Ducati’s wheelie assist helps riders keep it up for longer, but how does it work?

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Wheelie control systems have been around for several years with the express aim of preventing or minimising front wheel lift and maximising acceleration.

However, Ducati’s new Hypermotard 698 Mono adds a new dimension to the supermoto category by introducing a wheelie assist system that actually helps you maintain a wheelie for longer.

It’s not something you get as standard, though. While every Hypermotard Mono gets four levels of wheelie control, ranging from ‘level 1’ that allows substantial wheelies before intervening and reducing power, to ‘level 4’ that’ aimed at keeping the nose firmly on terra firma, the new wheelie assist system is available only as part of the £2093.04, non-road legal Termignoni exhaust package.

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono rear shot

It’s an intentional move, of course – Ducati don’t want to be seen to be encouraging long wheelies on public roads, and by packaging the wheelie assist with the race-only exhaust it means buyers are making an informed decision to add it as a track-only feature.

It’s essentially a logical evolution of more established wheelie control systems. These started life as aids for racers, and early systems used a combination of front and rear wheel speed sensors and front suspension stroke sensors to monitor when the front end was leaving the road.

This would trigger a cut in torque using the same methods as traction control, eg altering the ignition, injection, throttle position, or a combination of all three.

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono dash

IMU revolution

The development of the six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU), which started to reach production bikes around a decade ago, is key to the much more sophisticated wheelie control systems in use now, and to Ducati’s new wheelie assist which features on the latest bike.

Based on Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), these IMUs were pioneered by Bosch, who still supply electronics for Ducati, including the Hypermotard Mono.

MEMS blur the distinction between mechanical and electronic elements, with microscopic movement sensors and gyroscopes mounted inside chip-like components on circuit boards.

Pulling a wheelie on track on the Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono

They’re how your phone can tell what angle it’s being held at and whether it needs to rotate the screen image and can just as easily measure the angle and rate of angle change of a motorcycle.

Multiple choice

While modern wheelie control systems are still focused on minimising front wheel lift, many have adjustable settings to decide how early they intervene – just like the standard version of the Hypermotard Mono.

When triggered at a predetermined level of wheelie, they decrease torque to help bring the nose down.

Where the Ducati wheelie assist differs is in the fact it can also increase the torque to help keep the front wheel aloft. It’s not unlike the gyro-based balancing systems used in electric unicycles or hoverboard toys, which increase or decrease torque to keep the contact point underneath the centre of gravity.

Cornering on the Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono

More fun, not less

It’s a programming difference rather than one requiring any additional components and illustrates how electronic rider aids that usually put a dampener on wilder behaviour can also be used to assist it.

In the same way, lean sensitive cornering traction control and ABS systems that started life as slide-prevention systems are increasingly developing into slide controls that let you drift into a corner on the brakes or out of them on the throttle.

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono Termignoni exhaust

Ducati Hypermotard 698 Mono wheelie assist explored:

  • Power intervention The system can intervene via the engine’s torque output, using a combination of the electronic throttle, the ignition timing, and the fuel injection to add or decrease torque.
  • The magic combo When combined with the Ducati Quick Shift (DQS), wheelie assist will help maintain a wheelie through the first three gears or until you hit the rev limiter.
  • More coming soon? Wheelie assist is a software package, using the same sensors and hardware as the DWC (Ducati Wheelie Control) on the standard Hypermotard 689 Mono. That suggests it will be easy to apply to additional models in future.
  • Great minds think alike Allied to other information from wheel speed sensors, engine speed sensors and throttle, clutch and brake position sensors, the system can deduce the bike’s status and, to a certain extent, the rider’s intentions.
  • Information overload Gyroscopes in the Bosch six-axis IMU measure roll, pitch, and yaw to inform the cornering ABS, traction control and wheelie control systems, while accelerometers monitor changes of speed.