After finally giving myself permission to own and ride a motorcycle I started out on a pretty worn Suzuki GZ250. I weigh 200 lbs., it weighed 300, together we wobbled through the twisties on worn Dunlops with every turn an exhilarating-to-be-alive finish (in retrospect). The engine self-destructed and I hurriedly concluded my research on what to upgrade to. I'm not going to commute very often on the bike, or take long trips very often, or even buzz around in a big city very often, instead I'm going to hit the backroads and the coast and drive 4 lane roads only to get to the former. I'm also not interested in popping wheelies or winning drag races with other bikes. Great handling is important to me since I'm still a newbie and would rather have a bike that can lean way more than I thought I would need to than be scraping pegs or exhausts etc. on cruiser style bikes. These thoughts all led me to the naked bikes: sporty but not leg cramping, minimalist styling (chrome belongs on 50's car bumpers), and yet capable of highway speeds (up to 80 around here).
Nearly everyone recommended the Suzuki SV650 over the Monster - lighter, more powerful, cheaper. Someone even recommended the Honda 919. The 919 looks positively brutish and seemed to me too likely for accidental wheelie popping given my experience, so although it was attractive in many ways (reliability, power enough for ever) I felt that it was more likely a suicide machine for a person with my aptitude.
The SV650 seemed entirely the logical choice, except that it again would likely be an accidental wheelie popper. The looks did nothing for me, and when I saw the weld marks on the copy-cat trellis frame, they went from nuetral to negative. Last but not least, there was something about the seat that, well, put my balls in an uncomfortable position! Maybe its my 30" inseam, maybe its the shape of the seat - I dunno but I had a too vivid imagination regarding the effects of an hour or so of riding on the family jewels.
Which left me with my first choice, the clear emotional favorite. The Ducati Monster 620 i.e. Dark. The look, the lines, the sound. The opportunity to own a genuine Italian sports vehicle. A bike with subtle looks and appeal. But then my friend took me to another dealer where they had one in RED. Words cannot describe the rush of pleasure at simply looking at this bike in the flesh! Web/computer/brochure pictures do not do this machine justice - it absolutely is stunning in RED.
So $8000 out of the door later for a brand new 2003, she's mine! My first ride was around deserted residential areas just to get a feel for the clutch (stiff) and shifting (swift) and braking (excellent!). Below 3000 rpm this machine is not (yet) happy, below 4000 rpm she is moody, but from 4000 to the break-in limit of 5000 she just purrs. After the warmup we went on a couple 60 mile rides including some two-lane Route 1 coastal highway, some 5-lane freeway, some 2-lane twisties, and even some roads most heavily traveled by bicycles. In every situation I was immediately riding as fast or faster than I dared on the 250. This bike knows where I want to go and only once did I have to conciously counter-steer (a bottom of the hill sweeping turn onto a curved narrow bridge with a bicyclist on it and a car tailing me at 60mph). Divider bumps, no problem. Ratty road surface, unnoticable. Rev limit of 5000 rpm - HORRIBLE!
Only two downsides, so far. I got stuck in stop-and-go traffic for 15 minutes and the stiff clutch really wore on my hand to the point of pain the next day when riding to work. I have short fingers and I may be able to adjust for that. Second, the handlebars seem to be absolutely straight across and, well, that's not the angle my wrists make - this led to numbness on my first ride - probably in part due to the fact I was pushing too much weight on them. When using my knees (as on a horse) to hold my body I found that the steering became feather light, but I still had to still my elbows way way out to get the proper contact angle. I'll be looking into a different handlebar if I continue to have issues on my sport rides.
Anyway, hope my decision-tree makes sense to anyone else who is in my position. Thanks to all who have commented on this site - I have to say that I was influenced by the pro-con arguments and the emotional enthusiasm displayed here for the Monster. I'm not too keen on regularly scheduled maintenance so for me she has to be worth the bother - and just looking at her, let alone how she rides, will make that duty much closer to pleasure!
(note, this site doesn't seem to know that 2003 bikes are out yet, so I had to put in 2002 in the popup)
Update: well, 250 miles later - the handlebars are fine, I wasn't used to the seating position and was putting way too much weight on my hands. When leaning forward hugging the gas tank with my knees my hands are light on the bars and the front wheel just wants to dance through the turns.
I have seen a bit of the hard-to-start-when-warm thing. Still getting the hang of it - I'm not used to using the throttle when starting but that seems to help in this situation, and also letting it turn for like 3 seconds...
Update: 2500 miles. Well, gosh, what can I say. The bike is a bullet now that I dare open the throttle to the redline. The sound at 10000rpm is everything it should be. That's about 55mph in first gear, BTW! Re-reading the owner's manual says that I should have been able to go to 6000rpm in the first 620 miles - that would have made life a lot happier. The hard-to-start thing seems to simply be, in my case at least, an expectation that I shouldn't use any throttle at all since its an EFI system and that's what my car manuals have insisted upon. In the Duc's case, however, a little throttle when restarted after a warm stall has her fire up right and gloriously away. Hmmm, the only downsides so far are that the seat seems to be made of pretty thin vinyl - I somehow have acquired two tiny holes already. The underseat storage seems very meager to me, so I might improve both situations if I replace the seat.
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Amount Paid (US$): $8000
Model Year: 2002