The whole concept of the “naked” bike is generally credited to Ducati, and there is a lot to be said for choosing the originator. When I think Italian, words like passion, style, and performance come to mind, there always seems to be something unique and distinctive about products from the boot-shaped country. The Monster 696 simply put is a great-looking bike. But are looks enough to make it a good beginner bike? On paper, it has all the right specs, let’s figure out if that adds up to a good beginner bike.
Our Take: Is a Monster 696 a good beginner bike?
Lightweight, good power, nimble handling, great looking, check, check, check and check! The smallest Monster seems like it should be an easy recommendation, and my gut instinct is to say “absolutely”, but I ride a bike nicknamed “the beast”, I better give my sensible side a chance to speak on this one.
The Monster is exactly the type of bike that can fool many into believing that it would be a forgiving ride. It is all soft and fuzzy right up until it bites you. The 696cc L-Twin Ducati engine fitted to this bike provides plenty of low RPM torque, matched to a solid 79 hp that shows up in the upper RPM range. The first gear is somewhat tall, the throttle is quite sensitive to rider wrist input, and the light flywheel makes for a very quick-revving engine.
All these traits I list make for a very fun machine for the more experienced rider, but for a new rider still perfecting their clutch control, still trying to get comfortable just being in traffic, it becomes a literal Monster. Pulling away smoothly is tough when you have inconsistent clutch movement and a very sensitive throttle, sometimes you stall the engine, and at other times you zoom away faster than planned!
The Monster 696 is a very light machine, which is fantastic for new riders, but with this kind of power and personality, it can feel twitchy. The brakes are 4 piston Brembos, a powerful high-performance kit that truly delivers when riding at a faster pace. These brakes respond instantly, bad news in slow-speed panic moments when a new rider often pulls the lever hard and suddenly finds themselves going over the bars or dropping the bike.
Motorcycles with traits like the Monster 696 are highly rewarding once riding confidence is developed, but before that things can get downright scary. Mid-corner throttle adjustments become quite pronounced with a bike that loves to rev. Slow-speed maneuvers can turn anxious quickly when the engine becomes jerky due to the low RPM and struggles with clutch control.
Based on my years of riding, I suggest the Monster 696 is an excellent second bike. An excellent choice for a rider that’s coming from dirt bikes to the street and already has experience and confidence in their control inputs. Keep this machine on your want list, it will deliver so much more joy when your skills and saddle time have grown.
Bottom line: The Ducati Monster 696, is a fantastic high-performance machine that on paper seems like it would make a reasonable beginner bike. It makes the perfect move-up bike, the perfect second bike. The elevated performance traits of this bike are likely to frustrate and possibly create anxiety in a new rider during a key time that should be spent on improving basic skills and overall riding comfort and awareness.
Reasons to buy the Monster 696:
You are a rider with some experience and confidence who wants a higher level of performance.
You want a purist type of riding experience.
Naked bikes just speak to you and come on man…it’s a Monster.
The 696cc engine sounds great and makes great power.
Finding parts and getting a service for a Ducati can be more difficult if you don’t live in a larger city.
The controls, throttle, brakes, and clutch are quite sensitive and can frustrate new riders while trying to just learn to ride a motorcycle.
Production Run & Notable Model-Year Changes
Production Run & Model Generations
Both post and prior Ducati has had various middle displacement Monster naked bikes. The following is a short breakdown of how we got to the Monster 696, and what may are also worth considering if you have your heart set on a Ducati Monster as a first bike.
DUCATI MONSTER 620 (2001 – 2006)
With 63hp and 41 ft-lb of torque, the Monster 620 is an excellent choice of Naked bike for a new rider.
2001: Ducati M620 Monster i.e., Dark and “S” versions launched: fuel injected and with a larger engine than the earlier Ducati Monster 600. Also comes with a headlight cowl. The Dark comes with just one front disc and five gears.
2003: Ducati M620 Monster and Ducati M620 Monster Dark take over from i.e. versions. S version discontinued. Dark comes with either twin front discs/6 gear or single disc/5 gear options.
2004: Both Ducati M620 Monster and Ducati M620 Monster Dark get a new, lighter clutch.
2005: Revised, wet plate clutch.
DUCATI MONSTER 695 (2006 – 2008)
With 73hp and 45 ft-lb of torque, the Monster 695 received a good bump in power.
Proper 300mm twin front disc brakes.
DUCATI MONSTER 696 (2008 – 2014)
The 696 gets a claimed 9 percent bump, to 80 HP at the crank, and torque 11 percent to 50.6 lb-ft.
Ducati claims the 696 requires less frequent service, fewer parts, and labor during each service.
The new mainframe has larger tubes, but instead of a full trellis, Ducati saved weight with a cast-aluminum subframe.
Owner Reviews of the Ducati Monster 696
Press & Magazines
Living With A 2008 Ducati Monster 696
“Mostly when I get a new bike or any other toy for that matter, I’m dead enthusiastic about it for a bit then the novelty gradually wears off and I lose interest (see my garage for proof). But with the 696 the opposite seems to have happened. The more I do with the bike the more I get used to it and in turn, the more I seem to be enjoying it.”
“Its rumbling L-twin still sounds and feels great, its solid chassis and well-chosen components still deliver a responsive ride, and its styling, especially in Ducati red with matching trellis frame and bodywork, still quickens the pulse.”
“The Ducati Monster 696 charges a high admission to the two-wheeled party. What you get in return is a motorcycle with unmistakable Ducati character and enough performance potential to please the rookie or veteran alike.”
The power – V-Twin engines are known for great torque. The Monster 696 peaks at 80 HP and 50 ft-lbs.
The Brakes – Dual 320mm rotors and steel braided lines make for very powerful brakes.
The Suspension – The 43mm inverted Showa fork in front and Sachs rear shock are well-tuned and excel when pushed hard.
The Looks – From all angles, this is a great-looking bike, that high under-seat exhaust is so sexy.
What Owners Complain About
Lack of adjustment – The levers are not adjustable, just bizarre Ducati.
The mirrors seem to vibrate loose and move in the wind. This is a complaint shared by more than a few owners.
The Price Tag – Uhhhhhh yeah, welcome to Ducati! It isn’t cheap looking this good.
The Bottom Line
The Ducati Monster 696 is a truly good bike, and there are many who would suggest that it makes a great beginner bike. I cannot give it my stamp of approval for a first bike, I will strongly endorse it as the next bike to buy, the bike to move up to.
It comes down to an understanding of exactly what you get with a Monster 696, a high-level athlete. Not yet full pro-level, but a very talented junior. The harder you push a Monster 696 the more it gives back. The engine loves to rev, the brakes and suspension get better the harder you work them. Everything about the Monster rewards a confident and skilled rider, and those same traits mean a magnification of mistakes that happen when first learning to ride.
I understand the appeal of a great-looking bike, and the cache of the Ducati brand, but there is nothing more awkward than talking the talk and not knowing yet how to walk the walk. Trust me, make this your second bike, there are plenty of great-looking bikes that will give you joy while learning, and less of a skid mark in your shorts if you dump them on their side.
If your heart is set on a Ducati Monster, check out an older Monster 620 otherwise I list a few other possibles below.
Monster 696 Competitors
If you’re looking at a Monster 696, you may also want to check out –