“Monster” is probably a bit of a misnomer for a smallish bike weighing just 168kg, with a low seat height, and a mid-size engine producing just over 50kw.But of course it’s part of the “Monster” range; which includes more imposing machinery such as the 1000cc S2R and S4R. As for this, well it’s definitely more “mild-mannered” than it is “monster”!
The 695 is now the smallest bike in the Monster range. Although it replaced the 620, the two did sell side-by-side for a quite a while, until stocks of the older model had all been sold.
Compared to the 620, the replacement went up in engine-size by just 57cc and 7kw. Price increased by a very modest $200. The demise of the 620 also brought the demise of LAMS-approval. The old 620 could be ordered with a power-restriction (which could later be removed) that qualified it for LAMS. That isn’t available with the 695.
I got to sample the latest “little Monster” on a Ducati group-test ride. This was the same day I rode the GT1000; in fact it was a case of ride back into the dealer’s yard, swap bikes, get settled in, and ride back out again. So it was inevitable that there’d be some comparison between the two. No, I know they’re not comparable in the market-place, but riding both back-to-back it was inevitable that comparisons be made.
The first thing I noticed when sitting on the bike was that it felt small and low. I mentioned in my report on the GT1000 that it felt quite tall; this was the opposite, being small and low. The seat-height is just 770mm. And where, on the GT1000, you felt you were sitting “on” the bike, with the monster you felt more like you were sitting down “in” the bike.
The next thing I noticed was that the foot-pegs seemed quite high. They're actually not high, but what gave that impression was the relatively short distance from the seat to the pegs. Too short for my lanky old legs, so for me personally it felt a bit cramped. It’d be fine for shorter people though.
While we’re on the subject of ergonomics and comfort, the seat was a bit hard for my bony old bum. Other than those things though, the general riding-position was quite good. It was more lean-forward than the GT1000, but not extreme by any means. So it was quite comfortable – or would have been for someone with shorter legs and a less-sensitive, better-padded, posterior.
The instruments consist of two dials, one each for speedo and tacho, and a bunch of warning-lights. There is an LCD display in the bottom of each dial which tells you some useful information, if you look at them. I can’t tell you what that useful information is, because, well, like the GT1000, I didn’t particularly notice them! (Hey, it was only a fairly short test, and I was busy looking at other things!). I assume though that, like the GT1000, they tell you useful things about the level of fuel and the time of day.
Speaking of fuel, the tank capacity is a bit small at just 14 litres. Now, usually I don’t take a lot of notice of this, even though the magazines are always going on about fuel-range. That’s because for most of us old blokes we’ll need to stop to give the body a break off the bike long before we need to stop to fill the tank. As one bloke I know said; “I need to stop to empty-out before I need to stop to fill-up!” If you get his drift! Now that might still be the case with this, but at a guess I’d say you’d be looking for a servo after around 200km, if you didn’t want to risk pushing it. So for any decent day-ride (even by Old-Bloke standards!) you’d be filling-up before you left and then again during the ride. A bit inconvenient! Anyway, let’s get to the riding.
Hit the action button and the motor thumps into life. It was similar to the GT1000, only milder and smoother. It’s very obviously from the same factory; the sound is the same, just more subdued. And the character of the engine is the same; but again, more mild-mannered and subdued. When you take off there is the same low-revs vibration, but much milder. The vibes are there, but they don’t shake the whole bike as happened with the GT. It just vibrates gently until the tacho gets up to around the 3,000rpm mark. From then on it feels very smooth. Smooth and willing. At one point the tacho was swinging up around the 8,000rpm mark and it was feeling good; quite lively actually! Stated power is 53kw, with 60Nm of torque.
The smoothness extends to the controls too. The clutch is light and easy (certainly not like the GT!), and the gear-change also quite smooth.
Brakes were easy to use and very effective – typical of Ducati!
The performance is interesting. It’s a while since I rode the 620, but I don’t recall it being anything outstanding. And around town the 695 feels the same; it feels quite docile actually. But it’s deceptive, because give the throttle a big twist and the thing actually picks itself up and goes really well! The acceleration is surprisingly good, considering how docile it feels when just pottering along through the traffic.
Riding through the suburbs it was pleasant, but not exciting. It was a bit uncomfortable (the cramped leg-position and firm seat), and as I said above, felt quite docile. (Not nearly as engaging a thing to ride as the GT!). But open it up and let it show you what it can do and it’s quite impressive! There was never any danger of tumbling off the back of it (as I said I felt like with the GT!), but it certainly does have a respectable turn of speed.
Like the GT1000, it's fairly high-geared – for the characteristics of the engine, anyway. Top gear (of 6) pulls something like 26kph / 1000rpm; and like the GT, in the higher gears the engine doesn’t really feel happy until it’s doing around 4,000rpm. So in top you have to be getting up around 110kph before it really smoothes out. It will cruise quite happily in 5th at speeds up to (and beyond) that though.
And on the subject of cruising, despite being a naked, wind-buffeting isn’t too bad; because the riding-position is more lean-forward than some nakeds.
It’s a Ducati, so you expect the handling to be good; and it is. Around town it’s easy and pleasant; with none of the front-end heaviness I encountered with the ST3, for example. We didn’t get to do too many twisty-bits on the ride, but there were a few tight corners and a couple of sweepers. Tipping the bike in was easy and it responded well to a confident approach. The only slight criticism I had was that on the sweepers it didn’t feel quite as firmly-planted on the road as the GT. But I suspect that was due to a suspension set-up that had the back feeling rather soft. Certainly not a problem, and it was still handling very well; just not quite as “running-on-rails” as I’d felt through the same corners on the GT.
Having the rear suspension set fairly soft did endow it with a very comfortable ride though. Even before we left the dealer’s, sitting on the bike and doing the “bounce-up-and-down” test had the rear suspension feeling quite plush! On the test-route there weren’t any rough roads, although there were a few pot-holes along the way. Hitting a couple of those produced a remarkably smooth, yet still well-controlled, ride. It was one of the very few bikes I’ve tested that, if I owned it, I’d actually stiffen the suspension a tad!
Before too long we were heading back into the traffic and then wheeling into the dealer’s forecourt. It had been a welcome opportunity to have a run on the latest “little Italian stallion”. And it turned out to be quite an impressive bike!
At $12,995, it’s a cheap Ducati; but it’s also a fairly expensive mid-sizer. For example, it’s around $2,000 more than the Yamaha FZ6N, $3,000 more than the Suzuki SV650 and Kawasaki ER-6N, and a whopping $5,000 more than the Hyosung GT650. All of which have the same sort of power as the Duke. You could even buy the faired versions of those and still be well under the Ducati’s asking-price. So if I was spending my hard-earned, I think that’s where I’d be looking. But Ducatis aren’t about value-for-money really, are they!
There was an interesting postscript to my ride-impressions that came to me later in the day. As I said at the start, having ridden this bike and the GT1000 on the same day brought an inevitable comparison between the two. And while having a meal in a nearby restaurant (one of those classy places with a big yellow “M” on the roof!) I got to thinking about the rides and the bikes. They’re not competitors, and they aren’t aimed at the same buyers, but that couldn’t stop me from wondering which of the two I’d buy, if it came down to a choice between the two. And the decision probably says quite a lot about the little Monster.
Without question, the GT1000 had been more fun! The “retro-cool” thing gave it a ton of character, it was comfortable (although with a question-mark over the ride) and went like a rocket. But the heavy clutch and the shaking at low revs would get increasingly annoying the longer you lived with it. And then there was the gearing, with it’s almost unusable (if you want to keep your license safe!) top gear.
The Monster 695, on the other hand, was really more practical. It wasn’t as enjoyable as the GT, but it was easier and more pleasant to ride. There was also a bit less wind-pressure, which is always a good thing on a naked. And even though it felt kind of docile around town, it did actually perform quite well!
Now, personally, I wouldn’t buy the Monster because it felt too cramped. But I’m trying to be objective here! And for those of not-so-lanky build I think the Monster 695 would be the more practical and easier to live with of the two. Blame it on cheap food, or on a sudden rush of practical-thinking, but that’s the conclusion I found myself arriving at. Which just reinforces the fact that it really is quite a good bike!
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