Have More Fun—Ride The 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950

You don’t have to act like a hooligan; let the Hypermotard do it for you.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950
The 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950.Peter Domorak

I want to flip the script: The 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 is way more than just a fun bike on which to lose your license. Although it's definitely that too.

Growing weary of the un-versatility of my Panigale's garage-queen aesthetics, I started thinking seriously about buying something more practical, like a Multistrada—particularly after riding the new 950 S. At times, the 899's too-taut suspension and racy powerband make it feel like I'm riding the wrong bike. As much as I adore it, I keep thinking, "Why am I riding a Panigale in a Multistrada world?"

Then I rode the 2019 Hypermotard 950 ($13,295).

While the Multistrada 950 S, SuperSport, and Hypermotard all share similar versions of the 937cc Testastretta engine (essentially a punched-out 821), each have their own character. The Hypermotard is the most hot-rodded, with a higher compression ratio and revised parts (throttle bodies, ECU, etc.) that make it its own beast. Also, per Ducati, the Hyper weighs 75 pounds less than the Multistrada.Peter Domorak

The narrative surrounding the Hypermotard is that it’s a nefarious hooligan, practically a danger to itself and others—like the kid in your grade school class who was banned from using scissors after one too many accidental gorings. The Hyper—like a two-pronged shiv to a kid who’s only ever been allowed to use those worthless plastic safety scissors—does encourage bad behavior. Don’t get me wrong, it’s controllable and easy to ride, but it’s also…a temptation.

It’s reputed that the Hyper is too much of a niche machine to be regarded seriously, especially for single-bike ownership. However, the Hyper has way more to offer than most people suppose, and you don’t have to be a hooligan to appreciate it. It’s amazingly easy to live with—for, you know, a homicidal psychopath with a (tire) smoking habit.

The qualities that inspire misbehavior and youthful exuberance are the same qualities that make it so endearing as an everyday streetbike. A powerband that makes it easy to loft the front wheel is a tractable, torque-rich one that the commuter can exploit within legal speed limits on the way to work. Tall suspension that makes it easy to nose wheelie in school zones (for the kids… You know how it is, right?) is compliant and controlled over the rough back roads that the weekend canyon carver craves. Handling that makes it easy to back it into corners is ultra-sensitive and confidence-inspiring for the connoisseur in high-consequence situations.

Hyper outside Ducati New York
Getting acquainted with the Hyper outside Ducati New York. I spent a day riding the Hypermotard through Manhattan and Brooklyn, and put about 1,000 miles on it on the twisty country roads around my home in the Finger Lakes.Peter Domorak

The 950 received a host of updates for 2019. Read Don Canet's First Ride report here to get the gist. For a lot of riders, the most critical update is that Ducati was able to make the 34.2-inch seat height less daunting than it sounds. By narrowing the subframe and saddle, it effectively lopped 2 inches off. With a 30-inch inseam, I had no problem touching both feet, though I couldn't quite get enough purchase to back up to a curb on a cobbled Brooklyn street without hopping off the bike—a maneuver that a passing police officer deemed inappropriate enough to warrant publicly shaming me over his megaphone. "You must remain on your motorcycle at all times while parking!" Sorry, officer, I didn't know it was a crime to be short.

Ducati hypermotard 950 in NYC
The supermotard-inspired seat is unconventionally shaped compared to a “normal” bike, but it enables the rider to scooch well forward and put weight over the front end. At first, I didn’t quite know where to put my butt on the thing, but after a while I grew to appreciate the flexibility the seating position offered. My tailbone did tend to rest on the passenger grab strap, but I found this hardly a nuisance.Peter Domorak

The bars are low and close compared to the Multistrada, and the whole rider triangle makes it feel like your head is directly over the bird of prey beak. In fact, unless I intentionally looked down, no part of the bike disturbed my line of sight. It makes that childhood dream of flying feel like a reality.

In terms of handling, the Hypermotard is super agile—not flighty, but near enough to give you pause before countersteering too excitedly. It takes so little effort to flick the bike from off center that the rider practically wishes it through corners. Crank on the power after the apex and the front end starts to go light. It makes it feel like living is cheating and all good things are directly tied to torque and low weight. Anything that’ll encourage an intra-helmet outburst of Pavarotti is to be indulged, I always say.

Hypertard Ducati New York
The base model’s fully adjustable Marzocchi fork and Sachs rear shock are a credit to their makers. I didn’t tweak any suspension settings, and straight of the box, the bike felt plush over rough surfaces but has firm enough damping to rail in the corners. With no steering damper as standard, a judicious throttle hand is key. If you’re overexuberant on the throttle coming out of a corner, the front end can get light and the bars will do a bit of a dance. A steering damper (as found in the accessory catalog) would give that extra bit of confidence and peace of mind.Peter Domorak

Between the seating position and effortless handling, the Hypermotard feels like a minibike—but one with 114 hp and 71 pound-feet of torque (claimed). It makes a single lane feel wider—like you’ve got more room to fool around in. The whole world seems larger, and possibly like it’s been paved just so the Hypermotard has a place to play.

Hypermotard 950
The transmission is so slick that the lack of a quickshifter on the base model feels less an omission and more like a gift.Peter Domorak

And when the world starts to shrink as the digital rev counter turns red and your peripheral vision starts to go all blurry at the edges, it’s easy to haul down from speed. And nearly as fun as the trip up there. The Hyper’s tall suspension means weight transfer is pretty substantial, which gives a ton of front-end feedback on the brakes. I found myself braking harder and later at every stop sign. The Brembo M4.32 calipers don’t have the same initial bite as the M.50s or Stylema calipers found on top-end Ducatis, but they do provide ample feedback through the lever with plenty of power.

On a lot of bikes, I never really consider stopping and starting a thing to particularly relish, but on the Hyper, it’s different. Hold a few hundred rpm. Drop the hydraulic clutch. You’re off like a branded steer. While I should probably practice low-speed maneuvers regularly, to be honest, there’s nothing enticing about the prospect on my Panigale. On the Hypermotard, I found myself doing figure eights for fun. Which kind of gets to the heart of the machine.

Hypermotard in parking lot
For 2019, the Hyper 950 gets fully adjustable suspension, a hydraulic clutch, a TFT dash, a lighter trellis frame, and a new ECU and ride-by-wire system from Continental that smooths out low-speed throttle inputs. The motor is also revised with updated exhaust cam profiles, new pistons, a higher compression ratio (13.3:1 up from 12.6:1), magnesium cam covers, and lighter clutch and alternator covers.Peter Domorak

For me, riding a sportbike is all about igniting the imagination. There’s nothing as engaging as the way they go about their business. Everything is lighter, faster, more direct. Because they aren’t built for this world, but for some make-believe land of no speed limits and perfect asphalt (a racetrack, you might say), enjoyment is contingent on how much you’re willing to buy into the dream.

On the Hypermotard, you don't have to live in a dream world. It's a sportbike made for this world. Peak engine performance is available practically all the time, not just at 15,000 rpm. The suspension is plush on even the roughest roads. The seating position is pretty rational. The transmission and brakes make shifting and slowing down just as much fun as diving into corners and gunning it out of speed zones.

Hypermotard 950 in DUMBO
The 950’s electronics package features a Bosch six-axis IMU. In typical Ducati fashion, adjusting wheelie control, traction control, and ABS settings is incredibly intuitive. ABS, I should note, can’t be turned off.Peter Domorak

The Hyper’s spartan, milled-from-a-single-piece aspect alludes to the functional competency of all its parts, providing all the drama of a sportbike in its element, but accessible in real-world circumstances: the otherworldly for this world.

We can’t talk about this world without mentioning issues of practicality, which is where the Hypermotard is better than I’d been led to believe. I went back and forth to New York on it (about 225 miles each way) and didn’t have that beat-up feeling associated with touring on a bike unintended for that purpose. At freeway speeds, I experienced next to no buffeting and the vibes through the seat were never severe enough to annoy me. I strapped on a 30-liter Kriega tail pack, which took up the entire rear part of the seat and overflowed onto the taillight pod, but nevertheless carried all I needed. Heated grips and cruise control would be nice, but I’m willing to go without them. It’s not a Multistrada, after all.

Every motorcycle enthusiast should probably own a Ducati at some point. Every Ducatista should own a Hypermotard at some point. Which for me, I hope, is sooner rather than later. The first thing I did after giving back the Hyper was list my Panigale on Craigslist. I thought I was riding my Panigale in a Multistrada world. But, really, it’s a Hypermotard world, where temptation waits at every turn, joy is measured in pound-feet, and you don’t have to dream of being anywhere other than here to fully appreciate all your motorcycle has to offer.

Your next bike?
Your next bike? Would you spring for the 950 SP ($16,695) to get taller Öhlins suspension, forged Marchesini wheels, some carbon goodies, an up/down quickshifter, and striking paint? Or is the base model all you need?Peter Domorak
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950
A bike that stops traffic.Peter Domorak
Hypermotard 950 front
You’ve gotta see the Hypermotard 950 in the flesh to fully appreciate its beauty. Styling is a future-looking nod to the original air-cooled Hypermotard 1100.Peter Domorak
New York City riding
New York City: its own kind of beautiful.Peter Domorak

Gear Box

gear shot
Gear for the Hypermotard.Peter Domorak
PRICE $13,295
ENGINE 937cc, Testastretta 11-degree, liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 114 hp @ 9,000 rpm
MEASURED TORQUE 71 lb.-ft. @ 7,250 rpm
FRAME Steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION 45mm fully adjustable Marzocchi; 6.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Progressive linkage Sachs monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Radially mounted Brembo 4.32 calipers, 320mm twin discs w/ Bosch Cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo 2-piston caliper, 245mm disc w/ Bosch Cornering ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0°/4.1 in.
WHEELBASE 58.8 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 34.2 in.
CONSUMPTION 43.5 mpg avg.
CONTACT ducati.com