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2003 Monster 800s i.e.

Ducati's newest Monster is a step up

By Rachel Dwyer

First let me provide a little history. I own a 2000 Monster 750 Dark; I bought her as my Christmas/Hanukah present to myself in December 1999. My 750 and I have traveled over 60,000 miles together, both good times and bad, and I adore her still.

You should also know I am what they call "height/weight impaired" I stand about 5'3" and weigh in at approximately 105 lbs, which means I make serious modifications to all my bikes so that I can ride them, all this does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that the Monster 800 is not enough bike for any rider no matter their stature or experience.

That said let's get on to the good stuff - the 2003 Monster 800.

When I first heard that Ducati would be replacing my beloved 750 with an 800 I was nervous and excited.

My nervousness was unfounded. Though Ducati is known for it's dry clutch, they did have the forethought to place a wet clutch in the 750, which I will swear by as my bike with over 60,000 miles on it has no wear on the clutch. So my initial fear was that a dry clutch would replace my beloved wet clutch. I was wrong - they stuck the wet clutch into the new 800!

My excitement was definitely founded. The improvements made are incredible - both performance and basic added features. Where to begin, so much has changed for the better!

First, performance and handling; Ducati has updated the Monster frame with its Superbike trellis providing a much more stable bike with little or no vibration. The engine has increased in size to provide approximately 10* more horse power then its predecessor, but with a minimal increase in weight of 2 lbs* this feels significant. Add to the increased horsepower and stability an extra gear, and you have all the power you need for just about any type of riding. In addition to the extra power, the dual-disc front brake provides just enough extra braking power for those who need it. The fuel injection adds a fast start and warm-up, causing the "can't get the bike into neutral until the bike is warm" problem every Monster rider has had prior to this new version to vanish.

Next, the addition of some long-awaited features; electronic digital/analog gauges which provide not only a speedometer and tach, but now a digital overall mileage read out and trip mileage, engine temperature and time, and a dummy flashing alarm light (it won't scare anyone who knows anything about bikes but it will make the typical high school joy rider think twice).

One of my all time favorite improvements is the ability to start the bike in neutral with the kickstand down! This is one of those love/hate issues I have with my current 750, as you have to be sitting on the bike to start it, with the kick stand elevated.

I can not give you my feedback on the adjustable height option, aluminum swing arm or small windscreen as I ride a Dark and these extra goodies do not come standard on the Dark version. But word of mouth has been an astounding "Yeah."

The Monster 800 also comes in more colors than ever before; red, yellow, blue, black, metallic gray and the Dark versions are now matte black or silver gray. The painted tanks come on a gray frame and the Dark's come with a black frame. Mixing and matching is all the rage; the best so far was a metallic gray tank with a black frame.

Two very minor issues I have with the new bike is it sounds different and it is ever so slightly taller then the 750. The sound issues I am guessing are caused by the new emissions controls in the muffler. I like the way my 750 sounds with its original pipes so I was a little surprised when I started up the 800, to the point of considering after market pipes - something I have never thought twice about before. The increased height of the bike is minor, one inch * taller than the 750. Since I have a custom seat the increased height just means I am fully on the balls of my feet (not tippy-toe) instead of completely flatfooted.

Rideability: this bike does it all just like my 750, only better. There is almost no vibration at highway speeds due to the larger engine and the sturdier frame. The handling is smooth and seems quicker then the 750, and the extra gear provides more options for speed variance in turns as well as on the freeway.

I have only put 1300 miles on this new bike, but the miles ranged from downtown city riding to back road mountain passes. The mileage is supreme at about 55 mpg on the long freeway rides and about 50 mpg in the city. The Dark has a little smaller gas tank then the other version but not a hindrance for most. The bike performed like a champ in dead stop city traffic and on tight twisties through the mountains, never twitching or sliding when it shouldn't - just holding the road as well as a Ducati should.

The upright position can be toned down or increased via optional handlebars, as this bike still has real handle bars not clip-ons, which also means you can add windshields and other accessories easily, as I have. This bike can be ridden comfortably by newer riders and seasoned riders alike, no one will be disappointed. With minor modifications this bike can fit those small of stature, like myself, and those much taller. However if it is more power you want in the same tight configuration step up one notch to the 1000 cc which replaced the 900 cc this year.

I will be enjoying this bike for a few more miles and will re-review her upon her return to the show room floor. Stay tuned, or if you wish to get more frequent updates please visit www.tigerracing.net .

RD/Summer 03


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