Part su­per­moto, part sport­s­tourer, where does Du­cati’s Hyper­strada re­ally fit in?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment - By Jon Urry MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

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?

B-road blast­ing

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

Track at­tack

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

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