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Monster 796 test ride; June 26th 2010 0

Posted on July 03, 2010 by acruhl

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I had a very good day on Saturday test riding the new Monster 796 at Renaissance Motorcycles.

I have not read any other reviews, and this was my intention so I don’t have someone else’s opinion to think about as I’m riding the bike.

If you’re the type that likes to go right to the end of an article and read the summary, I’ll save you the hassle: This is a really good motorcycle. Great, even. Much better than I thought it was going to be. It’s really a step above the previous air cooled Monsters. If you have an older air cooled 800cc or even 900cc Monster and you’re thinking of trading it in, do it. You won’t regret it.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I can get into explaining why I came to this conclusion.

Walking around this bike definitely reveals that it is something new compared to the previous S2R. It looks very different. It’s very new looking, yet it’s still unmistakably a Monster. If you had the old one and you bought this one, you wouldn’t feel like you just have a newer version of your same old bike.

David brought me the key so I started it up, and it seemed to start even before I pressed the starter button to the stop. I let it warm up a few minutes so I could listen to it. The exhaust is actually pretty loud for a stock bike. It sounds good. I’m guessing the accessory exhaust is going to be really loud. My neighborhood is pretty quiet, and I think I wouldn’t want a bike too much louder than this if I was commuting to work.

So I get on the bike and do my normal routine when riding a new bike: Bounce up and down on it, pull the brakes, and pull the clutch and holy cow who took out the clutch springs? This one has the APTC (Adler Power Torque Clutch) slipper clutch which came on the previous 695 and it’s in the current 696 as well. It can get away with light springs because forward torque (the motor) assists in clamping the clutch closed, instead of just relying on clutch springs. If you’re familiar with a regular slipper clutch, it’s sort of like one of those but set up to slip from a standstill. It has another set of ramps which work in reverse and bind it closed once you put engine torque to it. Then it will slip once you take the engine power away and get back torque from engine braking. It’s really ingenious.

Pulling onto Speedway, I noticed that the engine has plenty of torque from idle to get started without revving it or slipping the clutch. This is handy. I turned onto Columbus and rode north toward Ft. Lowell on my way toward some twisty roads. While cruising up Columbus, I noticed that there is plenty of room to move around. I’m 6′ tall and I didn’t feel cramped in any way. The seat does kind of lock you into one position though, which is a bummer. It’s not what I would call an uncomfortable seat, but you probably wouldn’t want to do long distance touring either. The Monster 696 at Renaissance has the accessory seat which is quite a bit nicer. My heels were always resting against the sculpted cast aluminum footpeg/passenger peg combo which is also not really ideal, but you can simply move your feet outward on the pegs to solve this.

Steve asked me not to ride this thing very hard, but it feels so eager and fuels perfectly so it was hard not to. I did take it up to 8k RPM once and noticed that it never stopped pulling. It starts pulling quite hard above about 6k RPM and then kept getting faster after that. Is this really an 803cc 2 valve air cooled motor? It sure doesn’t feel like it. It felt as if it would wheelie without clutching it if I tried harder.

This thing feels really light, a whole lot lighter than the previous bikes. They seemed to accomplish this 2 ways: Actually reducing weight (only 369 pounds dry) and quickening the handling. The specs for handling look the same as before, but I could swear that they did something to make it turn quicker. It might be that they have the rear riding a bit higher than before, or maybe the riding position is different enough to make it feel like it turns quicker. The handling feel is what I would call stable but quick if you give it just a bit more muscle than normal. Quick handling is there if you want it, but stable at all other times.

So I continued to Ft. Lowell and went toward Alvernon and eventually Hacienda del Sol. By the time I got to the twisty parts of Hacienda del Sol, I was already convinced that this is a good handling bike. Once I actually got some lean angle and twisted the throttle exiting the corner, it was even better than I thought it would be. It is totally neutral from straight up and down to street levels of lean, and this doesn’t change if you use the brakes or hit the throttle. The front suspension is a bit tight compared to the rear, but it felt more like it was just new than the damping being excessive. A few corners later I was wishing this thing was fully broken in because I wanted to try to spin the tire coming out of corners. I think it would do it which is really incredible for an air cooled 803cc 2 valve motor. It really pulls hard.

Anyway, I got to Skyline and then went south on Pontatoc because there are more twisty bits on the way back to River Rd. The road is slightly bumpy and I noticed that the ride is a bit stiff, but not enough to be uncomfortable. It’s sporty without being harsh.

I turned onto River because there are a few nice flat corners where you can feel out handling without having to deal with bumps. This was really nice because this bike maintained neutral handling even with a bit more lean angle than before. I gassed it pretty hard at full lean exiting corners and it stuck to the road and drove through the corner without any drama.

Heading back to Renaissance I was thinking I could be really happy with this as a track day bike. I would prefer to have more adjustment in the suspension, but it’s good enough for most situations. I didn’t want adjustability based on my experience riding it on the road, I wanted it knowing that as the pace quickens on the track, clicking damping adjusters might help as limits are reached. But if you don’t plan on going to the track, it’s not an issue.

The brakes require one finger. They are really good, no issues at all.

Steve asked me to ride the new-ish Hypermotard 796 as a comparison, so I took it on the same ride as the Monster. I think you’ve gotta really want the Hypermotard to choose it instead of the Monster. The only reason I would choose it over the Monster is if I was riding in bad weather a lot, if I wanted to ride down dirt roads once in a while (the riding position and suspension are very dirt oriented), if I was taller, or if I was carrying a passenger a lot. Other than that, if you’re a street rider the Monster is going to do more things for you. Then again, I get why people like Hypermotards. They are different. If you’ve already got another bike, then the Hyper is really something fun. It’s a very different riding experience. You ride it through corners more like a dirt bike: Toss it in there, and let it do it’s thing (pitching around with the long suspension travel the whole time) until you come out of the corner. Apparently the Monster has a few extra horsepower than the Hyper due to the airbox volume, however I didn’t notice. The Hyper has a riding position which forces you to hold on harder under acceleration so it sort of feels fast because of it.

Anyway, to sum up, this is a good bike. If you’re thinking of getting a new street bike, you have to check this thing out. It’s light, quick, handles good, and it’s fun. And it’s a Ducati. Don’t forget about the cool “Logomania” color schemes you can get for it too!

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