Ducati Hypermotard 950 and 950 SP — the lightweight athletes

By KESHY DHILLON | 3 April 2019

In the world of motorcycles, the Ducati Hypermotard is akin to an all-accomplishing athlete.

Its design is that of a supermotard, a dirt bike type with road tyres, tall suspension and a whole lot of engine and not much else.

It has become a favourite of sorts for those looking for a lightweight performance bike but does not want a full-fledged superbike.

The supermotard styling of the Hyper lets it tackle short, tight tracks with ease of agility, unlike superbikes that prefer long, fast corners.

It is perfect for urban conditions actually, where its tight frame, powerful engine and upright sitting position makes it ideal for splitting traffic and parking.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 01
Quick history lesson - the Hyper was first introduced back in 2006 and is a product with the sole focus of providing countless hours of entertainment.

Designed by Pierre Terblanche, a protege of the legendary Massimo Tamburini, the Hypermotard did not receive the usual launch party.

After many months of rumours about Ducati building a supermotard bike to take on the likes of KTM and Husqvarna, the Hypermotard was instead introduced via a dedicated micro-site, accessed from the main Ducati website.

The Hyper 1100 received such fanfare at its digital unveiling that it crashed Ducati’s global website for some time.

And now, 13 years later, I am in Grand Canary Islands in Spain, ogling at the new Ducati Hypermotard 950 - the grandchild of the 1100 which later became known as the King of Wheelies, and the 939, its lighter, smaller but wilder successor.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 08
The first thing that gets you is that the bike really does not look all that much different, but the difference becomes clear as soon as you start paying attention to the details.

In fact, besides the trellis frame, everything on the 950 is all-new and/or vastly improved from before.

The exhausts for one are now placed back under the seat just as they were with the original 1100 (the 939 had its exhausts on the side).

You can, however, opt for a side mounted exhaust as Ducati offers aftermarket Termignonis.

But if you prefer the underseat layout but want Termigs as well, Ducati has that as an option too.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 07
The seat and fuel tank layout are next - the seat being slimmer towards the front but wider where it matters to offer more support, and with a lump for additional cushioning for the passenger.

The seat on the SP version is flatter than the standard 950, to accommodate the rider moving back and forwards during hard riding.

At 14.5-litres, the fuel tank too is 1.5-litres smaller than the 939 and has been redesigned to make it appear smaller so that you sit further in front, just in case you want to slide the rear tyre around, which is the proper way of riding a supermotard motorcycle, but the 950 obliges knee scrappers as well.

Then there is a new digital TFT instrument display which is similar to that of the Panigale V4.

Not only is the new screen completely new and a much welcomed departure from the old, difficult to figure out screen, but when accessorised with the Ducati Multimedia System (DMS), the system is able to connect to your phone via Bluetooth and will then display incoming calls, the music you are listening to in your helmet, and will also display text messages.

Personally, I felt there was too much going on already with the speedo, rev meter, gear indicator and other engine essentials, but if that is the future of rider-bike connectivity then so be it, I can manage the additional information, no complaints there.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 05
Other than visual difference, the real difference lays in the engine - a revised 937cc Testastretta 11 degree L-twin engine.

It is essentially the same engine with the old 939cc but with a new torque curve that gives you access to over 80% of available torque from as low as 3,000rpm.

For a little more clarity, that 82% of the 96Nm of torque is available from 3,000rpm and a further 88% from 5,500 to 9,500rpm.

What this means is that you can rely on the engine a whole lot more than before without doing much shifting.

And because the bike comes with electronic riding modes, the engine responds according to the chosen mode.

In Sport, for example, the engine is lively and rev happy.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 04
In Touring mode, the throttle response is lazier yet gives you full access to the Hyper’s 114hp.

Urban restricts power to 75hp and gives the bike a more docile character.

Swapping between modes is simple and can be done on the fly, but customising each mode and its braking and various other parameters (such as traction control interference) requires you to be at a standstill.

The standard 950 is shorter than before and is even shorter than the hardcore SP variant.

The handling is aided by a more aggressive 25-degree rake, while wider handlebars give the bike a more commanding feel.

If your riding style is more 'supermoto' than 'superbike', you will appreciate the fact that the steering sweep angle is an enormous 70 degrees.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 09
And if you are more of a superbike person, then you will probably love that the lean angle is a very generous 44 degrees on the standard bike while the SP offers 47 degrees.

Of course, the suspension and tyres play a huge role as well.

The standard bike runs on a Sachs shock and inverted Marzocchi forks, while the SP gets Ohlins all round.

The Marzocchi forks are fully adjustable and are about half a kilogram lighter than the 939’s forks.

As for the tyres, the standard bike runs on Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres wrapped around aluminium Y-spoke wheels, while the SP runs on Diablo Supercorsa SP wrapped around forged Marchesini wheels.

The wheels are nearly a kilo lighter than the old ones. Grip becomes gargantuan.

And it was only in the hills of Grand Canaria around the sandy slippery corners where the Diablo Rosso III’s were put to the test, but a little slide on the Hypermotard never hurt anyone. And it was all very manageable, just a little lean corrected by the electronics.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 02
As for handling, the Hypermotard is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

We began with the standard 950 for a 130km round trip to the hills. The sitting position is a familiar one as soon as you get on the bike.

Around the tight corners of the mountains, the 950 was happy to be flicked into corners.

You can rely on the masses of torque and smooth, linear torque curve, but if you are the type that relies on engine braking, that works too as the slipper clutch ensures the rear wheel stays in line.

I rode the hills in Touring and Urban mode and left the Sport mode for the track later.

Even in Touring, the bike felt like it was in a proper attack mode, charging into corners and letting me dive in late with the electronics cutting off the throttle only when the road became noticeably slippery.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 01
The bike is not as aggressive or as eager as it is in Sport mode, but it is still hugely fun.

Urban is, dare I say it, boring on a bike openly regarded as a hooligan.

It meant for urban conditions, for when you want to reel it all back in and let the bike flow with traffic.

It is meant to keep you safe, and so for that, it is best to only use the mode when it is raining or when traffic is heavy.

The brakes on the bike are made up of twin 320mm semi-floating aluminium flange discs with radially mounted Monobloc Brembo callipers with quad-piston and twin pads and with Bosch cornering ABS. The brakes can be scary as they are super sharp and will catch you off-guard if you’re not careful.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 08
The brakes are the same on the standard 950 and SP, with a preference of operation to a single finger.

All in all, the 950 still retains its hooligan character but is updated with some much-needed refinements for everyday usability.

And even though this bike looks and feels better when riding solo, Ducati has even fitted it with removable passenger foot pegs and a much needed comfortable seat, giving it a level of comfort and convenience never seen before on a Hypermotard.

Moving to the 950 SP, if the standard 950 is hooligan bike, then the 950 SP is a proper, barely road-legal race bike.

Out of the mountains on the 950, we headed to the short and tight circuit of Maspalomas to test the SP.

It is essentially the same bike, but with some revisions to make it sportier than the standard.

The suspension for starters is taller and offers 15mm more travel at the front and 25mm at the rear.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 06
The seat is also 20mm taller than the standard bike, and this taller sitting position gives the bike a more nimble feel.

No sporting version of any bike is complete without acres and acres of carbon fibre (CF), and the SP has exactly that - CF mudguard and even a timing belt cover.

Other than that and probably the naughtiest difference between both bikes is the inclusion of the Ducati Quick Shifter (DQS) EVO as standard (optional on the 950).

The DQS EVO works on both up and down shifts and gives the bike a naughtier character than the standard bike.

It is only when you’re really slowing down that you need to use the clutch, but otherwise, the system does it for you.

The new Hypermotard also offers a unique system that turns you into a riding superhero called Ducati Slide by Brake function.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP - 12
The system first debuted in the Panigale V4S and has trickled its way down to the Hyper 950.

It works when the ABS is in level 1, and you need to invoke it by getting hard on the rear brake while turning the bike.

It is here that the bike will automatically slide the rear tyre out by 10 degrees and you control the slide using the rear brake.

Wheelies come naturally on this bike and the standard 950, and sometimes even unexpectedly.

But Ducati has thought of that too and has equipped the new Hyper with Ducati Wheelie Control Evo that manages unexpected wheelies, giving you maximum traction at all times.

You feel it as a sudden power cut, noticeable interference but it happens so quickly that it doesn’t affect performance.

Ducati Hypermotard 950 - 06
So far I have no complaints about the bike, but just one.

Ducati says that the new seat is more comfortable than before, but I still think it isn’t that great especially out on the open road. Gave me a sore bum after about 100km.

If you’re into supermotards and want a bike that gets you places quickly, then the 950 is for you.

The SP would be my choice but it could be too hardcore for some. Don’t forget to opt for the quick-shifter and full Termignoni system.

It should be in Malaysia by the second or third quarter of the year.

We expect it to cost about RM3,000 - RM5,000 more than the previous model.