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Ducati Monster at the Crossroads

One could argue quite persuasively that Ducati created a whole new class of
motorcycle when it introduced its Monster 900 several years ago. The “naked bike”
might be considered a “standard” (which is nothing new at all), but the air cooled V-
twin packaged in the stylish chromoly trellis frame really was new (for its time).

The Monster introduced a basic, raw motorcycling experience to the sports bike crowd,
and, of course, it was a huge sales hit. Formula One drivers rode them on weekends.
Celebrities rode them on weekends. If you couldn’t stand the tortuous ergonomics of
a 916, a Monster was the bike to have.

Like every successful, innovative design, the Monster has had its copycats. None
really challenged it directly, however, until Cagiva revealed its Raptor this year.
Moreover, Cagiva is not alone, as other manufacturers bring “naked bikes” with a V-
twin configuration to the table (including Voxan, for example).

For the first time, the Monster is in trouble at least Ducati is in trouble with this
model. Who is going to pay for a Monster when a Raptor outperforms it hands down
(with forty percent more horsepower) and costs no more. Well, the answer is some
people will continue to buy the Monster if only because it is a Ducati, and they want
to own a Ducati. But the Monster will undoubtedly lose market share to the Raptor,
the Voxan Roadster, and others. How much is yet to be seen.

In any event, Ducati can no longer rest on its laurels. The Monster was a marvelous
creation and a huge hit, but it is time for a serious revamp.

The year 2000 model received fuel injection and not much else. A small increase in
horsepower and rideability isn’t enough to stem the tide. Ducati needs to dig deep and
completely redesign the bike.

Even the long-rumored 916-powered Monster won’t be enough. The 916 motor (due
to its smaller displacement) is too peaky an engine for this class of bike (at least when
compared with the competitor’s 1000cc V-twins). The Monster needs its own new
engine or a de-tuned (for broader and more usable torque) version of the 998 motor.
It also needs to be restyled.

Several other bikes now look like the Monster. Ducati prides itself on innovative,
break-through designs. A warmed over Monster (with the same basic look) won’t cut
it.

We look to Ducati to create a worthy successor to the Monster, and we believe you will see it next year.