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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 First Ride

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
Ducati releases a milder, gentler Hypermotard for 2010. Welcome the $9995 Ducati Hypermotard 796.
It’s hard to believe that almost three years have passed since Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati released its original Hypermotard 1100 motorcycle. This machine created a new class in motorcycling—a mechanical and aesthetic fusion between the world of high-performance sportbikes and supermotos. Starting next year, Ducati expands the category with the introduction of the 2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796.
The 796 was designed to allow a wider range of motorcyclists to experience the unique thrill of a Hyper. To do this, engineers outfitted it with a friendlier powertrain including a smaller engine and easier-to-use clutch, decreased weight, different suspension components, and a lower seat. To see if Ducati got it right we traveled to its home in Borgo Panigale (an enclave of Bologna, Italy) to experience it in the adjacent foothills of this legendary motorcycling company.

Downsized Original?
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
(Top) The 796 gets an instrument display similar to the Streetfighter only it features orange backlighting. (Middle) Aside from the suspension and tires, it can be difficult to discern the differences between the Hypermotard 796 and the 1100. (Bottom) The 796 has mirrors that can be folded in based on rider preference.

Propulsion is provided by a redesigned L-Twin engine based off the unit used in the Monster 696. The engine utilizes the same 88mm bore but has an 8.8mm-longer stroke (now measuring 66mm total). Different pistons with a reshaped crown boost compression to 11.1:1. Other updated internals include the connecting rods, crankshaft, as well as the cases which are lighter and more compact. One of the key components that is still shared is the 696’s relatively low-tech 2-valve cylinder heads which use Ducati’s proprietary Desmodromic valve actuation system. Despite the engine actually growing, Ducati claims that this engine gets superior fuel mileage as compared to the 696 engine.
Fuel is pumped down from the 3.3-gallon plastic fuel tank into 45mm throttle bodies, each equipped with its own fuel-injector. Meanwhile, exhaust is purged through a 2-1-2 stainless-steel exhaust system and is expelled from Ducati’s signature twin under-tail mufflers. The exhaust uses a sculpted metal pre-silencer which also houses the catalytic convertor for Euro 3 emissions conformity. Furthermore each pipe is fitted with an oxygen sensor in order to help facilitate optimum engine fueling. A 6-speed transmission transfers power back to the rear wheel via a chain final drive, while a hydraulically operated APTC wet clutch with slipper-action functionality augments the gearbox.
The engine is hung within a steel frame of identical measurement as the 1100. The 796’s frame however benefits from a new forming process which reduces weight without compromising rigidity. Both the top and bottom fork clamps are also new. The clamps hold a new non-adjustable 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork. Above is a tapered aluminum handlebar. Rear suspension consists of a Sachs hydraulic shock absorber that moves through a linkage and connects to the aluminum single-sided swingarm. As opposed to the fork, the shock offers adjustment for spring preload and rebound damping. Lastly, the seat itself was shortened by 0.8 inches and now measures 32.5-inches from the ground.

The 796 rolls on similar-spec aluminum wheels as the 1100, measuring 3.5 x 17-inches up front and 5.5 x 17-inches at the rear. The rims are shod with Bridgestone BT-016 multi-compound tires in sizes 120/70 front and 180/55 rear. Brakes consist of twin 305mm rotors up front, which are controlled by radial-mount 4-piston Brembo calipers. The rear brake disc measures 245mm in diameter and is independently controlled by a twin-piston caliper. Stainless-steel brake lines front and rear complement the set-up.

Visually, it’s difficult to distinguish the 796 from the 1100 as the majority of its parts are shared including its plastic hand guards with integrated LED turn signals, flip-out mirrors, and LED taillight that glows brighter during braking. Aside from those components a keen eye will see the differences in suspension, tires, and belly exhaust pre-silencer, as well as the updated orange-backlit instrument panel as used on the Streetfighter (Learn more about it in the 2010 Ducati Streetfighter First Ride.) Likewise, it shares the same slim-line switchgear. Another subtle difference is the conventional box shape of the front brake and clutch master cylinder reservoir. All said and done, the 796 is claimed to weigh 27 lbs. less than the 1100, which means its curb weight should measure just over 400 lbs.

Entry-level Performance?
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
The hills surrounding Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory put a real emphasis on a bike’s low-speed maneuverability. Here the 796 didn’t disappoint.

On paper, the 796 has everything it takes to be classified as an entry-level motorcycle within Ducati’s model line-up. A lower 32.5-inch seat height, 803cc air-cooled engine, minimally adjustable suspension, and a price tag of $9,995. Although it is in fact not as sharp-edged as its larger displacement sibling, it isn’t what we’d exactly term a motorcycle for beginners.

Jump into the saddle and one will notice its hybrid seating position. It feels like a cross between the flat pinion of a sportbike and the narrow seat of a dirt bike. Yet it is clearly more aligned with the pavement realm. Equally as apparent is the lower position of the seat. The difference is two-fold: First, it allows a six-foot tall rider to plant both feet firmly on the ground. Second, it elevates the position of the handlebar slightly, which is well appreciated considering how awkwardly low it feels on the 1100. Even though the seat has been lowered it isn’t so much to make the cockpit feel cramped even for a taller rider. Wrap your fingers around the control levers and you’ll be able to adjust their position fore or aft in four increments. Sliding the red starter “trigger” up reveals the starter button. Press it and you’re off and running.
The 796’s APTC clutch makes the clutch lever feel almost weightless. Its first gear matches well allowing the rider to motor away from a stop easily with little clutch slippage. Twisting the throttle reveals an engine that churns out an impressive amount of power. It presents none of the lethargic qualities of the 696 mill, but at the same time it might be too robust for an inexperienced rider. The engine’s rough running manners at low rpm only exacerbates this and makes us wonder why Ducati motorcycles can’t run smoothly at low rpm. Keep the revs above 4000 however, and the engine shows none of the aforementioned characteristic, instead delivering a smooth, fat spread of power all the way to the top of the tachometer. Overall engine sound is throaty but we did hear an irritating metal vibration-type noise that sounded like it was being emitted from the pre-silencer. 
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
Although we appreciated the 796’s overall suspension balance front-to-rear it could be significantly improved with even more initial damping front and rear.
Shorter final-drive gearing assists the bike in gaining momentum fast. Unfortunately, its transmission lacks the precision of its Japanese rivals plus it’s almost impossible to find neutral at a stop. Based on previous experience, however, the gears feel like they move more freely after break-in. Despite the clutch offering an extremely light lever pull, we weren’t wowed by the vague feel when the clutch is engaged aggressively or by the ineffectiveness of the “slipper-action” clutch.

The foothills to the south of the Ducati factory put a real premium on a nimble-handling motorcycle and it is here that the 796 really shines. As soon as you even think about changing directions, the bike is already there. Yet its handling manners are neutral and the bike never turns more or less than what the rider inputs. Equally as pleasing is how stable the chassis is, especially considering how softly sprung both the fork and shock are. An elevated pace will cause the rearend to G-out and drag hard parts. Yet, despite the undersprung spring rates, the overall balance front-to-rear is a massive improvement over the 1100.

Although the fork offers zero adjustability, we actually prefer the stock-for-stock damping characteristics of the 796’s fork as compared to the adjustable one found on the 1100. Specifically it offers slightly more initial damping and significantly more return damping. Granted you can achieve a similar set-up with the adjustable unit but you have to literally close the compression and rebound damping circuits to do so. The shock on the other hand offers adjustment for spring preload and rebound damping, but we didn’t have time to adjust it. Overall, the only complaint we have with the suspension is that both ends still lack sufficient initial damping. For instance, whenever you slam open the throttle, the weight transfers rearward and the rearend instantly squats. Conversely, when you let off the throttle the weight instantly transfers forward and causes the frontend to dive excessively. If engineers could just dial in more initial damping front and rear we’d think they’d have a terrific overall package. Lastly, traction afforded by the stock Bridgestone tires is literally amazing especially when you consider just how dirty and wet some of the roads we encountered were.
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
The 796's seat height was lowered by 0.8 inches and it pays big dividends on the road.

We’ve never been a fan of the lower-spec non-monobloc Brembos that come on the base Hypermotard 1100 or 848 Superbike, but on the 796 they’re remarkable. No doubt the 796’s lowered terminal velocity and reduced unsprung weight tax the braking system less, nonetheless they are effective at quickly shedding speed while offering a confident lever feel. We also love how visible the instrumentation is and the high-tech feel of the handlebar mounted switch gear. While we really appreciate the flip-out mirrors, their outright functionality is questionable as they make it more prone for you to clip cars while slicing through traffic and the view they provide isn’t very clear.

A Better Hypermotard?

That depends. There’s no doubt that the Hypermotard 796 isn’t without fault. Its low rpm engine manners definitely could be improved upon, as could its suspension which lacks adequate damping through the top of suspension stroke. Then there is the weird exhaust vibration noise... 
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
The Hypermotard 796 is without question the ideal sport motorcycle around the tightest, most windy backroad you can find.
At the end of the day the most important single feature of the bike is that it’s a blast to ride. Even better is that Ducati has made its level of performance more accessible to all riders. Keep the rpms up and you’ll be amazed at how much power the engine cranks out. Conversely, its brakes are strong enough to keep you throughly entertained when slowing becomes a priority. The chassis confidently inhales tight, backroads like few other sport motorcycles, plus it looks awesome and can be mistaken for no other machine on the road. If you’re planning on doing trackdays or blasting around fast sections of roadway then you’re going to want the extra speed generated by the Hyper 1100. However, if your riding game takes place primarily in the city or on the tightest, sketchiest backroads you can find, than the 796 is the motorcycle for you.
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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 Specs
2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796
Engine: 803cc air-cooled L-Twin, 4-valve
Bore x Stroke: 88 x 66mm
Compression Ratio: 11.1:1
Fuel Delivery: Electronic fuel-injection
Clutch: APTC wet multi-plate, hydraulic actuation
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Steel-trellis
Front Suspension: Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork, non-adjustable; 6.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Sachs hydraulic shock absorber, spring preload and rebound damping adjustment; 5.6 in. travel
Front Brakes: Dual 305mm discs with radial-mount Brembo 4-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 245mm disc with Brembo twin-piston caliper
Front Tire: Bridgestone BT-016 120/70-17
Rear Tire: Bridgestone BT-016 180/55-17
Wheelbase: 57.3 in.
Length: 83.5 in.
Rake: 24 deg. Trail: 3.9 in.
Seat Height: 32.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.3 gal.
MSRP: $9995
Colors: Dark; White; Red
Warranty: Two years, unlimited mileage

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terry bull -ducati vergin  July 29, 2010 09:34 PM
I luv me ducati so much fun, only thing is im going threw tires so fast.tranny is perfect soft front end bottoms out some but hey stiffer springs ,and the motor is puuurfect,more power sure why not a bit,pipes mabye. all in all its super fun just like it is.a nor cal tam rider.
Daniel -Transmission What ? AADD ? YEAH i HEARD of that disease Automatic American Driver Deficiency  October 30, 2009 07:30 PM
I love to read americans complaining about transmissions with every machine... Let me guess You ride 'em big trux an a lil' chevy or a caddy all year round, then during the 60 days of best weather complain about a world winning precision transmission? Guess you're AADD victim... I drive manual machines all the time and find the Duc to be the best type of trans out there. Smooth isn't good for a transmission, You need to ''feel'' the engine and commands. But on a Big Truck with an automatic transmission you don't feel anything at all so i guess you get scared on the duc. Ciao
adam-motousa -haters...  October 29, 2009 05:56 PM
yellow astars boots are the shiznit my friends@! comfortable, sylish, and above all offer excellent protection in case of smash.
Steve -Yellow boots  October 20, 2009 09:11 PM
Yeah dude you need to turn in your man card if your gonna wear those things. Absolutely hideous
Switchback -Sounds like another FatDuc is in order  October 20, 2009 04:10 PM
... to fool the ECU into a richer fuel mixture. Works great on the 1100s to solve the low RPM stumble.
uh.. -power commander  October 20, 2009 12:00 PM
don't do a power commander on a newer duc. swap in a smaller countershaft sprocket, that'll help with the low-rev stalling and go with a ducati performance ecu if you're looking for power gains. Power commander = lots of $$ for little gains and lots of problems down the road. The newer closed-loop systems learn too fast for the power commanders that are out presently: DON'T DO IT!
adam-motousa -Superlight - Hyper 796  October 17, 2009 08:29 AM
right on superlight. i met 4-valve total--2-valver per cylinder all fix now.
Mxster -boots  October 17, 2009 05:59 AM
yea ditch the yellow boots man they ruined the pics lol
ttt -I want mine in RED  October 16, 2009 11:02 AM
there's my next bike! perfect for the NorCal mountain roads / goat trails.

Dennis -Stumbles below 4k  October 16, 2009 03:27 AM
Emissions boyz.......gotta pass emissions. Change to a power commander and all is well. I applaud Ducati, as well as other manufacturers not toning down the engines for emmisions. Easy fix. Pipes and commander = one sweet ride.
Eddy -Superlight  October 15, 2009 08:19 PM
"One of the key components that is still shared is the 696’s relatively low-tech 2-valve cylinder heads which use Ducati’s proprietary Desmodromic valve actuation system"

Superlight, you need to read the article more carefully!
Brian -Weight? Power? Ride?  October 15, 2009 03:19 PM
Where is the "meat" of this "ride" article? What are the power levels? What is the weight? Mpg? Sound? C'mon...this article lacks most of what riders are looking for (other than described ergonomics). This bike looks much more "Street Triple" than it does "motard" (More motard would help it because without it, it competes directly with the Street Triple...which will kill this thing).
milwaukee mike -yellow boots?  October 15, 2009 01:32 PM
Are they a requirement to ride such a horribly ugly motorcycle?
S3Pilot -Not so hyper  October 15, 2009 12:27 PM
Uh... $500 less will get you a Street Triple R that'll eat its lunch, go a lot farther on the extra 1.3 gallons of gas in the tank, and be more comfortable to boot. Now an 848 Streetfighter might be more interesting.
S3Pilot -Not so hyper  October 15, 2009 12:27 PM
Uh... $500 less will get you a Street Triple R that'll eat its lunch, go a lot farther on the extra 1.3 gallons of gas in the tank, and be more comfortable to boot. Now an 848 Streetfighter might be more interesting.
Stephen -796  October 15, 2009 11:02 AM
Very nice bike. I was kinda hoping they would have come out with a hypermotard around the 696 engine to make the price even lower. PS. Yellow boots did nothing for the pics. You are gonna look back on these one day and think, 'what was I thinkin?'.
Devil Machine -transmodromics  October 15, 2009 09:52 AM
I have owned a 750 monster for 9 years. I've put 50000 miles on it and the trans has ALWAYS been clunky. There simply is no such thing as finding neutral at a dead stop no matter how the trans has loosened up over the years. It just doesn't happen, so the solution is to find neutral while the bike is still rolling right before you come to a complete stop.

Transmissions have always been a stumbling point for Ducati. I don't think they'll ever be up to the smoothness of the Japanese. But I don't really care that much.

And Ducati already made a M796, except they only made it for about a year and they called it the M800.

Desmotull -Re: Hyper 796  October 15, 2009 06:51 AM
As for the transmission, remember that Ducati just stared outsourcing it's manufacturing to different shops, namely the engine lower end in the M696.
Dan the Canadian -Monster 796  October 15, 2009 06:41 AM
I'm wondering if we will ever see a Monster 796.....
Should be a better machine than the Hyper.......
Ben -MPG  October 15, 2009 05:21 AM
Nice right up but. I would like know what kind of fuel Mileage you got?? It only has a 3.3 gas tank.
Superlight -Hyper 796  October 15, 2009 05:07 AM
What 4-valve heads on a Ducati air-cooled engine? I don't think so. Your comments on the trans are interesting. I've owned four Ducatis over the past twenty years and each had a great transmission feel, including the ability to find neutral.