2013 Ducati Hypermotard 821 | First Ride

A modern motor and more electronics tame the beast.

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Milagro

Ergonomics have been readjusted with the bars moved up slightly and the footpegs moved forward, enforcing an even more upright, dirt bike-like riding position. The super-tall, 34.2-inch seat is dirt bike-like as well (a ¾-in.-lower accessory seat is available), and a deep-scooped bucket makes it hard to move back and forth. The handling characteristics invite even more dirt bike comparisons. The motocross-type handlebar and tall center of gravity make the Hypermotard immediately responsive to even light steering inputs, which takes some getting used to. Handling is lively but stops just short of becoming nervous, thanks to slightly more relaxed steering geometry and a slightly longer wheelbase this year.

Even at semi-legal speeds you can feel distinct differences among the three preset ride modes. For garden-variety street riding we preferred the Touring setting; the combination of very light throttle action and very responsive fueling made thrust difficult to modulate smoothly in Sport mode, especially over rough pavement. That’s not to blame the long-travel suspension, with 5.9 in. from the Sachs shock and 6.7 in. from the Kayaba fork. Both ends are sprung firmly enough to maintain composure even under aggressive riding, but still deliver excellent comfort at any speed.

Transferring from mountain roads to the awesome Ascari Race Resort gave the opportunity to appreciate the extra performance of the SP model, which adds a fully adjustable Öhlins shock and Marzocchi fork, the same super-light, forged-alloy Marchesini wheels found on the Panigale S (wrapped with super-sticky Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires), some carbon fiber trim pieces, and magnesium engine covers. The SP weighs 8.8 pounds less than the base model, which, at a claimed 386 lbs. dry, is less than 7 lbs. heavier than the old bike—even after the addition of liquid-cooling, traction control, and ABS.

The SP also benefits from more aggressive Race/Sport/Wet ride-mode settings, which deliver even more dynamic throttle response, more permissive traction control, and, in Race mode, front-only ABS intervention that allows unlimited rear-wheel lift for backing the bike into corners—behavior the Hypermotard is all too willing to oblige. The ABS activation threshold is acceptably high in Race mode, and the Bosch 9MP control box trims braking inputs without any feedback at the lever. The track sessions also gave an opportunity to experience the latest DTC iteration, which, Ducati says, now limits wheelspin solely by retarding ignition—not fuel—for even smoother engagement. In the lowest two settings TC, intervention is absolutely transparent except for activating the dash indicator—which confusingly doubles as the shift light.

Ducati calls the Hypermotard “the ultimate combination of racing DNA and urban ability.” Riding this new version, which is both faster and more friendly than before, has us agreeing with this characterization. The Hypermotard is still edgier and more aggressive than the stalwart Monster model, but it’s now more broadband-capable. And it’s still light-years ahead of any “true” supermoto, making it perfect for pragmatic hooligans.

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