Ducati Supersport S 2017 Review

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Stunning Italian lines in an easy to live with package – is the Ducati SuperSport the way all sport bikes should be?

Photos: Jon Lim, Derryn Wong

Being a motorcyclist is all about having the right bike, and wearing the right gear for the occasion. At least, that’s what bikers tell their spouses when they really need more than one bike.

When the Significant Other says, “But they all do the same thing!” you point out it’s exactly the same case for bags. Or shoes. Then you realise you have four tank bags and five pairs of boots, but let’s not weaken our case further.

Street bikes are like sneakers – good for almost any occasion, comfortable and dependable. It follows that adventure bikes are like hiking boots, and proper sportsbikes are pretty much track spikes: You’ll make inappropriate noises on the move, people will look at you funny, and any time you’re not sprinting will be excruciating.

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Ducati’s new Supersport S aims to take the spiky bits out of sportsbike ownership, leaving only the creamy, enjoyable centre of the riding experience.  

Nevermind the confusing name, which might be mistaken with the modern 600cc racing series/class. It actually draws provenance from the original Ducati SuperSport bikes of the 1970s, which brought the company to racing fame and were a precedent for its modern range of superbikes that began with the 916.

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While it looks passingly similar to its Panigale brethren, especially the Panigale 959 in white, the Supersport is quite a different beast. It’s probably the most elegant looking modern Ducati, with sinuous, figured lines and a screw-less fairing.

In this matte white paint, it almost looks carved from marble like a Renaissance sculpture from Ducati’s North Italian roots.

Ducati’s made great progress in build quality over the past five years, and the bike looks and feels like its pricetag, no matter how far or close you’re standing, while the detailing on the switchgear and components – like the angular top clamp – is top notch.  

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But what we like even more than its looks is the fact that you don’t have to contort yourself like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  

The low seat height of 810mm is much more manageable than an adventure bike or motard. The clip-ons have a decent rise, and while they’re still low compared to a pair of regular handlebars, combined with a non-acute knee angle it results in a fairly comfy ergonomic.

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Compared to the Panigale, or even Ducati’s Scrambler Cafe Racer, the bars are wonderfully generous and pulled back, so you don’t feel as if you’re being racked by the Italian inquisition after five minutes at legal speed..

Sporty looks paired with comfort isn’t a new idea of course. There’s a bit of an overlap here with sports tourers like the BMW R 1200 RS or Honda’s VFR 800, although the Ducati is more closely competing with the latter, which has less power and weight than the BMW.

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Behind the lovely white fairings is the same 937cc L-twin engine as found on the Multistrada 950 and Hypermotard 939. In the Multistrada, it’s more than enough for the road, but not exactly fireworks.

This is a mid-range, road-focused engine after all, and makes the same power and torque in all three models. Surprisingly the quoted weight for the SS is higher than the Multistrada’s (210kg vs 195kg) yet the SS feels nothing like its adventure-style brother, and that just goes to show how much riding position and packaging count for handling.

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When it comes to corners, the SS lives up to its name, it’s both eager and easy, falling into turns with quickness that’s not alarming. At higher speeds it’s particularly stable, though at the expense of more input needed to turn.

In any case it’s not a flighty, hard-to-handle Italian, but rather the opposite. Singapore only gets the SuperSport S – the price difference for the non-S base model would have been almost negligible, says distributor Wearnes.

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The S comes with adjustable Ohlins forks and rear shocks, which no doubt help hugely in contributing to the good ride quality and handling, and a little set-up time will reap any rider further dividends in both departments.

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The bike comes standard with the Ducati Safety Pack, which means ABS, basic traction control and three riding modes (Sport, Urban, Rain) that adjust power output, power delivery and the two safety systems to suit, but no individual mode to twiddle things as you like it.

You can just leave it in Sport most of the time, as the power deliver is progressive and gentle enough that things won’t get gnarly, at least in an on-road situation.

The L-twin sounds lovely, and more throaty than it does on the Multistrada 950, even backfiring with aplomb when coming off hard throttle.

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It encourages short shifting, which is easy to do thanks to the auto-blip up-down quickshifter. Like a proper sports bike, it doesn’t enjoy low-rpm constant throttle, as below 4,000rpm it tends to protest and burble, and it’s just as well that there’s quite a lot of revving headroom above that to be enjoyed and exploited if the roads permit.

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It’s a truly agile bike, and capable of a surprising turn of speed especially in a B-road situation, where a rider needn’t be as committed as they otherwise would be on a Panigale (959 or 1299) but still keep up enjoyable velocity.

The bike’s capable of high-speed touring, the two-position adjustable windscreen works quite well, but that would be ignoring its main talent of going fast in the twisty bits with ease.

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It’s easy to forget now, but sportsbikes used to be the leading segment for big bike sales before the adventure craze took hold. It’s easy to see why, since upright, go-anywhere adventure bikes deliver positive image without sportsbike rack-style pain.

The Ducati Supersport S is a perfect antidote for someone who wants sportsbike image and (most of the) pace with less pain. Like a pair of sporty kicks, it’s an image-postive machine you can bring almost anywhere without turning yourself into a fashion victim.

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Ducati Supersport S
Engine type                937cc, 8V, L-twin
Bore X Stroke             94.0  x 67.5mm
Gearbox type              6-speed manual with up/down assist
Max power                  113hp at 9,000rpm
Max torque                  96.7Nm at 6,500rpm
0 to 100km/h              Not stated
Top speed                    Not stated
Wet Weight                 210kg
Seat Height                  810mm
Price                             $37,500 with COE
Agent Wearnes Automotive

Verdict: Captures the essence of the Ducati sportsbike experience without the extra pain  

about the author

Derryn Wong
Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.