First Ride

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 first ride road test

At a fiver under seven grand Roland Brown reckons Ducati’s revamped baby Hypermotard is worth a sniff

Click to read: Ducati Hypermotard 796 owners reviews, Ducati Hypermotard 796 specs and see the Ducati Hypermotard 796 image gallery.

Calling a bike the 796 when its capacity is 803cc could be viewed as a triumph of marketing over logic, but in other respects the new Hypermotard makes perfect sense. In the depths of a recession, what could be more logical than a smaller, cheaper version of an existing model - especially when you’ve got a suitably sized motor waiting to be bolted straight in?

Creating the mid-sized Hypermotard was always part of the plan for Ducati, whose Monster 696’s air-cooled V-twin motor was well suited to a job-share. First they enlarged the sohc unit to 803cc with a redesigned crankshaft. Other engine changes include new pistons, higher compression, lighter flywheel, revised high-level exhaust, and a set of more compact crankcases.

Styling’s familiar Hypermotard stuff in white, matt black or red, and none the worse for that, but there are a few chassis changes too. Frame and triple-clamps are reworked slightly to reduce weight, while skinnier 43mm Marzocchi forks and new cast wheels in unchanged sizes save some more grammes.

Clambering aboard the Hypermotard outside Ducati’s Bologna factory was easier than normal because it’s seat is 25mm lower, at a not-too-radical 825mm that most pilots should find manageable. The wide one-piece bars are new but the bendy bar-end mirrors are retained, and the ’motard felt familiar as I rode into a cloudless autumn morning.

Immediately the Duke seemed lively and fun, partly because at 167kg dry it’s seriously light, and especially because the extra cubes and other mods have given the motor a handy midrange boost. Peak power’s up by only one horse, to 81bhp, but there’s ten per cent more torque and it arrives 1500rpm earlier at 5000rpm. The Hyperbike blatted forward in notably livelier fashion than the rather gutless 696, hoiking clutchless wheelies on demand and generally feeling punchier and noticeably more responsive.

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Of course it couldn’t come close to matching the big Hypermotard 1100’s stomp. But cruising with 80mph showing on the Streetfighter-style instrument console was effortless for the bike, if not its wind-blown rider, and the Ducati rumbled quickly up to an indicated ton with maybe 25mph more to come.

Handling was good, albeit compromised by some typical supermotard pitching due to the long-travel suspension. The plush ride was welcome on the bumpier roads outside Bologna, though. At least it was till we’d been gone for a couple of hours, when the suddenly black sky delivered the biggest storm I’ve ridden in for years.

There wasn’t much I could do but keep going, cursing both my stupidity in leaving waterproofs behind yet again, and the Ducati’s lack of weather protection. Practicality is hardly its strong point, but the motor should be economical enough to give reasonable range from the 12.4-litre tank. The upright riding position, generous steering lock, compliant suspension and potent Brembo radial brakes should make it a useful city bike.

At a fiver under £7000 it’s well priced by Bolognese standards, too, though you’ll have to find an extra £200 for the red one. Ducatis might not be the bikes that spring to most motorcyclists’ minds in mid-recession, but there’s something very right about the Hypermotard 796.

Specifications

Price: £6995 (white, matt black), £7195 (red)
Top Speed:125mph (est)
Engine: 803cc, air-cooled, SOHC, two-valve V-twin
Power: 81bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque: 55 lb.ft @ 5000rpm
Front suspension: 43mm Marzocchi usd telescopic
Rear suspension: Sachs monoshock, adjustment for preload and rebound
Front brake: Two 320mm discs, four-piston  Brembo radial calipers
Rear brake: 245mm disc, twin-piston Brembo caliper
Dry weight: 167kg (claimed, no battery)
Seat Height: 825mm
Fuel capacity: 12.4 liitres
Colours: White, Matt Black, Red

Rating: 4/5

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