“Hate. This. Clutch. Love. This. Bike.”
When Aaron Frank went to Spain to ride the Hypermotard last year (First Ride, June '13, MC), he only sampled the up-spec SP version within the opulent confines of the Ascari Race Resort, no doubt gobbling caviar between sessions. That kid is spoiled rotten. I, on the other hand, was tasked with the more gritty undertaking of taming this latest Hyper in the real world. "Sure, it's fun sliding around a private race resort," Mr. Editor Cook said, "but what's it like to live with day to day?"
I told the boss I was the man for the job and almost immediately stalled the Hypermotard. At the second stoplight, specifically. With Cook right behind me. An inauspicious start, I'll admit, but perhaps inevitable given the Hyper's clutch. The new-for-2013, 821cc engine includes an ATPC slip-and-grip clutch, which uses a mechanism similar to the ramp system that allows plates to slip on deceleration to also help the clutch plates grip together under acceleration. Once the engine warmed up the clutch was easier to deal with, but it never felt "normal." The engine and clutch are uniform throughout Ducati's Hyper line, which explains why we also struggled to adapt to our Hyperstrada's snatchy plates when we tested it last year.
Apart from the cantankerous clutch, everything else on this SP is decidedly top shelf. A 50mm Marzocchi fork and blingy Öhlins shock replace the 43mm KYB unit and Sachs shock, respectively, from the standard Hypermotard. Along with some carbon fiber bits the SP dons special "race-livery" plastic, which I find pretty appealing. It also comes standard with the Ducati Safety Pack, meaning refined ABS and traction control to keep you from having more fun than is healthy. It's unlikely, frankly, that you'll feel the weight savings of the Marzocchi fork or the reduced unsprung mass of the forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, but there are some things that are clearly different.
The SP's ECU, for example, delivers three ride mode options, but instead of the Sport/Touring/Urban set found on the standard bike, the SP offers Race/Sport/Wet. More aggressive maps for a more aggressive Hypermotard, Ducati says. And if "aggressive" is what you want, you'll appreciate the extra sticky (and appropriately named) Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires that come stock. The MC jury was hung on preference for Race or Sport; I tended to leave the bike in Race mode, mostly because the sharp throttle response suits the rest of the bike's hard-hitting personality.
Sailing along a twisty road, the SP behaves amicably, and it doesn't feel as rambunctious as you might think. The new 821cc mill makes plenty of midrange power, but falls on its face if you ask for lots of low-end torque. The real fun lies high in the rev range where it hits surprisingly hard, making it feel more like a tall sportbike. A very tall sportbike, I should say, that had me unable to flat foot at 6-foot-2. It could be that Ducati's claimed 34.2-inch seat is measured with the Sachs shock, but the saddle on our Öhlins-equipped SP measured 35.3 inches tall.
On the plus side there's plenty of ground clearance, which is handy because the SP carves through corners brilliantly. The huge fork distributes plenty of feel through the wide handlebar and the Öhlins shock, while stiff, provides excellent balance for the Hyper's power, inspiring confidence with every corner exit. Fat, twin Brembo Monoblock calipers provide plenty of stopping power up front, though with noticeably less bite than full-on Ducati superbike binders. The SP tipped our scales at 435 pounds, which means it will go, stop, and change direction until you're dizzy from fun.
Where the Hypermotard struggles to please (predictably) is the straight bits, not for lack of power—this SP kicked out 97 hp on the dyno—but for comfort. The Hyper's stratospheric seat offers ample padding, but it feels very much like you're sitting on top of the bike, and at speed the lack of wind protection is apparent. I'm not blasting Ducati here—they've been up front with the Hyper's intentions—but if you're thinking, "Eh, it won't be that bad," think again. Also, the gentle scoop in the saddle means sliding back on the seat to lean into the wind results in sliding up as well, which compounds the problem.
So, the question is, how much would you pay for this semi-exotic, canyon-carving, hair-drying hooligan bike that will test your patience at stoplights and on the freeway? If the number you're thinking of is lower than $15,000, I'm sorry, you've been voted off the island. And if that sounds like a fair price, you probably already have two other bikes (more power to you). Which is good because you probably wouldn't want the SP to be your only motorcycle.
The goal with this new Hypermotard platform was to make the hooligan bike practical, and I think they've succeeded (clutch aside). But as the owner of a supermoto myself (KTM Super Duke) I feel I have license to tell it like it is, and what the Hyper is, especially the SP version, is a toy. It's an expensive and beautiful toy that you'll only want to play with if you're in the mood. That being said, if you're like me and are willing to suffer some of the time in order to enjoy the galactic smiles that a bike like this can put on your face, this Hypermotard SP is just about as sexy and fun as it gets.
A thoroughly revamped Hypermotard, now with a smaller, liquid-cooled engine and low-mount pipe, aims to add practicality to Ducati's radical urban assault vehicle.
Aprilia Dorsoduro 750/1200, Ducati 848 Streetfighter, Triumph Street Triple R, MV Agusta Rivale 800
||l-c 90º V-twin
|Bore x stroke
||88.0 x 67.5mm
||Wet, multi-plate slipper
||97.0 hp @ 9500 rpm
||58.0 lb.-ft. @ 7800 rpm
||Marzocchi 50mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
||Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS
||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
|Claimed curb weight
||24 mo., unlimited mi.
The SP accomplishes its goal—to serve as a practical hooligan—but it’s quirky and limited in application.