Simon and Kris have a spin on Ducati's mighty new Supersport - on the up-spec S edition with Ohlins. Review: Simon Harris, Kris Hodgson Images: Kris Hodgson
The SuperSport series has inspired many riders into the Ducati fold over generations. Its traditional approach to achieving speed through, tractable and relaxed power delivery, relative simplicity and high-quality chassis has remained.
For the most part… what went down in the early ‘70s as performance engineering has evolved massively 40 years on. Regardless, it is wonderful to see the “SS” back in the Ducati range after being undeservingly mothballed for years since launch of the “hypersports” bikes.
Is the new SuperSport like an old Super Sport? Certainly. Ducati have done a great job in applying the 937cc Testastretta 11° engine, culminating in a powerplant with super accessible power and torque that provides crisp response and a keen willingness to dig in.
Although the outputs may seem somewhat modest by current standards, the importance of how easily you can get to and apply the available power cannot be understated – it makes for a bike that may be faster than it feels.
You can also check out Jeff’s Road Test Video and technical breakdown on the Ducati Supersport S Here, and Launch Report and Video Here.
A well-mannered engine cannot do everything though and packaging it with a sweet combination of light and rigid chassis, excellent brakes and shortish wheelbase makes the overall offering both sing and dance.
This SS series though, is also bristling with tech and accoutrements that may have been thought anathema to its great grandfather. That said, the tech is there to make you safer, more confident, more comfortable, less fatigued and, therefore, likely faster; and it really works.
Engine management and electronics provide multiple performance modes, traction control, ride-by-wire throttle control and ABS, and the chassis provides adjustability for tailoring ride characteristics to new levels. There has not been an SS that is this comfortable, with highly agreeable ergonomics that really add gloss to the already lithe handling. There was no such thing in the old days, where Popeye arms were necessary. Neither was 30,000km valve servicing intervals.
Riding the SS requires little contemplation. Hop on and ride (it has a seat height that accommodates smaller sizes and is also very comfortable) as that motor was born willing and forgiving, then start exploring the handling and brakes deeper as you journey, because it’s natural to.
Enjoy the quick-shifter seamlessly stepping up gears width a nudge through gearbox but forget quick-downshifting – dig the blips and crackles from the twin exhaust instead. Hell yeah. There is provision for passenger and even a glam touring option with factory supplied panniers and tank-mounted lockup. In warmer climes, be wary of heat from the Testastretta.
As an average road punter, I think the new breed SS is very attractive, and at the current pricing is highly competitive on many levels. It feels great and sounds great and will provide many rewards without much risk of an arthritic lumbar and seized wrists.
Got to grimace over the wheelbarrow profile and the “semi-sports” pitching though. Being crusty with bad wrists and back, can I ask for heated hand-grips next year? Oh, you can get them already… the SuperSport is definitely dead. Long live the Supersport!
Ducati Supersport S: Second Opinion with Kris
Ducati’s SuperSport S looks the business from almost any angle and is truly Panigale inspired, but from that one wrong angle, that deep headlight and extended front fairing can seem a bit disproportionate. Of course looks are subjective and there’s normally something on any machine to nitpick. The S sees Ohlins fully adjustable suspension replace the Sachs standard items, with an up-down quickshifter and pillion cowl sweetening the deal.
The 937cc Testrastretta engine features a RbW throttle, and electronics are extensive, but simply managed through the three ride modes. The bike instantly feels like a Ducati, with low down L-twin chug, which coming from most other engine layouts can feel a bit disconcerting, and smoothens as the revs rise. Electronics have everything under control though, with smooth and torquey power delivery and a good throttle to engine response.
There’s times rolling off the throttle it can lose that smoothness, but you can also feel the electronics doing their thing to kind of pacify what’s going on. As you open the throttle further however the bike really comes to life, and while you could commute on the SuperSport, it’s the traffic-free ride and open roads where it really excels and rewards.
My one caveat to commuting is there’s a lot of heat being generated, and riding the bike through Sydney even with good traffic, each stop at a light sees temperatures rise, before the fans kick in, and you do feel that heat even in full boots and motorcycle jeans. I can’t see it being noticed in leathers, but in more casual gear, especially in warmer weather and traffic, you will.
Finding neutral can also be a little bit of a challenge, although the up-down quickshifter handles changing duties extremely well, with only really low rpm use, where you should be using the clutch, occasionally causing a less smooth quickshift. It’s a cable operated clutch and light enough not to be noteworthy, in other words it’s great.
Ergonomics are extremely comfortable, with tall ‘bars, a reasonable stretch to the ‘pegs and good wind protection from the relatively small screen. The dash is easy to read, while mirror vibrations ensure you kind of know what’s behind you, but won’t be picking out any undercover police vehicles. Apart from the vibes there’s plenty of room for adjustment on the mirrors though, which is good.
Below 70km/h I found the suspension rough when we hit typical Australian road surfaces, while past this point it really smoothened out and became super enjoyable through the sweepers, which is more typical of the Ohlin’s systems – the harder you push the better they get. As Jeff mentioned in his video you really need to muscle the bike through the tighter stuff or it wasn’t happy. I couldn’t really get it to that happy point in this situation, but with full adjustability and being a bit lighter than Jeff and most riders, I’d say I was a fair way outside the intended setup.
The Brembo brake system is great, and backed by Bosch ABS, with nice bite on the rear and great strength on the front, with a proper Brembo radial master-cylinder fitted. Switchblocks on the ‘bars are also easy to use, although the mode switch/menu button sharing a function with the indicator cancel was a bit strange, especially when you then used an up/down toggle above it to then move through the menu or modes. Changing modes on the move does require the throttle to be closed but it’s easy enough.
One point of note also in the ‘bar area is how at full lock you’ll get your fingers caught between the tank and grip, which you can avoid by ensuring your thumb runs horizontally along the top of the grip in these situations. On the plus side, the upright seating positon does mean you’ve got some room to move and reposition your hands and arms.
Overall the SuperSport S is sexy, characterful and engaging to ride, and I can’t stress enough the need to go for a proper test ride if you’re interested. Going around the block in city traffic will not do this machine justice.
2018 Ducati Supersport S Specifications
Price: $19,990 (Red), $20,290 (White) + ORC
Claimed power: 81kW (113hp)@9000rpm
Claimed torque: 96.7Nm (71.3ft-lbs)@6500rpm
Kerb weight: 210kg
Fuel capacity: 16L
Engine: Testastretta II 11º L-twin, four-valves per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid-cooled, 937cc, 94 x 67.5mm bore x stroke, 12.6:1 compression, Continental EFI with 53mm throttle-bodies, RbW, two-into-one-into-two exhaust with alloy mufflers, Ride Modes, DQS, DTC
Gearbox: Six-speed, Up-Down QS (DQS)
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, hydraulic actuation, slipper clutch
Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame attached to engine cylinder-heads.
Rake: 24º Trail: 91mm
Suspension: Ohlins 48mm forks, fully adjustable, Ohlins shock, fully adjustable
Brakes: 320mm semi-floating rotors, Brembo M4 32 monoblock calipers, radial pump master-cylinder, ABS. 245mm rear rotor with two-piston caliper.
Wheels & Tyres: Y-Shaped 3-spoke light alloy wheels, 3.50 (f), 5.50 (r), Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 120/70-17 and 180/55-17 tyres.
Seat height: 810mm
Instruments: Full LCD dash.
Warranty: 24 months unlimited kilometer.
Maintenance: 15,000km service (30,000km valve clearance).
2018 Ducati Supersport S Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2018 Ducati Supersport S
Is the new Ducati Supersport like an old Supersport? Certainly. Ducati have done a great job in using the 937cc Testastretta 11° engine, culminating in a powerplant with super accessible power and torque that provides crisp response and a keen willingness to dig in, all wrapped in a stylish package, which on the S boasts some impressive features…