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New graphics, a quickshifter and flash forks – does it a better Monster make?

Ducati’s ‘everybody’ bike, the Monster, comes in a mind-boggling array of configurations, engine sizes and styles – there’s something for most riders in the line up, if V-twin naked bikes are your flavour. You can choose a 659, 797, 821 or 1200 Monster, and while the first few options are unconventionally-monikered, they all make naked riding fun.

The 821 Stealth isn’t a huge change from the standard 821, but packaging the heaps-fun multidirectional Ducati Quick Shifter (DQS), adjustable Kayaba 43mm fork, fancy paint and wheel treatment and a nose fairing (it’s still a nakedbike…) for another $1090 (ride away pricing, remember) is good value.

But it’s not all just about the looks, and there are some cool features Monster owners enjoy, such as the ability to adjust seat height to suit their leg length – or lack of it. It boggles my mind that riders choose bikes based on seat height – getting around short legs on a bike isn’t hard if you get some technique happening – but they do, and Ducati knows this. You can set the seat low (785mm) or high, a very standard 810mm. The 35 few millimetres to the ground can make a big difference to a rider’s confidence, and while this feature isn’t Stealth-only (all the 821s have it), it’s worth noting for a bike like this.

The DQS, however, is an accessory item for the standard 821, but loves its place as standard equipment on the 821 Stealth. Quickshifters used to be rarer than modest bike racers, but there are now all manner of bikes so equipped, which naturally means we get a bit fussy as to how they operate.

The hardest shift for all power shifters is the large jump across neutral from first cog to second. Most quick shifters struggle here, and the 821 Stealth does likewise. It’s an easy fix; I just shift as usual with the clutch at low speed. Anything more agro than half throttle, and the problem disappears, and the rest of the gearbox is a joy to navigate with the quickshifter.

At full noise, the V-twin pop and cackle up and down the box is satisfying, even with the standard exhaust. How it would sound with an aftermarket exhaust is an entertaining thought, though. For those who have never experienced a quickshifter, the Stealth will be a box of birds.

The engine is a favourite of mine. Smaller Ducati engines are sweeter than the bigger versions, but still punch you around the roads with V-twin grunt. The 821cc Testastretta motor claims 109hp in the old money (80kW@9250rpm), easily-made power these days and the kind of grunt that is enough for more of us than care to admit it. Silly power is fun, too, don’t get me wrong; but if you want power you can use, this engine does that job beautifully.

It’s the 11° Testastretta, the 11° valve overlap aims for low to mid-range torque. V-twins love this kind of treatment and riding around town or driving out of uphill 45km/h-posted corners, the V-twin works hard to get the work done smoothly and with excellent feel. The Ducati Traction Control’s (DTC) job is easier with an engine like this, as the rider is less likely to be surprised by what happens at the rear wheel in relation to what their right wrist is doing, it’s a beautifully progressive power and torque curve.

Old school V-twin riders used to have to deal with all sorts of quirks we simply don’t experience any more – compression lock-ups, for instance. The 821 runs a wet clutch with a slipper function which, combined with the accurate DQS makes for smooth downshifts, the likes of which V-twin riders in 1984 had never dared dream of. The gearbox itself is so well managed, with the slipper clutch and DQS, that it’s a joy to use and, when hitched up to that sweet motor, makes the 821 Stealth effortless to ride in most situations.

It certainly stops well, too. Monsters love their Brembo set-ups, and the 821 Stealth comes well equipped with Brembo M4-32 four-piston Monobloc calipers, guaranteed to impress with their stopping abilities. Just in case you aren’t as impressive with their control, there’s a Bosch 9.1MP ABS system, which includes cornering ABS (see page 92 for out Tech Talk on how this system actually works), integrated into the riding modes the bike boasts.

The Monster 821 is high end this way, running a Ducati Safety Pack, which includes the aforementioned ABS set up, with three levels and an eight-level traction control system, matched up with the Riding Modes.

I reckon just two (Sport and Touring) of the three modes available would do the trick; given how amiable the bike is, you are never fighting the 821 – it caresses you through most situations with its natural ease of operation and tractable power delivery. Don’t read that as being boring, though – it winds up well and is a classy handler.

The difference between the adjustable Kayabas of the Stealth versus the standard fork is hard to spot (other than the adjustability obviously), but on a smooth road there is feel galore from the front end, with excellent steering, too.

This is an area where the Monsters across the range have really improved over the years. There is none of the awkward feel the earlier models exhibited, and the 821 folds into a corner neatly and precisely.

When you put the entire package together up or down a classic mountain road, it’s a satisfying feeling. Running deep into a smooth corner, on the brakes, rolling around on the stable, balanced chassis, then letting the ‘little’ V-twin have its voice on the way out. It’s fun because it’s predictable, and you are in control – bigger bikes require a new level of concentration and you spend a lot of time waiting for them to feel good before getting near their potential. The 821 Stealth is a neat road carver, but is also something I’d happily commute on every day, rain hail or shine.

Having the DQS in tight stuff is certainly an advantage over the standard bike, as it’s simply less effort to prepare for a corner, as well as simply a shit load of fun to stick it into a corner with a couple of quick down-taps to be in the right cog. So good.

I spent most of my time in Sport mode, but Touring mode also hands out a slightly milder response from the throttle and I found that useful in traffic and with a pillion on the back.

It’s a handy pillion bike, with a decent seating position and the power delivery making life on the back seat easy to live with, too. There’s no grab rails, and you need to remove the Stealth seat cover to make room for your favourite pillion, but that’s easy – two Allen keys under the seat take care of that.

If you are Monster-bound and the 821 tickles your fancy, then check out the Stealth option. It’s fun, good value on what it offers over the standard bike and a strong performer in a sweet package.