When you’re being escorted by two motorcycle riding policemen, who normally do the same for the Thai royal family, you know you’re moving in style. And when you’ve got a Ducati between your legs, it gets reinforced further.
It’s only fitting then, that the first Ducati built for Asia, ought to be first sampled by Indian journos in the country where it is built – Thailand.The digital speedo reads about 140 kph when I notice the Ducati marshal up ahead give me the go-ahead. I twist back the throttle and the motor responds with a throaty splatter of expletives, the kind only a foul-mouthed Italian L-twin has the tongue for. The bike surges ahead, with me only just managing to hold on. Let me put that into perspective. The Pulsar 220 DTSi weighs in at
150 kg and puts out 21 bhp. This baby tips the scales at 167 kg with, wait a minute, 87 bhp on tap. Now that’s a blistering 520 bhp per tonne, as compared to the 220’s 140 bhp per 1,000 kg. So when I said ‘surges’, I actually meant ‘Holy crap, so this is what a piece of 180-grain Hornady XTP lead exiting the muzzle of a .44 Magnum feels like.’
I am now cursing myself for leaving my ear plugs back home, for the air is hitting my helmet with a loud drone that is leaving my ear drums ringing with pain. But strangely, instead of my right wrist backing off, it plugs the throttle back to its stop.
The 803cc motor – borrowed from the 796 –and its 87 horses are suckers for punishment, and the bike and I shoot forward towards the realm inhabited only by the insane, or the ones with family jewels made of titanium. Now, I’m sure I belong to neither group, but the Ducati will easily fool you into believing you do, with the way it makes its power.
Although redlining at 9000 rpm, theL-twin’s sweet spot is between 4000 and 5000 rpm. But that doesn’t mean the engine is flaccid lower down the revs. Plonk it into the top cog at 60 kph and the motor will happily plod along with absolutely no snatch. Then, whack the throttle back and the Duck will quack to kingdom come; such is the versatility of this powerplant. Riders used to the mixer-like sterility of Japanese inline-fours will find the engine vibes of the Monster’s L-twin a bit intrusive. Rubber mounting the handle bar should have killed most of those vibes, but the rate at which the Monster rattles your tooth fillings, I shudder to think what it would feel like without ’em rubber things. We are hurtling down well-paved roads bang in the centre of a national park. Far away from the monotone of the super slab, a couple of kinks usher an opportunity to explore how this Duck behaves around corners.
Dropping a couple of gears rather violently as I dive head first into a kink, I half expect the rear end to flap like a fish out of water. But nothing happens, all thanks to the wet-type slipper clutch. Having chosen a line, I throttle in gradually. The meaty ZR17 rubber hoops stick to the tarmac like used chewing gum on the soles of your Doc Martens, never for once threatening to give up their grip on the blacktop. The suspension, all nice and taut, dangling from that gorgeous yet super-rigid trellis frame, ensure the proceedings sway towards a positive note. And with its comparatively feathery kerb weight of 167 kg, there’s not much of motorcycle mass to throw around and then pull back upright, making things much easier for the rider.
Now, if you’re an Italian manufacturer building a motorcycle for Asia, it makes sense to build the bike ground up keeping in mind the conditions and characteristics of the target audience. Like the height of the rider, for example. The average height of an Italian male is about 5 ft 9 inches, while that of a Chinese and Indian bloke is 5 ft 7 inches and 5 ft 5 inches respectively. With that in mind, Ducati has reduced the seat height of the 795, as compared to the 796’s 800 mm, by a whole 30 mm. This will make many riders, who are short of inseam, very happy for they can now get both feet down instead of tiptoeing at every red light.
Yet another reason to look forward to red lights is the attention that you are bound to get while aboard the 795. It might be cheaper (priced at ` 5.99 ex-showroom, India) than the 796, but it is every bit a Ducati and more so, a Monster to the core. From the sexy trellis frame on display to the chunky front forks with that intimidating headlight perched above, the 795 is menacing yet awe-inspiring to look at. Two fat pipes emerge from below the rear seat, ensuring that you make a lasting impression on the already gobsmacked onlookers as you lay that blackie the second the light turns green. The bloke who coined the phrase ‘the first impression is the last impression’ probably rode a Monster.
But to ride a Monster, you have to first swing your legs over it. Once you do, the forward tilted seat instantly snaps you into place, slightly forward crouched with a hint of rear set pegs. The handle bar, now 20 mm higher thanks to those risers, is flat and wide, just the thing to give you that added leverage to tug the meaty front tyre in the direction you desire. Although the riding position should be perfect for most people, a person of my height (6 ft) and beyond might have an issue.
The recesses on the tank simply couldn’t contain my knees, no matter how I placed my feet on the pegs, and the armour in my riding pants only added to the problem. I wish the handle bar tilted inward a tad more – something that would make me fit better into the motorcycle. These two niggles aside, the Monster’s riding position is absolutely perfect. By now, the wind blast, and consequently the helmet, has pushed my face back into my skull by a few millimetres, I reckon. The Monster seemingly won’t relent, and the speedo reading is too illegal to even think of, let alone print. I’m wondering if a stray animal (we’re riding through a national park, remember?) were to cross the road a few metres in front of me, would I be able to stop in time? You will be pleased to know, then, that those twin 320 mm semi-floating discs up at the front, bitten hard upon by radially mounted 4-piston Brembo callipers and the lone 245 mm disc with its Brembo 2-piston calliper at the rear, are well up to the task. A gentle tap on the brake lever is ample enough encouragement for those twin stoppers to shed serious speed. For the more urgent – read panic – kind of stopping, the aft brake will definitely need to be availed of. Besides, with none of the nannying that an ABS would provide, you have to know what you’re doing or you’re going to hook up with the tarmac.
You could say the 795 is the 796 for Asia. And here in India, once the current stocks of the 796 dry up, only the 795 will be up for grabs. If you look past the relatively dowdy switchgear and such, on the whole, the 795 is indeed thoroughbred Ducati pedigree – sharp handling, grunty performance and those luscious lines – and not some wannabe junk masquerading in fine red paint work.
With a price tag of ` 5.99 lakh ex-showroom in India, it’s actually quite affordable. You might not get those Thai cops to clear traffic for you, but what you pay for is a motorcycle that will delight your senses and something to start you up till you can afford that Panigale.