Ducati has done well for itself by continually creating new models from existing platforms over the years. So when the latest-generation Ducati Hypermotard in both standard and SP version-debuted to rave reviews around the world, we expected that Ducati was going to figure out another way to utilize the new 821cc liquid-cooled desmo engine and steel-tube trellis frame with single-sided swingarm. But we have to admit we weren't expecting the Ducati Hyperstrada.
Billed by Ducati as 'a unique and innovative motorcycle, which represents a kind of crossover between the Motard world and that of Touring,' the Ducati Hyperstrada attempts to straddle the gap between those two radically different motorcycling genres. The second-generation Testastretta 11º (with the eight-level DTC and three riding modes) and chassis (with adjustable ABS) from the Hypermotard transition to the Hyperstrada unchanged, with most of the differences centering on the ergonomics and extra touring-oriented accessories that come standard on the Hyperstrada.
The tubular handlebar is raised by 20mm, and a much flatter and more supportive seat aids in longer riding stints (while the seat height is still 851mm) A fairly tall fly screen sits atop the headlight assembly/instrument panel to help deflect some wind off the rider, and two 50-liter-capacity semi-hard saddlebags attach to the rear subframe, with a wider grab rail for the passenger and two 12-volt outlets for accessories. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires of the Hypermotard get swapped for Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires on the Ducati Hyperstrada, plus a centerstand is added. And the 43mm inverted Showa fork on the Hyperstrada has reduced 2cm wheel travel, which is partially responsible for the slight decrease in wheelbase...
With the tall seat height and saddlebags on the rear, the centerstand is a nice aid to mounting the Ducati Hyperstrada; it's embarrassingly easy to catch your foot on the outer saddlebag. Speaking of the saddlebags, they are semi-rigid and hold more than they look; opening and closing is via a double zipper, and the attachment/detachment process takes a little practice.
Starting up the twin-cylinder engine reveals a somewhat muted rumble from the single exhaust, and both the throttle and clutch action are very light. In fact, the clutch turned out to be our biggest gripe with the Hyperstrada; when warmed up, the clutch action was extremely grabby-it would suddenly slip and then grab harshly enough when taking off from a stop that you were always dealing with either a stalled engine or unintentional wheelie. With the Sport mode's aggressive early throttle opening parameters, it was nearly impossible to avoid this problem; in Touring mode, it was a bit easier but still a major annoyance, we also tested this on another Ducati Hyperstrada with same result.
Once underway, the Ducati's engine is a joy to play with. There's not a whole lot of low-end torque, but it swiftly picks up into a very wide and usable midrange that is surprisingly strong for an 821cc twin. In Sport mode the engine's lower mid-range lives up quite a bit though at the expense of fairly abrupt throttle response; Touring mode requires a bit more throttle turn but offers smoother response, allowing you to make better use of the revvy nature of the engine. The Ducati continues to make good power up to about 9,500rpm where it starts to tail off.
For having nonadjustable suspension up front and just spring preload and rebound adjustment at the back, the Ducati Hyperstrada handled the twisty road impressively well in addition to maintaining a decent ride over straight-line concrete/superslab rural roads. With a wide handlebar offering plenty of leverage over an alrady nimble-steering chassis, the Ducati Hyperstrada can make shockingly good time up a tight and twisty roads. The Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires offer decent traction overall, but when pushed, their edge grip is lacking – which is probably a good thing, as ground clearance on the Ducati is good but not great with pegs and centerstand griding into the tarmac pretty quickly.
Braking from the Brembo monoblock/radial-mount calipers and 320mm discs up front was exemplary, especially considering the non-adjustable front suspension and ABS being in the mix. Overall response was crisp without being too grabby, and when set on level 1, the activation threshold was high enough that you can bleed off plenty of speed very quickly with-out ABS intervention. Even so, the ABS cycling is fairly quick once engaged, providing reasonably transparent action.
The tall fly screen keeps the windblast from being completely obtrusive at speeds, but you won't be on the road for too long anyway with the Ducati Hyperstrada's just under 16-liters fuel tank, which limited us to about 225 kilometers per tank-fill-up on average. Also, while the seat provides decent comfort, its forward slope forces you into a particular position with very little fore/aft movement options.