Du­cati Su­per­Sport S

Fast Bikes - - TEST -

My first ques­tion about the Duke when I went to pick it up, and more to the point my re­ac­tion to the an­swer, said plenty. How much power has it got, I en­quired? Hear­ing it only had a measly 113bhp put me on a right downer. Head­ing off to a far­away Oul­ton Park, do­ing laps of the Cheshire-based cir­cuit and mak­ing it back again sud­denly didn’t sound so rosy. Jinx, Du­cati’s tech chief, spot­ted my curl­ing top lip and tried to put me at ease. “Don’t be put off, it’s a re­ally good bike,” said the man who has rid­den ev­ery sin­gle new Du­cati for the last 20 years. What the ’ell does he know, thought I dis­re­spect­fully as I rode off.

Yet just a minute or so into the ride and I reck­oned he might have a point. The Su­per­Sport S model we’d booked feels light and easy right from the off, but bet­ter still has a prop­erly punchy mo­tor. When­ever you wind back the throt­tle there’s a good and healthy re­sponse. Whip­ping along the un­known back roads was a piece of cake thanks to this, and be­ing in the right gear re­ally didn’t much mat­ter. If you want more speed, you just give it more juice. Add some lovely steer­ing that felt it could track the tight­est of lines, and an ace brake/fork com­bi­na­tion, and all felt fine and dandy on the Duke. There was a lot more to like about the Su­per­Sport S in due course, but even from the early miles Jinx’s vote on the bike seemed to have some cred. Gary and Neil got good com­ments from me when they asked what I reck­oned to it at the first fuel stop, but there was no way they were get­ting the keys!

The funny thing about the mo­tor though, is that it doesn’t feel any­where near as fast as it ob­vi­ously is. Sure it pulls strongly, but so well spread is the de­liv­ery, I ac­tu­ally thought the speedo was over-read­ing for a while. By the time we got to the ho­tel I was well im­pressed by the bike. It’s not some­thing to rave about, but more of a dark horse ca­pa­ble of sur­pris­ing peo­ple – just as it had done me. Even though it had ticked a load of boxes dur­ing the run up to North­wich, I still thought it’d show its lim­i­ta­tions quite early on track the next day. That lim­ited power was bound to kill its pace at Oul­ton. Again, I was proved wrong. Very wrong.

Even though it doesn’t feel too po­tent, and even though Gary on the KTM pulled a fair bit out of me ex­it­ing the chi­cane, the Duke is still com­pet­i­tive. I reckon it’s the com­pe­tence of the over­all pack­age it has that makes it so ef­fec­tive. The Öh­lins sus­penders of this S model re­ally are just the job. Ask the kit to do what you want, and it just gets on with do­ing it. The sup­port, feel and feed­back is all ace, let­ting you get the very best from the tyres, mo­tor and brakes. And though I used to think quickshifters and blip­pers were just a gim­mick not that long ago, on this bike the set up is a real as­set to progress.

Gary com­plained it killed the mo­tor too of­ten if ac­ci­den­tally brushed, but when he tucked his mas­sive plates out of the way,


the ‘pprob­lem’ was solved. Later af­ter II’d released the key to him and NNeil, both had much to com­pli­ment­comp the bike for.

Light, easy, un­der­stated, de­cep­tive, comfy, ef­fec­tive and friendly were some of the words they re­peat­edly ut­tered. The pegs touch down a bit too read­ily at times, but they still can’t stop the Duke do­ing good lap times.

When the fi­nal che­quered flag came out all we wanted to do was head off for Knock­hill to do more cir­cuits up there. In­stead we packed up, rode to nearby Bux­ton, praised it over a top curry and sam­pled its plea­sures the next day rid­ing it back home through the Peak Dis­trict.

The air-temp’ gauge was of­ten in sin­gle fig­ures dur­ing the three days, but the Su­per­Sport S al­ways keeps your ticker warm. If you ever line up to do bat­tle with one on ei­ther road or track, don’t un­der­es­ti­mate it. It might not have much to shout about on pa­per, but on Tar­mac it’s re­ally quite an ef­fec­tive bit of kit that’s hard not to rate highly. Ah, and it looks tops, too.

Not colour, but still ex­cel­lent...

Sur­pris­ingly good on track! Ver­dict 9/10 Dead easy to un­der­rate, or even over­look, the Duke is way more than the sum of its parts. Ig­nore the spec sheet and ride it. Be­lieve us, it’s a prover­bial dark horse. MO­TOR, CHAS­SIS, BRAKES, US­ABIL­ITY, STYLE 10BHP MORE WOULD BE LOVELY

Thee S has all the toys!

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