The Ducati Monster is a muscle bike that's been at the heart of the Ducati line ever since the first one rolled off the production line in 1993. Designed by Miguel Angel Galluzzi, the bike is characterized by its 'naked' engine and tubular steel trellis frame, features that not only add to its visual appeal, but do wonders for its efficiency. By 2005, Monster sales represented over 50% of Ducati's worldwide sales, something that's no doubt behind Motorcycle News's comment, "The Monster has gone down in folklore as 'the bike that saved Ducati' due to its popularity and cheap development costs". Over the years, the Monster has spawned numerous incarnations. In some model years, it's not been unknown for Ducati to release up to nine different versions of its flagship. Some of them have been small, entry level bikes that make up for in affordability what they lack in power. Others have been top of the line beasts with more than enough torques to please even the biggest speed freak.
In 2001, Ducati continued the Monster tradition with the Ducati Monster 620. Light and small, it was touted as the perfect entry level bike. It may well have been, but that didn't stop it becoming something of a joke to purists. Over the next 4 years, Ducati released several more versions of the M620. Despite being a hit with newbies, they failed to catch the imagination of experienced riders. They may have been fitted with a larger engine than the M620's predecessor, the Ducati Monster 600, but they lacked the punch of other Ducati muscle bikes - great for novices, certainly, but less of a winner with those who wanted a little more power between their legs. By 2006, the series was dead. In its place was the Monster 695. a bike as light and nimble on its feet as the M620, but with enough meatiness to its engine to appease the critics.
While the M620 may be long gone, it's not been entirely consigned to the pages of the history books. While die-hard Ducati fans may have laughed at the puny engine, its cheeky handling, affordability, and novice-friendliness made it a god-send for cash-strapped newbies looking to cut their teeth on a Ducati. And when it came to choice, they were positively blessed. Following in the Ducati tradition of 'more is more', the Ducati Monster 620 came in several versions. The first batch included the Dark and “S” models. The Dark was an aggressive, matt black version of the standard Ducati M620 Monster, albeit one that lacked a screen and a seat cowl. The Sport came with a range of additional features, including an aluminum swingarm, taller seat, greater ground clearance, and a headlight cover.
Just two years later, the M620ie was introduced as the first bike to carry Ducati’s APTC clutch. As bennetts.co.uk writes, the APTC was designed to reduce the traditionally heavy clutch lever action, while also including a slipper function that's still used by Ducati to this day. That same year, the S version was discontinued. 2005 saw the final change, although this time it was more of a minor tweak than a new model thanks to the addition of a wet plate clutch.
It may have been derided for its puny engine, but the Ducati Monster 620 was still capable of delivering a great performance. Maximum power stood at 63 bhp, with maximum togue at 41 ft-lb. Top speeds were a decent 125 mpg, while the tank range averaged 130 miles. Not bad going for a bike that was derided as a wannabe Ducati....
There may be more powerful bikes around now (as indeed there were then), but for an entry level bike of the early nineties, the Ducati Monster 620's spec was pretty decent:
- Engine size: 618cc
- Engine type: 4v V-twin, 6 gears
- Frame type: Steel trellis
- Fuel capacity:14 liters
- Seat height: 770mm
- Bike weight: 168kg
- Front suspension: None
- Rear suspension: Preload and rebound
- Front brake: Twin 300mm discs
- Rear brake: 245mm disc
- Front tyre size: 120/60 x 17
- Rear tyre size: 160/60 x 17
When it was first launched, the Ducati Monster 620 divided opinion. Today, it's still doing the same. Some people loved it for its affordability. Others waxed lyrical about its gorgeous sound and look. But for others, the tricky clutch, the softly sprung suspension, and the low-slung handlebar made it less of a joy than a chore.
To its credit, the Ducati Monster 620 offered superior performance to its predecessors: its air-cooled, Desmodromic engine provided 35cc and 9bhp more than the M600, and came with enough power to meet the needs of people looking for an accessible, entry level bike with enough 'oomph' for fun. The finish was appealing, and while its dependability wasn't the best, neither was it any worse than any other Ducati. Although it cost a fraction more than its main competitors, most people were happy enough to be riding a Ducati to swallow the difference. On the downside, the standard features were, to put it mildly, 'basic'. While the electronic dash with its LCD clock was very nice, it didn't make up for the fact the M620 didn't have so much as a fuel gage to its name. Customization options were extensive, but when you added up all the costs of the optional extras you'd need, that attractive price point suddenly seemed a lot less attractive.
As motorcyclenews.com notes, the M620 might have been a dream for those who were just starting out, but for those with a few years of biking already behind them, the lack of power, low ground clearance, diminutive proportions, cumbersome steering, and very basic suspension were huge bugbears. Wherther you liked it or loathed it, one thing's clear - the Ducati M620 Monster wasn't for everyone. But then again, neither was it intended to be. When Ducati announced in 2006 that it would be phasing out the Monster 620 in advance of launching its replacement, the Monster 695, the following year, there was enough gasps of disappointment to justify its 4-year run. It may never have been flavor of the month with Ducati's more experienced fans, but for those looking for an entry level bike with just enough grunt for a fun ride, it was perfect.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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