2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 First Look Review

Sportbike, hooligan and city bike?

2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 under Hollywood sign
The Hyper’s bigger, stronger engine puts more power right where you want it: in the midrange. On day one of this two-day press launch we sampled the Hyper on the tight and twisty roads of the Hollywood hills.©Motorcyclist

They say: "The perfect urban-assault bike."
We say: "As fun in the city as it is in the canyons."

The Hyper has proven itself as a sportbike. It's proven itself as a hooligan bike, too. Another place that it shines—and where Ducati feels it deserves more respect—is as a city bike.

That's why Ducati put a bunch of journalists, bloggers, and "influencers" up in an 11-bedroom mansion in Hollywood and released us on a pack of 2016 Hypermotard 939s, GoPros on time lapse and a list of photo topics to tackle.

A scavenger hunt is an unusual way to introduce a bike, but ripping around the Hollywood hills, splitting lanes in rush-hour traffic on the 101, and navigating the torn-up streets of downtown LA was a pretty awesome way to evaluate the new 939’s street chops.

2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 burnout shot
One of the suggestions on our scavenger-hunt list was “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” While DTLA is rife with head shops and marijuana dispensaries, we were all pretty sure this challenge pertained to the Hypers’ rear Pirelli tires. Once you turn the DTC and ABS off, the Hyper is happy to entertain your most antisocial desires.©Motorcyclist

For 2016 the Hyper has once again evolved. Ducati took last year’s 821 engine and enlarged the bore, bumping displacement to 937cc. There’s a new exhaust to compliment the bigger engine, and a few other changes, too. The turn signals are integrated into the hand guards, and there’s a gear-position indicator on the dash. (Finally!)

Those extra cc don’t do much for peak power, but Ducati says the added volume has done wonders for the midrange. Twisting the throttle on the new bike, I’d have to agree. The Hyper was already a responsive, torquey ride, and now it’s even more so. Roll the throttle open quickly in first or second gear and the front wheel rises towards the sky as the engine clatters and chugs between your knees.

2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 in DTLA tunnel
This pic didn’t satisfy any of the categories on the scavenger-hunt list, but I think it’s awesome! The GoPro4 takes pretty amazing pictures in low light.©Motorcyclist

I’ve complained about herky jerky throttle response on Ducatis before, but it’s not an issue on the Hyper. The engine is tractable and strong, and there are ride modes, traction-control levels, and ABS thresholds to choose from, too. That’s all stuff that helps make the Hyper a safer, more adaptable streetbike for those that prefer to keep both wheels on the ground and in line.

Another thing that makes the bike great on the street is that upright riding position, which gives you a good view of surrounding traffic. The long-travel suspension (it’s got 5.1 inches of travel front and rear) was a big benefit on the potholed streets of DTLA, too. Loads of steering lock and a light weight of 399 pounds (claimed, dry) makes for easy maneuverability, and that wide handlebar helped the Hyper flick from side to side on the road up to Griffith Observatory.

Even on the freeway, the Hyper felt smooth and there was enough of a forward lean to the riding position to balance the windblast. My only complaint about the bike is the seat: It’s got a scooped shape that limits your ability to move around. You’re pretty much locked into one seating position, and on a bike like this you should be able to move around freely.

2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 three ways
Parked in the living room on the fourth floor of the Hollywood mansion were the Hypers in their three guises. From left to right: the Hyperstrada with its saddlebags and windscreen, the SP with its top-notch components, and the base model. All three bikes have the same 937cc engine.©Motorcyclist

We didn’t log a lot of miles today and our average speed was definitely low, but I still had a blast. Cutting through traffic was fun instead of frustrating, and carrying a low wheelie away from stops actually made me look forward to red lights. As a day-to-day streetbike, the Hyper is a capable and fun way to get around.

Tomorrow, we get to sample the Hyper in it’s other native habitat: the twisties. I was on the base-model, $12,700 Hypermotard 939 today. Tomorrow I get to ride the pricier, up-spec SP model (with forged wheels, Öhlins suspension, and stickier Pirelli tires) in the canyons above Malibu. Tune in later for more on both bikes.