Since 2008, there has been a unique motorcycle nestled into Ducati’s lineup, and it is called the Hypermotard.

Too big and heavy to be considered a proper supermoto, too tall to be considered a true sport bike, and too on-road focused to be considered a capable adventure-tourer, the Ducati Hypermotard has resided in its own category, with few direct competitors.

Instead, the Hypermotard gets compared to a large range of motorcycle models, likely because the Italians have positioned this maxi-moto to have attributes from a large cross-section of two-wheeled fun….and having fun is what the Hypermotard is all about.

The Hypermotard is a two-wheeled hooligan machine that was born to wheelie, jump, and slide, and throughout the model’s history, one maxim has remained true: if you are not having fun a Hypermotard, then you are probably doing it wrong.

And now, 2019 sees Ducati bringing a new iteration to the lineup, the Hypermotard 950. A clean-slate machine, virtually every part of the new Hypermotard has been changed from the pervious 939 model, making this the third generation of the Hypermotard line.

That being said though, the ethos of the Hypermotard 950 is an evolution, not a revolution over the outgoing Hypermotard 939. This is because Borgo Panigale has listened to its customer base while designing the Ducati Hypermotard 950, but also wisely kept the bike close to its roots.

The design is a modern riff on the original Terblanche design for the Hypermotard 1100; the package shares many attributes first seen on the 821/939 generation; and the overall fit and feel has been brought inline with the rest of the Ducati lineup.

All-in-all, when it comes to big liquid-cooled supermotos for the road, the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is at the top of the heap. In fact, it might just be the most fun you can have on the street with two wheels. Let me explain.

Something Personal

I should disclose that the Ducati Hypermotard is a special bike to this author, as when I first decided that I needed an Italian motorcycle in the garage, it was the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 I set my sights on – I went home with a Ducati Streetfighter 1098, mind you.

I wouldn’t say that I regretted that last-minute purchase switch, the Streetfighter 1098 is a beast of a bike, but the Hypermotard continued to call to me with its siren’s song.

So, when the Hypermotard 821 SP debuted, I decided to scratch that itch, which then led to a cascade of events that saw a later upgrade to the 939 SP model as well. My name is Jensen Beeler, and I have a Hypermotard addiction.

All of this is to say that this is a motorcycle lineage that I have spent many, many hours getting to know, and it is a motorcycle that sits at the epicenter of Asphalt & Rubber‘s two-wheeled sweet spot.

With roughly 10,000 miles behind the bars of the two previous Hypermotard generations, I am not only biased to the Hypermotard’s strengths…but also keenly aware of its weaknesses.

As such, I headed to the Canary Islands for the Ducati Hypermotard 950 press launch with a punch list of “must includes” and “must fixes” for this nearly iconic motorcycle.

The must-haves? Fun. The Hypermotard should be a motorcycle the begs you to be a motorcycling menace. It should entice wheelies out of the most conservative riders; it should dare you to find “creative” ways through traffic; and it should slay corners.

Pro tip: a smart Hypermotard owner should keep $500 tucked under the seat, not for police bribes (though that helps), but to ensure that money is saved for the inevitable “exhibitions of speed” citations that will surely ensue.

But as a former owner, there was plenty that I wanted to see fixed by the 950 edition as well, especially if Ducati ever had hopes of parting me with my hard-earned blogging dollars for this increasingly more expensive motorcycle ($13,300 for the base model, $16,700 for the SP).

The previous generation models were fun bikes, but they were not perfect bikes. Would the Ducati Hypermotard 950 please my fickle heart this time around? This was the test.

Hypermotard Distilled, A Philosophy of Sportiness

Before I get too far into the ride review though, we should talk a little philosophy. This is because the 950 edition of the Hypermotard takes another step further down the sportiness spectrum, and that changes how one approaches the machine in its evaluation. 

Ducati sees the Hypermotard 950 as a true sport bike. It is not a grocery-hauler; it is not commuter; it is not a track bike; and it is not a tourer.

The fact that the Hypermotard 950 can do all those tasks quite well is a matter of luck, as the Italian brand has really focused the Hypermotard name to mean a plus-sized supermoto for “spirited” riding.

As such, the Hyperstrada is dead. Sorry for partying.

A top case is not an option here, and good luck finding hard bags, tall windscreens, and other aftermarket pieces from the 821/939 generation that aren’t centered around wheels-in-the-air performance.

For better or worse, Ducati offers the Multistrada 950 S for those riders who are looking for more touring to their sport equation. The Ducati Supersport is another viable choice, if long suspension isn’t your jam.

This might be a critical flaw for those riders who found themselves in the previous generation’s weird Venn diagram of plausible Hypermotard uses, and I will be keeping a keen eye to see the market reaction to this.

For 2019 and on though, the name of the game is sport, sport, and sport.

This change in philosophy goes beyond helping to define clearer roles in Ducati’s lineup though, as it also lets the Italian brand focus on the details that make the Hypermotard a motorcyclist’s motorcycle.

Technical Changes from Previous Generation

This new focus is most apparent in the technical changes found on the Ducati Hypermotard 950.

For starters, the frame is “new”…though this would be tough to tell since the trellis shape remains the same. Instead, the changes come to the wall thickness found on the steel trellis tubes, which have been reduced from 3mm to 2.5mm.

It is not a drastic change, but Ducati says that 2 lbs were saved by the move, and that savings comes courtesy of not having to design a motorcycle with touring or off-roading in mind. The same goes for the rear subframe, which again is spared the added weight of having to hold luggage options, though a pillion seat does remain.

While the “950” motor differs only slightly from the 939 model, it is here too where the details add up to big changes – the biggest of which is the new electronics package.

The throttle is now powered by Continental, instead of Magneti Marelli, which means the low-speed stumbles of the 821/939 have been 99% rectified. The throttle connection has been greatly improved, as well.

If I had one major complaint of the Hypermotard (821) when I got the motorcycle, it was the throttle connection and programming. This is because the Magneti Marelli system was horrible at handling small throttle inputs, and struggled at lower revs to provide a smooth ride.

As such, I was amazed when the issue persisted with the 939 model, so it came as a great relief when I saw that the 950 model finally promised to fix the issue, and it does so with aplomb.

If there is one reason to upgrade to the third-generation model, from the second-generation bikes, this factor alone might be it.

There are other reasons to upgrade though, and one of those reasons is that new TFT dash, which helps the rider access and control the new robust rider aids.

An IMU thrown into the equation means cornering ABS, as well as enhanced traction control, wheelie control, and better quickshifting…oh, did I mention that there is a quickshifter finally available from Ducati? It is standard on the SP model and an option on the base model.

The addition of the IMU also means a new ABS program for the rear wheel, which includes the rear-wheel brake slide control feature that premiered on the Ducati Panigale V4. Unfortunately though, this also means the loss of the front-wheel-only ABS mode, where the rear wheel could be locked up without losing the safety net on the front wheel.

This also means that front-wheel endos are a thing of the past, and thus removes one of the more pleasant things that one can do with a Ducati Hypermotard in their quiver of bikes.

To blame are the European restrictions on disabling ABS, and it is unclear what this means for non-European markets…though I don’t have high hopes for an American exemption.

These issues amount to one of the biggest misses of the third-generation bike, and it comes down to development costs.

Developing an ABS package for a motorcycle is quite an intensive process, and it isn’t anywhere close to being a plug-and-play affair. It isn’t cheap, either.

Cornering ABS adds another level of complexity to the task, and the rear-wheel slide feature is the cherry on the cake.

For Ducati, the bridge-too-far in all this was the idea of developing and purchasing an ABS package from Bosch that would include a front-wheel only option.

For a bike like the Ducati Panigale V4, such an ABS package makes sense, is expected on a race track, and can be absorbed in a $20,000 price tag. For the Hypermotard 950, the bean-counters revolted.

To my eyes, I think the front-wheel-only ABS should have been a feature for the SP model, which would help differentiate the more premium machine from its base model counterpart, and add more sportiness to the up-spec machine, but more on that later.

On the Road with the Hypermotard 950

I am going to Tarantino this review a little bit, since we started our press launch on the Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP model first, riding on the Circuito de Maspalomas on Gran Canaria, before heading out to the mountain roads on the island. But, I think it makes more sense to start with the base model as a primer.

Our route took us on an 80-mile rampage through tight corners, changing elevations, and fast sweepers. Ducati seemed intent on showing us that the Hypermotard 950 was like a ballerina with self-esteem issues – light on its feet and eager to please.

On the outside, the 937cc v-twin engine looks the same, but inside Ducati has made a number of improvements.

First up is a new set of pistons, which help bump the compression ratio from 12.6:1 to 13.3:1. There is a new exhaust cam profile as well, along with new massive 53mm throttle bodies.

For good measure, Ducati has also added magnesium cylinder heads, which are good for a 3 lbs weight reduction. All in all, Ducati shaved over 8 lbs off the Hypermotard for its third-generation (wet weight 440 lbs), while bumping the peak power figure to 114hp, which is a 4hp increase with Ducati’s new dyno math.

Walking up to the Ducati Hypermotard 950, one is greeted by a familiar visage. The basic outline of the third-generation bike is similar to the outgoing model, and there is a bit of Multistrada in its face as well.

Swinging a leg over the bike though, this feels like a new machine. The seat height remains the same, but the bike is more narrow (Ducati shaved 53mm off the seat at its narrowest point). This makes it easier to reach the ground, and my 32″ inseam was able to flat-foot stops with little effort.

This should be welcomed news to shorter riders who were off-put by the height on the 821/939 models, but I caution you to understand that the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is still a tall machine (34.25 inches), with the Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP even taller still (35 inches).

On the base model Hypermotard 950, there is great deal of suspension travel at play, which nods to the bike’s supermoto roots, thanks to the Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock. At $13,300 you better believe that the suspension is fully adjustable and works quite well at soaking up bumps from the road, as well as giving feedback to the rider.

I honestly don’t see the value in the “premium” Öhlins suspension package on the SP, when the “base” package on the Hypermotard 950 works so well. Though, I suspect that Ducatisti will flock to the 950 SP model in droves, if for no other reason than its fabulous color scheme, which makes the base model look at bit drab in Ducati red.

On the braking front though, I long for more…on both models. The all-Brembo setup comes with the right name, but underwhelms in performance. The feel is mushy, and the stopping-power at the lever is wanting.

On the road, the brakes need more bite, especially when you over-cook a hairpin turn that has oncoming traffic with no lane divisions, but on the track the problem exacerbates itself even further.

I blame the ABS for some of the loss in feel, and suspect that a change in brake pads could help with the initial bite and outright braking power problems, as I have seen this caliper and master cylinder combination work with better effect on other machines.

Stiffening the front suspension does help the braking feedback, but the problem really does stem from what’s going on at the rotor, and not the chassis diving from the longer suspension travel.

In honesty, I think I might be content with the Hypermotard 950’s brake package if I knew that the SP model got an upgrade, but it doesn’t, and here again the brakes are one of the more noticeable flaws found on the third-generation Hypermotard. 

On the Track with the Hypermotard 950 SP

While the braking package certainly is the weak link on the Hypermotard 950 lineup, this hooligan street bike is certainly no slouch on a race track…and the more technical the course, the better.

It only took a few first turns on our tight go-kart like track with the Hypermotard 950 SP to realize that this machine was a new generation of bike from what had previously been in my garage, as the feedback to the handlebars was completely different.

While the 950 SP retains the same geometry as the 939 SP, Ducati says that is has worked extensively with the Swedish brand to improve cornering prowess of the Öhlins suspension pieces.

The revised sitting position also helps in moving the rider’s weight over the front wheel more, which has the net-effect of increasing side-to-side transition speeds, as well as corner turn-in.

Out of the box, the Hypermotard 950 SP is a bit too soft for my size and preferences, but it took all of five minutes in the pits to make a stiffer machine that was ready for dragging knees…and pegs.

It took a little recalibration of the brain to accept the new faster movements, and to tweak some settings to my liking, but the second session on the bike saw this author off to the races, enjoying every turn that our track day provided.

Perhaps we over-indulged though, as while the Hypermotard 950 SP boasts an improved lean angle over the base model (thanks to the taller suspension pieces), the maximum angle is still a paltry 47° of lean.

This means that on the track, a rider really has to work in order to keep the hard parts from scrapping the asphalt, which insinuates that once your knee is on the deck, there is little more lean to be found.

My preference would be to raise the foot peg height another inch or so, which the aftermarket will surely abide, while Ducati seems intent to keep the pegs lower for improved ergonomics for less aggressive riding.

This matches well with the upright sitting position that the Hypermotard 950 demands, which is also improved upon by the revised seat shape and new handlebar position. With your hands placed far apart, and now 7° farther from to the rider, the riding stance is very commanding…but still very comfortable for everyday riding.

The bike makes a good platform for track riding too, especially on short and tight circuits, and you will find that your riding fatigue is much less when compared to a more “proper” track machine.

Between your legs, there is plenty of torque (71 lbs•ft) from the 937cc v-twin engine to launch you out of corners, though power starts to fade over 120 mph (yeah, I heard myself say that).

Ducati says that 82% of the maximum torque is available from 3,000 rpm and up (88% between 5,000 and 9,500 rpm), which means that there is a nice fat power curve to play with as you ride.

The butt dyno picks up the torque curve quite well, and if you do happen to get yourself in trouble, the bike will pull from a gear-too-high without too much effort, and yet still resistant to tumbles when you enter a corner too slow.

The highlight of the Ducati Hypermotard 950 lineup really is the motor refinement and throttle engagement that come with this third-generation machine – all of which just adds to the already high level of enjoyment that comes with riding a big supermoto at speed.

I don’t think I can stress this idea enough.

Continuing with the track in mind, Ducati’s electronics suite offers a host of rider aids, which are in line with the company’s offerings on other models. The dash will look familiar to anyone that has ridden the Panigale V4 or Multistrada 1260.

The navigation is intuitive, and Ducati continues the trend started on the Panigale V4 in making the setting changes more understandable to riders who haven’t moonlighted as race mechanics, which shows the company’s investment in user interface design.

Having independent traction control and wheelie control settings (eight degrees of adjustment on each) should be an industry standard. Ducati gets it, and hopefully others will follow.

I would like to see Ducati make it easier to switch settings on the fly though, maybe with dedicated hand switches, as the menu navigation is too distracting once you are underway.

Hooking up on Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa V3 street tires, the Hypermotard 950 SP doesn’t need much improvement in the grip department, and I rarely saw the TC light flash on the modest “3” setting, which the Hypermotard dash still considers a “road” level of intervention.

Wheelie control was a different story, and those who prefer to use a clutch will want to go ahead and disable this rider aid, as the rapid rise of the front tire tends to spook the IMU.

Power wheelies are easy enough on the Ducati Hypermotard 950 though, and on setting “1” you can tell the time all the way to 12 o’clock territory, with still a layer of electronic safety.

Ducati’s slipper-assist clutch is at home on the race track, especially when you are mashing gears in the hopes of stepping out the rear-end of the bike for that Instagram hero shot.

Ruben Xaus has no issues backing it in on the Ducati Hypermotard 950.

Modulating a slide with the rear brake though gets more difficult (don’t tell that to Rube Xaus though), and this takes us back to Ducati’s rear-wheel slide parameters.

I was originally looking forward to seeing this system on the Hypermotard when it first debuted on the Panigale V4, but I left the Hypermotard 950 press launch so far disappointed in this new tech. It’s just not fully baked yet.

For a newer rider that wants to explore letting the rear wheel slide, the system provides a good primer to the concept, all while giving you a margin of safety. For more veteran riders though, the modulation from the ABS is off-putting, and feels like the rear wheel is hopping instead of sliding.

I would have preferred more time to explore the rear-wheel slide feature, but we only had three short track sessions on this outing. Of course, I would have really preferred the simple ability to turn the rear-wheel ABS off completely, but I’m repeating myself.

For the 2019 Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP, one of the big new items is (finally!) the addition of an up/down quickshifter. One of the glaring omissions from the 821/939 SP bikes, the quickshifter on the track proved hit or miss for me as well.

In this regard, I think the issue is more rider-centric, as Ducati’s quickshifters have always needed a firm thrust from the toe, which I am confident on this outing I was not providing.

Other riders on the launch had zero issues in this regard, but I never really got the leverage on the shifter arm that I wanted, and as such had a number of bad shifts and false neutrals.

Sharing the bike with a colleague, dialing in the quickshifter was a matter of compromise, and it is worth noting that on my personal Hypermotards, lowering the shifting arm a considerable amount was required for my boot size and preference.

As such, I will give Ducati a pass on this issue, with hopes of having another go at the QS setup. I also would like to see how the DQS works on the street with the Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP, as that wasn’t something we could test during the press launch.

With the quickshifter tied to the IMU, Ducati boasts a high level in its ability to tune the system to the riding moment, which should mean a QS that behaves smoothly both on the track and on the street. Our jury is still out…

Yeah, But Would You Buy It???

With some questions still lingering on the Ducati Hypermotard 950, this author is left only with the choice of grabbing a bike from the press fleet later in the year, which isn’t really going to be a difficult task to convince me to undertake.

This might be a cover story for just wanting more seat time on the bike, which has always been my guiding light on whether to give a model the thumbs up or not. With that said, the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is an already rad bike made better, and overall, this motorcycle doesn’t disappoint. Why don’t you own one already?

The third-generation models are a refinement over the second-generation machines, and they fix the major ticket items of the previous models, without creating any major new complaints.

Overall, I would like to see the braking package rethought, both in hard parts and in software, but that is really the only fly in the ointment, and while I spent some pixels talking about it, they don’t detract that heavily from the overall riding experience that the Hypermotard provides.

With the base model priced at $13,300 it is hard to justify the extra $3,400 in the Hypermotard SP 950 ($16,700).

Forged aluminum wheels certainly help justify the price difference, and there is the bling factor for the Öhlins suspension pieces (though I would argue the performance difference here is quite small), but I would like to see more stratification between the two trim levels when there is that much money involved.

At nearly $17k, the Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP swims with some pretty big fish in the sport bike category.

Either model is going to provide a fun platform for true motorcycle enthusiasts though, especially if your idea of a good time on two-wheels involves getting a little rowdy.

Capable on tight and technical race tracks, smile-inducing on twisty backroads, and perfect for romping through urban traffic, the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is a triple threat.

It works well as a single-quiver motorcycle, if you do the bulk of your riding nearby, and the Hypermotard 950 can be the perfect sport bike addition to a garage that already has the off-road and touring angles covered.

Even if you don’t put one in your garage, any true motorcyclist owes it to themselves to take a rip on the Hypermotard 950, if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about.

Just be careful though, you might find yourself riding the Hypermotard 950 home after you take it for spin. It’s ok though, we’re starting a support group for like-minded two-wheeled addicts. Come join us.

Photos: Milagro