2007 Air-Cooled Twins Naked Comparo
Airin' It Out!
Few names elicit as much lust and excitement as Ducati. With a strong history, a racing pedigree that continues to grow as you read this and that glorious red paint, no other marque available today stirs the soul of riders worldwide quite like Ducati.
Believe it or not, the basic layout of the desmodromic L-Twin engine has been around as early as 1973, and a similar architecture is what we find in the 2007 Multistrada 1100. Fully air-cooled and full of character, the uniquely Euro-styled motorcycle has developed a small cult following with its upright riding position, roomy ergos, long-travel suspension and powerful mill readily able to hoist the front skyward with little more than a hot breath on the throttle.
|Vitals at a glance:|
The 90-degree Twin's pistons pump through an oversquare 98mm x 71.5mm bore and stroke to squeeze out a compression ratio of 10.5:1. Although its 79.6 maximum ponies won’t garner many headlines, it’s the Duc’s broad spread of torque that makes this newly enlarged Desmo such a treat on the street. There’s plenty of stonk coming on as early 4200 rpm, and revving freely all the way to the (no-redline) redline of about 8600 rpm... even in sixth gear! We were really impressed with its linear and brutish power, and we were amazed that the MTS could hold its own in roll-on contests against the BMW stump-puller.
Alex noted that the Duc's power was sportier than, say, the flat torque characteristics of the BMW. “The Ducati builds its power in a more exciting manner, enticing the rider to rev it higher and more often than the others here," was the way he encapsulated his thoughts on this speed-limit-taunting red machine's engine.
Anybody that knows Ducatis is aware they are just as much about their handling as they are about their engines. The Multi uses, like all current Ducatis, a tubular steel trellis frame with the engine as a stressed member. Seems almost quaint when compared with the unique, futuristic-looking single-piece unit that Buells use. But just because it looks like a strange assortment of bicycle frames welded together doesn't mean it isn't up to task.
With plenty of sportbike and performance-oriented riding under his belt, young Alex really liked the Multistrada's handling when termed it as "the sportiest in the group." He also thought that the suspension worked well with the frame to "handle hard braking and mid-corner bumps far more easily than any of the others." The Duc is certainly well-suited to spirited riding with its high center of gravity and light steering that clearly made it the king of "sport" in this shootout. Yet, unlike Alex, I was able to pick up on some chassis movement when I pushed the bike a little more than I probably should have over rough, uneven pavement. But the sensation wasn't ever disconcerting, just barely perceptible and fully capable of being managed.
Like the Buell, the Multistrada has fully adjustable suspenders. An inverted 43mm Marzocchi handles business up front while a Sachs shock attaches to the Duc's single-sided swingarm via progressive linkage at the rear. Also like the Buelly Uly, the Multi has an easily accessed hydraulic adjuster for preload on the shock. We just wish Ducati would have thought a little more about how far that knob was going to poke out between the tubes of the trellis frame. It often jabbed us on the inside of our right legs. Better to have it than not, we suppose. And better to have it on the left side like the Buell and Guzzi, as that allows easier on-the-fly adjustments.
Poking aside, the suspension was really good as delivered. Those accustomed to sportbikes will wince when anticipating large bumps in the road that are ably sucked up by the Multi’s long suspenders. Despite this plushness, the Ducati maintains its composure in sporting situations. Duke, in fact, did a track day at the Streets of Willow on the MTS, which is something you wouldn’t want to do on, say, the Breva. Other than the header pipe shield touching down prematurely, the Duc showed its sporting pedigree well.
Although Ducati doesn't even think about hinting at off-the-beaten path excursions on the Multi, its saddle height (33.5") and suspension travel (6.5" and 5.6" front and rear) suggest that it might consider looking for a secluded camping spot, or something. But even if it won't so much as traverse a gravel driveway, the Multi certainly seems to urge a rider to put a foot down. Just consider the rogue left feet of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Duke and Edge, or is it Edge and Duke?) in these photos.
The wide handlebar produces an upright and forward-biased riding position that instantly had me thinking motocrosser/motard. What that really equated to was a comfortable cockpit and great steering leverage. Wind protection offered by its stylistically questionable nose fairing is among the best in this group, with the Guzzi and its accessory windshield providing the only challenge for supremacy in this respect. The seat that is nicely narrow for feet-down stoplight stints doesn’t provide the wide support offered by the Guzzi or Buell or Beemer. An ergonomic niggle is the clutch housing for the new wet clutch, as its larger cover contacts a rider’s calf with legs down. Evidence is the upper edge of the housing that has its paint rubbing off.
Instrumentation on the Duc is simple to use and chock full of data. A couple of nice touches are the very large A and B buttons that allow you to toggle between different tripmeters and whatnot with riding gloves on; and the white-faced analog tach is easy to see at a glance, but the dearth of a redline just seems screwy.
Where the Multistrada comes up a bit short is in its long-haul comfort and convenience. Valves will need expensive and relatively frequent adjustments, and its chain final-drive system requires messing and fiddling that are unbecoming compared to the belt- and shaft-drive competitors.
But with a great spread of power, good handling, a comfortable rider triangle, unique Ducati style and the heritage to go with it, the Multistrada 1100 makes choosing a favorite from the four a whole lot easier when you consider it's sub-$12 grand price. But get one while you can, as it seems Ducati North America will only import the upgraded S version of the Multi for ’08, which costs $1500 extra but gets you nice Ohlins suspension and some carbon fiber bits most Ducatisti slather over.
|The Perfect Bike For…|
|...the person who's looking to get all the great things they've ever heard about Ducatis, including an instant leap in the social order, without selling their mother, young children and pets into servitude.|