But Wait! There's More!
The electronic wizardry doesn't end there. As with most Ducatis, the higher-spec S model outshines its standard stablemate. But this time around it's different. Öhlins once again supplies the fully adjustable suspension bits, including a TTX rear shock, but there isn't a single knob or adjuster in sight. Tuning the suspension is done completely electronically. Within the respective drive modes are preprogrammed settings for a solo rider with no luggage, all the way to fully loaded saddlebags with pillion. All of which are adjustable on the fly. To compensate for different riding styles and preferences, compression and rebound damping and spring preload circuits are all adjustable via the dash display. The bike needs to be at a stop for this to happen, but the rider just has to thumb through the left switchgear to play with 30 "clicks" of adjustability for both the rebound and compression damping. And just like the drive modes, each new setting can be saved into the computer's memory. Once a change is made, the suspension reacts within milliseconds and more often than not it's noticeable from the saddle. Also, should the need arise, there's also a "default" option to return all the settings for both the drive modes and suspension back to their original positions. I could go on about the electronics, but there are simply not enough pages to do that.
The LCD gauge cluster displays all pertinent data and is also the command center for the rest of the electonics. We found the drive mode display on the right to be rather hard to read at speed since it controls a wide variety of functions in such little space. Second, the hands-free system allows the rider to start the bike without the key in the ignition via a key fob with electronic transmitter. Last, the cables and wires leading to the Öhlins fork are part of the Ducati Electronic Suspension that allows every parameter of a conventional shock or fork to be adjusted, that's right, electronically. Note also that the GPS unit is an option and doesn't come standard with the bike.
By now you've probably already guessed that the rider aids on this bike work. And they work well. But what about the rest of the bike? For the most part it performs just as admirably. The first thing to figure out is how to turn it on, as there isn't a traditional ignition. Instead, the included key fob transmits a signal if it's within about one foot of the bike. Then one flips the kill switch to the "on" position and starts the bike like normal. It takes some getting used to, but becomes second nature quickly. Steering lock when turned off is also activated through the kill switch.
Get that figured out and the next thing that stands out is the rather high seat height for the average rider at 33.5 inches, but a low seat option is also available that cuts nearly an inch off that figure. Otherwise riding position is extremely comfortable for the long haul, with high and wide handlebars and low, forward footpegs. The only issue is the wide handlebars that give so much leverage are also susceptible to the elements-strong wind gusts made for a light front end when cornering into the headwind.
Standard Multistrada saddlebags...
Standard Multistrada saddlebags don't protrude past the width of the mirrors, but optional expansion covers for the luggage provide additional storage space at the expense of extra width.
Don't let the Enduro mode...
Don't let the Enduro mode on the dash fool you-while the Multistrada is capable of light off-road duty, one of its main limiting factors is ground clearance. This engine guard protects the oil sump and front cylinder header pipe should one get overzealous in the dirt.
Another unique feature are...
Another unique feature are the attachment points for the luggage. They're all integrated into the rear bodywork, meaning no unsightly brackets to stare at when riding without bags.
Great care was put in to the...
Great care was put in to the single sided swingarm as it had to satisfy both the handling and strength characteristics as well as fit the packaging requirements. The swooping lines and thick main spar are evidence of the former.
Winds aside, the Multi is a surprising road motorcycle. With a 19-percent more rigid frame compared to its predecessor, the chassis feels stable on its side. The profile of the Scorpion Trail tires induces quick turn-in, but edge grip at the extremes is a bit lacking. Not surprising considering their do-it-all nature. Braking is courtesy of Brembo four-piston, radially mounted calipers and 320mm discs in front, with a single 245mm disc and two-piston caliper in the rear. Stopping power is typical Ducati, with strong feel and a progressive lever, though sometimes the pressure on the front could overpower the Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires and activate the ABS.
With so many rider aids on board the new Multistrada, it's easy to think the essence of motorcycling has been stolen from it. But that's where you'd be wrong. From the moment the assembled group of journalists took off on our first ride I was expecting something to either break or malfunction, but every bit works as advertised. Twist the throttle and the progression of the twistgrip reveals no lag between it and the butterflies opening, an issue we've noticed on early ride-by-wire systems. The level of refinement is what we've come to expect from Ducati, and that's a good thing. It'll behoove any owner to thoroughly read through the owner's manual as there is so much to learn with the different drive modes and suspension settings, but once learned it's an effective tool that begs to be exploited. Base model starts at $14,995 but really, anyone thinking about buying something in this category and in this price range ought to spend the extra five thousand for the S model. It's just that good.