Test Ride: Ducati Hypermotard

Photos: Alvin Doms & Derryn Wong

The word 'motard' has taken on a legion of additional meaning in the modern day usage, much like the idea of a coupe or sport utility vehicle (SUV) in car terms. Motard is basically the French word for motorcycle (so you probably pronounce it 'mou-taaaarrhhh' with a flourish) but it basically means, in bike terms, a dirt bike with street or road-based tyres, especially a small 16-inch front and fat, 180-section-plus rear.

Like street fighters, choppers or bobbers, it wasn't long before manufacturers started tapping into the sub-culture cool of these bikes and producing 'factory versions', which eventually led to upper-crust, 'big motards' like the Aprilia Dorsoduro, Husqvarna Nuda and the KTM 690 SM. Ducati of course, made the Hypermotard by sticking its 95bhp air-cooled 1,078cc V-twin in an upright, flickable chassis, and also later spawned the newbie-friendly 803cc Hypermotard 796, with 80bhp.

Ducati has gone for a centralising principle with the new Hypermotard - now it comes with one choice of engine and two chassis choices, with a total of three models to choose from. The base Hypermotard is the no-frills edition, tested here. It has a newly-developed tubular steel trellis frame , 43mm upside down forks (non-adjustable) with an adjustable rear-monoshock and single-sided swingarm. The wheels are ten-spoke cast-aluminium alloy with twin 320mm discs and radial 'Monobloc' Brembo four-piston calipers, ABS is standard on all models.

The Hypermotard SP has forged Marchesini rims, a higher ride height, Marzocchi front forks and ultra-light front yoke with a Ohlins rear shock - it's four kilos lighter than the stock version. The last member of the family is the Hyperstrada, which is the basic Hypermotard plus a touring screen, centre stand, a wider seat, passenger grab handles and two 12V sockets.

The engine is an 821cc V-twin which Ducati has named the Testastretta 11° (see box) and is optimised for road-use, but packing a hefty 110bhp, which means even this 'basic' model of the Hypermotard is already more powerful than the old 1100 edition.  

Red Terror

The new Hypermotard looks very similar to before - a beaky, high-riding big red motard is sort of unmissable in that sense - but the details have matured, noticeably from the rear. The exhausts have migrated from under the seat to a low, side-mounting and this makes the tail look clean and cohesive, especially with that singular, flat tail-light unit.

As expected of a Ducati, the nitty-gritty bits evince a high-level of execution, things like the well-contoured seat, the embossed company logos on both sets of footpegs and the new digital display unit. There are no messy wires or loose ends and a fussy owner would have to go far indeed to look for something to find fault with.

Where the Hypermotard is very faithful to its 'dirty' origins is in height - it's a high-riding machine indeed, with a seat height of 870mm and a bolt upright seating position, you peer over surrounding traffic. The previous BMW R1200GS in comparison, has a seat height of 850mm, which you can emulate with the Hypermotard thanks to a lower seat option.

Riders with short legs (like yours truly) will have to tip-toe, and that makes parking the bike a bit of a hassle, but like many other dirt-inflected machines, the intimidation melts away once you start moving as the Hypermotard's low-speed balance is excellent. The generous handlebar range and light-as-a-feather clutch (which is a cable and not hydraulic, surprisingly) means edging around at walking speed or less, and U turns, are easy as pie.

What the engine's not so good at is moderate speeds below 40km/h - surprising, given the technical brief of the new engine. First gear feels like the revs are too high, while second gear bogs so in any case you'll have to keep your left hand on the clutch and do quite a bit of feathering. Gaining back plus points are the bike's light clutch again, and its slim, compact dimensions, but the fuelling is curiously out-of-sorts for what is essentially an urban roadster.

Do The Twist

But let the bike off the low-speed leash and everything falls into place. It's still a V-twin, so you have to be in the right gear (something made slightly trickier by the presence of false neutrals unless you deliver a firm gearshift stomp) but the responsiveness of the engine is awesome -peak torque is 89Nm at 7,750rpm, but at 2,000rpm it's already making 60Nm, so the Hypermotard has more or less instant go.

Ducati's 'Safety Pack' is also standard, and it includes ABS, traction control and three riding modes - Sport gives you full power and torque, Touring eases back on torque but peak power is the same, while Rain gives 75bhp and lower torque. It's a testament to the engine's grunt that they feel the same - Sport is of course more hyper-active, but the essential forward thrust is very similar and, when paired with the burbling exhaust note, highly addictive.

The new engine is optimised for low and mid-range oomph,  and our test ride certainly confirms this, although it hardly means the new power unit lacks upper end bite. In fact, once you've gotten to the 9,700rpm redline, even in first gear, you're probably already going far too quickly for the road.

The main draw of a big motard is of course, the handling, and that's something the Hypermotard has in spades. It's got 17-inch wheels on both ends, but that doesn't mean it's less wieldy than a 'true' motard - the seating position is spot-on, for one. You sit upright with only a slight forward lean, almost like doing a vertical push-up - while the towering handlebar risers and long front forks taking up the slack from a relatively flat, wide handlebar.

The Hypermotard isn't, as its name suggests, hyperactive, but instead rather approachable while being very agile. Precision of gear selection aside, it's not intimidating at all - you'll only need a few corners to get to grips with its playful nature. In fact it's perfectly rideable 'motard style', that is, keeping your body upright while letting the bike do the turning. It turns into corners easily, but doesn't fall too quickly, and allows you to change line with precision, while the ride quality is firm but not overbearing.

The amiability of the chassis overall means you can easily ride within the limits and needn't bother with traction control most of the time. It probably won't bother you most of the time, either, to think of it since the brakes are powerful, after the forks finish their diving that is, and a slipper clutch comes as standard. What sets the Hypermotard apart is its high-speed stability - like any motard it'll naturally chew through corners at anything above 40 and below 90km/h - but it tracks with a huge amount of poise for a large and relatively light (174kg dry) machine.

Practically Speaking

But the main question at the end of the day, remains the same for the second-generation Hypermotard as it does for the first: Is it more than just a fun or weekend-bike?

First the faults, what few there were: Changing the drive modes is a little tricky (hold on to the selector button for three seconds while off the throttle and brakes) and the menus are confusing, while the right side foot peg is positioned such that you'll foul your heel on the swingarm/exhaust plate.

That aside, there's not much to nit pick with the Hypermotard. It can do the urban crawl (albeit unwillingly) and it can be a tourer as well. The new bike has a 16-litre fuel tank, compared to 12.4-litres before, and this (with our average of 20km/L over 200km or so) means about 320km per tank, which is pretty good for a sporty bike. It can do highway cruises easily, since it sits at about 4,000rpm in the 90km/h zone, although there is almost entirely no weather protection, but long-distance touring is certainly not an overwhelmingly painful proposition since the vibrations are well-quelled at all rider contact points.

It's a great thing to see Ducati transform the Hypermotard into something entirely more liveable and with a bigger spread of ability. It's still hyper in that it doesn't like low speed, but the fact it's a precision tool everywhere else is super.





SIDEBAR: Eleven Degrees Of Non-Separation
What's the deal with Testastretta 11°?

The Testastretta name has been used on a variety of engines from Borgo Panigale, it simply means 'narrow-head' - think the famous Ferrari 'red head' (Testarossa') engines which basically had their valve-covers painted red, it was also a term used to describe a number of power units and, subsequently, the cars themselves.

More interesting is '11°' which refers to the amount of valve overlap, that is, when the inlet and exhaust valves are both open during engine operation. It's measured in degrees of crankshaft rotation, with one complete rotation of the crankshaft being 360 degrees and a complete four-cycle operation of intake, compression, combustion and exhaust takes 720 degrees, roughly speaking. In a nutshell, lots of overlap is necessary for high-flow, high-power racing engines. Ducati says its 1198 Testastretta Evoluzione engine has 41-degrees of valve overlap, in comparison.

What the 11-degree bit tells you is that the 821cc V-twin has been optimised for on-road use in the low and middle range. An engine with small overlap typically provides more 'rideability' in real-world conditions, since it's not concentrated on making peak power, it'll be smoother, less 'lumpy' and more torquey, although delivering less high end power. According to Ducati, the overlap was also necessary for good efficiency and our guess it, to help the bike meet European emission standards.

Ducati Hypermotard

Engine type 821cc, 8V, V-twin

Gearbox type 6-speed manual with slipper clutch

Max power 110bhp at 9,250rpm

Max torque 90Nm at 7,750rpm

0 to 100km/h No Data

Top speed 200km/h

Dry Weight 175kg

Seat Height 870mm

Price $29,800 (machine price)

Contact: Ducati Singapore

www.ducati.com.sg

Telephone 6631 8166

 

Derryn Wong
Author: Derryn Wong
Derryn Wong is currently editor-in-chief of CarBuyer and he enjoys probing all aspects of the motoring industry, ranging from bizarre holes in the upholstery to the engineered insanity of the COE system. No, not those kinds of holes.