The Ducati Monster 696 is a perfect example of how you can continuously improve a motorcycle model without just increasing engine size. Iâ€™ve tried a few monsters before, and although the monster has always had a high fun factor, the 696 is something special.
I donâ€™t know a first thing about what kind of rating the 696 has been getting in the printed motorcycle press. It doesnâ€™t matter because a day in the saddle on this little beast was one of the best times Iâ€™ve had on a motorcycle in a long time.
The bike has a comfortable riding position not too upright to be all grandpa, and not too forward leaning to get you sore wrists. So both city riding and back country riding is a no brainer on the Ducati Monster 696. Of course subsonic speeds on the freeway is not itâ€™s natural habitat, but thereâ€™s still plenty of power to start a speeding ticket collection.
First thing youâ€™ll notice is how the 696 operates and handles like a charm covered in sugar. Everything just match each other. Front brakes and clutch is an easy two finger operation and the rear brake has the feel you need to brake without fear of locking up the rear wheel. Light weight and the 160 rear tyre makes the bike very willing to flick from turn to turn.
There is one kink in the glory however. The Ducati is very compact, which I guess if you are more than 180cm can make you feel a little crammed. Iâ€™m 175cm and after getting used to the feeling of being â€œclickedâ€ on to the bike I actually think itâ€™s one of the bikes forces. I couldnâ€™t help thinking of the hovering scooter things from the forest chase scene in Star Wars Return of the Jedi.
Another thing you have to appreciate is the grumpy snarl it gives when you twist itâ€™s ear a bit and push it through the revs. Even with standard factory cans the sound is exactly as it should be. Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™d even change them if it was mine. Speaking of sound. That annoying whining rattling clutch sound Ducati used to be known for is all gone. Some Ducatisti loved it, I know. But Iâ€™m glad they changed the clutch system and got rid of that sound.
You could go on and praise the 696 Monster. But what remains is that this is a motorcycle who will suit beginners and experienced riders equally fine. Beginners will appreciate the easy handling and hassle free control. The more experienced will appreciate the amount of abuse this bike can take on the twisting back country roads. Do a track day on the Monster 696 and watch your mates surprise when they struggle in the hairpins on their 1000+ccm bikes while you gracefully overtake them.
A Ducati Monster 696 is a perfect example of the truth in the saying that you have to control the motorcycle, not the other way around. That is exactly what this motorcycle is all about.
Thanks to Columbus International for providing the test bike for this review.