There is always a motorcycle that will inspire me to write or ride. Usually they are adventure or scrambler motorcycles. Every now and then, though, there is a different kind of motorcycle being the source of inspiration. The last time this happened, in 2012, the bike in question was the 2012 848 Streetfighter. It inspired me, I acquired it, it became an interesting detour in my riding style which culminated with my decision to get my 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak. I miss that yellow 848 Streetfighter.
Although I did not stay with that bike for too long, I had a great time with it. It turns out, one of my favorite shots of this bike is on the banner of this site, I like keeping it there even if it has nothing to do with the bikes I ride as a rule.
This winter has been exceptionally hard for me, work has been stressful and then there is the weather; I’m just looking out of the window of my office as I type these words, it is a Sunday morning, March 5th 2017, and it is snowing on my backyard.
I’m writing this post after having watched a wave of Youtube reviews on the new 2017 Ducati Supersport following its launch in Spain three weeks back. What is interesting about this motorcycle’s reviews is that just about everyone who rode this bike is telling the same story about it.
Was it the Ducati marketing spiel during the press meeting what influenced the reviewers’ opinions? Usually a well made presentation evens up the pitch, you can hear the reviewers regurgitating the same information they had just heard from manufacturer’s officials. On the other hand, perhaps these journalists and riders who had a chance to see it, ride it on road and on track, have all of them perceived it the same way, because that’s the way the bike really is.
The 2017 Supersport has distinctly and officially piqued my interest based on these reviews. On paper, it seems interesting as well. Now I need to see one and ride one to make my own mind about it. Meanwhile, there is no question, this bike has inspired me.
The 2017 Supersport brings back an evolved view of a Ducati tradition
I do not connect this new bike with its history, the history of the Super Sport line which eventually became Supersport, simply because that history occurred before my time and before my exposure to Ducati motorcycles. But it is an important historical and iconic motorcycle or line of motorcycles for Ducati.
The 1974 Super Sport model, the first of them, was the result of a confluence of important names in Ducati’s history: Paul Smart’s victory at the Imola 200 in 1971 on a 750 V-twin (the first series of V-twin motors), and the accounts of Fabio Taglioni’s interest in designing something more aggressive, culminating with the 1974 750 Super Sport. The result was a bike built around that first winning V-Twin motor, created for or responding to a new and growing group of riders, street riders interested in riding sporty motorcycles. And history tells us this bike represented a new chapter in the Ducati history books.
You may be interested in looking back at that significance of Paul Smart’s victory, Fabio Taglioni’s designs, and the concept of the Super Sport motorcycle, in case you are new to Ducati and have an interest on this bike. New Ducati owners, and I’m partly on this group, probably have today a completely different view of what Ducati is all about, which is very much representative of the brand’s evolution, where it is today after so many years of changes.
If you have an interest in the Ducati history, there’s plenty to read about the 70s, when the move from single cylinder to V-twin motors took place, it’s all over the internet, so I will not repeat that information and bother you with it here. However, in case you want to know more or refresh your memory about the Super Sport line of Ducati motorcycles I recommend you read a very recent historical review on these bikes by Bennetts which was written in anticipation of the launch of the 2017 Supersport
To summarize, this line of bikes has had several iterations with different levels of success. According to some, the bikes that followed the 1974 SS all remain in its shadow. Among the several Ducati business “ownerships” during so many years, Claudio Castiglioni (ownership period 1985-1996) changed this line’s name from Super Sport to Supersport.
Some say this change in the name was because the bike had become a tamer version of a super sport bike, which seems to characterize today’s interpretation of the Supersport, a tame, easy to ride motorcycle, according to the reviews following the launch.
And to complete this model’s story, 2006 was the last year a Supersport was produced until the 2017 model.
In those early 2000’s the Multistrada was a fresh new style, offered a type of riding that was experiencing growing popularity. The popularity of the Multistrada may have been what put the Supersport line into the sidelines, and also the Sport Touring line of motorcycles. I’m not certain about this, but it is a possible scenario to explain why Ducati ended the Supersport and also the Sport Touring lines. After all, the Multistrada is a multi-roads and styles motorcycle, with its four riding modes: sport, touring, urban and enduro, especially after the 2010 model.
Perhaps the day after those motorcycle lines ended (SS and ST) some Ducati fans were already asking Ducati to bring them back to the market. Instead, Ducati has broadened the Multistrada line which now has three main subgroups (1200, 1200 Enduro, and 950 models, aside from trim levels such as the “S” model and the Pikes Peak).
On the sport side of the equation, Ducati sharpened its sport offerings with the Panigale line which now comes in several versions as well distributed by displacement, purpose, trim levels, and special editions. These are very specialized, technical machines.
It seems as if a gap opened up on the line up, with on one end the multi-purpose machine around the Multistrada line, which does all things well, but with compromises here and there, or very serious, specialized sport machines with the Panigale line on the other end.
Ducati seems to have captured that missing gap, the Supersport and Sport Touring into one package, under the Supersport name. For some reviewers, the 2017 Supersport represents the return of the Sport Touring bikes, since it can be ordered with semi-rigid panniers, it comes with three-position adjustable windshield, more upright ergonomics for the rider, and a passenger seat. On the other hand, it obviously is Ducati’s answer for the requests for a Suportsport as well, a more subdued sport line of bikes, if at all, since Supersport is on the name of the bike.
The Multistrada is a good sport touring motorcycle, I know, I own one. But it lacks the sport line looks, a finesse in design and in behavior. And the Panigale line is something different, it has always been a family of precise, technical bikes for the track or for road riding, targeted to performance-oriented riders, and hence somewhat challenging to the public at large. Personally, I’ve never considered a Panigale a bike to own, except if I was a collector.
More than filling a gap, the 2017 Supersport opens the door for possibilities. I do think it will be a good seller.
What moves the Supersport
This bike has the same 937cc V-twin motor as the one on the Multistrada 950, the Hypermotard and Hyperstrada line. Ducati is quoted as saying the motor is different on the Supersport, however, with different crank, throttle bodies, and different heads as the motor is part of the motorcycle frame, similar to what happens on the Panigale.
The bike’s front end is similar to the Panigale line, beautiful indeed, contrasting with the rear end which is more rounded and could be better compared to the rear of the Monster.
The bike comes with Ducati’s “safety pack” with three levels of ABS (Bosch 9 series – not sure it includes the so-called “cornering” ABS), eight levels of traction control, and three riding modes (sport, touring and urban).
It comes in two trims, with the “S” bringing on the goodies such as fully adjustable Ohlins on both ends, up and down quick-shifter with throttle blip on the down shifting, an optional color (silk white besides the Ducati red) and a rear seat cowl.
The motor produces the same 113 hp found on the Multistrada 950 and Hypermotard/Hyperstrada although with slightly different torque specifications.
- Engine: Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
- Displacement: 937 cc
- Bore X stroke: 94 x 67.5
- Compression ratio: 12,6± 0.5 :1
- Power: 113 hp @ 9.000 RPM
- Torque: 71.3 lb-ft @ 6.500 RPM
This is not earth-shattering power, but the reviews seem to indicate it is enough for this bike.
So, what are journalists and reviewers saying about this bike?
It is interesting that journalists and reviewers seem to agree on the subjective experience about this motorcycle, on matters where usually people differ if not in direction, then on degree. And what they agree about resonates with what I’ve been wanting on a motorcycle since I sold my Streetfighter and started to enjoy street riding with my Tiger 800XC and Multistrada.
It took me a while to feel comfortable enough on the Multistrada to eventually make it go faster then my Tiger 800XC. Of course, the Multistrada is a much more competent motorcycle on the road, has better brakes, better suspension, a lot more power, but it is not as easy and fluid to manage as the Tiger 800 XC, with its slow but steady front end, linear fueling, fluidity of the three cylinder motor, short gears, and drama-free brakes (not efficient brakes, but easy to operate).
The Multistrada has required some getting used to, after two or three riding seasons, however, I was able to extract more of what it is all about and now it is my unambiguous choice when the plan is to reach the mountains and their curvy roads. It is much safer and faster than the Triumph. Please note, I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to road riding and I definitely do not extract all of what the Multistrada can deliver.
Going further back on my riding history, my 848 Streetfighter was a tame version of its Streetfighter S bigger brother, but it was still a raw motorcycle in my opinion. It had plenty of power for its size and a motor that really felt good when ridden aggressively. But it was rough on the edges, which I’m sure is great for aggressive riders, but that is not my case.
That’s where the Supersport comes into the conversation. Journalists have described the 2017 Ducati Supersport as a motorcycle that is easy to ride. The power, they claim, is in that sweet spot, not too much, just enough. They claim the bike’s handling is spot on, making it easy for anyone to extract more from what the bike can deliver.
Here are some quotes:
The bike is incredibly agile and easy to handle (…) It feels like a Ducati sport bike for the road, one that you can ride every day. Marc Potter, Bennetts
There are surely aging Ducati fans weary of superbike ergonomics but feel too young at heart for a touring bike. And Ducati thinks that there are sprightly newcomers who want Panigale looks without the terror of 160hp. Makes sense. (…) It’s a stately and venerable concept that deserves to be alive and well. Splits the difference between superbike and sport-tourer, true to the Ducati name. Zack Courts, Motorcyclist
The SuperSport lacks the outright aggression of a more focused bike like the Panigale 959, but on road and track it delivers a magic blend of composure, comfort and sporting agility. And it’s superb on the road; Ducati really has got the handling and ride feel spot-on because it fully delivers across the gamut of the riding and rider its aimed at. Simon Greenacre, Visordown
“Sport riding experience anywhere, anytime.” One of Ducati’s official line on this bike.
Will I buy this motorcycle?
My motorcycle budget for this year has already been topped off, so I know it will not happen this year. I did not purchase a motorcycle this year, but I did acquire something that will hopefully take me riding to different and more places this year, and which could actually be something to consider for a future purchase of a motorcycle such as the Supersport. More on that soon.
Having said that, there are three motorcycles on my “would like to own” short list and the Supersport is on this list. Of course, its permanence on this soft list will depend on my own perceptions of what people mean by the “comfort ergos” been talked about in reference to this bike and my take on its performance. I definitely want to ride it, who knows, I might like it too much.
I would certainly welcome an opportunity to better explore road riding – a job that was started by the 848 Streetfighter – with a machine that is suitable to my not so aggressive riding style, and has been filled by the Multistrada and the Tiger, while the adventure duties have fallen into the Rally Raid CB500X and the WR250R.
Thank you for reading!