The supermoto sector wasn't a natural one for Ducati to enter until recently. The supermoto class was created by Frenchmen fitting road wheels, tires and brakes to motocross bikes, resulting in wildly exciting machines that were nearly useless for anything except doubling your heart-pulse rate. Ducati has no significant off-road heritage nor engines suitable for dirt bikes, but in the last few years supermotos have become both more powerful and more mainstream, moving the class towards Ducati to the point where both the factory's hardware and its sportsbike heritage began to fit. Designer Pierre Terblanche duly sketched his ideas, a concept bike was shown in Milan in 2005 and in response to an eager public, the Hypermotard is now a production reality.
The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo uses the excellent 1100cc air-cooled engine as fitted on the previous Multistrada, unchanged aside form the clutch, but in the Hypermotard's chassis the focus on reducing weight has given the bike a 17 kilogram advantage. As well as the 90-degree L-twin power unit the design is pure Ducati right through, including the tubular steel trellis frame, single-sided swingarm and high specification running gear. As with some of the other Ducati's, there's an even higher spec SP version available, which in this case uses the same monoblock Brembo brake calipers as the Ducati 1198 (with different disc size), along with very low-friction forks with extra travel, an fully adjustable Öhlins rear monoshock, forged light alloy Marchesini wheels, and lots of carbon-fiber components, to lose a further couple of kilo's.
Ducati's aim is a motorcycle that is exciting to ride in the same way as a supermoto, but with its appeal broadened by real world practicalities. This shows up as soon as you swing a leg over the 845mm (SP Evo 875mm) high seat. That's low relative to supermotos, which can have seats up to a meter off the ground, but at 845mm, shorter riders will still find this a lofty place to be. You're sat well forward, elbows out, with little of the motorcycle visible in front you, a typical off-road bike stance. But it's certainly comfortable, a major break with supermoto tradition and a feature that improbably extends to plush passenger accommodation. As a peak-hour tool, the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo has surprisingly strong credentials, in fact: it's pretty nimble. The engine has plenty of torque, it seems well at low speeds, and as long as you can find a way of fitting some sort of luggage it makes a good stab at the daily grind. One thing you'll have to do in traffic, is fold in the bar-end mounted mirrors. The bar-end mounted mirrors are like tennis bats, but they do give a rear-view unhindered by elbow, leg or anything else. They do vibrate at certain engine speeds, and even when you think there's plenty of space you'll still find yourself clouting things unexpectedly... Traditionalists can opt for a more conventional mounting, which might be better but we didn't try them, and Ducati doesn't have the best record in providing effective mirrors. The Italian idea is what behind you is less important....
For longer distances you'd think twice about taking the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo. Inevitably there's quite a windblast at speed, although riders less lanky than myself expressed some surprise at how much protection the angled headlight housing provided, even up to 160km/h. Being taller, I cop the full force of it. But the fuel-tank will limit your touring ambitions as its 11.5 liters capacity will have you hunting for petrol stations every 130 kilometers or so. The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo is not intended for this sort of thing, but I do think it's a shame to limit any motorcycle in this way as most people only have the one motorcycle, and even if they only go touring once a year, they might well pass this one by for no other reason.
The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo does what it's meant to do extremly well, though. Twist the throttle and the motorcycle lunges forward much harder than its 95 horsepower promises, pretty much regardless of the revs showing on the compact and comprehensive LCD display. There's the usual; near-flawless Ducati fueling, althoug it's a little sudden at low revs in the lower gears, and a muscular, booming soundtrack. Hurtle up to a corner, caress the front brakes, and the nose dives as you flip the Ducati Hypermotard onto its side. It has supermoto-type long travel suspension, which I'm not convinced is ideal even for this sort of machine. There's more dive than many of you may be comfortable with. But on the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo it's firmer and much better controlled so fork compression is less severe than most other supermoto bikes, and it does at least mean you have more suspension margin on very bumpy roads. A quirk of this type of set-up is that the steering can be quite heavy when you're not braking hard, as the geometry needs to be conservative in the static state so it doesn't become unstable under heavy braking. When you're meandering along, the wide handlebars are needed to keep the steering effort reasonable.Tag: DucatiHypermotardHypermotard-Evo1100ccMotardSupermotoV-TwinPierre Terblanche