No thumping music, no rising curtains, and definitely no smoke effects. Despite the absence of all the usual clichéd razzle-dazzle of a product launch, what really rocked the hot afternoon was the red skinned machine simply stationed in a corner of the banquet hall. The Monster 795, Italian motorcycling giant Ducati's ‘apt for Asia' motorcycle was being unveiled. Though the event was relatively quiet, the new motorcycle brought a fair bit of thunder to the afternoon.
We were a bunch of Indian journalists witnessing the unveiling of the Monster 795 (M795) in Hua Hin, a sleepy Thai beach town south-west of bustling Bangkok. A 300-km long test ride of the new bike was next on the schedule and I could already sense itchy fingers and restless backsides amongst the bunch of motoring journos.
Being given the keys to any Ducati will invariably draw similar reactions. With the M795 it was just that more so, because this one's been specially created by the Italians to fit the needs of performance bikers in Asian countries, including India.
Ducati pioneered the naked bikes category with the Monster and the new M795 is an addition to Miguel Angel Galluzi's conceptualisation of the early 90s Monster. The new bike is a combination of its immediate predecessor 796 and the iconic 696. Dipping into the gene-pool is always a good idea, if your lineage is a ‘Brangelina-isque' combination. The M795 shares the shorter tubular steel trellis frame of the 696 and the 803cc, L-twin motor from the 796.
Built in Bologna and assembled in Thailand, the fresher from Ducati's ‘naked' series aims to capture or rather create a segment of a machine that you can ride to work and enjoy in your time-off. The test drive was flagged off after a quick safety briefing by marshals who led us through the open roads of the kingdom in our quest to ‘acclimatise' with the Monster. Burning under every bit of safety gear in the hot sun, the slow speeds within town limits made many riders impatient. We didn't have much of a choice - the road testers had to stick behind the marshal in a Ducati Multistrada. We reach the highway and suddenly, like children rushing out of the gates after the final school bell rings, the dozen riders on the new Monster 795 roared ahead into the open road.
The 90-degree V-twin (or L-twin as Ducati calls them) 803cc engine features Desmodromic valves and pumps out 87 bhp of peak power at 8,250 rpm enabling the rider to burst to speeds of 90 kmph on the first gear. Slot into the second gear and you can unleash even more of the fury in the machine, blasting past the 130 kmph mark, while the other gears and speeds leave you in no mind for calculations. The M795 motor's peak torque of 58 lb-ft at 6,250 rpm is also identical to the unit's performance in the M796.
The M795's throttle response is crisp and the motor's power delivery is immediate. Despite the temptation, the illuminated display on the digital meter is something that you shouldn't be two-timing with on the road.
At some of the swooping stretches on the highway I was regularly clocking 180 kmph and the M795's L-twin justified its reputation. It is during these high-revving phases that I also realise the refinement and strength of the Desmodromic valves that the Monster is so famous for.
Without getting too much into the technology, essentially Desmodromic valves have separate cams and actuators for activating the opening and closing of the valves. Unlike conventional valves, which have a cam to open and a return spring to close the valve, valve return springs can handle the load in very high revving engines like the Ducati motors. In the M795, the engine choice has been made to reiterate the fact that there is no compromise in performance, though some of the region specific changes have made the bike more friendly for shorter (on average) riders, who also haven't had too much prior experience with super sports bikes.
Looking past the fierce speeds, the bike feels planted despite its 167 kg dry weight. On the other hand, the motorcycle also feels light and easy to ride. It's raised handlebar (up by 20mm), probably the only India-made component on the motorcycle and reduced height of the rider seat (770mm compared to 800mm of the M796) add to the bliss of riding the M795. But roadies taller than 6ft might find it a bit tough to rest their knees at the tank recesses for a comfortable ride. The revised riding posture of the new Monster exclusively for the Asian rider is praiseworthy, but I wonder if the mild bar vibrations that set in at high speeds have anything to do with it.
The new 795 is a fine mix of the sporty features of the Monster 696, from the chassis beaming the trademark Ducati red trellis frame to its striking fuel tank. However, the lowered and fresh seat design, steel handlebar instead of the usual aluminium, three spoke alloy instead of five and the rear cast-aluminium twin swing-arm instead of the single-sided unit are some of the elements that differentiate the 795 from the 796. The front tyre in the new M795 is also a lower profile Pirelli Angel ST instead of the Diablo Rosso. However, like the other two Monsters the M795 also features dual 320mm front disc brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers and a 245mm rear disc with a two-piston caliper. The 803cc L-twin cylinder engine from the Monster 796 roars as powerfully from the heart of the new motorcycle, even after engineers of Bologna made minor modifications for the Asian riding cycle. The digital illuminated meter atop the Monster not only spells speeds, revs, oil temperature and trip fuel but also makes room for the Ducati Data Analyser (DDA) to gauge the performance of the motorcycle. However, the DDA, from which data can be downloaded on to a pen-drive and analysed on laptop or PC using proprietary software, comes as an add-on accessory. While the red trellis frame and black alloy wheels are there to stay, the trademark Ducati red tank and the petite mudguard can switch colour according to your taste. Owners can choose from 11 different shades including racing designs sourced from Ducati users from around the globe though a contest christened ‘Logomania'.
Overall, the Monster 795 is effectively a new Ducati unto itself. A no-nonsense performance bike at a delicious price, the M795 is a good urban ride, apt for office and leisure in the city. But it may not be too favourable for long distances even after its revised seating posture and handling comfort. The riding posture is still fairly sporty and committed. Experienced riders may be able to clock long distances, though on average Indian roads to sustain the M795's riding position you will still need a strong back. The back wheel seemed to slip a bit at times during hard braking, probably because the motorbike is on the lighter side compared to some of its predecessors and it also doesn't come standard with ABS brakes and Ducati Traction control. ABS is offered as an optional addition.
The Monster 795, Ducati's most affordable motorcycle for Asia, was interestingly made public to the Asian market by MotoGP ace Valentino Rossi himself through a tweet from his pit lane at Sepang International Circuit, in Malaysia last October. The motorcycle was launched in India at the Delhi Auto Expo in January this year. Bookings are now open for the M795 with a revised price of Rs 5.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and the vehicle is expected to hit Indian roads in March. Though Ducati has announced this to be an introductory price, with competitors like Triumph planning to launch the Street Triple (at Rs 5.75 lakh) later this year, Ducati just might decide to hold the price.