Ducati’s Multistrada 1200S isn’t just a tweak of an already great bike, this is a comprehensive overhaul of the old bike.
The new model receives extensive new bodywork, but the big news here is the upgrades to the 1198cc, Desmodromic V-twin engine. The main development is the introduction of DVT, or Desmodromic Variable Timing – the first time variable valve technology has debuted on a V-twin powerplant.
The system changes the intake and exhaust timing independently, and across the whole of the rev range, optimising engine performance to guarantee the highest power, smooth delivery and low down grunt. An added benefit of all of this is that the engine passes strict Euro 4 noise and emission regulations. Other changes include Ducati targeting the fuel injectors to spray directly onto the rear of the hot intake valve, instead of the colder surface of the intake port wall.
All this means that the Multistrada’s 1198cc Testastretta lump now produces 160hp and 100 lb.ft of torque, up from the old model’s 150bhp and 91.8lb.ft of torque, all while reducing fuel consumption by eight per cent.
As before there are four riding modes, each with its own distinct feel. Enduro and Urban limit power to 100bhp, while Sport sees the aggressive engine mapping unleash the full 160bhp. Touring also gives you access to the full power and torque of the engine, but it is delivered in a more controlled, refined way for grinding out the big miles with ease.
On the move the new DVT system means that the Multistrada is a lot easier to ride, and it’s lost a lot of the low rev shudder that plagues big capacity V-twins, even in the sportiest of the four riding modes. What this means is that you can potter along at 20mph in third or fourth without suffering any vibrations, lumpiness or manual clutch slip.
But it’s the increase in mid-range torque and top end explosiveness that you’ll notice most, and unlike Honda’s VTEC system the delivery is smooth and progressive. It’s brilliant and the experience is sensual, especially when combined with the new exhaust, which sounds edgier and more raucous, giving the bike the soundtrack it deserves. Twist the throttle and the bike explodes into life like a raging bull. Scream if you want to go faster.
Handing has also improved. The original Multistrada was a joy to ride, tipping in predictably and easily with sportsbike precision, and Ducati has improved this even further with upgrades to its Skyhook semi-active suspension system, which is linked to the lean-angle sensor. This sensor essentially talks to the Skyhook system and calculates the amount of lean, how much throttle you’re asking for, and how bumpy the road before deciding to stiffen or soften the suspension accordingly. It’s different to conventional suspension, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. It’s a strange sensation at first, really strange, but once you’ve readjusted your brain to the new inputs you’ll be feeling you’ll find it enhances your riding experience enormously, and you’ll soon be carving your way through the twisties on your favourite back road with complete confidence.
Other rider aids include Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Traction Control and Cornering ABS, a key safety feature appearing on more and more bikes.
Pulling into a lay-by and casting an eye over the bike it’s clear that the work done on the bike’s aesthetics is just as comprehensive as that done to its engine. The Multistrada retains its signature beaky styling and upright riding position, which has been altered slightly for improved comfort, but the plastics are all-new – the new half-fairing is significantly wider and the new LED headlights help give the bike a more aggressive, purposeful appearance. One key aspect of the new headlight is that one of the beams on each side now features a cornering light, which is triggered by the new lean angle sensor and illuminates through the approaching bends. This sees the headlight move as the bike corners, projecting the light exactly where you need it and allowing you to see through corners. Admittedly, I didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature in the dark, but the advantages are obvious.
The screen is slightly taller too, and as before it’s height-adjustable on the move. It’s perfect for my 6ft 2in frame and does an effective job of keeping the wind off my gangly frame.
Other neat touches include extra steering lock for improved urban manoeuvrability, increased ground clearance for improved off-road capability, and a narrower fuel tank for improved rider comfort.
Ducati’s tall-rounder is the best of both worlds – a sportsbike engine housed in an adventure bike complete with sophisticated electronics. Take one for a test ride and discover its brilliance for yourself…