ďI warned you about hanging out with that dirtbike on steroids,Ē sheíd say. ďYour license canít handle another Exhibition of Speed or Reckless Driving charge!Ē
ďYeah, but sheís more fun than a year at Six Flags!Ē youíd say if you just had Ducatiís most recent hit in your garage for a few weeks.
Take a ride on a Hypermotard 1100S, and you will also hark back to past scenes of your life when you were a bit of a punk rebel. It mightíve been surreptitious spitballs shot across a classroom at your buddy, or perhaps peppering an unsuspecting driver with a well-timed snowball. Riders who once enjoyed the thrill of general mischief such as this will find the Hypermotard a willing and prodding accomplice in whatever tomfoolery you still have flowing through your veins.
When aboard the HM, there is a constant struggle with the devil on your shoulder coercing you to jump curbs and pull monster wheelies. There are two ways to come to a stop: You either throw out the aggressive Brembo front binders for a quick halt with the back wheel in the air, or you can just jam on the nicely modulatable rear brake for a tire-smoking, crossed-up stop. This thing is versatile!
You know the Hypermotard is going to be a different kind of ride from the moment you straddle the rambunctious steed. The steel-tube trellis frame and Desmo V-Twin say Ducati, but the riding position says something more akin to Husqvarna.
In fact, despite the many iconic Ducati cues and several components shared with other bikes from the Bologna-based company, this new Hypermotard delivers a distinct riding experience. The first the thing you notice after the tall seat is the view forward that is almost completely unencumbered by any view of the bike. Strange and cool.
Strange and cool, too, is the rakish and minimal bodywork which proudly displays the nicely exposed motor that is clean of unattractive exposed wiring and hoses, and it looks even cooler with the Sís carbon fiber cam-belt covers. The lightweight black composite also graces this new-age hooligan bike in its lower front fender, fork protectors and tailsection pieces Ė unless you opt for the less expensive standard Hypermotard that instead has gauche plastic components.
The design of the Hypermotard came from the pen of Ducatiís controversial stylist Pierre Terblanche, first debuting in November of 2005 as a concept bike. It was notable in two ways: it was an immediate hit with the crowds at motorcycle shows and it looked relatively easy to put into production. Not long afterward, Ducati announced that weíd be seeing the inspirational new bike on showroom floors around the world.
Terblancheís gorgeous 1993 Supermono and his retro-cool SportClassics are his greatest design successes, but this new Hypermotard certainly has to rank up as one of his best. This bike oozes personality, proving to be simultaneously both butch and beautiful. Its high schnoz of a front fender might be a bit awkward, but its derriere is delicious with its graceful pair of aluminum-capped exhaust canisters under the tail and a single-sided swingarm that shows off that sweet pinstriped rear wheel.
Without the ungracefulness of a liquid-cooled engineís radiator and attendant plumbing to spoil the view, this Eddie Haskell of motorcycles is a pleasure to peruse while sipping a hot coffee or a cold beer. The Hypermotard S like our test bike also has the added eye candy of an Ohlins shock and anti-stiction Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) on the sliders of the beefy 50mm Marzocchi fork; the run-of-the-mill Hypermotard makes due with a non-DLC fork and a Sachs shock, both fully adjustable, for a retail price $1500 lower than the $13,995 MSRP of the S version.
Perhaps the most important addition to the S is its forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels that are lighter than the cast-aluminum hoops on the standard HM. There is no better place to lose weight than from a motorcycleís wheels, as it allows a suspension to react quicker to road imperfections and significantly lessens steering effort by reducing rotational inertia.
But with the wide motocross-style handlebar, a Hypermotard rider is unlikely to complain about heavy steering. Conservative geometry (a 24.0-degree rake) prevents it from being too twitchy, but it is nonetheless highly responsive to steering inputs. Itís actually so quick to respond that I frequently turned in too early at many corners before I became acclimated to its taut reflexes. Itís worth noting that the HMís 57.3-inch wheelbase is more than an inch shorter than that of a Honda CRF450R motocrosser.
Also playing a role in the HMís agility is its relatively light weight. Though its 390-lb claimed dry weight will keep you off the double jumps at the MX track, itís a significant 42 lbs lighter than the mechanically similar Multistrada 1100 we tested in our recent Air-Cooled Twins Naked comparo. The standard HM, without the Sís carbon bits and forged wheels, scales in with an extra 5 lbs.
Standard equipment on the S model is a stellar set of brakes. Up front are the same high-spec Brembo monobloc calipers seen on the 1098, made from a single casting for flex-free responses. Unlike the 1098ís massive 330mm rotors, the Hypermotard uses more modest 305mm discs that readily handle the challenge of the lower velocities of this type of bike. Initial bite is aggressive and can catch out the unwary, but aiding precise lever feel are braided-steel brake lines and a radial-pump master cylinder. The standard Hypermotard is fitted with cheaper two-piece Brembo calipers.
Another distinct aspect of the Ducati brand is the jingle-jangle of its dry-clutch design. A wet clutch such as the Multistradaís is quieter than the HMís, but that wouldnít do for this bike. It, says Ducati, is ďthe popular preference of thousands of Ducatisti the world over.Ē In this application, the dry clutch has a 30% lighter pull thanks to a more efficient lever design and a grippier clutch-plate friction material that allows lighter clutch springs. It also weighs 3.5 lbs less than the oil-bathed clutch in the MTS. Further, the transmissionís primary drive gears have been upgraded with a new lightweight construction.
Pulling away from a stop, the Hypermotardís dry clutch proved to be surprisingly easy to modulate via its radial-pump hydraulic master cylinder. Itís easy to balance the amount of drive through the clutch lever, allowing a gentle hover of the front tire across any intersection, and its rattling clutch plates arenít as noisy as Ducatis of yore. Wheelies happen at will in first gear. A tug on the bars in second will do the same.
Unlike most current race-replica bikes, the Hypermotard isnít hindered by overly tall gearing. In fact, its gearing is as short as any Ducati Iíve ridden. A briskly accelerating rider can short-shift the torquey V-Twin into fourth gear before reaching 50 mph, meaning that there is plenty of mechanical torque multiplication from the street-sensible gearing to maximize grunt from tight corner exits or that quick blast of power to escape the mindless cell-phone talker who wants to occupy your lane. For whatever reason, the Hypermotardís gearbox proved to be smoother and less notchy than the íbox in our Multistrada test bike. Even neutral is easy to access.
Once up to speed, youíll soon find out that 80 miles-per is the Hypermotardís comfortable limit, so the bikeís short gearing isnít an issue at that speed. Pushing beyond 80, the dirtbike-like riding position is fighting a losing battle with aerodynamics, so this wonít be the ideal mount for blasts across Nevada or Nebraska.
But steer the Hypermotard in the direction of a sinuous canyon road and youíll find a road detangler unlike anything youíve tried before. It flicks effortlessly into the tightest bends, then catapults out of corners with the engineís extremely accessible powerband and street-friendly gearing working cooperatively, even if the peak output from the 1078cc two-valve V-Twin is humbled by any 600cc four-cylinder supersport from Japan Inc.
The tidy fuel tank/airbox cover seems oddly far away, and its small size is the main reason why the identical engine in the Multistrada is claimed to crank out 5 extra ponies. The small airbox strangles top-end power - one of the many compromises the bikeís design forces. Though we didnít get a chance to dyno our HM, we expect about 75 horses at the rear wheel because our MTS produced 80. Torque should be unaffected, so all of the MTSís 65 ft-lbs are in effect at a punchy 4800 rpm.
Not just an undersized airbox, the íMotard is also hindered by a petite 3.28-gallon fuel tank that ensures youíll be scoping out a Chevron station every 100 miles. This isnít too much of an inconvenience, as the negligible support from the narrow seat will persuade an early rest stop anyway.
The HMís saddle is yet another area in which ergonomic compromises were made for the sake of style. To look the part of a supermoto machine, the seat takes styling cues from dirtbikes, forcing a fairly lofty height that is said to be 33.3 inches but feels taller. Itís also sloped awkwardly forward. A narrow midsection allows legs a straight shot at the pavement, but rider comfort would be gratefully enhanced by a lower, wider seat. Surprisingly, the passenger seat is relatively cush, and integrated hand-holds built into the tailsection provide a welcome measure of security. And speaking of hands, we must applaud Ducati for its ingenious hand-guards that neatly incorporate LED turnsignals while providing shelter for digits.
As you might imagine, the Öhlins/Marzocchi combo offers supple suspension action, blessed with a generous 6.5 inches of travel up front and 5.6 at the rear. Although damping was initially on the stiff side, a couple of clicker adjustments smoothed out the ride nicely, especially after backing off the spring preload from the rear shock. Incomprehensively, the collar that compresses the shockís spring is made from the same nylon material we noticed on the 1098S, not the seemingly more durable steel commonly used on most shocks.
The Hypermotard deserves kudos for its instrumentation that is amazingly compact for all its capabilities. The digital speedometer is easy to read and works in conjunction with a bar-graph LCD tachometer. A switch on the left handlebar can toggle through several different readouts, including a clock, oil temp, battery voltage, reserve fuel tripmeter and a lap-timer. In addition, the Hypermotard comes equipped to receive the Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA) data-acquisition system that is available as a Ducati Performance accessory. The tach is difficult to read at a glance, but the V-Twinís clearly defined torque peak makes constant rev checks superfluous.
The Hypermotardís final design compromise is the arrangement of its clever folding mirrors. While they offer a decent view behind (spoiled slightly by blurry images at certain rpm) and have a high novelty factor, they unnecessarily add to the bikeís already considerable width. Lane-splitting Californians will be bothered most, but anyone will be a bit peeved when they vibrate away from their intended settings. And youíll need orangutan arms to be able to reach the right-side mirror with your left hand while riding. We canít help but imagine a better system if the mirrors could be flipped upward vertically instead of out to the sides. (If some enterprising business out there invents such a system, Iíll be happy to accept a 5% cut.) A simpler solution would be to purchase a kit from Ducati that relocates the mirrors inboard of the grips for about $60.
But to bitch about things like floppy mirrors or a small fuel tank or a lack of touring comfort would be to miss the Hypermotardís point altogether. This isnít some homely multi-tool to gracelessly blend into commuter traffic (even if it requires less maintenance than older Ducs and comes with a two-year warrantee). Instead, the HM is a high-style scalpel that would be right at home slicing up the 318 tight corners of the Tail of the Dragon, blatting its rumbly V-Twin soundtrack across the mountains. And its visual presence and graceful design canít help but make its rider feel special, as evidenced by the constant head-turning it caused during our rides.
But the most enduring personality trait of the Hypermotard is its unerring ability to excite a rider in a way that no other bike can match. Itís able to inspire naughtiness from anyone with a hint of mischief in their blood. If wheelies are part of your repertoire, this bike will entice you to pull a high, long one at every opportunity.
I know the kids down at the local skate park appreciated the Hypermotardís wheelie ability. Just the right kind of crowd to understand the charms of a bike we consider to be one of our new favorites.
|The Perfect Bike ForÖ|
|...the connoisseur of motorcycles who already has at least two other bikes in the stable for more mundane riding, and someone who has a friendly relationship with law-enforcement personnel.|