Most young men dream of wild erotic European getaways with multiple women, endless booze and mouth-watering foods.I was one of those men. But for the past decade or so, the women part of the equation has been replaced with motorcycles—especially those donning red with a slender mid-section that keeps me begging for more and more.
Yes, I’m talking about Ducati motorcycles. But for this piece, I’m not exposing the sporty types that most are familiar with; rather, I’m talking about the more mature Ducati—the Multistrada.The Multistrada was introduced in 2003, shocking the industry. Its bold design by Pierre Terblanche intermixed the worlds of supermotards and sport tourers.While the initial run of air-cooled machine received moderate fame, this changed in 2010 with the release of the Multistrada 1200. It was touted as a “four-in-one” motorcycle due to its four riding modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro.The design was again daring, and I initially hated the looks. But there was no denying the comfort and all-around performance on the streets. As for off-road, well, the Multistrada was far from BMW GS and KTM Adventure territory.Ducati set out to change that in 2016 with the release of the Multistrada Enduro. It featured wire-spoked wheels—the front now 19 inches—a larger gas tank, and revised ergonomics. It was basically a test for true Ducati fans who were serious about adventure touring, and much criticism directed to the folks in Bologna.Within weeks of the 2016 Enduro’s release, Ducati designers were already busy updating their core adventure tourer. The final result arrived this fall—the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro.The new Multi arrives with Ducati’s updated 1262cc DVT (Ducati Variable Timing) engine that was implanted into the base Multistrada last year. However, there’s much more than just a new engine in the 1260 Enduro; the new Multi also received updated electronics and ergonomics.I couldn’t wait to ride this one, especially because I’ve been waiting for the perfect Multistrada to finally replace my MTS 1200, which is about to hit 44,000 miles.My time with the new Multi arrived this October in Italy, just after the fall grapes were harvested. My dream of a wild European getaway had arrived, and I was hoping my moto mistress was up to par with my expectations.THE MEET UPNothing beats the smells and sights of a motorcycle just pushed off the assembly line.The smell of fresh rubber, paint, and metal remind me of all the energy that goes into design. The lack of bugs on the headlights and the fairings brings me to a happy place, as does the sight of clean oil, which appeared like olive oil in the new Multistrada when I first noticed her in The Florence Hills Resort & Spa.This was home base for the night before heading a few miles northwest to Castello di Nipozzano—home to the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) Enduro Academy, as well as some of Tuscany’s oldest vines. They deliver endless flavor for wine lovers, especially those who indulge in the Sangiovese grape.After a short bus ride with one of the most skilled drivers, typical in Italy, I first laid eyes on my future mounts—one Sand colored, the other Ducati Red.The tech presentation was typical of Ducati; it included all details a moto journalist could need. Inside the castle, amid a huge five-by-five-foot painting of a rider thrashing a new Enduro, various pieces of the bike were laid out, from the plastic eight-gallon fuel tank/fairing to the double-sided swingarm to a set of wheels, which were revised and lost 4.4 pounds.Ducati’s top design and marketing team explained all the details during the tech presentation. Beppe Gualini, one of my favorite Italians, and lead instructor of the DRE Enduro Academy, explained the route.I’ve never witnessed Gualini get angry, even when riders crashed his bikes. He has the perfect patient attitude to guide riders who want to better themselves. And don’t let that gray hair fool you, he shows no remorse when it comes to displaying serious off-road riding skills.The test route for the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro was 75 miles on the street, plus 40 miles of dirt. The Chianti and Bolognese food flowed as I discussed various details of the motorcycle, all which can be found in our First Look and First Ride pieces. There’s no reason to flood you with technical details here.My goal that evening was singular—sleep off my jet lag so I’d be 100 percent for the next day of riding. I couldn’t sleep because body was six hours behind, and even the booze wasn’t helping. I finally fell asleep listening to some Italian on TV praising American music, even mentioning Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. I couldn’t agree more. Esattamente tizio TV, esattamente!THE STREETMy first ride aboard Ducati’s new Multi was on the street. Within minutes of leaving the grounds of Castello di Nipozzano, the revs were cranking past the 158 peak horsepower point of 9750 rpm.The revamped powerband is immediately noticed. Power remains linear throughout the rev range. The sweet range is from 3500 to about 7500 rpm. Throughout that wide range torque remains above 88 ft/lbs, and you get a nice pop of energy around 7100 rpm—another happy place for me.This causes lazy riding—you can basically remain in higher gear for as long as needed, whether you’re cranking up hill, downhill, or chugging at low rpm. Just get back on the throttle and let the Testastretta DVT do her thing.But that’s boring, especially because Ducati wisely updated the Multistrada 1260 Enduro with a quickshifter. Auto-blip downshifts are one of God’s ultimate gifts to motorcyclists.Except for a few missed beats while smashing down from fourth to third gear, Ducati’s quickshifter never faltered. The only time I used a clutch was when pulling out from, or to, a stop. Even then, the Enduro assisted me with its Vehicle Hold Control function that eases uphill starts.The road portion, which took me through some of Tuscany’s finest countrysides of Passo della Consuma, Rufina, Londa, Croce ai Mori, and Stia, allowed me to fully gauge her comfort.Though the seat lowered a half inch to 33.8 inches (34.6- and 33-inch versions are also available), and the bars were lowered just over an inch, the rider triangle didn’t feel as cramped as I assumed upon first glance. To put this into perspective, I am nearly six foot with a 34-inch inseam.The ergonomics are not much different from my current Multistrada 1200, but the same can’t be said of vibrations. This new Enduro only vibrates when off the throttle and letting the engine speed drop. Other than that, she’s a much smoother ride than the former Enduro or other Multistrada 1200 platforms.Ducati also refined the riding modes and all associated electronics, including a revamping of the electronic Skyhook suspension system. There are four load settings—Rider, Rider + Luggage, Rider + Passenger, Rider + Passenger + Luggage.I began in the base Rider setting, but found it too soft. A quick change to Rider + Luggage stiffened the suspension, providing the firmer feel I crave when riding a trellis-framed bike.I remained in Sport mode most of the time, though Touring mode was smoother and provided much more comfort. I like riding aggressively, and the slightly twitchy throttle and sportier suspension settings in Sport spoke to me.The road version—Sand in color for our test—wore the standard Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires. These impressed, and provided endless grip.Another fun factor of the Multistrada Enduro is there is zero need to lean off the bike. This also enhances laziness, something I am all for when I just want to enjoy the ride and not work to go fast. You basically point and pull the trigger—no need to hang off this ride. Oh, and don’t worry about shutting the turn signals off; the new MTS 1260 Enduro has an auto-cancel feature.Further laziness occurs due to the magic of the electronic aids—especially the cornering ABS and traction control. When I first left the castle, some roads passed through tunnels of trees and were damp.I experimented with the traction control, which I initially had on 3 of 7 for the morning ride. I could not break traction, and neither could I get a front tire to slide – something I stupidly enjoy controlling on a motorcycle when testing.Cornering ABS is another one of those divinely inspired motorcyclist aids. I personally like all control, but these rider aids save lives. That means more motorcyclists on the road, and safer motorcyclists. As for the front brakes themselves—320mm discs squeezed by Brembo M4.32 monoblock calipers—they didn’t provide the strong initial feeling I respect on the street. Then again, they presented zero issues for most riding styles.Halfway through the ride, the traction control, ABS, and wheelie control functions were turned off. You can never take the hooligan out of me, and the hooligan attitude is strong when you need it to be.Luckily, it’s simple to set the parameters up like this in any mode, though you can only do that when stopped. The simple left control and intuitive functionality of the new five-inch TFT instrument makes this easy.I set Sport mode up for pure fun, and left Touring in the factory-spec settings in case I wanted to back off and just enjoy the scenery—something that happened for maybe 10 minutes at most.Urban mode tames the MTS 1260 Enduro to 100 horsepower, and cranks up the electronic aids. I used this in a few town situations, and it made the bike feel Monster 821 like.Yes, she performed as expected on street in those three street modes, but I was now anticipating Enduro mode, and just how much this gal can handle.THE DIRTHere’s where things got fun, and I walked away most impressed. As I stated before, the Multistrada 1200 Enduro didn’t speak well to me off-road—she needed a wakeup call. Within seconds of riding the Red Multistrada 1260 Enduro set up for off-road, I realized she had finally reached that peak.The Enduro models had a smaller windscreen, the mirrors removed, and were shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally knobby tires, which felt like a 60/40 street/dirt tire. The tires could have used a bit less air pressure during some slicker mud sections, but they performed their duties well both on- and off-road.I’ve ridden Italian roads numerous times, though except for a few miles of fireroads in Sardinia a few years back, I’ve never ridden any trails. The double-track trails we rode presented all conditions, from step uphill sections covered in sharp rocks, to slippery downhill portions and longer sweepers.My worries were the reduced suspension, which went from 7.7 inches, down to 7.3 inches for both front and rear. Though it had reduced travel, the 1260 Enduro felt much stronger off-road than the previous 1200 Enduro.During the first two miles or so, I bottomed out once or twice, blaming the reduced travel. I quickly realized I made the same mistake I did on the street ride; I had the bike’s load set up for only a single rider. When I switched it to Rider + Luggage, things improved drastically.Also, unlike the 1200 Enduro, you can choose between three different power modes—High, Medium and Low—within the Enduro mode. I began in High, but the throttle input was to abrupt, and Low was too lazy.Medium was, well, the happy medium. It provided the perfect throttle response for all off-road situations, whether power sliding or slow-speed clutch work on some sharp uphills while navigating through rock sections.Did I say clutch work? While staying glued to our lead instructor Andrea Rossi’s tail—a DRE instructor who helped develop the original Enduro 1200—I was picking up pointers as he barely used the clutch.I found second gear to be a do-all gear for 80 percent of the trail riding. Due to the new linear torque curve, I could let her chug all the way down to under 1000 rpm, and then just hammer it for smooth throttle delivery.Same can be said when hitting the faster stretches between turns; I just cracked her wide open and allowed the engine to do all the work.Everything fast must come to a happy ending, or at least slow, and the brakes impressed. When riding at an aggressive pace, the Brembos actually felt better off-road than on.In Enduro mode, the ABS is only activated on the front wheel. I kept it at 1, and kept wheelie control off and traction control on one. These settings were perfect for an intense pace.You can also manipulate the front suspension from Hardest to Harder to Medium to Softer; I found Harder to be the optimal setting off-road when combined with the Rider + Luggage load setting.Though the handlebars were lowered, the 1260 Enduro provided pure comfort when standing up, which I did for 95 percent of the off-road ride. The seat goes higher up the gas tank than the 1200 Enduro, and is skinner up front.When standing on the pegs—now a hair less than a quarter-inch shorter due to the lack of the rubber insert—I was able to easily clinch the gas tank with my inner legs on fast sections, so I had no issues flicking the bike in either direction while standing.Also, when standing and my knees are bent and rolling over quick mogul-type terrain, I know I’m in the perfect position because the passenger seat slaps my behind when the suspension is fully extended. It is a nice gentle tap that keeps my confidence in check.Another great thing about standing is the engine heat didn’t affect me inner legs as much as when riding on the street.This type of riding can last well into day because of the eight-gallon gas tank; Ducati claims a range of around 240 miles.The Sachs steering damper helps stabilize the front end under aggressive riding, a welcome feature. The 1260 Enduro also has cornering lights. While I didn’t ride at night, I noticed them working on portions of trails darkened by a tree canopy.The trails were not as challenging as expected—not because they weren’t aggressive, but because the new 1260 Enduro is simply that good.One of the most challenging parts of the off-road ride was not trails, but the training grounds for the DRE Enduro Academy. It is an adventure-touring course led by Gualini, who has 65 African rally-raids and 10 Dakars under his racing leathers.Though I remained glued to our Rossi’s tail during the trail-riding portion, the DRE course wore me out quickly—especially on trails cut into a slightly-inclined hillside. They looked simple from above.Once on them, though, you have decreasing radius turns with offset camber. If you’re not in the right position on the bike, you’ll go off course—something I did a few times.This wasn’t the Multistrada 1260 Enduro’s problem, but mine. I’ll say it again—off-road is where I thought the motorcycle would show all of its weaknesses, but Ducati has proven me wrong.Does it rival the venerable BMW GS and KTM Adventure platforms in off-road situations? When off-road, I always said the GS caters to the more conservative riders, and the KTM to the more aggressive jockeys, and anyone who rode the GS and Adventure platforms back-to-back would likely agree.Off-road, the new 1260 Enduro finds the happy medium, and can be predictable and comfortable like the BMW GS Adventure, but untamed and wild like the KTM Adventure models. If the Ducati had a 21/19 wheel setup like the KTM, I think it would take away from its all-around character.After my first ride aboard the 2019 Multistrada 1260 Enduro, I think they finally nailed it.THE TAKEAWAYAfter my Euro getaway with the new Enduro, I had one question: Is it time to leave my current MTS 1200, and go for something new? The affair has been a wild one that I’ll surely never forget and want to live over and over.The sole problem with my current MTS 1200 mate is her unworthiness off-road. This is why I cheat on her with a KTM 1190 Adventure R.But with its latest updates, especially the Jekyll and Hyde 1260 DVT engine that goes from pure smoothness to pure aggressive pleasure, I think it’s finally time. My affair went extremely well off-road, and the new 1260 Enduro found pleasure in everything I threw at her.Of course, I have to find a good home for my current ride, and double my work duties for whatever cash I need to reach $22,000 for the purchase. The new 2019 Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro has it all, and as with most things that can perform basically any duty with perfection, she doesn’t come cheap.Addendum: The Ducati Riding Experience Enduro Academy is the type of big-bike off-road training I crave, as do many other stateside riders. But most can’t simply travel to Italy to take the DRE. Ducati has listened, and will be opening a DRE this spring “out west.” Ultimate Motorcycling will post all the details once they are available.Photography by MilagroRiding Style:
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