One thing you’ll notice about Ducati’s new entry level air-cooled Monster is that no one tells you the price up front… Everyone mentions the $70k+ price tag of the Desmo RR and the discount prices of leftover 999’s – but you practically have to grab a reviewer by the ear in order to get the $8775 msrp price for the 696… Which doesn’t sound too bad for a sexy italian bike, but wait…did you say “entry level” “air cooled?” A comparable albeit much less stylish SV650 goes for $5899 msrp… and it has much better reputation for reliability, and less of a reputation for spitting up oil onto your pants… So how can we justify this (almost) $3k price difference?
Power – 80 hp at 359 lbs (dry weight) – that’s a respectable amount of power for an experienced rider, and more than enough for an entry level. It’s also amazingly light! It’s practically Ninja 250 light, but with more than twice the power. The SV650, by comparison is a little under 400lbs (more in the range of typical 600’s) with 7 fewer horses.
Replaceable plastic parts – Every Monster that I’ve seen parked on the street (for a while) have the handle bar dents on the tank from being knocked over. These are hard to fix and a fortune to replace. Alas, the tank on the new Monster is plastic on the left and right, covering the air intake and gas tank, and is easily replaceable (although I don’t know how much these things will cost). Brilliant! If I were buying one of these, I’d probably get a spare set just in case!
Tighter Turn Ratio – realizing that many Monsters spend their lives weaving through traffic, the Ducati designers gave the bars a few extra degrees of turn… Brilliant!
Tubular Frame – and although I don’t know if I’d risk scratching the bright red paint on the aluminum frame, here’s one frame you can actually put a chain through! Perhaps in the future motorcycle engineers will realize that bikes need better ways of being locked up – it’s too easy to remove a wheel (front or rear) and carry bikes away wheel barrow style… But until then the most secure solution is to throw a chain around the frame – good luck doing that on a GSXR or Ninja… Here’s a bike you can really keep locked up… Although if you’re the alarm (or LoJack) customer – I don’t think you’ll find a secure place for one of those…
Style – last but not least, the 696 is probably the sexiest entry-level motorcycle ever designed. Monsters have taken over the streets of Europe, and the hearts and minds of Yuppies all over Greenwich Village. Most people get tired of their first bikes after a year or so (including SV’s) – but the 696 could quite possibly be a practical entry-level bike that you’ll want to keep around as a daily rider for a LONG time…
For those of us who are not willing to pay the Ducati premium (you can get more motorcycle for the buck elsewhere) – we will have to console ourselves with knowing that our Honda’s and Suzuki’s will probably never spit oil onto our pants (as air cooled Ducatis sometimes do), or become prone to broken speedo cables and shifters in the first few years… But I assure you – none of us non Ducati riders would turn our noses up at a riding one of these around for a few months…and we would miss it when they took it back.