Ducati Multistrada S
Ducati have a patented new gadget in the new ‘Strada, and it’s surprisingly simple as well as wickedly effective; meet the Actuator…
Words & photos: Kev
The new Ducati Multistrada is the result of so many changes that, despite looking very familiar, it’s really a whole new motorcycle. That fact is all too easily glossed over by the much vaunted Ducati Variable Timing; a clever but simple new method of giving the new bike better manners down low without losing any ‘Ducati-ness’ on the open road. I mean, you’re not going to castrate a Testastretta 11 just get better low-down power without a red-dressed lynch mob tracking you down are you?
Clever – but so simple
Enter the clever mechanical actuator that lets the new Multistrada smoothen out down low and still rev higher and pump out more power than the old model, now peaking at 160 very willing horsepower. And the transition is seamless, as in you can’t hear nor feel any transitions as the cunning widget tweaks the spinning valve-train to alter the valve overlap to suit. Will it become the norm in the other Ducatis? Yup, you’d have to think so. No more using the clutch (a wet version with no rattle) to smoothen out the lower reaches of the rev-range around town as this new ‘Strada pulls from way down by its boots, all the way to a hammering top-end as 160 horsepower shoves you along towards the spot where you haul on the new Brembos to scrub off speed.
With the comprehensive electronic suite also helping, care of mapping the ignition and fuelling, the end result is a bike that is smoother, faster, better in every way but instantly recognisable as the latest in a successful line. With the electronics also refined in the traction control department, mind-blowing cornering ABS and even the new Skyhook EVO suspension it’s a serious upgrade, so Ducati have decided to meet the ever-increasing challenge from the competition head-on. They haven’t headed down the hard-nosed off-road adventure trail, choosing to target the meat of the market – the back road tourer whose chosen roads will include highway stretches, interesting back roads, gravel scenic routes and the odd excursion up some easy open trails, just because the Multistrada can. It has more capabilities than that, but seriously, that’s where the vast majority of these awesome beasts will prowl. If you want serious off-road, the Ducati is too shiny, has a roadie front tyre size and doesn’t have the body armour to cope with the abuse that something like a BMW R 1200 GSA will shrug off. Back on its turf, the Ducati reverses the order by 35 ponies and a keenness to charge hard or tour with sophistication and more than a dash of class – its preferred domain.
With the new bike comes a redesigned seat that is both comfortable and firm enough to ride all day on yet let you move around easily when you decide to play with the minds of your sportsbike companions. Harder to shake than the deadly man-flu, the versatile Multistrada S, as in multi-road sport, it’s not a nonsensical name. Even the lower seat (adjustable between 825-845mm) adds to its broader appeal, so the name could refer to appealing to people from all roads of life. Once you start spotting the changes, you soon realise that the bodywork, frame, electronics and even many mechanical parts are all new for the 2015 Multistrada S.
So, is all that fancy electrical functionality really necessary? For the target market, yes it is now. You can forego the Skyhook suspension by getting the base model, and the dash isn’t as flash, but even the entry version comes with the wheelie control, traction control and Bosch’s latest cornering ABS. For the typical buyer in the big adventure (but road bias) market, comprehensive safety electronics are expected, as these bikes will do duty two-up touring and solo scratching, so being able to instantly set the bike to suit is a huge part of the appeal. With the inclusion of the actuator and DVT, there is simply no denying that Ducati have made a big step forward with the new model.
So, after sampling the latest edition of Ducati’s successful (their second biggest seller globally) Multistrada, where does it fit in the motorcycling world? Well, the strada bit really, as in roads. Sure, it has some off-road abilities, but the middle ground that sees a growing assortment of bikes with similar credentials and even a common styling theme, these all-rounders seem to appeal to all but the niche-focussed. So all but the die-hard sportsbike fans will appreciate its potential, same with all but the Erzberg followers in the adventure scene – ditto with naked sportsbike aficionados and the ripped-down tourers. So although not fitting totally into any one shaped box, the almost universal appeal has really brought the brand to the people. The every-man’s Ducati? Yep, for sure.
Paul’s Second Opinion
For some reason, over all my years of working on the magazine I’d always missed out on riding a Ducati Multistrada. So with ‘fob’ in hand (it doesn’t have a key…) I was chomping at the bit to give the latest model a go.
First impressions were, I’m afraid to say, pretty disappointing. I expected arm-wrenching power from the Testastetta powerplant, but there was nothing of the sort. A delve into the settings on the stunning full colour TFT 5” display soon revealed the problem, with the Multistrada being received from the dealer set in full-on wet mode, i.e. low power, maximum traction control and soft suspension. A bit of selecting from the menus and the Multistrada was back to being a Ducati; wild, involving, full of character and sexy enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I love the new technology coming through on bikes and the Multistrada has to be one of the most advanced bikes out there. With many styling queues taken from the executive car domain, the Multi sees keyless ignition, backlit controls, instant smartphone connectivity and adjustable, well, everything! You really can set the Multistrada up just how you want it.
The full banks of LED headlights again follows the trend of the four-wheel world, although it did produce the consequence of having every other road user flashing at me as they thought I was on full-beam. LEDs tend to be so exact that they look like they’re flickering as the vehicle moves over the road’s surface, so with the bike’s lights mounted higher than many cars, the effect seemed to be even worse. Still, at least they gave great visibility and the cornering light (an LED which illuminates the way you are turning) is a great safety addition.
In fact, safety is the name of the game with the new Multistrada, with an assortment of electronics all there to enable you to travel safely while enhancing the enjoyment and useability of such a stunning powerplant. Wheelie control, traction control, cornering ABS, switchable mapping and even the Skyhook suspension adjustment all go to make the Multistrada one of the safest bikes on the market today, with the option of connecting the bike to the D|Air airbag clothing system even available, where the bike knows it’s crashing and tells the airbags in the Ducati clothing to inflate around the rider. If there’s ever an argument that technology has a place on motorcycles then this has to be at the top of the list.
But my lasting impression of the Multistrada isn’t of all the buttons, colour screens, menus or gizmos and isn’t even of the performance of the engine. It’s of the comfort and the way that the Multistrada destroyed distances in supreme comfort no matter the weather conditions, type of road or style of riding. One up, two up with luggage, sporty, cruising, touring or commuting; the Multistrada took everything in its stride, changing personality with the push of a button. That’s my lasting impression of the Multisrada and the true character of a modern motorcycle.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Specifications
Engine: Testastretta DVT, variable Desmodronic valve timing, 4-valves, Dual spark
Bore and stroke: 106 x 67.9mm
Maximum power: 117.7kW (160hp) @ 9500rpm
Maximum torque: 136Nm @ 7500rpm
Fuelling: EFi, elliptical throttle bodies and ride-by-wire throttle
Transmission: 6-speed, light-action slipper clutch, self-servo action when driving
Suspension, front: Sachs 48mm USD forks, Electronic compression and rebound adjustment
Suspension, rear: Sachs shock with electronic compression and rebound adjustment, single-sided swingarm.
Frame: Tubular steel trellis type
Seat height: 825-845mm (adjustable)
Rake/ Trail: 24degrees/ 109mm
Brakes, front: Dual 330mm discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc Evo M50 4-piston calipers with cornering ABS
Brakes, rear: 265mm disc, 2-piston calliper with cornering ABS
Wheels / tyres: Front; 3.5 x 17” 120/70 R17. Rear, 6.0 x 17” 190/55 R17 (Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres
Wet weight: 235kg
Fuel capacity: 20litres