Ducati-nomics: the Monster 696

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.


7 responses to “Ducati-nomics: the Monster 696

  1. starkravingmadeleine

    I’m a die-hard Ducati lover: 900 SS with the half fairing and Termignoni pipes is my baby.

    To me, a motorcycle is a work of art and Ducati just makes beautiful powerful bikes. I’m not a huge fan of Monsters because I prefer to lean right down over my bike and I love the way the Supersport has it’s weight low on the bike which makes it very stable for me (a woman). That was the worst thing about the SV650 the weight of the bike was so high that I felt like I would tip over at any moment.

    The new Monsters are soooo easy to ride though and I just love the clatter of the Ducati clutch. I love my bikes loud, mean, and free of frills.

    And to be totally honest, it’s fun to tell people when they see you with a helmet that you ride a Ducati (especially when people see me and expect me to be on a scooter or something)

  2. Awesome blog! I just got my permit a couple weeks ago and I’m schedule for the MSP course at the end of the month so I’ve been doing a lot of research on bikes and good entry level ones. Although I doubt I would start off on a Ducati I think this would make an awesome 2nd bike to ride once I get all my mechanics down on a lesser powered bike.

    Once again love the blog, if you have any advice for new riders I’d love to read about it.

  3. I was totally in love with this bike after sitting on one a couple weeks ago. For a short guy like me it fits like a glove. The part spec and finish are fantastic (gotta love those Marchesini wheels!). I thought that what you get, plus the “improved” power output from the 695 helped the MSRP look more forgivable and soon enough I was doing the math in my head as to how I could afford one, starting with selling the bike I already own.

    Then, reality hit when I came across a test from the latest issue of Cycleworld where they compare it against a KTM Duke 690. First off, the claimed “80 hp” is very much just that: a claim, and not a very good one, at that. Per the Cycleworld dyno test, the 696 put out 65.5 hp (!) and only 47 lbs/ft. in torque. That’s a far cry from the Ducati press release figures. The quarter mile time was over 12 seconds and the wet weight was closer to 400 lbs. The worst part of it all was the bit in the article where the rider on the 696 got passed by a Volvo turbo sedan and couldn’t catch up. Oy.

    Yes, I know, speed and power is far from everything that matters when it comes to motorcycles, but when you measure the dollars against what you actually get in performance from this “entry level” Ducati, it doesn’t add up. Sure, I’m as much of fan of sexy things as the next guy, but the price/value quotient on the 696 is really off.

    Oh, about the bike I already own, it’s a 2006 Honda 599, which ironically is designed and made in Italy. 86.69 hp at the rear wheel, low seat like the Monster 696, and I bought it OTD for $6,000 as a leftover ($7,499 MSRP). Granted, it’s no Ducati when it comes to image and street cred, but at least it delivers what it promises where it counts. I can’t justify paying a 2-3 thousand dollar premium for a bike that just “looks” fast. When you add the additional cost of insurance for owning an “exotic Italian bike”, it looks even worse. It’s the wonder bra of motorcycles: looks really good on the surface, but what’s really underneath is an over-promised let down.

    Don’t get me wrong. This is a bike I was prepared to love and save money towards purchasing, but that Cycleworld test (granted, they could have had a badly calibrated dyno…maybe…) was a reality check I’m glad to have suffered.

  4. I read that Cycle World article. Yeah, they didn’t claim the 696 was a super bike, but they didn’t panned either, on the contrary. Their’ dyno wasn’t very complimentary on the 696 or the Duke compared to their’ factory claims?
    The bigger torque (5lbs) on the Duke hooked both of those cycle World guys for some reason.
    No comment on that volvo story, can’t imagine it happening though.
    I’m glad I didn’t base my purchase on the “tone” of their’ article. Otherwise I wouldn’t be a very happy 696 owner right now.

    Here’s the facts that C.W came up with that favored the monster 696.
    The 696 had a better 1/4 mile than the Duke, the 696 killed the Duke’s top speed and just missed the 0-60 mph of the Duke by .03 seconds.
    Fuel mileage of the 696 was better by 3 mpg.

    The C.W guys also agreed that the 696 was more comfortable, the clutch is better and the engine and the ride were smoother. The ducati is $700 msrp less than the Duke and my 600 mile only cost me $180. That’s the cheapest 600 mile check I’ve had on any motorcycle in ten years!!
    Really easy for a certified tech to work on, though you do have to dig to China to get to the battery.

    You gave up on this great little bike too easy and missed out.
    It’s true, in stock form, the 696 just doesn’t have that low end power to make it as satisfying as I expected before I rode one. I believe that is a clever way not to scare off newbies and deal with European emmission standards.
    But the fix is cheap and easy.
    I had my ducati dealer put a 14T sprocket on mine ($140 dollars installed)
    and that torque problem went bye-bye in a laughable way. If C.W dyno’d the 696 1/4 mile at 12.26 stock, I’d guess it will do under 12 seconds after the 14t sprocket install.
    Might have hurt the top end a tad, but there was plenty of room up there to trade for torque to suit a naked bike. It’s still a little “lumpy” before 2,200 rpms.
    But, at 4,500 rpm, these bikes come alive, at 6,000 rpm you better know where your’ going because things start happening real fast!

    It kills the corners at some scary speeds and does it as good or better than any bike out there in any class. It recovers very well if you catch yourself screwing the pooch.
    The Brembo brakes are crazy good on a 380 lb bike. Totally competent bike and it does it with a prestige name, fair price and great looks with some attitude. It’s a fun bike to own.
    People love or hate it.

    The one legitimate bad thing about the 696 is that the seat slides you into that “faux” gas tank and punishes the family jewels. Even with the touring seat, though better, it’s still uncomfortable after a lot of stops and starts. Also the riding position of the 696 is a lot more sporty than people say it is.

  5. the monster seems like a technical rider’s bike. power is generally in the mid range and the handling is very sensitive to slight input, yet stubborn towards large input. it is almost too good in corners. this bike will let you know how skilled you really are. in street conditions it can come off a little flat, as it has neither the massive torque for power wheelies nor the surprising top end that makes for satisfying 1/4 mile runs. last but mostly, at about 175lb and six ft, my nads took a serious crushing that did not leave me eager to get back on.

  6. I love this bike…don’t have one yet though. And, I’m female so I’m sure crushing up to the tank will be a bonus 😉

  7. Just prior to purchasing the 696, I too read the Cycleworld article. I don’t question whether a Volvo beat the 696 in a situation where both vehicles were already traveling at speed…however, changing the counter to a 14 tooth certainly helps with chasing the upper end speeds.

    The most amazing thing about the 696, IMHO, is the frame of the bike. It is no wonder Cycleworld compared it to a SM thumper. The 696 can be thrown into corners and feels very much like a supermoto yet is very stable at speed.

    If you are concerned about the straight line speed of the bike, you could always opt for the M1100, which was recently released.

    That said, I don’t think I will be reaching the limits of my 696 for some time.

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