Motoring: Ducati's heavenly Monster: The legendary Italian manufacturer has put its dark days behind it with a classic sportster, says Roland Brown

FAST motorbikes are a national passion in Italy, and few more positive stories have emerged from that country in recent years than the revival of Ducati. A decade ago, Italy's biggest motorcycle manufacturer was on the verge of closure, suffering from poor sales, outdated bikes and a chronic lack of investment.

In 1983, the struggling state-owned firm was taken over by Cagiva, a young company owned by two bike- crazy brothers who invested heavily to develop new models and improve quality, while retaining Ducati's traditional appeal. Now the range is stronger than ever. Ducati racers based closely on road machines have won three consecutive world championships, and the old factory near Bologna can barely make enough bikes to meet the worldwide demand.

Most of them are machines in the classic Ducati mould: blood-red sportsters with aerodynamic fairings, racy riding positions and powerful V-twin engines. But the firm's latest model is different. The M900 is an all-rounder with high handlebars and unfaired, aggressive looks that have earned it the official name Monster.

The 900 was the personal project of Miguel Angel Galluzzi, an Argentinian-born stylist employed by Cagiva, who sketched a naked machine in his spare time and persuaded the factory bosses to put it into production. Galluzzi was inspired by classic Harley-Davidsons of the recent past, and the connection is clear in the Monster's simple layout and barrel-chested styling, which incorporates a handful of parts in lightweight carbon fibre.

This bike is essentially a combination of two Ducati V-twin sportsters, the popular 900SS and the more sophisticated 888. The SS donates its engine, a relatively simple aircooled 904cc unit with just a single camshaft and two valves to each cylinder. Only the exhaust pipes and carburettor workings are changed.

Simply sitting astride the Monster reveals that it is like no other Ducati. The handlebars are wide and slightly raised. The low seat and blunt, sparsely equipped nose section - instrumentation is limited to a speedometer and handful of warning lights - emphasise that, far from being monstrously large, the M900 is tiny by superbike standards.

At just over 400lb (180kg), it is also refreshingly light, which makes for thrilling acceleration. The engine's peak output of 73bhp is modest but is backed by abundant midrange performance that is ideally suited to the laid-back Monster. Winding open the throttle in top gear sends the Ducati surging forward with a relaxed feel and an evocative V-twin exhaust note.

Handling is excellent, the rigid frame and well-controlled suspension combining to give light steering with great poise in corners. In town, the wide bars and lack of weight make for easy manoeuvring through traffic. The large twin front disc brakes are superbly powerful, and the wide radial tyres provide plenty of grip.

Even approaching its 130mph maximum speed, when wind pressure makes some unfaired bikes prone to weave, the M900 remains reassuringly stable. But at least this is one unfaired bike that is not built down to a price.

Rather the reverse, in fact, for at pounds 7,750, Ducati's naked newcomer is expensive, costing pounds 100 more than the half-faired 900SS model. The high price is partly a reaction to the huge demand that has resulted in Ducati repeatedly increasing its production to the point where a quarter of the factory's 1993 output of 20,000 bikes will be M900s.

The Monster's success has meant that plans to make mudguards and several additional parts from carbon fibre have been abandoned, because the lightweight fibre's construction process is too labour intensive for the numbers required. Not that Ducati's management is complaining. The problem shows just how far the firm has come since the dark days of 10 years ago.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future