contributor Marc Cook was visiting the Ducati factory in Bologna about two and half years ago doing research for his book on the 999 ("Ducati 999 - Birth of a Legend"), he was interviewing Ducati General Manager Claudio Domenicali about MotoGP technology trickle-down when the normally serious Italian suddenly changed demeanor and casually remarked with a twinkle in his eye, "We've got a bike coming that you are definitely going to like...wait and see."
But instead of some fire-breathing race replica sportbike, Ducati unleashed a motorcycle that-while bristling with the latest cutting-edge racing technology - is probably something about as far removed from the racetrack as you can get. The second generation Multistrada 1200S is Ducati's answer for the rapidly growing adventure-tour market in Europe, do-it-all bikes that take the old standard machines of the '70s a step further by adding some off-road capability into the mix. The Multistrada uses that racing technology (variable engine mapping modes, traction control, ABS, and electronically adjustable suspension) to significantly broaden its all-around capabilities.
We were suitably impressed with the Multistrada in our First Ride/Tech Analysis story ("The Second Coming") back in the June '10 issue. When we were given the opportunity to sample a Multistrada 1200S for a month or two back on home soil however, we jumped at the chance to play with its various electronics to see just how much of an asset they were to its overall performance. Is the latest Multistrada the harbinger of a new era of electronic adjustability?
The Role Player
Firing up the Multistrada involves pushing the kill switch to activate the communication between the key fob in your pocket and the Ducati's ignition system. While we've become accustomed to the convenience of keyless ignitions with bikes like the Kawasaki Concours 14, the only problem in the Ducati's case is that the flip-out key in the fob is necessary to unlock the fuel cap and the locks in the hard luggage (unlike the Concours that has a key in its ignition that can be removed to unlock the fuel cap and luggage), which sort of defeats the purpose of its keyless ignition.
Luggage isn't standard with...
Luggage isn't standard with the 1200S model, but the barrel locks for them are included with the bike in case the owner buys them as an $849.95 option. Installing the locks was easy and straightforward.
Speaking of luggage, the 1200S model doesn't come standard with the hard bags as it does with the Touring version; they are an $849.99 option. We decided to ask Ducati for the hard bags, as it completes the adventure-tourer intentions of the Multistrada. Interestingly, despite not coming with hard bags, the matching key lock barrels for the bags come with the bike, because Ducati feels that most S model owners will likely purchase the bags as accessories anyway. Why not include them with the S model? Cost could be a contributing factor; the S model already retails $5000 higher than the standard Multistrada, and including hard bags may have pushed the Ducati over the $20K threshold, a key marketing point that was surely emphasized from the Borgo Panigale corporate offices (although curiously the 1200S Touring model trades the carbon bits of the S model for the hard bags, plus heated grips and centerstand, for the same $19,995 sticker).
The engine lights off after the starter motor slowly gets the big 1198cc V-twin to spin a few revolutions, quickly settling into the usual desmodromic lumpy idle. The twin exhaust exits on the right side offer up a rather muted version of the typical desmo symphony, although considering the Multistrada's intended purpose, that's to be expected. The underengine exhaust collector chamber is fairly large, so it'll be interesting to see what the aftermarket does for this Ducati.