2009 Ducati Multistrada 1100 S Review

An Italian Swiss Army knife


There’s a collection of bikes on the market that doesn’t seem to fit neatly into one category or another. One of these odd beasts is the Ducati Multistrada. Like its Island of Misfit Toys brethren – Suzuki V-Stroms, Kawasaki Versys, Yamaha TDM, Triumph Tiger, and a few others – the upright Duc causes division among bike fans with its ambiguous intention and quirky styling. Is it a dual-sport? Is it a streetbike that’s meant to look like a dual-sport?

The Multi, like its stable mates, doesn’t perform with quite the same confidence in two worlds – off-road and pavement – like the BMW R1200GS or KTM Adventure, but no one says you can’t take it off the beaten path. After all, the name Multistrada is a bastardization of English and Italian meaning “many roads.”

Multistrada translates loosely to “many roads.” We say in any language, it’s all fun!

Whatever you think a dual-sport (purpose) bike is, or what acceptable percentage of off-road prowess is necessary for a bike to wear the on/off-road hat, is your call. But of two things we here at Motorcycle.com are certain: there likely won’t be a consensus on criteria defining dual-sport anytime soon, and the Multi’s paved-road performance doubly covers any dirt-handling deficiencies it has.

“Multistrada with some S on top, please!”

The standard model (seen here with accessory hard luggage) is no longer available in the U.S., leaving the S model with Ohlins front and rear, and various carbon bits as the only Multitrada for 2009. Both models share the same frame and engine.
The right side body panel opens via the ignition key, and houses a few tools as wells as making an inconspicuous storage compartment.

The M-1100 isn’t news, hasn’t changed since its 2007 introduction as an update to the Multistrada 1000, and has been reviewed just about everywhere under the sun, including on this site. But this time, initially for the purposes of evaluating Metzeler’s new Roadtec Z6 Interact tire earlier this year, we nabbed an 1100 in S flavor, now the only version of the Multi imported to the U.S.

The S and standard model are powered by the same 90-degree 1,078cc, air-cooled 2-valve-per-cylinder Desmodromic lump fed by a 45mm throttle body with Marelli EFI. Output at the crank is a claimed 95 hp at 7,750 rpm with 76 ft-lbs at 4,750 rpm. When we lasted sampled this bike in our 2007 Air-Cooled Twins Naked Comparo, our test unit at that time churned out 79.6 hp at 7,300 rpm and 65.0 ft-lbs at 4,800 rpm on the Area P Dynojet.

Both models carry the character-laden mill in a tubular-steel trellis frame mated to an aluminum single-sided swingarm, both signature Ducati design elements.

Where the S model justifies its $2,500 leap over the standard’s $11,995 MSRP is with the use of an Ohlins fork rather than a Showa unit (both USD 43mm units), an Ohlins in place of a Sachs shock (both have remote hydraulic preload adjusters, the Ohlins adds damping on the remote dial), tapered aluminum handlebar and carbon fiber front fender and cam belt covers.

Quick refresher impressions

It’d been a couple years since straddling a Multistrada, but getting aboard and headin’ on down the road to evaluate the Metzler tire reminded me how much I enjoy this odd Duc.

Its riding position is very open and upright, with a slight forward cant. If you’re taller, say upwards of six feet or more, reach to the bars should be easy and natural. The wide, flat saddle is roomy yet tapers near the 5.3-gallon tank making for a narrow-waisted feel between the knees; short riders might be wary of the 33.5-inch seat height.

Wind buffeting at freeway speeds is tolerable with the tall-ish windscreen forcing most of the airflow over my helmet, but taller riders might have more to complain about. Rider height aside, the funky shaped fairing could use a little more frontal area for additional wind deflection. And we're not sure if the mirrors’ odd shape is due to the integrated turnsignals, but a more traditional cut of glass would improve visibility to what is otherwise a decent mirror.

The white-faced tach is easy to see though it lacks an obvious redline indicator, like virtually all Ducs. Quick glances at the big LCD are informative, especially considering the numerous items (over 10 available) on display.

Easy steering input is the result of the good leverage from the wide bars, and with plenty of ground clearance, cocky riders may be tempted to stick a foot out front motard-style. The highly adjustable Ohlins soaks up everything and anything you can throw its way. Considering a typical standard like Yamaha’s FZ1 has a little over 5 inches of suspension travel, the Multi’s 6.5 inches in front and 5.6 out back doesn’t equate to annoying chassis pitch or excessive front-end dive under braking from the sufficiently powerful 4-piston Brembo calipers.

If there were a “Wheelies for Dummies” book, the Multistrada would be the recommended tool for the task. Abundant torque is ready right off the bottom, levering the front skyward with little more than a hot breath on the throttle. Once past 2,000 rpm or so, a spot of rough fueling dissipates, the grunty 2-valve ably and smoothly pulling 4th gear as low as 2,500 rpm and 6th gear as low as 3,500 rpm. Chug-a-chug-chug!

The transmission proves to be the biggest detractor in this otherwise great mill, as shifting is noticeably notchy and occasionally resistant to switching cogs, save during higher-rpm clutch-less upshifts. A little extra effort is required to squeeze the hydraulic clutch, but its lever is adjustable as is the brake lever.

The up-spec Multi S may not be a daring dirt digger, but it eats canyon roads for breakfast and will make sportbikes wonder what the heck just passed them by!

The “to be a dual-sport or not to be a dual-sport” issue is up to you, but I’ll eagerly proclaim the Multistrada as multi-purpose by a multiple of fun!

The perfect bike for…

Someone who’s not bothered by tall seats, notchy transmissions or dropping extra coin to get a great engine wrapped in a quirky but functional package.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Ohlins for rugged roads
  • Easy, open ergos
  • Um, the engine!
  • At $15K, still not a GS or Adventure
  • Grabby clutch, sticky trans
  • Rider prone to wheelie… forever!

Related Reading
2007 Air-Cooled Naked Twins Comparo
Metzeler Roadtec Z6 Interact Tire Review
All Things Ducati on Motorcycle.com

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