Ducati 888 SP 0 Strada
Ducati 888 SP 0 Strada

First L.A. Times Ride: 2013 Ducati Hypermotard SP

Ducati’s newest Hypermotard SP is hyper-dynamic, hyper-fast and (Ducati )

Ducati has built and brought to market another extremely successful piece of engineering with the new Hypermotard SP.

Beautiful to look at and exhilarating to ride, the dramatically updated 2013 model of the Italian company’s supermoto bike is fast and fierce, and equal parts demanding and rewarding.

It’s basically a race bike, which means it’s not a cozy mount for a cruise up the coast. The ready-for-the-track set-up means stiff suspension, an unforgiving seat, increased seat height, plenty of engine heat and a muffler growl that will wake the neighbors.

In other words, it’s awesome. I enjoyed my first hour on this bike as much as I’ve enjoyed any ride this year.

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The original Hypermotard was introduced in 2005 to draft off the popularity of a kind of racing known as Supermotard, or Supermoto. Fought on a short, twisty track that’s half flattrack and half TT, with a dash of motocross thrown in, the races demand nimble handling and extremely aggressive point-to-point acceleration — plus a lot of back wheel sliding and drifting, and often some dirt track action and some jumps.

Other brands, notably KTM and Husqvarna, have been very competitive in this arena — winning races and selling bikes — although none of the companies has sold supermoto bikes as well in the U.S. as in Europe.

As an old motocross guy, I find this kind of riding both thrilling and terrifying — thrilling because of the speed and the technical challenge of the sliding and drifting, but terrifying because I remember how much it hurt to fall down on dirt. I don’t want to fall down that hard on asphalt.

But who can resist such a bike? The Hypermotard SP comes standard with huge 320mm Brembo front disc brakes, Ohlin shocks, Marzocchi forks, Marchesini wheels, carbon fiber fenders, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa “SP” tires and other deluxe appointments.

Ducati 888 SP 0 Strada

It also comes standard with the Bologna company’s new 821cc Testastretta engine, a four-valve, water-cooled power plant that puts out 110HP and 65 pound-feet of torque.

That’s a lot of beef for a machine that dry-weighs at 377 pounds.

It means the Hypermotard is blindingly fast off the line — especially in race mode, but it’s no slouch in sport mode either — which makes it somewhat challenging to keep the front end down. (The tunable riding modes of the bike include a feature for what Ducati calls lift up protection. In other words, depending on how you set the traction control, you’re either going to wheelie without meaning to, or not.)

It’s not a replacement for Ducati’s aging Monster line, though riders who like that model are likely to love this one, too.

It’s not a replacement for the Multistrada line, either, though riders who want a sportier ‘strada will be interested in the Hyperstrada — a new bike for this year in which the comforts of the Multi meet the performance of the Motard.

The dramatic styling and ergonomics — high seat position, nose-down tilt, small front tire — make a head-turning presentation. Even non-riders seem to get that this is something special. I got stopped by a lot of folks who wanted to know, What is that?

The answer: A muscular motard for racers or weekend warriors who demand a ton of performance from their Ducatis. And are willing to pay for it. The MSRP is $14,695 for this special SP version, or $11,995 for the less exotic Hypermotard.

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