Ducati - the name itself evokes firebrand passion, and bikes with sporty, high-performance DNA. And that's been the case for the Italian brand's sportbikes on offer in India too, beginning with the entry-level Ducati 959 Panigale. But the 959 Panigale and even the soon-to-be-discontinued 1299 Panigale aren't for the faint-hearted or for those looking for a practical, everyday sportbike. And Ducati's own market research apparently indicates that there's a demand for an entry-level Ducati sportbike with design and styling inspired by the Panigale, but easy to ride without having the uncompromising track-focussed personality of the 959 Panigale. And that's the void the Ducati SuperSport seeks to address, and hopefully bring in some sales volumes as well.
What is it?
The SuperSport is a bike Ducati says is versatile and can be used for the daily commute, weekend rides, and can even take on occasional touring duties. So, it has improved ergonomics, and a more upright and comfortable riding position. It shares its engine with the Multistrada 950, but it's got a slightly different state of tune and a few different components. It's available in two variants - the standard SuperSport and the SuperSport S. The difference is in the suspension, a standard up/down quickshifter, and a removable pillion seat cowl. The SuperSport S gets Ohlins suspension, and a standard quickshifter, while the SuperSport gets Marzocchi front forks and a Sachs monoshock. The SuperSport is available in just red, while the SuperSport S is available in red, as well as white. And it's the SuperSport S, the one we are riding, which Ducati feels will have more takers.
How does it look?
Visually, the standard SuperSport and SuperSport S look near identical, borrowing styling cues from the Panigale. So, at first glance, the SuperSport S doesn't look very different from the 959 Panigale with a face that's clearly inspired by the Panigale. That's a good thing, because the SuperSport doesn't look or feel like an entry-level sportbike at all. So, in terms of design and build quality, there's nothing "entry-level" about it, and the SuperSport S exudes high-quality Italian design and build. The LED DRLs are the highlight of the face, which has hints of the Panigale. But whatever angle you look at it, it certainly looks sporty and absolutely stunning, particularly in the Ducati Red shade that our test bike has. In our book, a red Ducati really ups the desirability factor, and in this department the SuperSport S doesn't disappoint one bit.
Does it have the performance?
Yes, without a doubt. The SuperSport and SuperSport S may be positioned as easy to ride, everyday sportbikes, but make no mistake, these are anything but slow. The 937 cc Testastretta L-twin makes 110 bhp at 9,000 rpm and peak torque of 93 Nm, kicking in at 6,500 rpm. Ducati says 80 per cent of that torque kicks in at 3,000 rpm; what that means in the real world is that there's ample pull from minimal throttle input, so at any gear, the SuperSport pulls cleanly from low revs.
So, you can ride it quite sedately at city speeds, with easy-going road manners. But whack open the throttle as you shift through the gears, and you will reach unmentionable speeds at the blink of an eye. There's no doubt this Ducati has all the performance you need, and more. Newer riders graduating to their first big sportbike will find the Ducati SuperSport thrilling, and even experienced riders will find it suitably entertaining, never for once, leaving any doubt that this is a true-blue Ducati at heart.
How does it ride?
The SuperSport S we're riding has higher-spec Ohlins suspension, and ride quality is quite good. Over road undulations in the city, the bike feels plush and planted, and even under hard braking, there's minimal front wheel dive, giving it a sense of stability that's certainly welcome. The bi-directional quickshifter will prove to be handy out on a track, and the few instances we tried it out on the road, it works seamlessly.
And there's a wide safety net of electronics too. The ride-by-wire system incorporated three riding modes - Urban, Touring and Sport, each with different levels of intrusion from the 8-level traction control, 3-step ABS and even throttle response. Urban has power dialled down to 75 bhp, to keep things in control in the city. Touring has the full 110 bhp on tap, but with both ABS and traction control set at higher intervention to keep things safe. Sport is where the beast wakes up; the throttle response is sharper, and traction control and ABS intervention is low, allowing for some wheel slip and even drift.
Unlike the Panigale, the SuperSport gets a steel trellis frame, and although the roads we were testing on offered very little options to test the bike's handling, never for once did the SuperSport feel unsettled or out of control, even when taking high speed sweeping corners. At 210 kg kerb weight, it doesn't feel too heavy as well, and the ABS works like a dream. Braking from the Brembo Monobloc 4-piston calipers gripping the 320 mm twin discs at the front and a 245 mm disc at the rear, shed speeds with ease and provide very good feedback and bite.
Also Read: Ducati 959 Panigale First Ride Review
The last word
The new Ducati SuperSport will certainly appeal to those looking to upgrade to a full-faired Ducati sportbike, without compromising on ergonomics or comfort for regular use. The slipper clutch has a light feel at the lever, and the gears are slick and slot into position precisely, so that won't be too much of a bother for city use. Even the standard exhaust has a throaty growl which pops and crackles, making for an enjoyable aural experience. And for those looking at sprucing up the bike further, there are a host of cosmetic accessories including the choice of three different standard packs and performance accessories available. The only thing which could be unsuitable for our conditions is the engine heat, which could prove to be a spot of bother for the Indian summer, and bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions.
In the end though, the Ducati SuperSport certainly makes a very good example for an easy to ride Ducati sportbike with entertaining performance for the experienced rider, and that itself makes a very good case to consider one. We're impressed with the SuperSport's capabilities, and the only thing left for us is to see how it performs on a racetrack, and we can't wait to see how that pans out. Starting at ₹ 12.08 lakh (ex-showroom) for the standard SuperSport, and ₹ 13.39 lakh (ex-showroom) for the SuperSport S, it's certainly not entry-level pricing, and that is the only downside we could think of. But if you're in the market for a new sporbike, and nothing less than a red Ducati quite makes the cut, by all means take a close look, and a test ride of the Ducati SuperSport. You may end up becoming the latest member of the Indian Ducatisti.
Photography: Asif Zubairi