There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. Many of the best bikes over the decades have avoided needless complexity, in favour of a straightforward, grunty engine, bolted into a non-nonsense chassis, with classic styling. Ducati itself has had a few such machines over the years, including its renowned Monster naked bikes, and the Supersport range.
The Supersport, or SS, came in a range of capacities, and was a stalwart of the Bologna firm’s output from the 1970s right up to the early 2000s. It put the marque’s long-running two-valve desmodromic air-cooled V-twin into a steel trellis frame, with high-quality running gear, and (in later models) a sporty fairing – and it sold by the boatload. If something like a 916 or 999 was a little bit more than you needed, the SS offered a fantastic, more road-biased sporting option, in a huge range of capacities: 400, 600, 750, 800, 900 and 1000cc.
The old SS stopped production a decade or so ago when the 1000 Supersport ceased production. But the name lives on again now, with the new 2017 Supersport and the top-spec Supersport S. The new bike, which has just hit the showroom floor, is a completely new design – but it’s built very much in the spirit of the original SS.
At the heart of the new design is Ducati’s latest powerplant, the 937cc Testastretta 11° motor, putting out a very decent 113bhp, with a hefty 72ft lb of torque. It’s a slightly retuned version of the engine that powers the Multistrada 950, and which was first seen on last year’s Hypermotard 939. The Supersport motor is an advanced design, with water-cooling, four-valve desmo heads, and full Euro-4 emissions compliance. But it’s been tuned to put out exactly the same type of torquey, road-friendly power that Supersports have always made.
That new engine is bolted into in a sporty, road-biased chassis. Of course, you get the trademark Ducati steel tube trellis frame, that offers superb handling and feedback, while keeping weight low. The rear swingarm is a gorgeous single-sided unit, cast in aluminium, while the Marzocchi USD front forks and Sachs rear monoshock (both Öhlins units on the S) are fully adjustable. Brakes are Brembo M4.32 radial mount calipers – proper high-end performance units, operated via the latest Bosch 9MP ABS system.
Alongside that three-way adjustable ABS system, the new Supersport also runs a full suite of advanced electronic rider aids. There’s Ducati Traction Control, adjustable eight ways, to suit a massive range of riding styles and conditions, from the daily commute to the annual trip to Spa-Francorchamps. There’s a choice of riding modes, that adjust power delivery, ABS and traction to suit your mood. And on the S (optional on the base bike) you also get Ducati’s sweet quickshifter setup, that adds an auto-blipping downshift to the usual up-quickshifting function. Controlling all this tech is a breeze, via new switchgear, and a gorgeous LCD dashboard.
The new Supersport isn’t a touring bike – but it does offer plenty of comfort for longer trips and daily commutes. The riding position is more relaxed than on a superbike, but still puts you right in control, while the pegs give enough ground clearance for a maximum 48° lean angle. The bodywork offers plenty of protection from the elements, and the new windscreen features a smart adjusting function, letting you raise or lower it through 50mm, depending on what sort of ride you’re planning.
Underneath all this tech and equipment though, the essence of the Supersport is as simple as its always been. Ample power for road riding, combined with easy handling, that lets you make great progress by flowing through bends, rather than hammering on the brakes and throttle, revs screaming like a frenzied club racer. And there’s a lot to be said for that…
The 2017 Supersport and Supersport S is in Ducati dealers now, with prices starting from £11,495 (£12,795 for the S). The S offers 48mm Öhlins front forks and an Öhlins rear shock, with the Ducati quickshifter as standard, and a pillion seat cover.