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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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 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|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)|
|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)||