The 2013 model years brings not only a new motorcycle to the Ducati line, but an effort by the company to offer their fans and buyers a new kind of riding experience.
The legendary Bologna-based company intends the new Hyperstrada to serve as its long range touring bike – a European style road machine meant for long trips along any course from a winding mountain road to a major city carriageway.
To introduce its new machine, Ducati invited motorcycle journalists for a three day ride through Tuscany and some of the most famous motoring roads in the world. It’s safe to say that anyone who’s seen a television commercial anywhere featuring an elite foreign automobile make has seen the rolling hills, mountains and lush fields of the very same Northern Italy passages.
Beginning at the Albergo Le Terme Hotel and Spa in Bagno Vignoni, Ducati led a parade of writers turned riders through a challenging, winding route up to the Renaissance era mountaintop town of Montepulciano – home of the Noble Grape and some of the finest wine in the world.
While undoubtedly most famous for performance sports bikes like the Monster, the Diavel and the Panagale, the Italian icon has mixed in some more street-friendly rides already – including the Multistrada and the Streetfighter.
The new Hyperstrada is aimed squarely away from the track and toward the longer trip or the journey of purpose. Equipped with Anti-Lock Brakes, a windshield, dual side bags and a rear seat to host a passenger comfortably, this bike lets the Diavels and the 848s do the fancy straight speed work while it gets about the business of taking passengers to farther away places.
The ergonomics are more reminiscent of a dirt bike position than the chest forward seating of Ducati’s sports rides. While more comfortable over a longer ride than the classic crotch rocket pose, it might still be a strain on the lower back and legs to ride the Hyperstrada over more than 200 miles per run. The touring bikes offered up by Harley-Davidson, Star and Honda utilize the traditional straight up and down/legs forward positioning for a reason. It’s simply more comfortable.
The Hyperstrada's grand tour breeding doesn’t mean this new Ducati doesn’t share a little DNA with its maker’s predilection for speed. With a six speed transmission and an 821 cc, Testastretta L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled engine putting out 110 horsepower, the bike has ample kick.
Ducati also stripped out weight at every opportunity to create what is easily the lightest touring class motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. That lack of weight brings a bit of extra responsibility to the rider. When you keep that weight down on a midsize motorcycle while keeping the acceleration and torque, the bike can become a challenge to ride. Highly maneuverable and very sensitive to shifts in balance in turns, the bike will be a test for less experienced riders – no doubt seeming a little twitchy.
The entirely “ride by wire” bike’s technology provides immediate and sensitive throttle response. Any touring rider more accustomed to the feel of a cable throttle should take it a little slow out of the gate until he or she gets a feel for the Hyperstrada’s eagerness.
To bring all of this engineering and technology to a stop, Ducati fitted 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Monobloc Brembo brakes. The hand brake grab is sticky and reassuring, The Hyperstrada may seem touchy at first ride, but it’ll stop on a Euro when needed.
Once the journalists reached a comfort level with Ducati’s newest creations, a friendly divide amongst the media demonstrated the Hyperstrada’s road-going versatility. One set of riders wanted to test the motorcycle’s performance – pushing it to racing speeds on the hilly roads while chewing up the miles as quickly as possible. The bike’s excellent weight distribution, immediate acceleration and tight braking allowed the speedsters to tear from Montepulciano back to the hotel HQ double time.
The second gang wanted to enjoy the legendary views of Tuscany from the back of an excellent motorcycle, savoring the sort of views touring riders savor. These more contemplative bikers made use of the side bags (perfect for expensive camera equipment) and let the motorcycles technology guide them home after a day riding through the country.
Starting around $13,295, the 2013 Hyperstrada is considerably less expensive than the top of the line touring motorcycles from Ducati’s American and Japanese competitors. While it’s European sensibilities and rider positioning make it less comfortable than larger bikes for longer rides, its superior quickness and handling make it a more exciting option than traditional tourers.
In the end, it may all come to aesthetics and whether the discerning buyer wants to cruise Italian style.