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Reviewed: Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Rider with fields

It may not be the largest market in global motorcycling, but the demand for road going supermotos is big enough for Ducati to have a go at breaking KTM’s dominance in the sector.

Up to now, if you wanted a big single with a supermoto stance, pretty much your only choice was a KTM 690, or one of the badge engineered alternatives from sister companies GASGAS or Husqvarna. That has all changed now, with the arrival of Ducati’s brand-new Hypermotard 698 Mono for 2024.

Ducati has long had some skin in the supermoto game but, in a sector where singles are the norm, the big V-twin Hypermotards have always been a bit too much for most buyers. The 698 is an all-new design with a single cylinder engine, essentially half a V-twin, that should (on paper at least) fit more naturally with the classic supermotard style. It’s the first single-cylinder Ducati production bike since the demise of the original Scrambler in the early 1970s, and the first one-pot design since the rare Supermono racer of the mid-1990s.

Known as the Superquadro Mono, the new engine is essentially one half of a 1298 Panigale superbike motor. Ducati say it’s the most advanced single cylinder road bike engine ever made, and although I can’t definitively answer that I can’t imagine they are far wrong. It uses Ducati’s traditional desmodromic valve actuation, which helps with high rpm performance and gives it a unique character. The 659cc single makes just over 77bhp, a touch more than the aforementioned KTM 690 and, despite delivering its peak power at 9,750rpm, has an impressively long service interval of just over 9,000 miles. A restriction kit is also available, to open the Hypermotard up to inexperienced riders on A2 licences.

 

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Exhaust

 

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have a huge amount of experience with supermotos. In part that’s because there are so few on the market and in part that’s because I am a short guy, and this type of bike is typically very tall. It’s not something I would naturally gravitate towards.

And that’s the elephant sat squarely in the middle of room as I approach the 698 for the first time. I’m 165cm tall, at a push 166 in my thick soled Alpinestars boots, and this bike is claiming a 904mm seat height. That’s tall by any bike’s standard, although in its defence the Ducati is very light and has a slender waistline, which makes straddling it easier than the numbers suggest, but still difficult for someone of my stature. There are some official ways to lower it, with an accessory seat and a modified suspension set-up combining to drop the seat height to a still substantial 874mm. This one’s completely standard though, right down to the suspension setting – as I don’t have a tool on hand to wind back the preload.

As I am an experienced rider with decades of tricks up my sleeve, I’ve got a few ways of dealing with the height. At standstill I’ll have my left foot flat on the floor, a butt cheek hanging off and the right leg flapping around like a motocrosser waiting in the holding area. I leave the bike in first gear to avoid having to transfer weight from left to right and try to time every traffic light to perfection. I guess it’s a longwinded way of saying that the Hypermotard is suitably tall and, while most people will be able to ride it, it is not a particularly accessible machine for shorter riders. Still it is what it is, and comes with the territory when you want a supermoto style machine. At least when you are on the open road this is not an issue.

 

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Front Display

 

Climb on board the Hypermotard and you are faced with a typically minimalist view. You find yourself perched up high, sitting on a plank of a saddle. With its impossibly low weight, tall riding position and wide handlebars, there’s something unique about this kind of bike. It’s one of the purest distillations of motorcycling you can buy and this all combines makes it incredible fun on tight twisties and in the battle through urban traffic. Even compared to a high-barred naked, the ergonomics of the Hypermotard give the kind of feeling of being in a video game and the whole thing urges you to do naughty things. All the Ducati promotional material show the famous ‘professional rider on closed circuit’ doing skids and wheelies on the 698. Being a sensible kind of chap, and considering the bad weather during our day with the Ducati (although mainly due to me being a sensible kind of a chap and not having the talent to do such things) I wouldn’t be able to comment, although some other testers riding alongside us did seem to have some difficulties keeping the front wheel down during our 40 mile test ride. It really doesn’t take long to remember the grin a supermotard puts on your face.

We rode the Hypermotard on a media morning laid on by Ducati and riding around damp Cotswold roads it made complete sense. The bumpy, twisty, 50mph-limited A and B roads would be a bit of a chore on a full-on sportsbike, but this was just the kind of territory supermotos live for.

We’re riding the RVE spec machine, which costs £900 more than the £10,995 base version but adds an up-and-down quickshifter (a £242 option on the standard version) and the jazzy ‘Graffiti’ paint job.

 

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Gears

 

The biggest surprise for me was the new engine. In my mind, big singles are lumpy and slow revving – that’s a big part of the charm – but this motor is a real rev monster. That shouldn’t really be a surprise when you consider it is essentially half of the oversquare engine found on the old 1298 Panigale superbike, but the smoothness and way it begs to be ragged is an immediate indication Ducati set out to put its own stamp on the supermoto sector, and not simply do what’s already done by competitors.

The engine does need to be worked a little harder than you might expect from a big single, but this combines with the slick gearbox and quickshifter to reinforce the ‘video game’ feeling the Hypermotard engenders. The electronics package isn’t quite as comprehensive as on the bigger Ducati models, but it’s still very impressive for this kind of bike. You get switchable riding modes, cornering ABS, wheelie control, engine brake management and traction control, which kicked in very unobtrusively on some of the damper sections of our test ride. There are a whole host of settings for riders who want to take their Hypermotards on track. We didn’t have an opportunity to try these out but, being Ducati, we wouldn’t expect them to be anything other than imperious.

The tall suspension and wide ‘bars also make the Hypermotard a joy to ride on these nadgery roads. The single Brembo disc brake set-up at the front is powerful enough to dip the front under braking, but there’s loads of feel and it soaks up the bumps in a way a hypernaked or faired sports bike never could. With just 151kg to haul around (plus the weight of the rider and fuel) this bike is in 125cc territory when it comes to agility. It is proper good fun!

 

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Rider

 

Straight roads are not really the Hypermotard’s forte. Cruising along dual carriageways reminds you of the complete lack of wind protection, the plank of a seat and general lack of comfort. The motor itself is very smooth, delivering less vibrations than you’d expect from a single, but it does get a bit buzzy when cruising along. It’s no big deal, but it’s no Multistrada either.

Cruising along also gives time to think about some of the other less practical aspects of the bike. For example, the minimalist dashboard fits in with the style of the bike but is a little difficult to read on the move, both because of its size and placement, while the cable routing annoyed me too. The brake hoses loop up over the dashboard to form an arch, which I just didn’t like. It looks odd, although perhaps with a bit of bedazzling owners can really make it their own.

But that’s being picky and missing the point of the Hypermotard. Less is more is definitely the name of the game here, and the Ducati nails the brief perfectly. 

Conclusion

Supermotos are Marmite machines for a lot of riders and it’s really easy to criticise the Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono for what it isn’t. It’s not hugely practical, it’s not very comfortable and it’s not particularly fast, at least if top speed Top Trumps is your kind of thing. Many riders will find it too tall and too inaccessible, and while £12k is entry level money for a Ducati, it’s nearly 15% more expensive than the Austrian competition.

But for all that I spent a few hours with the Hypermotard and am still wiping the smile off my face. It is so light and flickable, with a willing motor and domineering riding position. Ducati’s aim is to attract younger riders with its single and I can see the appeal. It’s got a lot of style, one of the most desirable names imaginable on the tank, and it delivers a sporty and engaging ride without having insane levels of power. That also makes it appealing to older riders, who perhaps still want to enjoy in sportier riding – but without the terrifying, licence losing, performance of a Panigale.

Would I personally have one as my only bike? No way, but then I’m not really the target audience. But if I had the money and was looking for a second or third bike in the garage, it would definitely be worth a look. And if I was younger, taller and a bit wealthier? Sure, it’s a very interesting plaything or urban warrior for some riders, and if I was a really talented rider I could have a lot of fun embarrassing some superbike riders on a track day with this, especially at a twisty British circuit like Cadwell Park or Knockhill.

It’s also a credible addition to the Ducati range and a refreshing alternative in the supermoto sector. Based on our experience, it would be unfair to judge whether or not it’s a dynamically better machine than the KTM, Husqvarna and GASGAS alternatives, however it does feel different enough to have its own character, which has always been part of the appeal of this iconic Italian brand.

I also really hope this engine makes an appearance in a more mainstream offering. It would form the basis of a really cool roadster or retro scrambler, giving the wider world an opportunity to experience a real gem of a motor. For now it forms the basis of a gem of a street-legal supermotard. If that sounds like a bit of you, it’s well worth a look.

 

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono RVE Bike

 

2024 Ducati Hypermoto 698 Mono RVE specification

 

Price:                                            £11,895

Engine:                                      659cc single-cylinder, four valves, liquid cooled

Power:                                          77.5bhp (57kW) @ 9,750rpm

Torque:                                        63Nm (46.5lb-ft) @ 8,000rpm

Transmission:                    Six-speed, chain final drive

Frame:                                          Tubular steel trellis

Suspension:                                 (F) Adjustable 45mm upside-down fork, (R) Fully adjustable mono shock.

Wheels:                                    Cast aluminium, 17”/17”

Tyres:                                 (F) 120/70 x 17, (R) 160/60 x 17

Brakes:                                         (F) 330mm aluminium flange disc, Brembo M4.32 radial caliper, Brembo master cylinder (R) 245mm disc, single-piston caliper. Bosch cornering ABS as standard equipment

Weight:                                     151kg (kerb weight, minus fuel)

Wheelbase:                               1,443mm

Seat height:                               904mm

Fuel tank:                                 12 litres

Service intervals:                       9000 miles (15,000km)/24 months

Warranty:                                 24 months unlimited mileage

Contact:                                    www.ducati.com

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