The Ducati M900 Monster is largely the results of one Miguel Angel Galuzzi, a thirty one year old designer hired on by Cagiva three years ago. It was originally going to be a limited edition model, but public acclaim at the Cologne show boosted sales projections, and the short version of the story is the CA bike staff got their hands on one.
The majority of the M900 is straight off a 900SS. The trademark Ducati Chrome moly trestle frame gets a metallic grey paint job, instead of the familiar white. The 90 degree, 904cc vertical twin is right out of the 900SS, as are the pair of big honking 38mm Mikuni downdraft carbs and massive full floating Brembo brakes. Ditto for the 41mm upside down Showa forks, although on the Monster the head angle is a steep 24 degrees, and with a scant 3.9 inches of trail the steering is quick and light. Claimed dry weight is 405 pounds, but even fully filled with the appropriate fluids it feels even lighter. It also feels stubbier than its 56.3" wheelbase, and although it makes a peak of 73 horsepower at the rear wheel at 7,250 rpm, the torque band starts low and pulls like a truck through the midrange.
The controls are a bit more similar to those on a modern Japanese bike than to an old Italian bike, and the lone speedometer is offset by a panel of idiot lights that you can actually see in the daytime. The fuel tank is a new design which flips up on a hinge. Look closely and you'll find a little prop that holds the tank up like a car hood. Since there is no bodywork, this leaves you with almost complete access to all of the engine and wiring. If you were ever interested in learning how to adjust Desmodronic valves, this is the bike to learn on. Think how impressed your friends will be when they find out you tune up your Ducati yourself.
The exhaust makes a throaty roar under throttle, and the clatter of the dry clutch in neutral is unmistakable, and although its music to you because you know what it is, the sound is disconcerting to non-motorcyclists. The brakes make wonderful music as the four pots per disc up front squeeze over the numerous holes drilled in the discs, and the intake whoosh is audible throughout the midrange. Alas, the horn isn't very loud although it doesn't sound as shrill, birdlike and pathetic as most bikes.
The seat is firm and forward sloped, and the pegs slightly rearset. The cowling comes off with two bolts, revealing a back seat. The diminutive side body work is carbon fiber, as are the heatguards at the tops of the oval sectioned mufflers. Aggressive riders will touch these pipes down, but the exhaust flexes, and it's not a hard touchdown. The tail light, often an eyesore on many bikes, was redone with a $160 carbon fiber kit made by European Cycle Specialists which complements the curves started by the seat and cowl. It was well received by all, as was the nominal fairing also supplied. (The big problem, you see, with naked bikes is that they don't have fairings. - Alex)
Every major motorcycle magazine spent the late eighties haranguing the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers for making only specialized niche bikes and bemoaning the loss of the "Universal Japanese Motorcycle." Many motorcyclists, apparently, were pining for straightforward, unfaired, all around regular motorcycles, and a few have hit the market in recent years. There's the Zephyr, which alas was born with a 750, the tall, heavy GSX1000G, and most recently the Honda CB1000 "Big One." They have all received critical acclaim and achieved great success on overseas sales floors, but they haven't been big sellers in modern recession America. Market research can't predict everything. That said, there is little doubt that Cagiva will have little trouble moving this limited production (as are all Ducati) naked bike. The M900 is the bike nobody explicitly asked for, but were glad to get. Proof that sometimes a single person's vision turns out the cleanest, clearest product. - Paul Peczon
Special Thanks to European Cycle Specialists for loaning us this marvelous little red toy. You can reach them at 800 938-2284 in the US and there is talk of letting qualified prospective customers take Ducatis out on test rides. back to the main page
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mildly updated Dec 09.