2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP First Ride Review

Growing up with Ducati’s OG supermotard.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP on road.
Although surprisingly comfortable on high-speed superslab slogs, the latest Hyper still shines on two-lane mountain passes like Angeles Crest Highway.Basem Wasef

The year was 2010, and my mission was simple: Make it from Asolo to Bologna aboard a Ducati Hypermotard in time for dinner. The mountain roads were gloriously tangled like long blonde hair on a messy beach day, which offered an exhilarating start aboard the slim, powerful supermoto. The 1100 seemed to have an insatiable appetite for gobbling up complex curves, just like its then-notorious name might suggest. But by the time I was bombing down the autostrada, the fun had fallen away. On straight-line stretches the Hyper became exactly that, a manic challenge to keep the thing tucked into a straight line, akin to babysitting a 7-year-old with ADHD.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP on road.
The steel trellis frame layout remains as does the same minimalist construction, but the new Hyper boasts considerable refinement and electronic aids.Basem Wasef

Times have changed since my Italian road trip, and so has Ducati's beloved Hyper. Now in its third generation, and secure enough in its manhood to have dropped its nomenclature from 1100 to 950, the latest Hypermotard 950 SP produces more horsepower than in 2010 of course, to the tune of 114 hp and 71 pound-feet of torque. The greater power ups the potential for wheelies, pun intended. But its suite of modern electronics have all but obviated the possibility for flagrant hoonery, unless of course you decide to switch them off: Do without the six-axis nannies, and the bike still willingly salutes its front tire with ease. Switch them back on (or dial them in for your preferred intervention levels), and the traction control and wheelie control systems work politely enough to make their presence felt, but not enough to become reviled by any self-respecting rider seeking to keep out of trouble on public roads. In the case of my particular tester, the $3,400 SP package adds Öhlins suspension, lightweight Marchesini wheels bound in sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP rubber, and a quickshifter that can be added as an a la carte item.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP 937cc engine.
The 937cc twin churns 114 hp at 9,000 rpm, and its low positioning makes the Hypermotard feel nimbler than it looks.Basem Wasef

The SP sits 0.8 inch higher than the standard model thanks to its longer-travel suspension, and though resculpted for reach, its 35-inch seat might still make the climb aboard difficult for those of more modest proportions. (I'm 5-foot-11 with a 32-inch inseam, and was fine with standing on the balls of my feet at stoplights—incidentally, the flatter, motard-style seat offers more fore/aft movement, fittingly for the genre.) Instrumentation has also made strides ahead since those early days, with a 4.3-inch TFT color screen borrowed from the Panigale V4 offering a plethora of information at a glance.

But the Hypermotard is all about emotion not rationalism, especially since the touring-capable Hyperstrada has gone the way of the dodo. Most immediate is the wonder of Ducati’s big twin powerplant, a thrusty, throaty beast of a mill that punches forward with an almost childlike eagerness. Set the wheelie control to a nice, low number, and you’ll routinely feel the front end lift as you accelerate in each gear, such is the pull of the engine combined with the geometry of this stripped-down bike.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP 4.3-inch TFT display.
The 4.3-inch TFT offers a clear display of key info, and dims automatically according to ambient light conditions.Basem Wasef

Urban roads make the Hyper feel agile and ready, with the Öhlins suspension soaking up potholes nicely. With 7.3 inches of front travel and 6.9 at the rear (a 0.6- and 1.0-inch increase over the standard Hyper), there’s far more compliance on tap than you’ll find in a sportbike or a standard. But crack the 950 open on a wide stretch of highway and a surprising amount of stability unfolds, especially in light of its antsy, turn-happy predecessors. The freeways that feed Angeles Crest Highway’s 66 blissful miles of twists and turns are about as thanklessly dull as any superslab, but the Hyper commands them with easy aplomb. Maneuver the gradually tightening stretch of Angeles Crest as it becomes more rhythmically twisting and turning, and the Hyper rolls with the punches, requiring what feels like a bit of leaning to negotiate the corners because it sits so high up. Peak horsepower doesn’t hit until 9,000 rpm, but the engine feels torquey enough to make the climb to redline a fruitful journey. Cornering ABS raises confidence enough to grab the right lever deeper into corner entry, and the traction control does the same for exit, encouraging generous throttle twists while laying down power through the 180mm rear tire. A new hydraulic clutch replaces the old cable linkage, offering an easier grab that’s a bit of an irony since Ducati’s Quick Shift system works so well, particularly on upshifts: Just jam the left foot lever up into each gear after first, and the straight-cut gears swap quickly and effortlessly. The system rewards aggression, as a gentle tap of the shifter doesn’t maximize the momentum of the engine’s flywheel. Downshifts work nearly as well, though they require rather strong stomps on the pedal in order to instigate the gear change. The only questionable experience aboard the Hyper came when unexpected stalls occurred during our loan, at low speeds between first and second gears (and occasionally while coasting to a stop in neutral). Ducati could not replicate the issue; we suspect it might have had to do with bad fuel, though the ultimate reason remains unknown.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP front end.
A sharp beak has long been a Hypermotard hallmark; the look has become considerably less obtrusive since the bike’s first debut at the EICMA show in 2005.Basem Wasef

The evolution of the Hypermotard is a fascinating one, especially in a time when motorcycle segments have become more niche-oriented and focused than ever. With a curb weight that has remained essentially the same as the bike that was originally launched in 2007 but more power pushing it along, the Hyper hasn’t become bloated or overpowered—au contraire, in its top, Öhlins and carbon-clad form it is an elegant distillation of the original concept with the elaboration of helpful electronic aids. Even better, those systems can be easily disabled (when you’re at a standstill), which awakens the bike’s rowdy side but still manages to keep things buttoned down and stable on long highway slogs. Emotional but controllable, fun but easy to live with—we should all age so gracefully.

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP seat and front.
Narrow sculpting on the seat makes it easier to reach pavement from the 35-inch perch.Basem Wasef

2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP Specifications

PRICE $16,695
MOTOR 937cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled L-twin; 8-valve
BORE x STROKE 94.0mm x 67.5mm
FUEL DELIVERY Electronic fuel injection, ride by wire
CLUTCH Slipper, wet-multiplate hydraulically actuated
FRAME Tubular steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION Fully adjustable, inverted Öhlins 48mm; 7.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Progressive linkage w/ fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock; 6.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Radial-mount 4-piston calipers, 320mm discs w/ cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 245mm disc w/ cornering ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Light alloy; 17 x 3.5-in. / 17 x 5.5-in. rear
TIRES, FRONT/REAR Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa; 120/70-17 / 180/60-17 rear
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0°/4.1 in.
WHEELBASE 59.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 35.0 in.
WARRANTY 2-year, unlimited mileage
CONTACT ducati.com
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP double undertail exhaust pipes.
Double undertail exhaust pipes produce pretty music from the big twin powerplant.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP on road.
The Hyper sits with a confident stance.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP with lean-sensitive ABS.
Lean-sensitive ABS is serious hardware that lends the Hypermotard a more sophisticated place in the supermoto microcosm.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP Marchesini wheels and Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires.
The SP model comes equipped with lightweight Marchesini wheels and grippy Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP turn signal-equipped hand guards.
Turn signal-equipped hand guards are an elegant solution that minimizes overall width.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP rear Öhlins monoshock.
The rear Öhlins monoshock can be easily dialed in by hand.Basem Wasef
2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP in parking lot in front of mountains.
A lean, mean profile betrays the Hypermotard’s stripped down aesthetic.Basem Wasef