Whether you’re more interested in sports cars or perhaps cruisers, we have all at least heard of the Ducati Monster. Ducati’s history as a company stretches back to 1923 to its days producing radio components, and then Ducati entered the motorcycle industry in 1950, having survived the Second World War. By the 60s the Italian manufacturer began breaking records with its Mach 1 250cc motorcycle, and independently produced large displacement V-twin engined by the 70s. Between the 50s and 2000s, Ducati changed ownership a number of times ranging from another Italian company to a Texas-based company and ultimately a German one; but despite these changes, in this time during the 90s, the Monster was unleashed. An instant classic, this Italian bike is a staple of its class. What was it that made the Ducati Monster so unique and so popular? How has it changed and remained relevant for so long?
10 How The ‘Monster’ Name Came To Be
In 1989, Miguel Galluzzi, a motorcycle designer born in Argentina, began working for the parent company of Ducati at that time, which was an Italian company called Cagiva. As previously mentioned, the Ducati was assembled from what was on-hand, which had been his idea. When asked to give the project a name, he suggested “Monster”; the name came to mind because his sons liked small rubber toys that they called “monsters.” There was some debate about whether that name would be appropriate, but clearly, it stuck.
One of the most iconic aspects of Ducati as a company has been its distinctive L-twin, or 90-degree V-twin style engine. Originally conceived in 1970, Ducati aligned the front cylinder almost parallel with the ground, and given its 90-degree angle, the L-twin term was coined. The original was produced with an air-cooled, carburetted 903cc V-twin engine with two valves per cylinder and produced 38 pound-feet of torque. Today, the 2023 Ducati Monster’s 937cc liquid-cooled engine produces 69 pound-feet, indicating some serious fine-tuning has occurred.
8 The Monster Believes In ‘No Replacement For Displacement’
Since its inception in 1993, the Ducati Monster has been produced in a range of displacements. The first three models were the M600, M750, and the M900, with displacements suiting the class indicated by their respective model numbers. The M400 was produced for Italy as well as a number of Southeast Asian countries, including Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. By 2005, 800cc and 1000cc models were offered, and a 1100cc model was produced in 2008. Today, the 2023 Monster sports a 937cc engine.
Back in the 90s, Ducati was struggling. The Italian manufacturer needed a big win and for that, they needed something fresh. Strangely, that freshness came from a frankenbuild that combined the forks of 750 Supersport, the engine of a 900 Supersport, and importantly, the trellis frame of the Ducati 851. A trellis frame is one that connects the steering head to the swingarm pivot using triangularly arranged steel tubular segments, which provide rigidity and durability. The important thing about them is they’re cheap and easy to produce. This meant great margins for Ducati, who could now assemble its brand-saving bike using easy and available components. The latest Monster actually uses an aluminum alloy frame, but for years the Monster had been almost defined by that naked trellis.
Since 1993, the original Monster sported adjustable inverted 41mm Showa forks, as well as a Boge progressive style rear monoshock. Even today, the Monster has a similar setup, although now both front and rear shocks are from Öhlins. If you aren’t familiar with the technical side of things, you may be wondering what the point of having inverted forks is. Forks are forks, right? Well, during harsh turning and braking, stress is transferred to the forks where they connect to the steering head, right at the triple tree clamp. Because these forks are telescopic, that means one segment has a smaller diameter than the other. The narrower end is usually held by the clamp, but inverted forks clamp the larger diameter end, resulting in a more robust setup and therefore more desirable for racing.
In simple terms, most clutches today are wet, meaning it is composed of a number of friction plates pressed together by a spring, and the whole system is in an oil bath. When engaged, the clutch transfers power to the rear wheel via whatever drive the vehicle operates by, such as a chain, belt, or shaft for example. And of course, the clutch lever disengages this system. The original Ducati Monster, however, was designed with a dry clutch. The engagement is basically the same, but the lack of the aforementioned oil bath in a dry clutch makes the system much more responsive. They’re friction plates, after all, and oil is a lubricant. The oil reduces noise, heat from the friction, and prolongs the life of a clutch, which makes a wet clutch more ideal for daily riding, but a dry clutch can be great for racing when the bike itself is only meant to perform well through the single race. Today, however, the latest Monster uses a wet clutch.
Motorcycle aesthetics and designs were somewhat narrow for quite a while. A lot of bikes had a sort of café style, whether you were looking at something like a Triumph or a Honda. Harley had its own thing going, of course, but it wasn’t until the Suzuki Katana in the early 80s that sport bikes really took on their plastic design. From that moment, the fad had taken hold of the industry. The Monster was really the first naked sport bike. Not a UJM or run-of-the-mill café, and not another faired-in wonder, but a unique yet basic design that was approachable and timeless.
The original 1993 Monster was relatively standard electronically. However, the latest model now includes a number of cutting-edge systems to enhance your ride. Ride-by-wire throttles, pioneered by Yamaha in their R series, offer modern bikes an advantage by controlling wheel rise, limiting slippage in adverse conditions, and modulating power in different environments like urban or on the open road. The latest model also includes the Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) which allows smoother clutchless shifting. Additionally, the TFT display replaces the gauges of old, now offering a significantly more modernized feel as well as function, from navigation to call management.
Unmistakeably, the big screen can have an incredible impact on its audience. For that reason, plenty of advertisers actually opt for placing products in popular media rather than making a traditional advertisement in a commercial break on TV. Characters can be incredibly influential, and that leads to people trying to buy into the perceived lifestyle by acquiring things that make them feel connected to it. Therefore, credit for the Ducati Monster’s popularity can be given to blockbuster films such as The Matrix Reloaded and The Crow: City of Angels, as well as more contemporary examples such as the Amazon Prime series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, as well as The Arrow; not to mention the innumerable international series and movies.
Trellis or not, the Ducati Monster has been the most popular model offered to date, bar none. This venerable model has had over 350,000 units produced since it was conceived in 1993. In 2005, the global sales of the Monster accounted for 50 percent of the company’s sales. An impressive enough figure for a single year, yet from 1993 to 2000, the Monster represented 42 percent of sales. Other models have of course surpassed the Monster for a given year; for example the Multistrada was the top Ducati of 2021; but none have yet to totally dethrone the Monster.