2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring vs. 2013 Triumph Explorer - Video

Blurring the lines between adventure- and sport-touring

If we learned one thing during last year’s Adventure-Touring Shootout, it’s that A-T bikes make great sport-tourers. With amenities such as cruise control, traction control, ABS, heated grips and seats, lockable/removable hard luggage, etc., A-T bikes oftentimes differ from their sport-touring counterparts only by way of styling, wind protection and suspension travel.

At $15,700 Triumph’s adventure-touring Explorer is only $190 less than our recent Sport-Touring shootout winner, the Yamaha FJR1300. Upon further inspection we find that the Explorer’s curb weight (adjusted for equal fuel capacity) is only 59 pounds lighter than the FJR. With all this in mind we figured a comparison between the very streetable Explorer and the reigning king of the adventure-sport-tourers, Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 S Tourer, was in order.

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Pounding out 111.7 horsepower at 9000 rpm and 74.6 ft-lb of torque at 6300 rpm during our A-T shootout (clearly outgunning the other A-T bikes in the competition) the 1215cc Triple powering the Explorer is an engine we love.

“The Triumph reigns supreme when it comes to off-idle, low-end grunt, and it builds its power in a very smooth fashion,” says Scott Rousseau, our guest tester for this comparo. “Amplifying the Tiger’s growl so that it sounded more aggressive than it actually is, but having tested a stone stock Tiger Explorer as well, I can attest that Triumph’s big-block Triple is supremely linear with or without the Arrow accessory pipe mounted on our bike.”

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring vs. Triumph Explorer Action Front

But where the Triumph easily dominates power output among its A-T rivals, the British Triple is simply no match for the Italian V-Twin. The Ducati Testastretta 11° motor spun the dyno to a tune of 130.9 horsepower at 9300 rpm and 78.4 ft-lb of torque at 7500 rpm, clearly besting the Trumpet. Surprising to both Rousseau and I, however, was the Explorer’s ability to match the Duc during top-gear roll-ons.

“I wouldn’t say that the Ducati’s Testastretta Twin is less civil or less smooth than the Triumph’s Triple, but its performance is definitely sexier and more edgy,” says Rousseau. “The Multistrada 1200 S isn’t as authoritative as the Tiger, but the Ducati more than makes up for it with a generous mid-range rush and more overrev than the Tiger, so you can hold it in the same gear longer and still stay in the meat of the power.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring vs. Triumph Explorer Dyno Chart

From the sport-cruising Diavel to the just launched Panigale R, Ducati has shown it knows how to make a well-handling motorcycle. Once let loose in SoCal canyons, the Multistrada quickly proved why it’s the bike to beat in the twisties. Certainly, the Explorer is at a disadvantage when attempting quick transitions due to its 19-inch front wheel, balanced off somewhat by the Ducati’s wider rear hoop (190mm vs 150mm), but what it mostly comes down to is a matter of weight. The same issue that killed the Explorer’s chances of winning our A-T shootout is again plaguing the Triumph in this comparison.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Action Right

“The Duc rewarded us with razor-sharp steering, making it more fun to rail through corners than the more deliberate-steering Tiger Explorer,” says Rousseau.

Not only is the Explorer 54 pounds heavier than the Duc, it seems to carry that extra poundage as high as possible. “With its pair of 17-inch wheels, the Ducati has an uncanny grace when untangling serpentine roads – it feels more like an overgrown supermoto than a pukka adventure-tourer,” says EiC, Kevin Duke. “And its retuned-for-2013 V-Twin motor is able to outrun and outgun Triumph's amiable Triple whenever the road opens up.”

But we send kudos to Triumph for recalibrating its Ride-by-Wire throttle just eight months after we rode last year’s model, removing the hyper-sensitivity we loathed from our previous tester.

Fuel Economy and Range
  Tank Capacity Average MPG Fuel Range
Multistrada 5.3 gal 34.7 184
Explorer 5.3 gal 38.3 203

Stopping power from both bikes is impressive. The Brembo-equipped Ducati provides somewhat fiercer initial bite, but the Nissins on the big Tiger are up to the task of slowing the heavier Triumph. Helping the Duc’s cause are its larger 320mm front discs vs the 305mm front discs of the Triumph. Both bike come standard with switchable ABS, but where the Multi’s brakes are linked front to rear, the Explorer’s are not. 

Technology v. Technology

Both bikes feature switchable traction control. The Triumph provides two levels of intervention and off whereas Ducati's system can be manipulated between eight levels of intervention and off.

Semi-active suspension is at the forefront of technological advancement, and Ducati’s Skyhook Suspension (DSS) is leading the way along with similar offerings from BMW and Aprilia. How DSS operates is covered in Duke’s original riding impression, but more importantly is the resulting performance.

“DSS offers a plush ride on the highway yet also delivers superbly controlled suspension when ridden like a sportbike,” said Duke following the press launch. “Previous Multistradas, and indeed almost any long-travel bike, suffer from a considerable amount of front-end dive when on the brakes, but Skyhook does an amazing job of limiting longitudinal forces that can make A-T bikes squirrely during hard deceleration.”

Triumph Explorer Action Right

Jumping from Ducati’s Skyhook to Triumph’s adjustable-for-preload-only fork couldn’t provide a more stark contrast. Where the Multi maintained composure no matter the road condition or level of aggressiveness the Explorer wallowed under hard braking.

“The Tiger Explorer is more plush than the Ducati for general everyday riding, but its lack of electronic adjustment means that you’re married to your suspension settings if the road in front of you should morph from arrow-straight to serpentine,” says Rousseau.

On the other hand, the Explorer comes equipped with cruise control for a lesser retail price than that of the base model Multi ($16,995) which lacks DSS and isn’t equipped with Touring model’s hard luggage.

Model Price Comparison
Ducati Multistrada 1200 Triumph Tiger Explorer
Base - $16,995 Base - $15,699
As Tested
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Triumph Explorer
$19,995 $19,539
Model Upgrades Cost of Accessories
Multistrada Multistrada S Touring Arrow Exhaust- $900
Marzocchi 50mm fully adjustable inverted fork Sachs 48mm fully adjustable inverted fork. Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension Panniers - $800
Fog light kit & switch - $380
Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Remote spring preload adjustment. Aluminum single-sided swingarm Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment. Electronic spring preload adjustment with DSS Aluminum single-sided swingarm. Heated Seat - $370
Alloy belly pan - $220
Front Brakes:2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo calipers. Rear Brakes: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper. Front Brakes:2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo calipers. Rear Brakes: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper. ABS as standard equipment. Heated Grips - $230
Heated passenger seat - $320
The S Touring model also includes: 58-liter side luggage, heated grips and a centerstand. Crash Bars - $220
Tire pressure monitoring system - $170
Handguards - $120
Aluminum radiator cover - $110
Headlight protector - $80
Total - $3,920

Both bikes offer smooth-shifting transmissions and linear clutch action, but a major drivetrain difference is the Ducati’s use of a chain and the Triumph’s shaft.

“I prefer the Triumph’s shaft drive system to the Ducati’s chain drive for this class of motorcycle,” says Rousseau. “If you plan to eat a lot of miles, it simply makes more sense, and the Triumph does a great job of isolating driveshaft-induced torque from its rear suspension.”

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Off-Road

The Places You’ll Go

Either bike is capable of providing adventure. The decision to make between them comes down to rider preference and the roads chosen to arrive at any given location. For the more touring-oriented motorcyclist, the Explorer’s comfort, plushness and, especially, the cruise control are of greater value than the Multi’s Skyhook suspension and backroad prowess.

For long-distance comfort the Triumph’s wind protection, taller bar risers, lower pegs and flatter seat are ideal. The Explorer also features a seat that’s easily adjustable for two levels of height. It may seem inconsequential, but because of the bike’s top-heaviness, I found myself preferring the seat in its lower position around town while the taller position provided more legroom and thus comfort during longer hauls.

“The Ducati’s seating posture combines perfectly with its lower, narrower handlebars and footpegs that are situated higher in the ergonomic triangle than the Triumph’s. That may be the hot ticket for canyon carving, but the Tiger Explorer’s seating position is better for touring,” says Rousseau.

 Explorer Highs:     Explorer Sighs:
  • Cruise control/switchable ABS
  • Engine performance
  • Shaft drive
  • Top heavy
  • Dynamic luggage system
  • More form than function

Triumph Explorer Accessories

If you're looking for a comfortable traveling companion with the ability to venture down intriguing dirt roads, the Explorer is the preferable choice. But if you lean toward sport riding in an upright and adventure-ish package, the Multistrada is the more satisfying choice, especially if you're able to afford the dynamic Skyhook suspension of the S Touring model.

Duke’s final words regarding this shootout: “As much as I wanted this to be an apples-to-apples comparo, the riding experience just doesn't support it. The Explorer veers clearly toward the BMW GS path with its 19/17 wheel combo, although its top-heavy architecture makes it much less wieldy than the Beemer in technical off-road situations. It boasts exemplary manners during highway travel, and its cruise control helps deliver miles-inhaling, over-the-road comfort. But its performance on a twisty road falls way short of the shockingly sporty Multistrada.”

 Multistrada Highs:     Multistrada Sighs:
  • Skyhook suspension
  • Handles like a smaller bike
  • A sportbike for immature grownups
  • Price
  • Luggage functionality
  • No cruise control

So, until we acquire a Caponord outfitted with Aprilia’s Dynamic Damping (ADD) suspension, the Multistrada’s adventure-sport-touring crown remains secure.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring vs. Triumph Explorer Action

By the Numbers
  Multistrada S Touring Tiger Explorer
MSRP $19,995 $15,699
Engine Type L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, Dual Spark, liquid cooled Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 106 x 67.9mm 85 x 71.4mm
Displacement 1198 cc 1215 cc
Horsepower 130.9 @ 9300 111.7 @ 9000 rpm
Torque 78.4 ft-lbs @ 7500 rpm 74.6 ft-lbs @ 6300
Fuel System Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system, Mikuni elliptical throttle bodies Ride-by-Wire, fuel injection
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed
Clutch Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run Wet, multi-plate
Final Drive Chain Single-sided, cast aluminum alloy with shaft drive
Frame Tubular steel Trellis frame Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front Tire 120/70 17 110/80 R 19
Rear Tire 190/55 17 150/70 R 17
Front Suspension Sachs 48mm fully adjustable inverted fork. Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension KYB 46mm inverted fork, adjustable preload, 190mm travel
Rear Suspension Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment. Electronic spring pre-load adjustment with DSS Aluminum single-sided swingarm. KYB monoshock with remote oil reservoir, hydraulically adjustable preload, rebound damping adjustment, 194mm rear wheel travel
Front Brakes 2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo calipers, 4-piston, 2-pad. ABS as standard equipment Twin 305 mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston calipers, Switchable ABS
Rear Brakes 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper Single 282 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS
Fuel Capacity 5.3 gal. 5.3 gal.
Rake/Trail 25.0˚/110mm 23.9˚/106mm
Wheelbase 60.2 in. 60.2 in.
Seat Height 33.5 in. 32.9 in. or 33.7 in.
Curb Weight 516 lbs 570 lbs
Electronics DSS Ducati Skyhook Suspension, DSP Ducati Safety Pack (ABS 9ME + DTC),Riding modes, Power modes, R-b-W, heated grips. Electronic cruise control, traction control and switchable ABS, R-b-W
Colors Red, Matte Chrome Sapphire Blue, Phantom Black, Graphite
Warranty 24 months 24 months

Related Reading
2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Review
2013 Ducati Multistrada Models
How the 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200S’ Skyhook Suspension Works
2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer XC Unveiled
2012 Adventure-Touring Shootout - Video
2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer Review

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