2013 Ducati Hypermotard 821 | First Ride

A modern motor and more electronics tame the beast.

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Milagro

They say: “Hyper performance with extreme versatility.”
We say: “Still favoring the former over the latter.”

We love the idea of a street-legal supermotard, but the everyday reality, well, sucks. A converted motocross machine is mostly miserable in any street setting—uncomfortable, over-stressed at freeway speeds, and absolutely lacking versatility. Fun, sure, for a little late night jackassery, but almost useless as a day-in, day-out transportation device.

The 2013 Ducati Hypermotard 821 credibly captures the athletic character and hooligan attitude of a true supermotard without any of the conventional compromises. With its thin waist, gobs of ground clearance, and that high, wide handlebar, it feels just like a dirt bike (a dirt bike with a very comfortable saddle). And fitted with a torquey V-twin engine, sticky sportbike rubber, and dual front brakes, it offers more broadband performance than any typical supermotard, handling urban commuting, canyon carving, or even highway droning with ease.

The Hypermotard is a perfect compromise between sportbike and playbike, and it’s been successful for Ducati, selling more than 26,000 units since its 2007 debut. It’s proof of the validity of the Hypermotard concept that for this first update Ducati invested heavily in an all-new Testastretta 11 degree V-twin engine then added electronic rider aids including ride modes, traction control, and ABS to make the Hypermotard as sophisticated as any motorcycle on the market. The new bike maintains the anti-social identity of the original, but dials in more performance and safety to make it more attractive to an even wider range of riders.

Previously the Hypermotard was offered in two versions, with either an 1100cc or 796cc, air-cooled V-twin. Now there’s just one engine option, the new 821cc, liquid-cooled Testastretta V-twin, offered in three distinct models: the base Hypermotard, a high-performance SP version, and the forthcoming Hyperstrada fitted with saddlebags, a tall windscreen, and other commuter-oriented accessories. All three share a steel trellis frame with a light, stiff, diecast-aluminum subframe, as well as the same engine, though different ride-mode calibrations give each model different performance characteristics. We sampled the Hypermotard on the roads surrounding the mountain town of Ronda, Spain, and the SP at the nearby Ascari Race Resort; the Hyperstrada has yet to be launched.

Even though it gives up almost 300cc to the outgoing 1100cc Dual-Spark V-twin, the small Testastretta motor produces more power—a claimed 110 horsepower and 65.8 lb.-ft. of torque. Unlike the short-stroke 848 Testastretta that provides revvy, Superbike-like power delivery, the 821 engine uses the same 88mm bore as the 796, but with a longer, 67.5mm stroke to produce more low-end torque for improved rideability. It’s not a radically oversquare engine like the Panigale’s. The compact radiator is so efficient that no oil cooler is necessary, and the new engine has the longest service interval of any Ducati yet—clearances on the desmodromic valves don’t need to be checked until 18,000 miles, an interval equivalent to most Japanese machines.

The new motor is strong enough to satisfy the rowdiest lawbreaker, but it has newfound manners thanks to the long stroke, a heavier flywheel, and a system that injects air into the exhaust stream so that the fueling doesn’t have to be excessively lean at low rpm. These features combine to make this new engine calmer and smoother at low speeds than any Ducati V-twin before. Such refined engine characteristics, coupled with a wet, APTC slipper-gripper clutch that incorporates a self-servo mechanism to allow the use of lighter clutch springs, makes the new Hypermotard an unexpectedly gentle and user-friendly streetbike, too.

Although it seems superfluous on a bike called the Hypermotard, the addition of Ducati’s Safety Pack, consisting of three-level ABS and eight-level traction control (DTC), makes the bike even more friendly, helping moderate the Testastretta’s significant horsepower and especially the massive stopping power delivered by the trio of Brembo brakes. Ride-by-wire circuitry, with an electronic throttle grip signaling the Magneti Marelli engine management system, enables Sport, Touring, and Urban ride modes. Each mode prescribes different power characteristics, DTC interventions, and ABS thresholds. Sport and Touring deliver the full 110 bhp, the former with more immediate throttle response, reduced DTC intervention, and more lenient ABS thresholds. The Urban setting cuts peak output to 75 bhp with softer throttle response, maximum TC intervention and more conservative ABS thresholds. In addition to the three preset composites, TC and ABS response can be further fine-tuned independently, or the systems can be deactivated completely.

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