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the 'baby' monster from ducati

Road test by Adrian Percival

Whether you are weaving in and out of traffic on your way to work or out on a weekend ride, the new 'baby' Monster will put a smile on your face every time. This is Ducati performance in a tight, manageable package at a great price and with added Italian designer styling. In short the Monster 620ie is an absolute 'must have' if you are in the market for a mid range v-twin. Up to now there has been only one bike that stands out as a perfect v-twin in this category, that is the SV650 from Suzuki. Now you have a choice of two Ducatis with the new Monster 620ie and the new 620ie Sport (read review).

This year sees significant changes to the Baby Monster, including a new Marelli fuel injection system, all directed toward making the roadster a tractable, torquey cafe-hopper with the sex appeal of its more exotic stablemates. This third generation Monster has been built around the frame of the 916cc-powered Monster S4 and given a suspension upgrade including a new upside down 43mm front fork, and rear suspension linkage from Ducati's Superbike. The Sachs' rear shock is adjustable for rebound and spring pre-load. Power delivery has been upgraded as well, with the 620 version now putting out 60bhp, and slightly more torque - 40 ft/lbs at 6,750 rpm. It also now revs to 9,500, some 1,500 rpm more than the old 600. This increased performance has been wrung out of the Monster through a combination of valve work, airbox expansion, exhaust retuning and lengthening of the stroke.

Ergonomically, the Monster 620i.e. has been attended to as well, with new handlebars and switchgear, new footpeg positioning, and a choice of two seat heights. Available in two versions, the standard 620i.e. version and the Dark version, the Monster takes to the road with beautiful Italian styling elements - among which you must include that trellis frame. The sculpted tank and sporty back-end are pure Ducati, while the posh new electronic cockpit and a double-disc gold Brembo brake package promote the Monster's "custom sport look."

The instruments have been completely changed with the speedo and rev counter now being analogue readouts. Both have inset liquid crystal digital displays with the ability to switch readouts for clock, temp and odometer, and the brightness of the instrument background lighting can be adjusted to suit your taste. The instruments also display the status of the anti-theft immobiliser - a key code system that allows you 15 seconds to start the bike before it shuts you down, once you've twisted the key.

The quick-turning, smooth-motored Monster offers lots of legroom for both tall and short riders, it has a comfortable seating position and is very predictable on the road. With a 24-degree rake, some might find it a little too quick turning compared with its Japanese rivals - but the wheelie kings will love it! Riders who favour feather-light, one-fingered braking may not get the stopping power they want here, but in praise of Ducati and Brembo the new set up of twin 320mm discs has obviously been calibrated with novice riders in mind - "stable and progressive in all conditions," says Ducati and that is very much how the Monster's brakes work, an easy system with a lot of feel.

What is amazing to me is the diversity of the Monster. I have seen some highly modified, customised and personalised Ducati's from the all chrome to the billet aluminium and carbon fibre. Do you like a bike that is clean yet pleasing to the eye or are you the type of biker that after you remove the "SOLD" tag from your bike you start adding, subtracting, repainting and customising your bike. The Monster gives you flexibility to play not only while riding, but while staring at it during those long winter days when all you can see is the salt truck through the grey winter skys. Ducati has a large selection of off-the-shelf customisation and modification parts for the Monster range if want to buy the cool bits for your bike directly from the manufacturer, otherwise there are a whole host of companies out there that make parts to make your bike look different from the crowd.

A quote appears on Ducati literature from the designer of the Monster, Miguel Galluzzi: "What does a motorcyclist need to have fun? Handlebars, an engine, two wheels, and a tank to fill with petrol. The road does the rest..."

Those words go a long way to put the Monster into perspective. This is not a motorcycle that demands a lot from the rider, nor can the rider demand a lot from it. This is bike that can and will perform to very respectable levels and look good doing it. It's a fun bike that many riders will undoubtedly find their limits on, both in terms of handling and engine performance. In short, this is an excellent choice for the early motorcyclist or for the urban prowlers among us!



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