Updating an Icon: The 2018 Ducati Monster 821

Taking inspiration from the 1993 model, a tweaked motorbike that's sure to impress

by Andrew Maness

It’s been 25 years since Ducati launched the naked sport-bike segment with the M900, and since then they’ve moved 323,000 iterations of the Monster—making it the most popular bike in the history of the brand. It’s fitting then that the 2018 Monster 821 has received a number of upgrades, some borrowed from the top of the line Monster 1200 and some drawn up just for use on this particular model. Messing with a winning formula just because it’s getting old wasn’t something Ducati was about to do, so instead they tweaked that formula ever-so-slightly, and the result is a Monster that’s as good as it ever was—perhaps just a bit better. Senior Designer for the 1200 and 821, Giovanni Antonacci, best explains the thought process that led to the new Monster 821.

“Ducati presented the Monster 1200 in 2016—that represented a new character in the Monster design because it got back to the ‘sport naked bike’ concept without making drastic changes to the lines of the existing motorcycle,” he tells us. “For the Monster 821, we worked on the exhaust and swing-arm, trying to make it even slightly lighter.”

In addition to the sharp upswept dual exhaust and shorter tail section, we were curious about the new fuel tank. On the original M900, it was a red tank paired with a naked trellis frame—and it knocked people for a loop at the 1992 Cologne Motorcycle Show. Antonacci explains, “We took a lot of inspiration from the first Monster of 1993, especially the fuel tank because it represents the most iconic part of the bike. But we reinterpreted it in a modern key. The tank is now ‘tauter’ and more modern: a fully overhauled design, but one that remains faithful to the approach taken by Galluzzi in 1993. To further highlight this link with the past, the anodized aluminum attachment clip has also made a comeback.”

Antonacci’s words certainly translate when looking at the new Monster 821. It does indeed wear its version of the tightly sculpted tank very well. It’s also one of the more comfortable tanks to grip with your knees when tossing the bike back and forth on a winding road. There is nothing more enjoyable than good design that translates to a positive experience, especially with something a person connects to as directly as a motorcycle. The aforementioned all-new asymmetrical exhaust draws a rider in further with its raspy yell during moments of liberal throttle application, as well as a decent amount of pops and burbles when coasting off throttle.

Could it be louder? It would certainly match the character of the bike better if it was, however it will likely be just this side of ideal for people stepping into the world of sport-bikes for the first time by opting for a somewhat restrained naked street fighter. The 109 horsepower produced by Ducati’s iconic Testastretta L-Twin offers plenty of thrills, especially with the uninhibited Sport mode selected versus the full-power, but smoothed-out response of Touring or the neutered Urban mode which brings the engine down to 73 horsepower.

In addition to the three riding modes that are selected through a new (and particularly crisp TFT screen we might add), there are eight levels of traction control and three different levels of Bosch ABS to choose from. Clearly Ducati is casting the widest net ever for potential Monster riders and given that their blend of approachable and aggressive is well balanced, the bike will no doubt continue to be very well-received for years to come.

For those who do want more outright performance and an air of exclusivity, there is the just announced Monster 1200 25° Anniversario. Limited to 500 units worldwide, this special edition 1200 honors the mark the Monster has made over the last quarter century with a paint scheme inspired by the three colors of the Italian flag, a gold frame and forged gold wheels. A number of machined-from-solid parts and carbon fiber bits further the premium look and feel, while the inclusion of an Öhlins steering damper (something that is sorely missed on the Monster 821) is enticing from a performance standpoint.

Although motorcycle design is highly subjective, it is impossible to deny the amount of success the bike has had thus far. Some 25 years on, Ducati continues to develop this incredibly successful model. It’s a bike that has, over time, been remolded and reinvented, become a customization and personalization favorite and exerted a huge influence on the entire motorcycle industry—for well over two decades.

Images by Andrew Maness