2013 Ducati Hypermotard SP review: UK roads

The Hypermotard that boasts the best of everything but what's it like on UK roads?

I LOVE it when a manufacturer punts out an 'R' version. To me it shows that they get 'it'. 'It' being the thing that gets so many of us into motorcycles; the exotic, the extreme, the individual, the looking for that bit more.

As if the Hypermotard needed to be any more extreme or individual but here it is, the Hypermotard SP, a Hypermotard dripping with exotic extras.

Ducati launched the new 821cc Hypermotard and Hypermotard SP back in February, however we never really got to ride the SP. We managed one out-lap on the Hypermotard SP before Ducati and veteran journo Alan Cathcart (thanks, Alan?!) declared the conditions too wet for us to continue. A frustrated motley crew of UK journos tried to reason with Ducati but they were having none of it. Still, here we are six-months later, all fingers intact, taking the SP out for a spin on UK roads.

The SP features Marzocchi 50 mm pressurized and fully adjustable USD forks, a fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock, Marchesini 3-spoke lightweight forged aluminium wheels, aluminium bars and a splash of carbon-fibre extras. The SP, like the stock Hypermotard, comes with the Ducati Safety Pack (ABS and traction control) as standard and the SP uses the more track-focused Supercorsa SP tyres. Like the stock Hypermotard, the SP features three riding modes, except the SP's modes are: Race, Sport and Wet, whereas the stock bike is setup with Sport, Touring and Urban.

There's no power difference between the two models, Ducati claim 110bhp and 65.8ftlb of torque however the dyno shows this figure is closer to 95bhp and 58ftlb of torque.

The SP sits high, the 890mm seat height is an additional 20mm on the already-quite-tall stock Hypermotard. At 5'11", I'm on my tip-toes, balancing 194kg through my big toes and feeling sympathetic towards short riders who struggle with seat heights of everyday bikes.

Despite looking like it'll give you a paper-cut, the seat is actually comfortable, well, more comfortable than it ought to be. You sit on the Hypermotard, not in it. Perched. The last bike I sat on that felt this high was a Dakar-ready KTM.

You can't see much bike infront of you but what you can feel is more obvious. The bars are wide, the seat tall and the setup feels firm, just like race-ready Supermoto but the weight is the giveaway; it feels heavier than it looks. 194kg is portly.

The Race mode map is unforgiving, turning the throttle into an on/off switch. It takes some getting used to and it's frankly horrible at slow speeds, causing you to 50-pence-piece every roundabout you come across. Add a bit of speed and it gets better but you'd be daft to run Race mode on the road as it just ampilifies any input and makes you wonder if you've lost the art of throttle control. You haven't. Stick it into Sport mode and you'll realise you're not as cack-handed as you thought. Sport mode turns on the rear ABS and increases the traction control sensitivity. You can customise each mode to suit your riding. Sport mode, ABS:1 (which turns off the rear ABS), DTC:1 would be my preference.

With the riding mode in Sport, you can focus on the ride. The bike is firm as standard but with its fully-adjustable suspension you can set it up to suit your riding. The SP is one of those bikes I'd take straight to a suspension technician the moment I left the dealer. If you buy an SP and keep the suspension on standard settings, you're missing the point and you might as well buy the stock Hypermotard.

As standard the suspension is too firm for UK roads, turning every bump into a jolt, it's twitchy, unsettled and raw. There's just too much feedback, most of it, unwanted.

Despite the lack of fairing, you can comfortably cruise at 80mph and on my 50-mile blast the SP returned a none-too-shabby 43mpg. Does that make it practical? No.

Hypermotards are bikes that, if you rode them for 10 minutes then got off, you'd probably slate them and never want to ride one again. The more miles you put on, then more comfortable you become with the abnormal riding position, power delivery and way you need to handle them. Your weight and more importantly, where you put it, makes a big difference. Sit over the front wheel and the SP feels more composed, sit back in the seat and you feel like you're a passenger along for the ride.

I love the SP proposition; a more exotic version of an already extreme motorcycle but in standard setup, it's not a better bike than the stock Hypermotard on UK roads. The 4kg difference between the stock and SP version will go unoticed and the firm suspension won't help you get the best out of the motor, most of the time.

As a trackday toy, the SP will serve you better than the stock Hypermotard but you'd be some sort of pervert if you bought an SP purely for trackdays. There are much better bikes for serious track riding. The SP brings out the lunatic in anyone and riding one without pulling a wheelie is harder than eating a jam donut and not licking your lips.

Is it worth the extra £2,300? No. Yet at the same time, yes.

No, because the extras you're paying for don't offer you anything you can take advantage of on the road. The stock Hypermotard is a really good road bike.

Yes, because the SP amplifies everything the Hypermotard is about. It's extreme, derainged and exotic in a way the stock Hypermotard can't match. The SP is a Hypermotard with the volume turned up to 11. I got off it and minutes later wanted to get back on because I felt there was more to come. It's addictive like that.

If you've only ridden the stock Hypermotard, you'll think it's one of the most extreme bikes going, until you ride the SP, which makes the stock Hyper feel sane.

I won't lie, I'd go for the stock Hypermotard, I couldn't justify the extra cost but I'd constantly lust after the SP.

Model tested: 2013 Ducati Hypermotard SP

Colours: SP Livery

Cost: £11,850