2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro Review | One Step Beyond
It wasn’t that long ago when manufacturers poured research and development funds into building the next great superbike. It was reminiscent of a cold-war era arms race, with motorcycle producers vying for power, each showing their technological prowess through the superbike platform, which was viewed as the pinnacle of what a brand can achieve. Those days aren’t done, but when the Bologna folks shift their attention to the heavyweight-adventure class, there is change on the horizon. In this case, it comes in the form of the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro.
Built upon the solid-base of the latest version of the Ducati Multistrada platform that was first introduced in 2003 with the 1000DS, the new Enduro stands as a testament to technological sophistication. More importantly, the Multistrada 1200 Enduro is also quite a threat to other European brands that led the charge into one of the largest growing motorcycle segments – adventure touring. The Multistrada 1200 Enduro’s largest target? The venerable BMW R 1200 GS.My personal connection to Ducati is through its sporting machines. Like many others before me, I was enthralled by the sleek lines and characteristics that only the Italian flavor can offer. The concept of seeing Ducati run full sprint into the adventure bike market was a cause for concern by many brand loyalists; I won’t exclude myself from that group, but after spending time on the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro, I consider my anxieties relieved.
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The Enduro is a step beyond its lineage, however. Where the Multistrada has always succeeded in being more than capable road-faring machine—even able to continue on where the sidewalks end, so to speak—Ducati didn’t originally design the Multistrada with rigorous off-roading in mind. The 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro is the answer to that limitation.With a claimed 266 major component differences between the Enduro and its brothers—the Multistrada 1200 and Multistrada 1200 S—Ducati didn’t opt for a simple re-badging. On the surface, it appears to be a bike built for far more intense situations than just gravel driveways, but what we’re after with this review is how it works on-pavement. For the off-road stuff, we’re going to be passing a Multistrada 1200 Enduro onto our chief adventure rider, Associate Editor Jess McKinley.At first glance, the 560-pound Ducati Enduro (claimed wet) is an imposing motorcycle—make no mistake. With Ducati Performance aluminum panniers by Touratech (85-liter panniers part of Touring Package; 38-liter top case an accessory), 19-inch and 17-in wire-spoke wheels, angled mirrors to give you space while standing upright, a huge eight-gallon tank, skidplates, aluminum side panels, high ground clearance, a tall non-adjustable 35-inch high seat (the lowest optional seat sits at 33.5 inches), the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro isn’t one to shy away from the limelight.For the non-adventure rider, the bulk of all of those things are cause for concern, until you climb aboard. Those initial feelings wash away quickly once you’re met with comfortable riser bars, a firm but sustainable seat, and the decidedly amicable riding position.The Multistrada 1200 Enduro’s weight is distributed quite well and, while sitting stationary, it isn’t a foreign experience in the least bit. Once in the saddle, the big Ducati shares many characteristics with other adventure enduro bikes on the market, until you hit the ignition.The 1198cc DVT Testastretta (variable valve timing) dual spark engine somehow isn’t the biggest success story here, but I think many will find it’s in the running. Outside of EFI mapping, as well as shorter gear ratios, it is what you’d find on its Multistrada brothers, so Ducati claims that this engine produces 160 horsepower at 9500 rpm and 100 ft/lbs torque. Feeding this beast is a Bosch EFI system and ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies—par for the course on any top-tier machine.A wise rider will explore the four, fully customizable, riding modes that Ducati offers: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. The four modes have baseline settings of ABS, traction and wheelie control, suspension, and power delivery to match each descriptor, so let’s not belabor the point.I began my journey in Touring, which allows me full use of the claimed 160 horsepower, but delivered in a far more leisurely manner. That means once you twist the grip, power delivery is smooth and predictable—in short, it’s a great way to get used to such a powerful engine, though there is quite a bit of throttle lag. Again, this is to become acclimated to, and is quite handy when you need to gulp down some undesirable Interstate mileage.I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I swapped over to Sport mode. With reduced interference from the ABS, traction and wheelie control, and rear-wheel-lift detection disengaged, the racing heritage of the Ducati is more than felt here, and I was quite pleased with how unhampered my riding was by the electronics. Once more comfortable on the bike, traction and wheelie controls were backed down a bit, and the suspension got a bump in preload.The DVT Testastretta engine is powerful, creating the vast majority of its torque impressively low in the rpm range. It’s commonplace in the motorcycle review world to describe engines as intoxicating but, as tired as that connection may be, it is an apt description. It satisfies every desire that I have for a performance twin-cylinder engine; pulling all the way through redline with ease, this is an absolute joy.Ducati has managed to eliminate one of the characteristics commonly associated with performance motors—they tend to be doggish down low. The DVT takes care of that, and will keep you putting along at remarkably low rpm, allowing you to pick up and go without any hesitation.The engine package has no issues, aside for a minor stumble in power delivery around 4500 rpm. Once you’re beyond that and you move into the 6000 rpm region, the DVT Testastretta’s personality becomes decidedly more aggressive.There is a sneering confidence to it all, especially while hovering in the 7500 rpm range, that kept me pleased through any canyon. Despite its Euro 4/CARB compliance, the stock exhaust note is exactly what any motorcycle enthusiast would want, especially when you pour fuel into the injectors.I believe the DVT Testastretta’s power to be just at the threshold of a true sport machine. Make no mistake, the Multistrada 1200 Enduro doesn’t feel reserved or restricted; it is refined, in the purest sense of the word.The Enduro’s powerplant knows the meaning of speed, but it doesn’t become uncontrollable or outside the realm of a wide swath of skill levels. Somehow, Ducati has created an engine that can be everything to everybody, which has never been an easy achievement. Keep in mind that this engine needs to lead several different lives—one on the road and one in the dirt, another for high performance riding, and yet another for urban congestion—so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.Power is meaningless unless it can be aimed in the right direction. Ducati’s Skyhook Suspension (DSS), first seen on the original Multistrada 1200, has been expanded upon to handle the rigors of off-road use, without sacrificing too much on-road performance or comfort.Ducati has done an excellent job in this department, considering the fully adjustable 48mm Sachs fork, and the fully adjustable Sachs rear shock offer eight inches of wheel travel. Thanks to the DSS system, damping can be electronically adjusted for the front, while spring-preload and damping can all be customized without turning a single wrench.Under heavy braking, one of the first noticeable traits is that there is a bit of dive; bear in mind that the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro was designed to deal with off-road use, which means fast, heavy impacts. Once you’ve made it past that initial suspension soak, things certainly stiffen up. Rear spring-preload is electronically adjustable to four settings; in the hardest setting, you’ll find the Enduro losing some of its off-road characteristics. It isn’t as taut as a true sport styled suspension, but Ducati was able to sacrifice some suspension stiffness without hampering its overall performance.In the face of that, the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro handles wonderfully. Thanks to an ample wheelbase of just under 63 inches, 25 degrees of rake, and 4.3 inches trail, the Enduro remains remarkably nimble. The notion that adventure bikes are these imposing, unruly pigs might be true for some, but I don’t think we can apply that to the Ducati.What the Multistrada 1200 Enduro doesn’t appreciate is an apprehensive or jittery rider. Not that it will bite the hand that feeds the throttle, but keep in mind that this is a tall machine with sensible suspension, and it requires a bit of forethought. Enter and exit your corners with a clear plan instead of flailing your way through the entrance or exit, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most pleasant experiences two wheels can offer.Tipping the bike in is effortless, and correction while in a corner can be touted as a success as well. In all, the Multistrada is planted when cornering to an absurd degree that inspired a great deal of confidence while out on the road. The front Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tire provides a great amount of positive front-end feedback. While the bike may seem large, an understanding of where the bike is at all times is translated to the rider without a moment of vagueness.The 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro comes with some of the most advanced braking systems on the market. Dual 320mm rotors up front with Brembo monoblock calipers that we’ve all come to know and love. A 265mm rear rotor acts on the rear wheel.Your braking skills are aided by Bosch cornering ABS to help keep you from tucking the front end. For a bike this stout, I appreciate all of the help I can get and the Brembo M4s in the front do a fine job. Braking is powerful, succinct and precise. A single finger approach is adequate for most casual situations. Additionally, ABS can be disabled in the rear and left active in the front, thus allowing a bit more freedom on- and off-road.The rear brake is great for low-speed maneuvering, but beyond that I typically rely on the front alone. One key feature about the rear is the Vehicle Hold Control system. Stomp on the rear brake and once let go, the rear brake will gradually release, making starts on hills a snap.If you’ve strolled by a Ducati dealer in the past few years, you might have noticed that many of their models feature full-color TFT displays that are far more intuitive than most. There is also a wealth of information present, including mph, rpm, gear position, total mileage, two trip meters, coolant temperature, fuel gauge and a clock. Depending on the riding mode the Multistrada 1200 Enduro is in, you’ll also have access to range remaining, current fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average speed, air temperature, traveling time, and an icy road surface warning.Minor changes, such as mode selection, can be done quickly. For more advanced customization, you’ll need to pull over and go through the nested menus, giving them your full attention. All in all, it’s more than the average rider could ever need, but not an unwanted addition.This makes the Multistrada 1200 Enduro more than inviting to ride and, thanks to the overwhelming amount of customization available, there isn’t one issue of braking, traction control, wheelie control, power management or suspension that can’t be worked out to someone’s liking. The engine is wonderful, the fit and finish is what you’d expect of Ducati and the styling has a matured, yet aggressive, quality to it.When sitting down in the garage on my overturned bucket, trying to find the proverbial chinks in the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro’s armor, I’m left at a complete loss.The problem then isn’t with the bike. It’s with me or, rather, the motorcycle community at large. Walk with me a bit and we’ll circle it around, I joined the motorcycle community on a path not unlike many before me. I was introduced through dirt bikes, then moved into supersport machines and track riding, and continued on to where we sit today.I’ve always considered myself one with sport leanings—someone who always yearned for the next superbike. So, the notion of the brand that actually helped bring me into the two-wheeled fold growing and moving beyond their race-oriented confines seemed like a misstep. It’s an unfounded worry when truly considered, and judging from the strong sport lineup that continues to flow out of their factories, it was an opinion guided by a fear of change.Ducati has always asked something of its customers, and even more of the motorcycle community. There are plenty of inline-4 powered sport machines, and plenty of brands that have made scramblers, but none have done it quite in the Ducati way.I was drawn to Ducati, and am drawn to performance twin-cylinder engines, for a certain set of characteristics. I adore the torque and raucous nature that comes with an L-twin. Like many other Italian brands, Ducati has seemingly stayed true to its core beliefs, despite the company’s rapid growth into other segments of the motorcycle world. What Ducati is asking isn’t whether or not you want to own one—I believe the question being asked is far more challenging than that: Are you willing to try it?The question requires some introspective thinking. I wasn’t willing to try an adventure bike prior to these first experiences—they were something that I ignorantly raised my nose at. Now that I have taken that step, I’ve come to find out that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be on a supersport bike to begin with. I enjoy sporting machines for what they are, but a Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro can do more—a lot more.Let’s go back to the garage, the bucket, and my thoughts. When I look at the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro, I’m not asking myself what I “can” do with a motorcycle, the question is flipped on itself—What “can’t” I do with this bike?Though I started my road career on the most violent, engaging machines around, I’m not entirely sure supersport bikes will be the end-all and be-all of my motorcycle mindset after this review.I can see where the road ends for a sport machine, and it is a road that I love to be on for track days or an afternoon, but Ducati has pushed the evolution of riding farther, to a point far beyond the horizon with the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro. I suppose it is up to you to ask yourself the all-important question now.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!