There is a lovely burble on the overrun, even at low rpm, which pops with character as you roll to a stop. Around town it’s noticeable but not annoying, simply adding a little appeal. Higher in the rpm, it’s addictive and gives the bike a sporty feel. There is a lovely drive from low down in the revs, accompanied by a snarl and deep breath from the airbox. The user-friendly DucatiSuperSport makes similar power to the legendary Ducati 916/996—which makes you think, doesn’t it?—this is not a slow bike. Peak power is 110 bhp at 9,000 rpm, with peak torque at 69 pound-feet at 6,500 rpm.
You don’t need to be bouncing off the rev limiter, you don’t need to jump up and down the (standard) up-and-down quickshifter… Instead, there is that lovely spread of torque that allows you to play with just fourth and fifth gear. I can see why some may favor 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 feel, drive out of corners, and feel in command. You are the boss.
At low speeds the fueling is excellent. Ducati has perfected L-twin fuel injection, the only setback being the now standard quickshifter. Above 30 mph and higher in the revs it works perfectly, but at low rpm it can be snatchy and doesn’t balance flawlessly with the revs. While I’m complaining, 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 doing slow-speed U-turns, usually when one or both feet are down. It’s not hazardous or too dramatic, but annoying and again something I wasn’t expecting from Ducati.
The SuperSport is comfortable (the seat has increased in comfort) with relatively high bars and low pegs that are not too far back. When I first threw a leg over the surprisingly low seat (31.9 inches high, with optional seats offering plus 0.98 inch and minus 0.79 inch) I was surprised by the comparatively roomy ergonomics. The screen is adjustable by 1.97 inches, 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 relatively easy to navigate clocks… It all adds up to a sophisticated cockpit.
With the screen fully upright, wind protection wasn’t too bad, while the seat and ergonomics were faultless. Ducati has improved comfort, and 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. Comparing the comfort of the SuperSport to a dedicated trackbike is like comparing a sofa to a wooden park bench.
But little niggles started to creep in. The mirrors give an excellent view at the rear, 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 and at high speed it’s hard to see if the car following has a roof rack or blue lights on the roof—you can see my issue. The screen is sufficient, but I think taller riders may prefer something larger.
The fuel light came on at around the 130-mile mark, with around 40 miles remaining, depending on conditions. I averaged 47.5 mpg (39.6 US mpg), which gives a theoretical range of 167 miles. Is that enough for touring? The tank range is easily large enough for two hours in the saddle, and possibly relatively new riders the 950 is aimed at won’t want to go much further anyway.
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. I really pushed and asked some difficult questions of the 950′s stability and handling, but the Duke always came back with the appropriate answers.
The suspension is on the sporty side of sport-touring and holds the chassis 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 in and feel for the grip. Alternatively, simply rely on the very smart electronics, which are now lean-sensitive due to the new Bosch six-axis IMU.
On track with tack-focused rubber, an experienced rider will have to reduce the suspension’s movement because, in standard trim, the Öhlins setup is a little too soft for serious track action. But for most, especially the target audience, the base setup will work on the road and track.
The Brembo radial brakes remain as the old model’s, which isn’t a bad thing as they are top quality and more than strong enough for the road and track. The big change for 2021 is the introduction of a six-axis IMU, which means the ABS braking can now be lean-sensitive.
As we’ve come to expect from Ducati, the rider aids are excellent, and a big step over the previous model as well as 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 color dash makes the settings clear and easy to customize, for a trackday for example.
Ducati has enhanced the SuperSport 950 S’ appeal: It’s now a stunning bike, with a functional design that features new LED DRL lights and clever bodywork that takes engine heat away from the rider. The electronics are a welcome and significant renovation, which can be easily personalized. Now Euro 5 compliant, without losing any performance, the engine/exhaust still delivers fun, character, and real-world performance, which isn’t intimidating.
Surprisingly, I’ve uncovered a few doubts. The mirrors vibrate too much at high rpm/speed, and, with comfort improved, I’d like a longer fuel range so I could embark on some serious miles. Also, the bars trap fingers on full lock, and the quickshifter isn’t perfect at low speeds—not what we’d expect from Ducati.
The SuperSport is a great bike. It’s also arguable that the target audience may not want a larger fuel tank. I’m probably being harsh comparing the fluidity of the quickshifter compared to pricier models in Ducati’s range. For me, the 950 S is a good bike, a nine out of 10, just not 10 out of 10, which is what I’ve come to expect from Ducati of late.