Surrounded by razor sharp volcanic rock formations, and with a thundering big Desmo twin underneath me, I feel satisfied with things. Ducati anno 2010 is a completely different company than it used to be. It takes blood, sweat and tears to come up with something as good as the Multistrada 1200. The old air-cooled Multistrada, the ST4 and ST3 lie dead in the ground. Rising from their ashes come a completely different beast, a beast that can do everything they did and more.
When Ducati launched its full-race traction control on the ’08 1098 R WSBK homologation superbike, nobody suspected just how fast Ducati would apply this technology to ordinary road bikes. Then Ducati launched the 1198 S, followed by the Streetfighter in 2009, both with a road-adjusted version of its eight-stage traction control (DTC). In 2010, we’ve come full circle in the Multistrada 1200 S, which is a sport touring dream come true.
The traction control, a superbly powerful 1198cc L-twin engine, a three-stage ride-by-wire system and electronically adjustable suspension equals superiority in at least two different motorcycle segments–I’m thinking sport touring missile and urban assault vehicle first and foremost.
When I first take a seat in the comfortable saddle, there are a few new things to remember. First obstacle for new owners will be the keyless start-up procedure. Harley-Davidson owners will be familiar with the whole keyless operation, but on the Multistrada the start-up procedure is different. The "key" needs to be within six feet of the bike, and when in that proximity the Multistrada is ready to be started by sliding the ignition on/off button down, then up, to reveal the starter button. The hands-free ignition also includes a conventional key for the fuel filler cap and panniers. The actuation of the steering lock is electronic on the Multistrada, so all you need to do is to place the handlebar fully to either side and slide the off button a second time.
That sorted, I’m off riding in the Touring mode. This enables the full 150 horsepower, but with a smoother torque curve than in full on Sport mode. I find myself in a commanding seat position, due to the wide handlebars and leg-friendly 33.5-inch seat height. The soft and very un-Ducati-esque mild clutch operation allows me to move from first gear with great ease.
Out onto the motorway, I’m accelerating my way through the six-speed gearbox in a smooth manner. The adjustable windscreen gives me quite a lot of buffeting to my helmet in its lower position at high speed, but at its highest level this improved a great deal. The hand guards with integrated indicators protect from the cold morning breezes, whilst the three-step heated grips provide extra warmth until the sun starts warming.
We had lots of side wind during the day touring the island, and even with the panniers on I had no problems pointing the Multistrada to where I wanted to go–it wasn’t a struggle fighting the winds even at high speed. I am immediately impressed by the practical elements of the Multistrada 1200 S Touring Edition package. I will mention this straight away, as all content in this test involves the Multistrada 1200 S, which is a whole lot more than the standard version than what’s usual from Ducati. For instance, you don’t get electronic suspension at all and ABS is only optional, which renders the four riding modes toothless compared to the S model.
What also impressed me was the immense power available from as early as 4000 rpm and superb acceleration from 5000 rpm up to the redline. When approaching the mountain roads, I changed from Touring to Sport mode, which is done by scrolling through the modes using the indicator cancel button. When Sport was selected, I closed the throttle and held the button in for around three seconds. I could then attack the many corners with a more aggressive throttle than in Touring mode.
With all this power and great handling to go, it feels like the Multistrada 1200 S could take on the most serious sport tourers and win with ease. As you all know Ducatis 1198cc engine is its top-shelf liquid-cooled superbike-derived powerplant. The detuning of the full on superbike motor involves reducing the degree of valve overlap angle to 11 degrees compared to the full on 41 degrees on the superbike. As the low-end power delivery is more important than the top end on the Multistrada 1200, this was done to provide a rich and meaty midrange that is a lot smoother when shifting up at lower rpm figures.
Despite the Multistrada 1200 S being a smooth customer, it’ll also do a fine wheelie or two. After all, there’s 150 horsepower on tap and the claimed dry weight is only 417 pounds. The smart-looking exhaust and double mufflers are Euro 3 approved with a good margin (also helped by the 11 degree valve overlap). The mufflers that only stretch slightly in front of the rear tire have been specially designed to provide ample space for the pannier on the right hand side. To be on the safe side, Ducati has also protected the right pannier with a heat-absorbing layer. The powerful Testastretta II engine sucks air into the airbox via two ram-air ducts at the front that double as the obligatory Adventure-style front beak. This latest version of the Testastretta engine provides a touring worthy 15,000-mile service intervals, which Ducati is very proud of.
The traction control and three engine mappings enable me to swap with ease between four different riding modes on the go. After playing with the Sport and Touring modes, which both provide 150 horsepower but with different suspension, engine (aggressive or smooth throttle), and traction control settings, I switch to Urban as we enter a village. When I hit the Urban button the suspension softens up a bit, the engine mapping changes to the 100 horsepower one and the traction control changes to setting 6 (5 in Touring; 4 in Sport) which is a high intrusion for maximum safety over manhole covers and dusty patches.
Add the powerful ABS brakes to this, and the Multistrada 1200 S turns into one very safe city center vehicle. Over little bumps, curbs, and speed bumps the Multistrada behaves like a supermoto on steroids with all safety features known to man, bar only a seat belt. I was a bit worried at first that the engine might feel completely sedated in 100 horsepower mode, but it didn’t, It was more than enough as there are so many other things to concentrate on riding in the city.
I took the Multistrada for a very short off-road section. When selecting Enduro, which I did miles in advance to see how it worked on the road, the engine map stays on 100 horsepower, just like the Urban mode. The suspension however softens further and the traction control setting automatically changes to level 2. On the road, the Multistrada in Enduro mode changes character completely. When switching from the Sport mode to the Enduro mode, the feeling is almost as if you suddenly had a tire puncture–that’s how much the suspension softened.
When hitting the gravel, trying to do a few slides, the traction control kicks in way too early, even on level 2. If I were to ride off-road over a longer period, I would head on deeper into the menu and customize the Enduro setting to level 1 or turn traction control off all together. It’s important to know that you can personalize the four different riding modes to your liking. If you find that you have messed up the settings that you liked, you can return to the default settings with a click of a menu button.
What I would do for off-road riding is to turn off both DTC and ABS. ABS will turn itself on again automatically after turning the ignition off and then on again though, which is a required safety feature from one or more of Europe’s babysitting governments. This is awkward if you’re in the middle of Africa with days and days of graveled roads. For that reason, I’d like a separate ABS button, as on the BMW GS, to make it easier to re-de-activate ABS. I’m not suggesting that the Multistrada 1200 S would be suitable for such a trip, but I’d be willing to try.
Interestingly Ducati have worked with Pirelli to come up with the world’s first 190mm trail rear tire. I spoke to Fabio Sabbioni about this and several other technical features on the Multistrada 1200 S. The main reason the Multistrada 1200 features a 190 section rear tire is that the engine produces 150 horsepower and anything less than 180 would simply not be safe riding on the extreme side in Sport mode. These new Pirelli Scorpion trail tires have a ZR rating safe up to 168 mph.
Back on the gravel, the rear tire would slide at half- throttle. But, as soon as I applied full throttle and held it there, traction control kicked in, even at level 2. The Enduro standard mode is only suitable for complete newbies on the rough stuff, but for everybody else I’d recommend turning all electronic aids completely off for the best off-road experience. The automatic suspension setting I’d like to keep, though. Another useful enduro feature is the solid aluminum engine protection should you bottom out the suspension jumping out of one of those dried out river beds or similar.
On top of the trail-spec superbike tires sits fully adjustable and even electronic rebound and compression Ohlins suspension. The fork is a 48mm USD version, with a small electric motor fitted to the top of each fork-leg. When changing modes on the menu whilst riding, these tiny electronic wonders changes rebound and compression damping according to a preset setting suitable for that particular riding style. I was looking for the sensation of this actually happening and as I changed from Sport mode to Enduro mode, which are the two extremes.
The shock is a high spec TTX electronic version that does the same as the front, but with mechanical preload. Both front and back suspension carries an adventure worthy 6.7 inches of travel. Within the menu system you can even set up whether you’re riding solo, with passenger, or with passenger and luggage–the electronics will do the rest for you. The system results in much more noticeable the changes than on a BMW.
Nearly needless to say, the results are of a Multistrada handling supremely well under a variety of conditions dictated by the roads you want to ride. The tubular trellis frame is in place, as always, and the Multistrada handles easier than its more-hardcore sport siblings. Having a wide handlebar obviously helps with the directional changes, but just as important is the sheer lightness of the whole package. The radial Brembo ABS brakes work well in all situations apart from off-road where the ABS should be turned off.
The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S should be every sport touring riding motorcyclist’s dream bike–that’s just how good it’s at the touring bit. There are many different features and modes to play with, but it doesn’t take long to learn how to use them. The instrument panel is packed with easily read information. The capacity both when talking about the engine, load, and capability on all surfaces known to man and ace suspension is truly unrivalled. BMW GS watch out, shaft drive and dealer network may be your only advantages now. Photography by Milagro
|DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1200 S|
|Type||Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per
cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
|Bore x Stroke||106×67.9mm|
|Power*||150hp – 110,3kw @ 9250rpm|
|Torque||87.5lb-ft – 118.7Nm @7500rpm|
|Fuel injection||Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system, Mikuni
elliptical throttle bodies
|Exhaust||Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and
2 lambda probes, aluminium tail pipes
2=30/17 3=27/20 4=24/22 5=23/24
|Primary drive||Straight cut gears, ratio 1.84:1|
|Final drive||Chain 5.30"; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket
|Clutch||Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic
control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run.
|Frame||Tubular steel Trellis frame|
|Steering lock (total)||76°|
|Front suspension||Ohlins 48mm fully adjustable usd forks, electronic
compression and rebound adjustment
|Front wheel travel||Pirelli Scorpion Trail 170mm (6.7in)|
|Front wheel||10-spoke in light alloy 3.50 x 17|
|Front tyre||120/70 ZR 17|
|Rear suspension||Progressive linkage with fully adjustable Ohlins
electronic monoshock. Aluminium single-sided swingarm
|Rear wheel travel||170mm (6.7in)|
|Rear wheel||10-spoke light alloy 6,00 x 17|
|Rear tyre||Pirelli Scorpion Trail 190/55 ZR 17|
|Front brake|| 2 x
320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo callipers, 4-piston,
ABS as standard equipment
|Rear brake||245mm disc, 2-piston calliper|
|Fuel tank capacity||20l – 5.3 gallon (US)|
|Dry weight**||192kg (423lb)|
|Wet weight***||220kg (485lb)|
|Seat height||850mm (33.5in)|
|Max height||1400mm (55.1in)|
|Max length||2150mm (84.6in)|
Dual seat, ABS as standard equipment
available in two packages:
-SPORT (Cam belt covers, air intake and hugger in carbon fibre)
-TOURING (side panniers, heated grips and centre stand)