Ducati Hypermotard – Test Ride

The Ducati Hypermotard promised so much when first unveiled in prototype form at the 2005 Milan show. Bondo checks out if the production version delivers.

Words: Steve Bond. Photos: Don Empy

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways;

I love thee from the lettering on thy Marchesini front wheel to the golden sheen on thy Ohlins shock. I love thee’s carbon fiber highlights, Marzocchi forks and Brembo monoblock radial calipers. Thee’s seat, however, is a Royal pain in thoust ass.



Tall suspension and 17 inch wheels with racing rubber. Tah dah! A motard.

This whole motard fad began when some doofus stuck a set of roadracing wheels with big, sticky tires on a dirtbike. They’ve evolved somewhat from there but it’s still a very limited niche market (although one that seems to be growing) and many manufacturers are jumping on the motardy bandwagon.

KTM seems to be leading the league in the motard category, Suzuki has their disappointing DRZ400 and even stodgy BMW has chipped in with the HP2 Megamoto. And now Ducati, the two-wheeled pinnacle of sportbike-dom is on board with the Hypermotard.

Back in 2005, Pierre Terblanche’s original Hypermotard prototype won “Best Design” at the Milan show and the production version remains fairly true to this vision. Appearance is always subjective but I think the HM is a motorcycle that responds well to sitting back with coffee in hand while allowing your eyes to wander over the hardware, absorbing the shapes, angles and attention to detail of the gorgeous Italian bits and pieces.


The wart.

The more you look, the more it grows on you – until you get to the breather canister stuck near the left side of the frame like a wart on the attractive red trellis fanny. Thankfully, when riding, you don’t have to look at it.

Ably propelled by the 95 horsepower, air-cooled, 1100cc, two-valve Multistrada powerplant, the HM is available in two sets of pajamas. The base model lists for $14,495 and comes with cast aluminum wheels, Brembo two-piece front calipers and a Sachs rear shock.

But then if you’re going to spend almost 15 large, why not go for the ultimate in motard excess and drop $17,495 on the “S” model with Ohlins rear shock, Brembo monobloc calipers, 50mm Marzocchi forks (complete with trick, anti-stiction coating on the sliders), forged aluminum Marchesini wheels and carbon fiber eye candy adorning the timing belt covers, fenders and fork protectors?

The shock alone is worth two grand. Go big or stay home.



Narrow bike with wide bars (thanks to mirrors).

I easily scaled the 33-inch (838mm) high seat, although those short of inseam may require pitons and crampons. The first thing noticed is the narrowness of the bike and the unusual riding position – it seems as if you’re perched directly over the front wheel.

The Superbike bend bars are fairly wide and the Batcycle bar-end mirrors stick out even farther – not exactly ideal for threading through tight traffic.

The hydraulically actuated dry clutch has a much lighter pull than other Duck dry clutches and doesn’t have the typical “tambourines in a cement mixer” rattle – undoubtedly a great disappointment to the Ducatisti faithful.

Power is excellent right off idle and through the midrange, although goes flat right up top – so it’s much more fun to short shift and let the abundant torque pull you through. Throttle response is fairly smooth and linear, although a bit abrupt in the lower gears.


Seat is torturous.

The six-speed gearbox has a crisp, short throw and when running up through the gears, clutchless upshifts are a snap. Neutral can be a bit elusive at stops and is much easier to find from first rather than fishing around from second.

The Hypermotard has top-shelf hardware and an impeccable pedigree and some wonderful hardware but as for riding it … Well …

The Spanish Inquisition-inspired seat is just way too uncomfortable for anything but short jaunts (“Por favor, I’ll tell you anything. Just let me get off”). Ask 1,000 motorcyclists what they like in a seat and I’m betting that, “hard, narrow and uncomfortable” barely makes the list.


Bondo is not very impressed on the long run.

On the highway, vibration rears its ugly head and the bar-end mounted mirrors become reasonably useless – anything aft just a blur and the left one wouldn’t stay tight anyway, giving me a great view of the rear sprocket. Brilliant idea that they fold so you can thread through traffic but then you can’t see behind, can you?

The heavy throttle becomes apparent after about 30 minutes and at the end of the day, my right wrist was fatigued from the heavy pull and numb from vibration.

Once you get to the backroads and twisties, the Hypermotard comes alive. The 385-lb light weight makes it really easy to throw around and the torquey engine propels you from one apex to another like you’re being shot out of a cannon. Exiting corners in the lower gears requires restraint because the short wheelbase and responsive motor is a sure recipe for power wheelies.


Gorgeous parts but they don’t make the sum.

Conservative steering geometry prevents the Hypermotard from feeling overly twitchy but it is fairly sensitive to steering inputs, whether initiating the turn or changing lines mid-corner to avoid larger potholes.

Around town it’s great. The tall seating position lets you see over most traffic and the responsive engine and wide bars make maneuvering in tight spaces a snap.

The radial Brembos on the Hypermotard S are probably the best brakes I’ve experienced on a street bike. The initial bite is very strong (requiring caution from the unwary or inexperienced), but the exemplary feel, feedback and ultimate braking power will be appreciated by the experienced rider. Normally, one finger on the lever will be enough to satisfy your braking needs.

The instrument pod is simple, yet displays lots of info. The digital speedometer is front and center with a sweeping, LCD tach up top. A number of functions are available including total mileage, tripmeter, time, lap times and voltage. Seriously irritating is when the instrument cluster reset itself to show total kilometers every time the key is shut off.



Sometimes I want to leave it on the time and sometimes I want the tripmeter. For the record, I rarely want to see total mileage and can’t think of a circumstance where I’ve ever want see volts. For entertainment value, every time you turn the key to start, the instrument pod tells you this is the “Hypermotard.” Good to know.

Even during easy riding, the fuel light comes on at around 180km, which is perfect because you were ready for a break 100 kilometers ago. And when the light comes on, start looking for a gas station RFN.

Fuel consumption averaged between 5.2 and 5.6L/100km (50 to 54 miles
per Imperial gallon) depending on how much fun I was having.


It’s art.


One day I did a tour of the backroads, farmland and wineries of scenic Prince Edward County, located about two hours east of Toronto and one hour on the freeway from my home. Riding there first thing in the morning was fine as a slight tailwind prevented me from getting beaten up too badly but coming back was a different story.

I’d already accumulated 400km on the Motard, my ass was sore, my back (always a lurking source of potential trouble) was tightening up and I was fighting a vicious headwind, feeling much like the Human Spinnaker.


The devil’s in the details.

At the end of the day I’d logged 504 klicks, which surely must be a one day record for Hypermotard-ness. I felt so badly abused, I jumped in our Jacuzzi with the jets on “pulverize” and the water just this side of “scald.” I then went looking for the inflatable donut pillow.

During the last hour of my ordeal, er ride, I realized that something was wrong here – I was riding a state of the art Italian V-twin motorcycle with Marchesini wheels, Ohlins shock, Brembo brakes and a wonderful collection of carbon fiber bits and all I could think of was, “I wish I was on anything else.”

It’s the exact opposite of a 650 V-Strom, F650Gs or Versys where a collection of unremarkable parts add up to an astounding package. With the Hypermotard, we have a collection of absolutely outstanding hardware that adds up to something that you can’t ride to where you want to go.


I know I’m probably missing the entire “motard” point here – and I can live with that. In my opinion, the Hypermotard is the perfect answer to a question few are asking and the perfect tool for a job that few are qualified to do. Not too many of us could own one as an only motorcycle.

It’s a high-tech weapon that’ll put a smile on your face when strafing your favourite road or during the cut and thrust dicing at a track day – as long as you don’t have to ride too far for either


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