The Hypermotard has more ground clearance and an upgraded Ohlins suspension which felt more sport-rider friendly at speed on the street than the Buell.
Now, all fuelling aside here… in terms of outright street performance these bikes are very close. On one hand the Ducati, with its considerable advantage in ground clearance and upgraded Ohlins suspension, felt more sport-rider friendly at speed than the Buell. It’s more prone to bound easily through the sharp rises and crests inherent to the ultra-tight canyon roads while giving better feedback in the fast sweepers as well. In comparison, on the gnarly roads the softly-sprung Super TT suspension allowed the under-slung exhaust to get hammered over and over again. While the design is recognized for attributing to the bike’s excellent balance and centralized mass, that location is susceptible to bashing when the suspension experiences G-out or you come up short on a wheelie and a case it into the face of the next rise. Ride it easy and you won’t have to worry about any of that crap, but what fun would that be? When the big bumps aren’t a factor, then the field is much more level.
As mentioned earlier, the Ducati holds the advantage in stability at speed, but neither of these bikes are exactly stable. The riding position puts a lot of weight on the front wheel, which is a positive factor in slower, tighter stuff but causes both bikes to be susceptible to input from road surfaces at speed when combined with their aggressive steering geometry. Nowhere was this more evident than while mobbing along So Cal’s infamous 405 Freeway. Neither bike has an advantage over the other in this situation but both are a royal pain in the ass – a more toasty ass in the case of the undertail exhaust equipped Hypermotard.
“The Hypermotard is a hybrid mix of supermoto and sportbike. It is what you get when you pour equal amounts of each, blend and serve. Like the Super TT, the Hypermotard is distinctive and in a class of its own. Its seating position is a direct reflection of the half and half mix. The seat is tall, long and narrow, but the handlebars are very low, which, for me made it feel really strange out on the road,” says the scrappy six-foot tall Adam Waheed.
The tidy digital dash of the Hypermotard gets Hutch’s nod for fit and finish. Features like its lap time memory storage and injection system diagnostics helped tip the scales in its favor.
Ducati gets the nod of approval in overall fit and finish too. More attention has been paid to the fine details in the design of the Italian stallion, down to the supporting elements including the dash and switchgear. The tiny digital dash on the Duc includes a speedometer, tach, oil temp, oil pressure warning light, battery level, trip fuel, fuel reserve warning, injection system diagnostics, lap time memory storage, clock and it tracks the maintenance schedule (if you can figure out how to get to it all). This high tech gizmo is considerably more 21st Century in appearance than the Buell dash which features the standard data including an analog speedo and tach, digital odometer, dual trip meters along with an assortment of idiot lights. It does have a function that shows the miles traveled on reserve as well as an engine diagnostic indicator lamps and the all-important clock.
Switchgear on any Buell has often been a sore spot. The same goes for this bike. Compared to the Hyper gear, the Buell just looks dated. Then there’s the matter of the mirrors. Functionally, the traditional round units placed at the end of long stalks on the Buell offer a more useful view of things going on behind the bike, but the motor shakes them to the point of uselessness. In contrast, our test riders either love or hate the stylish flip-out Hypermotard mirrors. The good rear view is defeated by the motor vibration and while aesthetically pleasing seem to need constant adjustment. They also are not a good option when lane-splitting in So Cal as the combination of wide bars capped off by 6-inch mirrors brings a new meaning to riding by Braille.
Track Test: Horsethief Mile – Rosamond, Ca.
We couldn’t tear Adam out of the saddle of the Hypermotard at the Horsethief Mile while the Super TT grew on Jimmy Filice after dialing in the Buell.
Splash some gas into these fuel reservoirs and start burning off laps at your favorite race track and you’ll soon be forgiving Erik and Pierre for the error of their ways and embrace each artists’ unique motorcycles for what they do so right: Wail. It is quite a bit easier to climb on the Hypermotard and get up to speed than it is to assimilate to the Buell way though. All those lessons learned on the street are compounded when the constant higher speeds associated with track riding are thrown into the mix. Our most experienced test rider, Jimmy Filice, was dished a generous helping of crow when he conceded the Super TT was not in the same league as the Hyper after only his first session on the Buell, only to return to the pit following his second session praising the Super TT’s razor-sharp handling characteristics and gobs of power available to those willing to put the effort to keep it in the perfect gear and perfect RPM lap after lap. Jimmy would retract his premature speculation of the bug-eyed Buell.
“Once you get the hang of short shifting the Buell and figure out where the motor likes to be, I can actually feel faster on it than the Ducati,” said the three-time AMA 250 Grand Prix Champion. “The chassis is so well balanced and it’s so predictable when you are sliding the rear end that it reminds me of my old dirt tracker. I really like this bike, man.”
Jimmy knows a thing or two about hauling ass and his words of wisdom really sum up the Super TT because it is unique. The powerband is narrow, the gears are spaced out in such a way that it revs out quick in first through third. If it dips below the meat of the power though, it’s difficult to get back on the boil without a downshift – or two. The same goes for the Hypermotard to some extent, but the overrev and much wider available spread of power offered by the DS motor makes it easier to ride lazy on.
Although the short Horsethief Mile road course is often overlooked because it’s too short to be considered for any proper track testing by a few knuckleheads out there, we’ve found that it is a hell of a venue to put bikes like the 2008 Ducati Hypermotard through its paces.
“The engine actually has decent power if you know where to keep the RPM indicator in, and although the bike doesn’t really impress when ridden tamely, when the pace is upped and the rider starts to ride the TT in a more aggressive manner, the bike responds by giving the rider just what he asked for,” explains Heedy, our resident supermoto-fiend.
On either the track or street, the Hypermotard motor is the easy choice, but the Buell deserves credit for an equally entertaining performance. Sure, the air-cooled Ducati motor isn’t going to scare off many 848 riders but in its realm, in this class, it is a perfect match. Jimmy found it to be easy on all fronts, saying “it (Hypermotard) affords a margin for error when riding at the track. If you get tired, just leave it in third and it should be fine, it’s got the torque to pull it out of a hole.”