REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

Motorcyclists are strange creatures. While many purport to be individualists, “creating their own path,” as it were, it is common to spot trends amongst the brethren, with a certain similarity in choice of machine. A case in point is the “sports-touring” segment, where travelling around on two wheels comes with its own intrinsic attraction.

However, there has been, over the past decade or so, a definite schism in the motorcycle world, when it comes to sports-tourers. When you say “touring” in a motorcycle context, these days, most will tend to think of an adventure machine with aluminium hard cases, long travel suspension and oversized fuel tank capable of crossing the Western Sahara.

Never mind that 95% of these adventure bikes never see a surface rougher than the road shoulder when the rider stops for a smoke, or the scratches on the bash plate came from a mechanics spanner. If you’re one of the 5%, congratulations, and happy trails, but for some riders, sports-touring means exactly that, fast road riding from destination to destination, on sealed pavement, preferably at extra-legal speeds with lots of twisty bits thrown in.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

While most manufacturers do indeed have a road-biased sports-tourer in the line-up, perhaps the greatest of them all was the Ducati 900 SS of the 90s, one of the best iterations of the air-cooled Desmodue engine. Fast forward to the present time, and someone in Borgo Panigale, blessed be his or her name, decided that the Testastretta 11 engine needed a new home, and the 2017 Ducati SuperSport was born.

Retailing as it does at RM80,899, with the ‘S’ version going for an additional RM8,000, the Supersport looks to be a multi-role sports bike, equally at home on track or highway, or just doing the daily commute. So, when Ducati asked if we wanted to take the SuperSport S for a spin, we grabbed the keys from their hands faster than you could say “spaghetti bolognese.”

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

The great affair of a motorcycle is to be on the move, to travel, and for the author in particular, a motorcycle performs best when it does well in a multitude of roles. The Supersport S we reviewed, from the spec sheet, has been termed by some as a Monster with a fairing or, in our point of view, a tamed Panigale.

At the first approach, the Supersport S certainly looks the part of a fast, sleek, highway machine. The fairing takes hints of the Panigale 959 and puts a subtly different twist on things, being less racer-ish, and more biased towards the sensibilities of road riding.

As befits a bike targeted towards the road-going rider, the riding position is very much less extreme than the Panigale, with the bars now installed in risers above the triple crown, and the foot pegs set a little further forward and downward.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

This exerts less pressure on the rider’s posture, and for the, shall we say, senior rider, not having your knees bent so far back is very much welcome. The seat itself, located 810 mm above the ground, allows most riders to put a foot down with confidence and is nicely padded in the rear portion, much more so than the Panigale.

Carrying the same 937 cc Testastretta 11 V-twin found in Ducati’s Hypermotard series machines, the Supersport S puts out a claimed 110 hp at 9,000 rpm and 93 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm. Compared against the Hypermotard which puts out the same power but 95 Nm of torque at 7,500 rpm, it is obvious the SuperSport has peak torque a little lower down the range.

This will help in roll-on acceleration, and quick overtaking, especially when riding two-up and loaded with baggage. We can tell you for a fact the SuperSport feels less frenetic in the engine room than the Hypermotard, which prefers to have its front wheel up in the air every time the throttle is whacked open.

So, what’s the SuperSport S like to ride? Thumbing the starter button brings the engine to life with that “will-it-won’t-it” rumble, before starting with, well, that trademark Ducati roar is missing, and to bring it back you’ll need the Akrapovic exhaust from the Ducati Performance catalogue.

You can safely assume that the price will be heart stopping, going by the Ringgit’s depreciation of late, but there is very little choice if you want the full aural ambience. As one of our riding buddies put it, “this bike is very quiet.”

Clicking the six-speed gearbox into first, there was that customary “clunk” from the cogs being engaged. Some might say this is a Ducati idiosyncrasy, but while we might tolerate it from a dry clutch equipped Desmoquattro mill, on a street going machine with touring sensibilities, we expected a little more refinement.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

This is relative though, as we took the SuperSport S through the paces. The Supersport S is certainly easier to ride than the Panigale, more refined than the Monster and less edgy than the Hypermotard. The ride-by-wire throttle helped in this respect, making power delivery a muted affair in “urban” mode.

Switching the ride mode to “Sport” made the engine come alive, and things happened a little more quickly. This made riding the Supersport S up the mountain immense fun, despite having our twelve year old pillion on the back, chasing a Panigale 959 round the corners, heeled well over.

This is what makes Ducati’s stand out, and why the SuperSport puts the “sports” back in sports-touring. The handling on the SuperSport S is impeccable, smoothing out road imperfections and making cornering an exercise in rider confidence.

Choose a line, lean the SuperSport over, and trust in the riding aids. Try as we might, we could not upset the SuperSport’s poise and confidence in corners.

In this respect, few manufacturers can hold a candle to Ducati, when it comes to bike handling. The SuperSport S has adjustable 43 mm Ohlins forks in front, and an adjustable Ohlins unit at the back. The base SuperSport makes do with Marzocchi and Sachs front and rear.

This goes a long way to explaining the Supersport S’ handling prowess, and there was nothing we could find to fault the handling, which, for a 210 kg (wet) machine, was nothing short of awesome. We would definitely feel comfortable taking the SuperSport S to the track, and ride it in anger, that is how capable the suspension is.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

So, Ducati was not just boasting that you could take a SuperSport anywhere there is a paved road. Heeled over with the knee skimming the tarmac or sitting upright and mile-munching on the highway, the SuperSport handles many roles with aplomb.

On the braking side of things, we had nothing to say, mainly because, Brembo. Running with M4-32s in front, braking was a single-finger affair, two if you have a pillion on the back. Otherwise, nothing more was needed, or asked for.

Charging down the highway on the SuperSport S, the ride was stable, and very compliant. Riding over speed strakes just before the corners showed a slight thump coming through the bars, but otherwise the bike stayed composed.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

There was a certain amount of rebound stiffness, but the compression damping was spot-on for the author. If you purchase the S version of the SuperSport, take some time to get to know the bike and dial-in the Ohlins suspension to suit.

We do have a feeling that the standard suspension settings will work for most riders, with only the dedicated fast road rider or track day addict needing to adjust settings. In any case, your mileage may vary, based on your riding style.

Those are the good things about the SuperSport S, and here’s the bad news. While we understand that due the the placement of the engine, V-twins will tend to have one cylinder nestled between the rider’s legs, there was enough heat coming off the rear cylinder to give a slow roast to the rider’s left thigh.

There was no issue when the SuperSport was on the move, but at standstill, and in slow traffic, the rear cylinder was radiating enough heat for us to wonder if we were riding an oven set on gas mark four. The heat was there, it was bothersome and if we were to add the SuperSport to the stable, we would have to think about adding some sort of insulation to the underside of the seat.

In all other respects, the SuperSport delivered exactly what it said on the box, and the rider accommodations inside the cockpit, with its two-position manually adjustable screen, were quite complete. There were a couple of items we felt were not fitting for a motorcycle of this calibre though, especially from a much lauded brand like Ducati.

One was the monochrome LCD screen, which, while clear and legible, we felt was out of place, especially for an ‘S’ version. Leave the base model with a single-colour screen, by all means, but at least put in a full colour TFT-LCD for an up range model.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

The other thing was the side stand, which performed well, for a side stand, keeping the SuperSport upright and stable at rest. Now, readers might say we’re nit-picking here, but a Ducati with a stamped and welded steel kick-stand? We expected more, especially from Ducati, at least a cast alloy item, like on the Panigale 959.

The thing about sports motorcycles at the premium level, where Ducati is currently king, it’s the little details that come back to bite you in the arse. In this instance, we can understand wanting to save costs, and passing the savings back to the consumer, but, in this arena, perception is king, and while the rider might not be all that fast, the bike has to look the part.

Aside from that, we did like the SuperSport for what it is, a fast, good handling motorcycle capable of travelling long distances without crippling the rider or demanding too much in terms of riding skill, notably when on the edge in corners. Our SuperSport S review unit, in Star Silk White, put us in mind of a NASA space capsule – we liked it – with the other colour option being Ducati Red.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

Differences between the base model SuperSport and the SuperSport S, aside from the aforementioned Ohlins suspension, is a removable rear seat cowl, that switches the SuperSport S between solo and pillion passenger duties. At an additional RM8,000 over the base model, we would say go straight to the S if you’re planning on purchasing, because the OEM buy-in price for the Ohlins is definitely way more than premium being asked.

Naturally, a comprehensive catalogue of performance parts, upgrades and carbon-fibre bling is available from Ducati Performance. One of the first things we would go for would be a performance exhaust of some sort, simply because the SuperSport as it stands currently sounds strangled.

So, who needs the 2017 Ducati SuperSport S at RM88,899, or the base model SuperSport at RM80,899, with prices including GST, but excluding road tax, insurance and registration? This might not be that difficult a question to answer.

REVIEW: Ducati SuperSport S – proper sports-tourer?

Any rider who does not want a full-on race machine like the 959 Panigale, or wants a Ducati with some wind protection but finds the Multistrada a little too tall and rich for the their blood, would do well to consider the SuperSport, if a Ducati is on the Christmas shopping list. Certainly, at just below RM90,000, the S model is something of a bargain, for a chance to own the Italian sports bike brand name.

While we hesitate to say this is not a bike for newbies, the SuperSport is best appreciated by the seasoned rider with many thousands of miles under his or her belt, and who understands that motorcycles are for riding and not showing off in front of the corner Bangsar coffee shop. As for the author, the SuperSport is a strong contender for inclusion into the stable.

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Mohan K Ramanujam

Coming with diverse and extensive experience in heavy engineering, Mohan enjoys making anything with wheels go fast, especially motorcycles. His weapon of choice is the Desmoquattro engine, and he has a penchant for anything with a dash of Italian design. Strangely enough, he insists he's a slow rider.



  • John Gagap on Nov 30, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    If we did not sell our MV Agusta for 1 Euro, we also will have a bike to compete with this Ducati

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
    • If we did not sell August, we wud still be bleeding like AMG today

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
      • 12yrsold on Dec 04, 2017 at 5:30 pm

        It is better to sell off unprofitable business than to bleed till death

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • kawansakit on Nov 30, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Looks more like sports bike (e.g er6f) than sport-tourer (e.g. kawa gtr) to me…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • youngun on Dec 01, 2017 at 11:51 am

    I’ve nothing to complain except the price… or maybe more accurate – MYR rate… …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Motor Image on Dec 03, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Got the chance to test ride my Friend SS(New purchase),Power wise is rather smooth and don’t expect performance of Panigale 959..Notice there is slightly slower 1st gear for dunno reason.Cruising on highways is a Breeze and riding posture is forgiving despite the sports bike position.Recommend for those retired sports bike rider who want something slightly relaxed but still fast tourer sportbike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • steve on Apr 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    The other difference between the base model and the S is that the S model has a quickshifter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • Tony C on Aug 05, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    The problem with this model as I see it, is that it inevitably involves a compromise, there are clearly better sports bikes and better adventure bikes. If, almost inconceivably as a one-bike owner you want exactly half the ability of a sports and half the ability of an adventure then this could be the bike for you; but I personally dont know anyone like that. This is reflected in the sales figures. Most people full predominantly in one camp or the other, in which case you probably wont appreciate the compromise. Even if you do want to enjoy a bike that has the handling and style characteristics of both bikes then buying 2 second-hand bike that full into the individual categories at the same total price is probably going to make you happier in the long run. I think the market for this type of bike is low.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

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