What do you do when you're a motorcycle company that built its reputation on the performance and style of its hard-edged sport bikes and people start buying fewer hard-edged sport bikes?
In Ducati's case, one thing they did last year was expand the Multistrada line into true adventure territory with the Enduro. This year, the company has tapped the style and performance that made it famous and revised it for street use. The result is the SuperSport and SuperSport S.
The SuperSport's genetic lineage is clear, with its single-sided swingarm and that red fairing that combines just the right balance of curves and hard lines. But unlike the track-focused Panigales of today or the long series of race replicas dating back to the iconic 916 and beyond, the SuperSport makes some concessions to things like comfort and practicality. Like a riding position you can stand for longer than the length of a sprint race or when going slower than 10-10ths pace.
The power under the fairing is supplied by a version of the 937 cc twin found in the Hypermotard, but tuned differently. Ducati claims 113 horsepower. The electronics includes three riding modes (sport, touring, urban), Bosch ABS and Ducati's traction control. The SuperSport S upgrades to fully adjustable Ohlins suspension and the Ducati quickshifter for both up and downshifts.
Sounds a lot like other Ducati sport bikes, so far. But then you get to some features that aren't usually mentioned, such as a passenger seat big enough for someone over the age of 12, or passenger grab handles. The hand grips are above the top triple tree, putting the rider in a position suitable for actually getting to a distant location or navigating through congested urban traffic. The windscreen is adjustable. Valve adjustments aren't due until 18,000 miles.
In other words, if you're thinking a Ducati sport bike has to be a temperamental thoroughbred only suitable for running the Kentucky Derby and likely to get mean and kick your butt the other days of the week, then the minds behind the SuperSport would like to recalibrate your equine metaphors. This is still a speedy horse, but you can take it for a pleasant Sunday ride, as well as stampeding for the roses.
Claimed curb weight is 463 pounds, the tank holds 4.2 gallons of fuel to get you a respectable distance down the road if you are traveling and the standard sport-size tires give you a wide choice of sport or sport-touring rubber, depending on how you use your personal SuperSport.
Race replicas are still great fun on the track, but more and more riders, in various markets in the developed world, have come to the conclusion that sport bikes are not the best tool for the jobs of urban commuting, weekend trips and the occasional fun run with friends. You know, all the things we do dozens of times in between those track days. That's one reason sales of sport bikes are down.
That doesn't mean we don't appreciate the style, however. If the SuperSport can live up to its name and provide the sport-riding experience without the need for followup physical therapy after a day on the road, Ducati will have found a smart way for a sport bike company to navigate a less friendly market.