A street bike at its core, the new SuperSport is also a joy on the track.
Up until a few years ago, Ducati was hyper focused on building nothing but light, fast, exclusive (read: "expensive") motorcycles. Each and every bike had to be the most powerful, the most desirable, the most mostest in its class to be deserving of the logo on its tank. But it seems things have changed in recent years. Well, a little.
Ducati still sets its sights high, but more and more it is aiming at a broader audience. Which is more or less how we've ended up with a rider-friendly, unusually comfortable sportbike that won’t break the bank or your back. It’s called the Ducati SuperSport.
You’ve probably heard that name before but make no mistake: this is not the funky-looking, air-cooled, white-framed SuperSport with a square headlight of the 90s. That’s the vision I cannot seem to get out of my head. Oh no, this is an entirely new bike with a slightly different philosophy that combines comfort and affordability in a good looking package, while remaining unmistakably Ducati.
It took more than three years to get the recipe right, so here’s a look at some key ingredients. The heart of this sexy beast is a slightly revised version of the 937cc Testastretta 11-degree engine found in the Hypermotard. The 113-horsepower mill is proven, and it has great low-end to mid-range power. The trellis frame found on the Monster 1200 has been paired with a new single-sided swing arm designed specifically for SuperSport. The dash is a nifty multi-color unit that provides all the necessary info to help manage your ride, and all the controls are nice and tidy, too.
But it’s the fit and finish that stands out the most. The lines of the headlight, side fairing, and tank are fluid and purposeful. The engine and frame are exposed, so you can marvel at the mechanical beauty of it all, while the upper cowling actually wraps around and underneath the handlebars, making the entire cockpit look like something sourced straight from an Audi supercar. The only exposed fasteners are hidden here as the rest of the bodywork is clean with no visible fasteners anywhere. Surely this will make removing the panels a pain (And probably crazy expensive to replace if you drop it –Ed.) , but damn it looks good. You might recall it was voted the Most Beautiful Bike of the 2016 EICMA Show, so there’s no doubt Ducati got the aesthetic part of the equation right.
But how does she run? We had to travel to Seville, Spain, to find out.
Once we had our feet on the ground we rode the base SuperSport (US $12,995), with its fully adjustable 41mm Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock, on the road. But because Ducati cannot stand to stay away from the race track, we rode the up-spec SuperSport S ($14,795), with fully adjustable 48mm Ӧhlins fork and shock, on the technically challenging Monteblanco race track. With its tight turns and long straightaways covered in smooth Spanish blacktop, it would prove to be be an excellent venue to ride the new bike to its true limits.
SuperSport S vs Monteblanco
On the track, the SuperSport S is a whole lot of fun. Although it is intended to be a street bike first and foremost, it sure makes its way around a road course better than I anticipated. The engine scoots you down the tarmac at a decent clip, but I'm not going to sugarcoat the fact that it’s not super fast. Still, it makes plenty of usable power in the mid-range, and really comes on strong around 5000-6000 rpm. Ducati claims it makes 71 lb-ft at 6500 rpm and I’d have to agree that’s the sweet spot. The only place I really felt it needed more motor was on the long straightway though. Otherwise, it offered plenty of go while I was connecting the 18 turns at Monteblanco with a big cheese-eating grin on my face. When I say the SuperSport S isn't super fast, don't get the wrong idea about the power: by the end of the long straight, the speedo was showing 226 kph (That's around 140 mph amongst right-thinking peoples).
I’m happy to report that it’s comfortable, too. At those speeds you can tell how good the wind protection is. I'm a short guy at 5 foot 8 inches, and windblast was tolerable with the screen in its low setting. After popping it up to the higher setting, it was all but silent with me in the race tuck position. The seat is easy to slide around on, while offering a nice arch into the passenger perch that kept me firmly in place when I was hard on the gas. The tank shape is sleek, too, so it's easy to grip tightly while muscling through the turns. In addition to looking and feeling good, it sounds awesome.
The track bikes were equipped with Akropovic slip-ons so the Testastretta engine was broadcasting that signature Italian Twin howl at full song, while the quick shifter was allowing me to make effortless gear changes without touching the clutch. The key is to shut the throttle completely on downshifts and give a precise tap on the lever for upshifts. The only issue I had was remembering that it wasn’t necessary to use the clutch; it’s just a habit to give it a quick tug when gearing down.
Ducati sent us out with the bikes in Sport mode with the Bosch-powered Ducati Traction Control (DTC) on level two of eight, because they believed that was optimal for this track/tire combination. The bike comes with Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires, which aren’t the stickiest for track work, but they provide plenty of grip on the track for us mere mortals and more than enough on the street. I found the DTC would kick in whenever I got a perfect drive going, or if I dialed in a bit too much throttle while still carrying too much lean angle. But it was so unobtrusive I didn't actually feel it kicking in; I only knew because of the yellow TC light flashing on the dash.
Meanwhile, the Ӧhlins suspension proved it’s up to snuff for those who want to play around on the track. The bike felt well balanced both on the brakes and on the gas, without any unwanted dive or squatting. Ducati's techs had these bikes well sorted and it showed. The SuperSport S has a combination of a short 58.3-inch wheelbase and fairly aggressive rake and trail (24 degrees x 3.6 inches), with that long single-sided swingarm, which creates a bike that is easy to flick around yet stable at high speed. Crank it into a turn and there’s no wallow, nothing weird, just the precise cornering prowess you’d expect from a Ducati sport bike. Though, you can definitely drag your pegs and toes if you don't make a conscious effort to ride smooth and avoid it.
The brakes are real good on the track, and more than you’d ever need on the street. These aren’t the top-shelf Brembo units, but still perfectly capable for this bike and its performance target. You’d have to be much faster than me to find fault in these babies. There’s a pair of radial mount, monobloc Brembo M4-32 calipers gripping a pair of 320mm rotors with steel braided lines connecting them to the lever. Plus, Bosch ABS is standard on both models. Again, you have to be real good to outride this hardware.
As the laps piled on, the SuperSport S became even more fun to ride. Once I got the hang of the quick shifter it reduced my arm fatigue quite a bit. And after I realized how good the DTC was I had confidence to see just how far I could lean before driving toward the next turn – no longer as concerned about a highside while hard on the gas. And because the bike isn’t ultra-fast it is easy to ride hard for extended periods of time. Additionally, since the riding position is not as aggressive as a superbike my wrists didn’t ache too much and my lower back wasn’t sore. Hey, maybe Ducati is on to something here?
If you happen to be looking for a brand-spanking new, road-going Ducati that is capable of grinding your knee pucks to smithereens without putting you through a gauntlet of medieval tortures then you will be happy to know that I give the SuperSport S a resounding thumbs up, from the veteran rider’s perspective. While turning laps I also started to think about how great this bike would be as an entry-level superbike. It's way better than a middleweight, and it is technically almost a liter bike, but it doesn’t kick your ass like a literbike does.
My biggest complaint is that I wish I could have several more hours at Monteblanco, because it was such a great time. Thankfully, a few more hours hours on southern Spain's kinky back roads made up for it. We hopped on the base model SuperSport for the street and, no surprise, I liked it, too.
What Other Guys Say
“Everything that’s great about the bike on track shines through on the road. The power is unintimidating but more than enough, and the chassis loves hunting apexes on mountain roads.” – Rennie Scaysbrook, CycleNews.com
“Ducati says this bike tips the scales at 463 pounds, but it feels and acts lighter than that. It’s a treat to ride, especially if your goals in motorcycling align with Ducati’s concept with this bike.” – Zach Courts, Motorcyclist
“The SuperSport holds a line nicely through sweeping turns, but it wasn't until we were picking our way around super-tight off-camber turns in tiny towns that I truly appreciated the maneuverability of the bike.” – Sean McDonald, Cycle World
SuperSport vs The Canyons of Spain
Our street ride took place on a road that was clearly a locals' favorite. There was a steady stream of sportbikes tearing up the incredibly smooth asphalt between the track and wherever we rode. The mountains on the horizon looked an awful lot like California, with granite-colored rocks and scruffy pines dotting the hillsides in the distance. The sky was clear and blue and the street was clean and black. It made for a nice contrast for our all red conga line as we snaked through canyons toward the villages at the top of the hill. This is the type of roads the SuperSport was made for. It’s also the type of road I love to ride.
Like I say, the surface was smooth for the most part so the Sachs shock and Marzocchi fork proved to be just what the doctor ordered. And here the engine did not seem underpowered at all. In fact, this thing ticks all the boxes for street use: it’s fast, comfortable, and looks great. There’s plenty of electronic whizbangery to keep any technophile happily fingering the switchgear when he or she should be paying attention to the road. I switched from Sport mode to Touring and found the mild power delivery too mellow for my taste. I could barely tell a difference between Urban and Sport settings, so I left it in Sport and never thought anything of it after that.
Ducati says it intends for the SuperSport to be ridden long distances on possibly poor pavement, so it is sprung a little soft. That allows it to soak up imperfect pavement, like the probably-not-paved-since-Franco stuff we found while navigating old village roads. After a few hours in the saddle, on both the track and street, I was impressed with how comfortable this bike was. Not just in regards to the seat, but also the suspension and ergonomics. It has a manageable 32.1-inch seat height, so will be easy for people of average height to touch both feet at a stop, which should make it less intimidating for newer riders.
Ducati really nailed long-range comfort. The tall clip-on bars were fine on the track but they are truly a blessing on the street. The low pegs that dragged on the track offer just a bit of extra room to keep legs from being cramped, and the only time anything touched down was when I was riding two-up. Add the effective windscreen and you get an enjoyable street-riding experience that is sure to be a hit. It all started making perfect sense about halfway through our trip up the mountain. This sweet all-rounder was worth the wait. Even though we didn’t exactly know that we had been waiting.
The bike’s onboard computer indicated 46 mpg during our street ride. If that was accurate, you can expect a 190-mile range from its 4.2-gallon fuel tank if you’re riding like you stole it. Ride it like you want to keep your license and you'll squeeze in a few more miles. It’s a respectable distance considering you're dealing with a high-performance twin.
Anyway, allegedly the SuperSport was built with the idea that you might want to travel with a passenger. So, at one point I convinced another journalist to hop on the back for a few blasts up and down the road to see how it handled the extra weight. (Hey, who wouldn't want to cozy up with Ken? –Ed.) With two guys weighing in at 180 lbs each, we had the poor thing dragging both the pegs and the underbelly catalyst thing when we went hard into turns.
The specs show 5 inches of travel on the front plus 5.6 inches out back, and we used every bit of it. I'm sure cranking down preload a bit would have helped, but my passenger was quick to get back on his own bike. So I didn’t get much chance to mess with the clickers. My riding/cuddle buddy did say it was comfortable, but that the rear pegs were too high – folding him up more than he would've liked. I'd guess he was also in the 5-foot-6ish range, if you’re wondering. If you're planning to ride two-up I recommend adjusting the shock to offset the added weight before you get rolling down the road.
I never thought I would see the day that Ducati was offering an “entry level” sportbike but it happened. It seems like the company is growing up these days. But then again, we all are. Changes to the company philosophy will likely help it make a little more money by expanding the model range and the appeal of its motorcycles. At first, I didn’t really get why they came out with this bike. But after riding it, I understand. It’s all about change and this proves Ducati is willing to change… a little bit.
What I Didn’t Like
About the only thing that I didn’t like was that the SuperSport engine is a little weak for my taste. But we’re talking about a brand-new bike and this is the worst I can say about it. So that isn’t too bad. Right?
Would I buy it?
You bet. If I was looking at buying a Ducati street bike, the SuperSport would be on the top of that list. I’m getting too old to want a pure sportbike and I’m not a big fan of the Monsters for some reason. However, this motorcycle makes me feel good and is fun to ride. A while back I had a couple of new street fighters to ride during a track day, and at the end I wasn’t as sore as I would have been after riding pure sportbikes. It was right then I realized my taste in bikes was changing. The SuperSport is the kind of motorcycle that appeals to me these days.
I really had a good time riding this motorcycle. It was comfortable, it’s fun to ride, and overall seems like a solid machine. I’d definitely push my friends, some who are getting close to 50 years old, to take a look at this as an all-round motorcycle. It can handle street work, canyon carving, commuter-duties and even track days. Plus it looks badass in the garage. What more can a guy want? Besides a little more power?
Kens Riding Gear
Jacket: Alpinestars T-Jaws Waterproof
Gloves: Alpinestars GP Air
Experience: Decades Spent Doing This.
Body Type: Short, old, stocky with a beer belly
Kens Riding Gear
Leathers: Alpinestars Atem 1-Piece Suit
Boots: Alpinestars SMX Plus
Gloves: Alpinestars Supertech
The Ducati SuperSport is available with any of three specific Packs that help tailor the motorcycle to suit your particular needs. This set up is the Touring Pack which includes the semi-rigid side cases, slip-on exhaust and a taller windscreen. The panniers look nice in person although they are a little small. Storage capacity on each bag is 22-liters.
The Ducati SuperSport is shown here with the Sport Pack. The most notable component is the dual underseat exhaust system that's similar to what you might see on the Superleggera.