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Two supermotos. One twisty road. Can it get any better?

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If you look closely at the pictures on these pages, you will notice that the person in the black AGV isn’t familiar. Meet Aneesh. Aside from being a hotshot, fancy-pants lawyer, he is also the owner of a black Ducati Monster 821. But that’s not what makes me jealous of him. What really gets me upset is that somehow, he has managed to convince his friends to let him keep all their motorcycles.

This means, Aneesh currently has in his garage – a Ducati Monster 821, a Ducati Monster 795, a Ducati Diavel and a Ducati Hypermotard 939 that belongs to his friend, Samarth. Now that last one there is what makes my heart beat a little faster every time he mentions it. You see, the Hypermotard is one motorcycle that I have been chasing for close to a decade. Through some cruel twist of fate, the red supermoto has evaded me all this while. I was beginning to accept defeat when along came another supermoto and rekindled that flame.

From the day I first rode the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, the urge to ride the Hypermotard only became stronger. And this was when I called up Aneesh, packed my bags, hopped on the Dorso and headed towards Bangalore. All to scratch this itch once and for all…

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By definition, both the Hypermotard and Dorsoduro are supermotos – dirtbikes running street rubber. But in reality, the supermoto-ness is more a styling exercise than anything else. But as a styling exercise, they are both incredibly good looking motorcycles. In my books though, as much as I love the Dorso, the Ducati is a more eye-pleasing design. The Dorso might just be a bit too polarising. In a way, it’s a bit too out there. The Hyper on the other hand… Well, let’s just say I’ve not yet met one person who hasn’t liked the way the Hyper looks.

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Functionally, though, both these are miles apart. Traditionally, supermoto ergos are a combination of a tall, flat seat, wide handlebars and off-road-ready footpegs. Between the two motorcycles here, the Dorso is the one that stays true to this tradition. The seat is flat and tall, the footpegs have rubber inserts that can be taken off to become off-road pegs and the handlebar is almost as wide as the bylanes of Bandra. While the Hyper too ticks most of the above boxes, there is one area where it lacks. The seating position on the Hyper feels properly awkward to me. Where the Dorso feels 100 per cent dirtbike when you’re on it, the Hyper is downright strange.

It feels like you’re seated right over the front axle. This means you spend a large amount of time worrying about flying over the bars. The more pronounced dip in the seat only adds to this feeling by preventing you from moving your backside backward. Of course, more time with the Hyper might fix this issue, but my brain just couldn’t accept this.

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Especially when you consider the extra performance packed into the Hyper. The 937cc motor in the Hypermotard makes close to 110bhp of peak power and 98Nm of peak torque. In this scenario, the 93bhp and 90Nm from the Aprilia’s 896cc motor seems a little lacking. But in real life, there isn’t any lack of velocity in either. Both accelerate pretty violently even if the Ducati feels slightly quicker.

But where the Aprilia makes up for this is in the sheer violence with which it expresses itself. Back to back, the sensations that the Aprilia evoke seem more carnal than the Ducati. The Hypermotard seems more mature and calculated in its feel. This holds true in how both these motorcycles behave in the city too. The Dorsoduro behaves exactly like the manic child that it is. It gets stupidly hot. To the point where the high coolant temperature warning light starts flashing at every single traffic light that is longer than a minute. The Ducati, on the other hand, has accepted the fact that heavy traffic and high ambient temperatures are a part of life. It does not complain. It merely goes about its business. What the Hyper doesn’t like, though, is crawling. This is when the L-twin’s typical unhappiness crops up. But truth be told, I’d rather deal with some low-rev crankiness than the ridiculous tendency to overheat any day.

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But then, city life is not what these motorcycles are about. They are more about doing stupid things around a twisty canyon road. And that is exactly where we took them to stretch their legs a bit. And when we did, there was no end to the grins. The chassis spec on both these motorcycles are pretty similar. They are both built on Trellis frames with adjustable suspension all around. Electronics-wise too, they are similarly specced – riding modes, power modes, ABS, traction control. Both motorcycles get full and restricted power modes with a choice of intervention from the various electronic aids. What I liked more about the Aprilia is that the interface felt a lot more modern. The screen was a full colour TFT unit whereas the Ducati still uses a LCD unit that felt a whole generation older. But despite the differences, they both worked pretty well.

I did feel the Aprilia’s electronics to be slightly more modern in its interference. They seemed a tad more seamless than on the Ducati. But the fact remains that they work equally well and with the assists off, both these motorcycles reach for the sky with minimal encouragement.

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What really did feel different was how they handled. By forcing the rider to sit way forward, the hyper has added some crucial weight to the front end. This meant that the front end hooked into corners way better and with a little more urgency than it did on the Dorso. Of course, you still need to get used to that odd seating position. But once you hotwire your brain to accept that oddness, the Ducati works exceptionally well around corners. In fact, the Ducati felt more like a sports bike than a dirt bike, here. The Dorso, on the other hand, was obedient but required a bit more effort. It turned in and held its line beautifully, but just not as well as Ducati.

But, the two are so close within each other’s grasp that it is difficult to find fault. And that’s a theme that constantly runs through this entire story. Both these fantastic motorcycles are so close to each other in all aspects that it’s almost difficult to choose a winner. Almost.

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In my heart, the Dorso has a very special place. It is a motorcycle that I fell head over heels in love with from the moment I swung my leg over it. It did everything that I wanted a motorcycle to do and it made me want to forgive all its follies. On the other hand, the Ducati was a motorcycle that I had dreamt about for years and except for small little irritations, it performed its duties exceptionally well. My heart still somehow wants the Aprilia. There’s just this unmistakable character it has that cannot be matched. But there’s a rather large elephant in the room. Multiple elephants, actually. Aprilia’s service and dealer network is still quite shoddy. So buying and running the Dorso is sure to be a headache unless you live in Pune or one of the other Motoplex-enabled cities.

The Dorso is also over `2 lakh more expensive than the Ducati. On the flip side, Ducati’s dealer and service network is among the best in the country and the extra cash I save on the Hyper can go towards the most important accessory of all – fuel. Both these motorcycles, as excellent as they are, come with flaws. But if I had to choose one, I’d choose the Hyper. Even though I lust after the Dorso, the Hyper just makes more sense overall. We’d like to thank Samarth Harish and Aneesh Patnaik for making this story possible.

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