First Ride Review
With its 17-inch wheels, short wheelbase and superbike-derived engine, Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 has, since the platform debuted for 2010, occupied the sporty end of the adventure-touring spectrum. Numerous updates over time, everything from Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo and Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) to better wind protection and more comfortable ergonomics, have made the Multistrada a more well-rounded machine. And riding modes transform the bike from a 160-horsepower instrument of asphalt-buckling aggression into a 100-horsepower softer, gentler version of itself. But in terms of Ducati’s original “Four Bikes in One” concept—Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro—the Enduro leg of the stool has always been the wobbliest.
The new Multistrada 1200 Enduro changes that. More than 30 percent of its parts are unique, including a 19-inch front wheel that easily rolls over obstacles, spoked tubeless wheels that can handle off-road abuse and a robust skid plate that protects its underbelly. Longer suspension travel with progressive-rate springs, more ground clearance, a longer wheelbase and other changes give the Enduro surprisingly good off-pavement manners.
But here’s the thing. Even though it has “Enduro” in its name, this new Multistrada finally lives up to the platform’s do-it-all touring potential. It’s the bike we’ve wanted for a long time—and got closest to with the short-lived Multistrada 1200 S Granturismo. An enormous 7.9-gallon fuel tank gives the Enduro go-anywhere range as well as more lower-body wind protection due to its added width, a taller handlebar and a new seat make it more comfortable for the rider and passenger, and a full complement of the latest-and-greatest electronics, including new Vehicle Hold Control to assist with taking off on an incline, allow any and all conditions to be handled with confidence. And four different “personalization packages” add accessories to tailor the bike to its various Touring, Sport, Urban and Enduro missions (the packages complement one another, so farkle fanatics can add all four).
To showcase the Multistrada Enduro’s new versatility, Ducati hosted a press launch on the Italian island of Sardinia, where we logged a half-day road test on bikes equipped with the Touring Pack (which includes heated grips, Touratech panniers and a handlebar bag) and a half-day off-road test on bikes fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Rally knobbies (available as a free factory option only on the Phantom Grey model shown in the photos above and below; other colors include Star White Silk–shown in the on-road photos with panniers–and Ducati Red). The linear power and broad spread of torque—peaking at 160 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 100 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm (claimed), with more than 90 lb-ft on tap from 3,500 to 10,000 rpm—we experienced on the new-for-2015, Desmodromic Variable Timing-equipped Multistrada 1200 S make the Enduro just as tractable down low and ferocious on top, but ECU recalibration has filled in some of the previous model’s midrange torque dip (an ECU reflash is available for 2015 models through Ducati dealers). Throttle response is just as precise, but a lower first gear and lower final drive ratio give the Enduro more snap and make the bike easier to manage at ultra-low speeds off-road. The engine throws off some heat and sometimes feels buzzy at the pegs but otherwise it’s a gem.
Settling into the Enduro’s plusher, non-adjustable seat, which is narrower in front and extends down the sides to replace plastic bodywork that could get scratched, is more of a commitment. With a larger front wheel and more suspension travel (7.9 inches front/rear, up from 6.7), seat height has increased to 34.25 inches (up from 32.5-33.3 inches; a 33.5-inch accessory low seat is available). A 2-inch-taller handlebar with a new bend enhances comfort and control when seated or standing, and the Enduro’s 19-inch front wheel, longer wheelbase (62.8 inches, up from 60.2) and slightly less aggressive steering geometry, not to mention its 42-pound weight gain, sacrifice some nimbleness but make the bike feel more stable at speed and off-road (a new steering damper also helps). The top-quality components, including Sachs suspension and Brembo brakes, give the bike excellent ride quality and control, aided in part by a longer, stiffer and stronger two-sided swingarm.
Ducati has some of the best-packaged and easiest-to-use electronics on the market. With a few button taps, switching among the four riding modes simultaneously adjusts power output, throttle response, traction control, wheelie control, ABS mode and suspension damping and rear preload. Changes have a big effect on how the Multistrada performs, and each riding mode can be customized to user preferences (changes are saved to memory). The combination of cornering ABS, lean-angle sensitive traction control and semi-active Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo is something that must be experienced to fully appreciate the transformative effect it has on rider confidence, control and comfort.
Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 Enduro is bigger and better in nearly every way, but also taller and more expensive—starting at $21,295 and upwards of $23,494 with the Touring Pack. It’s more durable, with aluminum side panels, cleated footpegs and brake/shift levers made of bendable steel rather than brittle aluminum and one of the stoutest standard-issue skid plates around. Overall it is much more capable off-road and for long-distance touring, which makes it a head-to-head competitor with the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure and KTM 1290 Super Adventure. We’re eager to find out which one will come out on top.