The Bike That Saved Ducati
The Bike That Saved Ducati
It’s customary to praise Ducati for developing the sexiest, best-performing, and most-memorable superbikes on the planet—iconic shapes like the 851 and its smooth brother, the 888; dramatic leaps from the mundane like the 916; radical departures from orthodoxy like the controversial 999; and in-your-face technological feats like the Panigale. To name just the more recent efforts. But Ducati is more than a purveyor of dream machines, it’s also a business. And for the men who clack away on adding machines or toil in the virtual hell that is an Excel spreadsheet, one Ducati motorcycle stands far above the rest: the Monster.
Today’s Monster isn’t all that different from the original, even as it shares almost no parts, has been visually refreshed a couple of times, and sells into a motorcycling culture two decades removed from those heady days of 1993.
The 900 was joined by the M400 and M600; the 400 was for the Japanese market. The 600 sold incredibly well in Italy.
When you consider that the basic concept of the Monster has not changed drastically in the last 20 years, and that the bike is still as relevant as ever, it’s all just a bit amazing
For Ducati, the success of the Monster has been its lifeblood, making possible such machines as the Desmosedici and the Panigale, but also keeping its dealers afloat with relatively affordable, broad-reach motorcycles that welcome beginners and excite experienced riders.
The five-speed M750 joins the growing Monster family.
As the Monster neared production, its name had not been settled. Galluzzi had casually named it for a popular toy in Italy: finger-high monsters that kids loved. “Every time I would come back to the U.S. from Italy, my sons would ask, ‘Did you get me a monster?’ It seemed right for the bike.” But the marketing department was not convinced; in fact, the staff was concerned that the name had a negative connotation in the U.S. Debate continued until after the bike was shown at the 1992 Cologne show, where it was called the M900.
Engine changes were made following SuperSport practice. The 900 shared valve sizes with the 750 in an effort to increase midrange torque.
Galluzzi recalls a conversation at Cologne with an importer, who had seen the early mockup and had followed the bike’s development, knowing that it was called il mostro internally. He told Galluzzi, “Why don’t you just call it Monster? That’s perfect!”
A big-valve 900S model joined the lineup, reverting to tje ’96 engine spec; the standard M900 kept the torque-rich configuration.
The Monster 900 line further increased in size, featuring the 900S, 900 California and 900 Chromo (with a chrome tank).
Slightly restyled by Pierre Terblanche, the Monster gained fuel injection on the 900 as well as uprated suspension.
Ducati introduced the S4, powered by the magnificent 916cc desmoquattro engine. That move started a change to the ST4 chassis as well.
Immediate success in the press and in the marketplace at first, with strong sales lasting far longer than anyone dared predict. New versions arrived almost every year—different engine displacements and types (air- and liquid-cooled), a wide range of trim levels, different suspension and wheels and brakes—enough to make the purchasing department crazy.
Fuel injection for all with the new 620ie, plus the ST4 frame became universal.
But even with sales still strong, Bologna realized the Monster had grown too long in tooth. In 2002 work began on a replacement, which had to be one of the toughest assignments in the company.
New Dual Spark engines arrived for the Monster 800DS and 1000DS.
The S4R replaced the S4, using the full 996cc desmoquattro engine. Yee haw!
An S2R version was offered, combining the rear suspension and exhaust of the premium S4R with the 800DS air-cooled, desmodue engine.
Ducati built an S2R with the 1000cc DS engine. Better, though, is the S4RS, with the 998cc Testastretta engine.
Ducati released the Monster 695 and turned out a limited-edition S4RS with superbike-spec suspension.
The 696 was the first new Monster in 15 years. Bigger Ms carry over.
405 are the Number of Monsters gathered on Sept. 21, 2008, in Hamme-Moerzeke, Belgium, breaking the Guinness Record for the “largest parade of motorcycles of the same brand and type.”
“Changing the Monster was difficult,” says Andrea Ferraresi, who was head of Ducati’s design center for the Monster’s first major rework that debuted for the 2008 model year. “We modified the bike quite a lot over the years, but were careful not to lose sight of what the Monster was supposed to be.”
Changeover complete with the Monster 1100.
The M1100S gets upgraded suspension.
The Monster 795 and 1100 Evo arrived with single-sided swingarms.
It remains potent—especially in 1100 Evo form—and charismatic, with a prominent intake honk and just enough mechanical presence so you’d never mistake it for a Honda.
Ducati returned the 1100 Evo to produce an even 100bhp. A blacked-out Diesel special edition debuted.
Firm riding and agile, the Monster is now, as was the original, a true sportbike that just happens to be naked. It’s this combination that made it a legend.