Ducati's Hypermotard SP is the spawn of a devil child and delivered from the mind of a mad man.
Eighty per cent of the time it makes no sense at all. Yet strangely the Hypermotard SP is one of the most exciting and memorable bikes you can buy in 2014, as long as you don’t want to go too far or ride it too slowly.
As a rich man’s ride-to-work tool, to take out for a backroad romp, or something to nip across London on, the Hypermotard SP is an absolute hoot, hilarious even and it turns every ride in to a full-on race, but it is expensive, inpractical most of the time and just shy of £12,000.
The whole bike was reinvented in 2013. Out went the 1100cc air-cooled motor and in went a brand new liquid-cooled 821cc engine, a restyle and a whole new chassis. It’s a completely different bike in every way. I have to admit that my personal feelings on the old bike were that I loved the concept but in reality it was slow, underpowered, and on track where it should have come into its own it was gutless and ran out of ground clearance too quickly. Step forward to the new bike and I absolutely love it, if you only want to ride for 30-40 miles at a time that is.
Ride the new Hypermotard SP slowly and it’s mostly hard and uncomfortable, the suspension is firm, the seat is rock hard and it judders and shakes at low speed. Ride it on a motorway and you’re sat on top of it with barely any wind protection and it’s annoying above 80mph. But ride it on a back road at full attack like Jean Michel Bayle (look it up kids) and it’s hilarious.
Even with Ducati's brilliant traction control and anti-wheelie cutting in on certain engine modes, you have to cover the back brake constantly in the first two gears to keep the front wheel down and stop it looping, and you can pitch it into corner, scrub speed on the way in and find yourself chucking your foot out the side like a supermoto god. Almost. Well, the bike’s upto it, even if the rider may not be. Practical it is not.
Compared to the standard £9695 Hypermotard, the £2300 more expensive Hypermotard SP gets a tri-colour paint scheme with black, red and white paint, nicely finished black handlebars and yokes with black span-adjustable brake and clutch levers, carbon-fibre front mudguard, carbon cam belt covers, retuned riding modes, a Marzocchi aluminium yoke, stickier Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres.
On the standard Hypermotard you get 175mm of rear wheel travel & 185mm of front wheel travel compared to 150mm rear and 170mm front wheel travel on the standard bike. With an 870mm seat height on the SP compared to a much lower 850mm standard bike seat height. It’s tall. So tall that even at 6ft 4”in my socks it’s a stretch to the floor.
But that high riding position means you dominate in traffic and its slim body and high bars mean its brilliant in town. It slots through traffic like Marc Marquez on the last lap charge in MotoGP.
The tall suspension is set-up firm and you have to be riding it fairly quickly to make the forks feel like they’re working and absorbing the bumps.
On some bumpy back roads it’s actually a bit firm and kicks the bars around. The fully-adjustable suspension can all be softened off of course. What the suspension does mean is that when it’s dry and the road is smooth it gets into a corner feeling all nose heavy, but you almost can’t help sticking your foot out supermoto style and getting the thing hustled through a corner. Mid-corner you can lean it silly far. As far as you dare.
The motor too is a peach. It's so tractable even at low revs. On the way out of the corner it finds a ridiculous amount of grip from the Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa tyres, sticks the front wheel towards the sky and clears off. The short ish gearing means it accelerates hard from 30-80mph, shifting up around 9500rpm before it runs out of power and revs. It’s a hard-charging big bike that will put a smile on anyone’s face, but make no mistake it’s pretty hardcore, just like an SP version should be.
It’s mostly the same story on the standard bike but although the feeling from the suspension isn’t as plush, it’s softer most of the time, and the height means it’s not such a stretch for taller riders. Okay so the brakes aren’t as sharp and it doesn’t look as good, but only you can decide what difference that £2300 difference makes to you.
The engine is a peach and makes you think why honestly we need more than 110bhp, especially in this guise. Any more and it would be a bit of a handful.
As it is, the Hypermotard is a brilliant bike if some what focussed for some, but for others it's that single-mindedness which makes it so charming.
Hypermotard SP - Second Opinion by Bike Social's Michael Mann
Despite the necessity to be over 6ft tall to ride it – unless you’re adept at parking next to brick walls like your younger BMX days - Ducati’s Hypermotard SP is a cracking runabout. Although I suspect Ducati’s marketing strategy for the SP wasn’t designed so journalist could call it a cracking runabout. The truth is it took us a while to determine who would buy a bike like this and we came to the conclusion that if you are a rich commuter with a journey of less than 30 miles, no more luggage than a rucksack and you can justify the price tag then an SP is what you need.
Its height and exhaust note will make you feel like master of the road and both would be particularly handy in a city to either part the traffic, or see over it. It’s punchy, nimble and put a smile on my face.
No matter what age you are, you’ll feel like a hooligan and whilst you might get used to this feeling, your neighbours and vehicles you’ve just overtaken probably won’t. In fact they may wave with an inverted and clenched fist, a reaction purely based on the exhaust note and height of the bike but they won’t be able to see the smile under your helmet. Perhaps it was my inner hooligan trying to get out that caused that smile all along.
Price: Hypermotard SP is £11,995 (Standard bike is £9695)
Engine: Liquid-cooled 821cc V-twin Testastretta
Power: 110bhp @ 9250rpm (wet mode is 75bhp with low torque, sport mode is 110bhp with medium torque, and Race mode is 110bhp with high torque and reduced traction control and no rear ABS.)
Torque: 65.6ftlb (89Nm) @ 7500rpm
Weight: 174kg dry weight
Fuel tank size: 16 litres
Fuel range: 100 miles as tested