Demo Ride on a 2018 Supersport S from the perspective of an old fart
I'm going to tell you about my recent demo ride on a 2018 Supersport S, but first some background.
Age:54 years old
Height and weight:5' 10" and 190 lbs.
Experience: 32 years riding experience
Current ride: 1986 Ninja 900 which I purchased new and has been my only bike since its' purchase.
Riding style: I'm not a squid and I'm very cognoscente that my behavior as a motorcyclist can influence how the general population perceives us. Thus I don't wheelie through intersections and I assume most drivers will run me over with no provocation and drive very aware and defensively in city traffic. That said, on a back country road where the only victim of my stupidity will be me, I will canyon carve to the point the feeler pegs on my Ninja have been ground half-way down and I've beveled the edges of my boots to a roughly 45 degree angle. I know the rush of an indicated 155 mph blast (more than once), and the sobering shock of watching a bird explode when it hits your mirror at 120 MPH. In short, probably a lot like you.
Demo ride: I scheduled a demo ride with a Ducati dealership up in Sacramento, last weekend the 30th of March 2019. When I arrived the bike was ready for me and located outside in the parking lot. This motorcycle was literally pulled from the crate the day before and assembled for my ride. It had 3 miles on it. The first thing I noticed is how gorgeous these bikes are. I've lusted after Ducatis after seeing the early 900 Super Sports and almost bought one back in the day. The current Supersport just looks right to me. I reminds me of how sports bikes looked in the 80's and 90's and how they should look today. I'm not a fan of the insectoid resemblance of most Japanese bikes sold today. Back to the Ducati. I fired the engine up and immediately had a plastered grin transform across my face. The sound of even the stock exhaust is quite pleasant. I doesn't sound like an inline four and certainly doesn't sound like a Harley or BMW. Nice. Then my attention was attuned the to the cacophony of clatter that must have been the sound of the Desmodromic valve train. It's a clattering rhythmic sound that reminds me of the solid lifters from a 60's era muscle car.
First there was a quick run down by the salesman over the instrumentation and shifting pattern. In doing so, he explained that the transmission gears were straight-cut and that neutral would be difficult to find. He also stated it would get better as mileage was put on the bike. He was right; during the full demo, I never could find it and had to have the clutch pulled in at stops. I followed him out of the parking lot and began our 20 minute route. Our circuit route traversed city streets, blasted down the freeway for a mile or so, returned to city streets, went through some less traveled winding two lane roads, eventually back to city streets, and finally returned to the dealership.
Upon movement my immediate impression was that I was on a bike with ergos remarkably like my Ninja 900. Very comfortable and very "at home" for me. The second impression was, by comparison, how light and agile this bike was. Thirdly, I was impressed how much torque was available. 3rd gear right turns in city speed intersections are not an issue.
In my mind I was aware that Ducati engines have character. Often times "character" is an excuse for something that most people will find undesirable or annoying. So, I was waiting for "character" to send vibratory annoyance through my hands, feet and body via the handle-bars, pegs, and seat. I am very happy to report I was wrong. Can you feel power pulses? Yes, absolutely, but it's exactly that, a pulsation that is imbued in a very solid feeling vehicle. Coming from sewing machine smooth inline fours, it's an odd yet gratifying feeling. The pulsations reverberate "torque", but the chassis embracing it exudes stability and quality. I'm not sure how to describe it, but that my best stab at it. Bottom line, I likey a lot.
I had heard that the SSS with the Ohlins suspension was more suited to the track than the street and that the non S version of the Supersport had more than adequate suspension. I can't speak for the non-S, but I can say I really really liked the SSS. I did not find the suspension jarring at all on city streets on the highway going over expansion joints, nor city streets with "dips" provided by rain gullies; frequently found at intersections. The bike while firm, seemed very composed and absorbed bumps and undulations without sensory intrusion. In fact, it was only after the ride that I contemplated that I was on the "firm S" model and realized it worked so well it never registered a negative event. All I could recall was solid and planted.
On the freeway I was able to open it up to about 75 MPH and 6000 RPM. The engine pulls nicely, but more in a torque way than an inline rush. I wasn't blown away by the horsepower, but I wasn't winding it out either. That said, I wasn't feeling wanting of power to get out of the way or squirt through traffic on the freeway. My guess is there is a bit more horsepower on tap between 6000 and 9000 RPM, but the character is likely to remain a torque push and not a high revving pull.
Speaking of squirting through traffic. Not just because the review mirrors have the same visual acuity - due to vibrations - as I have after downing my tenth shot of tequila, I looked over my shoulder while moving over freeway lanes. This over shoulder, lean, and go attitude was very natural and the bike seemed a part of me as we danced from one lane to the next and eventually exited along a nice sweeping turn off-ramp. At freeway speeds the rather modest wind screen does an excellent job at providing clean air at helmet level and my chest felt no buffeting. Matter of fact, I really didn't notice the wind at all in any negative way. By this point I had all but forgotten I was riding a "different" bike.
However, I was reminded that I was on a "different" bike when I first stalled it at the intersection upon exiting the freeway. Another futile attempt at finding neutral followed by a panic that I would be "that guy" blocking traffic. I gave up and simply started the bike with clutch pulled in and remaining that way until the light turned green and off we went.
We returned to the dealership and I was feeling pretty confident that this was the bike for me. After gushing about it's virtues to the salesman and my wife, she sat on it to give it the bum comfort test and judged it quite satisfactory. Being I was also interested in the Ninja 1000 (sport tourer with emphasis on sport) we sat on it too in the showroom. To my surprise, my wife judged the bum comfort test about a tie between the two motorcycles, including leg folding factors.
My heart was always lusting for the Ducati, but my rational side compelled me to consider the Ninja 1000 and Z900 RS Cafe ( I know, totally different bike..). However, after the demo ride and the comfort approval from my wife, I pretty much gave up on the rational side. I'm not getting younger, I've had a my current bike for 30 years, I've been lusting after a Ducati for something like 20 years, and I have the finances to buy this Ducati. <In the voice of the crankiest old fart you can imagine..> So, gosh dang it, I think I'm going to buy this **** bike!
Last edited by landmissle; 04-03-2019 at 05:31 PM.