Ever since Ducati phased out the Monster 696/796 duo back in 2014, new riders looking to the famed Bologna marquee for their first motorcycle had precious few choices. They could opt for the Monster 821, a bigger and heavier motorcycle than a green rider might be comfortable with, or the Scrambler, which only became available a short time ago.
Enter the 2017 Monster 797, a machine designed to be a serious contender for a new rider’s first bike, and a stylish gateway into the Ducati family. Distilled down, the 797 is a simple, approachable, easy to ride motorcycle that broadens the accessibility of Ducati’s signature brand of performance and riding passion.
In my opinion, no discussion of the 797 is complete without looking back to previous generation Monsters, specifically the 796.
While the passage of time has shaped the 797 into a more refined motorcycle than its predecessor, the two bikes share much of the same lineage, most notably their common engine.
The 803cc air-cooled v-twin found in the 797 (which also powers the Scrambler) is a direct descendant of the one found in the 796. In 797 guise, it makes a healthy 75 horsepower and 50.8 pound-feet of torque. Power delivery is linear and easy to modulate making it reassuringly predictable for the newer rider.
One area where the 797 positively leaves the 796 for dead is in how cleanly it pulls from low rpm – gone are the filling-rattling judders when rolling on the throttle in too low a gear. Keep the throttle pinned and the motor pulls deliciously right to the top of the rev range. Land speed records probably aren’t in the 797’s future, but it has ample grunt for nearly every riding situation.
That smoothness continues into the rest of the riding experience as well. Changing gears and pulling away from stops are a delight thanks to the silky-smooth gearbox, every twist of the throttle yields crisp responses, and the slipper clutch does a fantastic job of taking the edge off all but the most ham-fisted downshifts.
Ducati also nailed the 797’s ergonomics. Drop into the saddle and you immediately notice how upright the seating position is. The seat is wide and comfortable, the foot pegs low and directly beneath you, and the high bars are natural to hold. Throw in a well-tuned chassis and short 56.5-inch wheelbase, and the 797 maneuvers with ease, particularly at low speed. Tip in is immediate, and the front end feels agile and sharp. It never feels twitchy or over eager to change direction, it simply goes where you point it with deftness.
Another standout feature is the large, easy to read dash. Like the rest of the bike, simplicity is the name of the game – a tachometer, speedometer, trip/clock combo, odometer, average speed counter, and that’s it. There are no confusing menus to flick through, no rider mode adjustments to be made. Just all the pertinent information in a tidy package.
While it may be entry-level, the 797’s styling is anything but. It beautifully blends modern Ducati styling with retro-Monster cues. It has the same muscular stance as the 796, the current Monster 1200 has donated its classy aluminum gas tank, Ducati’s stunning red trellis frame is on full display from front fork to tidy tail, and the single round headlight has been a staple on every Monster since 1993.
If I could change anything about the 797, it would be the exhaust note. While it does makes a lovely growl under full load, it lacks some of that sonorous quality I was hoping for. Throw on a set of aftermarket pipes though, and the 797 should clear its throat and sing with the best of them.
With the 797, Ducati has crafted a solid motorcycle for new riders that also happens to deliver enough performance to be a viable option for seasoned riders. The newest Monster’s refined powertrain, crisp handling, smooth controls, and a starting price of under ten grand make this bike is a genuine pleasure to ride.
Many thanks and much respect to Seacoast Sport Cycle in Derry, NH for the opportunity to ride and review the Monster 797. SSC is a full-service dealer with incredibly knowledgeable staff and a wide array of motorcycles and gear to choose from.
I know I’ve got my arms around a powerful dream when it ignites a kind of desperation in me to have it, own it, hold it before it disappears: I’m learning it’s wise to pay attention to the ideas that steal inside and prick at your heart with such cold, sweet longing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the significance of dreams and felt compelled to write about what moves me. Cars have been a part of my life since I was a little kid pushing Matchbox cars across the carpet, making engine sounds with pursed lips. I stared this blog from that same passionate place – this is the adult equivalent of toy cars and mouthed exhaust notes – and I thought it would be fun to share my Top 5 motoring dreams.
People sometimes ask me what my favorite car of all time is. There is *literally* no way to answer that question because the answer is constantly changing. Same thing here – this list is fluid and flexible and in no particular order. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list and what your own motorized dreams are, so feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for supporting my passion!
Experiencing the Stelvio Pass
There are an unlimited number of incredible driving roads that could/should be included on gearhead’s bucket list – the Blue Ridge Parkway, California’s famous Highway 1, or the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania to name a few. But, it’s the Stelvio Pass that earns a spot in my Top 5. Imagine you’re a kid again and someone hands you a magic marker and tells you to draw the wildest, most wonderful road you can think of. Marker in hand, you concentrate and begin to scribble – crazy hairpin turns, long straights, maybe even a mountain or two to climb. You’d put every cool element you could think of into a single road. The end result would undoubtedly be the Stelvio Pass. I mean, just look at it! It’s gorgeous! Located in the Italian Alps, this breathtaking mountain pass manages to pack 48 switchbacks into 15 winding miles.
Can you imagine what it would be like to hustle this road in a red Ferrari convertible? Sun beaming down amidst snow capped mountains silently stretching skyward? Hairpin after hairpin rushing toward you – brake, turn sharply, jump on the gas and ride it out, brake, turn sharply… Or, what it would be like to throw a leg over a (insert Italian motorcycle brand here – we are in the motherland, after all), and assault the road that way? I struggle to think of any other road that inspires the way the Stelvio Pass does. It’s honestly the stuff of dreams.
Something happens inside me when I get around racing, and I’m not quite sure what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s watching Valentino Rossi hang off the side of his MotoGP bike, or Fernando Alonso sliding into the cockpit of his Formula 1 car, or heck, even when I put on a helmet at a go-kart track. It pulls at something in me to, I don’t know, do things. Be better. Get off my ass. Hustle. It’s that desperation thing I mentioned. I’m acutely aware that all hope is lost for my chances at going pro, but I can still, like, compete in rich gentleman’s leagues and stuff, right?
There are a litany of reasons why going racing won’t work – too expensive, too dangerous, I’m too old, I’ve never been, I don’t own anything to race. I say: screw all that. If you do the work, you’ll find the solution. Besides, other people have done it which means I can too. And why not? I’m starting to understand that if something continues to tug at your heart over and over and over again, it probably feels that way for a reason. It would be the easy, comfortable thing to remain a spectator and not do what it takes to go racing. But when something feels like this, how steep is the price of ignoring it?
Visiting the Ferrari factory
I can only imagine that visiting the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy, is like visiting God’s holy workshop. Mixed in with spare parts of animals still to be discovered and people yet to be born, are the camshafts, piston rings, and crackle-coated intake manifolds for a Ferrari V12. Someone doesn’t even have to be into cars and there’s a great chance they still understand what the name “Ferrari” entails. My earliest car memory is of a red Ferrari Testarossa in Lake George, NY one warm summer night. My sister and I were downtown getting food, and after seeing it drive by, I actually ran out into traffic to stand behind it as it sat at a light. If I focus hard enough, I can still see the wide straked rear-end, still hear it growling, the way the sound reverberated in my chest.
There’s a certain mystique about Ferrari that few other brands can match. Part of it is Ferrari’s racing pedigree, which is nearly peerless. Part of it is the powerful role the brand plays in popular culture. Another is the certainty – the same certainty that the sun will rise again tomorrow – that every new Ferrari road car will continue to raise the performance threshold. And another is just that damn gorgeous shade of red. Whatever it is, consider me hooked. Honestly, I’m not sure if Ferrari even does factory tours for us “regular people” (someone let me know if they do?), but I don’t care. I’m going. Combine this with driving the Stelvio Pass and there’s a good chance I’d never leave Italy again.
Attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
What is there to say about the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that hasn’t already been said? It’s crazy, insane. Every year when the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance rolls around (pun!), some of the most valuable cars on earth head to California for a celebration of the automobile which has no equal. You can bet your bottom dollar on seeing the richest of the rich and the rarest of the rare.
Literally situated on the 18th green of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, this event isn’t a mere “car show” (those are for plebeians, my dear). It’s a week-long exhibition whose atmosphere is more akin to The Great Gatsby than anything else, and showcases pristine examples of the automobile from every era and every pedigree. Has it always been your dream to see a 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Vignale Spyder? Pebble Beach has it. Or, what about the insanely rare 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic? This is where you’ll see it. In addition to the primary Concours, there are numerous other shows, historic races at nearby Laguna Seca raceway, and driving excursions along the California coast. In my fantasy, I’m walking around the Concours in a sun hat, Ray-Bans, a white linen suit, sipping a Mint Julep, and wondering if I’d rather take the multi-million dollar Ferrari home, or take the multi-million dollar Rolls Royce home. See how nice it is to dream?
Driving cross-country on a motorcycle
One of my greatest fears is becoming stagnant, not fully experiencing all that’s possible from life, so this entry on my list is a must. I can think of no more clear or potent example of the dream than taking a cross-country road trip on a motorcycle. I’ve always felt that driving across the country is almost our duty as Americans – to see and discover those purple mountains and amber waves of grain. And I’m not talking about a frantic sprint that has you constantly checking your watch because the office is beckoning. I mean one of those trips they write books and songs about – where time is fully yours to be savored and measured out in delicious, soulful moments, rather than by what a schedule demands.
Taking the trip in a car works, but a motorcycle brings things to an entirely different level. I won’t even bother explaining it (mainly because I haven’t done it yet), so instead, I’ll let the wildly talented bunch from Manchester, NH’s own Iron & Air do that for me. Like the roads themselves, the dreams you’ll be chasing on a trip like this would be continually moving and flowing, leading you down paths perhaps you didn’t expect and to destinations you never considered. Of all the dreams on this list, this is my most treasured.
Bonus! Visiting Monaco
Oh Monaco, you beautifully ridiculous stereotype, you. This tiny independent city-state on the Mediterranean Sea holds the title of having more millionaires and billionaires per capita than any other place on earth. Consequently, it’s also home to the most prestigious Formula 1 race in the world, more ships and yachts in its harbor than a full blown Navy yard, and enough supercars to make a Saudi prince weak in the knees. It’s the absolutely insane car-spotting that lands Monaco on this list. Roads here, especially in the ward of Monte Carlo, are cramped and usually bungled up with traffic. Clearly, that matters to no one. YouTube is rife with videos with headlines like, “Lamborghini Aventador brutal acceleration and sound!”. Odds are good the video is of a sunglassed, suntanned, sonofa… generic wealthy owner hammering the big Lambo through the tunnel under the famous Monte Carlo casino. Keep an eye out for my fanboy video from Monaco coming soon 🙂
I understand if you don’t know what car this is. This is undoubtedly the rarest and most interesting car yet featured on Cars in the Wild. Some cars are so transcendent that you don’t have to know a single thing about them but the minute you see one, you know it is something special. When a Rolls-Royce or a Lamborghini drives by, people without a shred of car geek in them turn to gaze longingly then quickly text their car obsessed buddies. And, there are some cars that being seen driving in them is one of their primary purposes (I’m looking at you Rolls and Lambo). This is not one of those cars. Yes, the giant wing will cause deep boy-racer envy and every cop on the road will do a double-take when the see the flashy red paint, but the Noble M400 is about as far from a poser performance car as you can get.
Google ‘Noble’ and you have to scroll for several pages before you reach the company’s homepage at NobleCars.com. Based in Leicester, England, Noble has been producing cars in small batches since 1999 with only a handful of different models since its inception. The M400—the track oriented version of the Noble M12—features a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that puts out 425 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. What’s most significant about this car, and rings true of Noble’s in general, is the staggering level of performance it delivers for a comparatively small fee. Brand new during its production run from 2004 to 2007, the M400 would run you about $70,000. It may not have the swagger of an Italian exotic, but in return for your hard earned money it will obliterate the run to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds (as fast as a Ferrari Enzo), and pull well over 1.0G on the skidpad. Check out a fun Fifth Gear comparison test with the M400 HERE, and a 2007 review from Car & Driver HERE.
The thing I like most about the M400, however, is that you have to know what this car is in order to buy one. This is not a car you cruise around in to pick up chicks or flaunt your wealth in—although the ride is reportedly very good, which should bode well for delicate female bottoms. Whoever owns this car must understand cars on a different level than someone who buys, say, a Lamborghini Gallardo. While the Lambo is a ridiculously capable performance car, there is a certain brain wave pattern a person must exhibit to purchase one that I don’t think exists for the M400—call it a mix of vanity/bravado/macho. I’d like to assume that the owner of this car (I must meet them!) enjoys track days, knows the Formula 1 champions for the past decade, relishes replacing the M400’s clutch and sipping aged classic Scotch. If I see this car on the road, you can bet I’m going to do everything I can to get them to pull over so I can find out if my assumptions are correct. Is that sketchy? Whatev.