Ducati Hypermotard 939 Review

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It’s always nice to walk away from a press launch without speeding fines or jail visits, particularly mischievous motorcycles that entice hooliganism with minimal provocation, very like the Hypermotard. Although niche in many eyes, Ducati’s fun-packed stunter has always been a personal favourite since model’s inception: that original air-cooled Hyper’ was as simplistic as they come, yet offered undiluted thrills and was one of the finest wheelie bikes of its time. I abused one back in 2007 during my commute into Bath city centre, enjoying seven miles of rural roads before dissecting traffic during three miles of urban labour. I honestly couldn’t think of such a perfect companion.

2016 sees Euro4 compliancy, which also means Ducati engineers have gone big-bore to offset emissions – similar to the 959 Panigale workings and a host of other revised models for this season. The crux of the outgoing 821 Hypermotard remains, with Ducati engineers choosing to concentrate efforts on the Testastretta powerplant. Thus, the 939 remains a whopping gert motard with psycho tendencies and stacks of attitude. Even with my tubby Jason Statham physique, I’m tiptoes straddling the 939. Those of you who have sampled previous Hypermotards will appreciate just how tall they are with an 870mm seat height (890mm for the SP model), rad scoops hugging the forks and trellis frame, bragging handguards as fashion accessories, solidifying its existence as a motard-based nutter.

We spent the morning trying not to crash on super-greasy Spanish roads aboard the standard Hyper’. Deprived of the SP’s bells and whistles, the fundamental upgrades for 2016 are shared between both models: not surprisingly, Ducati claims the new motor has an additional 3bhp at peak (113bhp), 10% extra torque overall, and 18% at 6,000rpm over its predecessor. And, feck me, you can feel it with an explosive, hard-hitting midrange that dominates throttle openings, and while power soon curtails during the last few thousand RPM, the narrow parameter of Desmo psychosis and short gearing more than remedies a numb top-end.

This Testastretta engine – although sincerely fiddled with over the years – was originally designed for superbike racing, and slow-speed aptitude isn’t really in its repertoire. Crisp like Walkers above 3,000rpm via that snappy, elasticated throttle, it’s a bit lumpy when negotiating slow-speed drudgery and ambling through towns and cities but soon fixed with a touch of the button. I’ve never been one for opting to switch to fairy modes and culling power/softening throttle response, but toggling through to ‘Urban’ mode dramatically soothes low-speed etiquette.

Not that it’s difficult to ride by any means. Well, not unless you’re really short. As previously mentioned, the chassis is virtually unchanged meaning you’re treated to brisk steering and super-agile reactions with a whiff of ‘bar input. Those of you hankering after genuine sportsbike/supernaked pedigree are best off opting for exactly that, as big-lean heroics aren’t the 939’s forte. There’s oodles of weight over the front-end (boosted by the riding position) that routinely supplies confidence during mediocre lean angles and ripping up mountain roads, although there isn’t that steadfast composure from the front-end when it’s buried in a turn – a by-product of its motard geometry.

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As we edged closer to Montserrat (the home of one of the world’s most famous monasteries, where it’s believed real-life monks have captured David Guetta) there was a five-mile stretch of mountain road that stirred the 939. Constant changes of direction and an abundance of medium-paced bends separated by short, sharp bursts of throttle abuse is where the Hypermotard flourishes, employing the slow in, fast out philosophy. It’s a bike that becomes sexier with momentum, yet beautifully controlled the other way by a slipper clutch.

As with all modern Ducatis, you can really take the piss and manipulate the electronics suite, yet I rarely saw any dash illumination or felt signs of intervention, even from the ABS. There’s a lovely, satisfying squat from the shock during corner exit that hints at rich organic grip – likewise, a healthy dose of weight transfer onto the nose when braking – but overall, suspension is on the firmer side for a bike with this amount of travel.

With little wind protection, short gearing and zero regard for mile-munching, the Hyper’ 939 isn’t going to make a decent touring buddy, although it does boast a grown-ups’ fuel capacity – especially when you consider its segment. My only tangible complaint is the seating position, as you’re botty is locked into a fixed location without any room to explore the cockpit/dick about. It’s a bit like going to a strip club and not being allowed to touch, or how I can only imagine a toddler would feel stuck in one of those Bumbos.

The afternoon was consumed at Parcmotor (the venue for the upcoming 44T/BvG trackday extravaganza) SPanking the SP version: complete with Öhlins at either end, forged Marchesini rims and carbon fibre goodies, the price reflects the Gucci components. The sportier 939 is also taller to accommodate greater lean angles but wears a far more ergonomically friendly ‘sport’ seat sanctioning far greater movement in the cockpit – crucial for trackday shenanigans.

Even before our sighting lap was completed, I was left wondering how a bike of this ilk could gobble up a track like Parcmotor. Instantly, the extra grunt administered by an aftermarket Termi’ can is palpable, gallivanting through the midrange with more verve and widening its useable power spectrum, permitting taller gears to be utilised over the stock version. It also inserts an added audio porn streak into the riding sensation – not that the stock exhaust note is too culled – and although Ducati says the exhaust is not homologated for road use, you’d be a fool not to fit one.

As you’ll comprehend from the onboard lappery below, I was trying to twist the throttle off the handlebar in an attempt to extract every pony. With a top speed of 140-ish, and fuck-all ground clearance (Ducati claims 47.5° of lean), there’s no hiding from its fundamental motard genetics. That innate agility and tall stature obviously have to compromise handling in some aspects on a lap of a track like Parcmotor, and the ‘Hyper – as previously – is certainly no naked sportsbike, lacking inherent front-end feel from brake release to apex. Hanging off like a raging berk is essential to halt pegs and levers kissing the Tarmac before one’s knee scrapes, but it’ll be perfectly at home at the likes of Brands Indy. The harder you work the 939, the more feedback you’re rewarded with.

By their own admittance, Ducati says the Hypermotard is a popular second bike or urban warrior in the UK. If you’re thinking of bank/jewellery heist and eyeing up a getaway vehicle, then look no further than a Hyper’. The strongest markets are Austria, Switzerland and any other countries that feature mountain roads. Blighty is bereft of Tarmac that allows the Hypermotard to truly thrive but that shouldn’t discourage from a belting bike, and I can guarantee instant fun factor.

Priced at £9,995, the base model is decent value for money in the current climate. The SP’s price will deter some interested parties at £12,595, ensuring it’s a lavish toy, but a sexy, naughty, Italian toy that doesn’t like cuddles. The 939’s press kit and subsequent photography is saturated with wheelies, skids, burnouts, backing-in, and general dicking about. And all this perfectly encapsulates the Hypermotard. Because 200bhp is boring…

 

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Engine: The 939 is actually 937cc. A reworked Testastretta 11° motor features new pistons, rods and crank, plus an oil cooler and increased compression ratio, and Ducati claim 113bhp @ 9,000rpm. Juices are fed via ride-by-wire and 52mm throttle bodies that are retained from the 821. A slipper clutch makes downshifting bloody sexual in any environment. As with every other Testastretta lump, the Hypermotard’s engine brags service intervals of 30,000km/18,000 miles.

Chassis: The motor is housed in a steel trellis frame (what else?) with 25.5° of rake and 104mm trail. As you’d expect from a motard, the 939 has a lengthy wheelbase of 1500mm. The stock version comes rolling on Sachs suspension, while the SP boasts Öhlins.

Electronics: The Hyper’ comes with Ducati’s Safety Pack, which, as the name suggests, is more about safety than performance enhancing electronics. There’s traction control, ABS but no quickshifter. We’d like a quickshifter, specifically on the SP. Both versions come with three rider modes: the stock model offers ‘Sport’, ‘Touring’ and ‘Urban.’ The SP has racier options of ‘Race’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Wet.’ There’s the addition of a gear indicator and LED indicators integrated into the handguards after listening to previous customers’ qualms.

 

 

Bonus: did you know there is actually more than one Hypermotard in the world? And did you know that isolated incidents occur with every manufacturer and every model? Having engaged with numerous owners over the course of the launch, we understand many of you have revelled in a painless tenure. The only issues we experienced on the launch (and, come to think of it, before the launch) were a few of crashes on greasy roads.