2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950/950 SP First Ride Review

John Burns
by John Burns

You make me feel so spring has sprung

I’m pretty sure I could’ve ridden the new Hypermotard 950 SP like Ruben Xaus rides it, if only the Ducati press people had coughed up the technical info in the press kit a little sooner than right before our first track session. Ahh, now I’m reading about it on the airplane on the way home:

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950

Editor Score: 90.5%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 14.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.25/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.25/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score90.5/100

At the front, Level 1 guarantees sports-grade intervention of the Cornering system and, at the rear, activates the Slide by Brake function to permit motard-style drifting into the bends. Level 1 deactivates the rear wheel anti lift-up function. Given its more specialised profile, Level 1 is not the default setting on any Riding Mode but can be selected by the rider via the ABS menu.

2014 Ducati Hypermotard SP Review

2017 Ducati Hypermotard 939 SP Review

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This is how Ruben Xaus does it.

Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention and missed this frame of the slide show?

Well that sounds easy enough…

Dang, I had my Hypermotard in Sport mode in all three of our short sessions at Circuito Maspalomas, and never could get sideways into corners. In Sport mode, your rear ABS is still on (level 2 of 8). Probably just as well, really.

This is how I do it. Not quite as exciting. And look: Too preoccupied to mash the rear brake anyway.
Of course there’s wheelie control, too – DWC EVO – and it’s on level 3 of 8 in Sport mode. There’s definitely enough power in the new 937cc L-Twin; I saw a few guys hucking horn monos, but I only managed a few baby ones on the power where there were no photographers. No, really! I shoulda dialed DWC back a bit; every time I tried to clutch ’er up in second exiting a corner, the DWC would smack me rudely back down. Also just as well. You’re supposed to perform for the camera, but then you start chasing each other around, and, well…

At least I felt like I was taking full advantage of the lean-sensitive portion of the Bosch Cornering ABS braking system up front: The tight little seaside circuito throws in a few first-gear corners. I don’t think I would’ve gone down all the way to first gear if Ruben Xaus hadn’t advised it, and I still probably wouldn’t have taken his advice if the new DQS up-and-down quickshifter/autoblipper and slipper clutch didn’t work so well.

With no clutch to modulate, you really can rush in like a fool even harder on the brakes, and since those corners were so slow, I think I actually did activate the ABS a bit. Or that’s what my survival instincts were screaming at me as I braked what felt like harder than I should’ve been most of the way down to the apex. The brakes themselves are 320mm discs gripped by Brembo M4.32 four-piston calipers, which serve up plenty of power and feel along with just a hint of sponginess.

If you’re getting the impression I was having more fun on the new Hypermotard (specifically the new Hypermotard SP) than a person my age should be allowed to have, you’d be exactly right. I felt like with another day or two to work out all the possibilities the addition of the new Bosch six-way inertial measurement unit provides, I could maybe someday learn to ride like the big boys. It’s fantasy, but it’s fun.

Actually there are two new Hypermotard 950s:

Your Hyper SP, pictured, is going to retail for $16,695. Your base 950 will sell for $13,295.

Exiting those corners in first gives way more thrust out the exits; I just have to leave my mechanical sympathy in the pit. While you’re trusting the brakes you may as well trust in the new DTC EVO system, which is based on an algorithm that ensures faster, more precise intervention. The DTC EVO interfaces with the Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), constantly measuring the lean angle and using it to accurately calculate the degree of intervention needed to ensure suitable rear wheelspin (according to the DTC EVO level setting).

Me exiting a corner. (That Termignoni pipe is optional; the SP and base 950 come with the same undertail dual exhaust.)
Ruben Xaus exiting a corner. Compare and contrast.

I kept whacking the throttle open harder and harder out of those first-gear corners, until I’d grab second gear (seamlessly again, thanks to the excellent DQS) still leaned pretty far over, then roll the gas to the stop or as close as my medulla oblongata would allow. In my last 15-minute session of the day, I think I finally felt the TC cut in to dial the power back and save me from myself. Or maybe I rolled the throttle shut? Who knows. The point is I didn’t soil myself. Which means I might do better next lap?

A Panigale V4 might be more useable on a bigger track, but no how, no way on this tight little one. It’s a much closer approximation of the roads most of us ride most of the time.

What all those electronics do is simply encourage you to explore how much grip the tires at both ends have (more than you think), with a greater margin of safety. While truly expert riders might quibble about certain specifics, DTC and lean-sensitive ABS are the penicillin to road rash for the vast majority of us. Let’s not over-prescribe them.

The biggest cost item on the SP is probably its Öhlins suspension pieces. I saw a few bumps on Circuito Maspalomas, but I never felt them. Even the second-fastest guy said he was happy with the SP in its stock settings, but we stiffened ours up a bit with more preload, compression, and rebound damping at both ends and felt immediately more confident and quicker, mostly thanks to dramatically reduced brake dive into those first-gear corners.

Dangit, we were just getting warmed up on the Hyper SP when it was time for a long gourmet lunch. Super-light on its Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas, excellently suspended and heavily defended by electronic countermeasures… I can’t think of what would work better on a tight little track like Circuito Maspalomas – which somebody told me means “more pigeons.” On an even tighter track, you could go all foot-out supermotard style and maybe almost hang with the Husqvarna 701s and things. But then you can’t ride those to work every day or the dentist’s office.

Ducati claim 114 horses for the “new” Testastretta 11-degree L-twin at 9000 rpm – four more than before. The engineers say they were really after the torque, which now peaks at 7250 rpm and 71 lb-ft of torque. The idea was they wanted more midrange power and a broader spread of it, along with smoother throttle response. It feels like they succeeded in all departments: 80% of that torque is supposedly available at just 3,000 rpm, and 88% of it between 5 and 9,000 rpm.

We got there using new pistons with a 13.3:1 compression ratio (previously 12.6:1), new exhaust cams and a new exhaust system exhaling through a pair of underseat mufflers. Thanks to lightened clutch and alternator covers, a lighter gear shift drum, an aluminum chain tensioner and magnesium cam covers – they even managed to lighten the engine 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg), and the whole bike by a claimed 8.8 lbs (4 kg). Ducati claims a curb weight of 440 pounds, with a full fuel load of 3.8 gallons.

Nine.8 kgm of torque is 70.9 pound-feet to you and me, which is quite a bit. (These are crankshaft numbers, though, so probably just over 100 hp and 63 lb-ft when we inevitably strap a Hyper to our rear-wheel dyno.)

At 3000 rpm, throttle response is pretty smooth in Touring mode but slightly abrupt on-off in Sport. But it’s so creamy and linear above 4-5000 in both modes, where the 939 clearly wants to run, I don’t think anybody will complain. Touring mode dials throttle response back slightly even though you get 100% power; Sport mode really puts the spurs into the bike, but still smoothly. Along with the new 53mm Mikuni throttle bodies, a new computer has completely revised fuelling maps, which is probably the biggest difference in the way the bike behaves itself now. In spite of Ducati calling it a “hooligan” bike. I’ve loved small-block Ducatis since the 748. This one’s 937cc, but its shorter gearing compared to a 1260 Ducati simply means you get to listen to it rip up toward its 10k redline way more often as you go about your business.

Let us not forget to mention the swell new TFT display that both base and SP models get. I think you can watch videos on it from your smartphone.

Hypermotard 950: The Base Model

Right, after our leisurely gourmet lunch, we hopped on the base model, with its 45mm Marzocchi fork and Sachs rear shock, heavier wheels and no quickshifter, and headed off into the mountains. These suspenders give a bit less wheel travel than the SP items and a shorter wheelbase, and I was shocked I tell you, shocked, at how well they worked on the sometimes bumpy but mostly smooth and twisty Gran Canarian backroads.

Though less than the SP, we’ve still got 170 and 150mm of wheel travel, and excellent control of both 120/70 ZR17 and 180/55 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires. (The SP gets the Diablo Supercorsa SP.) Super smooth, super supple, but well in control of the bike however roughly you try to abuse it.

It might not be Swedish, but it’s tough to imagine anything doing a much better job than the cantilevered Sachs does on the road. It’s wound in a progressive spring instead of the Öhlins straight-rate one.

For it being a hooligan supermotard, this one’s also way more humane than the last Hypermotard I rode. Both models’ seats are wider and thicker, and both will let you tear up backroads longer with less bodily fatigue.

The two exhaust midpipes are supposedly in homage to the 916. MotoGP tech has trickled down into the thickness of the exhaust pipe tubing, says Ducati, which helped the new bike lose weight.

Both bikes share a new steel trellis frame with varied tubing thicknesses, which reduces weight by 2.2 lbs compared to the previous model. The frame is connected to a new also-steel tubular subframe, and Ducati put much effort into making the bike slimmer between the legs, not only for sportier riding but also to soothe the fears of short people.

The SP seat is supposed to be 20mm higher, at 35 inches, than the base bike, but your 30-inch inseamed correspondent balances precariously from tiptoe to tiptoe on both of them, and the tallness of both bikes is my only real complaint in spite of the newfound narrowness. Okay, that and the side stand seems too short, which makes it even more awkward to get on and off of if you’re sawn off. Okay, that and we need someone to better translate for Ducati the term “hand guards”: They’re for bashing into things, not for mounting turn signals to.

Why, Ducati? Why? Maybe replacement handguard/turnsignals are a profit center? I’ve personally destroyed several thousand dollars worth of these on Multistradas.

The tapered aluminum handlebar they’re attached to, though, is slightly reshaped and plays a big part in the new Hyper’s superb ergonomic layout. The wide bar not only gives excellent control over your front wheel, its shape makes for a sweet ride in cruise mode. Even though there is no cruise control.

This is the SP with optional steering damper, but the 950 uses the same handlebar.

With its new seat, suspension and ergos, a little sporty touring wouldn’t be out of the question at all, and that’s not something you’d ever have said about the original Hyper – or any bike with “motard” in its descriptor. Where the original really did feel like a stiff, powerful road-legal dirtbike, this Gen 3 version can do everything the old one did and more, and it’s a really pleasant, civilized little motorcycle when you don’t feel like being a “hooligan.”

The Hyper sort of fills a unique niche in the motoworld: The KTM Duke 790 might be close to it in terms of performance if not in torque output and style. I mean, it hasn’t even got a beak, man. Where the KTM exudes ruthless efficiency, the Ducati says let’s party Italiano, and if you were fashionable you’d definitely need the SP and its added bling, lighter wheels and gold accouterments.

If you’re into the Hyper and money is an object, however, the base 950 shares the same engine, its less expensive suspension is also excellent, and the main item I’d miss from the SP – the DQS quickshifter – is a plug-and-play option. Even without it, I experienced zero missed shifts or false neutrals in this 950’s gearbox.

Both 950s are just stupid-fun little motorcycles (medium-sized, actually) that sort of challenge you to be a better rider every time you get on. If you can get on. Sorry, short people.

I hate to come off like such a shill all the time, but lately I’ve been to mostly Triumph and Ducati new model introes, and those two companies in particular are off the hook AF, as the kids say. How ironic Triumph didn’t exist when I broke into the biz, and the hippest Ducati at the time was the Paso 750. KTM too. All those companies are young and hungry, and it shows in the motorcycles they build. The Hypermotard has a lot of wild oats to sow, and you’re invited to ride along. I’m down for as long as I can swing a hip over it. I think the Hyper took about ten years off me.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950

+ Highs

  • Great, smooth awesome-sounding Ducati power
  • DQS is great on the SP; plugs right into the base bike
  • A partying ’til dawn exotic Italian thing you can almost afford

– Sighs

  • Short people got no reason to live
  • WTF is up with turn signals built into bark busters?
  • Expert riders grumble they can’t switch ABS all the way off


2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP

EngineTestastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled, magnesium head covers
Displacement937 cc
Bore X stroke94.0 mm x 67.5 mm
Compression ratio13.3:1
Horsepower114 hp at 9000 rpm (claimed)
Torque71 lb-ft. at 7250 rpm (claimed)
Fuel injectionElectronic fuel injection system, Ø 53 mm throttle bodies with full Ride by Wire system
ExhaustDouble under-tail aluminum muffler; catalytic converter and two lambda probes.
Transmission6 speed
Final driveChain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 43
ClutchSlipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch, hydraulic control
FrameTubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspensionMarzocchi aluminum fully adjustable, upside-down Ø 45 mm, 6.7 inches of travelOhlins fully adjustable, upside-down Ø 48 mm, 7.3 inches of travel
Rear suspensionProgressive linkage with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping Sachs monoshock. Aluminium single-sided swingarm, 5.9 inches of travelProgressive linkage with fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock. Aluminium single-sided swingarm, 6.9 inches of travel
Front wheelY shaped 3-spoke light alloy 3.5″ x 17″W shaped 3-spoke Marchesini forged light alloy 3.5″ x 17″
Rear wheelY shaped 3-spoke light alloy 5.5″ x 17″W shaped 3-spoke Marchesini forged light alloy 5.5″ x 17″
Front TirePirelli Diablo Rosso III, 120/70 ZR17Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP v3, 120/70 ZR17
Rear TirePirelli Diablo Rosso III, 180/55 ZR17Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP, 180/55 ZR17
Front brake2 x 320 mm semi-floating aluminum flange discs, radially mounted Monobloc Brembo callipers, 4-piston 2-pad, radial pump with adjustable lever, with Bosch Cornering ABS
Rear brake245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper, with Bosch Cornering ABS
InstrumentationFull-TFT color display
Dry weight392 lb (claimed)388 lb (claimed)
Kerb weight440 lb (claimed)436 lb (claimed)
Seat height34.2 inches35.0 inches
Inner leg curve76.4 inches77.9 inches
Wheelbase58.8 inches59.0 inches
Trail4.1 inches
Tank capacity3.8 US gallons
Number of seatsDual seat
Safety equipmentRiding Modes, Bosch Cornering ABS, Ducati Traction Control (DTC) EVO, Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) EVO.
Standard EquipmentPower Modes, Day Time Running Light (DRL), Tapered aluminum handlebars, Removable passenger footpegs, USB power socket.Power Modes, Day Time Running Light (DRL), Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down, Marchesini forged wheels, Tapered aluminum handlebars, Removable passenger footpegs, USB power socket, Carbon fibre components: front mudguard, timing belt covers.
Optional EquipmentAnti-theft system, Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down, Heated grips, Ducati Multimedia System (DMS).Anti-theft system, Heated grips, Ducati Multimedia System (DMS).
Warranty24 months unlimited mileage
John Burns
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