Ducati's supermotard-on-steroids, the 1100 Hypermotard, has been terrorizing the streets for a couple of years now, a concept bike that became reality after it made a sensational splash at the 2005 EICMA show in Milan. Aimed at marrying some of the soft-suspension, short-wheelbase, low-weight feel of a motard with the grunt of a 100-horsepower L-twin motor and unmistakeable Ducati streetbike style, the Hypermotard is an absolute giggle machine. It's also fairly pricey though, which is why Ducati have just given it a much more affordable little brother. The Hypermotard 796 will sneak in under USD$10,000, using a torqued-up version of the 696 Monster engine and boasting both less weight and a lighter clutch than the 1100.
The last time I swung a leg over an 1100 Hypermotard, my impression was that it was tall, tiny and a load of fun, the brakes putting it on its nose as quickly as the throttle lifted its front wheel. For a short-range hooligan streetbike, it seemed to tick all the right boxes - even if it was a little wide in the 'bars for serious traffic splitting (particularly given those fold-out side mirrors).
But its pricing still put it well into the boutique level - you can get a whole lot of bike for US$12 grand from other manufacturers. So this new mini-hypermotard (Hyperminitard? Hypomotard? Diapermotard?) 796 might look like a much more attractive option to buyers at its USD$9995 price point.
The 796 motor, developed from the 696 Monster engine, makes about the same horsepower as the donor bike, at 81hp. It's up a healthy 6 foot-pounds of torque though, at 56lb/ft, reflecting the fact that it's designed to be ridden harder at street speeds.
The "super-light action APTC clutch" will make a nice change from the original Hypermotard's clutch lever, which always seemed like a bit of a test of manhood to me. Bikes like the Hypermotard seem to excel as urban weapons in my mind - hard seats and poor tank range tend to make them difficult tourers - so a nice, easy clutch is almost mandatory.
The Hypermotard 796 keeps its weight down, Ducati tell us, by means of a redesigned set of triple clamps and a reworked frame that gets rid of most of the 1100's forged components. The resulting 167-kilo (368 lb) motorcycle should feel light, agile and fun.
The Juniormotard's looks are very similar to its big brother's, retaining the single-sided swingarm, barkbuster-mounted indicators and mirrors and the sharp, flat beak of the 1100. So the 796, too, should be one of those bikes that feels like there's absolutely nothing in front of you as you ride; a bit of a flying carpet feeling.
We'll get our first glimpse of the baby Hypermotard in the flesh at EICMA Milan 2009.