Ronda, Spain—If there was one complaint we had about the first-generation Ducati Hypermotard, it was a lack of versatility. Its unforgiving riding position and wedge-like seat made escaping even your own neighborhood an uncomfortable exercise in willpower. But if you did manage to venture out and find a tight, twisty road, the payoff was awesome.
Comfort, however, is not an issue with Ducati’s new 2013 Hypermotard. Its riding position is far more relaxed, thanks to a taller handlebar and more than 3 extra inches of space between the bar and seat. Additionally, the footpegs have been moved forward by almost 3 inches, helping to create a more upright riding position.
Three distinct versions will be offered: the Hypermotard, the street-oriented base model; the Hypermotard SP, the track-oriented, high-performance streetbike; and the luggage-equipped HyperStrada, which Marco Sairu, Ducati’s Project Leader, hopes will serve as a midsize Multistrada. At the world press launch in Ronda, I rode the Hypermotard and the Hypermotard SP, as the new HyperStrada is expected to arrive in a few months.
Brand-new in every conceivable way, the Hypermotard has been redesigned to be more refined and user-friendly, while also being less maintenance-intensive. It’s powered exclusively by a liquid-cooled 821cc V-Twin, which replaces the air-cooled 1078 and 803cc motors. Sairu said the latest ride-by-wire throttle systems, together with multiple riding and engine-response modes, allow a single bike to be many different things to many different people.
Major service intervals have been increased to 18,000 miles, a milestone for Ducati. Some may grumble that another one of Ducati’s character-rich, air-cooled, two-valve engines has been replaced by a more modern liquid-cooled mill that’s disrespectful of tradition. but Sairu said consumers are demanding more power and better rideabilty, which is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve with old technology.
Ducati’s designers threw every trick at the Hyper’s engine. Borrowing technology from the Multistrada, Diavel and Panigale, engineers were able to create the specific power and output characteristics the Hypermotard needed. The four-valve Testastretta V-Twin has a reduced bore/stroke ratio of 1.30 from its 88 x 67.6mm dimensions, as compared to the 1078’s 1.37 (98 x 71.5mm). This design, with its short 11-degree-overlap interval valve timing and high 12.8:1 compression ratio, produces smooth power, improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and good torque. Ducati claims 110 horsepower at 9250 rpm and 65.8 foot-pounds of peak torque at 7750.
Electronics, as mentioned, play a significant role in how the engine performs and behaves. The ride-by-wire throttle allows differing levels of power output and throttle response. On the standard Hypermotard, the modes are: Sport (110 hp, “High” throttle response), Touring (110 hp, “Medium” throttle response) and Urban (75 hp, “Low” throttle response). As a part of the Ducati Safety Pack, each mode also selects the appropriate ABS and traction-control settings. The ABS is switched to Level One in Sport (maximum braking performance allowing some rear-wheel lift) and Level Two in Touring and Urban (maximum braking stability and prevention of rear-wheel lift). The traction control, with eight levels, can be customized via a menu to suit individual tastes and then be locked into memory.
The Hypermotard SP is similar in function but its modes are a bit more aggressive: Race (110 hp, “High” throttle response and Level One ABS applied only to the front wheel, with no rear ABS); Sport (110 hp, “Medium” throttle response, Level Two ABS with some rear-lift control); and Wet (75 hp, “Low” throttle response and Level Three ABS with maximum braking stability and rear-wheel lift prevention).
Each of these new Hypermotards features a new tubular-steel trellis frame, and a subframe constructed with a combination of die-cast aluminum and a techno-polymer between the rails. But the major suspension components, along with the wheels and brakes, are what really distinguish the two models from each other. The standard Hypermotard has a 43mm KYB fork and a Sachs shock, offering 6.7 inches of travel in front and 5.9 in back., plus cast aluminum wheels and Brembo M4-32 monoblock brakes with four-piston calipers. The SP has a 50mm Marzocchi fork and an Öhlins shock, offering 7.3 inches of front travel and 6.9 in back, as well as lightweight forged Marchesini wheels. Although the calipers and discs are identical on each bike, the SP has a radial-pump master cylinder. Other SP upgrades include a tapered aluminum handlebar (in place of steel), magnesium cam covers and carbon-fiber front fender and cam-belt covers.
With the different suspension setups, the seat heights vary by almost an inch. The seat on the standard Hypermotard is set at 34.2 in. whereas that of the SP is at 35.0. Optional low seats are available for both, reducing height by around 3/4 of an inch. The different suspension also alters the wheelbase, the SP at 59.2 in. and the standard Hypermotard at 59.0 Rake (25.5 degrees) and trail (4.1 in.) are identical due to different offset at the triple-clamps.
To sample the standard Hypermotard, we did a 50-mile street ride in the morning. In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of lapping the private Ascari Race Resort near Ronda on the SP. Our street ride was mellower than we would have liked given the temperatures in the low 30s and a couple of sections of road in the mountains with patches of ice. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to evaluate the standard Hypermotard in the real world. My quick take: It’s a far better bike than the one it replaces in almost every way. The engine feels fully modern, with excellent fueling, a broad spread of power and the ability to alter its character to suit the conditions, which we did in an effort to cope with the cold, slick roads. The Hyper feels more akin to other nakeds on the market and not as extreme as the few street supermotards that are still sold in the U.S. (KTM 690 SM for instance). Seat and leg comfort are key, with the roomier cockpit paying off in extending ride time. Thankfully, the clever (but annoying) bar-end mirrors of the old bike have been replaced with more functional conventional units.
We rode the SP in anger that afternoon at Ascari, where the bike liked to be picked up by the scruff of its neck and manhandled. The tall seat height might limit who can comfortably get their feet down on the street, but on the track the extra ground clearance and top-quality suspension was most appreciated. The long-travel suspension ate up the few undulations the track has, and the wide handlebar, along with the commanding seating position, made flicking the bike through tight esses incredibly easy. Overall chassis stability was quite good.
Just as impressive was the performance of the new engine. After not being able to fully wring it out on the street, it was liberating to let it rip on the track. Sport mode provided just the right safety net to get reacquainted with the course, with a bit more TC and ABS and softer initial throttle response. In Race, things really got fun, thanks to its sharper throttle response. Our only complaint: The twist action of the ride-by-wire throttle grip felt too light, almost unnatural. That stated, the engine’s eagerness is a huge improvement over either of the previous Hyper models. The spread of power allowed the bike to be short-shifted up a gear before leaning in, which meant I could avoid having to make a shift midway through a few of Ascari’s long lefthanders. Top-end power isn’t on par with Ducati’s own 848 EVO, but it wasn’t intended to be.
Another improvement is the use of a new, cable-operated APTC slipper clutch. Effort at the lever is very light, while the slipper function provides great stability under extreme deceleration when making multiple downshifts in quick succession.
The standard Hypermotard is available in either Ducati red or Dark Stealth for $11,995, while the SP comes only in red/white/black for $14,695. Choosing between these two new versions really isn’t that difficult. For the rider who commutes during the week and hits the curves on the weekend, the standard model with its lower seat, cheaper price and almost identical electronics package is the smart choice. If aggressive street riding and/or track time is planned, the SP provides a lot of bang for the buck, with a killer chassis and a few components that make lapping more enjoyable. But we also look forward to riding the HyperStrada soon, as it splits the two in price and is fitted with saddlebags and a taller windscreen. That would make it a good blend of comfort and utility on the street, without compromising any of this new Ducati’s blissful handling manners.