Photos: Kevin Miklossy
The Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) is a treat. Push the bike harder through the turns and the semi-active suspension firms up under the computers ministrations, edging towards the Multistrada’s sport mode. Turns become a more taunt, the Multistrada more responsive and tipping in more easily and lightly. Ease off and loaf along the highways, in so much as a 150hp bike encourages you to loaf, and the suspension plushes out to soak up bumps and imperfections.
Surprised by traffic cutting you off, or perhaps a glimpse of the local constabulary, and squeezing a handful of brake lever in response? The front suspensions firmness is, in loose terms, proportional to the braking force, meaning the DSS counters fork dive. Not entirely, but still the bike’s geometry doesn’t change as much as conventional suspension, making the Multistrada even more predictable than the previous generation… and braking less visibly obvious. In touring the ABS sensitivity is set to its highest level, 3, and refuses to let the rear wheel lift. So no fully loaded stoppies then as the Ducati Safety Package inclusive of ABS and traction control, does its business.
With the Multistrada and I both in “Touring Mode” and the suspension running supple but not soft, I’m seeing the advantage of the DSS. The Skyhook smooths the road noise and imperfections out giving and the bike silks over over moderately broken pavement. I’ll save feeling every road imperfection, every ladybug run over, for outbursts in Sport mode. Road feel is good, but can be wearying over a distance.
One of the big touring questions is, “What happens if the DSS faults out while a long ride?” Luckily, you still manually adjust the suspension, while roadside and cursing the need for tools. Even without adjustment with the DSS inactive, the Multistrada remains firm, but rideable.
The improvements to the fairings and windscreen deliver as advertised. The subtle updates in height and width of the windscreen, 8mm taller screen and 43mm wider, deliver much less buffeting. The dimensions are robust enough that the beak on my adventure style Icon Variant helmet doesn’t grab any wind. That’s a big check mark off our list of complaints from the bikes previous generation.
One of our other major gripes however hans’t been addressed. The first generation of Multistrada’s luggage suffered from poor seals. Ducati addressed the deficiency by retrofitting two additional latches on the bags leading and trailing edges additional to the original designs locking latch and handle system at the bag’s top. The retrofitted fix to a problem that never should have reached production after touring testing, has become the production solution. Entry into the bag requires unlocking the top latch, opening it and the two other secondary latches. Closing up requires the reverse, and you cannot leave the bags unlocked, so the keyless operation of the MTS 1200 is interrupted. Three latches, frankly are two latches of hassle too many. Forget about quickly grabbing the camera for a shot on the side of the road.
Not that you could anyways, all side-loading bags are designed to spill their contents on opening, which in the Multistrada’s case can be up to 58 liters of dirty undies, chargers and camera equipment. Put items you’ll be accessing frequently in the right-hand bag, on the bike’s up side when side standed. As horrible at it may look, and face it looks factor into buying a Ducati, I’d consider sourcing top-loading luggage like that offered by Touratech for continent crossing touring duty or enduro mode riders who can use these aluminum crumple zones. Adventure riding has spoiled me in terms of loading and load carried, Ducati’s limit of 10kg/22 lbs per bag seems paltry. The recommended maximum speed of 180 km/h (111.85 mph)? Not so paltry, and an indicator of the bikes touring intents.
Other touring creature comforts? Integrated heated grips operated via the starter button, brilliant. Electrical outlet for a heated vest, mandatory. Cruise control? Missing in action so score one for BMW and Triumph touring option lists. Seating position? I could do with a bar riser, but at 6’2” that’s common for me. Seat comfort? I find it firm, supportive and well shaped, so long distance comfortable overall. Skinnier of ass, photographer Kevin finds it over-firm and flat saying, “you can get away with a plank if it has some shape and give.” By comparison Kevin regularly rides a KTM 990 Adventure Dakar with a slightly posh sued seat. Millage in the seat then may vary as will opinions.
Millage itself seems to have improved, but that’s largely a function of your right hand’s care with the throttle. Ducati also claims an up-to-10% decrease in fuel consumption with the Multistrada tested at 60mph, as a function of engine updates which also boost torque 4.3ftlb to 91.8ftlb at 7,500rpm – so roughly a 5%. The updates include a second spark plug for each cylinder and a revised injector position to improve fuel vaporization for a cleaner, more efficient burn. Meanwhile, the engine runs richer, offering better fueling from a control perspective, in part thanks to a secondary air-bleed system that keeps it within European emissions regulations. Benefits all round then.
Another big factor for touring riders is the service intervals offered by that engine. Ducati’s pushed minor services to every 12,000 kms/7,500 miles, and major services (requiring a valve clearance check) to 24,000 kms/15,000 miles. This recognizes that since its 2010 launch and with over 20,500 Multistrada’s sold, the average Multi rider puts on 50% more milage than your average Ducatista. For such riders service intervals and a 2 years unlimited mileage warranty are serious considerations. Still you’ll be dragging chain lube along, as the final drive isn’t a heavy shafty – keeping the bike nicely “Ducati performance” in its ethos. At least the bike is easy on and off the centerstand for lubing.
On the road, so far Ducati’s 4 bikes in 1 one claim is holding – not surprising given our experience with the bike’s previous generation. More surprising the Multistrada has become part of my rehabilitation program from my collarbone injury and surgery. The ability to customize ride modes has seen me ditch 100bph output to 150 LOW in ride mode, which moderates response through the first half of the throttle, but gives you full output in the second half in a much more direct mapping. So the bike can be made relatively new or returning rider friendly, a point that shouldn’t escape riders in either demographic.
Charging into a series of turns, the Multistrada 1200 S Touring is proving phenomenally easy to ride, seeing me through corners at a mere 20% off my peak on road cornering performance on bikes like the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 or Ducati’s old 1098. That 20% may seem a bit of a hit, but then I’ve taken one myself and the Multistrada is rebuilding both my on-road confidence and abilities at a rapid pace… interpret that statement as you will. The upright comfort during such efforts can’t be understated as the bike dances nimbly into the SPORT-touring end of the touring spectrum, frankly I’m hard pressed to think of a sport-touring or touring bike in the market that moves this well. Then can settle down and loaf along touring until it goads you into more sporting aspirations.
Previous: Urban Mode or What the Doctor Ordered
Next: Sport Mode in our 4-bikes in 1 analysis of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring
Price: $19,995 USD / $20,995 CDN MSRP
Power: 150hp – 110.3kw @ 9250rpm
Torque: 124.5 Nm (91.8 lb-ft) @ 7,500 rpm
Front suspension: 48mm fully adjustable usd forks. Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension
Front wheel: 10-spoke in light alloy 3.50 x 17
Front Tyre: Pirelli Scorpion Trail 120/70 17”
Rear suspension: Electronic compression & rebound damping adjustment. Electronic spring pre-load adjustment with DSS Aluminium single-sided swingarm.
Rear wheel: 10-spoke light alloy 6.00 x 17
Rear tyre: Pirelli Scorpion Trail 190/55 17”
Front wheel travel: 170mm (6.7in)
Rear wheel travel: 170mm (6.7in)
Front brake: 2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo calipers, 4-piston, 2-pad. ABS
Rear brake: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Wet weight: 234kg (516lb) with all operating consumable liquids and 90% fuel
Seat height: 850mm (33.5in)
Fuel tank capacity: 20l – 5.3 gallon (US)