Heavy updates make the entry-level Ducati Monster 696 a streetfighter with enough brawn to back up its bark.

It’s easy to get caught up in the big-horsepower and handling battles so common in the 1000cc sportbike class, but there should be more to your riding experience than utter terror. Ducati’s classy middleweight Monster 696 offers the opportunity to enjoy your ride without worrying about quarter-mile times or top-speed numbers. It’s not what this bike is concerned with.

There are loads of people who want into the Ducati familia, and the most logical way in starts with the little Monster instead of perhaps a 1098 or Hypermotard. But after owning a Monster many red riders decide they needn’t go any further up the product range because the bike already has just the right amount of charm and performance.

According to Ducati Product Director Claudio Domenicali, insane performance and lap times aren’t at all what this bike is about. He stated that, There are Ducatisti and then there are Monsteristi.

To some of us that’s just Italian gibber-jabber, but to those in the know it’s deep stuff – the Monster appeals to lots of people across the board – not just speed freaks and performance hounds who’d give a kidney for a ride on a Desmosedici. Fans of the Monster are lovers of the scene, being seen and the chic urban – crawler’s aura. And there’s plenty of that emanating from the new-and-improved bike.

The Monster 696 is aimed at the rider who wants to be unique while still enjoying some thrills along the way. The 696 won’t tear your arms out under acceleration, but it wasn’t meant to. In the past, the Monster has been a favorite for entry-level riders, thanks to a low seat height and friendly ergos, but don’t think that it can’t hang with many sportbikes on the right bit of road.

In fact, the punchy 80-horsepower V-twin gets a decent grunt on, though gearing seems a bit steep, and a wise purchase would be sprockets to bring the upper midrange’s chunk down lower in the rev range. The power is there for riders who know where to look, and while the reward of wringing its neck is easily achieved by advanced riders, it works just as well for the novice who doesn’t necessarily want or need a load of V-twin grunt to deal with and doesn’t yet have the ability to coax the spice from the motor.

Regardless of where your riding experience is there’s no arguing that the Brembo radial calipers are more than adequate to slow the little Monster. In fact, they’re the very same units found on the 848 sportbike, so they must be competent. When combined with a flawless slipper clutch there’s no excuse for running a little too hot into a corner or fishing the rear end around. If there’s one complaint, however, it’d be regarding the non-adjustable lever.

It’s nothing a cooler-looking, fully adjustable aftermarket click-style part couldn’t fix in a jiffy, though.

The collection of different journalists at the intro is an interesting testament to the Monster’s consummate ability to appeal across the board. Everyone from full-leathered roadracers to Italian celebrities were on hand to test the new machine, and regardless of their affiliation there were smiles all around when the helmets came off. For $8775 you’re not only buying a fun little machine that anyone from a hooligan to a short-legged newbie can enjoy, but also a chapter of Ducati lore and loads of pride.

Tech Spec:

Engine – The 696 engine sports an air-cooled, SOHC, 2-valve per cylinder motor with all-new cylinder heads, cams and pistons bringing the horsepower up to 80, with 11 percent more torque than the previous model.

Clutch – The APTC semi-slipper clutch helps novice riders with downshifts and aids in smoother riding overall.

Front Brakes – The Monster 696 runs a system similar to the 848’s with Brembo radial calipers and 320mm rotors.

Forks – Showa 43mm inverted forks replace the previous Marzocchi.

Swingarm – An all-new aluminum swingarm updates the rear of the bike with 999 style.

Instruments – Modern digital with speedo, tach, clock, lap timer, immobilizer and fuel gauge.

Lighting – A new triple-arc headlight offers better styling and a broader spread of the beam. Also new is an LED taillight.

Buyer’s Box

2008 Ducati Monster 696

MSRP: $8775

– 696cc, twin-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC

Ducati Monster 696
Ducati Monster 696
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