Think of the Ducati SuperSport as a practical sportsbike capable of touring and commuting that can do trackday stuff, while making you feel special every time you open the garage door.
We have on test the SuperSport 950 S, at $21,850 ride-away (or $22,290 if you want it in white), opposed to the standard model’s $19,390 asking price. The key difference between the standard and the S version is the suspension.
That means fully adjustable Öhlins units on the S with larger-diameter 48mm forks, rather than the fully adjustable Marzocchi 43 mm fork and Sachs monoshock of the standard model.
Brakes, weight, and engine performance are the same, so you’re essentially paying the extra dollars for the suspension…oh, and the single-seat cover. The S is also available in white, and, for some reason, you get red stripes on the wheels, which I’m not a fan of. Now I’ve pointed them out, you won’t stop looking at that odd red strip, sorry.
As you’d expect, prices have notched up a fraction from the previous model, but still the SuperSport isn’t smashing the bank, especially in today’s market, where big adventure bikes and sportsbikes can be close to $40,000. For comparison, a standard V2 Panigale is $23,500, and the V4 $31,690.
If I was to be critical and tight (which I am), $2460 for Öhlins suspension is a little steep, despite the quality. But there is no argument, the gold Öhlins units do add a cherry to a perfectly formed cake. The new looks, with those obvious shark gills, are more Panigale than ever, and along with new LED headlights, make the SuperSport more desirable than ever before.
As an everyday sportsbike or sports-tourer there is, arguably, competition from Kawasaki, with the Ninja 1000 SX ($16,999 + ORC), and from Suzuki with the GSX-S1000F ($16,290 ride-away), however neither gets close in looks or appeal.
I guess the nearest competition could be from Aprilia’s new RS 660, which will probably land for around the $20,000-$21,000 region on the road, but down on power and, in my view, perhaps not as desirable as the Ducati. The new SuperSport is the type of bike that will make you smile every time you open the garage door.
There are two lines of thought here. One, the SuperSport is relaxing (the seat has increased in comfort), with relatively high ’bars and low pegs that are not set too far back. When I first threw a leg over the surprisingly low seat (810 mm, with optional seats offering plus 25 mm and minus 20 mm), I was actually surprised by the relatively roomy ergonomics.
The screen is adjustable by 50 mm, the new TFT clocks are neat and clear, and the visual appeal, once onboard, is high. The way the bodywork swoops under the clocks, the neat actuation of the buttons, the easy-to-navigate clocks… it all adds up to a sophisticated cockpit.
My first ride on the SuperSport was a 250 km stint of just under two hours. With the screen fully upright, wind protection wasn’t too bad, while the seat and ergonomics were flawless. But little niggles started to creep in.
The mirrors give an excellent view behind but once the revs build and vibrations start, the images become blurred. The mirrors have improved over the previous model, but they’re not perfect at high speed.
The screen is sufficient, but I think taller riders may prefer something larger, and is the fuel range long enough with a 16-litre fuel tank? The fuel light came on at around the 210 km mark, with around 60 km remaining, depending on conditions.
I averaged 4.95l/km, which gives a theoretical range of 268 km. Is that enough? I rode all day without any physical complaints on that comfortable seat, while the bodywork deflected the heat generated by the engine away from my legs.
You could easily embark on some serious touring on this comfier 950; there are even optional panniers in the accessories catalogue. But doubts remain about the tank range and those mirrors will start to annoy.
As mentioned, there are two trains of thought here. The alternative point of view – comparing the comfort of the SuperSport to a dedicated track bike, is like comparing a sofa to a wooden bench.
Looked at this way, the tank range is easily large enough for two hours in the saddle, especially as those inexperienced new riders the 950 is aimed at, won’t want to go much further anyway.
All the electronics
For 2021 the Bologna factory has fitted the new SuperSport with a Bosch six-axis IMU, which measures roll, pitch, and yaw. The IMU is linked to the EVO rider aids, Bosch cornering ABS, Ducati Traction Control (DTC), Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), and even the Ducati Quickshift up/down (DQS).
The parameters of these rider aids are linked to the three rider modes, Sport, Touring and Urban. The traction control is set from one to eight or off, Sports mode is 3, Touring 4, and Urban 6. Wheelie control is out of four settings and off, Sport set to 2, Touring 3, and Urban 4.
Aside from pre-setting the rider aids, each mode has a specific power character set by the ride-by-wire. Sport has the full power, sporty setup. Touring is full power and a softer ‘road’ throttle. And Urban offers 75 horsepower and a safe/soft set-up. But you can play around with the modes and customise your own settings.
The rider aids are excellent, and a big step up over the previous model, as well as being perfect for both new and inexperienced riders. The cornering ABS and TC are like riding with an expert on your shoulder, keeping you safe and preventing you from doing something untoward.
The new 4.3-inch full colour dash makes the settings clear and easy to customise, for a track day, as an example. Should you want to do track work, there is an optional full racing exhaust (about $4000) which adds two per cent more power, and nine per cent more torque, while reducing the weight by 4.6 kg.
The improved comfort and relaxed riding position haven’t diminished the sporting abilities of the Ducati, but you have to flick into a slightly different mind-set and style of riding to unlock them. The Öhlins suspension is sublime. There is a superb, natural feel from both ends. It copes with everything from fast-flowing stuff to bumpy roads taken at speed.
The taller riding position will feel more natural for most riders, while at 184 kg dry, this is not a heavy bike and you can point and roll into corners at knee-down levels of lean with relative ease.
The suspension is on the sporty side of sports-touring and holds the chassis nicely once on its side, yet is soft enough to take the strain on the exit, allowing you to dial in the L-Twin power early and feel for the grip. Alternatively, simply rely on the very clever electronics, which are now lean-sensitive due to the Bosch IMU.
On track with track-focused rubber, an experienced rider will have to have to reduce the suspension’s movement because, in standard trim, the Öhlins set-up is a little too soft for serious track action. But for the target audience, the base set-up will work on both the road and track, especially if you stay with the standard Pirelli Rosso 3 rubber.
The Brembo radial brakes remain the same as the old model’s, which isn’t a bad thing, as they are top quality and more than strong enough for both road and track.
As mentioned, the big change for 2021 is the introduction of a six-axis IMU, which means the ABS braking can now be lean-sensitive. There are three levels to choose from: Sports mode is level 2, Road and Track, Touring and Urban are level 3, ‘safe and stable’. Option 1 is front wheel only, conventional ABS, not cornering ABS, which allows you to slide the rear on corner entry.
There is a lovely rumble on the overrun, even at low rpm. Around town it’s noticeable, but not annoying, simply adding a little charm. Higher in the rpm, it’s addictive and gives the bike a sporty feel. It sounds soulful for a standard bike, especially one which is Euro-5 compliant.
Quick and easy
It has been a while since I’ve ridden a sporty Ducati twin and I quickly remembered why they make so much sense as a road bike. There is a lovely drive from low in the rev-range, accompanied by a snarl and deep breath from the airbox.
Initially I thought the Duke was a little soft – dare I say, lazy – especially when compared to modern sportsbikes that want to rip your arms out of their sockets.
However the more clicked-in to the L-twin power I became, the more I enjoyed it. You don’t need to be bouncing off the rev limiter, you don’t need to stomp endlessly on up-and-down quick-shifter. Just ride the lovely spread of torque that allows you to play with just fourth and fifth gear between 100 and 160 km/h.
I can see why some may prefer the SuperSport to one of Ducati’s pricier, more focused, sporting siblings, especially for the road. You can use the engine, enjoy the sound and sensation, and feel in control.
Sure the 950 will happily lift the front wheel in the first few gears (with the TC disabled), but this is not a bike you have to fight. Yes, it’s quick – 916 quick, if you are old enough to remember – but not scary quick.
Ducati has perfected L-twin fuel injection, the only disappointment being the now standard quick-shifter. Above 50 km/h and higher in the revs it works perfectly, but at low rpm it can be snatchy and doesn’t balance perfectly with the revs.
It wasn’t consistent either. Sometimes it would work perfectly and sometimes not. Ducati’s quick-shifter system on other models, like the new Multistrada, is perfect, but this isn’t. An eight out of 10, maybe, but not perfect like I’ve come to expect from Ducati.
While I’m grumbling, I don’t like the way the ’bars now trap fingers and thumbs on the new bodywork on full lock. This is only noticeable when during slow speed U-turns, usually when one or both feet are down. It’s not dangerous or too dramatic, but annoying and again something I wasn’t expecting from Ducati.
Ducati has increased the SuperSport’s appeal. It’s now a stunning bike, with a practical design that features new LED DRL lights and clever bodywork that takes engine heat away from the rider.
The electronics are a welcome upgrade, which can be easily personalised. Now Euro-5 complaint, without losing any performance, the engine/exhaust still delivers fun, character, and real-world performance, which isn’t daunting.
However, it’s not without its niggles, as I’ve mentioned above. It’s also arguable the target audience may not want a larger fuel tank, and for just over 19K for the standard model, I’m probably being harsh comparing the fluidity of the quick-shifter compared to pricier models in Ducati’s range. But for me the 950 is a good bike, a nine out of 10, just not 10 out of 10, which is what at I’ve come to expect from Ducati of late.
The L-twin Desmodromic engine is now Euro-5 compliant, and Ducati claims it hasn’t mislaid any power or torque in the process. Peak power is 108 bhp at 9000 rpm, with peak torque of 93 Nm at 6500 rpm.
Ducati revised the exhaust and fuelling to ensure the new 2021 model achieved Euro-5 standard, which wasn’t the hardest job in the world as the engine is shared with the Hypermotard 950 and Multistrada 950, models that are already Euro-5 compliant.
The 950 L-twin has been designed to attract younger, less experienced riders who may be intimidated by the Panigale, both in terms of performance and price. The engine is usable, producing 80 per cent of its torque at only 3500 rpm. Service intervals remain wide at every 15,000 km (or every year, of course).
Yorkshire born Adam Child, or Chad as he’s known in the industry, is a multiple UK record holder, former MCN senior road tester and has been professionally bike testing for 20-years.
Chad has attended more than 350 bike launches, covering over a million road test miles, he is also an international road racer, with race wins at Oliver's Mount, podiums in New Zealand and two top ten Isle of Man TT finishes.
Chad is just as happy elbow-down on a race track, kicking up mud off road, or restoring classic bikes. Chad launched his own company, Chad76Media in 2019, and you can follow his adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
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