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2011 Ducati Monster 796 Review

Beauty of a Beast

Story by Dustin A. Woods, Photos by Matt Ball and Dustin A. Woods

The tale of Goldilocks is the most immediate and obvious comparison to draw upon when considering Ducati’s Monster line-up. For some, the power and proportions of the entry-level Monster 696 may be just too diminutive, while the big-bore 1100 may be too intimidating in size, stature or insurance premiums. Thankfully the legendary Italian motorcycle manufacturer also makes the Monster 796. The fact that Ducati offers three versatile yet unique Monsters is likely why you can’t swing a premium leather man satchel in Toronto without hitting three of them. The Monster has become somewhat of an urban icon, but does it live up to the mystique and hype? Most definitely.

When searching out your next bike, you may question how much power you want and how much you actually need. Sure it may seem appealing to choose a supersport that can outrun a fighter jet as your next ride, but naked middleweights have many attractive attributes that make them an ideal addition to your garage. Most bikes are exceptional at one particular kind of riding, but can fall short when outside their niche. Enter the Monster 796, a well-balanced middleweight that allows for a comfortable upright riding position that does double duty as wholly gratifying transportation and an artistic masterpiece. When immobile, it could easily be welcomed as a permanent fixture of an art gallery. Thumb the starter button and the air-cooled L-twin engine barks to life before settling into an off-kilter idle emitting a sound from the massive twin pipes that is both menacing and exotic.

The 803cc mill has a torquey powerband that provides more than adequate acceleration under normal conditions but literally transforms as it approaches its maximum torque of 58 ft-lbs at 6,250 rpm. A peak of 87 hp at 8,250 rpmmay not seem like a revelation, but the fact that the 796 tips the scales at only 167 kg (169 kg with optional ABS) means that its power-to-weight ratio is certainly nothing to scoff at. Incorporated into the tubular trellis frame, the fuel-injected powerplantpairs to a six-speed gearbox through a hydraulic slipper clutch. Gear changes are smooth as butter and finding neutral was never an issue when coming to a halt at a long stoplight. One thing that did take some getting used to however, was just how much attention this bike gets around town. Mind you, the standard issue Ducati red paint certainly didn’t help.

Never twitchy or unmanageable, this Monster’s power delivery is complimented by impressive handling and an exceptional braking prowess. While the seating position is relatively neutral, the handlebars are situated slightly forward and the pegs slightly aft. This makes the versatile Monster comfortable enough for long hauls but happy to accommodate aggressive riding. Suspension duties are handled by non-adjustable 43-mm Showa forks up front and a progressive Sachs monoshock that is preload and rebound-adjustable in the rear that allows 148mm of rear suspension travel.

Perhaps the only manner in which one could slow down the Monster 796 faster would be to equip an anchor on board. The front wheel gets four-piston 320mm Brembo brakes, while the rear wheel gets a two-piston, 245 mm single disc setup. Equipped with optional ABS, the MSRP of my tester rang in at $11,995 before taxes and freight. The system can easily be disengaged but I opted to leave it on due to the single-digit temperatures and variable precipitation that week. The system did activate a couple times during spirited riding but never felt overly intrusive or jarring which let the 17-inch Pirelli Diablo Rossos to their job.

Everything about this medium-sized Monster seamlessly combines form and function. The single-sided swingarm is not only a fetching design, but it is also lighter than the traditional double setup found on the 696, for instance. The sculpted plastic covering the 15L fuel tank (13.5 for ABS version) is aerodynamic and comfortable for my six foot frame to straddle but also exhibits subtle styling elements that evoke a unique view from every angle.

Several tweaks have been made for 2011, mostly in the ergonomics department. The lightweight aluminum handlebar is almost an inch higher, while the seat is 9.9mm lower. Four-way-adjustable hand levers were added which were welcome additions and the seat was re-shaped for increased rider comfort.

Amateurs who don’t have much experience with riding who are looking to make their first big purchase are often worried about how soon they will out-grow the bike they may be financing for several years. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as an inaugural purchase, the 796 wouldn’t scare off beginners and I can’t imagine any of the experienced riders I know growing tired of such a bike anytime soon. For those finicky riders who can’t seem to find a balance of style, size and substance, the Monster 796 might be just right.

Intoxicating sound
Combination of form and function

Cranky at low rpm
Digital speedometer could be easier to read

2011 Atlantic Motorcycle And ATV show slideshow

The 2011 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show looked like a successful one to my eyes.  It was a little quiet on Friday but then most people are still at work after all.  On Saturday the Moncton Coliseum was a busy place with tons of men, women, and children of all ages checking out all the latest motorcycles and getting some deals on motorcycle gear.

There was excellent manufacturer representation and a few surprises too.  Royal Enfield Canada had a display and several bikes. MV Agusta Canada was there too.  We had a chat with the guys at the MV booth.  If you want an MV Agusta you'd better act fast.  They're only bringing in around a hundred to Canada this year. You can buy one by going to their website and reserving one.  A big deposit should help smooth things along as well. Their eventual plan is to work on establishing a dealer network but for now the bikes are being distributed by Motovan.

As usual Clinton Smout was there offering kids free 30 minute lessons. He runs Canadian Motorcycle Training Services (CMTS in Ontario and has introduced tens of thousands of people to motorcycling.   A super nice guy who always seems to have a smile on his face I might add.  Good on Yamaha for supporting him.  This summer he's going to be adding some on-road training at Horseshoe Valley Resort. They can even deliver the licensing exam at the end of the training.  Nice!

Another interesting person at the show was Rene Cormier - author of "The University of Gravel Roads" was there.  He's an infectiously avid adventurer with a 5 year around the world (154,000 km'!) trip under his belt; he now offers motorcycle tours in Africa. We'll be reading his book and offering some insight on it soon.  But having thumbed through it already... I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it. Check out his site and his book - HERE.  After a short chat with him I'm ready to start saving my pennies for a trip to Africa.

Some other standouts in terms of motorcycles would be the Honda CBR 250R. I predict it'll be a big seller.  Fit and finish is excellent and it looks more expensive than it is.  250cc is big enough that it's capable of handling any Canadian road or highway with ease.  Having it built in Thailand and offering it as a global bike has allowed Honda to get the pricing right too. It undercuts the MSRP of the Kawasaki 250R by $500. The Kawasaki 250R is $4,999 while the CBR 250R is $4,499 without ABS or you get it with ABS for $4,999.  Yup, ABS - for $500.  Smart move by Honda to offer that on this class of motorcycle. If you're in the market for a 250 you could also look at the Suzuki TU250 - a classically styled single which is said to have a MSRP of  $5,299. Might want to re-think that price point Suzuki. I don't see them flying out the door at that price.

The guys from Atlantic Motoplex had a big presence at the show with five brands under their banner they were busy.  Of particular interest to me were some of the Triumphs - the new 800cc adventure model to be exact. They weren't sure it was going to arrive in time for the show.  Well, it did; albeit without any brochures but it looks a lot like a BMW F800 GS. Except a little cheaper we're told and with more power than the beemer.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Ducati had a Diavel Carbon there which is their new muscle cruiser for lack of a better category of description. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that when I sat on it, it feels pretty good.  The airbox is massive and creates a really imposing front end.  There's some really cool touches such as retractable passenger pegs that when not in use tuck away out of sight. Given the power this bike has and the weight advantage it's got over other cruisers its size this should be an exciting bike.

And now - on to the pictures.  We'll be adding more soon so do check back!

Atlantic Motorsport Park - 2010 Parts Canada Superbike!

Atlantic Roadracing League was host to the Rounds 6 and 7 of the 2010 Parts Canada Superbike races this August 5-8, 2010.  We were there last year and certainly didn't want to miss the action again this year.  It seemed that the crowds were a little thinner than last year but that just made for a better spot on the concrete  wall for me!

The weather was beautiful and sunny - warm - but not quite as warm as last year. That's a good thing - it was sweltering last year. This year I got to test out my new camera.  Now the photo's should come with GPS coordinates built in to the photo EXIF data.  Pretty cool.

Not nearly as cool as the racing though.  If you haven't been out to a race - you really should go check it out.  You will truly be amazed at the speed.  They hit 190 KM/HR + at points on the track.  It's a pretty impressive thing to see!

This was the first time I got to see the BMW S1000RR in action and it didn't disappoint; BMW took two of the top three spots on the podium. Amazing bikes!

We took plenty of shots of the motorcycles in the pits, and on the main stretch, not to mention some of the spectator's rides.  Plenty of bikes to be seen.

Some people we'd like to draw special attention to at the race - Colin at  He fabricates some really trick bike parts and tools right here in Nova Scotia.  His presence could be seen all over the place at the races.  Even on some racer bikes - like Todd Scott's. If you're looking for somebody to do some fabrication for you, or do crash repairs.  Look no further.  Colin knows his stuff!

I also took a few short video's that you can check out here:

Nice corner transition in this one -

Other stuff:

If you like these photo's and would like to publish or purchase higher resolution copies - let me know.  If you want to check out the camera used to take these photo's - take a look at this link:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black)

2010 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV Show - A pictorial

This year marked the third year for the Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show in Moncton. Produced by Master Promotion, owned by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC) and Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV) - the event appeared to be the popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to be in Moncton the weekend of Feb 12-14, 2010.

I haven't heard about the numbers that came through but there were roughly 15,000 last year. I don't know that it was quite as busy as last year but if you're a fan of motorcycles you wouldn't have minded - it just meant it was a little easier to get through the crowds and there'd be a better chance you'd get to sit on a few more bikes.

Most of the big manufacturers were there showing off their newest 2010 models.  There were a few standout bikes for me; notably the new Honda VFR1200, the BMW S1000RR, a Ducati 1198R, and Patrick Trahan's Dakar prepped Honda.

We took a few photo's and thought we'd share.  More content about the show is coming soon.

Canadian Bike Review - Monster S4R S

My opportunity to ride and review the Monster S4RS comes by way of a good friend of mine... Obviously he's a good friend because he let me take his very shiny and nearly new Monster for a few days to put a few kilometers on it.

You see I was visiting Nova Scotia from Winnipeg, Manitoba to get married. I'm also moving to Halifax in a couple of weeks time (anybody looking for a IT guy who loves motorcycles?). This friend was the best man at my wedding. Best man indeed!

I took the bike from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Shelburne and a did a return trip as well. It's about 210 km's from Halifax to Shelburne if you go straight through. I had 3 glorious days with the S4RS and managed near a thousand kilometers of seat time. I would have liked more but, well - you know, there was a wedding I had to get ready for. My two hour ride from Halifax to Shelburne that I managed to turn into a 4 hour ride was somewhat of an indulgance. I took the direct route back to Halifax. Let me say this, I enjoyed every single minute of riding this bike! Even the several km's of ripped up road surface (it was being prepared for paving) that I rode on to get a picture of the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia sign and the Ducati!

As I was stopped and taking this picture a friendly local woman stopped to take a picture of me with the bike. Just a small sample of the friendliness of some folks in Atlantic Canada. Thanks! Maybe it wasn't that the locals are friendly... maybe they wanted a closer look at the Monster? Hmmmm....

Some Thoughts

Is it practical? Nope - not really. Gas mileage? Terrible - you're going to be very familiar with where all the gas stations are. Inexpensive? No - definitely not. Will you care? I can emphatically say - You won't care at all about these things. I had a fantastic time on this bike. It oozes quality, performance, and sexiness.

The color scheme for my test bike was white pearl with a red stripe down the middle. There's a removable passenger seat cover too. The S4R S is an attention getter. I know the bike looks good but I was a little surprised at just how much people are drawn to it. Just about everywhere I stoped people came over to talk to me abut the bike. There aren't too many of them around in NS and perhaps that added to the interest in the bike.

The Monster S4R S is the upscale Monster. It's an uncompromising naked superbike; it's covered in carbon fiber bits and features top spec equipment in abundance. When you sit on and ride you'll know where the money went. It feels like its price which is in the neighborhood of $18,000. Pictures don't really do it justice. You can't fully appreciate it until you get up close and examine it. Count on making some new friends!

It includes standard Monster styling cues such as single sided swingarm, small upper fairing, vertically stacked twin exhausts, and longitudinal stripe (bigger and centrally positioned on the S4R S).

I stopped at several gas stations during my time with the Monster and most of the times people came up to me to to chat about the bike and where I was headed, what I was doing etc. Some were fellow motorcyclists and some were just admiring fans. I'd like to say that it's me that was attracting all the attention, but I know better!

L-Twin Lust

One of the countless things that make this bike special is the 130 hp, 998cc L-Twin engine. Now, 130 HP may not seem like a lot but this bike seems to be barely moving at 110 km/hr and it will pull strongly well above that. It's solid and planted as a tank at speed even in wind, except that it only weighs in at svelte Ducati listed weight of 390 lbs. The engine is very forgiving and delivers power so smoothly it's tough to drive it slowly, only because you'll feel like you're barely moving. In that regard it's much like the other Ducati's I've ridden lately - deceptively fast! You need to keep an eye on the speedometer to make sure you can keep your licence and get to ride another day.

The L-twin offers tons of power and produces gobs of torque (76.6 lb-ft to be exact) and forward momentum at anything over 3,000 RPM. The rumbling L-twin sounds fantastic, particularly with the twin termingioni's that were fitted to my tester. You can drive this bike in a reserved manner, but I challenge you to do it. A tiny twist of the wrist ensures you're exceeding posted limits rapidly with no feeling that the power will taper off any time soon.

The mirrors are decent and in a good position. Your body doesn't block your view. It's just tough to see things out of mirrors when you're not stationary because of the rumbling L-twin. You KNOW you're on a twin. You can feel the vibration in your seat, in the pegs, and in the bars. It gives you a distinct sense that you've got a lot of power on tap.

Twist the throttle hard and that sense of power is confirmed. You can lighten the front wheel pretty easily. The termi's begin to sound like booming cannons when you crack open the throttle. I imagine the cars you're passing can feel the percussion as you swiftly and effortlessly blast past them by. There will be no lazy passing on this machine!

Ducati Styling and Character

Of course, the S4R S has the famous dry clutch that some Ducatisti say is the only way to go. The adjustable clutch lever pull is smooth, light and the shifting is buttery smooth. Not quite as light as the 696 but that's the lightest clutch pull of any bike I've ridden. The clutch shifts almost effortlessly. There is absolutely no clunking when the gears engage. What you will hear is lots of clickety clack noises though; a characteristic of the dry clutch. Embrace it - you'll quickly learn to love it! I've read some reviews that say the clutch pull is tough. I don't know what those guys are talking about... They've obviously never spent any time on a Suzuki GS 500. The clutch pull is light! Either that or my left forearm is bulked up from the GS!

In the cockpit you'll see large white faced, side-by-side analog, tachometer and speedometer gauges that quickly provide the most important information. There's also digital instrumentation that adds quite a bit of information such as trip meter, odometer, time and many other features. I honestly didn't even spend too much time exploring what the digital gauges provided; I felt compelled to drive it as much as I could. A bit of research shows that it displays speedometer, rev counter, warning light for low oil pressure, indicators for high beam, fuel reserve, turn signals, LCD clock, immobilizer.

I found the seat is much more comfortable than the one on the new 696. It doesn't have the forward slope that tends to drive your sensitive bits into the tank. The large airbox and tank seems to indicate that you'll get a good distance down the road without having to stop to fill up - wrong! The tank is actually a plastic unit and only 14 L (of which 3 L reserve). The tank features nice cutouts for your knees that help you feel at one with the machine during spirited riding. They're a welcome feature because your knees/legs would be splayed out around the tank otherwise which would quickly become uncomfortable.

Suspension is by way of a huge pair of 43mm upside down Ohlins shocks in the front; the rear end is equipped with an Ohlins as well, both are fully adjustable of course. The front suspension has a titanium nitride coating on the stanchions making things nice and slippery so they can do their job more effectively.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention that being a naked bike you get to see all the beautiful and go-fast bits. That shiny red trellis frame, made of high strength ALS 450 steel tubing for example; very nice! And how about that triangular oil cooler and huge radiator.

The wheels are super lightweight Marchesini Y-shaped 5-spoke that ensure outstanding handling by reducing unsprung weight, while 320 mm Brembo twin discs on the front have radial-mounted calipers with four pistons and four pads per caliper. You can bring this bike down from speed in a real hurry. The brakes make a strangely pleasing audible whirring sound as you rapidly decelerate.

If you're looking for protection from the elements this isn't really the bike for you. It is a naked after all. The small front windscreen does do a decent job of deflecting some wind and I didn't feel uncomfortable or have much wind buffeting my head. I was riding in nice weather though. Lucky me!

The riding position was comfortable; course I did have to stop to gas up pretty regularly so I got to move around and stretch before any discomfort could set in. It is a long stretch to the bars. I have long arms and found it suited me well. The bars are wide and feature no steering damper. I didn't feel like it was essential but it might help smooth out the turns a little. I didn't experience any headshake like I did on the Hypermotard S though. Course it wasn't nearly as windy and the roads I was traveling on were a lot smoother than in Winnipeg.

Final Thoughts

I didn't like this bike. I LOVED it! The only fault I can say is that you can't get very far on a tank a fuel and perhaps that it's a tad on the pricey side. Having said that, the bike is built with very high quality parts and it shows. So it can be forgiven for being expensive. What it could use is a slightly larger tank. That's it really. Everything else on the bike is superb.

If the Monster S4R S suits the type of driving you do and you've got the bank roll to have a focused purpose bike then I'd say by all means take one for a test ride. If you want to do a lot of long range touring, this probably isn't the bike for you. The bike is comfortable so you could easily go for some shorter over night or weekend trips but you'd need to plan out your route to stay near gas stations.

For more information on the Ducati S4R S feel free to check out the Ducati North America website.

2009 Ducati 696 test ride for Canadians

When you think of things that are classically Italian chances are; pasta, wine, haute couture and fast cars are a few things that probably come to mind. Sounds pretty good right? - A country known for food, wine, fashion, and fast cars. While I’m not so keen on fashion but those other things sure make it sound like it’d be a good place to spend some time.

Turns out that the stereotype of Italians and their love of fast cars is true to some degree. In fact, one of Italy’s largest exports is motor vehicles. Ferrari is one unmistakably Italian brand but not all vehicles hailing from Italy are Ferrari’s though, or even cars for that matter. With some 20+ companies making motorcycles or scooters within its borders it’s clear that Italians love motorcycles too. Take a look at a few of the bikes that are produced in that region and it’s easy to see that they have a passion for making high quality machines, often hand crafted, and full of character.

I recently had a chance to test drive the newest model in the wildly successful ‘Monster’ series. Originally introduced in 1992 at the Cologne Motorshow and designed by Miguel Galuzzi the Monster has been hugely popular. Ducati claims the Monster brand was the original ‘naked’ bike.

How does one improve on a bike that’s already so popular? A few good ways would be to give it more power and make it lighter all while keeping the style that people love. This basic philosophy wasn’t lost on the folks at Ducati because that’s exactly what they did. The new 696 is a lot like the old 695 – just lighter and more powerful, while retaining the same emotional response from potential owners and its sexy looks.

The new 2009 model 696 is the “next generation naked and the final word in urban excitement” according to Ducati. I’m not sure about it being “the final word” - whatever that means… But there is no doubt it is a very stylish and sporty looking bike that’s sure to draw some looks.

The beauty is more than skin deep - it’s got a powerful air-cooled Desmo L-twin engine that pumps out 80 hp and 50.6 ft-lbs of torque at 7750 rpm. This new engine has the best horsepower per liter ratio of all Ducati’s air-cooled units. It ensures a smooth and powerful delivery for a relaxed or thrilling ride in all conditions. The increase in power was achieved by incorporating new cylinder heads. The pistons and combustion chamber of the new engine have also been revised to optimize the fluid dynamics of the new ports.

The Desmo engine not only sounds great but it actuates the valve closure mechanically, ensuring precise valve timing at all speeds. Typically four-stroke engines rely on simple springs to close the valve. As the engine speed increases the time taken to close the valve becomes more critical and if the valve doesn’t follow the exact profile of the camshaft you have a resulting loss of performance. A mechanical closure eliminates the spring from the system guaranteeing precise valve closure.

Time To Ride:

My ride was scheduled for 2 pm and the weather was a bit mixed. Earlier in the day it was overcast and in the early afternoon there were a few sprinkles of rain. On my way to the test ride a few drops fell and the sky looked like it might want to release a few more drops. Luckily, the rain held off though. There was still that matter of the wind! A consistent 50 km/hr wind with gusts of 70 plus km/hr kept things a little interesing. Dealing with the headwind or tailwind wasn't really an issue but in the wide open and unsheltered area surrounding Winnipeg the swirling cross-winds made for some serious side to side leaning of the bike to keep it on the road and upright.

The first thing I noticed when sitting on the bike was how low the seat was – the lowest seat height of any Ducati apparently at 30.3”. I’m 5’10” with a 32” inseam so I generally don’t have too much trouble with higher seats – low seats are fine as long as the seating position doesn’t have my legs cramped up awkwardly. An over 6 footer might find it a little tight. I personally found the position of my legs to be comfortable.

The seat itself sloped into the tank and I did have to adjust my seating position a few times on the ride, taking the opportunity at lights to stand up and get the blood flowing a little better to my lower body. For short rides the seat would be okay for me, but if I was going out for a few hours I’d definitely be looking for an aftermarket seat to try and keep from sliding up and towards the tank.

The low stance of the bike and the slightly tucked rider position helped keep the bike balanced in the strong crosswinds, a little more so than on the Hypermotard I was on earlier in the day. I had to lean the Hypermotard at steeper angles into the wind due to its height and the very upright seating position; the wind was stronger during my 696 ride too. This demonstrates the difference the low seat and center of gravity has between the two bikes. The 696 felt a little less susceptible to the cross winds.

The wide tank tapers to a comfortably narrow seat. You’re hunkered down into the bike more than sitting on it. It sounds cliche but the bike really does feel like it’s wrapped around you when you’re riding it; like it's an extension of your body. The reach to the bars has been shortened and the pegs moved slightly forward. I’ve got longish arms but the reach felt natural. You’re a more upright than on a sportbike; like say a CBR 600 RR. I felt a little more pressure on my wrists than on the Hypermotard; that’s to be expected with this type of bike. I'd say it's a happy medium between upright and sportbike.

Monster’s have often been touted as being a great bike for new riders. I don’t know that it would be on my list of best bikes for total beginners simply because of the performance potential of this bike. But, if you thought it was a good beginner bike before then I’d say it is even more so now with its reduced weight and lower seat height.

The power delivery is smooth and the clutch is about the lightest I’ve ever felt on a bike. It’s really almost effortless. One thing I did notice on the 696 I rode was that the friction point of the clutch was really a long way out. I had the clutch out almost a full 2/3 before the friction point. I didn’t stall mine but a few folks on the test ride seemed to have a little trouble pulling away from stop lights – likely due to the unusually high engagement point of the clutch and unfamiliarity with the bike.

Once underway, the desmo engine is deceiving – you can’t really tell how quickly you’re moving and accelerating. It’s less sensitive to throttle roll off than some other bikes I’ve ridden lately (BMW F650GS, and Ducati Hypermotard 1100), which should make it a little easier for beginners to feel comfortable with. If you crank your right wrist though you’re going to quickly get up to speeds where you can get yourself into some trouble; either the law enforcement kind or the ditch kind if you’re not riding within your abilities. I easily hit 165 km/hr during my run and the engine was still pulling.

I’d say if a beginner could ride this bike within their limits and responsibly then it may be a good beginner bike because of its smooth power delivery. You can have a relaxing rambling ride if you want or you can twist the throttle a little further to reveal more of the true potential of the Monster. This is a bike that you can really grow into - You won’t soon tire of its performance. I consider myself a pretty responsible rider but I don’t know that I would have had the willpower to resist seeing what the bike would do when I first started riding - maybe that’s just me though!

The 6-speed gearbox didn’t feel quite as smooth as it’s more expensive relative (the Hypermotard 1100S) that I rode the same weekend. Shifting requires a somewhat more purposeful amount of force than the HM1100S. I was a little too gentle with it at one point and got a false neutral. Shifts announce themselves with a little more of a clunk, particularly at slow speed. Nothing to be alarmed about; the bike I rode didn’t have a lot of kilometers on it and it would likely smooth out a little in time. It’s still a lot smoother shifting than my old Suzuki GS500 and I never had any mechanical troubles with that bike.

The clutch on the 696 is an Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) wet multiplate design. It’s a hydraulic control clutch, or 'slipper' clutch. It helps keep the clutch lever action light and easy, improves comfort while simultaneously reducing destabilizing rear wheel “lock-up” when you downshift a little too abruptly. It can be especially helpful in wet weather or other slippery conditions.

The instrument cluster is a small digital unit variety. This digital unit allows the display of a wealth of information such as speed, 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, and immobilizer. The overrev light is a clearly visible reminder to upshift. It’s about the easiest light to notice on cluster when you're riding. Another nice feature is that it is Ducati Data Analyzer-ready if you really want to keep track of the bike and rider performance.

You may also be glad to hear that the scheduled maintenance warning light won’t come on quite so frequently as the past with Ducati’s new, less frequent, maintenance schedule. Ducati claims there is 50% less maintenance costs on new Ducati’s than on older machines.

The distinctly Ducati tank includes ingenious removable outer skins on the sides which makes it easy to change the personality of the Monster 696 with a new color. The skins also have couple mesh covered air intakes too that give it an athletic appearance. The air scoops allow more air to enter the airbox and even slightly increase the steering angle because of their positioning. The steering lock is up from the 695 to 64 degrees.

The tank is a 15l unit (3.5l of which is reserve). You can match the tank with a quickly removable rear seat cowl if you choose to. When removed, the rear seat cover reveals a place for you to bring along a friend.

At this price point you'd think that Ducati must have had to put some budget pieces on somewhere. Ducati didn’t burden this bike with good looks and budget parts though; it’s got some substance to go along with its style. The headlamp unit features a new triple arc main beam, while the rear light uses modern LED technology. The front brakes are the new benchmark for the category with two 320 mm discs and four-piston radial calipers while the rear gets a 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper riding on Marchesini 17" wheels. All this performance and they still managed to trim a significant 7kg of mass from the 695. The weight savings means that the 696 weighs in at 355lbs (161kg) dry.

The frame is classic Ducati but new; it's a Hybrid Trellis frame with larger diameter tubes directly inspired by the 2007 World MotoGP title-winning Desmosedici GP7 machine. To this is attached a rear aluminium sub-frame.

For suspension you get a showa 43 mm upside-down fork in front with 120 mm / 4.7 in of travel. In the rear you’ll see a progressive linkage with preload and rebound Sachs adjustable monoshock. That’s good for 148 mm / 5.8 in of travel.

The new 696 also has a new exhaust system with re-routed down pipes that cleans up the look of the underside of the Monster. The pipes end with twin high mounted aluminum mufflers.

Affordable naked style bikes usually attract the aftermarket who come out with lots of great ways to customize and personalize the machines. The 696 follows along with this tradition of earlier Monsters with the availability of tons of accessories from Ducati.

You can buy all your accessories separately or you can get yourself a 696+ factory-personalised model and start from there. The 696+ model includes the aerodynamic single seat cover and micro bikini fairing. Here’s just a few of the available accessories:

- An assortment of Termignoni exhausts which not only look great but they give the Monster a bit more of a throaty growl. Optional seat cowl is also visible in this picture.

- Headlight fairing. It's small but the 696 I rode was equipped with one and I must say that it looks sharp.

- Rear seat cowl (partly visible below).

- Touring seat (Designed to improve ergonomic features to make riding position for rider and passenger even more comfortable, this seat is made in high-density foam and is covered with anti-slip valuable fabrics that resist climate conditions). The sides of the seat are textured and you get some visible stitching - red, in this picture.

- Front mudguard

Available Colors

It comes in red, pearl white, matte black while the frame can be red or black. The wheels are black.

The MSRP is $9,495 CDN and it comes with a 2-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Final Thoughts:

This bike is a well thought out progression of the Monster 695. With a more powerful engine, lighter weight, and lower seat this new 696 deserves a spot in the top of mind awareness of anybody looking for a midsized naked. It can be driven tamely or, if you listen to that little devil on your shoulder, it can be driven hard and it’ll gladly deliver a high level of exciting performance.

I had a lot of fun riding this bike and would ride one again in a heartbeat if given the chance. If you’re looking for a bike to get around town, a fun weekend rider, or something to up your ‘coolness’ a few notches this bike should be on your short list, particularly if you like the naked style. The desmo L-twin engine is fantastic - it sounds and feels like you’d think a motorcycle engine should.

A few issues I see with the bike.

- I’d want to have a different seat than the stock one - then I could really enjoy this bike on more than just a short jaunt.

- The exhaust placement makes for a potentially hot ride for passengers.

- Unadjustable levers might be a challenge for riders with small hands.

- There's a manual fast idle switch. Seemingly a little out of place on a bike costing near $10,000.

This last point while not much of an issue with me I thought I’d mention it – I felt a little more of the vibration from the L-twin engine making it’s way through the foot pegs on the 696 than I did on the HM1100S. Of course, the HM1100S also costs about $8,000 more before taxes than the 696. It might not even be something you notice if you didn’t drive the two different Ducati’s near back-to-back.

The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 S - Ridden and reviewed.

My amp goes to 11:

Supermotard styled bikes are basically a combination of motorcross and road racing bikes. You take a light weight off-road bike and put some street wheels on it and take it racing on a short twisty track where rider skill matters more than the outright speed of the bike. Voila! - That’s a supermotard.

Manufacturers have jumped on the popularity of this style of bike and in some cases have put mirrors and signals on the bikes to make them street legal. The Suzuki DRZ400SM is such an example - a much cheaper example than the Ducati (more on this later). Most off-road bikes don’t have the same big displacement of their streetbike counterparts; that is until recently. A few manufacturers like KTM, and BMW have come out with big displacement off-road bikes. So it was only a matter of time before somebody put some street wheels on them. Ducati - not one to be outdone came out with a new category bike, no longer a ‘super’ moto. They’ve upped the ante and called their creation a ‘hyper’ motard because with a 1078 cc L-twin engine super just wasn’t enough!

Introduced to the public at the Milan International Motorcycle Show in November 2005, the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 was only hours later named "best in show". You and I both know that the concept you may see at a show isn't necessarily what the production model looks like. A pre-production bike is often made without regard to realities such as cost, safety, reproducibility, etc. Sometimes those bikes appear in a much toned down and practical form in the dealership. Thankfully, when the Hypermotard 1100 arrived in Canadian showrooms in 2007 it lost none of the excitement displayed in Milan. It is a wickedly sexy bike that makes it ever so difficult to stay on the proper side of the law whenever you hop aboard. It has the power and personality to convert even the most responsible of drivers into a hooligan.

The Hypermotard's air cooled, fuel injected 1078 cc L-Twin cylinder engine features a desmodromic dual spark engine producing 90 hp @ 7750 rpm and 76 lb-ft of torque @ 4750 rpm. The engine is borrowed from the Multistrada, where it produces 5 more horsepower and the same torque numbers. The engine doesn't produce quite the same dramatic results in the Multistrada due to a significant weight disadvantage. The standard Multistrada weighs in at 432 lbs dry (Ducati also reports dry weights without the battery). The regular Hypermotard comes in at 395 lbs while the S version cuts that down even further to 390 lbs. That's near 37 lbs difference in the standard model and 42 lbs for the 'S' model. The Hypermotard loses a little horsepower to the Multistrada in part because the Hypermotard design forces the use of a very small airbox that trims top-end power.

Lookin’ Good!

The S model is the top of the range model and improves on the base model by adding a few lighter weight parts and other upgrades. Upgrades include the same Brembo Monobloc calipers that were introduced on the 1098. "Each caliper is created from a single casting, as compared to the conventional two piece construction, to ensure rigid flex-free operation and a consistent solid ‘feel’ at the lever" according to Ducati. The 50mm Marzocchi forks of the ‘S’ include a durable low friction, DLC (diamond-like carbon) black coating to the sliders that make them nice and slick for there is no binding or sticking in the suspension. The rear suspension is upgraded to a fully adjustable high spec ohlins unit. You’ll get a generous 6.5 inches of travel up front and 5.6 at the rear.

Black Marchesini wheels with a stylish red-pinstripe also add, or should I say 'detract' from the S version because they are even lighter than those included on the standard 1100. Reducing weight in the wheels is particularly effective because it reduces the unsprung weight of the bike so that the suspension can react quicker. I've read in other 'technical' reviews that removing a pound of unsprung weight is like removing two pounds off the chassis. So any reduction in unsprung weight produces dramatic results.

If the appeal of an art-like tubular steel trellis frame and the desmodromic symphony for the senses isn't enough to entice you; and I can't see how it wouldn't be! But, if that's still not enough to impress you; well you need to see this bike in person! Careful and up-close inspection reveals a multitude of details that went into the design of the bike. Details such as the aerodynamic tail wing with its integrated LED brake light that functions as a passenger grab handle too, the multiple intakes on the tiny front fairing that break up the shape a bit, to the magnesium-colored aluminum engine cases and strategically placed carbon fiber bits on the fork protectors, timing belt covers, front fender rear section and tail side covers. It's wonderful to look at.

Let’s go for a ride:

When I sat on the bike my first impression was that the bike felt surprisingly small considering the 1100 cc of displacement. Not small in stature, but in feel. I rode the BMW F650GS only days before and that felt every bit as large as at the 1100. The BMW has a seat height of 820 mm (32.3") whereas the 1100S is 845 mm / 33.27 in. Ducati’s efforts to create a lightweight bike really paid off.

The riding position and lack of bulk in the frontal area of this bike all contribute to its nimble, lightweight feel. The upright position has the added benefit of being good for riding in traffic because you can really see everything that's going on around you. Those folding mirrors make the bike wide so it may be tough to squeeze through tight spots. If you were in lane-splitting territory like California this might be a problem but that’s largely a non-issue in Canada. One benefit I found of this placement was that your body is not going to obstruct your vision at all when looking in the mirrors. I could see traffic very well from them. If you prefer a more traditional style you can purchase an optional inboard of the grips set of mirrors.

Once underway, everything feels likes it's right where it should be, the clutch provides appropriate feedback and the friction point is in the first third of the range. Speaking of the clutch, it's a racing-style dry clutch that requires a little more effort than the new 696 so if you're riding it at rush hour in stop and go traffic it might be noticeable. Because it’s a dry clutch it weighs a little less than an oil bathed unit and you’ll hear a characteristic bit of rattle from it. Ducati say that it’s “the popular preference of thousands of Ducatisti the world over.” I had several stops along the way during the test ride and the clutch didn't feel heavy to me despite the increase in effort required over the 696. Gear shifts are solid, smooth, and definite with no clunking noises when you engage the gear. Neutral is easy to hit at lights and the neutral indicator is clearly visible on the LCD display.

Note: The wires going into the LED signals (just in front of the clutch lever) that also serve as handguards look a little exposed to me. I'd try to wrap them up a bit tighter or tape them down so a stray finger or thumb wouldn't break them off.

When you start to crack the throttle a little you can hear, and feel, that desmo L-twin. It's got a distinctive sound and lots of low end grunt. The twin pipes are under the narrow and long seat. There’s plenty of room for roaming around. The power sounds a bit muted with the stock pipes but you can get some aftermarket pipes such as the slip on Termignoni's that will improve performance and lighten the bike a little; you'll get to hear a slightly more lively engine note too.

I'd want to look into aftermarket pipes if I bought one of these so that the sound matches the looks a little better. Another option might be the full race termignoni setup that sounds amazing and reportedly adds 6 hp. This system moves the pipes from under the seat to the right side of the bike. The full race system really uncorks a lot of volume and reportedly trims a whopping 7 kg (15.4 lbs) off the stock system.

The minimalist, GP styled, LCD display is tucked behind a tiny bikini fairing. You feel like you're almost sitting on the front wheel on this bike and you can really see 'all' of the road in front of you - without any obstructions. Combine that with a seat height of 845 mm (33.27 in) and you have a really good view of the road.

The digital LCD dsiplay features a digital speedometer and bar-graph LCD tachometer thats a bit tough to read at a glance. Luckily Ducati was thoughtful enough to include a red light shift indicator when you get a little too high up on the tach. That red light is a very noticeable indication that you need to upshift. A switch on the left handlebar can toggle through several different readouts, including a clock, oil temp, battery voltage, reserve fuel tripmeter and a lap-timer. In addition, the Hypermotard comes equipped to receive the Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA) data-acquisition system that is available as a Ducati Performance accessory.

Some may be worried about maintenance costs too. The Hypermotard comes with a standard 2 year, unlimited mileage warranty and is said to offer 50% less maintenance costs than older Ducati’s.

Room for improvement?

This is a supermoto styled bike that one could actually live with. The seating position is upright and easy on the wrists. While I like sportbikes I find them uncomfortable to ride on for more than a hour or so. I realize that makes me sound old but it's just the truth. Sportbikes are fun but their seating position places greater emphasis on aerodynamics than comfort. That is inarguable! The Ducati Hypermotard doesn't really place a lot of emphasis on aerodynamics. It is comfortable though. The Ducati offers a very high thrill factor while still being a bike you can ride comfortably in all variety of on-pavement riding. It attracts lots of attention too - just like sportbikes.

Some of the attention you'll attract is desirable and some of it might not be so desirable, particularly if you want to keep your licence. This bike looks fast sitting still so don't be surprised if you make some new law enforcement friends. In the city or on the twisties is where you'll be happiest on this bike but it's very capable on the highway too as long as you don't mind the wind blast. The lack of fairing and the high and upright position might make long distances at speed a bit tiring. That shouldn't be too much of a problem because with its 12.4 litre plastic gas tank mounted under the seat, you're going to need to stop regularly on any long distance trip. That's a pretty small tank that's going to limit any long distance riding where you're far from a gas station.

I was riding on a very windy day on a flat straight stretch of highway doing a little over the speed limit and I felt a little bit of a head shake. It wasn’t really dramatic or too unnerving but there was definitely some wobble. I talked to a couple other riders and I was the only person who seemed to experience it. I’ve heard headshake described as feeling like you're riding on a tightrope that’s being gently shaken from the other end. That’s a pretty good description of what I experienced. After relaxing my grip and slowing things down to the proper side of the speed limit I didn't feel it again. Fact is, it was just one short stretch that I felt it; but if you're going to be on the highway quite a bit, at and near the speed limit I'd look into getting a Ducati Performance steering damper put on or one of the many top-quality aftermarket ones. It's a very easy fix.

Another issue I have with the bike is its price. The 'S' version has a MSRP of $17,995. Admittedly, you can feel and clearly see the quality of the construction of this bike and I’m not saying this bike is overpriced for what you’re getting; I’m just saying that it is expensive. I'd be hard-pressed to shell out that kind of cash on any one bike. But if that price doesn't phase you I'd take a serious look at this intensely fun bike!

When I win a lottery it’s on my list of purchases to make immediately! This bike has a new spot on my favorite bikes short list. I'd better go get myself a loto ticket!

For more information on the Ducati Hypermotard visit the Ducati North America website here.

Some photo's courtesy Ducati.

A Couple of Hot Italian Twins!

As I looked out my window this Saturday afternoon looking at the snow I thought what better time to go to the motorbike shop to see if they had anything new in. Seems like a strange time to be thinking of motorcycles or going to the motorcycle shop you might say but I'm oh so glad I did because they had recently gotten in a couple of hot Italian twins! Both of them were shiny new 2008 models - red of course. A 1098s, yes an S! and a Hypermotard S as well!

The 1098 S had a sticker of $24,995 and for that you get fully adjustable 43mm Öhlins FG511 forks, which sport low friction Titanium Nitride fork sliders, fully adjustable Öhlins 46PRC rear shock "with a ride enhancing top-out spring." The wheels on the 1098 S are lighter Marchesini forged and machined wheels, reducing weight by 1.9Kg (4lbs) and a carbon fiber front fender. The 1098 S also has the Ducati Data Analyzer system as standard equipment which "enables the retrieval of data and analysis of data collected from your previous track session or road trip." The DDA package includes software for your personal computer on CD, a data retrieval USB key and instructions. According to Ducati's website the difference in weight between the 1098 and the 1098 S is 377 lbs vs 381 lbs. 

Note - These weights from Ducati's websi
te excludes battery, lubricants and, where applicable, cooling liquid.

That four pounds will cost you an extra $5,000. Note the gold colored suspension - a giveaway that this is the S model with the upgraded Öhlins suspension. It might seem like a lot for just four pounds and some other goodies but remember that the weight savings is in the wheels so it is rotating and unsprung weight. I'm no engineer but everything I've read and my basic understanding of it is that this is where you want to reduce weight to have the most impact. One pound of rotating upsprung weight is like removing two pounds from the chassis.

If you want something really, really exclusive you might want to take a look at the 1098 R. The 2008 1098 R has an MSRP of $44,995 CDN. The 1098 R has 180 hp and the 1098 S and 1098 has 160 hp. Some pretty impressive numbers!
Here's a quote from the Ducati website about the 1098 R:

"The new 1098 R is the most powerful and lightest twin-cylinder bike ever produced by the Borgo Panigale factory, with the highest torque/weight ratio in the sportbike category.It is the jewel in the crown of the successful Superbike family and it represents the ultimate expression of racing technology applied to a production bike. Ducati Corse engineers and riders worked in close contact with the R&D division during the development of this project to produce a true racing bike, a masterpiece of incredible performance and innovation.The numbers speak for themselves. A total of 180hp is on tap for this new hypersport machine, together with an amazing 99.1lb-ft of torque. The weight figure also confirms the racing origins of the 1098 R: 363lbs puts the bike at the forefront of this category"

The Hypermotard has a 1078 cc L-Twin cylinder, 2 valve per cylinder Desmodromic, air cooled engine that produces 90hp @ 7750 rpm. The S version weighs 390 lbs whereas the regular version weighs 395 lbs (excludes battery, lubricants and, where applicable, cooling liquid). If that doesn't sound overly impressive you need to see this bike up close! This bike has some very innovative styling that when it first was shown as a concept really got people excited. It was unveiled at the Milan International Motorcycle Show in November 2005 and hours later it won "best in show". When it arrived in showrooms it lost none of the excitement it showed in Milan. This is one impressive looking and performing bike!

One of the really trick features that you'll quickly notice are the fold away mirrors. The signal indicators are built in to the hand protectors and you can fold the mirrors out for the street or fold them in for the track. The S model has upgraded brakes (Brembo Monobloc calipers), upgraded suspension, forged light alloy wheels, and a fully adjustable Ohlins rear monoshock. There's some information in the Accessories section of Ducati's site for this bike that you can buy a racing exhaust that not only boosts performance but is a whopping 7 kg less than the stock. This might be "the" must have accessory!

It has aggressive Motard styling that combines the looks of a dirt bike with a street bike. It's super narrow and has a very upright seating position. Here's a link to the full scoop on Ducati Canada's website where you'll find more technical spec's and pictures. They've got some nice wallpapers in there.

I must admit that I love this bike! When it first came out in 2005 it was immediately on my desktop where I'd see it every day. It doesn't disappoint in person either these two years later. I've only seen one of them on the street driving around in Winnipeg but I'm told by the dealer here that they sold two in 2007. One stayed in Winnipeg. I don't think this S model 2008 will be around for long. I know if I win the lottery it would be the first new bike in my garage!

Ducati's New Entry Level Superbike!

Ducati introduced their new 848 at the Milan show in early November. It's a big step up in displacement from the 749. More good news - it's looks almost identical to the more pricey 1098. It also has a claimed 134 hp!

That's just a few horses shy of the 999 and 30+ more than the 749. It's got lower spec brake calipers than the 1098 to help bring down costs but they should still be more than sufficient.

The 848 has the same wheels as the 1098 but the back tire is a 180/50-ZR17 instead of a 190/70. Each panel and bodywork fitting is apparently identical to the larger 1098. Even the exhaust, although engineered specifically for the 848, looks identical to the 1098. The underside of the exhaust indicates an 848 and 848s hinting that a "special" version of the 848 will be produced as well, perhaps next year.

Initially the bike is supposed to come in red with a red frame or white with a gray frame (as pictured). This kind of performance won't come cheap but it'll be less than the near $20,000 Cdn. for the 1098.

I predict it'll be a hot seller!