If you like motorbikes, you've got to like Ducatis! To not do so would be like being a car enthusiast and not admiring Ferrari! You might not want to buy one (particularly if you're a very practical type - like who would take a Ferrari to do the grocery shopping?), but you've still got to admire them!
It's probably the Italian / Euro-type thing. We like Italian / European machinery - but we buy Japanese! Well, practical-thinking old blokes do, anyway!
My chance to ride an "Italian stallion" came at a Ducati open-day at a local dealer. It was a mouth-watering sight to arrive and see all the Dukes lined up ready for the testing! The sports-models were in high demand, of course, but they're not the sort of bike that we (that's me and probably most of you reading this) would buy. We've out-grown all that boy-racer stuff haven't we? And even if we haven't, the riding position is definitely meant for people with younger, more supple bodies! And the power characteristics that demand to be ridden like you're on the race-track also don't suit the "more mature" rider.
That still left a few choices though! Ducati has a few market areas covered. At the time, the Multistrada was just new and was getting rave reviews in the bike mags. So I was deciding between riding that, or one of the Monster range. Sitting on the Multistrada was enough to make the decision. The seat was like concrete covered in vinyl! This is supposed to be a touring bike!? Even looking at the photo you can tell it's pretty thin. Oh yes, and I banged my knee swinging my leg over the thing. So I mumbled a few uncomplimentary things and got off.
So it was back to the Monster. The Monster 620i was probably the least exciting bike there, but it was one that I was interested in riding, because I was interested to see how it compared to my UJM general-purpose / sports-tourer of similar capacity.
Sitting on this was much better than the Multistrada. It even looks more comfortable in the photo! The riding position was quite good too. The only thing that didn't appeal to me was the colour. This was the "Dark" model, which means it is painted in flat-black. A bit like under-coat. You feel like asking them what colour it's going to be when it's finished!
Start it up and then we're away on the ride. As usual in these sort of open-day ride-sessions, you go out in a group, with one staff guy leading the way and another staff guy bringing up the rear to make sure no-one rides off into the sunset with one of their test-bikes. It was interesting watching the other riders. The guys on the sports machinery were screwing the throttle around, even standing it up as they accelerated out of corners. At one stage I ended up being a fair way infront and looking in the mirrors I saw this rush of yellow and red speeding up behind (at well over the speed-limit I might add!).
But back to the little Monster. It was very pleasant! It was probably faster than my Japanese mount, but not outstandingly quick. It was just comfortable and pleasant to ride.
I have found some twins to be a bit harsh and prone to too much vibration (read my comments on the Harley Sportster!), but this was quite smooth, if still being obviously a twin and not a four.
All too soon we were swinging back into the driveway of the dealer's shop. And I got off feeling happy to have ridden a Ducati! I could now go and boast to my friends and sympathetic family members - "I rode a Ducati today!".
But I have to say that it's hard to get excited about the littlest Monster. It does everything well, but nothing outstanding. And it looks very plain - especially in "unfinished-black". The lack of a fairing of any description was another thing that made it less than exciting to my old eyes. But it's a good bike! I don't think I'd buy one, but I could certainly enjoy riding one!
By the way, if you happen to be a Very Young Bloke (or "Bloke-ess") and you live in NSW or ACT, there is some good news; the 620i is available in Learner-Approved form. There is some kind of restriction on power which brings it down to LAM classification. The idea is that when you get onto full licence, your friendly Ducati dealer can remove the restrictions and unleash the full power of the 620. What a great idea! (Although I bet there are some back-yard mechanics who know how to get around the restrictions, so that you get to experience the full potential while you ride around on your P's!).
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