Ducati Hypermotard 796 review – Telegraph

7 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Ducati Hypermotard 796 review – Telegraph
Ducati Hypermotard 1100

The Italian company’s latest attempt to boost sales won’t do it any harm at all.

Motorcycle manufacturers are taking diverse approaches to the recession. The Japanese are behaving conventionally, postponing new model launches and generally cutting costs. Honda has even closed its major European design centre in Offenbach, Germany.

A few of the smaller, light-footed European companies think differently, however, including some of the Italians who never seem to worry much about going bust anyway and, notably, Triumph in Britain. For them, as management speak would put it, the recession is an opportunity to increase market share while it’s more cost-effective to do so. When the sales figures turn and we revert to normal, maintaining that share will mean a big increase in sales compared with pre-recession times.

Triumph is the most overtly aggressive disciple of this creed, but Ducati is a faithful follower, too. The company’s CEO, Gabriele Del Torchio, confirms the Bolognese factory is poised to unveil a raft of new models to inflate market share during the next few years. The latest release won’t do it any harm, either: the Hypermotard 796 (actually 803cc) is the smaller, lighter, cheaper, younger relative of its storming 1100 namesake.

And rather than being less, it could mean more to many riders.

Less is certainly good in terms of weight and price. It’s 26lb lighter than the 1100, so manoeuvrability is clearly going to be enhanced even if the bigger bike is hardly lethargic in terms of directional change. Aim the beaky mudguard at something sinuous and it relishes the challenge, flicking, diving and turning with speed while the all-new engine punches it out of turns with typical Ducati strength and character.

The handling is not perfect, however, because the front end often feels unsettled. A combination of rearward weight bias, quick steering, wide handlebars and soft, long-travel suspension tens to give the bike a remote, over-sensitive feel. It’s fine if you get yourself well sorted before the turn and apply the power early, but a twitch of the throttle, shift of your weight or a brush of the brake can unsettle the bike and, in all but perfect conditions, dilute the rider’s confidence.

However, it’s not a serious flaw, because the bike still steers very well, and the cocktail of agility and that punchy motor mean it will always be a hoot on the right roads.

The new engine is unmistakably a development of Ducati’s traditional output, with its 90-degree, twin-cylinder architecture and characteristic horizontal cooling fins. From the outside you’d struggle to distinguish it from the Monster 696, but this is not simply a bored or stroked upgrade. Pretty much every component is new or revised.

As a consequence, this is the most fuel-efficient Ducati engine yet, capable of a claimed 58mpg in normal riding just as well, given that the fuel tank holds only 2.7 gallons. That allows an acceptable 120 miles or so before you’re worrying about a refill.

Like other air-cooled Ducatis, the engine is big on mid-range thump, punching you along with shoulder-shrugging nonchalance. While it doesn’t match the ferocious charge of the 1100, it doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed, either. It has less weight to propel, of course, but just as importantly it feels crisp and willing, and the wide spread of torque guarantees useful response from low revs.

It doesn’t enjoy trickling along at very low rpm and is awkwardly lumpy at urban traffic speeds, however. The wide-spaced gears mean you must rev it hard in first or else lug it in second, so you won’t find the smoothness you’d expect from a Japanese four, but on dry, spacious roads the motor is a delight and sounds as good as it feels.

For novices who find its low-speed manner hard work, a light, easy clutch provides compensation and the seat is almost an inch lower than the 1100s.

The mirrors fold out from the handlebar ends to provide a reasonable rear view, something of a novelty on a Ducati, but it’s not unusually good and they make the bike so wide that they’re a liability in traffic. They’re designed to fold in very easily, so when you’re edging past cars you don’t keep clouting their extremities, but it’s a pain to keep flipping them in and out to balance width against rear view. Conventional mirrors are an option and I’d go for those.

Ducati Hypermotard 1100

This is a bike with some niggles, but it also has a character and style that so often eludes the mainstream it might annoy you at times, but you’ll fall in love with it anyway. What impresses is the overall balance of power and agility, which make this a better choice than the 1100 for many riders. It’s plenty fast enough and, while some will miss that blast of power, for others it’s just intimidating or an extra effort to control.

The biggest problem might be Ducati’s, because the Hypermotard 796 could steal sales from the Monster 696 rather than from other manufacturers. That’s assuming buyers aren’t tempted by the Triumph Street Triple, which is not quite in the same big supermoto class but comes close enough. It’s also faster, handles better and is £1,000 cheaper.

Price/availability: From £6,995/December 2009

Power/torque: 80bhp@8,000rpm/56lb ft@6,250rpm

Top speed: 120mph (est)

Fuel tank/range: 2.7 gallons/155 miles (claimed)

Alternatives: KTM 990 SM-T, £9,595; Triumph Street Triple, £5,949

Verdict: Balanced, fun and attractive, with over-sensitive handling but a fine engine

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