Costa gets away from the chill of winter to sample Ducati’s latest updates to their successful Hypermotard: the Evo and Evo SP.
In just two years since the Hypermotard’s public release it has become one of Ducati’s biggest sellers, accounting for 15 percent of Ducatis sold worldwide, with the biggest markets being Italy and North America.
Maybe the machine’s success is some retribution for former Ducati designer Pierre Terblanche, for it’s the only bike penned by the bespectacled South African designer — who also conceived the last generation of the Super Sport (discontinued due to lagging sales), as well as the infamous 999 — to sell so well, mostly because of its aggressive motard-inspired styling.
To further broaden its appeal, Ducati introduced the Hypermotard 796 this year, with smaller engine displacement, basic yet functional suspension, and a retail price $3,500 less than its bigger brother.
LIGHTENING THE LOAD
So what do you do to put even more Hypers into riders’ garages? As Ducati’s PR manager John Paolo Canton put it, “You make it lighter and more powerful and you don’t increase the price.”
Makes sense to me.
Ducati calls the new bike the Hypermotard Evo, as it is an evolution of the model rather than a redesign. It has also added a higher-spec Evo SP model, but more on that later.
Engineers chopped seven kilos (15 lb) from the Hypermotard, now claiming 172 kg (379 lb) dry. The frame contributes 1.7 kg of those savings through a new rear portion that replaces castings with lighter welded machined bits, though dimensions and geometry are unchanged.
Most of the weight savings are from the entirely new air-cooled V-twin (yes, I know Ducati refers to it as an L-twin because of its 90-degree spacing and near vertical and horizontal cylinder layout, but it’s a V to me).
Called the Desmodue Evo, its crankcases borrow the Vacural casting technology (a vacuum die-casting process) from the firm’s liquid-cooled engines, which produces stiffer, lighter cases that are also trimmed for a tighter fit around engine internals. Inside said cases you’ll find a lighter crankshaft, flywheel and alternator, which collectively drop engine weight by 5.2 kg (11.5 lb).
To boost power there are new cylinder heads, which use revised ports, and improvements in combustion chamber shape allowed Ducati to revert to a single sparkplug per cylinder.
These changes combine with new cams and higher-compression pistons (11.3:1 from 10.7:1) to bump engine output to a claimed 95 hp, a five horsepower increase. The motor’s snappier too thanks to a new ECU.
Ducati says this new engine will become the standard in other air-cooled models.
To experience the Evo and Evo SP, Ducati extracted us from the sub-freezing Canadian winter and flew us to more temperate Scottsdale, Arizona, where we took a brief ride along the winding roads in Lost Dutchman State Park.
Once seated on the Hypermotard Evo, I was reacquainted with the bike I absolutely enjoyed when I attended the bike’s original press launch in 2007. If it weren’t for the new instruments it would be difficult to tell the new model from the previous one.
The instrument cluster is lifted right off the Streetfighter and is very compact, but Ducati still uses a hard-to-read LCD bar tachometer, and there’s no gear indicator for riders like me who can’t retain information long enough to remember what gear the bike is in.
Gear position is almost irrelevant, however, as the engine has a broad, meaty powerband, and it snaps forward hard enough from about 2,500 rpm to lift the front wheel in second gear. A well-timed tug at the tapered aluminum handlebar while snapping the throttle open in third gear also gets the front end skyward.
It’s obvious that even if the bike’s shout-it-out-loud styling were more subdued, its underlying hooligan-esque character would be hard to hide.
The Evo is geared quite tall, but relatively close ratios in the bottom three gears make it easily manageable on tight, winding roads. On the highway, the engine lopes along at a leisurely 3,500 rpm at an indicated 65 mph (we were on U.S. bikes), and surprisingly, it is mostly shudder-free at that speed, unlike some other Ducatis I’ve ridden.
As with any naked bike, the tall, wide handlebar provides ample leverage, which was an asset on tight back roads like the ones we were on, where the bike steered lightly and changed direction effortlessly in tight transitions.
On the downside, the wide handlebar also exaggerated unwarranted handlebar input and caused the bike to twitch a tad on the open road.
Introduced on the original Hypermotard, and a unique styling feature, the handlebar-end mirrors are both cool and functional, providing an unobstructed rear view, and they can be folded back for clearance when threading through idle traffic.
Of course, putting them on the ends of the handlebar makes the machine unusually wide, and I often clipped mirrors with other riders when we pulled next to one another to talk.
GIMME AN S, GIMME A P
The higher spec Evo SP is aimed more at the regular track day rider with upgraded and taller suspension. Gone is the Evo’s 50 mm fully adjustable fork, replaced with a fork that’s 30 mm longer with progressive springs (forks on both bikes are by Marzocchi). Gone too is the fully adjustable Sachs rear shock in favour of a longer and stiffer Ohlins unit.
This gives 30 mm more suspension travel up front and 15 mm more at the rear, while the SP’s longer legs allow for more extreme cornering angles as well as lifting seat height by 30 mm to 875 mm (34.4 in.).
Sitting on the SP is an altogether different experience than sitting on the standard Evo, as its firmer suspension squats less, exaggerating the bike’s tallness; at six feet tall, I could place only the balls of my feet on the ground.
For added racetrack grip, Ducati installed Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP race tires as stock in place of the Evo’s Pirelli Diablo Rosso street rubber.
Although you’d think the stickier compound would provide added grip no matter what, cool ambient temperatures and modest speeds didn’t allow enough heat to build up in the tires on our ride and they remained sphincter-puckering slippery, as opposed to the Rossos that gripped like tires should from cold.
It also gets radial-mount Brembo monobloc front calipers as opposed to the Evo’s two-piece items, though both bikes have 305 mm discs. Here, too, the racier components hampered street use by being overly sensitive with a harsher initial bite.
That leaves some sporadic use of carbon fibre for various trim bits and a pair of forged Marchesini wheels, which shave another kilo compared to the Evo.
However, it’s all for naught as far as I’m concerned, because the SP’s taller seat, stiffer suspension and more abrupt front brakes did nothing to improve on the standard Evo’s street handling, which was nearly flawless.
Sure, it steers with lightning-quick precision and has more cornering clearance (of which the Evo has plenty of anyway), but despite a few additional millimetres of trail (108 mm; 101 for the Evo) it felt slightly twitchier than the Evo on the highway, and the harder suspension only bounced you high off the seat over bumps. Of course, a snakingly smooth track may garner very different results.
Our SP test bikes had just arrived from the European launch and still had an optional Termignoni exhaust system installed, and their ECUs were tuned for European fuel, which resulted in a slight hesitation off idle.
The single silencer cleans up the rear end of the bike nicely (it comes with new rear covers), reduces weight by a rather large seven kilos and increases power by seven percent. Unfortunately, it also adds a significant raspy bark that won’t make any friends in your neighbourhood.
There is a greater difference between the standard Evo and the Evo SP than there was between the previous 1100 and the 1100S. But the Evo SP ($17,495) borders on overkill, especially since the standard Evo is such a good bike — and the SP isn’t any more powerful.
The Hypermotard 1100 Evo is an improvement over its predecessor, which was already loads of fun to ride. It’s lighter, more powerful, and best of all, retails for $14,995, unchanged from last year. And to me, that seems the best path towards evolution.
|Bike||2010 Ducati Hypermotard Evo/Evo SP|
|Engine type||Four-stroke 90° V-twn, air-cooled|
|Power (crank)||95 hp @7,500rpm|
|Torque||76 lb-ft @ 5,750 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||12.4 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI with 45 mm throttle bodies|
|Final drive||Six speed, chain drive|
|Brakes, front||Dual 305 mm discs with four-piston caliper|
|Brakes, rear||Single 245 mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|Seat height||845 mm (33.2″); 875 mm (34.4″) SP|
|Wheelbase||1,455 mm (57.3″); 1,465 mm (57.7″) SP|
|Dry weight||172 kg (379 lb); 171 kg (377 lb) SP|
|Colours||Red or black; red or white (Evo SP)|
|Warranty||Two years, unlimited mileage|