The Bike That Saved Ducati

1

The Bike That Saved Ducati

1 And It Wasn’t Always Called The Monster

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.

2

1993

While the M900 was introduced at the Cologne show in late 1992 and meant for production in 1993, it didn’t appear until late in the year.

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.

3

1994

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

4

1995

The Monster’s steel-tube frame was painted 916-style gold with matching three-spoke alloy wheels.

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.

5

1996

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. 

6

1997

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!”

7

1998

A big-valve 900S model joined the lineup, reverting to tje ’96 engine spec; the standard M900 kept the torque-rich configuration.

8

1999

The Monster 900 line further increased in size, featuring the 900S, 900 California and 900 Chromo (with a chrome tank).

9

2000

Slightly restyled by Pierre Terblanche, the Monster gained fuel injection on the 900 as well as uprated suspension.

10

2001

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.