Test by Aunty Mal Cherlin. Pics by Nigel Paterson
THE third Ducati Hypermotard, the 796, is a smaller capacity machine which many will find is more fun and less intimidating than bigger brother 1100 and EVO SP. Both larger bikes can easily loft the front end and pull your arms out of their sockets, if provoked.
The 796 is a little more circumspect where outright stomp in concerned, but makes up for it in sheer user friendliness. The first characteristics making themselves apparent to me were the light weight overall, combined with the lightest clutch action I’ve ever experienced on a Ducati. This augers well for a ‘balanced outfit’, something real-world riders can confidently exploit on their favourite bit of backroad bliss.
Combined with the handy nature of the 796 is another key element in the enjoymentscape, the comfort. This bike has a truly comfortable riding position, and the seat, whilst minimalist enables easy on-bike movement in spirited riding and reasonable comfort in the transport sections.
The ‘bars are wide and include foldable mirrors, and the instrument panel is borrowed from the Streetfighter model.
One would expect the steering to be light, no surprises here. All the elements of this motorcycle complement one another to such a high degree it’s difficult to imagine a more responsive, integrated, punchy yet manageable funster.
We haven’t mentioned the brakes, four piston radial tackle offering great feel and incredible power.
The engine is the familiar 803cc injected two-valver, however it’s an upgrade on all those prior to this incarnation. It makes more power (81hp vs 74hp) and torque. In horsepower terms around a 10 per cent increase.
Us mere mortals are said to ‘notice’ five per cent, it’s certainly there, as is the pleasant exhaust rumble. and Ducati offers optional louder pipes, too. More compression (11.1 vs 10.7), an 848-style flywheel and narrower crankcases all add to the result.
A larger air box and new ECU do their bit and all of a sudden I’m wondering why I think a light, 80-plas horsepower bike with more than 800cc is ‘little’ or lacks anything at all?
12 kilos lighter than its big brother, with Ducati’s new wet slipper clutch, denotes the 796 as a serious mount in its own right.
The engine liked a nice warm-up before being asked to respond immediately like many air-cooled Dukes but once warm however was very responsive. Ordinary riding achieves this in five or 10 minutes but it was the middle of winter.
I found the suspension to my liking, probably as my 110kg preloaded everything nicely, my co-tester liked the set up on the 1100 more, and we worked out we’d swapped bikes at a point where our riding had changed from ‘sensible cruising’, to a sportier version of that.
He indicated a preference for a firmer set up, while I favoured the 796′s softer settings. Just as well, there is little adjustment available except preload on the rear spring.
In this day and age, it would be nice if all motorcycles had a turn-handle adjustment for the rear shock. Saves skinning your knuckles and giving up just when you shouldn’t!
This is a general comment however, and it’s fair to say I could have taken the 796HM home just as she was.
Twists and turns
During my time with the Hypermotard I tackled a number of different types of road. On expressways it’s easy to stay within legal-ish limits, there is no bodywork to protect you from the wind blast and 110/120kmh is a reasonable compromise.
Try harder and the format of the bike forces you into that elbows out, head down, supermoto position.
Very obvious to other road users you are perhaps offending the provisions of the Act (speeding), but enormous fun nonetheless.
Get onto the bumpy backroads and it’s clear she feels at home. Change direction, late brake, and charge through the hills and it’s very tempting to apply for a road closure and get out the stop watch.
If there is a factory ‘hill climber’ or ‘road crosser’, this is it. All the time the integrated balance of the design smiles at you, and shrugs, “…well, what did you expect?”
Finally on dirt, awesome fun at slower speeds, makes me wonder about the potential for a 21-inch front wheeled version, and Ducati’s recent Pikes Peak hillclimb successes (with the 1100, but check this out: The Hypermotard extends sportsriding on a Ducati.
The 796 makes it accessible/affordable, and user friendly, without seriously compromising the end product in order to achieve the result.
I feel the whole HM model range is capable of calling for a better rider, but the 796 is closer to most real world riders than the 1100s which feel as if they are on serious amounts of steroids! I am reminded of the footage of the HM launch (http://tinyurl.com/35ks5v6) at Sardinia a while back, where Ruben Xaus tortured and twisted the new bike, and that famous photo was taken (see www.cycletorque.com.au/gallery).
One hand off the bars, saying ‘hi’ to the camera, knee down, rear wheel trying to overtake the front, which is seriously opposite locked!…Wow. (he did it repeatedly)…..and the audio revealing the shrieking screams of protest from the tyre package, heard above the velvet boom of the down changing engine.
Like all Ducatis the Hypermotard is about passion, the passion for riding, the whole visceral experience. Now, I can’t ride ‘em like Ruben Xaus, but this bike is one hell of a lot of fun, and would be an excellent starting point for such a journey.
With a new knockdown price of $15,990, the 796 Hypermotard is good buying, especially if you are after a fun bit of gear.
While we are mainly looking at the 796 in this test, I also had a run on the 1100 Hypermotard, and not that long ago spent some extended time with it.
In my opinion most people would probably dismiss the HM as a hoon bike, something for short runs and insanity type fun. That would be a mistake however.
Sure, the 1100 has enough horsepower to be great fun and blur scenery pronto, but it’s very design allows it to lope along without fuss, eating mile after mile.
The riding position might look more trail bike than tourer but once again, it’s quite a comfortable machine to spend a day in the saddle on.
Proof in the pudding for me was a trip last year down to Bright and back. I travelled around 3000 kilometres or so in four days, including one 1000 kilometre run on the last day.
The bike was equipped with factory tank panniers which looked very cool and held enough gear to get us through the trip. The set-up had the panniers sit either side of the tank and even worked well enough to keep some of the cool air off my lower regions.
Overall a very nice, and usable machine.
The 1100 Evo SP is currently on sale for $20,990.
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