From the minute Ducati rolled out the 1078cc Hypermotard in 2007, those who get all worked up about such things have been waiting for the second, smaller urban track shoe to drop. That's how the boys and girls in Bologna usually do things: Get your attention with a big-inch stunner like the 1098, and then follow it up with a more attainable, smaller displacement version like the 848. Okay, so they changed things up by introducing the Monster 696 before its big brother, but the Hypermotard 796 puts things back in the normal order, as if there's anything normal about this one.
As you might expect, basic ingredients for the 3/4-scale supermoto schismatic are true to the original recipe: wide bars with hand guards and flip-out mirrors, skinny seat, steel-tube trellis skeleton, single-sided swingarm, dual underseat muffler cans, tiny MotoGP-esque digital dash and that unmistakable beak below the headlight. And don't forget the obligatory slipper clutch. The triple clamps have been redesigned, and a lower, 32.5-inch seat height makes this one more accessible to the vertically challenged. Contrary to early effluvium from the Internet rumor mill, power comes from a larger, lighter 796cc Desmodue twin, allegedly producing 81 horsepower and 56 lb.-ft of torque. That's up about 1 horse and 5.4 lb.-ft. vs. the Monster 696, but with more torque in the middle of the rev range.
A lighter frame helps drop little brother's curb weight to 386 lbs., sans fuel: 10 lbs. lighter than an '09 Hypermotard 1100. And at $9995 it's $2000 less expensive as well. If you can live with less horsepower and a few down-market details here and there, it's a solid alternative to going big. Otherwise? We'll know a whole lot more after swinging a leg over one at the factory next month.