It’s not easy being a motorcycle in the age of multiplicity. Ducati, however, seem to have a firm grasp on creating thoroughly versatile machines, aided by a remarkably effective electronics package and trademark Ducati design cues, which could make a sculpture out of a lawn mower. The original Multistrada was their first venture into genre blurring motorcycling, succeeded by the Ducati Diavel which attempted to be, in equal parts, a sports bike and a cruiser.
The need for versatility was prompted by Europe’s ageing superbiking population, who were on the lookout for something comfortable yet just as thrilling to ride as a superbike. Which brings us to the all new Multistrada 1200 S, set to hit Indian markets later this year. What you’re looking at is a thoroughly overhauled version of the 2010 model, with which it happens to share, not much save for the trellis frame. The 1200cc Testastretta engine is essentially the same but happens to have Desmodromic Valve Timing (DVT) – a revolutionary technology and currently the biggest ace up Ducati’s sleeve. It essentially allows for increased intake and exhaust valve overlap in the engine which in turn increases torque and power levels so they’re more evenly spread across a wider rpm range. But the bike offers so much more than DVT. It’s got a multi-axis gyro which calculates roll and pitch, along with cornering ABS which allows you squeze the front-brakes mid-corner, should you need to, without getting any tarmac bits on your helmet.
Now that that’s out of the way let’s focus on the exciting stuff. Ducati says that its DVT technology was brought in give the Multi the low-end grunt it always lacked. Which meant that the 2015 model had a much wider and more accesible ‘fun zone’, begging to be exploited around the mountains of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, which hosted the Ducati Asia Test ride.
While its easy to trace the visual changes back to the previous Multi, the visual changes do add up to a significantly better looking motorcycle. A new, upright nose, slender midriff and sleeker rear make the Multistrada a compelling looking motorcycle. It’s got a fairly busy looking front, like most adventure-tourers but the headlights are clearly Panigale inspired. Unlike other adventure tourers it has a sportier 17-inch wheel up-front, highlighting the bike’s sportier leanings.
The Multistrada’s party piece is its upgraded electronics package which comprises of four key riding modes – Urban, Touring, Sport and Enduro. The modes essentially alter the power and torque delivery points in the power band and can be customised further to adjust traction and wheelie control levels along with suspension preload. Ducati emphasised the fact that it’s a bike you sit in rather than on, but regardless of how you may feel about that, there’s no denying the allure of that perfectly scooped saddle.
In ‘Urban’ the bike is its most composed – perfect for exiting the city limits of Chiang Rai and familiarizing yourself with the incredibly intuitive hardware strapped to this motorcycle. You’ve got tourer-like upright seating, but you can wrap your knees around the frame, like you would on a superbike. ‘Urban’ essentially cuts down the power to nearly 100 bhp and increases traction control efficacy, domesticating the bike. Standing in stark contrast to this mode is the ‘Sport’ mode, which, when given the full beans, unleashes the raw fury of the 160 bhp, Testastretta L-twin motor.
Around long, sweeping, mountain switchbacks, you’d best stick to the ‘Touring’ mode. Much like the ‘Sport’ mode, you have access to every horse in the stable here, but power is spread out more evenly and throttle response is the smoothest of all modes. It automatically sets the suspension setting to something more comfortable, but you can adjust that on your own should you choose to. Adjustability seems to be a recurring motif in the Multistrada since a setting also allows you to setup the suspension according to the weight being carried on your saddle. Also, the seat itself can be lowered by 20mm if you prefer a lower, sportier riding position. The fourth ‘Enduro’ mode cuts down the power while simultaneously relaxing riding aids such as rear-wheel ABS and softens the suspension for the more tail-happy rider in you.
The new DVT equipped Testastretta motor on the Multi is the most evolved form of the motor yet – devoid of the low-end refinement issues that plagued the previous one. Whacking the throttle open in ‘Sport’ mode will result in a quick succession of wheelies before the ‘Wheelie Control’ mechanism allows the horizon to suck you in with both wheels on ground. The engine truly comes alive after the 5000 rpm mark, but is undoubtedly superbike quick in its ascent to 200 kph and beyond.
Despite being a heavier bike than the previous one, the tall, barrel-chested Multi obediently throws itself into a corner, not once letting you feel the weight of the tech it’s laden with. Thanks to the smoothness of the engine at low revs and the bike’s manoeuvrability around tight bends, it’s not too shabby as a city bike either.
The new Multistrada is 210 kg of pure mathematics and outrageous fun. It may not be the ideal adventure-tourer or the best sports bike, but it combines multiple motorcycle characteristics in a way
no other motorcycle can. Now that the bike is assembled and imported from Thailand, it comes with a highly seductive price-tag of Rs 16.6 lakh (Ex-Mumbai).
It’s one of the most modern motorcycles you can buy, not because it’s just been launched but because it’s the beneficiary of brand new Ducati technology, technology that will now find its way to other Ducatis. Its blend of practicality, thrill and adventure makes it an incredibly unique riding experience – one that’s not likely to get old anytime soon.