the slipperiest conditions, unless you like a stuttering, running-out-of-gas feeling every time you open the throttle.

Otherwise, the DOHC 90-degree V-twin is a gem. Technological gee-wizardry aside, it trounces the lighter Ducati by a bigger margin than its extra 54cc might suggest. The Shiver's downdraft throttle-bodies feed higher-compression dual-plug combustion chambers. Breathing through eight valves against the Monster's four, it spins up faster, delivering more power and torque over a broader range. The engine is happiest above 6000 rpm, producing 75 horsepower at the rear wheel at 9250 rpm, with robust torque across the spread.

Despite new cylinder heads and less weight, the Monster can't hope to keep pace when the road opens up. It's only down by 7.5 ponies, but accessing that power requires traversing a disappointing ravine in the power curve from 4000 to 5750 rpm, irritatingly evident in fist and second gear. Riding out the roller-coaster power curve leaves you with just a brief window of meaty acceleration before the more subtle-but still too abrupt-rev limiter shuts everything down at 9000 rpm. That leaves power junkies to either spring for the optional Termignoni package or wait for the 1100cc Monster due later this year.

What the Monster lacks in power it makes up for with inspired handling. Light and nimble with instantaneous steering and reassuring brakes, the 696 is redeemed the moment it's aimed down a twisty road. Steering geometry is on par with Ducati's Supersport machines, with a stiff chassis to match. Bridgestone Battlax tires grip well and remain calm while late braking into turns, and Ducati's APTC (Adler Power Torque Clutch) arrangement impersonates a slipper-clutch to help keep things settled during rapid downshifts. Resisting the urge to over-tire the Monster for style's sake, Ducati fits a realistic 160/60-ZR17 Bridgestone that contributes to light steering. As delivered, handling benefits from a few turns of shock spring preload, after which it worked in perfect conjunction with the well-sprung fork to provide a controlled, communicative ride.

The Shiver is markedly less cooperative, especially at speed. Relatively determined inputs are required to coax it into anything tighter than a freeway exit ramp, with steady pressure needed to hold the desired line. Lengthy trail figures and a fatter 180-spec rear tire conspire against rapid direction changes, along with the Shiver's top-heavy stature. Soft forks that collapse the moment the binders are applied, and footpegs that hit the deck moments after turn-in curtail spirited riding. In stock trim, the Aprilia is more comfortable at a conservative clip on gentle back roads than scraping pegs through the technical bits. Add Aprilia's accessory luggage system plus a little wind protection and it's a solid minimalist tourer, especially for tall, practical types.

The Shiver puts a fresh spin on the naked Italian theme, with a potent engine and some very impressive technology. Still, its broadband abilities fall short of the 696 everywhere but sheer straight-line speed. If funky ergonomics or inseam issues have kept you off previous Monsters, you're sure to appreciate the 696's obliging size, along with the instant status upgrade that accompanies anything from the Borgo Panigale works. Both of our nudo Italianos stand out in any crowd of Japanese alternatives, and you could be happy ripping around on either one. But those who want a motorcycle with heart and soul will be a whole lot happier on the Ducati.

Off The Record
Joe Neric

Since no one else has asked the question, I will: How does this pair stack up against the reigning middleweight champion, the Suzuki SV650? There's no doubt that both the Monster and the Shiver are more nicely styled-the Italians just know how to make things look good. Both have larger-displacement motors, too. But the Ducati's seating position falls short-hit a pothole and it feels like you've been kicked in the nuts! And the Aprilia suffers from a lack of wind protection. I found myself fighting fatigue on the highway. Where the SV really shines is its bottom line. With a sticker price of $5999, the Japanese bike is some $3000 less expensive than its Italian counterparts.
Age: 33 Height: 5'9" Weight: 230 lbs. Inseam: 30 in.

2008 Aprilia SL750 Shiver | Price $8999
Hard Parts

The first in a line of modular engines built by Aprilia's parent company Piaggio rather than Rotax, the liquid-cooled 750 runs a mixed chain and gear drive to DOHC four-valve heads for reduced engine size and weight. Bore and stroke are highly oversquare at 92.0 x 56.4mm, suggesting higher-revving versions in the future. Compression is mellow at just 11.0:1, with combustibles set off by dual spark plugs with in-cap coils.

The tubular-steel trellis frame's geometry lends itself to stability rather than agility, with 25.7 degrees of rake and 4.3 inches of trail. Engine-cradling aluminum side plates provide rigidity and a pivot point for the trussed swingarm. Smooth-cast aluminum 10-spoke wheels are shod with Bridgestone Battlax tires in 120/70-17 front and 180/55-17 rear sizes.

The Sachs shock mounted on the right side of the frame provides easy access to its simple adjustments. The non-adjustable 43mm fork comes equipped with radial brake mounts plus powerful four-piston calipers biting on 320mm rotors. The 245mm rear disc is clamped by a two-piston caliper.

The Shiver looks chiseled from stone with its facetted, geometric surfaces. An angular, parabolic headlight dominates the front of the machine, while pointed radiator shrouds and a wide fuel tank impart a broad-shouldered, powerful appearance. The gold frame stands out starkly against the matte gray of the bodywork, leading the eye into the lively complexity of the engine/swingarm/shock/footrest juncture. The tail of the bike is an equal combination of seat, cowl and muffler.

Tech Spec |
Engine type: l-c {{{90}}} deg. V-twin Rear brake: Single-piston Aprilia caliper, 245mm disc Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.88 sec. @ 111.8 mph
Valve train: DOHC, 8v Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier 0-60 mph: 3.16 sec.
**Displacement: **750cc Rear tire: 180/55-ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier Top-gear roll-on 60-{{{80}}} mph: 5.14 sec.
**Bore x stroke: **92.0 x 56.4mm Rake/trail: 25.7 deg./4.3 in. Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 44/36/37 mpg
Compression: 11.0:1 Seat height: 31.9 in. Colors: Fever Silver, Code Orange
Fuel system: EFI Wheelbase: 56.7 in. Availability: Now
**Clutch: **Wet, multi-plate Fuel capacity: 3.4 gal. Warranty: 24 mo./unlimited mi.
**Transmission: **6-speed Weight (tank full/empty): 487/466 lbs. Contact: Aprilia USA 140 East 45th St. New York, NY 10017 800.631.1101 www.apriliausa.com
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with aluminum swingarm Measured horsepower: 74.7 bhp @ 9250 rpm
Front suspension: Showa 43mm inverted fork Measured torque: 44.9 lb.-ft. @ 8500 rpm
**Rear suspension: ** Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual four-piston Aprilia calipers, 320mm discs

Aprilia wins, hands down. Horsepower and torque numbers tower above those of the 696 at all revs, with considerably smoother delivery. Some 40-plus lbs.-ft. of torque are on call from 4250 rpm, with 74.7 bhp delivered at 9250 rpm.

With a short seat-to-bar distance and a relaxed 101.4-degree seating angle, sitting on the Shiver feels more like standing. Pegs are set low and to the rear, leaving your legs pleasantly extended. The position is great until the wind tries to tear you off.

2009 Ducati Monster 696 | Price: $8775
Hard Parts

The venerable air-cooled SOHC V-twin gets new cylinder heads this year, similar in design to the Hypermotard 1100. The 695's APTC clutch remains, as do bore and stroke figures of 88.0 x 57.2mm, with revised piston crowns and combustion chambers to take advantage of the new porting. New plain-bearing cams rotate directly on the head surface, eliminating weight and cylinder height. As with all '09 Ducati models, maintenance intervals have been increased to 7500 miles.

An all-new trellis frame replaces the 851/888 chassis. The fuel cell resides within the lattice work, low and farther forward for better stability and handling. Rake is a sporty 24 degrees with a scant 3.8 inches of trail, stabilized by a solid 57.1-inch wheelbase. Ducati's trademark gullwing fork clamps help create the extra 64 degrees of steering lock for better maneuverability.

Suspension And Brakes
Four-piston Brembo radial-mount calipers bite into 320mm rotors; the gentle rear brake features a 245mm rotor and two-piston caliper. The 43mm inverted Showa fork is void of adjustments but blessed with suitable settings while the Sachs shock adjusts for preload/rebound.

The Monster maintains its classic short, muscular appearance with a cleaned-up engine and revised bodywork. A shallow headlight, compact instruments and low mirrors give the front end a truly naked look. The fuel tank features replaceable "skins" for easy repair or color changes. A flowing aluminum subframe blends into the stubby tail, beneath which are mounted dual oval mufflers. Passenger accommodations are hidden beneath the seat cowl.

Tech Spec |
Engine type: a-c {{{90}}}-deg. V-twin Rear brake: Two-piston Brembo caliper, 245mm disc Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.23 sec. @ 111.0 mph
Valve train: SOHC, 4v desmo Front tire: 120/60-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT56F 0-60 mph: 3.92 sec.
**Displacement: **696cc Rear tire: 160/60-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT56R Top-gear roll-on 60-{{{80}}} mph: 5.28 sec.
**Bore x stroke: **88.0 x 57.2mm Rake/trail: 24.0 deg./3.8 in. Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 46/39/43 mpg
Compression: 10.7:1 Seat height: 30.3 in. Colors: Red, pearl white, matte black
Fuel system: EFI Wheelbase: 57.1 in. Availability: Now
**Clutch: **Wet, multi-plate slipper Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal. Warranty: 24 mo./unlimited mi.
**Transmission: **6-speed Weight (tank full/empty): 409/386 lbs. Contact: Ducati North America, Inc. 10443 Bandley Dr. Cupertino, CA 95014 Fax: +1 408 253 4099 E-mail: hsk@408.253.0499ducatiusa.com www.ducatiusa.com
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with aluminum subframe and swingarm Measured horsepower: 67.2 bhp @ 8250 rpm
Front suspension: Showa 43mm inverted fork Measured torque: 43.8 lb.-ft. @ 7750 rpm
**Rear suspension: ** Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs

Power output rises and falls like the sack-slide at the county fair, without the laughter. Peak power of 67.2 bhp comes on at 8250 rpm, just a few moments before the rev limiter slaps your wrist.

At 30.3 inches, this seat is within reach of anyone taller than Mini-Me. Male riders should invest in the touring saddle; with less forward slant it promises to be less painful. A relaxed reach to the bars is quasi-sportbike, but perfectly comfortable for extended rides.

Riding at a lively pace can prove tiring on the Shiver. Its robust weight and sluggish steering make it difficult to hustle through corners-unfortunate considering the eagerness of its engine.
Aggressive looks are paired with an appropriate engine. Aprilia's 749cc twin churns out 75 bhp and offers three power maps.
The engine's personality is beautiful. The same can't be said for its appearance, which is much more cluttered than the Ducati.
Although limited, adjustments are easily made on the Shiver's exposed Sachs shock. Rebound damping can be tuned using a coin.
A mixed analog/digital display with an abundance of usable data may well be the ideal instrument layout.
Tighten up the curves and the Shiver's power is no match for the Monster's supreme handling. Light steering and unshakable stability make the 696 fun for beginners and experienced riders alike.
Ducati has succeeded in producing an ergonomic package that is comfortable for 5- and 6-foot riders alike, assuming you're female.
Neat and tidy. Nothing looks out of place on the new 696 engine, which features revised cylinder heads and cams.
Suspension components are mid-grade but surprisingly capable. The Sachs shock worked well in conjunction with the Ducati's firm fork.
A digital tachometer a la 1098 and a micro-mini bikini fairing contribute to an abbreviated and minimalist front end.