Why the 2021 Ducati Supersport will fail and what can be done to save it
When Ducati recently announced that they are going to present a new updated Supersport bike, I was excited. I’ve considered the previous (current) model but never bought one because of the strange design decisions and weird headlight aesthetics. I’ve opted for a 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX instead, which was the best choice at the time (I still miss the SX even after upgrading to a more modern and faster bike).
When Ducati finally unveiled the photos of the new Supersport I was even more excited, because I thought that they’ve finally understood what people actually expect from that motorcycle. They realized that people want a Panigale-looking bike in a Sport-touring body. Ducati got rid of an ugly LED unibrow that made the bike look ridiculous and injected it with the aggressive Panigale aesthetics DNA. I mean just look at it. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
But when I looked through the specs and accessories I was disappointed. Ducati has not actually figured it out. In fact, the bike still has the same stupid problem it used to have. It’s not a proper sport tourer. Why? Well, let’s talk about what makes a great sport touring bike.
Sport-touring bikes are supposed to be the ultimate all-rounders, basically it’s the equivalent of Grand Turismos from car world. They are expected to be:
- sporty, agile and fun to ride on twisty roads
- aesthetically pleasing, stylish
- comfortable for extended periods of riding for both rider and passenger
- practical in terms of carrying capacity
In a nutshell, they should be designed with both spirited riding and traveling in mind. These bikes are also supposed to look great while having luggage on or off.
Interestingly, current sport tourers can be divided in two categories:
- old-style, sexy grand-turismo like bikes that look like sport bikes with a riding position close to streetfigters or sport bikes (but with triple clamp and clip-ons/handlebars set above the seat level of a bike)
- new-style bikes that try to look like they are ADV bikes capable of riding on unpaved roads or off-road, but are actually not. These bikes are somewhat an equivalent of sporty SUVs from car world.
The problem is that people buy the latter ones more and more, so the former old-school cool sport touring bikes are a dying breed. There are actually not a lot of them being produced, I can list them all here:
- Kawasaki Ninja 1000
- Kawasaki H2SX
- Honda VFR800F (though it was not updated in a quite a long time and it seems like Honda will deprecate the model soon which is a shame)
That’s it. Just those three bikes. There is really nothing to choose from if you are in a market for a modern stylish sport tourer that looks like a sportbike (sure, there is also a SuperDuke GT and MV Agusta Turismo Veloce, but they are more of a new style upward-seaters that are designed to look more like adventure bikes — those are great on twisty roads but are less stable at highways on higher speeds).
I really like how Ducati Supersport looks, but they got the whole practicality thing wrong once again. The great thing about the bikes I listed above is that they all look great with luggage on and off, because they were designed around that idea — you can use them as regular sportbikes (but more comfy and a little less agile due to weight and ergonomics) with luggage off, or you can add practicality by adding luggage. And adding luggage is as easy as clicking panniers on the bike itself, since the mount points are integrated.
Ducati does offer panniers for Supersport, but this luggage system is highly unpractical due to two reasons:
- It’s not integrated, which means you have to install additional brackets on the bike to add the luggage. There is no way of taking this brackets off or putting them on quickly so your bike will end up looking ugly when the brackets are on and luggage is off as you probably won’t screw around taking the brackets off and on often. So you will probably be using panniers all the time or none of the time, while on a proper sport tourer you can just click panniers on or off in a couple of seconds. Why Ducati is still using this archaic solution is beyond my comprehension, perhaps they are just lazy.
- It’s not secure. No, not in a way that it might fly off your bike, but the problem is that panniers are semi-rigid and you cannot lock them properly as they are locked with zippers. Yes, that’s right — ordinary zippers. Even if you put a padlock on them, zippers can still be easily opened with a ballpoint pen, so you won’t have you peace of mind when parking your bike and going hiking/dining/sunbathing or whatever you want to do on a trip. Yes, you should not leave any valuable items in your panniers either way, though a thief does not know if there is nothing of value inside so he may be tempted to break them, because it’s as simple as opening a zippered bag.
So, nice iteration, Ducati. You are very slow in adapting changes unlike your competitors like Kawasaki, but you are going in the right direction. This years update of Supersport was about aesthetics (and the result is gorgeous). Now it’s time to listen to your customers and realize that people actually want practicality from their motorcycles (people that don’t need practicality usually just buy proper sportbikes like Panigale, not sport tourers).
Add some integrated luggage and you will have a best-seller like Kawasaki did with it’s Ninja 1000. I’ll even consider downgrading from my supercharged sport-touring bike, because the new Ducati Supersport looks so damn good I want to lick it.