It’s another Ducati and we’re pleasantly surprised, as always.
Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Varun Kulkarni
The number of international motorcycles now available in India stands at close to 30 with the variants of certain models taking the total up to approximately 40. Little wonder then that with so many international bikes on offer, we auto journalists spend most weekends testing one of those exotic beasts or the other. On one such recent weekend I found myself astride a motorcycle I had never ridden before. Of course, that meant a lot of presumptions since I was completely new to this class of machines. The bike in question was the Ducati Hypermotard 1100. Most of my presumptions soon evaporated in thin air. I am glad they did.
At first glance, anyone would say, “Hey, is that a dual purpose kind of motocross bike with on-road tyres? Rather confused, eh?” Yes. To many it may look like a confused bike since we haven’t really seen the class of Supermotos in India.
The Hypermotard was born in 2005 out of Ducati’s eagerness to leave no motorcycle segment uncovered. At that time the Italian marque had nothing to offer in the Supermoto class and so came about the concept of the Hypermotard. It was first showcased at the Milan Show in 2005 and since then it has been a machine to make people drool. However confused it might look in the pictures, believe me, the bike looks extremely desirable in flesh. It takes a tall stance with a sharp beak, showing aggression, reveals the L-twin engine behind the trellis frame and has a single sided swing-arm that shows off the wheel’s classic y-shaped spokes. Since this one was the top-of-the-line Hypermotard, it had a lot of carbon fibre laid out on the cam belt covers, tail-piece and fenders, making for an eye candy. The two round exhaust canisters protruding from under the sleek LED tail-light were the only thing that went against my taste.
At the front, there is a tiny instrument cluster that gives a lot of information except about the fuel in the tank (it’s just got a reserve fuel light). An aluminium fuel tank lid contrasts the matte-finish tank top. LED turn indicators are integrated into the hand guards. The side mirrors are a little funny, protrude as they do from the hand guards. They provide good visibility when stationary, but once in motion, they vibrate a lot and make the rear view oscillate. Besides, in a country like India where we are bound to take the bike into tight spots, these protrusions keep brushing against this here and that there.
Move into the depths of this bike’s beauty and you will realise that there is more than just the outer aesthetics. At the heart of the HYM1100S is a 1,100-cc, L-twin, air-cooled engine that produces 95 PS of peak power and 103 Nm of torque. At first, I felt that these figures read a little on the lower side compared to those of the overly powerful Multistrada, the last bike that we tested. But these figures can be deceptive and they were. On road, this bike feels much more powerful than what the spec sheet leads you to believe, thanks to its lightweight body that improves the power-to-weight ratio. The Öhlins monoshock suspension, forged alloy Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes and Marzocchi front USD forks also add a lot of potential and glamour to the motorcycle.
As soon as I swung a leg over the HYM, I had to actually double check if I hadn’t parked the bike on some sort of a raised platform. The bike is so tall that it instantly made me (5′ 10”) feel like Tom Thumb. The seating is front-biased and makes you feel as if you are almost on the fuel tank giving a view that is straight from a motocross bike’s saddle. The handlebar is wide and lends excellent flickability to the bike, especially while spotting gaps and zipping through congested traffic. Throttle response is precise and fuelling through the Marelli FI system is spot on with absolutely no irregularities.
After getting out of the bustling city, I headed straight for the bikers’ playground called Lavasa with its hairpin bends, open straights and hilly sections that throw up all manner of challenges.
For a bike that tall and with weight distribution of 47:53 front as to rear, it was but natural for it to pop wheelies as if it were a backyard game. On the Hypermotard, it absolutely takes no superhuman effort to impress others on the road with antics like riding with the front end floating in the air, shifting up a cog and then popping it once again. To make things even more exciting, I got a pillion on board and realised that keeping the front wheel planted became all the more tough. The stunter in me was highly satisfied after a really long time. The way this bike popped and then the way its forks upfront handled, the landing was phenomenal, so easy yet so exciting! However, it was after all this that the bike started revealing a character that was rather unexpected. I reached the hills and the zigzags invited me to play with them. I was sceptical about leaning this machine, thinking about its tall stance, upright seating position and rear-biased weight distribution. But the Hypermotard handles like a track-focused machine. It was beyond my imagination and my ability to fathom the fact that I could actually go round most of the fast corners with my knee dragging on the tarmac and the bike willing to lean more than I asked it to. This Supermoto defies every assumption about its handling that you may have formed on account of its looks. Point it towards the corner, put a little pressure on the inside bar, throw the bike down and the suspension gives you such precise feedback that you wish you had the courage to lean further. Rock-solid, the HYM negotiates every corner with utter ease. In fact, it inspired so much confidence that I wished I were on a race-track, challenging my own supersport leans. Adding to all this is the set of Pirellis with super soft rubber, which don’t leave the tarmac at all. Every centimetre of their contact patch gripped the road so well that I had a hard time even sliding the bike on purpose.
A full day was spent playing with the toy that Ducati offer in an unbelievably small package and that brings me to what I think are the shortcomings of this motorcycle. Yes, it’s a small bike considering it is 1,100 cc. That said, let me also tell you that it is a very narrow bike and, as such, has a very narrow seat. Besides, it is firm and thus makes for an aching bum after a couple of hundred kilometres. Also, the HYM is equipped with a dry clutch operated with a lever, which, though hydraulically operated, entails heavy action and gets painful for the fingers and forearm after a while. That is not all, the tank is small, there is no fuel gauge. It would have almost left me stranded in the middle of the highway with no petrol pump in the vicinity when the reserve light came on. Finally, there is absolutely no wind protection and so even if the overly capable motor can take you to speeds of 200 km/h, the bike doesn’t give you a comfortable feeling at that pace.
But even with all those complaints, I would still love to ride one of these machines. Why, you would ask, especially when this bike is neither a pure track-focused supersport nor a hardcore off-roader or dual-purpose. The reason is simple: it is a gorgeous and insanely exotic Italian. It has an engine that has the potential to scare the living daylights out of someone who is not used to wheelies. It has ultimate precision to its ride and handling. It comes equipped with high quality elements like suspension and brakes. And, finally, it is a Ducati that lives up to every bit of hype created by its sheer badge!