2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

Editor Score: 88.75%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score88.75/100

Seems like only yesterday Ducati summoned us to Spain to ride its new 2013 Multistrada 1200 with 11-degree Testastretta engine and Skyhook active suspension. So advanced. A scant two years later, that bike is so two years ago. The new Multistrada is completely overhauled, with nary a part carried over from the old one save the four sparkplugs.

Lanzarote is an island 37 by 16 miles off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic. It’s too small to really need cruise control, but it’s a huge step forward that the new bike has it, in my book at least, when it comes to making the Multi a real cross-country travelling machine, which is one of the several things Ducati wants it to be.

And the thing that makes the cruise control work so smoothly across the bike’s widened powerband is another piece of new tech for Ducati – DVT, Desmodromic Variable Timing.

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030915-2015-ducati-multistrada-1200-dvt-explained

One valve per camshaft lets cam timing be advanced or retarded enough that valve overlap can be adjusted from a negative 37 degrees at low revs, all the way to 53 degrees up around redline. Among other things, that makes the big Twin way less rambunctious at low rpm: Ducati says DVT reduces “surging” by 78%, increases power by 7% and torque by 9% – and the final benefit is supposed to be 8% better fuel economy. On top of that, valve-interval checks are up to 18,000 miles, and routine maintenance is down to 9000 miles, or 12 months.

The upscale S version comes in red ($19,695) or white ($19,895) with the electronic suspension, LED lights with cornering ones, upgraded brakes, a beautiful 5-inch TFT instrument panel and Ducati Multimedia System: DMS lets you Bluetooth it up and receive text messages on the screen while you’re riding (unless the kids were pulling my leg about that last part. Please don’t text and ride). You can manage your phone with the bike’s handlebar switches and the TFT display.

The claim is 160 horsepower at 9500 rpm in Sport and Touring modes, 100 in Enduro and Urban, and a maximum 100.3 pound-feet of torque at 7500 rpm. The only downside is that the engine gained 5 kilos (11 pounds), which is why the engine guy, Marco Sairu, says DVT will not happen on the Panigale. Adding weight at Ducati is normally a big no-no, but in the case of DVT on the Multi, they decided the trade-off was worth it. Claimed weight is 511 pounds with a 90% fuel load; the tank is supposed to hold 5.3 gallons. Ducati didn’t invent this technology; it’s been around on automobiles for some time, but adapting it to the Ducati Twin is still a minor engineering marvel in its own right, and the video that shows how it works is a lot of fun too.

In practice, you still need about 2500 rpm on the tach for the Twin to really run snatch-free, and after that it’s all thick gravy. The DVT engine’s character feels more like a torquey old 851, back before things became so oversquare, but an 851 with a supercharger bolted to it. Lanzarote in March is packed with German and British tourists on bicycles turning from white to pink before your very eyes and really too small to air the DVT out all that much, but there were a couple of deserted straights where we got a chance to bang the engine into it’s 10,500-rpm redline. There’s plenty of power up there, but the chunky midrange is what the DVT is all about: In Sport mode particularly, there’s a delicious and audible surge at around 6000 rpm that’ll get the yellow DWC (Ducati Wheelie Control) lights flashing if you happen to be coming over a rise. The six-speed gearbox is so fluid, up and down, you wonder why you’d need a quickshifter. Once rolling above third, you really don’t need the clutch, which uses Ducati’s self-servo mechanism to keep lever effort light and acts as a semi-slipper.

It’s easy enough to select from the four basic modes of operation, each of which modifies the display on the S model’s TFT display. The base bike’s black and white LCD screen isn’t nearly as fun or easy to read with older eyeballs.

It’s easy enough to select from the four basic modes of operation, each of which modifies the display on the S model’s TFT display. The base bike’s black and white LCD screen isn’t nearly as fun or easy to read with older eyeballs.

Each mode has these default settings, which you can then go in and modify if you’re picky like that. The wheeliers were all happiest with DWC off. You can hit memory and save the settings you like.

Each mode has these default settings, which you can then go in and modify if you’re picky like that. The wheeliers were all happiest with DWC off. You can hit memory and save the settings you like.

There were a few complaints heard about strange fuelling behavior (on one particular bike) and engine vibration felt through seat and grips, but the only one I noticed at all was a little more V-Twin vibe through the rubber-mounted handlebar than I remembered now and then at certain rpm – not enough to bother me personally. But you know how some of you are with vibration.

I was able to get feet balls on pavement with my 30-inch legs with the seat in its higher, 33.3-inch position, and removing the seat’s 0.8-inch base lets it be lowered to 32.5 inches. There’s also a thinner-padded optional seat that takes it all the way down to 31.5 inches.)

An all-new trellis up front ties into an all-new cast aluminum subframe.

An all-new trellis up front ties into an all-new cast aluminum subframe.

While they were keeping the seat low and the fuel tank the same size, 5.3 gallons, Ducati also raised the engine 20mm to 7.1 inches, supposedly for better off-road ability. Gianfelice Marasco, Senior Designer of the Multistrada project, says those conflicting goals made designing the waist of the bike – the area below the rider’s part of the seat – the hardest part.

Marasco worked at Honda Europe before coming to Ducati in 2012, and the new Multi is his first Ducati. Less bureaucracy and a smaller crew, he says, results in much more responsibility but more satisfaction, too. He had a hand in every part of the new bike, from handlebar switches to new trellis frame to remote key, from initial drawing to final production. The switches really are nice and easy to use, especially the cruise control one, right next to your left thumb. They’re also backlit, which is smart, like the Mac Powerbook I’m typing this on in a dark airplane when I should be drinking.

The cruise control couldn’t be simpler or easier to use. The rest of it could be... There’s a 12V socket up front in the cockpit, and another one under the seat, along with a USB port.

The cruise control couldn’t be simpler or easier to use. The rest of it could be… There’s a 12V socket up front in the cockpit, and another one under the seat, along with a USB port.

For 5’8” me, the ergos are really good. To look at it, you might think taller riders would feel a bit dished in, but I didn’t hear any complaints. Ducati says it spent lots of time working on the ergonomic triangle for both rider and passenger and providing more fore and aft room for both.

More room, and more comfort for the passenger supposedly.

More room, and more comfort for the passenger supposedly.

The widest part of the gas tank/fairing is also 40mm wider than before and, together with the height-adjustable windscreen, feels like it wouldn’t be a bad place at all to spend all day or a few days in a row. Not that the old Multi was bad. Speaking of the windscreen, it’s the best “adventure bike” one I‘ve sat behind in terms of smooth, quiet airflow, and it’s easy to move up and down on the fly with one hand.

The whole bike, in fact, is a smooth, quiet ride, as well, whether you plump for the S version and its new DSS EVO electronic suspension or the cut-rate regular bike.

Your Ducati Skyhook Suspension is pretty dang convenient. Picking out Touring, Sport, Urban or Enduro mode from the dashboard adjusts suspension preload and damping, in addition to power delivery and ABS settings and wheelie control, and it will probably defibrillate you if it senses you need it. On the non-S base model, the computer adjusts all those things except your suspension, which you’ll have to do with the remote preload knob out back and the tools in the kit. Not that hard really – and both ends of the base model are fully adjustable.

Plumbing in Bosch’s new IMU and a couple more accelerometers didn’t make the electronic suspension any less complex.

Plumbing in Bosch’s new IMU and a couple more accelerometers didn’t make the electronic suspension any less complex.

There are 6.7 inches of wheel travel at either end, and the electronic Skyhook calibration has been changed a bit with the addition of the IMU. In Touring and Sport modes, the needle-and-seat valves that control the oil flow don’t move so much, but over bumpy pavement and when leaned over, the electronics are more active than before. From the saddle this translates to a semi-floaty riding-on-air feeling much of the time, which firms up as soon as the road throws you a bumpy curve.

For 160-pound me, the non-electronic S version also served up a firm, beautifully well-damped ride that just feels more analog than digital, not a bad thing in my book. Sometimes, the S felt a bit too soft in Touring, but curing that is probably a matter of pushing a few buttons to firm up the damping, a thing I didn’t have time to do in the heat of press ride.

Steps to make the Multi more off-roady included raising the engine 20mm, making it slimmer of waist, etc., but the handlebar’s too low for standing up. Does this look dangerous to anybody but me?

Steps to make the Multi more off-roady included raising the engine 20mm, making it slimmer of waist, etc., but the handlebar’s too low for standing up. Does this look dangerous to anybody but me?

The Enduro Package, $1,399, 
brings fog lights and Ducati Performance components by Touratech: engine 
protection bars, radiator guard, oil sump guard, a bigger kickstand base and off-road footpegs. Pirelli built new tires for the bike, too, Scorpion II, which are supposed to combine longer mileage and better grip with a more rugged off-road look.

The Enduro Package, $1,399, 
brings fog lights and Ducati Performance components by Touratech: engine 
protection bars, radiator guard, oil sump guard, a bigger kickstand base and off-road footpegs. Pirelli built new tires for the bike, too, Scorpion II, which are supposed to combine longer mileage and better grip with a more rugged off-road look.

And then you got your Sport pack, with Termignoni pipe, carbon-fiber front fender and billet reservoir caps, $1,399.

And then you got your Sport pack, with Termignoni pipe, carbon-fiber front fender and billet reservoir caps, $1,399.

The Urban Pack would seem to be ideal for inner-city schlepping, with a 48-liter top box reputedly able to hold not one but two helmets and tank bag with cell phone window wired with USB port. $899.

The Urban Pack would seem to be ideal for inner-city schlepping, with a 48-liter top box reputedly able to hold not one but two helmets, and tank bag with cell phone window wired with USB port. $899.

Luckily you can’t get too lost on Lanzarote.

Luckily you can’t get too lost on Lanzarote.

Both versions of the bike also get new Bosch 9.1ME Cornering ABS, thanks to the new IMU, which should make it even harder to lowside yourself. A combined braking system, as on the last Multi, uses four pressure detectors to allocate braking power between front and rear, with the amount of bias dependent on which riding mode you’re in. I didn’t find it intrusive, but I never got a chance to work the brakes hard.

S and base versions both have plenty of strong brakes, but the S gets even bigger ones lifted from the Superbike racing department: 330mm discs clamped by Brembo Monobloc M50 calipers and a 16mm master cylinder.

S and base versions both have plenty of strong brakes, but the S gets even bigger ones lifted from the Superbike racing department: 330mm discs clamped by Brembo Monobloc M50 calipers and a 16mm master cylinder.

Ducati expects its new Scrambler will be its biggest seller going forward thanks to economic reality, and the Panigale may be the flagship. But the Multi has been its biggest seller since taking over from the Monster a few years ago, and for serious motorcyclists who’ve been around the block a time or two, it’s the Ducati that makes the most sense. So this new one has to be right. I’m thinking it is; the newfound low-rev and midrange performance are a giant step forward, and don’t get me started again about cruise control. But we won’t know for certain if it’s enough to catapult the Multi to the head of the pack. Lanzarote is a nice enough place but not much like Texas or Montana. We’ll be forced to ride them all together to declare a winner later in the spring.

2015 Ducati Multistada 1200 Specs
Ducati Multistada 1200 Ducati Multistada 1200 S
Engine Type Ducati Testastretta DVT with Desmodromic Variable Timing, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Dual Spark, liquid cooled Ducati Testastretta DVT with Desmodromic Variable Timing, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Dual Spark, liquid cooled
Displacement 1198.4 cc 1198.4 cc
Bore x Stroke 106 x 67.9 mm 106 x 67.9 mm
Compression ratio 12.5:1 12.5:1
Power 117.7 kW (160 hp) @ 9,500 rpm 117.7 kW (160 hp) @ 9,500 rpm
Torque 136 Nm (100,3 lb-ft) @ 7,500 rpm 136 Nm (100,3 lb-ft) @ 7,500 rpm
Fuel injection Bosch electronic fuel injection system, elliptical throttle bodies with Ride-by-Wire, equivalent diameter 56 mm Bosch electronic fuel injection system, elliptical throttle bodies with Ride-by-Wire, equivalent diameter 56 mm
Exhaust Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, aluminium tail pipes Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, aluminium tail pipes
Emissions Euro 4 Euro 4
Trasmission 6 speed 6 speed
Ratio 1=37/15 2=30/17 3=27/20 4=24/22 5=23/24 6=22/25 1=37/15 2=30/17 3=27/20 4=24/22 5=23/24 6=22/25
Primary drive Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.84:1 Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.84:1
Final drive Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 40 Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 40
Clutch Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run
Frame Tubular steel Trellis frame Tubular steel Trellis frame
Wheelbase 1529 mm (60.2 in) 1529 mm (60.2 in)
Rake 24° 24°
Trail 109 mm (4.3 in) 109 mm (4.3 in)
Steering lock (total) 80° 80°
Front suspension 48 mm fully adjustable usd forks Sachs 48 mm fully adjustable usd forks. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo (DSS)
Front wheel travel 170 mm (6.7 in) 170 mm (6.7 in)
Front wheel Y-shaped 3-spoke in light alloy 3.50″ x 17″ Y-shaped 3-spoke in light alloy 3.50″ x 17″
Front tire Pirelli Scopion Trail II 120/70 R17 Pirelli Scopion Trail II 120/70 R17
Rear Suspension Fully adjustable Sachs monoshock unit. Remote spring preload adjustment. Aluminium singlesided swingarm Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment. Electronic spring pre-load adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) Evo. Aluminium single-sided swingarm
Rear wheel travel 170 mm (6.7 in) 170 mm (6.7 in)
Rear Wheel Y-shaped 3-spoke in light alloy 6.00″ x 17″ Y-shaped 3-spoke in light alloy 6.00″ x 17″
Rear tire Pirelli Scorpion Trail II 190/55 R17 Pirelli Scorpion Trail II 190/55 R17
Front brake 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted monobloc Brembo callipers, 4-piston, 2-pad, with cornering ABS as standard equipment 2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc Evo M50 4-piston callipers, 2-pad, radial pump with cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake 265 mm disc, 2-piston floating calliper, with cornering ABS as standard equipment 265 mm disc, 2-piston floating calliper, with cornering ABS as standard equipment
Fuel tank capacity 20 l – 5.3 gallon (US) 20 l – 5.3 gallon (US)
*Dry weight 209 kg (461 lb) 212 kg (467 lb)
**Wet weight 232 kg (511 lb) 235 kg (518 lb)
Seat height Adjustable 825 – 845 mm (32.5 – 33.3 in) Adjustable 825 – 845 mm (32,5 – 33,3 in)
Max height (from the ground to the windshield in highest position) 1495 mm (58.8 in) 1495 mm (58.8 in)
Max length (from the plate holder to the forward edge of the front tire) 1000 mm (39.4 in) 1000 mm (39.4 in)
Max width (measured from the edges of the mirrors) 2190 mm (86.2 in) 2190 mm (86.2 in)
Instrumentation LCD Color TFT display 5″
Ducati electronics Riding Modes, Power Modes, RbW, Ducati Safety Pack (cornering ABS + DTC), Ducati WheelieControL (DWC), Cruise Control, Hands-Free, Backlit handlebar switches, Anti-theft ready, Heated grips ready, Supplementary lights ready Riding Modes, Power Modes, RbW, Ducati Safety Pack (cornering ABS + DTC), Ducati SkyhookSuspension Evo (DSS), Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), Cruise Control, Full LED headlamp with Ducati Cornering Lights, Hands-Free, Backlit handlebar switches, Ducati Multimedia System(DMS), Full-colour TFT display, Anti-theft ready, Heated grips ready, Supplementary lights ready
Warranty 2 years unlimited mileage 2 years unlimited mileage
Additional equipment(* Model weight related)
  • Touring Pack: heated grips, panniers and center stand (+$1,399)
  • Sport Pack: road-legal exhaust (homologated only for EU) Ducati Performance by Termignoni and carbon fibre front mudguard, machined-from-billet aluminium brake and clutch reservoir caps (+$1,399)
  • Urban Pack: top case, tank bag with lock and USB hub (+$899)
  • Enduro Pack: supplementary lights and Ducati Performance components by Touratech: engine protection bars, radiator guard, oil sump guard, bigger kickstand base and off-road footpegs (+$1,399)
  • Touring Pack: heated grips, panniers and center stand (+$1,399)
  • Sport Pack: road-legal exhaust (homologated only for EU) Ducati Performance by Termignoni and carbon fibre front mudguard, machined-from-billet aluminium brake and clutch reservoir caps (+$1,399)
  • Urban Pack: top case, tank bag with lock and USB hub (+$899)
  • Enduro Pack: supplementary lights and Ducati Performance components by Touratech: engine protection bars, radiator guard, oil sump guard, bigger kickstand base and off-road footpegs (+$1,399)
MSRP/Colors
  • $17,695 (base, Red)
  • $19,094 (Touring Package, Red)
  • $17,695 (base, Red)
  • $19,895 (base, White)
  • $21,094 (touring, Red)
  • $21,294 (touring, White)

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Ducati Communities

  • Ser Samsquamsh

    Still funny looking!

    • Old MOron

      Poor JB, even with his full-face helmet and dark face shield, he can’t escape his detractors!

  • Old MOron

    Is MO going to do a video follow-up to this story? You know what would be hilarious: have a scene with JB on the plane, with a flight attendant repeatedly offering to bring him a drink. And with a pained but steadfast countenance, he always says, “No, thank you.” His expression can be more pained each time he has to say no.

    You could even ham it up. JB is about to say yes to the airborne cocktail when you cut to a flashback. It’s before he leaves for Lanzarote and the Duke is admonishing him not to run up a bar tab. C’mon gents, have some fun with this stuff.

    • john burns

      oi, glad you reminded me. Yes, we will have a video! eventually…

  • 12er

    I’m not liking the profile as much as my ’13, the new painted beak seems off, looks sharp from the front though. Updates are nice.

  • JMDonald

    A bike for the times.

  • TalonMech

    Judging by all the reviews I’ve read, the MS is a terrific bike. But something about its looks just leaves me cold. Ducati have always built beautiful machines, but all the multistradas just look awkward to my eyes. I also am not a fan of the latest trend of marketing bikes as adventure/tourers, but then putting them on cast or forged 17″ wheels and making them useless on anything more than graded, smooth gravel roads. BMW,Yamaha and KTM are the only ones making true adventure bikes. Hopefully Honda will release the new Africa Twin and keep it a true RTW adventure bike. I know not everyone wants to beat up a 20k bike in the dirt and mud, but it sure opens the world up to some fun exploring when you do.

    • 12er

      Look at it more of a sport tourer for the real world where crappy roads and potholes dwell. Or in my case a bike that is large / comfy enough for my 6’6 self yet still handles like a dream and goes like stink without weighing a ton. I’ll be the first to admit that off road its only marginally better than my old K12RS BMW sport tourer (Im running the same tires), but on road its night and day. Sit up and beg comfy, effortless to turn with the wide bars and silly lean angles by the high narrow pegs. Im so thankful that this bike has spawned others to join suite like the FJ9, XR bmw etc as I’ll have more than one choice moving forward.

  • WTF

    I for one like its looks. If they keep up the reliability, I may feel compelled to buy one. Any ideas on reliability of the multistradas?

    • 12er

      My fuel guage sensor went out, back brake master was bad from factory and I only have 6k miles on it, but nothing more so far than my previous bikes had when new. Valve adjustments went up to what 18k now for the ’15s? So gas and oil mostly. But time will tell.

  • Concerned Economist

    I’ve got a 2014 model and it hasn’t missed a beat. However, the reliability and quality of the models 2010 through 2013 were woeful, as evidenced by the owner feedback on the various sites and much anecdotal evidence from members of the riding groups I frequent.
    .
    I decided early (2010) I wanted a new Multi but paused when bad reports on quality/reliability filtered through. It broke my heart such a bike wasn’t built properly. I sat and waited and (too) slowly the Italians got their quality act together in those years. come 2014 and things were looking much better. I then pounced and purchased in early ’14 and got a beautiful red GT and I can’t speak highly enough about her. Has never let me down.
    .
    I really need to emphasise that I waited, didn’t buy the first and, sure enough, it took the Italians 4 years to fix the leaks, brakes (rear is still not the best and close to useless believe it or not!), engine issues et al, before their 2010 almost-masterpiece was worth the risk of buying in 2014. It was not and STILL in 2014, IS NOT of Japanese quality. It is however, close enough now for me. On mine there are rough edges around the underside of the seat with messy glue sprays (NEVER on a Honda!!) and various other NON-attention to detail in quality.
    .
    HOWEVER, this is a supernatural bike to ride. This is where the Italians score BIGTIME. DYNAMICS. Even my initial test ride in 2010 was just sublime – (the riding experience – NOT the quality of the product). The comfort is superb, the power is more than I would ever need but about all I want, the handling reads my mind and just TAKES me around the corners without me thinking or trying hard at all. Been riding 40 years and this thing, I can tell you, is from another world. No Japanese bike I’ve ridden comes close in handling or comfort (won’t mention quality again!). She’s not let me down yet so looks like my decision to buy in 2014, 4 years after conception, was a good one.
    .
    The new 2015 bike? Wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. Looks stunningly wonderful (heavier too!!) and I’m sure it rides as well if not better than mine BUT I do NOT trust Ducati to get it right the first time after such monumental design changes, especially the motor. Only the Japanese can do that with 100% reliability. No, 5 years down the track I’ll buy the LAST of this new generation. They should have it as reliable as my lovely 2014 model by then.

    • WTF

      Worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere has kept me off of MS till now. I almost pulled the trigger a couple of times.

      I ride alone for a few thousand miles through a few international borders every now and then. The thought (more like expense and trouble) of airlifting or dragging it back scares me. I guess I’ll keep watching it longingly and see if things go well with this version. Thanks for the perspective of someone who has ownership experience!

      PS. Affect heuristic FTW 😉

      • Concerned Economist

        To WTF; Why don’t you grab a 2014 (stamped 2014) model NOW while they still make them. They seem to be properly sorted (for the most part) and could be a good long term bike – I’m counting on at least 5 years from my 2014 GT.

        • WTF

          Moving countries in a couple of months. I’ll have to wait till I figure out insurance/price/bureaucracy in the new place.
          But I might take your suggestion and perhaps get one a bit used even, or hopefully a new one ! Thanks for the suggestion :)

    • 12er

      I had similar hesitation with the Skyhook, I went for a standard instead on my ’13.

  • DickRuble

    I don’t know about the ergonomics. If Burns can reach the pavement, the bike must be really small. Where’s Sean A when you need a realistic test ride?

    • 12er

      6’6 down to 260lbs now, its one of the few bikes that fits me. But my buddy and fellow Multi owner pulled up next to me at a light and said “I didnt know Ducati made a 250?!”

      • Concerned Economist

        The 2015 has an adjustable seat. . . I wish I had that on my ’14!!

  • Larry_R

    Mr. Burns –

    You graded the suspension and handling at a middling 13 out of 15. But this new Skyhook is supposed to be among the most advanced and versatile suspension systems — what gives? Keep up the great writing.