Ducati Hypermotard ( 2008 ) Review

A high-tech entry to a burgeoning new category, Ducati’s Hypermotard is a collection of exotic performance pieces tailored to demanding riders with big skill sets. But a go-everywhere do-anything bike it ain’t. Still, the Fun Factor is through the roof.

ducati hypermotard 1100 95hp

Motards began when someone stuck a set of roadracing wheels with big, sticky tires on a dirtbike. The class has evolved a bit from there but it’s still a limited niche market (although one that seems to be growing) and many manufacturers are jumping on the motard bandwagon. 

Even Ducati, the two-wheeled pinnacle of sportbike-ness is on board with the Hypermotard. Ably propelled by the 95 horsepower, air-cooled, 1100cc, two-valve Multistrada powerplant, the Hypermotard is available in two sets of pyjamas. Yer basic model lists for $14,495, has cast aluminum wheels, Brembo two-piece front calipers and a Sachs rear shock. 

My press unit was the ultimate in motard excess—the $17,495 “S” model with Ohlins rear shock, Brembo monobloc calipers, 50mm Marzocchi forks (complete with trick, anti-stiction coating on the sliders), forged aluminum Marchesini wheels and carbon fibre eye candy adorning the timing belt covers, fenders and fork protectors. 

The styling remains true to Pierre Terblanche’s original prototype that won “Best Design” at the Milan show back in 2005. Looks are always subjective but I think the Hypermotard is one of those motorcycles that responds well to sitting back with coffee in hand while allowing your eyes to wander over the hardware, absorbing the shapes, angles and excellent attention to detail of the gorgeous Italian bits and pieces. The more you look, the more it grows on you—until you get to the breather canister stuck near the left side of the frame like a wart on an otherwise attractive red trellis fanny. 

ducati hypermotard 1100 95hpAfter scaling the 33-inch (838mm) high seat, the first thing noted was the narrowness of the bike and the unusual riding position; I felt as if I was perched directly over the front wheel. The Superbike bend bars are fairly wide and the bar end mirrors stick out even farther, somehow reminding me of the Batcycle. 

The hydraulically actuated dry clutch has a much lighter pull than other Duck dry clutches and doesn’t have that typical “tambourines in a cement mixer” sound—a feature which is probably a great disappointment to the Ducatisti faithful. 

Power is excellent all through the rev range, although it falls a bit flat right up top, which is why it’s better (as well as being more fun) to short-shift and let the torque pull you through. The fuel injection is smooth and linear, although in the lower gears, it’s a bit abrupt. The six-speed gearbox has a crisp, short throw and when running up through the gears, clutchless upshifts were a snap. Neutral can be a bit elusive at stops and it’s easier to find from first rather than fishing around from second.

So we’ve established it has an impeccable pedigree and some wonderful hardware. What’s it like to ride? Well …

Any interesting roads are about an hour’s ride for me, which posed a problem because the Gestapo-inspired seat is just way too uncomfortable for anything but short jaunts (“Please, I’ll tell you anything. Just let me get off”). The only way it could possibly be worse is if there were a large spike driven up through the foam (did I say foam? I meant the vinyl-covered cedar plank). 

On the superslab, vibration rears its ugly head and the mirrors became pretty much useless—not only is anything aft just a blur, the left one wouldn’t stay tight and gave me a great view of the rear sprocket. It’s brilliant that they fold in if you’re threading through traffic (where allowed) but then you can’t see anything behind, can you? 

The heavy throttle pull becomes noticeable after about 30 minutes and at the end of the day, my right wrist was both fatigued from the pull and almost numb from vibration.

Once I hit the backroads and twisties, the Hypermotard was in its element. The light weight (385 pounds dry) makes it really easy to throw around and the torquey engine propels you from one apex to another like you’re being shot out of a cannon. Exiting corners in the lower gears requires restraint because the short wheelbase and responsive motor will be the cause of involuntary wheelies. Don’t ask me how I know this. 

Fairly conservative steering geometry prevents the Hypermotard from feeling twitchy but it does respond quite well to steering inputs, whether initiating the turn or changing lines mid-corner to avoid larger potholes. 

ducati hypermotard 1100 95hpAround town it’s great. The tall seating position lets you see over most traffic and the responsive engine and wide bars make maneuvering in tight spaces a snap. 

The confidence-inspiring Brembos on the Hypermotard are perhaps the best brakes I’ve ever sampled on a street bike. The initial bite is very strong (requiring caution from the unwary or inexperienced), but the exemplary feel, feedback and ultimate braking power will be appreciated by experienced riders. 

The instrument pod is simple, yet has lots of info. The digital speedometer is front and centre with a sweeping, LCD tachometer up top. You can select a number of functions including total mileage, tripmeter, time, and voltage. I’d really like to know why the instrument cluster reset itself to display total kilometres every time the key is shut off. Sometimes I want to leave it on the time and sometimes I want the tripmeter. For the record, I can’t think of a circumstance where I’ve ever wanted volts.

Even when taking it easy, the fuel light comes on at around 180 kilometres, which is perfect because you’re were ready for a break 100 km ago. Fuel consumption averaged between 5.2 and 5.6L/100km (50 to 54 miles per Imperial gallon) depending on how much fun I was having. 

One day’s ride encompassed the backroads, farmland and wineries of scenic Prince Edward County, located about two hours east of Toronto and one hour on the freeway from my home near Oshawa. Going down first thing in the morning was fine as a tailwind meant I wasn’t getting beaten up too badly but coming back was a different story. I’d already accumulated 400 km on the Motard, my back (always a lurking source of potential trouble) was tightening up and I was fighting a vicious headwind, feeling much like the Human Spinnaker.

At the end of the day I’d logged 504 klicks, which surely must be a one-day record. The Hypermotard’s seat abused my body so badly, I was awarded the Croix de Guerre de Buns with Inflatable Donut Pillow clusters.

During the last hour on the slab, I realized that something was wrong here: I was riding a state of the art Italian V-Twin motorcycle with Marchesini wheels, Ohlins shock, Brembo brakes and a wonderful collection of carbon fibre bits and all I could think of was, “I wish I was on anything else.”

It’s the exact opposite of a 650 V-Strom, F650Gs or Versys where a collection of unremarkable parts add up to an

astounding package. With the Hypermotard, we have a collection of absolutely outstanding hardware that adds up to something that you can’t ride to where you want to go. But maybe I’m being too harsh. Whining about migrating mirrors or the small fuel tank or rock hard seat only shows that I’m missing the point completely. Ducati’s Hypermotard is the perfect answer to a question few are asking and the perfect tool for a job that few are qualified to do.

It’s a high-tech weapon that will put a smile on your face when strafing your favourite road or during the cut and thrust dicing at a track day—as long as you don’t have to ride too far for either. 

by Steve Bond  Canadian Biker #245

BACK TO MORE BIKE TESTS