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Monster: Good and bad

Addition to Ducati line: Engineered well, has ergonomic problems.

Ducati has given birth to another Monster.

The latest addition to the Italian luxury motorcycle company's most popular line is the Monster 821. Building on the success of the 21-year legacy of its most affordable entry-level machine, this Ducati has a new motor in a new frame.

That's good news, and not so good news.

The motor is an engineering dream. By making subtle changes to the Testastretta engine that drives the Hypermotards and Hyperstradas, Ducati has managed to produce a beefier power plant with 112 horsepower and 66 pound-feet of torque.

The acceleration is so intense and the power band so wide that it's hard to believe it's only an 821cc motor. It's faster than most 1,000cc and 1,200cc bikes I've ridden.

The engine pulls strong and smooth up to about 6,000 r.p.m. - where a lot of bikes start running out of steam - and then it gets really interesting. The throttle sensation is less like turning something on and more like turning something loose.

It's hard to imagine Ducati enthusiasts not liking this refreshed model - unless they're scared off by the $11,495 MSRP or distracted by the debut of the new Ducati Scrambler.

That bike is getting a lot of attention. Even though it is less powerful and a far less sophisticated package, the Scrambler has Ducatisti very excited. I'm hoping their interest does not overshadow this great addition to the Monster line.

Like previous Monsters, the 821 has a nice, neutral rider stance. The seat is wider and cushier than the seat on the Hypers and sits lower, and on this model it's adjustable for height. The rider triangle is comfortable. The appointments and fit and finish are, as on all Ducatis, first class.

The Ducati Safety Pack, which includes riding modes, eight-level traction control and ABS braking, is standard on the 821. So are the dual front disc brakes, with Brembo calipers, and the fully adjustable Sachs rear shock. The company even says you can do 20,000 miles before your first valve adjustment.

It weighs in at under 400 pounds, dry - just a bit heavier than the Hypermotard.

The low weight is partly due to the new frame. Ducati's engineers threw out the tried-and-true Monster trellis frame and designed a new one inspired by professional racing frames that bolts directly to the engine. This helps the 821 achieve what Ducati says is the lowest curb weight in its class.

But it's also why some reviewers have complained about the ergonomics. I found it hard, at first, to find a place to put my feet that doesn't bump the exhaust and hard to find a place for my knees that didn't have them banging against some sharp knobs on the frame.

Ducati has sold almost 300,000 Monsters since their 1993 debut. In fact, more than half of all Ducatis sold in any given year are Monsters. Just as Ducati freaks are known as Ducatisti, so are Monster maniacs lovingly called Monsteristi.