Around the MO offices, we’re filled with excitement and restraint whenever a motorcycle with “motard” in its name enters our graces. This is especially true when we took delivery of the $14,995 Ducati Hypermotard SP. With its high ground clearance, light weight, abundance of power, and dirtbike-like agility, we were anxious to rip around the city and the canyons, knowing there would be very little on the roads that could keep up. Of course, motards, more than any other kind of motorcycle, compel us with a childlike enthusiasm to act like even bigger MOrons than we are, much to the chagrin of the local constabulary.
What’s Old Is New Again
It’s been just over a year since we last rode the new Hypermotard at its launch in Spain. Full technical details about the bike, including the difference between the SP and the standard Hyper, can be found there, but the biggest news for both bikes, obviously, is the complete overhaul of the Hyper lineup. As 365 days have gone since our last experience with the new Hyper, we felt it was time to reacquaint ourselves with Ducati’s Hypermotard SP on U.S. soil, since our time in Spain on the SP was strictly at the track.
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In the engine bay, a radiator and its associated hoses make their appearance, something not seen in the old air-cooled models. Sitting behind that radiator is a 821cc, four-valve V-Twin. This single engine choice replaces both the two-valve air-cooled models of before and produces a claimed 20 horses more than the 1078cc engine of yore. Torque output suffers in comparison, but that doesn’t mean the new engine is lacking in motivation to loft the front end.
Power comes on smoothly and predictably as we’ve come to expect from Ducati mills. The ride-by-wire system is well calibrated to throttle inputs, though we did notice gearing for the Hyper is a bit on the tall side. This allows you to carry a gear longer before needing to shift through the cogs of the well-sorted gearbox, one void of a quickshifter.
The R-b-W system also facilitates the use of three different riding modes (Race, Sport, and Wet), four-level ABS (which includes off), and nine-level traction control (including off). As riding modes have become fairly common on performance bikes these days, perhaps the best way to describe the SP’s manners on the street is that we never felt the need to resort to anything other than Race mode during our time with it. Power response is direct, but it comes on so fluidly there was never a need to tame it down. We did, for experimentation’s sake, but quickly came back to Race mode each time.
ABS reacts as you’d expect, with the least intrusive mode only operating the front tire, leaving plenty of room for rear-wheel slides, if that’s your thing. For each of the three ride modes there is a preset level of ABS and traction control, with an option for the rider to manually change either setting via buttons on the left switchgear.
We left ABS at 1 and DTC in level two (higher numbers correlate to more intervention), and considering the traction control wasn’t noticeable during the track portion of the intro in Spain, at slower street speeds, either our wrists never snapped back fast enough to trigger any intervention, or we simply never overcame the incredible grip of the Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires. Frankly, if you’re riding at a pace to get either system to operate at such low settings, you’re a maniac.
If there is a gripe about the Hypermotard SP, it’s the incredibly high seat. At 35 inches off the ground, shorter folks will have a hard time getting on, let alone touching the floor. “Even I’m at the tips of my toes,” says Headset Editor Tom Roderick, “and I’m nearly six-feet tall!” A fully adjustable 50mm Marzocchi fork and Ohlins shock are to blame, as their 7.1-inch and 6.9-inch travel, respectively, lift the saddle into the clouds.
However, those quality components, combined with the forged Marchesinis, allow the SP to terrorize the twisties with reckless abandon. The SP feels excellent on its side, and the endless amount of ground clearance means you really have to try to touch a hard part down. Curtailing the action is a set of four-pot Brembo monobloc calipers. Do we really need to say more?
Here’s the thing about the Hypermotard SP: it lives for the curvy roads and tight race tracks. This we know. Surprisingly, it can handle normal, everyday riding better than we thought. Unlike the first-gen Hyper, the second gen doesn’t place you directly over the front wheel. You sit slightly further back, on a saddle scalloped to cradle the human tush.
Both old and new Hypers leave you out like a sail at freeway speeds, but we thank Ducati for wising up and ditching the fold-out mirrors on the first Hyper for more traditional mirror stalks. Now we can filter through traffic AND see behind us at the same time. It doesn’t offer much else in the form of long-distance comfort or amenities, but if that’s what you’re looking for, then you should be looking in the direction of the touring-oriented Hyperstrada.
When we look at the Ducati model range, we can define the Panigale as a racebike, the Multistrada as a tourer, the Diavel as a cruiser, and so on. When it comes to the Ducati Hypermotard SP, however, we don’t know what category to put it in.
All we do know is it’s a bike that emphasizes unadulterated fun more than anything else in the Ducati lineup. And with copycats emerging in the motard-on-steroids landscape – in the form of the MV Agusta Rivale – the only thing left to do is to pit them against each other to see which can plant the biggest smile on our faces. Stay tuned.
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