What makes a bike great? Fast on the track? Comfortable? Good for commuting? Brings out your inner-hooligan? After a year, 7,000kms and a few essential mods, we’re here to deliver our verdict on what kind of bike the latest Hypermotard SP is, in the real world.
The Hypermotard 939 is actually the 3rd major revision to the platform which began in 2007 with the 1100 and 796 air cooled motors. The Pierre Terreblanche design, combined with torquey power delivery (shared with the Monster 1100 and 796 variants of the era) made for an entertaining ride which was applauded for its supermoto-inspired riding position and a wheelie-prone front end that made it a handful to ride (particularly in its 1100cc variant).
2012 saw the debut of the Hypermotard 821, using Ducati’s liquid cooled Testastretta 11 degree motor. Alongside this new motor, Ducati introduced 2 new Hypermotard variants: touring (Hyperstrada) and sport (SP) versions based on the same platform. The Ducatisti (purists) and loyal Hypermotard 1100 fans chastised Ducati for refining power delivery and reducing torque while improving the bike’s manners for everyday riding. What Ducati achieved through this evolution however was the broadening of the Hypermotard’s appeal and an obvious sharing of development costs by moving to a platform approach (the latter becoming more important under the watchful eye of Audi).
In 2016, Ducati made another revision to the Hypermotard, this time bumping displacement of its liquid-cooled motor up to near-literbike spec (937cc to be exact), improving mid-range torque all while meeting the latest Euro 4 emission standards. History lesson, complete.
2016 Hypermotard 939 SP Review
Let’s start with the numbers: 937cc liquid cooled V twin making 101HP @ 8,700 RPM and 67.3 lb/ft of torque at 7,200 RPM (at the wheel). Weighing in at 448 lbs (wet) with dual Brembo M4-32 calipers up front, fully adjustable Ohlins suspenders front and back, forged lightweight Marchesini wheels, shod in Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP rubber (120 front, 180 rear) and slipper clutch. Electronics suite featuring 3 adjustable riding modes with Traction Control (TC) and ABS. 2 year manufacturer’s warranty and 30,000 km valve service intervals for a not-insignificant entry price of $17,995 (CDN) MSRP.
So, the specs list is impressive and the price is steep (comparables at that price include many more powerful, exotic naked and fully-faired bikes), so who is Ducati trying to appeal to with this bike?
If you’re looking for a touring bike, a track weapon, a daily commuter or a weekend joy ride, there are bikes that can do any one of those things comparably well or better for less money. However, the latest Hypermotard’s greatest asset is that it can do all of those things surprisingly well.
As a Daily Commuter
The first thing anyone who rides a Hyper will notice is the upright, forward seating position. In an urban riding scenario, the position is commanding and feels natural. The perspective it provides in urban traffic is second-to-none, allowing the rider to peer into distracted driver’s cars from a commanding perch. The mirrors offer good visibility without looking like a styling afterthought and clutch pull is light enough that your hand won’t get tired. The ride-by-wire throttle and variety of selectable throttle maps mean you can choose a toned-down power delivery for smooth, easy riding in traffic. Stock fueling is above average for Ducati and only improves when exhaust and ECU are upgraded (more on that later). We are happy to report that heat it a non-issue in stop and go traffic which is somewhat unusual for Ducati (Panigale 1299 and Diavel owners know what we’re talking about).
What’s perhaps not-so-great for frequent start-stop journeys is the Hypermotard’s starting seat height of 34.2″ (in base trim). Although this won’t be problematic for anyone 6 feet or taller, it may actually be a non-starter for anyone under that height, depending on the model and seat configuration. In SP trim, seat height jumps to 35″ and if you add the (highly recommended) flattened out Ducati Performance Race Seat (stock seat is dished and does not allow fore fore/aft weight transfer), total seat height is 36″! For comparison sake, seat height on a BMW R1200GS is around 35″ and even Ducati’s own Multistrada Enduro comes in below that at 34.2″. All that to say: if it’s the SP model you lust for, be sure to sit on the bike or take it for a test ride before making a commitment. The height of this bike is something you will either love or hate.
So, with all this talk of seat height, you may wonder why Ducati chose to make this thing so darn tall…?
For Weekend Joyrides
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Hypermotard 939 SP is the greatest wheelie bike we have ever ridden. Full stop. Note that this was not the case with its predecessor, the 821 which although fantastic, lacked the midrange torque required for on-demand front end lofting. Stability, fueling, torque, suspension, riding position, bar leverage and weight distribution mean that the Hyper 939 is as neutral on one wheel as it is on two, and it can turn mere mortals into heroes if back-straight wheelies are in any way exciting to you. Ample torque on tap makes lofting the front end easy up to 3rd gear on power alone, so long as TC is turned off.
For as liveable and surprisingly civilized as this bike is around town, it’s once the pavement twists and the elevations change that the Hyper comes into its own. Heavier than a pure supermoto but with the same riding position, wide bars and the additional torque that can only come from big displacement, the twisty road riding manners of the SP are incredible. The height that was awkward around town now provides endless lean angle with no real way to drag a hard part before you’d drag an elbow. Throttle mapping can be set to its most aggressive delivery, turning corner exits into a laugh-out-loud affair. The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs (which are quite frankly overkill for street riding ) hook up predictably when pushed hard and allow a good rider to connect corners telepathically. It defies logic that a tall quasi-motard can be this agile but that’s what this bike does.
If there are any gripes to be had with the Hyper’s backroad manners, the aftermarket can solve them. First, the stock seat we mentioned earlier is very restrictive and gets uncomfortable in the first hour. The design locks the rider in a forward position (presumably to keep weight distribution farther forward) and aside from becoming uncomfortable quickly, doesn’t allow for fore/aft movement or off-seat leaning.
Although the Ducati Performance Race Seat adds about and inch of height, it also flattens out the seating area, adding both comfort and the ability to shift one’s weight around as needed. The second gripe is the bike’s weight. At a claimed 448lbs (wet) the Hyper 939 SP, even with its trick looking carbon bits and a forged Marchesini wheels still comes in 20lbs heavier than its air cooled predecessors. Other than liquid cooling, much of this newfound weight is due to the new Euro 4 compliant exhaust and there are various aftermarket solutions that offer weight savings as well as performance gains. In our case, the Ducati Performance Titanium high mount exhaust comes with an ECU up map key, a new air box cover and filter and shaves over 10lbs off the bike, bringing it closer to its ideal fighting weight and adding some seat-pant-dyno-measured torque as well as a more aggressive “race” throttle map. The system is eye-wateringly expensive at over $2,000 CDN but unlocks the last 20% of the bike’s capabilities, all while reducing weight and even shooting flames on decel. In for a penny, in for a pound, the saying goes.
On the racetrack, the Hyper is a riot, so long as the track caters to the Hyper’s style and that you’re not after the fastest lap time. The bike’s back road manners continue on the track and hanging off the big, wide bars with the back tire struggling for grip while exiting a corner is a thrill. The ABS set at its least intrusive setting helps keep things neat when plowing into a corner at race pace and the Brembo M4-32 calipers are up to the task of bringing the big dirt bike to a stop. The SP’s added radial front master cylinder provides a level of modulation and feel that was not apparent on public roads and allows for deep trail braking wihout any drama. On tracks where 1st-3rd gear are the norm, the nimble Hyper can indeed keep pace with the average sportbike.
We did find the bike’s limits at the track however and those involved outright power and aerodynamics at race pace. At just over 100HP at the wheel, the Hyper will run out of steam on fast, straight sections of a large track. Combined with an upright riding position and no wind protection, it becomes obvious that the bike was not made for speeds over 160km/h. Yes, it will do over 200 km/h, but the effort becomes counter-intuitive and the fun drops off significantly as high speed wind blasts destabilize the tall SP. The gearbox is fine for everyday riding and even during a spirited jaunt but begins to feel clunky when tasked with rapid up/down shifts (Ducati is likely to address this in future models via a quickshifter, as seen on the new Supersport S). The stock footpegs are slippery (see our replacement DIY here), the rear brake has a somewhat wooden feel to it and the pedal is non-adjustable, which exacerbates the need for a very intentional press if one hopes to engage the rear brake. These small gripes are immaterial in the bigger picture however. The Hypermotard isn’t a substitute for a sport bike and if your objective at the track is to have fun, you won’t be disappointed.
The Hypermotard 939 SP is an unusual animal with a broad range of capabilities. The bike’s core competency is its ability to put a smile on the rider’s face, regardless of which environment it’s operating in. Perhaps the most versatile bike we’ve ridden, it splits the difference between supermoto, naked bike and touring bike, combining the best elements of each into a plain addictive machine that is truly something special. And of course, if wheelies are your thing, well…that alone may be worth the price of admission.
Some useful mods & DIY’s (with links):