RideApart Review: 2013 Ducati Hypermotard SP

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Photos by: Boosti

The 2013 Ducati Hypermotard is all new; smaller, lighter and more powerful than the air-cooled model it replaces. This SP version adds fancy Ohlins shock and Marzocchi forks for even better handling.

What’s New
Tons! Ducati ditched the previous 1078cc and 803cc, air cooled engines for an all-new 821cc, liquid cooled V-Twin engine. I was on the Hypermotard SP which meant getting to choose between the same riding modes shared with the Panigale. Race: 110 HP, high throttle response, and level 1 ABS on the front wheel only and traction control off. Sport: 110 HP, medium throttle response, and level 2 ABS to both breakes with some traction control. Wet: 75 HP, low throttle response, and level 3 ABS with full traction control.

The new Hyper’s bars are higher and further forward, the mirrors moved to the top of the bars, and the footpegs have been moved forwards creating a much more comfortable riding position. The frame is also new, with tricks taken from the Mutlistrada, and is now a 34mm diameter tubular steel Trellis with 25.5 degrees of rake. The wheelbase has been extended to 59 inches to help enhance the Hyper’s stability at higher speeds and the gas tank increased by 0.9 gallons to improve range.

The SP, over the regular Hypermotard, also gets Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa “SP” tires and Panigale S-type three spoke Marchesini aluminum wheels. The SP’s cam covers are magnesium, the mudguard and cam-belt covers are carbon fiber. It has a seat height of 35 inches, compared to the regular Hyper that comes in at 34.2.

The Ride
Four days of camping in Big Sur for Memorial Day with 20 of my closest friends. We’d planned it months ago, just days after discovering an amazing camp site that was often passed by most people, and we’d even gotten the girlfriends to agree to drive up separately and to bring most of the gear with them so we could ride and really enjoy the road. As the trip got closer, I started to look at what bikes we’d have around when I got an email saying that Ducati had a Hypermotard SP that would be available. I never get this lucky. Dream trip and dream bike, but would it live up to my expectations?

I picked it up in the middle of the week before the trip and spent the following few days commuting to and from LA on it, as well as a fair amount of around town riding.

In town? Fantastic. After a fair amount of urban riding, I was convinced the riding position and bike dimensions had been designed with lane splitting in mind. The mirrors, which have been moved to on top of the bars, offer a surprising amount of real estate despite their small size, and their new location greatly reduces handlebar width. The suspension ate up potholes and rain grooves, but still provided plenty of firmness when someone cut me off and I had to grab a handlful of front brake. Then there’s the engine. After recently riding the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200, the Hypermotard felt a little underpowered (as well as just tiny in general) and it took me an afternoon to get used to the engine profile. A day later, I was in love with the new 821cc, liquid-cooled motor. Plenty of power to get up and hustle to get through an opening in traffic, enough torque to keep a shit eating grin on my face while still managing to return 52mpg. Then came Big Sur.

Highway 1, through Big Sur, is often cited as one of the best roads in the world. Normally, it is too packed with dudes on Goldwings (yes, like me a few weeks ago) or families in mini vans to really enjoy, but I was determined to not blow this opportunity. The campsite was first come, first serve, so my two buddies and I stayed in San Luis Obispo Thursday night and then got an early start Friday morning so we could reserve a site early for our large party. The other guys were riding a Bonneville and GSX-R750 and we got on the road mid morning and kept a brisk, yet comfortable pace since one of the guys had crashed the last time we went on a bike trip and I was still acclimating to the Hyper. We spent most of the weekend hiking, but got a few chances to ride throughout the weekend and when it came time to head home, we were ready to have some fun.

Now, I’m the James May of RideApart. I have never been, and probably will never be, very fast. I understand the concepts of what it takes to go fast and consider myself a very competent motorcyclist and I love the idea of dragging my knee and having the ability to really hustle on a bike….until I get moving decently fast, which is when I begin to re-evaluate if it’s really worth it to push much harder and I think about how much I like my knees intact. After spending a day on a track, the idea of trying to really push it while leaving room to react to debris in the turns, traffic coming the opposite direction, and whatever is around that next corner I can’t see around just stresses me out.

Unless, I’m on the Hypermotard SP that is. It’s that good. I’ve never been on a bike where I had that much control or that kind of ability to adapt that quickly to the road. The fueling is fantastic, the suspension felt perfect up into the triple digits, and the brakes….oh how I love brakes. It just makes you better.

I had an appointment in Long Beach fairly early Monday afternoon, so my buddy on the GSX-R750 and I got on the road at 6:30am to a completely empty coastline. We let our tires warm for the first mile or two and then I rode better and faster than I’ve ever ridden for the following 50 or so. Our camp site was in one of the tighter sections of road but the bike just ate each hairpin, instilling more and more confidence as I took each turn faster and faster. By the time we hit the south side of Big Sur, I felt completely comfortable at speeds double those I had previously ridden on that same road and, by San Simeon, we were cruising in triple digits for miles on end.

The Good
Pretty much everything. They’ve taken a great bike and made it lighter, narrower, and more powerful. It handles beautifully, is unbelievable amounts of fun to ride, and all while returning decent gas mileage (I averaged 52mpg the days in and around LA and 48 for my trip to Big Sur and back). The engine is great, the ergonomics are spot on, and, aesthetically, the bike is simply gorgeous.

The Bad
My only issues with the Hypermotard SP were when I used it in ways it wasn’t intended. The seating position, and lack of any kind of wind protection, made the freeway leg of our trip pretty brutal above 70mph. The way up was particularly windy and I was getting blown around quite a bit, the weather was better the day we rode home and I wasn’t nearly as bummed.

My other issue was with the seat. The slope of it made it nice for riding fast, but for around town or freeway riding it pushed you forward and forced me to continually re-adjust. I found myself scooting my butt all the way forward to sit in the only area that was flat, but this greatly decreased my leverage over the motorcycle. I would much prefer a flat seat like on the DR-Z400SM or Dorsoduro 1200 as I’ve never really found myself worried about sliding off the back and because, let’s face it, most of us commute or ride around town far more than we are able to get out and play in the canyons.

The Price:
At $14,695, this isn’t a cheap motorcycle. That’s $2,700 more than both the base Hypermotard and the more powerful, but heavier Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200. Having said that, this is one of the most fun-to-ride, capable packages currently on the market. Which, combined with its comfortable, upright seating position, commanding view of traffic and sharp brakes and motor makes it versatile enough to handle both urban commuting and weekend trips to good roads. Unlike the $8,999 KTM 690 Duke, it’s also capable of longer trips, so long as you’re prepared to put up with the wind blast. The Hypermotard SP isn’t a bargain, but it’s totally unique in the market.

The Verdict

I’m putting my Monster 696 up for sale as soon as possible (lemme know if you’re interested!). We are supposed to get the Hyperstrada in any day now one of the two will be my next bike, depending on how much better the Strada would do on trips and how much motard it gives up. The Hypermotard SP is the first bike we’ve ridden to bring a real supermoto feel to a larger, more practical bike.

  • Josh M.

    Brilliant review Sean.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Aww shucks.
      I can’t take any credit for the pics though, Boosti is a talented dude and I’m trying to get him involved more and more.

      • Josh M.

        Great photos then, Boosti!

  • Isambard

    Cost aside, what’s to stop you slapping the bags and screen from the Hyperstrada onto the SP?

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      nothing (that may very well be the route I go).
      as much as people say that’s the only difference, the Hyperstrada adds a little more than just a screen and bags.

      • http://motocynic.wordpress.com/ Scott Otte

        I personally want the sockets for heated gear that the Strada comes with. (in addition to luggage and higher screen.)

  • Mike Hubbard

    I dont think this bike would look too out of place with a higher windscreen to give the rider a bit more wind protection. That would be a nice aftermarket item in my view.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      I was just playing on the bike configurator on Ducati’s website (I wasn’t kidding about buying one) and it looks like they sell a taller windscreen for it. The seat is supposedly a little different, which I guess is pretty much the only other thing I’m curious about.
      I’m sure I could get this bike where I want it, but I like to do my homework :)

  • Curtis Caulfield

    Great review of beautiful bike.

  • Damo Von Vinland

    Sean, awesome!

    You know I have been looking forward to this review for awhile now. I finally sat on a base Hyper last week and loved it. I was even able to fit my 5’11″ wife on the back in comfort. Nice low pegs for your pillion and I didn’t feel crowded either (I am 6’2″ 185lbs)

    I am promptly selling my RC51 and ordering a Stealth Black with red trellis frame base model.

  • RT Moto

    Been waiting on this review for a while. Didn’t let me down one bit! I’ve been drooling over this bike since I first saw it and after reviews started coming in I was really thinking this would be my next bike. Your review made that a solid. I don’t think I’ll buy new, but the SP is for sure coming home with me once it fits into my overall plans. Great photography rounds this off nicely. Keep them coming!!

    • Derik Leduc

      I’m a little behind on this….But do it! Make it happen. I bought one of these, not the SP but the Stealth Black Standard Model. I’m a lifelong motocross guy and I have ridden other sport and cruiser bikes but nothing like this. I have had it for three months now and I still roll out of bed on dry mornings just to go fool around on this machine. Some guys have asked about the three performance maps. The low setting is pretty tame, great for a bigginer or if you have any bike experience you will switch that to the second mode (Urban) in about five minutes. The sport mode is still fine if your commuting around but its just more than you need. Even in Urban mode its not to often in stop and go traffic your gonna be winding the thing out.

      This is the best machine I have bought or ridden in years, my good buddy got one only a few days after riding mine…..it was an easy decision for him too!

  • Clint Keener

    Awesome review! I can’t believe it gets better mileage than my 848 SF.

    I just moved from ATL to Laguna Beach. The views in Big Sur are even better than Laguna, I need to take a trip up there soon.

  • Mark D

    So no telling us about the secret camping site then? One of my favorite places to camp on the 1 is in Morro Bay, though I’m going to be similarly vague about its actual location…
    The motard looks sick, I can only imagine how great the stada is for REAL sport-touring.

  • Blixa

    And here I was, completely content with my current bike. Why must you torment me so?

  • Andrew Kinsler

    I had a ’12 monster 796, ended up selling it for a KTM, but I wish this would have been available at the time. Maybe when Im ready for a change, Ill check it out in a few years. Great article, but Im really surprised there aren’t any issues with surging like most new FI bikes. Sounds like ducati did their homework on this one.

  • Stephen Mears

    How is the throttle response across the 3 modes? Some have complained of the race mapping being far too snappy.

  • elingers

    Great pics. I was interested in getting a Hypermotard but was concerned about the seat height, so I sat on one recently and yup. It was like getting on a horse. Getting a toe down or sliding a cheek off the seat would work around town, and on rides but maneuvering the bike around, parking, etc would be hard for me. Finding that out was a bummer, but afterwards I went and dunked a Nerf ball into a children’s basketball hoop. That made me feel better.

  • HTard

    I think I’ll keep my air-cooled Hypermotard 1100 SP


  • Gary Johnson

    Still have your 696?

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      yessir. getting new tires as we speak for an upcoming review

  • Mitch C

    You mention the Dorsoduro several times. Would you pick the new Hyper over the Dorsoduro? What about the KTM 990SMR?
    Oh and excellent review!!!

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      haven’t ridden the KTM (yet) but I would really like to. The Hyper is WAAAY better than the Dorso

  • Gary Johnson

    What is the easiest way to contact you about the 696?

  • coreyvwc

    I know I’m way late here, but I just sat on one of these for the first time today (kinda). Now I must mention that at 5’7″ I am what you would call a short person, but not that short. This bike and the harley XR1200 are the only motorcycles I have ever come across that I physically CANNOT get onto.

    Just thought it should have been mentioned in the review that a lot people actually cannot and will not be able ride this motorcycle. Which is strange for a bike made in Italy where the average person is about my size…

  • Hec Thor

    It´s too bad bikes like these are made for taller riders. I´m only 5´6´´ so a 35 inch seat height rules out the Hypermotard SP for me.