The sound and feel are classic L-Twin, as is the punch in any gear and any speed. The Ducati Multistrada 1260 S just wants to hustle down the road. It’s raucous and a bit rough at lower speeds, and while the revs are climbing, as are most engines built with this architecture.
Once at cruising velocity, it thrums happily in top gear over 4500 rpm, not unlike BMW boxer tourers’ feel. While the Multistrada 1260 is quick throughout the speed range, stretch the (ride-by-wire) throttle cable at, say, 75 to 80 mph, and the motorcycle will rocket into triple digits before your next breath—all while keeping its satisfying composure.
I’m sure there are those just hankering for 200+ horsepower from the imminent Multistrada V4. Although I doubt that we will see that kind of power offered on this genre of motorcycle, let us not diminish the amazing abilities of the 1260 S, with its 158 horsepower and 95.5 ft-lbs of torque.
I had the 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S for 12 days and, but for a persistent pandemic, I might have ridden it more than 600 miles. I took it over hill and dale along the Malibu beaches and north. It flew me way up out of Ojai for my favorite BBQ, and pistachio nuts right off the farm in Ventucopa. We experienced some cold mountain mornings, giving way to hot, arid afternoons blazing away on twisty two-lane canyon roads with every kind of switchback, hairpin, and long sweeper you can imagine.
The 1260 is a joy to ride, lacking nothing I need in a trusty steed. The two-position manually adjustable windscreen did its job, although I might like it a notch higher on the highway. Oh, the self-canceling turn signals were a surprising addition, although the muscle memory of turning off signals had me instinctively switching them off anyway. Old habits die hard.
The 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S has heated grips, up/down quick shift, upgraded handlebar control functionality, cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control, vehicle hill hold, and optional bags for touring. There is an LED headlight with cornering lights on the S and a tire pressure monitoring system. Add to that a new TFT color dashboard that’s bright with high resolution, simpler navigation, and an intuitive layout. This motorcycle is the antidote to analog.
As for comfort, I found the riding position quite excellent. I’m six feet tall, and the pegs are just right. My feet can rest flat on the ground and reach to the grips is spot on.
The seat is wide, with good support. It looks plush, yet I found I was squirming a bit between 75 and 100 miles when the saddle seemed to turn to oak. I averaged 44 mpg during my tenure, and that works out to a range of about 225 miles between fill-ups of the 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S, so it would be nice for the seat to have the same range.
The accessory plastic saddlebags are easy to attach and remove from the built-in mounting points. They are well-sealed and stayed dry inside after a good wash and hosing. The bags employ the standard system of a tilting latch that grabs the lid and snaps shut. Both are keyed, and you cannot remove the key without locking the bags—a pet peeve of mine.
I started my journey riding in Touring mode, which has slightly diminished power with the electronic suspension preload at 10. Fueling is smooth in all modes—Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro—and Sport ups the preload to 14 while unleashing unrestricted throttle response.
In Touring mode, there is a bit of a front-to-back hobbyhorse effect under hard riding. However, at touring pace, the suspension is plush, smooth, and comfortable. That’s when I switched to Sport mode, and then all was right with the world. The added spring-preload makes a world of difference.
Mode selection may be made on the fly, though it requires the pilot to close the throttle after picking a mode to allow the switch to take effect. By choosing any mode, the electronics will automatically adjust traction and wheelie control, ABS, front and rear suspension damping, spring preload, and quickshifter timing. Naturally, riders can tweak any settings within any mode and save these preferences.
I like Sport mode best for all-around riding. I want all the power I can get when I want it. I don’t need a nanny to keep me from my precious horsepower—that’s what my wrist is for. Call me old fashioned. I also prefer the slightly firmer preload than that mode offers. I did not try to customize the Multistrada 1260 S’s modes, as I found them quite satisfactory for the demand I placed on the bike. If it were mine, I would experiment and probably tweak them a bit.
When Ducati expanded the motor to a 1260, the chassis was also updated. Ducati lengthened the swingarm by 1.9 inches, the wheelbase by 2.2 inches, and made changes to the rake and trail. Handling is simply superb. You can fling this baby into a turn, brake hard, lean deeply, downshift and rocket out of a corner without breaking a sweat.
Although nominally capable off-pavement, the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires performed flawlessly on the street at my sport-touring speeds. Those interested in turning the 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S into a pure sportbike have plenty of choices for the 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Partial thanks go out to the updated geometry, along with the newly designed wheels and the electronic Ducati Skyhook Sachs DSS Evo shock, which works beautifully. Brembo M50 radial monoblock calipers biting 330mm front discs do the job splendidly. They offer excellent initial bite, with smoothly proportional follow-through and just the right amount of power—just the right combination so that the rider doesn’t need to think about them at all.
I found the quickshifter a pleasant addition on the Multistrada 1260 S, but it seemed to have a mind of its own. Downshifts were sweet. Back off the throttle as the apex approached and snick down a gear or two without much auto-blip, yet the revs match nicely, and off you go.
On upshifts, the Multistrada 1260 S’s reaction to the shift depended on the rev count when making the change. I found shifting early was slightly abrupt, shifting in the midrange was smoothest (with a tiny hesitation), and gear changes at full chat often yielded a longer delay before power resumed. It made me feel that I’d have been faster just using the clutch. I like the unit, but it’s not nearly the smoothest quickshifter I’ve ever used. This may likely be the only feature on this bike that was not near the pinnacle of refinement.
The new Ducati Link app to the Multistrada makes it the first full-featured Ducati that connects the motorcycle to your smartphone. The functionality and recorded data includes speed, distance/riding time, lean angle, power, acceleration, fuel consumption, percentage of use in each riding mode, top and average data, GPS tracking, performance, and statistics. I simply did not have the time or resources to test this feature out, but I would like to hear any comments if you do. It looks nicely configured with well-organized screens.
I found myself missing the 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S after returning it to its home, the motorcycle is inspiringly capable and exciting.
Action photography by Don Williams
Studio photography by Andrea Sottana
Helmet: Shoei Neotec II Splicer TC-6
Communications: Sena SRL for Shoei Neotec II
Jacket: Alpinestars Andes Pro Drystar Tech Air
Gloves: Alpinestars Equinox OutDry
Pants: Bolid’Ster Jean’Ster
Boots: Alpinestars CR-6 Drystar
2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Specs
- Type: Testastretta DVT L-twin
- Displacement: 1262ccc
- Bore x stroke: 106 x 71.5mm
- Maximum power: 158 horsepower @ 9500 rpm
- Maximum torque: 95 ft/lbs @ 7500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 13:1
- Fueling: Bosch EFI w/ elliptical throttle bodies (56mm equivalent)
- Mufflers: Stainless steel
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ up/down quickshifter
- Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ hydraulic actuation and slipper function
- Primary drive: Straight-cut gears
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Tubular steel trellis
- Front suspension; travel: Electronically adjustable semi-active inverted 48mm Sachs fork; 6.7 inches
- Rear suspension: Electronically adjustable semi-active Sachs shock; 6.7 inches
- Wheels: 5-spoke cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 17 x 6.0
- Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 190/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 330mm semi-floating discs w/ radially mounted Brembo M50 Evo monoblock 4-piston calipers and radial pump
- Rear brake: 265mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper
- ABS: Cornering ABS
- Wheelbase: 62.4 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 4.4 inches
- Seat height: 32.5 to 33.3 inches, adjustable
- Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
- Curb weight: 518 pounds
- Ducati Red: $21,295 MSRP
- Volcano Grey: $21,495 MSRP