Ducati’s SuperSport S is One Part Panigale, One Part Monster, and All Awesome

I am not a jockey. I was born to parents who called the Midwestern portion of the United States, home. I grew up drinking whole milk. Eating red meat. And working and playing outside. I am, if you will, of hearty stock. These attributes generally mean that I do not fit on any modern sportbike. The cramped ergonomics. The small footprint. The more delicate controls all result, for this large lad, in a piss-poor ride. I thought that’d be the case with the 2018 Ducati SuperSport S. I was wrong.

Upon first viewing, the SuperSport S is your average sportbike. Aggressive. Wild. A motorcycle looking to slice corners like Hannibal Lecter carving up a man’s cranium while his Chianti breathes. It even resembles Ducati’s new hyperbike, the Panigale V4, a motorcycle that implores writers to lean on hyperbole and asks them to once again dive into their college textbooks to better understand just how the company’s engineers brought quantum mechanics to the motorcycling public

See what I mean? In every respect, the SuperSport S looks to maintain the sportbike quality of comfort as riding bareback with hemorrhoids for anyone outside of 5’10”. No hemorrhoidal pain, however, came. Thank the motorcycling gods.

Leg over the tall seat, the seat naturally conforms to my posterior. The cushioning itself is supple, even as I set off into the pitted Martian-esque landscape of Los Angeles’ highways and byways. The shape of the saddle splays outward to better fit larger hind quarters, and within a few minutes, it doesn’t seem as difficult to pivot upward and downward toward the SuperSport S’s controls. And indeed, those clip-ons have been slightly raised for a more upright, more Monster-like riding position. A more agreeable position for those of my height.

That’s not to say the rest of the SuperSport S is anything like the naked, upright, more daily-centric Monster. It isn’t. The SuperSport S is another beast altogether. Somewhere between the more docile Monster and the neutron star explosion that is the Panigale V4. A hybrid. A chimera. Something comfortable, but also wildly wicked. A motorcycle ready to eat Porsche GT3s given the chance and the right rider. You can feel the locked up potential energy of this motorcycle, especially when just pluckily piloting the SuperSport S in its less powerful Urban mode. The Jekyll and Hyde switch begins when you flip it’s ECU to Sport and the raw intensity bubbling under the surface furiously vents, unleashing the 113 horsepower encased inside the 937cc V-Twin engine.

Coiled like a sitting adder, Angeles Crest Highway laid before me. My time in the concrete jungle is complete. A twisting, winding, curvy, convoluted path, the Crest climbs through just one small part of the mountain range that’s housed in Angeles National Forests. Blind corners, sheer drops, off and on camber turns, and light crests are all harbored within its confines. It is, as many find out each year, a widow maker. It can make the most seasoned riders think twice, thrice, or even take the day off after only a handful of turns. Confidence is key. Not just in your own skills, but also in the machinery you bring. The Ducati SuperSport S gives you the necessary boost in confidence to not just navigate the Crest’s pavement, but to rail through its mountain’s passes, flying from turn to turn.

2018 Monster 1200 S
2018 Monster 1200 S

As each successive curve streamed through the small shield slit of my AGV Carbon Modular helmet, the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn, I leaned on the SuperSport S’s fabulous Öhlins front forks more and more. Directional changes occur like lightning. The only thing that hampered the Ducati’s pivots was my own slowness to slide and hang my ass from port to starboard. This may be the final reason to get me to lay off the bratwurst and pizza, though, on second thought, I’m never going to be Valentino Rossi. Pizza, bratwurst, and beer are here to stay.

My knees, as you’d imagine when piloting something so set up for those with a loose understanding of self-preservation, hung perilously close to the ragged tarmac almost immediately. And that’s what makes it such a wonderful motorcycle. The SuperSport S engenders a sort of wildness that’s unlike the Monster that shares its trellis frame or the straight hooligan nature of the Hypermotard it borrows its engine from. Neither is it the straight racetrack sociopath Panigale V4. It’s some weird amalgamation of them all. Possibly the perfect Ducati.

Ducati Panigale V4 S
Ducati Panigale V4 S Bill Roberson/The Manual

Time to decide if that’s true.

I’m honestly not sure that there’s a chink in the Ducati’s armor. For some, it may be its $14,995 price. While competitive against other sportbikes in its class ( like the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R), the SuperSport S is still an expensive plaything. Not nearly as expensive as the Panigale V4 though. But not as cheap as the Monster.

The SuperSport S is good. Fast. Comfortable. Supremely approachable. And when dive-bombing the latest and greatest supercars in Los Angeles’ circuitous canyons, it’s delightfully playful and will have you grinning from ear to ear. I’ve tested the Monster. I’ve tested the XDiavel. And I’ve played around on a Scrambler. But to adequately declare the SuperSport S as the perfect Ducati, however, I still need to test the Panigale V4. Until then, yeah, I’d have to say that the SuperSport S is the perfect Ducati — at least the perfect Ducati for this corn-fed Chicagoan.

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