Fundamental to the Ducati story is the experience one has when riding any of their motorcycles. It would be hard to argue that you don’t “feel” something when you ride a Ducati. There were a lot of feels during my day in the saddle recently at Ducati’s press launch for the all-new Multistrada V4 in beautiful Borrego Springs, Calif.I don’t want to dwell on lists of features, as the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S has enough to make this story book-length. Let me refer you to UltimateMotorcycling.com Website Editor Ron Lieback’s First Look story on the Multistrada V4 for a full rundown. The big news, of course, is the use of a non-desmo motor and a monocoque main frame rather than a trellis design—two things that the most diehard Ducatisti may find difficult to accept. However, once they ride the Multistrada V4, I expect a full Italian embrace of the motorcycle by the faithful.
At the launch, Ducati executives made it clear what the objectives were for the new Multistrada—to be the pinnacle of performance and technology in the ADV segment, build a new Gran Turismo engine derived from the Desmosedici Stradale V4 that delivers a powerful/usable/smooth output, engineer a capable off-road motorcycle, and provide class-leading valve and service intervals. Multistrada means “many roads” in Italian, and this motorcycle definitely needs to be ambitious to meet all those purposes. It would not be a Ducati if it did not also heavily emphasize style, sophistication, performance, and a word I heard a lot during the presentation—trust.I’m partial to the ADV segment and have owned many motorcycles in this category over the years. What I’ve always enjoyed most about them is how versatile they are. I spend a lot of time in the canyons with my friends, on a racetrack, or on multi-day trips. The 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 is another great step in that direction.Sure, it has a 19-inch front wheel, and I’ve been asked whether that inhibits its performance on the street. After riding it on technical and challenging roads, not once did I feel the front tire size hold me back. In fact, if I had one in my garage, I’d gladly do track days on it.Tire manufacturers got wise to the fact that many ADV owners don’t spend a lot of time in the dirt, and have made tires that are 100 percent street-focused. The Multistrada V4’s Pirelli Scorpion Trail II standard tires are as grippy as the hypersport tires of just a few years ago.The Multi handles brilliantly on the road. Whether I was bouncing around town, upping the pace in the canyons to a “brisk” pace, on the highway, or in traffic, it over-delivered in every way. The Multistrada V4 is comfortable, smooth, linear in its power delivery, and has no problem being on the side of the Pirelli. The more I threw at it, the more it made me feel it had way more to offer than I was asking of it.The Brembo Stylema brakes are top-notch, naturally, and trail braking into corners is nothing short of perfect. The brakes have a very linear feel to them, and it does not take much to get the Multistrada V4 to slow or stop when needed—think superbike stopping power, but not at the expense of touch.Tons of cornering clearance is there for when you’re leaned over. Of all the ADV motorcycles I’ve ridden, the Multistrada V4 S puts the “sport” into sport-touring/ADV riding better than the rest—yes, even with a 19-inch front tire. I don’t know exactly how the Ducati engineers did it, but they did it.The motorcycle is incredibly comfortable. I think riders sometimes underestimate just how important that is to riding well in whatever circumstance you encounter. I’ve converted a lot of my street-riding buddies to upright motorcycles for that reason. With the Multistrada, you can ride all day and not feel in any way compromised when the roads start to tighten up or require the performance characteristics this motorcycle offers. On the comfort side, the windscreen is manually adjustable and can be done while in motion. No notches—just slide up and down to your liking.The V4 Granturismo engine is a departure from the Desmosedici Stradale V4 used in the Panigale and Streetfighter V4s—it uses finger rockers and springs for valve control, rather than desmodromically manipulating the 16 valves. That was done to adapt the engine for the type of motorcycle the Multistrada is, and it works incredibly well.The V4 Granturismo motor is smooth at low rpm, with lots of torque in the mid-range, and plenty powerful at high rpm without feeling too mental. The 170-horsepower peak comes at 10,500 rpm, with 92 ft-lbs of torque produced at 8750 rpm, so the new V4 no slouch in the performance category. This bike hauls the mail or can cruise around town with ease.The quickshifter works as you’d expect with the six-speed transmission. It sounds excellent, is giggle-inducing in your helmet, and no false neutrals.The engine sounds fantastic, especially with the accessory Akrapovič muffler installed on my test bike. For being such a big and powerful engine, the vibration is minimal and not noticeable unless you are paying attention to it. Personally, I think engines are supposed to make you feel something, as long as it’s not teeth chattering.Ducatis can run hot, so this was addressed in two ways. Two cylinders turn off at certain temperatures when stopped, while radiator gills and winglets transfer air away from the rider—it all works well. The service intervals are also worth mentioning; oil change every 9000 miles or so, and valve service every 36,000 miles, which is class-leading.Personally, I love all the options on today’s up-spec motorcycles, so this is a favorite topic of mine. The engine modes and S’s semi-active Skyhook suspension are fantastic, as are cornering ABS and everything else the IMU controls. Each mode is programmed to the task at hand.I tried all the different engine modes (Enduro, Urban, Touring, and Sport) and the suspension choices to match the engine mapping.Enduro and Urban reduce power, as you’d expect, and made the engine and suspension adjustments appropriate for the environment. Touring is the best of all worlds—powerful but a bit more compliant and plush. Sport mode is brilliant in the mountains, with firmer suspension and a more responsive power delivery, though not at the expense of refinement.I did not need to make any manual adjustments to the suspension; the presets worked well enough, and you can feel the differences. Whenever I needed the electronics to assist, they did their job so well that I would not have known they were engaged had I not seen the blinking lights flashing on the display. Coming up on gravel, having to make an adjustment mid-corner, or perhaps getting too ambitious on the throttle at lean, were all cradled by the suspension in a way I’d describe as “elegant.” It is truly impressive.The adaptive cruise control from the automobile world—remember, the Volkswagen Group owns Ducati—will undoubtedly spark a lot of conversation and debate from riders. Fortunately, the Ducati adaptive cruise control works really well. You can set it to a speed higher than the vehicle in front of you, and it will keep you distanced from that vehicle. You can also adjust how close you want to be to what’s in front of you. If a passing opportunity presents itself, you can turn on your turn signal and move to another lane. The bike will pass the vehicle at the speed you have programmed.It’s fun to use the high-tech cruise control, and I felt safe doing so. However, I did not allow myself to be complacent or distracted as a rider. It’s a great tool, but not a replacement for staying focused when riding. It took some getting used to, and there are moments when the motorcycle slows hurriedly or speeds up quickly to keep in line with what I had entered in terms of speed and distance.I’d also say that this is a first-generation technology, and, over time, I’m sure it will continue to be refined. More motorcycles will have this as part of their electronic offerings, and I welcome it.Another fantastic safety feature from automobiles is blind-spot monitoring. It is easy to see in the mirrors and lights up when someone is there.Despite owning many ADV motorcycles over the years, I’ve not spent much time riding them off-road. And, true to form, I put the “off” in off-road during that segment of the launch.It was a manageable fall—rider error, and no fault whatsoever should be given to the Ducati Multistrada V4. The good news was the machine was unharmed and immediately rideable, which says something about a motorcycle with so much technology and beautiful bodywork.Fortunately, I was wearing an Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 airbag vest system, which deployed and undoubtedly saved me some soreness and discomfort. I cannot recommend an airbag system enough for street or light off-road riding, and I really see no downside to wearing one for every ride.Open-class adventure bikes are tall and heavy motorcycles. The ADV segment has put a lot of time and effort into making them efficient in the dirt despite those handicaps. The 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 is no exception, so you have to know what you’re doing. On a $24k motorcycle, the consequences can be higher if you tip over, even if you get out of the way.As I mentioned, I’ve done a small amount of off-road riding on open-class ADV bikes in the past. I’d put this generation of the Multistrada near the top in terms of dirt capability performance with the optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires.The TFT dash for GPS, phone, and music is an area that, while the effort is commendable, requires getting everything to work seamlessly. That will be a challenge for some. Like any technology on your phone or computer, the more sophisticated the application is, the more knowledge/patience one needs to make it all work in the way it’s designed.There are four apps available for connecting to the outside world or the motorcycle, and it may take a bit of work for some to get everything rowing in the same direction. Your smartphone gets a nice location in a cubby on the gas tank for charging and interfacing, and that lays the foundation for bringing it all together. This integration is nothing new for us. We have to do this in our daily lives around our computers, smartphones, iPad, and televisions. Some want the same experience on their motorcycles, and some don’t. If you like tech, the more you invest in this type of integration on the Multistrada, I suspect the more fulfilling it will be. However, it will take a bit of time and effort.The 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S is a motorcycle that excels in all the categories it is designed to handle. Whether you’re commuting, out for a spirited ride in the mountains, running an errand, taking in a track day, heading out for a multi-day trip, or getting messy in the dirt, the Multi delivers. It’s comfortable, nimble, feels more compact and maneuverable than its weight and height numbers would suggest, and just feels intuitive as your partner on any ride. There’s an abundance of style and performance, it’s a pleasure to look at, a pleasure to ride, has tons of useable technology, and you still know you’re riding a Ducati despite it being so refined. I had a very fun day in the saddle.Photography by Gregor HalendaRIDING STYLE
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.