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2018 Ducati Monster 821: MD Ride Review


As Ducati celebrates the 25th anniversary of the iconic naked Monster, we had the chance to test the most modern of Monsters, the new Monster 821 with the Testastretta 11° engine. Introduced for the 2018 model year, the Monster 821 is priced from $11,999, but packs loads of technology and performance.

First of all, let’s talk about that engine. Larger displacement siblings have proven the performance chops of the Testastretta design in World Superbike competition. The 821cc version found in this new Monster shames any previous air-cooled design of any remotely comparable displacement, both in terms of power and torque. Ducati claims 109 horsepower at 9,250 rpm and 63 pound/feet of torque at 7,750 rpm.

As we discovered during testing, the Monster 821 is faster than it should be given its displacement and twin-cylinder design, and the torque curve is remarkably flat. This fuel injected gem now has valve clearance checks stretched out to 18,000 mile intervals.

A slipper clutch and six-speed transmission reside in the motor that serves as a stressed member of the chassis. You can see the steel trellis frame attached to the cylinder heads as a junction to the steering head. Ducati has been utilizing this design for some time, originally on a superbike platform.

The twin-sided swingarm comprises an element of the relatively short wheelbase (1,480 mm). The rear subframe has been redesigned, and also bolts directly to the engine. Front suspension consists of a 43 mm, non-adjustable fork, while the rear shock features a progressive linkage and spring preload adjustment. Alloy rims hold 17″ Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires (a 180 section in the back).


The Monster 821 features radial-mount, four-piston Brembo monobloc brake calipers in front acting on twin 320 mm discs. The rear brake is a Brembo two-piston affair. The latest Bosch ABS system is standard.

The Monster 821 gets an impressive TFT instrument display with brightness and contrast levels that will spoil you from ever wanting to look at an instrument panel with older technology. The display and handlebar buttons allow you to toggle through different engine modes (Sport, Touring and Urban) with different, default settings for ABS and traction control. ABS can be adjusted, as well as shut off completely. The halogen headlight integrates LED parking lights, while the rear light is also an LED.

The new Monster 821 incorporates new styling, particularly with regard to the tank and tail section. The new exhaust silencer looks a lot like the unit found on higher displacement Monsters.

The Monster 821 has adjustable ergonomics with a seat height that can be changed from 31.9″ to 30.9″. Even the taller position allows most riders to easily reach the ground at stops. The lower position can feel a bit cramped for taller riders with the reduction in leg room. Seat comfort is good, however.

The Monster 821 requires moderate effort to pull the clutch, and gear changes are almost Japanese-like, i.e., smooth, easy and predictable. Pulling away from a stop, you are immediately informed that this motor packs a punch from even low rpm levels.

Once warm, throttle response is excellent – reflecting carefully dialed FI by the factory. Opening the throttle on corner exits (even in Sport mode) offers no surprises, just a smooth transition to power. Although the Monster 821 pulls cleanly from just above idle, the stout low-end and mid-range lead to an even stronger rush above 7,500 rpm through to redline at 10,500 rpm. This motor is extremely flexible and fast for a middle-weight!

Motivating a claimed 454 pounds (with the 4.4 gallon fuel tank topped off), the Monster 821 is not only quick in a straight line, it changes direction easily, and confidently. We should note here that our test unit was delivered with 15 mm of fork tube sitting above the top triple clamp, which appears to be the standard way bikes will be set up at dealers.

The Monster 821 dives for the apex when ridden aggressively with surprising ease, acting like a much lighter machine. The standard suspension offers a good compromise between supple bump absorption and sufficient damping to permit aggressive riding. Tire grip from the Pirellis was excellent.

Unsurprisingly, the monobloc Brembo brakes offer excellent power and feel when hauling down this lightweight naked. For the street, they are almost overkill. We expect it would be difficult to induce fade, even on a race track.

As we said earlier, the new TFT display will instantly spoil you, with its remarkable brightness and contrast that permits an easy and quick read even in bright sunlight. Different viewing modes are available with all of the information found on most modern machines, including, of course, a gear position indicator. The Ducati Multimedia System (DMS) with Bluetooth, as an optional accessory, even allows you to connect your phone to the bike, and to manage some of its functions through buttons on the handlebars. A standard USB socket can be found under the seat, so you can keep your smartphone charged.

This thoroughly modern and refined Monster is difficult to criticize, but we have a couple of niggles. Our 5’11” test rider preferred the taller seat height, but the reach to the bars is longer than found on most upright naked machines. A better position for canyon carving perhaps, but slightly less comfortable while cruising. Leg room was adequate for our test rider with the seat in the taller position. The relatively high pegs do contribute to excellent ground clearance in corners.

Starting at $11,995 in Red, the Monster 821 is $12,095 in the optional Black and Yellow colors. In return for your money, you get a thoroughly modern, high performance Ducati with relatively lengthy valve adjustment intervals. The Monster 821 has all the engine performance most riders will ever use, together with suspension and handling that will allow a skilled pilot to embarrass his friends aboard sport bikes when carving up twisty roads. It may have modern performance and reliability, but, in our opinion, the Monster 821 still has the good looks and charm found on the original Monster 25 years ago. Take a look at Ducati’s website for additional details and specifications.


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49 Comments

  1. billy says:

    Nice bike.

    But it’s for the well-heeled being an entry level bike for 12k and super expensive maintenance.

  2. TNT 007 says:

    Nice Ducati but the Benelli 600 TNT will do everything this Duc will do for 7k !!!!

  3. Neil says:

    Really like the Monsters. But I liked the Supersport better. Also test rode a Scrambler and it was a blast. The 821 is very comfy. Proper sized motor for the street. Long valve check intervals. It’s the definitive naked bike.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Properly depreciated” … not sure what that means, or why any motor vehicles lose as much value as quickly as they do. Aside from a major change model year, can anyone explain why we lose so much money after only one year of ownership?

    • todd says:

      I think it’s because there’s more competition and a private owner will accept a loss, not expecting to make a profit on a sale, unlike a dealer that is running a business. That, and I think people value brand new bikes over previously owned. It’s funny to think that more people would rather spend $6,000 on a new Ninja 400 than $3,500 on a used Monster.

      • Dave says:

        That may come down to financing. Assuming the $3500 Duc is private sale, whoever buys it will have to do so outright. Not so with easy financing & new. Used bikes at dealers are usually overpriced, in my limited experience.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Year 1 depreciation is just economics at work.

      The first thing you lose is the dealer margin. Some people pay full retail for their bike, some don’t. But the cost dealers buy used bikes for in order to resale is a major driving component to the market value of used bikes in general. So the minute you take ownership of a new motorcycle, it’s value had been effectively reduced to wholesale price.

      This will typically make up 40% to 50% or so of your first year depreciation and is the primary reason year 1 depreciation is such a big hit relative to year 2.

      Another reason is that in year one, your resale is competing with both new and used bikes. Not only does this increase the supply of available comps, but oten times, dealers will be running killer deals on leftovers, thus driving the market price even lower.

      Then there is the risk factor between new and used that buyers assign a value to. Your one-year-old bike isn’t just used, it is an unknown. Crashed, flooded? Only the original owner really knows. People will pay a premium on top of the typical depreciation figures to eliminate the risk of the unknown and for extra factory warranty period. This means that to overcome the value of that premium, the price gap will need to be that much wider between a new and 1yo vehicle vs. a 1yo and 2yo vehicle for example.

      • Dino says:

        That “unknown” of a used vehicle is the big one for me… Almost impossible to spot previous abuse or damage unless you really know what you are looking at.
        Plus, look at what dealers charge for one or two year old vehicles, and it is not much cheaper than new (that is not what they PAY you for the trade in because they need to make something on the re-sale of course)..

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      I think the other reason why is reliability and maintenance. Why is a one or two year old bike for sale? Is it unreliable? You could be buying someone else’s problems. Many people have no idea how to maintain their vehicles. Who knows when the oil was changed, did the guy ride wheelies and do burnouts every Friday night? Nobody knows when it’s used.

  5. azi says:

    The lack of even basic preload adjustment in the forks for a premium bike in this day and age is almost inexcusable.

    • Jon says:

      Totally agree. Should have rebound and compression too. These are 12 thousand dollar bikes! Monobloc brembos and unadjustable forks make no sense together.

    • Repeater says:

      Guess that’s in how one defines “premium”. This is really just a mid-range bike sold at a premium because of its nameplate. It has no truly superior equipment, power, technology, or versatility than the “non-premium” middleweight naked sport bikes out there… bikes like the FZ-09, GSX-S750, Z900, and Street Triple. It’s competitive on those bikes in most features -except- price.

      I do like this bike. I think it’s relatively right-sized, good power, and should handle pretty well, too. But at $2500-$4000 more dear than similarly-equipped bikes, it’s an awfully hard sell! For $12k, it should be equipped like any other bleeding-edge bike at the price… so it really ought to have similar, top-range, fully-adjustable suspension and braking components like any 600cc supersport has.

      • azi says:

        All of the other bikes that you mentioned are cheaper and have preload adjusters.

        Ducati Scrambler is their basic model, and can get away with no adjustment. This bike isn’t their poverty pack model.

  6. allworld says:

    Middleweight naked bikes are my favorite and this is number 3 on my list. I would a upgraded offering with adjustable suspension.

  7. Michael says:

    I really like the bike, I had an 08 Hyper and enjoyed it but it was quirky. All Ducs must have Termi exhaust that cost thousands. My local Duc shop also sells Triumph (used to work there), it’d be hard to walk by the Street Triple 765 RS with higher spec.

  8. Provologna says:

    Is this motor (or similar) in a Hypermotard? I love Ducati’s V-twin Superbike technology in a motor one size smaller, like this one.

    The less is a motor’s reciprocating mass, the less is gyroscopic effect, and the better it transitions for any cornering purpose. Gyroscopic effect maintains whatever is the bike’s present attitude in relationship to the riding surface; it resists change in cornering attitude.

    I wish Dirck would do a small feature on a Ducati mid size liquid cooloed Superbike (821?) in which the owner chopped off one cylinder, thus inventing a modern version of Ducati’s old Super Mono (an acquaintance owned one). The owner made an on-bike video of a couple laps round his local track.

  9. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    I’m really liking what I see from Ducati in the last several models. They finally have a nice looking exhaust system instead of something that looks like an afterthought. However, as great as it looks on the exhaust side, that plumbing on the left looks like crap. I’m sure Ducati could clean that up somehow and not have it stretched across the engine. And yes, so few Ducati dealerships doesn’t help either. Maybe a few more years, then I’ll probably be too old. 🙁

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Yes, Ducati has never been very good with plumbing. Even some of their air-cooled bikes looked a bit sloppy with the wiring and cables, so I just don’t think hiding that kind of stuff is a priority for them.

      I wonder if some nice hose skins and fancy clamps would take things up a notch or make the plumbing even more or an eyesore?

    • Superlight says:

      Ducati has already done the hidden LH engine plumbing thing, on the XDiavel, and it looks much better than their other naked bikes.

  10. matt says:

    the depreciation on a Duc is nuts. nearly 30% in the first year – just look at NADA. Yes for that kind of scratch it should come with fully adjustable suspension.

    • Dave says:

      Other than HD’s and maybe BMW, I’m not aware of any motorcycles that depreciate any less than a Ducati in the 1st year. Older ones seem to hold value better than comparable Japanese bikes.

      • paul says:

        I watch prices and sales of used Harleys very closely on our local market. Prices are always in the high range as the owners expect that they are entitled to a good return on their “investment”. These bikes languish, sometimes for years, with the owners eventually discounting or just keeping the bike. Only when a Harley is properly depreciated in value will it move out of the classifieds as a sold bike. The classifieds are over-flowing with used Harleys, they are everywhere.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Add a shield and heated grips and this should be a great all season everyday ride.

    • Superlight says:

      Unfortunately there is no good looking 1/4 or 1/2 faring for these bikes. Those curved clear plexiglas things don’t cut it on a bike this pretty and the factory option shield is only big enough to cover the instruments.

  12. VLJ says:

    Check out the fourth picture. Those may be the longest turnsignals I’ve ever seen.

  13. viktor92 says:

    Nice, very nice bike

  14. johnny ro says:

    I am inspired to look for an early 600 or 620 on local Craigslist, spend $3k? Same red lights here, regardless of which bike on.

    I applaud Ducati, overall. Bring back the shaft tower!!

  15. Jabe says:

    Seems to me this bike should be equipped with fully adjustable suspension. Not sure how much it would add to the cost, but a bike of this caliber should have it.

  16. bad Chad says:

    It’s likely great fun to ride, but it looks like hell from the rear pegs on back.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Is it true that this bike has a belt that needs replacing every 2K miles or 2 years at a dealer price of $1200? I hope I’m wrong cause I’d like to consider a Duc but ride at least 6K miles/year and that expense would be hard to take

    • No, every 18,000 miles for belt replacement, 2 belts, one for the vertical and one for the horizontal cylinder. And no, they are not $1200, not even close. Ducati of Omaha has them priced at $80.17 each.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The bike does use timing belts, though I believe the spec is 18K miles or five years.

      I’ve never heard of a dealership charging that much. Maybe a fancier bike like a Panigale needed to drop the engine to get access or something? It’s not a hard job on something like a Monster, and some dealers won’t even charge extra (other than the cost of the belts themselves) if you are doing it in conjunction with the valve service since they should be in there inspecting the pulleys and checking tension anyway. Only takes a few extra minutes to throw new belts on at that point.

      • TF says:

        I can see $1200 for an 18K mile service if valve clearances need to be adjusted along with all the other items on the 18K list (fluids, plugs, air filter, inspections, etc.). However, the belts only contribute about $150 to the total price. The belts come off anyway and it costs nothing additional (in labor) to replace them with new ones.

        What I wonder is, what does a valve check/adjustment cost for a Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki/Kawasaki sportbike and at what mileage is it prescribed? I have no experience with such bikes.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Yamaha has used a 26,600 mile clearance check interval forever it seems on their water-cooled bikes. Even on the single cylinder WR250R dual sport. I believe the Ninja 650 also uses a similar interval, though I believe the norm for the marks besides Yamaha is 16,000 miles.

          A 90° twin engine similar to this Monster, the SV650, costs about $500 for a valve service at the dealer, though a friend of mine who has owned nothing but SV650s for the past 18 years gets them done at an independent shop for $250. I don’t know what the big I4s cost. Some of those are pretty tough to access.

        • Chris says:

          Valve clearance inspection/adjustment on my Kawa ZX14r is/was 15,000. Tariff at my local dealer was a smidge over $500. Yes, this is an ‘engine out’ procedure. I told them to tell me the valves were all completely out of adjustment no matter what the truth was. They cheerfully complied.

        • TF says:

          I think we’re talking apples and oranges, which is partially why Ducs get a bad rap, IMO. My Multistrada service manual lists the following items to be done as part of the 15K mile service. My dealer quoted $1500. Since I have a little bit of experinece with motorcycle maintenance (45 years) I chose to do everything myself except for the first three items. In the end to save time and for peace of mind, I paid $600 for those first three items to be done by a top-notch Ducati technician. Because they are a good dealer and I am a regular customer, he agreed to complete the checklist I had started and then shut off the service indicator (on the dash) when he was finished.

          Check fault log, SW updates as necessary
          Check/adjust valve clearance
          Replace timing belts
          Replace spark plugs
          Replace air filter
          Replace fork oil
          Replace coolant
          Check and lubricate rear wheel shaft
          Change engine oil
          Change oil filter
          Change/bleed brake and clutch fluids
          A host of misc inspections

          I wish I had a dollar for every time I have read “it costs $1500 to have the valves checked on a Ducati”.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            The horrifying thing about your post is that those other items on the list apparently cost $900 to get done?

            I agree, though, when most people say that a valve service costs $”X”, what was really quoted was everything on the whatever-thousand mile service.

          • TF says:

            Horrifying? I suppose but I don’t think it is peculiar to Ducati’s. When dealers charge $100+ per hour for maintenance and $18.95 for a quart of oil, ownership (of any bike) gets expensive if you can’t do your our PM. Myself, I understand the math but I refuse to spend $150 for an oil change.
            Given that the list above is going to tie a technician up for at least a day and you are also buying $400 (or more) worth of parts and fluids, where is Ducati screwing everyone as most seem to imply? Per the list above, in addition to access and all the work in and around the engine the forks also need to come off the bike. Granted, you can argue the necessity of all those list items (at 15K miles) until the cows come home. However, I will bet you that if you took a similar modern big-four sport bike to your dealer and asked for the items above to be performed it would not be much less than $1500.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Not saying they are screwing anyone. I suspect those same items would cost roughly the same at nearly any dealership on any comparable machine. What is horrifying is that such typical, routine maintenance can tally up to so much money. I’ve always done my own maintenance and so never gave it much thought.

        • John Bowman says:

          I do quite a bit of “friend maintenance”. Beer is negotiable to a point.

  18. Josh says:

    Shame.

    I used to think ducks were *really* nice looking- 20 years ago. This? Ugh.

    Now I scroll down to the next bike- Norton rendering. Not bad!

  19. TF says:

    Love the yellow…..saw one in person the other day. It would look even better with a gold Ohlins fork! Of course, then it would be 15K instead of 12K. I spent quite a bit of time on an 821 Hyper a few years ago. Great engine.

  20. Mike says:

    What’s more fun? Monster 821 or Vitpilen 701?

    • Pacer says:

      I believe this is more for the beginner/laid back rider. The Vitpilin, while probably civil, has a touch more excitement in it’s heart.

    • Peter Harris says:

      or ktm 690 duke.

      The 821 is more flexible and powerful. The 821 engine is no cruiser device – it will shove you back in your seat.

      Duke is light and unique.

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I just calculated the power to weight ratios of both, because I’m a nerd. Vitpilen – 75hp / 362lbs = .207 Monster 821 109hp / 454lbs = .24
      Winner = Ducati
      The only solution is a middle weight shootout!

  21. PN says:

    Ah, Ducati. I just came back from Italy. Ducati–che bello. 18,000 miles for a valvole inspection is nice.