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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 Review

Ditching Displacement for Net Gain

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

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2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796

Photo © Milagro

The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 is a feisty, big-engined supermoto with a sporty edge, but its $11,995 price tag (which jumps to $14,495 for the high spec 'S' model) puts it firmly into premium bike territory.

Ducati's sequel? The Hypermotard 796, which boasts a smaller engine, lighter weight, and an awfully tempting $9,995 MSRP. How does it compare to the 1100, and does it pack enough of a wallop to satisfy speed-hungry riders? We tested the bike in winding mountain roads near Bologna, Italy to find out.

The Goods: Carefully Managed Downsizing

I know what you're thinking: bigger is better, especially when it comes to motorcycle engines. And there's nothing wrong with that thought. But when displacement is thoughtfully reduced alongside weight, the results can be intriguing. Take the Ducati Hypermotard 796's new air-cooled L-twin Desmodromic 803 cc engine, which is barely three quarters the size of the 1078 cc powerplant found in the Hypermotard 1100. By keeping the compression ratio high (at 11.1:1) and revising the entire bottom end, it the 796 produces 81 horsepower-- only 9 horsepower less than its big-twin sibling. Torque drops to 55.7 lb-ft, but those changes also accompany an overall weight loss of 27 lbs which brings the Hypermotard 796's total mass to 368 lbs dry; pretty svelte, by any standard.

The weight loss is split evenly between the engine and chassis, which features 43 mm Marzocchi forks (lacking the 1100's adjustability), a rear trellis frame section that’s switched from forged components to precision machined parts, and various trimmed down bits including a new wiring harness. The mill is mated to an APTC wet clutch with a “slipper” function which interfaces with a six-speed transmission .

The new Hypermotard is also more user-friendly, thanks to a lower seat that now measures 32.5 inches. The 796 features the same 4-piston, radially-mounted front and 2-piston rear Brembo brakes, single-sided swingarm, and underseat-style exhaust layout as the 1100, as well as the model's signature handguard and flip-out mirrors.

Swing a Leg Over: Lower Seat, Cleaner Views

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796Photo © Ducati
The Hypermotard 796's saddle is .8 inches thinner, though the bike maintains its original road clearance. The seat is still 2.2 inches higher than the Monster 696's, but the 796's forward-positioned saddle is more user-friendly than the Hypermotard 1100's towering perch.

The cockpit view of the Hypermotard 796 has been cleaned up; instead of the unsightly master cylinder fluids seen from the Hypermotard 1100's saddle, the 796 boasts elegantly integrated black master cylinders mounted to a handlebar which is now tubular (compared to the 1100's tapered bar.) A small, orange backlit MotoGP-style instrument panel offers digital rpm, speed, and trip computer info, as well as the ability to memorize lap times.

While major ergonomic measurements are essentially the same as the 1100, the 796's lower seat height imbues it with more confidence-inspiring compactness. It still demands tippy-toes from shorter riders, but the lowered saddle is more reassuring, even if some comfort is compromised due to the reduced padding. Incidentally, an aftermarket "comfort seat" will be available for the 796.

A relatively upright riding position makes the Hypermotard well suited for urban traffic, and the bike's hand and foot controls are positioned naturally and comfortably-- though the lack of a windscreen makes the Hypermotard a less likely candidate for long distance rides.

On the Road: Slight but Sure-Footed

Fire up the Hypermotard 796, and its engine emits a more shallow exhaust note than the 1100S we previously tested... but we're told Ducatis tend to sound a bit meatier when they've accumulated more than 600 miles or so, and our bike had just under 200 miles on the clock.

Setting our sites on the Bolognese countryside, we flipped the kickstand up and immediately took note that the 796 feels remarkably light on its feet. The clutch operates with minimal effort, though the shifter is a touch notchy going into first. Thrust produced by twisting the right grip is considerable; it may not summon the absolute torque of the Hypermotard 1100, but the 796's combination of a broad powerband, light weight, and shorter gears makes it feel exceedingly fleet. Upshift early and you get none of the driveline chatter of the 1100, and all is forgotten with a slight slip of the clutch, which encourages the L-twin to accumulate momentum. The engine pulls strongly and the fuel mapping and power delivery are completely devoid of surprises-- except when rev limiter cuts in abruptly at 8,500 rpm.

Turns are even more entertaining on the 796; simply shift the bike's weight and lean with light handlebar effort, and the whole motorcycle becomes intuitively obedient to your input. Though the 43 mm Marzocchi forks dive somewhat during aggressive front braking, a touch of rear brake tames much of that tendency. Stopping power is formidable (thanks to those 1100-spec Brembos), and despite the absence of a hard-edged suspension setup, the Hypermotard 796 hauls itself across tight hairpins with confidence.

The Bottom Line: More Fun Than the Big Motor Hypermotard and Cheaper, Too!

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796Photo © Milagro
After zig-zagging through nearly 100 miles of Italian mountain roads, the Hypermotard 796 endeared itself despite a freak thunderstorm intent on ruining the day. Straightforward, powerful, and remarkably maneuverable, the Hypermotard 796 proved hard to fault because its road manners are so effortless. The air-cooled engine oozes usable power at nearly any rpm, its tossable handling makes it seem ready for almost anything, and it's priced at just under $10,000.

Does it have faults? Maybe I'm nitpicking, but the 796's seating position is more forward-oriented than some might like, and its gearbox could be smoother (though that might be a result of our test bike's low mileage.) The gas light also came on just before the 100 mile mark, due to the tiny 3.3 gallon fuel tank... incidentally, Ducati enthusiasts swear by an aftermarket 6.4 gallon fuel tank manufactured by California Cycleworks, which will set you back $799.

But my overwhelmingly favorable impressions of the 2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 reminded me that I also preferred the Monster 696 to the bigger (and arguably badder) Monster 1100. Going back to the assumption that "more is more," a large-engined bike might look better on paper if you value straight-line speed over handling. But great things happen when weight is shed and refinements are made; executed properly, simplification yields heightened riding enjoyment with the added benefit of cost savings. And for that reason alone, Ducati's Hypermotard 796 proves itself a winner through and through.

>>Click here for a Ducati Hypermotard 796 Photo Gallery

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Not as enthousiast as the reviews, Member Glissouille

First of all, let me give a little bit of background about myself as my opinion is just only my 2cts. I'm 5'7'', about 150pds (74kgs) 36 yo, background lots of enduro/baja/dual purpose and supermoto. I ride the trails with a xr650r, the streets with a ktm 950 supermoto, I travel with a 1000 vstrom. I'm looking for a new bike as my 950 got stollen back in november and I finally got the check from the insurance company. So for today we'll compare this one to the 950 supermoto. First thing first, the one I tried was with a lower seat. First impression, right away, it's smaller, narrower at knees height and I seat closer to the handlebars compare to the 2006 950 (ktm changed the tank and the seat design back in 2008 -i guess- in order to seat closer to the handlebars). It's suprising not to have the mirrors in the views. Looks like you're riding a dirt bike, you seat forward, it's lighweight. I am actually impressed by the seating position. I'm somewhat short (used to tall bike anyhow) and it actually fits me like a glove, definitly not designed for tall/big guys. 3 minutes later I'm starting the twisties... the first ones are close to each other, short and narrow. It handles definitly like a 450-650 supermoto but more stable with less engine brake, the straight are to short to really open wide but i miss the torque of the 950. On the otherside I'm definitly smoother with the 796 compare to the 950 in really really twisty roads like this one. On the 950 you don't have the time to rev the gear that you need to jump on the brakes... A couple of miles later the road stretches out and the twistie are becoming faster and faster and the straights longer and longer. On such roads I definitly miss my 950. The engine is kinda electric meaning that there is nowhere in the power range where it kicks and it's more like you open wide and wait for it to rev, even if you come out in the mid/high rev you still have to wait, no kicks...no fun, i'd rather buy a supermoto set up for my 650xr at this point, it would have been slower, probably but a lot more fun too. This is just about where it became boring and I had to turn arround and go back to the dealer. So don't get me wrong I'm not saying the 796 hypermotard is not a nice engine, I'm just saying if you feel like 100HP is the way to go (or if you are used to a 100hp+), the 796 will disapoint you. I never tried the 750 aprilia duodorso and it is probably the real contender for this category, but you can't compare the fun of a 950/1000cc to the lack of fun of this one...It is a nice city machine with few vibrations, not noisy, easy to handle (beware the mirros between cars)... probably a great stunt bike too, but stunt is not my thing, I'm more a full throttle sliding type of guy (why do you thing I punish myself with a xr650r in the trails but for confort, and slides.....and low maintenance :-) ) Arrived, debrief with the dealer, told him It handles great, brakes nicely but lack of HP and fun... So he told me, well try this one (1100)... that will be my next review for today....

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