Legendary motorcycle designer Miguel Galluzzi is as refreshingly direct as his most famous creation, the Ducati M900 Monster. When it was released in 1993, the bare-bones Monster was considered revolutionary, which speaks more about 1990s sportbike design than its status as the "first naked bike." Regardless, that motorcycle history was pretty much all naked, the mantra of '90s sporting motorcycles was all-plastic-­everything, and Galluzzi landed in the thick of it after a stint designing cars at GM/Opel in Germany.

“I was getting fed up with the car business; each project took 10 years to develop—just too long. My boss, Hideo Kodama, heard that Soichiro Honda wanted a Honda motorcycle design studio in Milan, to understand how things were done in Italy. They hired me to start the studio in 1987.”

He developed sketches and models that exposed the motorcycle’s engine, but there was no steering Honda away from the current idiom.

“I was working on the Honda CB600F2, and it was all this plastic crap covering up everything.”

His sketches for minimal bodywork were routinely rejected, and he grew frustrated after two years. By then he’d met the Castiglioni brothers of Cagiva, owners of Ducati and Husqvarna, and was hired to develop the new-generation 900SS in 1990.

“I had ideas for bikes, and ­convinced my boss to build a half-fairing 900SS for the big ­Cologne show. Four days before the show, Cagiva’s commercial guys said, ‘We have to have a full fairing!’ We built it, but it was covered in Bondo, and after 10 days under hot lights at Cologne, the Bondo shrank, and the bike’s shape went flat.”

Still, the full-fairing 900SS was a huge hit, and became Ducati’s No. 1 seller. To demonstrate that a smaller fairing could work, Galluzzi hacksawed the bodywork on his ’87 Ducati 750 Sport.

“The form of what a bike should be—just enough to enjoy the ride.”

“I cut the fairing in half and showed the bosses, ‘This is the bike we should build.’ So at the Bologna show in December 1990, we showed a 750SS with the half-fairing. That was the beginning of the changes.”

Galluzzi never actually worked for or at Ducati, but he was installed at the Cagiva HQ in Varese. He prefers to keep his design studio away from the factory.

“Usually around 5 or 6 in the evening, the factory guys would get bored and come to my office to ‘help’ design bikes, as design is the fun part—everyone wanted to hang out. But they’d alter drawings, give unwanted advice, and change projects. It was a mess! So I put a padlock on the studio, and I had the only key! They had to ring a bell to get in.”

The Monster’s birth was midwifed by an early ’90s high-tech device: a color copier.

Miguel Galluzzi
We sit down with designer Miguel Galluzzi to discuss his creation, the Ducati Monster, 25 years later.Julia LaPalme

“We had the first color Xerox machine at our office, so I copied magazine photos of a bare chassis, and drew some simple lines with minimal bodywork, like bikes had been since the beginning of time. The form of what a bike should be—just enough to enjoy the ride.”

In summer 1990, Galluzzi asked his boss if he could pick up some parts at Ducati. The 851 had just come out, and it was blowing people’s minds—the first twin-cylinder sportbike that could rev to 10,000 rpm.

“I built a raw special using all factory parts, but the four-valve engine was too expensive for my project. But we had plenty of 900SS motors lying around; it was affordable stuff, which meant a bike could be much cheaper. That was the beginning of the Monster.”

Sketching the Monster
The Monster began as simple sketches on a color copy of a bike frame plucked from a magazine.Julia LaPalme

The code-named M900 project developed rapidly, and Galluzzi devoted considerable time to its creation.

Backt to basics
“To me it wasn’t radical, it was just going back to basics.”Julia LaPalme

“My boss called from Bologna and asked, ‘What’s the name of this project?’ At the time my two sons loved these cute rubber toys at the grocery store, little monsters that came two to a packet, and every day they asked me, ‘Did you buy me a monster?’ I suggested we call the bike ­Monster, and they did! It was just a throwaway."

Cagiva’s marketing arm didn’t like the name, but French importer Marcel Seurat thought it perfect, and it stuck.

“People said, ‘This is extremely futuristic,’ and I’d ask, ‘Have you been looking at bikes from 50 or 60 years ago?’ All the shapes in the ’90s were soft in cars and bikes, soapy. To me it wasn’t radical, it was just going back to basics.”

In being so basic, the Monster was a blank canvas for customization, something Italian motorcycles had never been.

“People enjoy transforming bikes, personalizing them, painting and stuff. If you know the history of motorcycles, most of the fun part is there: choppers, cafe racers, ­everything like that, forever!”

Galluzzi considers the Monster itself a “custom” build because he used the frame from one bike, the motor from another, and added a custom tank. Its simplicity and use of existing parts made the M900 the fastest and cheapest bike to put into production in modern history. It also became Ducati’s biggest ­seller for years on end—and a legendary design that changed the course of the industry.