FIRST DRIVE: 2017 Ducati Supersport

It was July 4, 2016 when we first reported on a new model which had been previewed to an exclusive few ‘Ducatisti’ at World Ducati Week. Dubbed the “Supersport,” this new model promised to blend the best attributes of a sport bike and a standard bike, essentially promising to be the perfect road bike. However, as I said on that sunny July 4, “Bikes which have attempted to achieve this balance, in the past, have generally failed to do so. Often their attempt to be good for both comfort and sport riding, leads them to be rather sub-par at both. Thus, the new Supersport will either represent the absence of compromise, or it will be disappointing all around.” Now, more than ten months later, it was time to ascertain whether or not the Supersport could deliver on its promise.

Of course, the first thing which influences your opinion of a motorcycle, or even a car for that matter, is its aesthetic appeal. Though highly subjective, I find the Ducati Supersport to be very handsome, with its design drawing heavily from other Ducati models, particularly the Panigale in the front. Looks may not be everything, but we’re lying to ourselves if we assert that it isn’t important. Around the back, the design remains clean and outstanding. Particularly appealing to the eye is the use of a single-sided swing arm. The trellis frame, borrowed from the Monster, too lures the eyes, where it is exposed.

Upon mounting the bike, however, it was something which I could not observe with my eyes alone that struck me. The seat was surprisingly, very comfortable. Somehow both firm and forgiving. Having just ridden the 959 Panigale, this was especially appreciated. My eyes feasted on the dash display, the tall tank and the height of the handlebars. Identical to my initial impressions of the Supersport S, last December, I was impressed. The temperature outside was ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit, yet the bike was registering an engine oil temperature below two hundred, after running at idle for several minutes, and being revved as I familiarized myself with the throttle’s responsiveness. This too was a stark contrast to the Panigale, which had surpassed two hundred and twenty degrees during my ride, causing a burning sensation on my leg and leaving some redness.

The representatives at Ducati politely insisted that the bike be left in the preselected riding mode, in this instance that was “Touring.” Adding that this mode was ideal for the type of mixed road riding we’d encounter on our journey, a combination of busier main roads and more secluded, twisties. Prior to departure, I spent a moment further familiarizing myself with the bike, particularly the clutch engagement and the placement of and functionality of important buttons, like the turn signals. Now, just as traffic had begun to increase, we were ready to ride.

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Taking off, I noticed that the 937cc Testastretta motor, derived from the Hypermotard, enjoys being revved up to about three thousand rpm while pulling off. The clutch engaged very easily, and smoothly, perceptibly more refined than the Panigale’s hydraulic actuated clutch. Also, the clutch was noticeably lighter to disengage than the Panigale’s. The bike, despite weighing in at 463lbs wet, felt very light and maneuverable as we made our way around the parking lot, heading to our first stop sign. The bite of the Brembo brakes was ideal, and very predictable, inspiring confidence as we left for the open road.

Accelerating, it became apparent that this bike’s power delivery is far more similar to a naked than a sport bike, as power was ample and consistent throughout the entirety of the rev range. As you may or may not know, most sport bikes wake up roughly 3/4ths of the way through the rev range. Shifting up, into second gear, I noticed how very short the gear shifter traveled during shifts. Up again, into third, as we approached our first light. This time, as I brought the bike to a stop, I utilized the rear brake alone. I found it to be quite effective, even by itself.

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Through the turns, the Supersport really shines. Though it feels light and agile, its weight ensures that it also feels very planted to the road. Leaning it into tight, twisty turns is joyous, as the bike feels nearly as compliant as a true super sport bike at responsible speeds. The suspension is adequate for aggressive road use, though I think that it would be too soft for track use. Then again, this bike is made for the road, not the track. The softer suspension is welcomed on the uneven, pothole laden roads that are far too common. Whereas a sport bike is hardly bearable in such instances, the Supersport easily copes, which your neck and spine will appreciate. Under brisk acceleration and abrupt braking, the suspension can feel a tiny bit too soft, but it also exaggerates the sensation of both accelerating and braking.

The engine’s broader power band meant that more of the power was accessible in real world conditions. Hard acceleration in first gear leads the front wheel to depart from the tarmac, though the traction control is quick to step in and keep things from getting out of hand. The motor, in all of its glory, does have one glaring flaw, however, something which could potentially be somewhat mitigated by thicker handlebar grips and padded rearsets — egregious vibration. After just thirty minutes or so in the saddle, my hands began to tingle and my *cough* gentle bits began to feel a bit numb. Still, the grunt of the engine, and the noise it produced in combination with the bulbous stock exhaust canisters was intoxicating. Engine breaking was strong, just as I like it, and was accompanied by burbles emanating from the exhausts. In fact, another rider, riding a Hypermotard with a Termignoni exhaust, commented on how much louder the standard Supersport exhaust seemed in comparison.

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As we pulled back into the parking lot, as my ride was concluding, I thought to myself that I didn’t want it to end. Very dissimilar to my sentiments after riding my sport bike, for even a short period of time. Rather than exhausting or uncomfortable, it was invigorating. Yet, it was no less engaging or exciting. Dismounting the bike after turning the handlebars effortlessly, I couldn’t help but feel that the Ducati had indeed delivered on its promise.

[Instagram: @MikeAndHisBikes]