by Ken Hutchison

Ducati Brings out One's Inner Hooligan with its Hypermotard

Without a doubt the Ducati Hypermotard 1100S represents the evolution of the supermoto classes’ sexy side. While the original single-cylinder motocross-style hybrids represent the rough and tumble, multi-purpose approach to the motard philosophy, Ducati’s creation represents a new era of purpose-built machines that combine the best of sportbikes, supermotos and streetfighters, wrapped in an audacious package. Although the liquid-cooled Singles are competent in their own right, none of them have demonstrated the sex appeal or created the buzz equivalent to the Hypermotard’s between the time of its 2005 unveiling at Milan to the production version’s official release earlier this year.

The buzz for me became real as soon as I thumbed the starter for my memorable first ride on the Motard, as it could have easily landed me in the county pen for a few days. I left no traffic law un-violated during an epic two-hour commute home on my personal favorite backroads. Although the Hypermotard may not have been intended as a pure hooligan bike, that doesn’t mean it can’t tap into a rider’s inner thug. I usually try not to ride like a moron, but I just couldn’t resist on this bike with the end of summer approaching faster than the entrance to the next sweeper. I was compelled to approach every corner as fast as possible, while maintaining a slight margin for error of course, with the rear wheel swapping, brakes howling and my pulse a palpitatin’.

Just looking at Ducati’s hottest plaything is enough to get your heart racing. It is a showcase of technological elements representing the best of Bologna, as envisioned by the company’s renowned motorcycle designer Pierre Terblanche. What started as a plan to address Ducati’s lack of a player status in the increasingly fashionable supermoto class, evolved into Terblanche’s vision we have here. Choosing to take the proven goodness of the Multistrada and narrowing its focus to the adventurous side of the performance spectrum by dressing it up with the appropriate sporting accoutrements, Terblanche has simultaneously came up with a design that retains the Ducati charisma, fills the playbike void and redeems his status in the hearts of Ducatisti who did not exactly embrace his last creation, the 999. All this accomplished without requiring an entirely re-tooled assembly line.

The Hypermotard and Multistrada actually have a lot in common including, but not limited to, the motor and chassis. These battle-tested pieces are the heart of the Hypermotard 1100S, while the striking appearance and playful personality characterize its soul. Behind the tubular steel trellis frame is an air-cooled dual-spark 1078cc mill, which features a 98 x 71.5mm bore and stroke and 10.5:1 compression ratio fed fuel by a Marelli EFI system with 45mm throttle bodies, all of which are shared by the Multistrada 1100. This combination is surprisingly potent in application. The unobstructed view of the entire DS1100 powerplant allows the magnesium-colored aluminum engine cases and carbon fiber inspection cover to provide the eye-candy for the intrigued ignoramuses that are certain to gather around it at every stop.

Inevitably those Q&A sessions often start at the intriguing backside of the bike. The single-sided swingarm, sourced from the Multistrada, holds a lightweight forged-aluminum Marchesini 17″ wheel wrapped in wide 180-series Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa III rubber. A two-piston Brembo caliper and 245mm rotor are tucked between the wheel and the swingarm whilst a fully adjustable remote-reservoir Ohlins shock adds the finishing touch to the sporty components on the rear. While a few key pieces are shared with other models, the trellis sub-frame is designed specifically for this bike. It holds the long motocross-style saddle and provides a place to pack all the sophisticated electronics out of harms way.

Notice how the exhaust pipes are routed along the underside of the sub-frame and the pair of bland, round black aluminum exhaust canisters are tucked strategically beneath the tail section. As usual, the heat emanating from the exhaust can get annoying in stop-and-go traffic, but all but disappears when underway. Thankfully, they sound better than they look too, but it is easy enough to replace those eyesores with the accessory Termignoni Carbon homologated silencer kit. Do it, and suddenly the unobtanium factor doubles. That small, red aerodynamic wing above the exhaust actually serves as both the taillight assembly housing and passenger grab handle by the way. Everything has a purpose in Terblanche’s minimalist design.

At the tip of the spear is an undeniably Ducati red nose piece that is curiously reminiscent of the 999. The front fender/ headlight assembly has a quartet of nacelle ducts that break up the pointed and angular appearance. It doesn’t offer much in the way of wind protection but it ties in with the faux intake shrouds that serve as the only significant bodywork found on the entire bike. The matte black fuel tank cover with aluminum gas cap is a nice contrast that completes the basic black/red theme. The bars are really wide and the hand guards have LED indicators integrated into them. What’s really cool, is that the flip-out mirrors that can be easily tucked away when the need arises. With them in their operational position the view is excellent but looking at it in motion it reminds me of a kayaker holding the paddle horizontally before entering a tough section of rapids. It definitely is like nothing on two wheels I’ve seen before.

The instrument cluster is best described as dainty but it’s packed with all the information necessary to make the jump to warp speed. It features a speedometer, tach, clock, lap timer, injection system diagnostics, trip fuel to empty monitor, low fuel warning light (no gauge), oil pressure, oil-temperature, battery level as well as the flux capacitor hyperdrive engagement mechanism. All of these functions are controlled by a switch on the left handlebar.

A fully-adjustable 50mm DLC-coated Marzocchi long-travel fork with a matching Marchesini 17″ front wheel and 120-series Pirelli tire do a stellar job of absorbing road imperfections and remain well composed throughout all the riding environments we could throw at it on the street or the track. A pair of gigantic 305mm discs and radial-mount Brembo Monobloc 4-piston calipers, the same units found on the new 1098 superbike, ensures the braking system is as equally impressive as the suspension. It even comes equipped with steel-braided brake lines for good measure. Just by looking at the brakes you can imagine how powerful they are, but despite this they offer up a surprising level of feel which allows the rider to trail brake without fear, diving deep into turns while modulating their awesome power like a pro. Be aware, they are not fail-safe. These are the brakes of the gods and they deserve and require respect because the feel is there but it’s up to the rider to make good use of it. The superb feel at the radial-mounted lever can deceive any mortal to feel superhuman on the brakes when bringing the ride-ready 431-pound shredder to a stop.

As soon as you straddle this tall, thin machine with its 33-inch seat height, it makes no excuses for being a supersonic dirtbike with a healthy dose of Ducati design elements, foremost among them being its big-bore Desmodromic Twin delivering smooth, buzz-free power that the single-cylinder street-legal supermotos can only dream of. Clamp your legs around its cold tubular steel frame and embrace the smooth minimalist body panels covering the tank. The slight cut-outs offer a semblance of a leverage point in the tighter, more aggressive turns but it’s so thin it’s damn near a moot point. The small footpegs feature removable rubber inserts, so you can adjust them or the shift lever’s toe pad to suit your needs. The wide bars are low, like a sportbike, which gives taller riders an elbows-out aggressive stance, but it feels very much like a bike ready to race the Baja to me.

Surely the wide bars attributed to the ease of which it turns in, but it is ridiculously easy to toss the bike back and forth. It’s so thin and well balanced that it can lull you into a false sense of confidence that you can go faster on a familiar road. Once I realized I was pushing my luck on my memorable first ride, I backed it down and started trying to carry power wheelies over the rises and other less treacherous behavior, so as not to auger this piece of art into an oak tree just because my medulla oblongata took control of my throttle hand for about a half hour. What I did learn from my angry country cruise is that the Marzocchi fork was more than up to task under any condition public roads have to offer. When our more experienced riders got a hold of it on the track they had nothing but praise for it as well.

The riding position places the rider up on the tank with a clear view of the road ahead. Weight bias reveals that 47% of the bike’s weight is on the front wheel, so coupled with the rider’s weight loading another buck-fifty to the nose it makes sense that the Hypermotard goes where it’s told. With steering geometry set at 24 degrees of rake and 99mm (3.9-inches) of trail and its relatively short 57.3-inch wheelbase, it’s easy to imagine that you’re destined for a head-shaking good time. But just like the Multistrada, from which this chassis originated, it doesn’t get out of line unless you’re on the gas, the front wheel’s light and the road is rough. It has the chassis and suspension to hang with anything short of a pure repli-racer on the road or track and enough inherent stability to wax a pure supermoto on anything this side of a go-kart track. But does it have the motor to seal the deal?

Despite its relatively uninspiring dyno numbers, the motor feels more peppy and ready to rumble than you’d expect – 78 horsepower never felt so good. The Hypermotard is deceptively fast, accelerating hard with a 60 lb-ft spread of torque that peaks at 66 lb-ft around five-grand. It’s capable of lofting the front wheel with ease in the first two gears of its very slick-shifting and precise 6-speed transmission. A respectable 11.70-second quarter mile at 114 mph isn’t going to challenge a supersport in a drag race, but it has more available torque than any modern 600, so it won’t get absolutely waxed if the rider is on top of things either. Even the dry clutch proved to be durable through our hard riding antics, dyno runs and performance testing. That’s right, this beauty makes a lot of racket while idling, but the reason Ducati opted for this set-up was that it allows for a much easier swap to the $980 accessory slipper clutch for folks that want a little bit more go-fast goodness to work with. To say this bike is entertaining is a gross understatement, but not everything is good in the world of the Hypermotard.

Over the course of our torrid affair a few things popped up that I didn’t like, most of which are centered around rider comfort – the most painful problem being the shape of its motocross-style seat. It’s fine when you first climb on and its easy to accept in small doses, but after a couple long days in the saddle and moving around during aggressive riding, the seat starts to induce the dreaded chaffed-butt syndrome on the inside buns because of its narrow design and firm padding. There’s absolutely zero wind protection, except for the rider’s hands which are out of harms way behind the crash guards, so early morning or late night rides can get chilly quick. It will please some of you to know that the headlight works very well. It cuts a wide swath through the darkness but it isn’t as bright as the projector beam on a bike like the Multistrada.

Then there are a couple issues with those trick mirrors. While they work well when adjusted correctly, they get blurry at high speeds. Additionally, when the nifty fold-out feature is constantly being shown to onlookers, they eventually work loose and become prone to moving with the force of the wind if you don’t stay on top of the adjustment dial. Of course, the only way to tighten them is when the bike is at a standstill, so if they start migrating it requires you to bring the ride to a stop to get things back in order. Another gripe is the 36 mpg average fuel consumption, which is great considering it’s hard to keep the pace mellow, but the modest 3.3 gallon fuel capacity equates to roughly a 120 mile range of service. Considered as a commuter and weekend warrior this is not a big deal, but if you have any notions about adventure touring this sexy beast then it will require quite a few fuel stops to get to your destination. Really these gripes are a small price to pay for such a trick set-up but I know how you all get when I don’t point this stuff out.

From the moment I first laid eyes on this piece of Italian exotica its appearance stole the show and that never changed as I soaked in everything it had to offer in our short period of time together. Like any budding relationship, the honeymoon period was comprised of copious hot and sweaty romps through an assortment of locales until the novelty started to wear off. Fortunately, in the case of the Hypermotard, it never really wore off. I still wish it was at my beck and call at this very moment. What is simply irresistible about the bike is its combination of razor-sharp handling, rider-friendly power delivery from the overachieving motor and the intangible value of its appearance. The issues that did come up don’t detract from the overall goodness especially since its never been billed as anything but a high-end alternative to the street-legal Singles that make up the majority of options in this market.

If a potential suitor is intrigued by the pseudo-supermoto lifestyle but they are not interested in having their fillings rattled out and have discretionary income to the tune of $13,995 for the S-model or $11,495 for the equally entertaining though not as aesthetically pleasing standard version of the Hypermotard, then why not go for it? I can hear the complaints already: It’s too expensive, it’s too narrowly focused, it’s no 1098 or pure sportbike. While these are valid points, if that is your state of mind, then this bike is simply not for you and you can sleep easy in your blissful ignorance.

When it’s all said and done the question is why would someone buy this bike over a purpose-built sportbike, streetfighter or supermoto? Because the Hypermotard is a blend of the key elements from all of these genres. Its attacking supermoto riding position and flickability, exposed streetfighter-like design elements combined with top-shelf sportbike quality suspension and braking components make this bike an attractive way for sport riders to be lured away from the blinding light of the rising sun and into the seductive underworld of the Ducatisti. Believe the hype.