A CLASS ACT?
Part supermoto, part sportstourer, where does Ducati’s Hyperstrada really fit in?
Compromise is the key to happy life – as anyone who is married will tell you. Without a bit of flexibility in either direction, life can get somewhat tricky and a single-minded focus and refusal to consider alternative views is never the best route to a stress-free existence. The same is true when it comes to motorcycle design.
Ducati’s Hypermotard models are a classic case of machines that suffer from being too focused in their outlook. The high spec SP, which costs a mindboggling £12,595, is little more than a toy, while the lower-specification Hypermotard, which is still £9995, is a quirky naked bike alternative that is also inherently limited in its appeal. So, in order to inject a bit of compromise into the Hypermotard range, Ducati created the Hyperstrada.
Claimed to offer the fun factor of the Hypermotards, but with a higher degree of practicality thanks to a touring screen, panniers, centrestand and a wider and more padded seat, is the Hyperstrada the ideal compromise bike?
We’re pitching the latest 939 generation bike against the UK’S best selling sports tourer, the Yamaha Tracer 900, and a full-on supermoto in the shape of the Husky 701. Can the Hyperstrada strike the ideal balance between a supermoto’s agility and fun factor and a sports tourer’s practicality on both the road and track? There’s only one way to find out.
Life on the open road
Liam’s opening words of “you take the Husky, I can’t handle sitting on it again for a while,” didn’t exactly bode well for the 701’s comfort levels. But to be fair to Liam, the day before he had completed an epic 460-mile trip on a bike blessed with the comfort levels of a plank. If I had embarked on the same journey I’d still be at home feverishly searching Amazon for doughnut cushions.
One look at the Husky tells you it isn’t designed for anything other than short hops. It’s a pure- bred supermoto from a company that specialises in off-road, and although it’s incredibly advanced in terms of technology, it’s still a supermoto at heart. The mirrors, for example, are absolutely useless due to the vibrations, and at speed the riding position is akin to torture.
I can never work out how to sit on supermotos on the road. Do you push forward on the seat and hunch over the front or slide back a bit to gain some extra comfort? Either way, when you hit 70mph on the Husky your body acts like a sail and you are forced to hang on grimly while your neck and arms get a workout. At constant speeds it’s hideous, and on swapping to the Hyperstrada I was expecting much of the same discomfort. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised.
You don’t sit on the new Hyperstrada, you slot into it, which feels a bit odd. The new seat, which is lower and more padded than on the Hypermotard models, combined with the very short distance to the bars, almost locks you into a position. There isn’t much room for movement, but it is strangely comfortable when you are on the go and, surprisingly, the new screen is pretty effective at using the airflow to take some weight off your wrists.
Where on the Husky you need serious resolve to cover miles, the Hyperstrada is far easier going, with genuine touring potential as well as surprising speed.
Bruce was the first to be caught out by the Ducati’s turn of pace, which is masked by the lazy feel from the V-twin. It’s not hard to think you are blatting along merrily at legal speeds only to glance down at the digital dash and discover the speedo is showing three figures. The fact this happens demonstrates that the Hyperstrada is both comfortable and has touring potential, something the Hypermotards lack.
But if you want to cover serious miles, there is one clear winner – it still can’t
beat the Tracer.
Swapping from the compact Ducati to the Yamaha makes the Tracer feel huge. It isn’t actually that big, it’s just that the Ducati is so small. You have room to move on the Tracer and can slide back and forth on the seat, adding to the sense of it being a big bike. And one with a few more practicalities than either the Ducati or Husky.
All three bikes average around 50mpg when cruising on the road, but the Yamaha can do it for longer thanks to an extra few litres in its tank – and the rider will know when to stop thanks to a fuel gauge that the others lack. Add to this, good pillion provision, pannier racks, and decent mirrors and the Tracer feels like it relishes covering miles. If you just want to get from A to C it is certainly the best option. But what if you want to go via B?
Straight line competence is all very well and good, but it is through B-road bends that the most fun can be had. So which of these three is the best fun when the road starts to twist? Again, there was a bit of a surprise here.
On paper, a 690cc single with 69bhp should never be able to keep up with a 937cc twin or 847cc triple, but noone told the little Husky this and on the back roads the two bigger bikes couldn’t shake it. The Husky rider may have been thrashing the 701 like crazy, but it has a remarkable turn of pace considering its engine size.
Keeping up does require a degree of commitment and trust. Pure supermotos such as the Husky have a slightly wobbly feel to their handing in faster bends due to their long-travel suspension and you have to just accept this quirk and chalk it up as character.
On fast and flowing corners the Tracer is excellent, easily fulfilling the sports side of its sports-touring brief, but when you add in a few bumps the shock’s limitations start to show. A bit of adjustment helps, but the MT family is renowned for poor shocks and the Tracer’s can get a bit bouncy when pushed hard.
Considering it is a bike with comfort more than performance at its heart this isn’t a major issue, but it is noticeably less controlled than the Hyperstrada over undulations.
On the back roads, the Hypermotard was an absolute riot. Although in tighter corners ground clearance was a bit of a hindrance, the whole bike is set beautifully on its suspension, allowing the rider to really enjoy themselves with the ABS and traction control providing a safety net.
That said, after a while the V-twin did start to feel a bit short on revs. Where the Yamaha’s triple is able to carry gears for longer thanks to its higher rev limit, the Ducati’s V-twin does necessitate more gear changes. It’s nowhere near as frantic as the Husky, but if you are going quickly the Hyperstrada’s rev limiter does often take a battering
A supermoto’s natural habitat is a tight and twisty track and that’s where the Husky comes into its own. With about 40kg less to lug around than the Ducati or Yamaha, the single cylinder easily beats the far more road-biased bikes where point-and-squirt cornering rules. You can brake later, throw it on its pegs and, with your elbow high and foot dangling, fire it out of the bend with a huge grin on your face. The Husky is designed for this and it is brilliant fun on track. Could the others match it?
You need to show a fair degree of commitment, but the Ducati really does have supermoto fire in its belly. Bruce instantly clicked with it, and after a few laps was pushing it to the point he was sliding it out of bends.
While its ground clearance is lacking (a bent gear lever was proof of this), adopt a traditional supermoto riding style and the Hyper’s quality suspension and brakes allow you to corner hard while the V-twin enthusiastically punches out of bends.
Watching Bruce was impressive, and
‘On the back roads, the Hypermotard was an absolute riot’
if you’re happy to push the bike down and ride like a supermoto racer then it’s all good. If you try and hang off you will feel restricted and frustrated.
On the tight track, the Yamaha was forced to remain in first gear for the whole lap and felt totally out of its depth. The fact it was stuck in first demonstrated that the old MT-09 throttle response demons have been banished, but it felt like a big old barge as its soft suspension protested the abuse.
If the track had been faster and allowed the Tracer to settle in corners more it would have coped much better, but it is certainly no supermoto rival. But Yamaha never designed it to be, either.
It did at least win the post-race wheelie competition thanks to its awesome triple motor.
From left: comfortable, slightly less comfortable, absolute agony
This Yamaha’s just made for touring – and the buying public are lapping it up
Supermoto madness guaranteed
There’s no doubting the Ducati’s mixed abilities