Initially, when the Ducati Supersport S was announced at EIMCA in 2016 it filled me with joy, at the prospect of a sporty Ducati suitable for taking to the track, for a Sunday hoon, but also to go touring around Scotland, the Alps or wherever else might take your fancy. Plus it was affordable to a mere mortal. Sounds good so far right? Even better when you remember Ducati don’t do half measures or even singles. So the Supersport sounded promising from the off.
The ideal would be a decaf espresso coffee. It still needs to have that distinct flavour and taste of a standard espresso, but it won’t be keeping you awake all night after you have had two or three…(While writing articles about Ducati).
So to translate that back from coffee to motorbikes, we still want the styling, the power and speed of a Panigale, albeit not 200 barking mad horsepower trying to kick you off everywhere, but tuned down to somewhere around the 160ish marker (similar to its “rivals”). Also, a slightly comfier riding position, a larger fuel tank for those wishing to tour and a comfy pillion seat for one’s passenger all would be very welcome.
Now Ducati already manufactures Panigale in smaller displacement and horsepower figures, 899, 959, 1199 and 1299, but they still have the sportbike riding position, which can be uncomfortable for some riders on a longer distance. Being young, stupid and short, comfort isn’t really a problem or priority for me, but for a taller or older gentleman/lady, a more upright position would be handy. For a second imagine all of the above points paired with, a successful chassis (based on the Monster), a comfy riding position combined with a gadget-packed and tinkered engine and electronics package, it sounds like a decent bike to me. However, I was bitterly disappointed when the Supersport was launched with only 113 horsepower. Despite the initial disappointment it quickly fades away when all the other talked about points was met, and exceeded, although it is still slightly disheartening contemplating the “lack” of power until you think about it more, we shall talk about the power further down.
I managed to bag myself a ride of a demo Supersport S. It was going to be my first ride of a Ducati. Ideally, I would have loved my first Ducati experience to have been on a 916, but not all wishes come true, one day though(If anybody knows anybody with one, I would really really like to borrow it!). We shall start with the looks. The bike looks stunning from all angles, It is styled along the lines of a Panigale, which itself makes jaws hit the floor and puddles of drool everywhere, there are some subtle differences like the higher and adjustable windscreen. The visible trellis frame gives yet, even more, wow factor and the Supersport S gets yet more sporty looks over the standard Supersport with the addition of a removable rear seat cowl.
Single sided swingarms are another stroke of design genius and are guaranteed to look sexy, on any bike, but the main talking point on this bikes styling is the standard shotgun style exhausts. These exhausts are one of the only exhausts from the past few years which I find tolerable in standard form. Designers have been forced to cut down noise and emissions over the past few years, leading to huge catalytic converter boxes and silencers which look ghastly. This shotgun arrangement looks stunning, and even better Akrapovic do aftermarket systems to raise the decibels up a tad too if the standard bark isn’t enough. The standard can still produces a good sounding note, it booms, growls and grunts away very happily with the standard burble associated with twins. The only thing that really lets the styling down is the rear number plate bracket. Not Ducati’s fault at all, bikes have to meet regulations when sold, but a tail tidy would be at the top of the list of first buys, once the bike was delivered to me.
When it comes to chassis, it uses a similar steel trellis frame design to the Monster. The monster has been evolving for donkey’s years, with each revision getting better and better. Couple the tried and tested chassis with quality components such as Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 tyres, Brembo brakes and Ohlins front, and Sachs rear suspension and I’m salivating even more. All these quality components, with a great electronics package, (LCD Dash, Quickshifter and adjustable rider modes) for £13k? I scratched at the sign for a second just to make sure there was no error. There wasn’t.
I borrowed a Supersport S and went for a little B road blast, around the Staffordshire countryside. The bikes handling is great. Light and agile enough for town work, but really positive and flickable when out on rural roads. The clutch has a great feel and makes filtering through the standstill rush hour traffic easy, but once out of the town it’s not really used and the quickshifter takes most of the abuse. The raised handlebars allow great input through them and coupled with the quality suspension and tyres it feels very safe and predictable. The adjustable front screen allows for various levels of protection from wind, it was good for me, but I am small so it might not stretch tall enough for a taller rider to provide full protection.
Weirdly at the start of this article I wasn’t happy with “only 113Hp”. The engine is based on the 950 Hypermotard, and everybody knows how wheelie happy they are. A few tweeks to the engine and fueling, from the hypermotard version, makes it ride sportier, with the torque less peaky throughout the rev range. Now we all know that with that the 113hp power figure it’s not going to be breaking any land speed records, but it feels quick for what it has. The torque produced fires you through traffic making overtaking easy and the 6-speed gearing is positive and perfectly sized and the bike really doesn’t struggle at all when out on the road. I found it was easier to overtake in the mid-range, as it felt like it did slightly run out of puff higher up.
The only slight negative I have is that I’m not the biggest fan of twins. This is not anything about this twin in particular, but twins in general. I’m just not a big fan of the lumpiness and vibrations that are associated with them, but I do love the twin soundtrack. On the Supersport S the vibrations are very apparent through the mirrors as they like a good shake, but nothing worrying, and it only seems to be at lower rpms, when giving it some wellie, the mirror vibrations go away.
After riding it, less power comes as a bit of a relief. Being branded as a sports tourer bike, it still has enough poke to make very good progress, in good comfort. I don’t think I would have a problem doing a full few days riding on it. Enjoying myself at a steady pace, carving up slower traffic getting in the way It feels a very safe bet. It was a pleasant experience to be able to go out and ride without having to worry every second about what the bike was going to do. Is the front going to slip, is it going to catapult me into the hedge when I throttle on out of the corner? It allowed me just to chill out more and enjoy the ride, perfect for a touring bike. The suspension is soft enough to soak up bumps, cats eyes and other debris in the road, but the also firm enough not to feel lazy and it still feels pretty sporty considering it having the word tourer in the product description. I would actually love to get it set up, properly to me and give it a good go on a short circuit. The L twin engine growls and burbles away happily, and out of the corners, gear changes are effortless going up and down the box with the quick-shifter. The quickshifter did need to be manhandled a little bit more than I would have liked, but it really wasn’t a problem.
I didn’t take the Supersport S on track, but I know that the California Superbike school ran these in 2017 as student bikes, with quite a few people I know doing a CSS day on one, and complimenting how good the bike was. Ducati claims the bike will lean to 48 degrees before any ground contact so that is another big plus point, for people who also want to use it on track, which it feels very capable of.
Information is given through a very clear and concise LCD display and the startup sequence for it its great! It lights up like Blackpool illuminations upon startup and also has multimedia ready features allowing bluetooth pairing once accessories are plugged in. Speaking of other accessories, heated grips are available and lots of sexy carbon fibre (who doesn’t love carbon?), a touring pack from Ducati is available too for those wanting to dip their toes into the water. Soft panniers, low and comfort seats and magnetic tank bags are all available options.
Now on my demo ride, I didn’t manage to cover a great distance, so I can’t really confirm what it was like on juice, but Ducati are claiming 150 miles to the 16 litre tank. That’s a good range, for a tourerey style sporty bike. The main question is could I own one myself? £13,000 for it in white, or £200 less for red, this is a good price for a Ducati that looks this good and rides this well.
I do just wish it had more power, although it doesn’t really need it I think I’m being picky, and still haven’t got out of my immature sportbike phase.
Overall it’s a very nice place to be. The soundtrack burbles away happily, it handles extremely well and the front screen provides more wind cover than you expect from looking at it. The only problem I have is that I am struggling slightly to understand the target market. It’s not a sports bike, and it’s not a full blown tourer, it’s like a half and half, perfect if you want to do some touring but no get lumbered with a full touring bike for the other 50 weeks of the year. Going to a trackday, you would pick a panigale, going on a long tour, you would pick a multistrada, posing around town you would pick a scrambler or a monster. If you were to be mixing it up with abit of all three then shis bike should surely be on the list of considerations. These are of course stereotypes, but I’m still unsure what stereotype fits this bike, there are so many prospective buyers. For me, one of the most important questions would be, would I as a young sports bike mad twenty something ride one? Yes, I think I could manage it. From only having a short amount of time to get used to it the Supersport S feels very positive and leaves a very good lasting impression. I would love to spend more time on one and cover some more distance and try to find some faults in the bike, if there are any to find. It ticks pretty much every box, (apart from the small fuel tank being its only let down ), it is pretty on the eye, it is pretty on the ears, it is a happy place to be seated while riding and probably the most important sense of all, it is easy going on the wallet. Overall I think this is a very good addition to the Ducati range, and I can foresee it being a very good seller.