9 Nov 2013

Ducati Hyperstrada: test ride of bike number 17

Hyperstrada with its bags on

I attempted to explain here why, and under what circumstances, I acquired this, my seventeenth slice of two-wheeled heaven. It has been about a month now and so it is high time to tell you more about how my almost new Ducati Hyperstrada (don't like the name very much, any more than the looks, but what can you do?) feels when ridden under different conditions of route and weather. I have now put almost 3,000 additional kilometers on the clock and have ridden it on B-roads, A-roads and motorways, all for some distances, and all with great enjoyment, even if motorways are always boring on a bike.

The bottom part of the  821 cc Testasretta engine that gives this bike plenty of fire. Large diamater exhaust pipe must help a bit too.

First and above all I am very happy with my choice, which I guess is the main thing. The engine is far more flexible than that of my previous regular mount, a KTM Duke 690, which i names "little big bike". It is also naturally faster (although who really needs more speed under today's road-riding conditions and restrictions), much smoother (vibrations from a V-twin being automatically less intrusive than from a single) and more confortable on long rides. And I like the sound it makes too! What makes this happen? Well, first of all the fabulous 821 cc water-cooled V-twin engine which has all the power you can use on roads, plus a lot of character and good torque. This classes as a mid-sized engine by current standards, but, when I started riding bikes, it would have been in the big category. In any event, it delivers the goods and has more than enough power for what one needs on the road. I have found overtaking easy and predictable, and the power/weight ratio just right. Pulling away from lights is also a joy and one just has to watch for unwanted wheelies, especially when in the "sport" mode on the computer that controls power delivery and the electronic safety devices, to which I will return. It also sounds good with the standard silencer, which will save me quite a few euros on a replacement article. Now I don't like making noise in towns, but accelerating out of bends in the open coountry and hearing that cross between a bark and a growl under my seat just puts a smile on my face. We stay kids somewhere I suppose.

you can see the single rear shock-absorber on the left-hand side. I dislike the bird's beak front, but there it is.

Coming back to the flexibility issue, although it is smaller, this motor is far better in this respect than my previous Ducati, a 2005 Multistrada 1000dS. It will pull away from below 2000 rpm without complaint. Just don't expect it to be on full song, which happens at above 4000 rpm, and with a vengeance! This makes for slowing down coming into towns and villages when riding the smaller roads far more relaxing (and quieter for the neighbours). Speaking of noise, being water cooled, and the clutch an oil-bath affair, there is much less clunking and clattering from down below than used to be the case with Ducatis. In fact practically none. The machine manages to be fierce, when needed, and yet civilised at the same time, which I reckon is quite a performance. Some critics have commented on the gearbox being slow, or imprecise, or something. Maybe press test bikes get hammered before they are properly run in, but the gearbox on my bike is smooth and sure. Finding neutral is easy and helped by a green warning light, and I think that I have only missed one gear change, through my own fault, in those 2800 kms. If you pressure and time your change-ups right, the next cog just slots in smoothly and there is practically no break in the forward impetus.

perfect handling is a given with Ducati

Chassis is up to normal Ducati standards, which means very high. I have not found its limts on the road yet but then I have been riding on autumn roads, with wet and leaves and all that, and I have yet to really push things. If you have the bags on and load 'em properly with light stuff, they do not affect handling much but need to be watched for their width when slipping through small gaps. As to the handling, maybe I'll do a track day or two in the spring to find ou more. Brakes are very good. If you adjust the lever right to suit the way you brake with the front, you can stop on a pin and there is ABS to help out. I read in one report that there was too much travel on the front brake lever before the brakes hit. Did the guy not find the easy-to-operate adjustment dial on the lever? This sorts that one out instantly. And I find the rear brake a useful addition to stabilise you coming into bends, as it is progressive in its action. The Pirelli Scorpion tyres work ok, even if they are not as good as Michelin Power Pilots in the wet. Haven't pushed them much yet though. 

the controls are not ideal and too close together with winter gloves on

The controls are a bit of a mixed bag and perhaps not one of the bike's best aspects. The indicator switch is a bit iffy (ie you are never quite sure if you have pushed it far enough), you can confuse the horn button for the lower of the two computer switches (yes, this machine is sophisticated too) in the dark, and I found myself hitting the high beam switch, strangely placed behind the left hand grip, without meaning to, again in the dark and with winter gloves on. The afore-mentioned computer gives one all the information required, with the exception of gear engaged and state of fuel tank, and the pre-programmed performance and safety parameters have 3 positions : sport, touring and urban. The latter reduces power by 25% and gives you maximum intervention of the traction control and ABS. I only use it in town when it is wet. Touring is fine for touring and for everyday use. Sport makes the whole thing feel sharper and reduces both the degree of traction control and of ABS intervention. Within each setting one can fiddle about with the levels of all the parameters, and even cancel all forms of this intervention, but I haven't got that far yet. Remember I am used to bikes with little or no electronic assistance!

rider's view: the screen offers some protection and the control panel is perfectly legible

This "touring" version of the Hypermotard has been well adapted to the more aged or long-distance rider (or both) with a couple of useful features allowing for mixed usage between fun and touring. A more confortable seat with a big dent in it to keep seat to road distance reasonable, a slightly raised handlebar position through longer clamps, a small windscreen and bags that slot on or off (in theory, as we shall see). I measure about 6ft (1m80) and have no probelm with the seat height as it allows me to have both soles of my boots on the ground when stopped. But this dip in the rider's part of the seat, although it slots one into a nice little niche, can be a pain on long distance or when riding fast on variable roads as it effectively prevents one from shifting weight forwards or backwards. I may therefore try another seat at some time. The riding position is otherwise fine and makes for a reasonable compromise for touring. The bars have enough width (and hand protectors that incorporate the front indicators) and are at the right height. The screen is quite small but offers some protection, though I am about to fit the higher version, which is an optional accessory. As to the bags, the removal mechanism seems to have stuck on one of mine, so it stays on until I can find a solution. Useful for storing a helmet and a U-bar I suppose, but a bit ungainly for slipping through traffic. These bags have plenty of capacity and are made of a semi-rigid fabric that necessitates additional water-proof inner bags (supplied) that reduce the capacity somewhat but do their job water-wise if you close them properly, as I found out when riding for 2 hours under a downpour. These are clearly by the same manufacturer as the ones I had on my KTM, but are much bigger. You can lock the zips that close them with a little padlock (supplied). The tool kit is minimalist and far below KTM standards for example. One has to buy an additional special spanner in order to adjust the chain, not to mention a torque wrench!

The fuel tank apparently holds 16 litres. There is no fuel guage, but I find that the reserve light comes on after about 220 kms, when riding at an average fuel consumption rate of around 4,5 litres per 100 kms. This should mean that I have consumed about 10 litres, which would signify that the reserve actually holds 6 litres instead of the 4 announced in the manuel. In any event, there must be enough for another 100 kms after the orange light comes on. I will only test this the day I am carrying a can with me though. So we can safely count on a range of above 250 kms, which is fine for me as you always need to stretch your legs after that distance anyway. Ducati have considerably improved the intervals between servicing on their recent models. I used to have to take my Multistradas in every 5,000 kms and this ends up being costly. The manuel to the Hyperstrada tells me that I can now wait for 15,000 kms which is good news. I will have to do the chain before then however.

I will shortly fit (or have fitted) a higher screen, some heated grips and a much needed tank bag. Then we'll be ready to brave the winter together, not that I ride long distances in the winter. Will keep you up with future developments.

Ride safely and have fun...

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