You don't want to mess with success. Especially a motorcycling icon like the Monster, a model that not only started a new market segment, but also was almost single-handedly responsible for keeping Ducati out of financial disaster in the late '90s before its TPG takeover. Ever since its debut at the '93 Cologne show, the Monster has consistently been the Bologna factory's top seller, at one point becoming 50 percent of the company's total motorcycle production and even reaching the top of the motorcycle sales charts in the home Italian market in '99 with the M600, a first for Ducati.
Thus, while the Monster has undergone many upgrades in its 16-year existence, those changes--especially to the styling--have been made carefully. All it takes is one design miscue (a certain model with three identical digit designation comes to mind) and your prom queen can quickly transform into the local crack whore.
The 1078cc air-cooled, two-valve...
The 1078cc air-cooled, two-valve desmo powerplant is basically the same as the unit in the Hypermotard, with the exception of Vacural die-casting technology used in the crankcases and engine covers resulting in a near-seven-pound weight reduction.
So when Ducati's designers were faced with upgrading the biggest Monster's aging 904cc desmodue powerplant for '09, they had to tread lightly. Luckily, much of the styling and chassis development work had already been unveiled with the introduction of the Monster 696 last year. And in this age of model integration, wouldn't you know it,--the Hypermotard and Multistrada both utilize a new 1078cc version of the venerable air-cooled two-valve powerplant. All the detail differences were covered in our previous issue (Late Braking, January '09).
Firing up the 1078cc air-cooled engine in the morning is a quick and easy affair, although our test unit was occasionally a recalcitrant starter, only lighting up after turning the ignition key off and then on again. The desmodue powerplant quickly settles into the familiar loping V-twin idle, although the exhaust note is definitely muted much more than in years past; even though the twin side-mount mufflers are larger for more flow volume, it's easy to notice how the latest EPA sound regulations have forced the manufacturers to keep a lid on noise while maintaining increased performance. We're sure the first accessory on any Monster owner's list will be aftermarket exhaust cans.
The engine is basically identical to the unit in the Hypermotard (save for the much lighter Vacural casting method for the crankcases and engine covers that saves seven pounds), so it still has the typical tall first gear ratio that requires some clutch slippage to get off the line smartly. Thankfully, the dry clutch pack appears to be much more robust than the previously fragile Hypermotard unit, exhibiting none of the jerkiness and screeching sounds that would plague the older version's action with only the slightest aggression on takeoff. Clutch pull is also much lighter than in years past, with revised clutch spring rates ensuring that your left hand and forearm muscles don't cramp up after long stints in traffic.
Another pleasant design upgrade is the increased 34-degree steering lock that allows a much tighter turning radius in tight urban confines. The previous Monster's short steering lock would often catch you off guard when pulling U-turns and the like, forcing some deft clutch and throttle work to keep from tipping over. The intake screens flanking the front of the fuel tank cover are a nice styling exercise, but in reality their primary function is to allow clearance for the handlebar switchgear at full lock.