The Everyday Superbike
I used to love riding sportbikes. I still do, but not as much as I used to. Nowadays I prefer riding bikes that are still sporty but with a less radical riding position, like the Ducati SuperSport S we have here. The truth is my preference for bikes didn’t change. The bikes did. When I started riding motorcycles in the early 90’s, most sportbikes had a sport touring-like riding position. But through the years sportbike design has evolved to the point where they are becoming more like uncompromising race bikes for the road with matching masochistic riding positions. You can’t possibly ride one for more than a couple of hundred kilometers without your arms, wrists and back aching. Then again, it’s probably age catching up to me. That’s why sitting on the Ducati SuperSport S for the first time feels a lot like deja vu where everything feels right. Right seat height, right footpeg positioning, right height and reach to the handlebar. In other words, it’s spot on perfect for my kind of riding.
The Ducati SuperSport first appeared in 1972 as a prototype, and then began mass production in 1974. The SuperSport would have different iterations through the years and would continue to play an important part of the Ducati lineup until the mid 1990’s when it was overtaken in popularity by the Superbike and Monster lineups. The SuperSport would soldier on until 2007 when it was finally discontinued. At the 2016 Intermot in Cologne, Germany, Ducati announced a new SuperSport that would be available sometime around March or April 2017. A year after Ducati announced the new SuperSport S, we received the test unit thanks to our friends in Ducati Philippines. And what a real beauty of a bike it truly is.
Looking every bit as gorgeous as its Ducati Panigale 1200 S superbike sibling, the SuperSport S we tested looks absolutely regal in its matte Pearl White and glossy Ducati Red color finish. In fact, I bet nobody would have argued if this was introduced in 2011 instead of the 1199 Panigale as the direct successor to the 1198. I mean, just take a good look at it. From the single-sided swingarm to the LED running lights and subtle creases of the fairings, it is more superbike looking than the Pierre Terblanche designed 999. No offense meant, of course. I only wanted to emphasize just how gorgeous looking the SuperSport S truly is. And that’s just by looking at it. Riding it is yet another revelation.
Let’s start with the engine because as a stressed member of the chassis everything is connected to it. It’s basically the same liquid-cooled 11-degree Testastretta powerplant as on the Hypermotard with 937cc of displacement and making 113 horsepower and 71.3 lb ft of torque. Not much by today’s superbike standards, but nevertheless on par with the Ducati 916 of 1994 that’s considered as one of the best Ducati superbikes of all time. Bolted to the front of the motor is a steel trellis frame where the steering head is located adapted from the Monster 1200. Attached to the rear of the motor is a new cast-aluminum single-sided swingarm. Suspending all these from the ground are premium fully adjustable Ohlins shocks and 48mm upside-down forks. The non-S model, on the other hand, gets 43mm Marzocchi forks and Sachs shocks.
Like the Panigale 1299 S, the SuperSport S comes loaded with rider selectable riding modes (Sport, Touring, and Urban) and a host of other high tech electronic rider aids like traction control, the latest BOSCH 9MP ABS and even a bi-directional quickshifter system. Neat. The best part is you’d never notice that they’re at work. Ducati has refined the safety package to the point that they’re almost invisible. Only the blinking LED light on the dash gives you the telltale sign that the traction control is hard at work to save your skin. The Bosch ABS modulated radial mounted Brembo M4.32 calipers biting on twin 320mm discs up front provide confidence inspiring stopping power for the lightweight 210kg bike in any speed and riding conditions. I can’t even remember using the rear brake during our ride to Infanta, Quezon. Another thing worth mentioning is the faultless bi-directional Ducati Quick Shift. It simply makes every upshift and downshift a pleasure.
What sets apart the base model SuperSport from the top-of-the-line spec S model, however, aside from the aforementioned Ducati Quick Shift, is the fully adjustable Ohlins suspension package that not only aids handling but also provides a highly refined ride quality. Irritating road imperfections and even wide expansion joints that you normally feel on lesser suspension setups are magically ironed out, hence contributing less to rider fatigue especially during extended rides. If you’ve ever ridden other sport-touring oriented bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and Honda VFR800, while fast and comfortable, you’re always aware of the size and weight they’re carrying. The SuperSport is none of that. It’s so light and nimble on its feet it doesn’t feel like a literbike; even on the saddle, the SuperSport S feels miniscule. In comparison, it feels like you’re riding a really well sorted and powerful Kawasaki Ninja 650. It sounded like one, too unfortunately. The stock Euro 4 rated exhaust sounds uninspiring and would truly benefit with an aftermarket Zorst system to bring out that trademark Ducati L-twin sound.
Wind protection is also good. Ducati even designed a clever spring-loaded concealed mechanism that raises the windshield by 50mm for added wind protection. Another thing I like about the SuperSport S is the comfy and low 810mm seat height, allowing me to plant both feet firmly on the ground which is always a plus factor on any bike. Also, the distance of the seat relative to the footpegs and raised clip-on handlebars gives the SuperSport a roomy and comfortable riding position for a variety of riders. What I wish the SuperSport has, however, is a centerstand. But then again, that would only add weight and might even compromise cornering clearance. So erase that. Anyway, according to the Ducati website, they’re offering a Sport and Touring package exclusively for the SuperSport. The Sport package includes a silencer and complete Ducati Performance racing exhaust system by Akrapovic, while the Touring package includes semi-rigid panniers, a bigger windscreen, tank bags and other luggage items, plus a selection of seats with different heights.
Buying a sport touring motorcycle is almost always a compromise between the two. More often than not, you’d either get a bike that leans more towards the sport than the touring abilities or vice versa. But with the SuperSport S Ducati was able to dial in a perfect 50-50 balance between sport and touring without compromising anything, while looking as gorgeous as the flagship Panigale superbike in the process. So if you want a touring motorcycle, then buy a touring motorcycle. If you want a sportbike, then buy a sport bike. But if you want the sexiest and most fun to ride sport touring bike there is, then buy the Ducati SuperSport S.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, EFI, L-twin, Desmodromic, dohc, 8-valve, 4-stroke
Max power: 110 bhp @ 9000 rpm
Torque: 69 lb ft @ 6500 rpm
Seat height: 810mm (31.9 inches)
Fuel capacity: 16 liters
Curb weight: 210 kg (463 lb)
Price: PhP 999,000 - SuperSport S
PhP 910,000 - SuperSport
+: Good looks, tractable motor, touring comfort
-: Not much
C! Rating: 10/10