2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 SP — Ride Review
By Bruce Speedman & Jim Downs
Ducati’s supermotard to end all supermotards; the HYPERmotard 939 SP is a package capable of absolutely destroying the streets with fun levels bordering legal limits. Believe it or not, this bike on its own is street legal, the trick is to keep your riding behavior this way as well. Remain within the speed limit, accelerate at a reasonable rate, keep both wheels on the ground, and maintain traction at all times. Good luck with that.
The 2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 has to be up there as one of the overall most-fun bikes to ride on the market today. Excellent ergonomics, a stout yet smooth motor, top notch suspension, a great braking system, and of course, exotic Italian styling. The Hypermotard looks menacing just sitting on the kick stand, and once the stand is up, the bike does little to fight this perception.
There are certain motorcycles that attract a different level of attention from people on the street, and the 2016 Hypermotard is one of them. Motorcyclists stop and look on in awe and passers-by are stupefied by the look of the ultra supermoto Ducati.
Reminiscent of riding dirtbikes as a kid through neighborhoods and side streets to shortcut from one trail to the next, the Hypermotard feels somewhat out of its element and too much fun to be riding on public roads. The tall chassis and upright riding position puts the rider perched high with excellent visibility. The big bore V-twin provides plenty of power to bomb around town and far too much torque given the minimal chassis and electronic countermeasures to keep the front end down. Even the bark-buster hand guards look better suited to be blazing trails than running errands.
But unlike your typical dirtbike, the Hypermotard 939 has all of the technology of a high-end street bike integrated into the supermotard package optimized for road use. The bike pulls extremely hard up freeway on-ramps, ensures traction while still permitting slide thrills during a dig out of dirty or wet corner and allows turn entry speeds to be hotter and sketchier than normal while not letting things to get too out of shape. However, despite this refinement, the basic bike geometry produces a very light front end and at freeway speeds, things can get sketchy in a hurry. A basic steering damper would be a quick remedy here that would go a long ways, it’s just strange that Ducati didn’t include this in the Hypermotard bill of materials.
The first impression you get from riding the SP is that you’re sitting on a lot of motor in a compact package. The angry growl from the exhaust and the tall, race stiff suspension tell you straight away, this bike isn’t messing around. It took me a couple days of riding around town to get a complete handle on the power the Hypermotard SP dishes out. Though, once I got a feel for where it’s torque comes on I realized that it’s actually the ultimate “messing around” bike.
Essentially, the Hypermotard 939 SP feels like a large dirtbike with a far beefier motor, supersport suspension, a high-tech electronics package and craftsmanship with an obvious attention to detail. The seat is plush, instrument panel detailed, throttle delivery smooth and crisp, motor buzz-free, and chassis planted. This is an extremely well-refined final product of Ducati’s take on a supermotard bike with attributes not typical of others in the class.
The Hypermotard 939 packs the all-new Testastretta 11° water-cooled L-twin motor between the frame tubes. Technically, this motor only has 937 cc’s of displacement, but this wouldn’t fit too well with the other “9” suffixes that make up Ducati’s sport lineup. The “11°” designation refers to the amount of valve overlap between intake and exhaust. This, combined with the oversquare bore/stroke ratio, delivers plenty of torque while remaining relatively smooth in lower RPM’s.
The peak figures produced by the Testastretta motor are 113 HP at 9,000 RPM and 72 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 RPM. This powerplant is smooth yet beefy, but could still use some extra juice for the high-performance SP model. Probably not quite the levels of the gut-busting 205 HP Superquadro motor in the Panigale R, but somewhere in the middle would do SP riders well.
Despite being a big L-twin with DUCATI stamped on the case covers, the 939 motor runs surprisingly smooth and docile. However, from time to time, the engine does require some extra cranks with extended depression of the starter button to get the motor to fire up. When it does, any lingering uncertainty of the manufacturer is instantly put to rest as the well-tuned stock exhaust barks to life with the ECU’s auto throttle blip on start-up.
This advanced Ride-by-Wire (RbW) throttle technology is paired in drastic contrast to the most basic of cable-operated clutch linkage systems. Regardless, operation of the wet multi-plate slipper clutch is effortless, effective and conducive to feedback. Mated to the 6 speed transmission's tall ratio, the Hypermotard has no problem getting up to and maintaining freeway speeds (and beyond). This tall gearing makes 6th gear at 80MPH down the freeway feel as if the engine is almost bogging and that perhaps 4th is a more appropriate gear thanks to the smooth engine even at higher RPM’s. This is just personal preference though, the motor pulls just fine in all gears at freeway speeds.
However, the gear ratio is still not tall enough to harness the massive torque delivery and keep the front wheel on the ground, that’s for sure. Wringing out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear is a serious challenge not to completely air out the front end. The wide dirt-style bars, dirtbike riding position and gnarly exhaust note do not help in this effort to mitigate hooliganage.
Essentially the SP is a wheelie fun machine. Off the line, out of second, hard through third, all you have to do is will the front wheel up and a twist of your wrist delivers. That said, the SP is far more than a stunt bike. The machine comes stock with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires -- their tall profile and sticky compound inspiring extra confidence to push the bike into deeper lean angles than common sense would deem possible.
Another very strong point of this new Testastretta motor is the 30,000 km (18,000 miles) service interval. This is another trickle-down benefit of the relatively small exotic Italian bike manufacturer being owned by an automotive powerhouse. The recent increase in quality and reliability that Audi and Volkswagen have implemented in their automotive engineering seems to be influencing Ducati’s bike development as well.
Chassis and Suspension
In true Ducati fashion, the motor is cradled by a trellis-style tubular steel frame only available in Italian racing red. Regardless of this seemingly-basic design, the chassis does its job just fine; allowing plenty of rigidity, any harshness to be soaked up by the long travel of the suspension, and a total package dry weight of only 392 lbs.
Wheels and suspension are where the SP really departs from the base model Hypermotard 939. The Ohlins suspension gear front and rear is instantly noticeable. The huge 48mm Ohlins front forks are larger in diameter by 5mm than the Ohlins full-on race forks of the Panigale R. Add the rear Ohlins mono shock mated up to the single-sided aluminum swingarm and 7 inches of travel is available front and rear. Suspended by these Ohlins units are lightweight Marchesini forged aluminum wheels. This package allows for excellent handling and feel in everything from sweeping corners to tight obstacle situations.
The brake system mated to these components are products of Marchesini’s parent company, Brembo. Twin 320mm discs are bound up front by 4-piston Monobloc radial-mounted calipers modulated by a radial master cylinder with a single 245mm disc in the rear. The system delivers awesome braking power that can be hammered on entering corners extremely hot with the massive Ohlins forks, Bosch ABS and slipper clutch soaking up all of the imperfections.
As with the entire fleet of Hypermotard bikes, the SP comes equipped with the Ducati Safety Pack (DSP) electronics package. This includes Brembo brakes on all bikes as well as a Bosch 9MP ABS kit and adjustable Ducati Traction Control (DTC) system. All of which were tested to their full extent and performed quite well when duty was called. Neither the ABS nor the DTC intervenes abruptly, but rather progressively as not to upset the chassis during “controlled” slides.
The SP's 3 riding modes are the same that come standard on the 1299 Panigale; Wet, Sport, and Race (the standard Hypermotard 939 modes are Sport, Touring, and Urban). The riding modes are noticeably different and best of all, can be changed on the fly via the left hand controls as long as the throttle is closed. The main differences between the modes are Race and Sport have the full 113 HP on tap, Sport has a slightly-numbed throttle response and Wet has a peak power reduction to 75 HP with a further-tamed throttle response to keep things under wraps in the rain.
If these 3 presets do not provide the precise level of tune the rider is looking for, a custom riding map can be set and stored using the 8 DTC levels and 3 ABS levels. For example, the user might want to set the ABS to level 1 to remove intervention from the rear wheel but not want all 130 HP delivered at the crack of the wrist (a combination not found in the 3 presets). The lack of a DWC (Ducati Wheelie Control) module from the Panigale on the Hypermotard might be apparent for obvious fun-factor concerns, but a DQS (Ducati Quick Shift) unit would have further benefitted the same department.
Cost-saving efforts probably prompted the basic LCD instrument display instead of the high-regarded TFT display on other Ducati models, but the panel is still very functional and easy to read.
The riding position of the Hypermotard is very reminiscent of a motocross bike; tall, wide bars, plenty of power, nimble at low speeds and urges a foot out in tight corners.
The chassis is a bit wide in the leg section making the already-tall >34 inch SP seat height that much more challenging for shorter riders. The SP is nearly an inch taller than the standard Hypermotard 939 which sits at 33 inches. This 5 foot 10 inch rider could not flat-foot even at the forward-most position on the seat, but could definitely firmly plant both boots when at a stop.
At 6’3” I felt right at home on the tall machine, though I could just barely flatfoot it at a stop.
This upright riding position usually causes issues when riding down the freeway as the rider’s body acts more like a sail than an aerodynamic component of the motorcycle. However, this does not seem to be nearly as pronounced on the Hypermotard 939 as it is with other bikes in the supermotard class. The tall riding position allows for excellent visibility around traffic while not fatiguing the rider fighting wind resistance to hold onto the bike at higher speeds.
Surprisingly, the Hypermotard SP proved very capable while riding two-up. I took a passenger for a three hour ride up twisty canyon roads, on the freeway and through city traffic in complete comfort for both of us. The slightly raised rear seat and reasonable placed passenger footpegs gave her good visibility and didn’t cramp up her legs.
What’s more, accessories from Ducati’s Hyperstrada 939 fit directly on the SP. Which means you could add an OEM windscreen and panniers to make it into a beastly sport touring hybrid.
The 2016 Ducati Hypermotard SP has a price tag of $15,595 while the standard model has an MSRP of $12,695. As is usually the case, the value of the additional benefits gained from the premium model far exceeds price premium. Less than $3,000 for a full Ohlins suspension package, Marchesini wheels and upgraded Brembo braking gear is well worth the investment. Then again, as with Audi’s other current product offerings, the base Hypermotard components are nothing to scoff at.
Ducati’s new Hypermotard 939 is an awesome overall bike. The fun factor is off the charts, the rider assist package integrates extremely well, the brakes are amazing and the Ducati aesthetics and craftsmanship are hard to hate. The powertrain works very well for the bike’s purpose, but could still be beefed up. A few minor components such as a steering stabilizer and quick shifter could be added to the package to further fine tune the riding experience. Regardless, the Hypermotard 939 is one of the best bikes for daily commuting as it can make just about any situation more exciting while the SP further sharpens the edge.
After about a month of ride-time we have to return the SP to Ducati soon, and I'm starting to feel some serious separation anxiety. The Hypermotard delivers the pure fun and excitement that motorcycles are all about to a degree that will make riding nearly any other bike seem mundane. If there was one motorcycle I could own and ride for the rest of my life, it would be the 2016 Ducati Hypermotard SP, no doubt about it.
Think of a dirtbike with the refinement of a streetbike, a motor that doesn’t break a sweat on the freeway and the craftsmanship Ducati is known for. The 2016 Ducati Hypermotard SP is a bike all riders absolutely must experience, but harnessing your inner hooligan is the real challenge.
Weight: 165 lbs
Height: 5’ 10”
Built: Compact, athletic
Experience: 20 years riding; 13 years street/sportbike, 12 years roadracing, 20 years motocross
Specialty: Sportbikes, road-testing, racing, technical
Clothing & Gear
Helmet: Shoei RF-1100
Jacket: Alpinestars RC-1 jacket (2006 model)
Boots: Dainese TR-Course Out Air
Gloves: Cortech Latigo gloves (2012 model)
Weight: 185 lbs
Height: 6’ 3”
Built: Tall, Thin
Experience: 30 years riding, Enduro, ADV, Supermoto, Sport Touring, 2 years vintage road racing
Clothing & Gear
Helmet: Nexx X.D1
Jacket: Spidi TRK EVO
Pants: Spidi Six Days Pants
Boots: Alpinestars Corozal Drystar Boots
Gloves: Spidi STR4 Coupe