Ducati SuperSport 950 S review | the everyday Panigale?

2021 SuperSport 950 S Visordown Review

With its comfortable ergonomics, 108bhp and decent suspension, is the Ducati SuperSport 950 S the Italian sports bike you should be buying?

WHEN it comes to windmilling down the pub and blinding your mates with stats and specs, Italian-made sports bikes have, for some years now, been the bike of choice. So, you could say that turning up to said pub armed with a Ducati SuperSport 950 S is a little like taking a rubber duck to a gunfight.

But you might just be wrong. You see when you pull out onto the B-something-something-something and begin to head home, a strange thing will start to happen. Your mates on their uber-fancy, uber-powerful sports bikes won’t disappear off into the distance quite as quickly as they’d have hoped. And you’ll arrive home feeling much fresher, happier, and not in need of an urgent chiropractic appointment.

Ducati SuperSport 950 S Price

At a shade under £13,895 the Ducati is an expensive proposition. It’s around £3k more than the awesome Aprilia RS660, and likely to be considerably more than the upcoming Yamaha R9 – if/when that even arrives. Hold the Ducati next to the similarly powered Honda CBR650R, and you’ll be wondering where the extra £5,000 has gone!

For the extra £1,600 you’ll pay for the ‘S’ model you’ll get the updated for this year 950 engine (shared across this, the Hypermotard and 950 Multistrada) fully adjustable Öhlins forks and a rear shock, and a rear pillion cover. The braking set-up shared across the range is by Brembo and this year comes backed up by a 6-axis IMU.

Ducati SuperSport 950 S Styling

One nice update for 2021 is the styling. Because let’s be frank, the previous generation SuperSport 950 was a bit of a minger. No longer does the bike look like a Panigale that’s been placed too close to a gas fire, instead the front end features neat LEDs and a sweet looking pinched nose that ties it into the Panigale family.

The rear of the bike still looks a little unfinished, like the design team ran out of ideas and left the bloke in the trimming department to sort it all out by making an oversize rider and passenger seat.

Ducati SuperSport 950 S Engine

Updated for this year the new 950 engine in the Ducati SuperSport 950 S produces 108bhp and around 70lb-ft of torque. As with any V-twin Ducati, riding around town at low speeds is not the natural habitat for the bike, and it can buck and grumble at times. Other than that, the fuelling is good and it is one of the easiest Ducati’s to ride in a built-up area – so long as you don’t go near the quickshifter.

Around town and below 40mph, the quickshifter on the SuperSport S feels clumsy, mix-matching revs not seeming like it's synced up quite correctly. You could argue that it’s a sports bike, and therefore at its best when out on the open road, chin to tank. But this isn’t that Ducati, not all of the time anyway. Compare this bike’s quickshifter to those found on the rivals I mention above, and it’ll be sadly lacking in appeal when it comes to the core riders it is trying to attract.

Ducati’s tech at its Silverstone HQ was showing me around the bike prior to riding away and was telling me about the updates made to the oily bits and how the gearbox had been improved so that you can now find neutral. And you can, some of the time.

I mean, Ducati has only been making motorcycles for nearly a hundred years now and yes, the SuperSport is the model that makes finding neutral the easiest, but it’s by no means a guarantee. Miss your chance at the lights and you’ll still be creeping forwards trying to

Away from the grumbles of town riding and the Ducati SuperSport 950 S is one of those bikes you feel like you can ride flat out all the time. The induction roar above 5,000rpm is addictive, and the pops and bangs on the overrun just egg you on to bounce it off the redline during down-changes.

It’s not a bike I found myself totally at home with right away. In fact, having ridden so many in-line three and four-cylinder bikes for so long now, getting into the groove with the V-twin did take some miles. Put in the work though and there are smiles to be had. Despite its modern-day exterior and IMU-powered brain, the SuperSport 950 S has a distinctly old-school charm about it. V-twin sports bikes are rare beasts nowadays, with most manufacturers opting for inline twins and funky cranks. I think that’s a shame. There’s an undeniable charm to a proper V-twin. They might not be the easiest configuration to get your head around as a rider, but once you do, there isn’t much that can touch them.

Ducati SuperSport 950 S Handling

With Swedish-made, gold anodised jewellery at both ends, it’s really no surprise to hear that the little Ducati is a lovely bike to ride. Give it a twiddly-fiddly B-road and Ducati SuperSport S will delight. It steers beautifully, with poise and balance that just gives you the confidence to push on. And as your motorcycle riding zen reaches fever pitch and you are mentally sending in an entry for the Isle of Man TT, you glance down at the speedo and realise you’re only doing the kind of speeds that will get you a stern telling off from Mr Plod before being sent on your way.

As with the suspension on the Ducati SuperSport 950 S, the braking system is just as top-spec. Unsurprisingly the Brembo set-up has ample power to control the 210kg machine, with a supple and unintimidating lever feel. The cornering ABS system was mostly redundant, partly thanks to good weather and dry roads, but also thanks in part to Pirelli Diablo Rosso III hoops proving more adequate for fast road riding.

Ducati SuperSport 950 S Comfort

The main draw of this bike in my mind is the fact that it mates sporty riding dynamics with a comfortable easy-going riding position. With bars mounted well above the top yoke, low set pegs and an expansive seat, the relaxed nature of the Ducati means the 150-miles or so you’ll complete between fill-ups are pleasurable and ache free. The screen is small and adjustable through two positions. You can just about do it on the fly, and despite it looking about as useful as a chocolate teapot, it actually does a fairly good job.

The same cannot be said for the mirrors which are quite frankly shit. From tick over to the redline, the view in the mirrors is akin to a Dali painting being viewed through a pair of antique out of focus binoculars. It’s so bad that when you actually need to look at what is going on behind, you’ll be grabbing the clutching and rolling off the throttle. And even then, it’s difficult to tell if that shape looming behind you is a road mending lorry or a Reliant Robin!

What we like about the Ducati SuperSport 950 S

  • Handling dynamics of a Panigale without any of the speed
  • Charming engine character and feel
  • Comfort

What we don’t like about the Ducati SuperSport 950 S

  • The mirrors are useless
  • Still tricky to find neutral
  • Quickshifter feels drunk below 40mph

Ducati SuperSport 950 S verdict

I’ve always said there is more fun to be had riding a motorcycle and extracting 100 percent from the machine, rather than riding around on a bike barely being able to scratch the surface of what it can do. Most modern sports bikes only become on the road at speeds that would already see you waving goodbye to your licence for a considerable number of years. And I’m not the type of person that derives enjoyment from thinking about losing my licence – some of the time anyway!

The Ducati SuperSport 950 S takes all of the riding enjoyment you get from hammering down a B-road on a full-fat sports bike and condenses it into an easy to ride, comfortable and useable package.

It really is making me wonder why you’d pine so much for a Panigale when actually, in the real world on real roads, the little SuperSport makes so much more sense.

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