Last week at Intermot, Ducati unveiled a motorcycle that was emphatically missing from its range. The new SuperSport relies on sensible ergonomics, the Italians' signature sporty character, and Panigale heritage to cater for those who desire a Ducati sportbike with daily practicality for the least concessions.
Ride a Ducati Panigale down a busy city street and it'll bluntly illustrate how sporting standards like extreme power, aggressive brakes, stiff suspensions and arduous riding position make for the exact opposite of practical. There are indeed several models in Ducati's range to accommodate requirements like routine transport or touring; the Hypermotard, Monster and Multistrada families offer ample choices. The only problem is that lately the only Ducati with clip-ons available had to be a Panigale superbike, arguably the ultimate in uncompromising.
Actually, until a decade ago the SS – as in SuperSport – model family would offer viable alternatives in this direction, along with the sport touring ST series. Back in 2006, motorcycles like the air-cooled 800SS, the DesmoTre (three-valve) ST3 and the 996-powered ST4 were the last Ducatis to combine superbike looks with real-world practicality, adorned with genuine sport performance and feel, without costing an arm and a leg.
An almost full decade without a sport touring or lightweight sports Ducati in the market ended at the 2016 Intermot show with a new Supersport model, once again based on race-proven superbike tech, but tuned and equipped for the road rather than the race track. With air-cooled engines all but extinct from its line-up, Ducati based the new model on the 937 cc version of the Testastretta V-twin as used in the Hypermotard 939.
Producing 113 hp (84.3 kW) at 9,000 rpm and 96.7 Nm (71.2 lb-ft) at 6,500 rpm, the 90-degree V2 engine sounds anything but intimidating. It may be a proud member of the Testastretta L-twin family (90-degree V-twin in Ducati lingo), but it's also everything its superbike siblings aren't; 80 percent of the torque is available at 3,000 rpm and its top end is Panigale's mid-range on the tacho.
Built around a new chassis that effectively consists of two sub-frames and a single-sided aluminum swingarm bolted on both ends of the engine, the SuperSport weighs 210 kg (463 lb) with a full 16-liter fuel tank –roughly the curb weight of all modern superbikes.
Ducati offers the new model in two versions; the standard and the S, with very few differences separating them. Both will be equipped with a basic set of electronics, namely the Ducati Safety Pack that includes a three-way adjustable Bosch 9MP ABS and eight-level traction control. The engine's performance is regulated via the Ducati Riding Modes, offering three different modes – Sport, Touring and Urban – with preset ABS and traction control values that can also be customized at will.
The first two modes release the full 113-hp potential of the motor, with the Touring setting allowing for more progressive power delivery and more intrusive adjustments for the safety systems than the Sport. On the other hand, the Urban mode restricts maximum power to 75 ponies, throttle response is even lazier and safety systems are set to maximum.
Both SuperSport versions stop courtesy of Brembo, pairing the Monobloc M4-32 radial four-piston calipers with the PR18/19 radial pump. The basic model's suspensions include fully adjustable 43-mm inverted Marzocchi forks and a Sachs rear monoshock with progressive linkage, adjustable for preload and rebound. As for the S, abiding to Ducati's longtime strategy, it comes equipped at both ends with a fully adjustable Öhlins set.
The only other piece of equipment that sets apart the two SuperSport versions is the addition of a digital quickshifter to the S. Other than these, the two motorcycles share the very same specs and features – with the suspension and shifter options available to retrofit to the basic model as well. The standard SuperSport will be available in red with dark grey at the lower part of the fairing, while the S comes in two color variants: a full red and a white.
The new Ducati SuperSport is scheduled to hit the market around March or April 2017. In Europe the price tag settles around the €13,000 (US$14,400) mark for the basic model and €15,000 ($16,600) for the S – with variations from country to country.