They say: "Designed for one purpose: to thrill."
We say: "And it does: visually, aural
Of all the motorcycles on the market, Ducati's Hypermotard was the last one anyone expected to be made more extreme. With a big V-twin engine, radical styling, a wide handlebar and long-travel suspension, the original supermoto-on-steroids was exciting and high-strung, albeit entirely impractical. With more power and less weight, the 2010 version is even more intense-and not a bit more sensible.
Not that I was complaining as I held on tight while the latest Hyper took me on a high-speed adventure around the tight Mores circuit in Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. The new 1100 EVO SP proved thrillingly quick, wonderfully light and breathtakingly agile. After my first 20-minute session, practicality was the last thing on my mind.
In fact there is logic behind the Hypermotard's evolution. The recent introduction of the entry-level Hypermotard 796 gave Ducati the freedom to take the 1100 in the opposite direction. Like the original Hyper, the new 1100 EVO comes in two versions. Alongside the racy SP is a slightly more sensible standard model that combines the same engine and frame with a less radical specification and a $2500 lower price tag.
Both EVOs keep the unmistakable beaked snout, slim physique and appealing simplicity of former Ducati design chief Pierre Terblanche's original prototype. The two models share an upgraded version of the 1078cc motor, which has new pistons, cams and cylinder heads that boost peak output by 5 horsepower to 95 bhp at 7500 rpm.
The new engine also features vacuum-cast cases, a lighter flywheel and other weight-saving mods that make it responsible for the lion's share of the bike's claimed 15-pound weight loss. The steel-trellis frame supplies most of the rest; it's identical to that of the 796 and does away with the heavy forged-steel parts found on the previous model's subframe.
As before, the standard Hypermotard is laced with quality components in the shape of a beefy 50mm Marzocchi fork and fully adjustable Sachs shock, Brembo radial-mount four-piston calipers, a single-sided aluminum swingarm and 17-inch wheels wearing fat radial tires. The SP follows the previous S-model by wearing even better parts including Brembo Monobloc calipers and an Öhlins shock. The SP also gets an extra 30mm of ground clearance to support hard-riding Hypermotard owners.
The other key request from Hypermotard racers was for higher bars that would keep more weight over the rear wheel to aid control when backing it into turns. While they were at it, Ducati's designers fitted the smaller, lighter instrument console from the Streetfighter. The folding bar-end mirrors are retained, but the bar and instrument changes make the cockpit feel distinctly different.
Letting out the dry clutch and rolling on the throttle, the 1100 EVO SP blasted down pit lane with delightfully crisp throttle response and hard-hitting low-end power that made lifting the front wheel almost impossible to avoid. Despite its inclination to wheelie in first gear, the bike wasn't remotely demanding to ride, as the midrange grunt meant I could simply roll on the throttle exiting any bend to send the bike rampaging forward with an addictively smooth and strong feel.
New pistons raise compression from 10.7:1 to 11.3:1, and work in conjunction with more agg
The EVO SP rolls on forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels instead of the standard model's cast
This latest version of the desmo two-valve twin is a wonderfully flexible and characterful powerplant. And if it inevitably lacks a bit of top-end power, I can't say I noticed at Mores, where it was best to short-shift through the six-speed box before the change-up light flashed at just over 8000 rpm.
The magnificent bark from those underseat carbon cans added to the experience, too. The Termignoni exhaust isn't standard fitment-it's an expensive full-race system that adds 5 bhp. So maybe Ducati was cheating by fitting it, but I relished the addition as the SP bellowed around the circuit, feeling not only quick but delightfully agile.
At a claimed 377 lbs. dry (2 lbs. lighter than the standard EVO), the SP is seriously light in standard form. The Termi exhaust subtracts another 15 lbs., so it was no surprise that the Ducati responded enthusiastically to nudges to the wide bar. For a long-travel streetbike, the Hyper handled superbly. Not only did it steer beautifully, it also remained stable while accelerating out of turns, without any of a typical supermoto's tendency to compress its shock and flap its fork. Credit for that goes to the quality of the suspension and also to the revised weight distribution.
My only reservation about the handling is that because we didn't ride on the road, it's impossible to say how either model would perform there. The trouble with long-suspension travel is that if a bike is set up to steer well under intense sporting conditions, it's likely to steer like a tugboat during gentler riding.
For that reason, as much as the SP's extra cost and higher seat, riders who intend to spend most of their time on the road would probably be better off on the standard model. The all-red EVO (it also comes in black) was still seriously quick and capable at Mores, but the limited cornering clearance and slightly less sticky Diablo Rosso tires kept it from matching the Supercorsa-shod SP's cornering speeds. Still, the standard model offered plenty of performance and was great fun on the track.
The 2010 Hypermotard 1100 EVO and SP don't offer any more wind protection or range, and are as expensive as they are impractical. But if you're after a quick, light and hugely entertaining V-twin with unique style and character, the new bikes are better than ever.