Vincent van Gogh once stated: “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” Although it may be a tad dramatic to quote the post-impressionist artist at the beginning of a motorcycle review, his words ring true when riding the 2021 Ducati SuperSport 950 S. It’s a model that certainly seems to love many things, which is also its greatest strength.
Track riding, milk runs, two-up touring (to an extent) or weekend scratches through the canyons are all in this Ducati’s wheelhouse. The SuperSport 950 S is a shape-shifter that can do most tasks that involve tarmac and tires, and do them well, which is a rarity in today’s ultra-specialized world of performance motorcycles.
Released to an unsuspecting public in 2018, the SuperSport and its higher-spec sibling, the SuperSport S, have flown somewhat under the radar while bikes like Ducati’s Panigale V4 and Streetfighter V4 have taken top billing and attention. Harking back to when sportbikes were not single-minded track destroyers, the first iteration of SuperSport enabled riders to enjoy a little wind protection with taller clip-on style handlebars while still being plenty capable of a sporting boogie when the time was right.
Fast forward to 2021 and Ducati has changed the name of the SuperSport S to the SuperSport 950 S, and given it some new clothes and a proper electronics suite of rider aids via the Bosch six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). However, it’s still very closely linked to the 2018 version, and the chassis is a familiar Ducati steel-trellis structure.
A new face modeled on the Panigale range, with LED lights, is paired to a fairing that covers more of the many wires and pipes needed for Ducati’s 937 cc L-twin engine. The motor is the same as that found in the Hypermotard and new Monster that we recently tested, now Euro 5 compliant. As a result, there’s a slight drop in power and torque compared to the old SuperSport, with Ducati claiming 110 hp (at 9,000 rpm) and 69 ft lbs of torque (at 6,500 rpm) compared to the previous 113 hp and 71.3 ft lbs delivered at the same, respective, rpm.
Our 950 S test bike—priced at $15,795—was equipped with the fully adjustable 48 mm Öhlins fork and shock. For comparison, the $13,495 base model comes with a fully adjustable 43 mm Marzocchi fork and a Showa shock that gets preload and rebound damping adjustment.
The brain of the SuperSport 950 S is a six-axis Bosch IMU that manages the Bosch Cornering ABS, Ducati Traction Control EVO and Ducati Wheelie Control EVO programs. There’s also Ducati’s Daytime Running Light setup and the Ducati Quick Shifter EVO for clutch-less up-and-down gearshifts, although, sadly, no cruise control.
The ride experience, even with these new electronic gizmos, is basically as it was in 2018, which is a good thing, I assure you. The SuperSport 950 S is the kind of motorcycle you can plow along on while navigating your favorite backroad at speed, but it’s more comfortable doing things at a step below flat-out. It delivers beautiful, tangible feedback from the Öhlins front end, allowing the front Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tire to guide you serenely from bend to bend while you surf the abundant torque curve present in the motor.
Ducati should be thanked for including its excellent quick-shifter feature as standard fitment to the S and base model, as the rev match is ideal and keeps the chassis perfectly in line for hassle-free braking. Speaking of brakes, they may be a few generations old in the M4.32 Brembo calipers, but they’re matched to a high-quality Brembo radial master-cylinder that gives great feel when trail braking up to an apex, and offer plenty of power for emergency stops.
Although similar to its predecessor in many aspects, the new SuperSport 950 S is a worthy next-gen edition of a bike that’s almost alone in this segment, with perhaps only Aprilia’s RS 660 as a true competitor. Yet it feels like a more well-rounded and solid package than the latter. Ducati has indeed created a do-it-all motorcycle, one that loves many things, using technical and aesthetic brushstrokes that even the likes of Vincent van Gogh may have found inspiring.