Local law statutes, geneticists, and musical instruments dating back to 1500 BC, (a three tube clarinet called a launeddas) have all ensured Sardinia and its inhabitants general recognition as a "popolo" (distinct place and people). I can now add the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 to the list of unique things experienced in Sardinia. Like the launeddas, which requires circular breathing (expelling air through the mouth whilst simultaneously taking in air through the nose and storing a little in your cheeks—try it), the Hypermotard takes practice and work to get the hang of; both on the street or track. Moreover, like the launeddas, there is a secret to making it work.
With this latest design creation leaving Ducati’s Pierre Terblanche design center, the company continues to produce highly creative new motorcycles. And, although the supermotard motorcycle is neither new nor commonplace, its athletic positioning and application is gaining popularity. (Click image to enlarge)
Ducati powers this narrow and nimble bike with its latest air-cooled 1078cc, two-valve desmo, 90-degree L-twin, complete with Dual Spark head, dry clutch and fuel injection. This engine was selected for its very broad power and flat torque output characteristics. In stock trim it produces 76 ft lbs of torque relatively low down in the rev range and its full 90 hp is unleashed at just under 9,000 rpm. (Click image to enlarge)
With the use of a neatly placed oil cooler, and without the need for water cooling, Ducati was able to keep the Hypermotard’s weight down to 390 lbs while also increasing service intervals by 50% with the use of new engine materials and newly engineered components. (Click image to enlarge)
The Hypermotard 1100 will be available in two different versions, the Standard and an upgraded S models. The S offers lighter forged wheels, a lower friction fork, Öhlins rear shock, adjustable rear ride height, larger more powerful Brembo monoblock front calipers, assorted carbon bodywork and upgraded Pirelli Diablo Corse-III rubber. Additionally, both machines are fully capable of utilizing the DDA system first offered commercially on the 1098 and require only the USB data retrieval card and the computer software to access the full download capabilities of onboard recorded information. Data available includes; laps and lap times, throttle opening position, gear selection, vehicle speeds and distance traveled. The instantly downloadable memory will contain up to 3.5 hours of data and can be analyzed in graphic format and capable of section zoom with trace timeline and overlay.
Sardinia was the perfect setting for exploration of the Hypermotard’s performance. The season here found lush green rolling horizons surrounding beautifully maintained two lane roads that swept through the undulating scenery with amazing beauty and grace. The lack of Sardinian population guarantees an absence of road traffic, electronic devices, and speed enforcement; and the result is long sections of perfectly manicured two-lane country roads that siren for serious throttle abuse.
When first aboard the Hypermotard, you feel that your center of gravity is slightly high as the seat height reaches 34 inches, some two inches above that found on the tallest of current sport bikes. Perhaps closer to a motocross stance, the seat’s cushioning, give and frontward slope of the saddle place the rider lower and more forward than initially expected. When combined with the raised and wide handlebar placement, the rider is rewarded with a somewhat different view and positioning from atop a typical road going motorcycle.Upon embarking on my ride from the exquisite El Faro resort hotel, I skirted the stunning Mediterranean coastline. Here, while touring through what was the most populated portion of our seaside commute, I quickly noticed that this Ducati responded to my riding inputs with incredible ease and agility; my first impression was that almost anything can be done with this motorcycle. Other than seated normally, when necessary it can even be comfortably ridden while standing on the footpegs, a stance actually complemented by the high and wide handlebars. Once we moved inland and encountered the tight curving roads Sardinia offered, my approach changed from normalcy to being seated in a comfortable position yet closely pressed against the tank. With either riding style, the Hypermotard’s compliant suspension easily absorbs even the roughest of road irregularities without bottoming or overreaction, while the ample torque of the engine makes accelerating into and out of every corner constantly entertaining.
The Mores racing circuit in the town of Alghero was the location of choice to test the mettle of the S version of the Hypermotard. The one-mile long circuit keeps you busy all the way round with no place to rest, with eight corners and 14 shifts per circuit and lap times under one minute. The front straight almost tachs-out fifth gear, following a mix of slow and medium speed 2nd and 3rd gear corners. With the wide torque curve of the Hypermotard, you could almost leave it in 3rd like an automatic and yet the motorcycle would still pull hard between corners. However, the most impressive thing was the versatility and balance from the flawless chassis. The winning technique for carrying maximum corner speed is to approach the turn with the wheels inline, but then let the back slide out a tad when on the throttle and driving hard from the corner. This was a successful strategy for carrying momentum not just on the track, but the street too. (Click image to enlarge)
As a track demonstration of the other-worldly limits of the Hypermotard, World Superbike ace Ruben Xaus, on the exact same S machine I rode, produced an amazing show of riding skill and corner-entry technique. He approached the corners fully crossed-up at maximum lean angle, rear wheel smoking downshifts, with his left knee firmly planted and dragging the pavement. Sometimes he would take his left hand from the bar and wave in a friendly salute. It was an impressive display of the bike, although somehow I suspect Rapid Ruben could ride a touring bike in a similar manner.
There is no doubt that Ducati’s new Hypermotard 1100 is an incredibly versatile motorcycle. It produces loads of usable power at all rpm, and allows the rider a multitude of performance riding approaches, with the possibility of expanding new capabilities and riding horizons.
Oh, and the secret to the launeddas? Ignore your instincts and practice breathing with a straw and glass of wine. But make it red.