Surprisingly good! The Monster 696 Dark

I recently had the opportunity to try a Ducati Monster, while my MTS was having an oil change. It was the smallest one of the family, the 696 Dark, not the 1200S unfortunately. But the fact I wasn’t expecting much from the entry level low powered, air cooled Ducati made it all the bigger surprise!

I was expecting a vanilla naked bike, like many others from different manufacturers but boy it’s so much more than that!

When you first sit on it the position is a bit awkward with a long reach to the handlebars has if you were trying to grab the headlight. I guess this is the famous Monster seating position that most reviews refer.
I have owned and ridden several naked bikes but none had this strange (at first) reach to the bars. It’s not uncomfortable though and as soon as you get moving comes the second surprise: it changes direction like a rabbit running away from a dog! It’s lightning fast, just think about changing direction and the bike just does it! The lightness and the skinny tires help and the initially awkward seating position becomes just perfect for hitting the turns.

As for the engine, I only got to ride around town so I’m not sure how it would cope with higher speeds, but at moderate pace (under 100km/h) it has plenty of grunt and not for one minute feels bland. It leaps forward with every twist of the right wrist and comes with a glorious sound track to match. Seriously, with the exception of the Yamaha MT-01 I’ve never heard a better soundtrack coming out of a standard exhaust! It’s a loud, deep howl with a glorious burble on the overrun. I was laughing inside my helmet the first time I stretched first gear before closing the throttle and coasting to a red light.

It’s not a super powerful bike, it’s not very practical (it’s a naked!) and in places you can see it’s been built to a price, but I can’t think of any other beginner bike with such a nice design and charisma!

Now if only I could get my hands on a Monster 1200S….

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