Who woulda thought that a company like Ducati, which puts its life and soul into superbikes and racing, would practically invest its future in a bike like the Multistrada, something clearly not meant to win any races? Maybe it's not so crazy after all. You see, racing is rife with rules, limitations, and boundaries. And if there's one thing engineers don't like when allowed to think free, it's rules, limitations, and, well, you get the idea. So what, then, would be the ideal platform for Ducati's brain trust to incorporate cutting edge technology that wouldn't just one-up its competitors, but downright blow the doors off the motorcycle community as a whole?
You're looking at it. A polarizing bike from the start, the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 is what happens when you let a bunch of motorcycle-crazy two-wheel engineers loose on a clean sheet of paper. The only rule was that it had to retain the essence of the original. What they came up with is a motorcycle billed to be four bikes in one, or something that can do it all. But not only is the new Multistrada an exercise in design, it's a technologically mind-blowing machine.
No Stone Left Unturned
Before we get into the software, it's necessary to start with the hardware. Ducati bills this machine as its new flagship and in order to be as such, it needed an engine suitable to the task. Naturally, the obvious choice would be the liquid-cooled 1198cc engine currently powering its superbikes. But that's easier said than done. The superbike engine is tuned to excel in racetrack conditions, where high rpm matters and low-speed drivability is allowed to suffer. These are the exact opposite conditions the Multistrada would be operated in. To counter this, compression ratio is dropped slightly to 11.5:1 (as opposed to 12.7:1), and camshaft timing is revised slightly, as are the intake and exhaust ports in the cylinder head. But the major difference between the superbike engine and this one lies in the valve overlap-or the time both the exhaust and intake valves are open at the end of the exhaust stroke and the start of the intake stroke. On the superbike, its 41 degrees of overlap means a large portion of exhaust gases make their way back into the "fresh" air from the intake stroke. At high engine speeds this is beneficial as the pressure waves maximize volumetric efficiency within the combustion chamber, hence leading to higher peak power.
That power has its sacrifices, however. Low-end drivability suffers in this endless pursuit for more race wins. To counter that, Ducati engineers have now reversed roles and sacrificed horsepower for torque, reducing the valve overlap drastically to just 11 degrees. That's not to say the Multi is weak by any means. The company claims 150 horsepower at 9250 rpm and 87.5 foot pounds of torque at 7500 rpm. Further, the Multistrada engine actually produces more torque under 6500 rpm than its superbike cousin. The changes don't stop there. A single fuel injector per cylinder now resides under the throttle butterfly for better fuel atomization, and the elliptical throttle bodies now measure 56mm in equivalent diameter. Gear ratios are now shorter to allow the Multi to reach its top speed in fifth gear and use sixth as a true overdrive gear. Ride-by-wire is now a feature on the Multi that gets rid of throttle cables in exchange for computers that tell the throttle bodies what to do-a feature that will become very important later in this story. A wet clutch is favored over the dry version of the superbikes, with a self-servo mechanism providing a light feel at the lever. This servo also acts as a slipper clutch during aggressive downshifts.
Possibly the best news for Ducati fans is the new and improved maintenance schedule for the Multistrada. Valve adjustment interval has now doubled to every 15,000 miles. This is due partly to the improved combustion efficiency and temperature management from the 11-degree valve overlap, but primarily to improved valve seat material that reduces thermal stress.