NEW DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1200 TEST RIDE IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS

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Last week we rode the new Ducati Multistrada 1200 to Cameron Highlands and back. Yes the 2015 model is yet to be launched in Malaysia, but the launch is just around the corner. The ride to Camerons was just an introductory ride before the actual Malaysian introduction, and yes the new Multi is hugely impressive; a massive improvement over the older model.

So what’s new?

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New bike on the right, old bike on the left

The design is new. Keen eyes will notice the updated front beak which is now in the same colour as the rest of the body. The previous model featured a grey-ish black beak.

You will also notice that the engine compartment is less cluttered with lesser hoses and such protruding around. This gives the bike an overall neater appearance.

The lights are also new. The front headlights have been slightly redesigned, while the rear lights have a cool design to them as shown in the picture below.

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The seat is also new and is now set 20mm lower, but it is adjustable of course. It is also narrower than before to make it easier for shorter riders to place their feet flat on the floor.

New screen
New screen

There is also a new dashboard screen. It is much neater than before and displays crisp text, but because it is trying to display so many things at the same time (engine temperature, speedo, rev counter, riding mode, etc etc) the text can be a little too small, which makes it hard to read when riding.

Old screen
Old screen

But other than that, the new Multistrada offers the following items as standard:

Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit, Bosch-Brembo ABS 9.1 ME Cornering braking system, cruise control, four Riding Modes, Ride-by-Wire Power Modes, Ducat Wheelie Control and Ducati Traction Control.

Okay but what is the big deal?

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The new Multi has 10 horsepower more than before and yet is 8% more fuel efficient.

This is achieved through the new Testastretta engine’s Desmodromic Variable Timing, or DVT.

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Bear with me as I try to explain this but the DVT is basically a modification to the cams and crankshaft so that it all works better, cleaner and creates more power.

Cycle World USA online explains it best, “The significance of variable cam timing is profiting from optimum intake and exhaust valve overlap, which was historically a fixed value. Overlap is when those valves are simultaneously open at the end of the upward exhaust stroke and beginning of the downward intake stroke. With DVT, cam timing is hydraulically varied by a single needle valve for each camshaft that controls flow to housings on the belt-end of the camshafts. Hydraulic pressure causes the pulleys and cams to vary their relationship based on what cam timing the IMU requests.”

BUT … If you still do not understand the technicalities, then watch the video before, it does a great job at explaining DVT.

Why do some say the new Multistrada is 4 bikes in 1?

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Because of the four riding modes which give the bike four very different personalities.

The first is Sport mode which makes the throttle response quicker with maximum power. ABS is set at level 2, while traction control and wheelie control are set at a low level. Cornering ABS is maintained at maximum level. The bike feels like a proper hooligan in this mode with immediate, precise reactions to the slightest input.

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Touring Mode was our favourite throughout the ride. It also gives you maximum power but throttle response is scaled down a little, perfect for when you need to stand to stretch your legs. ABS is set at a safe level while traction and wheelie control are set to kick in early should the need arise. This mode gives the Multistrada a very sedated character, which is a good feeling because you know that it is still capable of being an absolute brute.

After the first two modes, Urban Mode will feel somewhat boring. It limits power to 100hp while traction and wheelie control and ABS are set at maximum.

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Enduro Mode also restricts power to 100hp and is the best mode for slippery surfaces. ABS, traction and wheelie control are set at low levels, brilliant for when you want to slide the rear into a gravel corner.

Switching between the modes can of course be done on the fly.

So how does it feel to ride?

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It was a bittersweet experience. The suspension up front and at the rear was set at soft and though it was nice and comfortable on straight roads, it felt nervous and twitchy in the corners. The front end seemed to pick up the slightest inundations and rarely settled down to grip into a corner. This made it tough to muscle the bike around corners.

On the bright side, the suspension is of course adjustable so you can tinker around until the bike behaves the way you want it to. We just didn’t get around to doing that.

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But that aside, the bike was well sorted in all other places.

Traffic in Camerons was predictably heavy, but the Multi’s impressive low speed handling and compact packaging made it quite easy to dart from corner to corner without having to worry about clipping a pannier on a car.

The DVT system gives you an abundance of power throughout the rev band. Where previously the bike felt starved of power at low speeds unless you downshift and summon more revs, now though torque is available when you want it. Of course the bike still judders violently when you try to accelerate from fifth or sixth gear, but that’s more acceptable than the same juddering in third or fourth, a characteristic trait of the previous generation Multi.

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Brakes are brilliant, but you would not expect any lesser from a Ducati. The process of slowing down the Multi 1200 is managed by a BOSCH 9.1ME ABS ECU. This manages cornering ABS to optimise front and rear brake bias event at extreme lean angles. As for the hardware, the Multi uses radially mounted 4-piston callipers and dual 320mm rotors up front, plus a single 265mm rotor at the rear.

Overall the new Multistrada 1200 is again a great bike. It is however more inclined to the Sporting character in it rather than the Adventure part. The tall ride height is great, but the seat gave me a sore bum after about 300 kilometres of riding.

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The electronic systems can also be tricky to master, so we suggest you figure that out first before blasting out for a ride.

We do very much love the new cruise control system though. The buttons are big and are as simple to use as those in a car. BMW, Triumph and KTM could learn from Ducati here.

Ducati Multistrada

To put it simply, Ducati has improved the Multistrada. It is not a holistically perfect package as say a BMW XR or the Triumph Tiger, but it is fun, it is one of those bikes that make you look back at it after you have parked it. Brilliant is the word.

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