Hypermotard 796 Brawler
Only two years have passed since Ducati launched the original production Ducati Hypermotard. I tested the Hyper 1100 with Ruben Xaus sliding past me with thumbs up and knee down at the Mores circuit in Sardinia and loved it. Now, just two years later, Ducati is ready with the first addition to the Hypermotard family. The original Ducati Hypermotard is one of the most satisfying motorcycles in the world to ride hard, and the new Hypermotard 796 (803cc) version is no different.
The Ducati Hypermotard 796 is a motorcycle where you really feel that you’re sitting on top of the front wheel. It gives massive front end confidence and I throw the 796 into the tight corners, always knowing that there’s plenty of ground clearance. In the hills surrounding Bologna and Ducati’s hometown of Borgo Panigale, the roads are pure motorcycling heaven.
It all started out nicely for us with 82 degrees and sparkling sunshine aboard the Hypermotard 796. It quickly changed into thunderstorms that also spread a whole lot of autumn leafs onto the tight corners. During my day of testing the 796, the conditions changed from perfect to treacherous and back to perfect again. Despite the soaking, I’m happy to say that I did get enough dry miles to really get to know Ducati’s new Hyper baby.
During the press conference, David James, the Hypermotard project manager, told us not to mistake the new 803cc Desmo for just a large bore 696. James emphasized that the Hypermotard 796 power plant is all new. The Hypermotard 796 feels a lot more potent than the Ducati Monster 696 and with its claimed 81 hp @ 8,000 rpm, and around 57 ft/lbs of torque @ 6,250 rpm it pulls strongly also approaching 125 mph. The midrange is what should attract us to the HypermotardHypermotard 796 796, and the acceleration is strong from 4,000 rpm and up past 6,500 rpm. Only in first gear did I bother to hit the limiter just around 8.500 rpm. In all the higher gears, I’d switch up somewhere between 7 and 8.000 rpm.
The Hypermotard 796′s 803cc L-twin needs at least 4,000r pm to spin around without objections. If the front wheel doesn’t point sky high @ 8,000 rpm in first gear then that’s only due to a careful throttle hand. A power wheelie is very elusive on Ducati’s entry level Monster, whilst the Hyper 796 will happily do them all day long in first gear. That demonstrates nicely what Ducati has done with this new Desmo engine. The 696′s engine wouldn’t really suit the Hypermotard, as the Hyper 796 is really meant for a slightly more spectacular riding style.
The cynic in me can see a slight undermining of the Monster name, now that Ducati offers us both the Hypermotard and Streetfighter. Particularly since strong rumors suggest that Ducati will launch the Hypermotard 1100 with upgrades from the 796 and with more horsepower.
The 796 engine features crankcases that hugs the internals closer saving weight (2.6 pounds compared to the 696) and a high 11:1 compression ratio. Significantly, Ducati has added a second Lambda probe for finer analysis of the exhaust fumes providing Ducati’s most fuel-efficient engine to date. To top it all off the result is also a long 7,500-mile service interval.
Back on the roads, there’s one thing in particular that I like about the Hypermotard 796, and that’s the feel of the double 305mm Brembo brakes. The claimed 368-pound dry weight contributes, the new 43mm Marzocchi fork contributes but most of all it’s the upright riding position and the opportunity to slide forward in the seat whilst braking for the tightest corners. I chose to ride also the Hypermotard 796 supermoto style and it works! The new seat is 20mm lower than on the 1100 and, because it’s only a re-profiling of the 1100 seat, they are interchangeable should you wish a taller seat (or shorter on the 1100). The footpegs are dimensioned for MX boots, so it’s only a matter of shooting your foot out in the corners.
The Hypermotard 796 rides fine in conventional style too of course. Ducati has opted for sticky Bridgestone rubber in the BT016 in a 120/70 ZR17 front and a 180/55 ZR17 rear. Ducati’s trademark trellis frame is once again in place, but a re-design of the rear top part of the subframe has resulted in another small weight saving. The chassis is as stable and rigid as ever, and that also includes the same single sided swingarm as the 1100. My only complaint is that the slightly heavy steering-feel of the front and big bike turn radius at crawling speed is further away from a supermoto than anything else. The suspension both front and back felt a little soft for my 200 pounds, but only the adjustable Sachs monoshock lost it a couple of times over bumpy surfaces.
The Hypermotard 796 is a serious riding machine both on corner entry, mid corner and corner exits. The 796 lives for corners, and it seems whilst riding that every single corner was designed for the Hypermotard. These Italian roads were designed for horses hundreds, or even a couple of thousand, years ago and that’s why they are so exciting to ride on a modern steel horse. The new engine with its smooth power delivery enables me to get on the throttle hard very early from great lean angles. There’s never too much power and in these tight corners never too little either. The 796 just feels right and it’s very easy to get up to speed.
I got to test the bike in heavy thunderstorms, too, which can be a very slippery affair this time of year with dead leafs blanketing the roads. Whilst having to tiptoe the bike around the tightest corners, there’s still considerable amount of grip available. As for the rider, the Hypermotard isn’t the greatest choice on a rainy day, as there’s no weather protection whatsoever. At least I got rid of a couple of dead flies on my leather suit.
The sun returned after lunch and we were back to business as usual. The switchgear and minimalist instrument panel (but with plenty of functions) comes partly from the new Ducati Streetfighter and everything from lap time counter to a handy clock is easily available using only my thumbs.
Back in Bologna, we hit the city traffic just before rush hour. The folding mirrors are easily adjustable and can be flapped back in should you need to avoid a cars mirror impact whilst lane splitting. The hand guards serve mostly as wind protection and will be slightly pricier to replace than on a real motard should you drop the Hyper. That’s because both mirrors and the integrated blinkers are likely to take a beating. In really slow traffic second gear can still be used should first gear be too “hyper”. For the ultimate urban fun ride that front end provides you with exactly what you need to show the cars behind you the perfect rear end, too. If you’re really good you’ll be able to show the entire underside in splendid stoppie style with greater ease than the majority of street bikes.
Hypermotard 796 Conclusion
I always had a soft spot for the Hypermotard since it was a concept bike in 2005. I can’t imagine many bikes more suitable for a thrill seeker and urban hell raisers, apart from perhaps the 1100 version. I always thought that the Hypermotard would suit a smaller engine just fine and, with the 796, Ducati has done just that. It did actually surprise me a great deal that Ducati had opted for an all-new engine rather than using the 696, but we’re all better off for it. The 796 has got that not-only-so-little extra over the 696 needed for the baby hooligans out there. If you were one of those people thinking that the Monster 696 was a little on the soft side for an entry-level motorcycle, then the Hyper 796 could well be it. It’s not comfortable, but it’s 100% fun.
Photos by Milagro