2014 Ducati Hyperstrada Motorcycle Review

I wasn’t even supposed to be on the Hyperstrada – I’d been booked on an entirely different bike. Well, kind of an entirely different bike. I was supposed to be riding the 2014 Ducati Hypermotard SE – but with a seat height of 890 mm I couldn’t physically fit. I could one-foot it, but I couldn’t then swing myself and the bike over onto my right foot to lift the sidestand.

No matter then, the Hyperstrada would be my steed for the week. At 840 mm in seat height it was still tall, but more manageable for my 5’6" frame. It has the same 110 hp/66 lb-ft 821 cc Testastretta twin bolted to its frame, but at 204 kg wet is 10 kg heavier than the Motard.

The two bikes have a similar purpose – to go balls-out on any terrain, dirt or road, rough or smooth with reckless and joyful abandon. The Hypermotard is sportier, more track oriented, the Strada more of a tourer. It comes complete with two typically Italian, attractive pannier bags – they are so stylish that when I took them to my desk women from the office wondered if they were carry-on bags, and if they could have them. They could not. The bags are not waterproof, but they do come with two black waterproof bags. Installing them would be sacrilege.

For someone with a sportbike (racing bike) background the riding position was difficult to get used to. Your feet are directly down – and almost forward, while the bars rise up so high as to be in your breadbasket. You feel tilted forward over the top of the handlebars, but very much on top of the bike, not “in” the bike. I found it took me some time to get used to but I suspect those with extensive dirt bike experiences will prefer this position.

The Ducati Hyperstrada is well balanced, and responds to inputs quickly and energetically. The engine is surprisingly lively, small wrist movements to squirt into gaps in traffic resulted in instantaneous acceleration. I was caught out a few times traveling far faster than I ought have been.

Ducati has adorned the Hyperstrada with an incredible amount of rider aids and technology. Everything from suspension settings to throttle response, traction control intervention and ABS intervention can be set up via the large digital instrument cluster. The inputs are not intuitive though and I was grateful for my instruction session from the dealership where I picked up the bike. All of the menu options are accessed by the turn-signal cancellation button (obviously not while you’re signalling). To save your new settings you have to hold it for at least three seconds which, frankly, is an eternity. Many times I thought I’d held the button long enough only to have to start again. Ducati should work on the usability of its interface if it wants to keep in touch with better HMIs like the ones offered by BMW.

I also found that Ducati’s systems were more intrusive than BMW’s even when I chose the allegedly lowest-intervention “track” setting for ABS and traction control. I never could get the back end to lock enough to back the Hyperstrada into corners, instead experiencing the thump of the brake pedal back into my foot as I braked and geared down. Ducati did say that ABS can be disconnected completely, but I could not find the setting in the menu.

The traction control comes with an enjoyable bit of theatre though – each time it is triggered a vivid red LED on the dashboard flares up in your face. The same LED fires during clutch-less upshifts.

Theatre is a good concept for discussing the Ducati Hyperstrada actually. Visually it has a large impact and draws plenty of attention and questions. The looks are polarizing – I am yet to meet anyone without a large and decisive opinion on this bike’s styling.

The engine maps have a dramatic impact on throttle response – and for maximum enjoyment we recommend selecting the most aggressive mode. It will deliver instant and gratifying acceleration with barely a hint of wrist work. Warning: May induce massive grin.

Wheelbase has actually been increased for this generation to give the Hyper family a little more stability at high speeds, but it is still laughably flickable. Lane changes, directional changes and corner entry happen with blistering speed, but again it would take someone with a top-down dirt-bike riding style to really extract the best performance out of this bike.

I found the mid-corner antics a little disconcerting, the rear suspension and front suspension seemed disparate and unrelated to each other. If I acted to correct based on feedback from the front, it seemed to only confuse the back, and vice versa. I think there is a good argument for the right rider being able to wring more from this Strada than I was able to. This is not a conventional sport bike and it suffered the more I tried to ride it like one.

Out on the highway aboard the Hyperstrada I was impressed by Ducati’s aerodynamic engineering. There was barely a hint of wind buffeting and even side winds were no issue. That lack of buffeting contributed to my frequent (accidental) trips north of the speed limit as I felt like I was going slower than I was. That’s a credit to the high-strung but smooth 11-degree L-twin engine.

It had me looking forward to the other Ducatis I was booked on this season, namely the Monster 1200 and the Ducati 899 Panigale - sadly both had suffered mechanical failures before I was able to ride them. Good thing Ducati offers a two-year warranty!

They Hyperstrada starts at $13,995 – for a more track-focused weapon (and if your legs are long enough) you can get onto the Hypermotard SP for $15,995.

If you’re a dirtbike rider looking for a tourer that is street-ready and gives you the same sort of thrilling agility you’re used to, the Hyperstrada is a good place to start. This bike is not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced, but if you’re a gun at the rough and dirty stuff you’ll probably extract tire upon tire of enjoyment from the Strada.

Great bike for the right type of rider. 10/14/2014 7:00:29 AM