Monster 796 Review
With the new 2011 Monster 796, Ducati has completed its line-up of air-cooled standards. It’s a throwback to the old 800 and places itself right in the middle between the entry level 696 and the more ferocious 1100.
All the Monsters feel very light, small and easy to handle; despite the muscular stance, the rider doesn’t need any muscle at all. The 796 is slightly different ergonomically than the 696 and its big brother the 1100. The seat height is a bit higher than the lesser-, and slightly lower than the larger-, capacity Monster. The wide handlebar gives a very good control of that stumpy front end, directional changes are easy, and the feel is feather-light.
If you’re a medium-tall to tall rider, you’ll have constant trouble reading the instruments when riding in high concentration mode, such as in the inner city or on a congested highway. There’s nothing pleasant about the instrument panel, so I ignored it completely to such a degree that I forgot to take accurate note of fuel consumption and such things.
The only highly visible indication on the console is the gear change light, which is handy when ripping it up on a fast B-road. Hopefully I didn’t rack up too many speeding tickets, as I hardly used the speedometer at all during my test.
Nobody, least of all me me, cares really about any practical detail on a Monster. I treat a Monster like a Monster should be treated, and with such a fantastic chassis and big bike wheels and tires, it’s mostly a case of having as much fun as possible all the time. The Monster 796 is a willing and capable participant in wheelies, stoppies, and burnouts.
The 803cc air-cooled L-twin engine has enough extra oomph over the 696 to make it a viable upgrade. The power test of rolling off and then hard on in first gear does reveal the extra capacity in the shape of a front wheel lift, which the 696 is incapable of. No such thing happens in second gear, which does happen on the 1100.
The 803cc engine produces a claimed 87 horsepower @ 8250 rpm and 58 ft/lbs of torque @ 6250 rpm but, despite achieving good first to third gear acceleration, the top three gears are useless for slow speed stingy riding. The 796 likes its revs a lot more than the 1100, which is only natural. You can’t let the revs go all the way down to 1000 rpm in top gear and still get massive pull.
Most Ducati’s are performance motorcycles and that goes also for the 796. The acceleration above 100 mph is still strong and I felt it had all the high speed potential that it needs. You’re not really protected from the wind at all despite a small cowling being in place so it was enough for me to know that the engine is still pulling well above 100 mph.
The clutch is light years away from the last generation Monster’s, and just as good as its siblings with a light and precise action. The brakes are easy to modulate and provide all the power you need to stop the 368-pound lightweight medium Monster. What always makes a Ducati chassis is that light tubular frame and single sided swingarm and whilst the 696 must do with a double-sided swingarm both the 796 and 1100 features the single-sided one.
The suspension is, for Ducati, fairly basic, but still good enough under hard riding not to bottom out and there’s enough feel to have plenty of fun even though they’re not Ohlins. The package consists of a 43mm USD fork and an adjustable mono shock at the back.
In town the Monster 796 is nearly perfect and lane splitting is a piece of cake. Not many bikes can take you quicker from A to B in the city center in rush hour than a Monster of any size. I had perfect control of both throttle, brakes and clutch at all times and the balance of the bike is perfect. The fact that the Monster 796 is so light helps a lot, too.
The Monster 796 is a natural town expert but also very enjoyable on twisty B-roads thanks to the Ducati trademark chassis. On the highways, you’ll be as bothered by the wind as on other naked motorcycles, but engine performance is sufficient for lots of miles both slow and fast.
To avoid vibrations the engine has got a sweet spot that doesn’t correspond quite right with the freeway speed limits, and I often went down a gear to find that spot. The midrange is good, but higher up in the rev range than a full on liter bike. The Monster 796 is not so strong below 6000 rpm, but it can be ridden at lower rpm, which turns the bike into Monster Light.
This leaves you with a choice of three distinct Ducati Monsters in 2011. The 696 for the least demanding riders, the 1100 for those who consider high-performance to be a mandatory feature of every motorcycle, and the 796 that slips right in-between them.
2011 Ducati Monster 796 | Motorcycle Specifications
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Wheelbase: 1450mm (57.1in)
Front suspension: Showa 43mm upside-down forks
Front wheel travel: 120mm (4.7in)
Front wheel: Y-shaped, 5-spoke in light alloy 3.50 x17
Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
Rear suspension: Progressive linkage with preload and rebound Sachs adjustable monoshock
Rear wheel travel: 148mm (5.8in)
Rear wheel: Y-shaped, 5-spoke in light alloy 5.50 x 17
Rear tire: 180/55 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
Front brake: 2 x 320mm discs, 4-piston radial caliper
Rear brake: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Fuel tank capacity: 15l – 3.8gallon (US) / 13.5l – 3.6gallon (US) ABS version
Dry weight: 167kg (369lb) / 169kg (373lb) ABS version
Instruments: Digital unit displaying: Speedometer, rev counter, clock, scheduled maintenance warning, oil temperature, trip fuel, air temperature, lap time, warning light for low oil pressure, fuel level, fuel reserve, neutral, turn signals, overrev, immobilizer. Ready for DDA system
Warranty: 2 years unlimited mileage
Body Colour (frame/wheel): Red (red / back) – Arctic white silk (red / back) – Diamond black silk (red / back) – Monster Art colours (red / back)
Versions: Dual seat
Seat height: 800mm (31.5in)
DDA: System-ready for Ducati Performance accessory
DTC: Not available on this model
ABS: Available upon request
Type: L-Twin cylinder, 2 valve per cylinder Desmodromic, air cooled
Bore x Stroke: 88 x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Power: 64kW – 87hp @ 8250rpm
Torque: 8.0kgm – 58lb-ft @ 6250rpm
Fuel injection: Siemens electronic fuel injection, 45mm throttle body
Exhaust: Lightweight 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter with twin lambda probes
Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1st 32/13, 2nd 30/18, 3rd 28/21, 4th 26/23, 5th 22/22, 6th 24/26
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.85:1
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 39
Clutch: APTC wet multiplate with hydraulic control
Standard: Euro 3 (Europe version) – USA: follows the US Federal Regulation
MSRP: $9,995.00 USD