2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP Test: Out In the Street
When the Hypermotard came onto the scene in 2005, it immediately staked its claim in the hallowed halls of motorcycle history as a motorcycle capable of transforming even those with the most crestfallen, Eeyore-like personalities into stark raving mad wheelie aficionados.
While most of the Hypermotard’s proponents, including me, are incapable of producing a whiff of the kind of power-sliding, crossed-up-wheeling, backed-in stink that the late, great Nicky Hayden or former World Superbike racer Ruben Xaus have put down in promotional videos for the early Hypermotard machines, the Hyper oozes that type of type of charm.It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t—that’s what the Hyper makes you feel, with its lighting-quick-handling, wallop-delivering revamped L-twin and ergonomics that’ll let you turn out your entire bag of tricks.Through all of its various iterations, moving from an air-cooled L-twin and yoyo-dieting displacement sizes, the Hypermotard has always maintained an almost feral quality. Wide-eyed and teeth bared, the Hyper didn’t understand the concept of subtlety.Every stoplight is an opportunity for a holeshot; every canyon-curve can be slid into or rocketed out; even track riding was, and is, welcomed. Calling it one-dimensional isn’t accurate, but prospective owners had to be comfortable with a particular flavor of motorcycling—the exciting kind.2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 Street and 950 SP Track ReviewsFor the 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP, all of those qualities remain while filing off some of the rough edges that didn’t make it approachable for all customers. The grabby clutch and overly sharp throttle response are gone, the engine has been refined, along with geometry that has improved handling and made it more stable.The 2019 Hypermotard 950 platform has gone through a significant revision with few parts carried over, and although calling them all-new might not be accurate, referring to them as mostly new is. The ferocious Hypermotard still remembers the hunt; it just does it much better these days.The Hyper platform covers a niche corner of the market—a stomping L-twin powered motorcycle that is fully street capable, yet captures plenty of supermoto vibes, both in performance and appearance.It isn’t a supermoto by a longshot, with the Hypermotard SP’s wet weight coming in at 436 pounds. However, those compromises in weight are quickly made up in its real-world practicality and use. An authentic 450cc supermoto motorcycle can’t be a daily rider in the way a Hyper can, if only due to the untenable maintenance schedules and comfort.Accompanied by the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 V-twin, the single-cylinder KTM 690 SMC R and Husqvarna 701 SM, and the ancient Suzuki DR-Z400SM, this class of motorcycle is sparsely populated. Still, we are all oh so glad to have them. These machines are akin to the mischevious, Gremlin-like kids in the back of the classroom. You know what you’re getting into by taking one look. No, they didn’t do the homework and, yes, someone will be seeing the principal by the end of the day.Sharing the same 937cc displacement as the outgoing 939 SP, the revamped 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP’s motor has received a host of updates, boasting four additional peak horsepower above its predecessor, bringing it up to a claimed 114 horsepower at 9000 rpm. Torque tops out at a healthy 71 ft/lbs at 7250 rpm.To facilitate those numbers, the engine now features new pistons, a revised under-tail exhaust, updated cam profiles, lighter cam covers, a new clutch, ECU, larger throttle bodies, and a higher 13.3:1 compression ratio. Not only is the spit-shined engine roughly three pounds lighter, but those updates have made it smoother, too.While four extra ponies under the seat sounds dandy, the real story here is that Ducati claims 80 percent of the 950’s 71 ft/lbs of torque is available at an impressively low 3000 rpm. It’s a claim that I’m willing to back, as even a modest blip of the SP’s new ride-by-wire throttle will see the front wheel gently lofting skyward. From there, you’re off to the races, if not the racetrack.The revamped powerplant delivers as much performance as you could want in a light-feeling, dashing motorcycle such as the Hypermotard SP and for me, hits a comfortable sweet spot in terms of performance.Off the line, the new SP pulls aggressively to the redline, and will see you darting from apex to apex in the canyons. From roughly 3000 and beyond, the SP’s engine does not tapper off as its air-cooled progenitors did. While unbridled aggression is nothing new for the Hyper platform, what is a new element to its characteristics is that it doesn’t seem put off by the doldrums of daily life.I credit the new hydraulic clutch that side-steps the jumpiness that the former cable clutch had, bestowing newfound civility to the package. Gone are the days of a lurching Hyper in traffic. It was a problem only avoided with heaping servings of the throttle, reinforcing the idea that the Hyper only lives in the extreme.At freeway speeds, the 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP cruises along without a care in the world. When things get near the triple digits, it doesn’t run out of steam, either. Top speed isn’t necessarily what this machine about, though that may seem counterintuitive to what the feeling that this bike evokes. It is the type of motorcycle where finding your rhythm in the canyons and working the six-speed transmission become a thing of absolute joy.When you’re in the SP’s element, carrying roll-speed and whipping through the corners, it’s tough to argue that anything feels faster. In reality, chances are that you’re riding at lower average top-speeds than your superbike-riding buddies. The difference is, the SP’s entry and exit speeds are significantly higher when in the hands of the right rider.While you’re completely exposed to the elements on a Hypermotard, slogging down the highway doesn’t seem too far-fetched, with a couple of modifications. The engine is more friendly, sheds less heat, and is more approachable in 2019. What is stopping you is the naked-as-the-day-it-was-born aesthetics. Owners who want a do-it-all maniac in their garage might be keen on tossing a small windscreen on and grabbing a backpack for weekend getaways, which the now-defunct Hyperstrada proved to be a more than viable option. With this refined Hyper package, that idea is entirely plausible.Sure, the SP’s engine is friendlier than ever, though it certainly isn’t attempting to avoid a scrap. No, sir, the SP is looking for it, and the only thing holding back from the fray is a host of electronics and riding modes.Sport, Touring, and Urban modes alter the six-axis IMU supports cornering ABS, lean-angle-detecting traction control, wheelie control, and throttle responses. Those riding modes, which can be changed on a whim, have preset values for each rider aid. A deep dive into the menu allows you to fine-tune them to suit your specific needs. I wish they were a bit more accessible and able to be changed on the fly, but once you find your settings, owners typically won’t be coloring outside the lines they’ve drawn.The new 4.3-inch full-color TFT display looks the business and shows nearly everything a rider could ever need, save for a fuel gauge. Although, on motorcycles such as these, a fuel gauge almost seems unnecessary. I’m so fixated on riding that things like fuel, food, or responsibilities take a backseat. It does have a low-fuel light, and that’s good enough for me on a motorcycle such as the Hypermotard 950 SP.TC and wheelie control can be disabled, while ABS must remain active due to Euro 5 compliance. What Ducati is quite proud of with the Hypermotard is the ‘slide-by-brake’ function that is enabled when ABS is set to level 1. Stopping on the brake will initiate an ECU-controlled slide, where the rear end steps out roughly 10 degrees. That’s nifty for some track hooliganism, but nothing something I put to the test on the street.Sport offers the least restriction from the factory with the most aggressive throttle response. Wheelie control doesn’t step in until things get too hairy and on the street. It will let you have some fun, without getting too out of shape, while also having an ace in the hole for when you come across debris.Touring tightens the leash, as it makes the SP seemingly behave in an entirely average manner. Want to pop down to the shop or go for a casual put around? The slightly more slacked throttle response is the way to go.Urban isn’t quite a rain mode, but short of bumping all of the nannies to their maximum, it’s best to treat it as such as it cuts power to 75 horsepower. In inclement weather, this mode is helpful to have on hand.When you spring for the SP trim, Ducati also throws in an up-and-down quickshifter, which, when on the pipe, works exceptionally well. The kill-times between shifts are to be commended when your eyebrows are furrowed in a heated battle, and will undoubtedly help keep those pesky supersport riders in your mirrors on a tight canyon road or track. At more casual, urban engine speeds, the kill-times on the upshift are a bit long and jarring.This year, the steel trellis chassis is not simply revised only to save a bit of weight. Geometry numbers were changed, making the Hypermotard 950 SP even more aggressive. The rake has been tightened by a half-degree, bringing it in to 25 degrees with a 59-inch wheelbase—both tighter than the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900. Those numbers may seem relaxed on a sportbike, but taller supermoto motorcycles work differently, as they’re able to leverage a higher center of gravity.Even with the more assertive chassis numbers, the 2019 Hypermotard 950 SP is sure-footed as ever, letting you crank into corners with confidence. The tightened rake has given the SP more agility and compliance, whether you’re riding aggressively or not, while the spacious wheelbase provides ample amounts of all-important stability while on the edge of the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3 tires. Those changes remove a lot of the headshake that I’d formerly attributed to riding hard.Transitioning through tight chicanes is done at the snap of a finger, whether you go for a road-racing knee-down style, or stick your elbows and leg out for some supermoto zest. The Hyper will take anything you throw at it.The main mechanical difference between the new Hypermotard 950 and the 950 SP is the inclusion of fully adjustable Öhlins suspension, as opposed to the standard version’s fully adjustable Marzocchi and Sachs combination. Between the two, the SP’s Öhlins kit extends the fork travel to 7.3 inches, and the rear wheel travel to nearly seven inches—that’s a good bit more travel than the standard model. Although I haven’t ridden the new standard model yet, I don’t need to go too far out of the limb to say that the handling should be different. Suffice to say, if you see track days and hard riding in your future, the SP is probably going to suit you better.Part of the handling puzzle is the well-sorted Öhlins kit. The settings that I quickly found with a few turns of the knobs and an Allen key work out wonderfully for the street. The suspension gives me all the feedback I need while making it more than useable for street use. Often, using the same settings from the track on the street will make for a pretty rough ride. For this street test, the Öhlins suspension offered up excellent damping and all the support I could have hoped for.Braking is handled by Brembo M4.32 calipers, affixed to 320mm floating rotors in the front and a single-piston Brembo caliper in the rear, working with a 245mm rotor. Feel at the fancy adjustable and folding Brembo lever is lovely, with plenty of feel to trail brake with ease. Better yet, the brakes lack an overly exuberant initial bite, making the SP more genial.Another noticeable change from the standard Hypermotard to the SP is the alloy wheels. The SP features 17-inch Y-shaped 3-spoke wheels, shaving off an additional few pounds. Beyond that, sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3 tires are laced on in common sizes of 120/70 and 180/55.Ergonomically, the refreshed Hyper has been changed. Thanks to its leggier suspension, the Hyper retains a noticeably tall 35-inch seat height – a fair bit higher than the standard model. The saving grace to that spec-sheet figure is the impressively narrow chassis, seat, and 3.8-gallon fuel tank—all aspects of the motorcycle that Ducati specifically focused on for 2019. In addition, an optional low seat is available, which reduces to the seat height by 0.78-inches, which will help those with shorter inseams a good bit. It will set you back 300 dollars.My 32-inch inseam allows me to reach the deck and be comfortable while stopped. That’s not something I can say on many behemoth ADV bikes featuring the same seat height.Giving riders plenty of leverage is the more back-swept handlebar, providing the Hyper bikes with more of a dirt-bike feel. Once behind bars, the whole affair is deceptively casual. The handlebar is wide and relaxed, the seating position is just shy of neutral, and the reach to the footpegs is more than comfortable, reducing any ache-inspiring knee-bend. The Hypermotard 950 SP is quite spacious, thanks to the long seat, and because of that, a massive amount of versatility to move around the saddle is on tap.Now that the water has boiled over and we’ve reduced things down to the minerals at the bottom of the pan, it’s clear to me that the 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP is a continuation of a great legacy in motorcycling. The Hypermotard doesn’t just capture the soul of aggressive riding, it embodies it.That narrow scope of work wasn’t all-inclusive—not by a long shot—and the tall seat height means that this bike is not for everyone, but it’s become far more accessible this year. However, the changes on the Hypermotard 950 SP have made the crowning achievement in hooliganism both a better machine for the average rider, and one with the chops to put it through its paces.Hayden, Xaus, and every other tire-melting maniac will always have a steed up to snuff with their abilities. Meanwhile, the rest of us will indulge in our own way. To me, the 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP is a win-win.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!