Many credit Ducati with starting the modern naked bike segment when it introduced the Monster in 1993. Over the years, everything from the Triumph Street Triple to the Kawasaki Z800 challenged the Monster’s supremacy, but few could match Ducati’s allure. That is until Yamaha’s MT series burst onto the scene in 2014.
Packing a high-spirited 847cc inline-triple and a checkbook-friendly price tag, the MT-09 took the fight to directly to the aging Monster. At over 20 years old, the category creator looked as attractive as ever, but with Monster 796’s 87 horsepower and $11,695 price tag, the appeal started wearing off. Up to the 2020 model year, the Monster only became more bloated, stubbornly clinging to its pièce de résistance—the trellis frame.
Meanwhile, the MT-09 secured its grip on the segment, gaining a reputation for its pound-for-pound performance all the while. Preparing for the 2021 model year, Yamaha and Ducati needed to implement Euro 5-compliant updates on both middleweight nakeds. Team Blue also used the opportunity to address the MT-09's smooth out the fueling, stiffen the suspension, and update the styling.
In Bologna, the company hit the reset button on the elderly Monster. It ditched the trellis frame for a monocoque unit and adopted some very MT-esque styling cues in the process. The overhaul reset the stage for the naked bike battle of the eras. In one corner, the long-established Monster. In the other, hard-hitting upstart MT-09. For the foreseeable future, both roadsters will battle it out on the dealership showrooms, but who takes the cake on paper?
|2021 Ducati Monster||2021 Yamaha MT-09|
|Engine:||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 937cc V-twin||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 890cc Inline-Triple|
|Bore And Stroke:||94 x 67.5mm||78.0mm x 62.1mm|
|Performance:||111 hp/ 69 lb-ft||117 hp/ 69 lb-ft|
|Weight (Wet):||414 pounds||417 pounds|
Pound For Pound
For 2021, Ducati put the Monster on a diet plan. Shaving weight from the engine, clutch, frame, swingarm, and wheels, the House of Borgo Panigale got the Monster back in fighting shape at 414 pounds. Yamaha had the same thing in mind, however, lopping 8 pounds off the MT-09 for a 417-pound wet weight. You may not be able to tell the weight difference in the saddle, but the Ducati still edges out the Iwata naked bike by the slimmest of margins.
In terms of power, the Monster leverages the Supersport 950’s 11-degree Testastretta V-twin. Packing 111 horsepower and 69 lb-ft of torque, the revised roadster gains a modest power boost while also relaxing valve services to 18,000 miles. In the other camp, the MT-09 adds a few ponies (113 horsepower to 117 horsepower) thanks to a displacement bump on the new 890cc inline-triple. While most riders won’t feel that six-horsepower advantage in the saddle, the MT-09 squeaks out a victory in this battle—but that’s just the beginning of the war.
The Yamaha springs for a fully adjustable 41mm front end while the Ducati delivers a non-adjustable 43mm USD fork. In the back, both models employ a preload-adjustable shock, but the MT-09 also offers damping adjustments. The Yamaha may edge out the win in suspension, but the Monster’s dual Brembo M4.32 calipers mated to 320mm rotors towers over the MT-09's 298mm discs and four-piston calipers setup. Both models host a 245mm rotor at the rear but the Monster emerges victorious again thanks to its Brembo binders.
The MT-09 and Monster both wear a 120-section tire at the front and a 180 at the rear, but Team Blue goes for dedicate hypersport rubber with the Bridgestone Battlax S22 while Ducati adds some touring capability with the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III. Both models have their own strengths when comparing the MT-09's 56.3-inch wheelbase, 25-degree rake, and 4.3 inches of trail to the Monster’s 58-inch wheelbase, 25-degree rake, and 3.7 inches of trail. As a result, the rubber might be the deciding factor for riders. Whether you prize agility or stability, there’s an option to fit the bill.
The I.T. Factor
Superbike-worthy electronics have started to trickle down to the middleweight naked category, and both the Monster and MT benefit from their respective manufacturer’s technological advances. Ducati flexes its muscle with the Monster’s 4.3-inch TFT dash displaying a Panigale V4-derived interface. The brand backs up that brawn with brains too, packing traction control, cornering ABS, and ride modes into the system. Ducati even equips the Monster for the track with launch control and four-level wheelie control.
In 2021, the MT-09 also earns a superbike-worthy electronics suite by adopting a downsized version of the YZF-R1's IMU. Team Blue’s traction control, slide control, and wheelie control come along for the ride. Of course, the six-axis IMU also unlocks lean-sensitive ABS and ride-by-wire provides numerous ride modes. Unlike the Monster, the MT only features a 3.7-inch TFT display, but Yamaha favors a simple layout while Ducati crams as much information into the available screen real estate.
Both models come with quickshifters, but the Monster’s Quick Shift Evo 2 takes lean angle into account before smoothly transitioning to the next gear. Due to premium features like launch control, multi-level wheelie control, and the same quickshifter found on flagship bikes like the Multistrada V4 S and Panigale V4, the Monster delivers a decisive blow in the electronics category.
While the Ducati Monster and Yamaha MT-09 are nearly identical on paper (ahem, and in the styling department), price will also be a deciding factor for potential buyers. As expected, the bLU cRU delivers outstanding bang-for-buck with the MT-09 $9,399 MSRP. Ducati demands a little more pocket change with the Monster’s $11,895 price tag.
While both bikes eke out narrow victories by the slimmest of margins, Ducati justifies its higher retail price with top-shelf rider aids and superbike-derived electronics. In the end, there’s something for everyone. Those looking for a wheelie-happy yet reliable middleweight naked with impeccable handling and a budget-friendly price tag, the MT-09 is for you.
Conversely, if you prize a lighter middleweight with an advanced electronic suite and sharp braking system, the Monster has your name on it. The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 and 2021 Ducati Monster may be a blow-for-blow battle on paper, but with such heated competition, the customer ultimately wins.