When it comes to significance for both its manufacturer and a generation of riders, few bikes can get close to the Ducati Monster. The brain-child of Argentinean designer Miguel Galluzzi (now head of design at Piaggio), under the direction of the legendary Massimo Bordi, the Monster was both something of a parts-bin special born out of necessity and a masterstroke that proved so successful it saved Ducati.
Indeed, in becoming an overnight best-seller that first M900 not only spawned both a whole family of other Monsters (600 and 750 versions soon followed) it inspired a breed of imitators sufficient to create the whole naked class and in doing so became the very backbone of Ducati’s modern line-up.
Today, not only does the Monster remain a Ducati mainstay, it’s estimated that in excess of 300,000 examples of all descriptions have so far been built, ranging from 400cc novice machines to rip-snorting 160bhp track refugees. No wonder, then, the Monster has been so significant to so many.
Suzi Perry, ex-BBC MotoGP and F1 presenter now on BT Sport, is among them. “The best bike I’ve ever owned was probably my Ducati Monster,” she told MCN. “I had a 750, and it was a cool bike to own and cool to ride.” In fact, she loved them so much she went on to guest test the S2R 800 for the Daily Telegraph in 2005.
Nor is she the only one. With the enduring allure of Ducati and the Monster’s position as its longest-lived roadster with appeal to both novices and hard-core loons alike, the Italian roadster has often proved the go-to choice for celeb bikers. Lewis Hamilton was regularly seen running around on a Monster before switching to Brutales following Mercedes’ MV Agusta tie-up.
The late Ayrton Senna was another F1 Ducatisti. While Hollywood glitterati Orlando Bloom, Alannis Morrissette, Adrian Brody, Lyle Lovett and Usher have all helped prove there’s a Monster for everyone.
Yet it all might have been so very different – in fact, the Monster might not have been a Ducati at all. Created during Cagiva’s ownership of Ducati and intended to be an easy to-produce, high volume machine following the expense and limited success of bikes like the Paso and 851, Galluzzi told years later how the idea first came while he was working at Honda (Europe) and had been idly sketching on a picture of the then new Ducati 851.
“It was simple, just a tank and a seat. I knew we would never do it at Honda, so I put the idea away,” he said. Galluzzi later moved to Cagiva, working under Bordi, and, in 1990 was allowed to develop a mock-up using off-the-shelf parts. Essentially it was a 900SS in an 851 frame with 750SS forks.
Given the go ahead it gained the internal name of ‘Il Mostro’ and debuted at the 1992 Cologne Show simply as the Ducati M900 (although right up to the last weeks there was a possibility it would be a Cagiva). Soon after, the Monster name stuck. A legend was born, the 900 Monster’s immediate success spawned an ever-increasing number of variants and successors yet, through it all, its status as the most accessible and affordable of all Ducatis has remained intact.
We were simply swamped with reader responses about the Monster, more than any other machine. Here’s just a few of them: “It was my first big bike and I did silly mileage in all weathers. Then I had a fight with the missus, went out on it and crashed. I kept the bike and ditched the missus!” Joseph Duffy (M600).
“I’m on my fourth Monster since 2008 when I bought my first M600. I then had an S4 then a M796 and I now run a M1100 EVO.” Martin Biggs.
“It was my first bike after passing my test. I loved the more upright position over a sportsbike crouch but felt like I got the performance. I’ve just picked another Monster, this time the 1200S.” Emma Shaw (696).
“I’ve just bought a Monster 821 and it’s brilliant. When it came time to replace the M600 it had to be another Monster.” Chris Manley (M821 Dark).
“It looked beautiful, cornered great and everyone loved it.” Duncan Ross (M1100 EVO).
If all that's not got you hankering after one of Bologna's finest, below are our favourite Ducati Monsters currently for sale at MCNbikesforsale.com.
The baby Monster was a huge success and the first taste of two wheels for many new riders in the '90s. It still looks good over 20 years later and as performance goes it's sprightly enough while remaining useable for those with less experience.
Nestled between the new rider-friendly 696 and snarling 1100, the 796 offers a perfect balance between the two. It's not under or overpowered, relatively cheap to buy and maintain and looks stunning, as you would expect from any Monster.
The S4RS is the cream of the Monster crop. Forget the bog standard air-cooled Monsters. The S4RS has the liquid-cooled engine from the 999 shoe-horned into the Trellis frame and features Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels. Yes, it's as good as it sounds and they're still sought after today.
Some Ducati Monster purists may argue the current Monster isn't a Monster at all due to its liquid-cooled engine, but it still has that unmistakable Monster character and charm. The engine provides mountains of low and mid-range torque making it an ideal bike for the road and it handles incredibly well.
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