About month and a half ago, frequent readers of Bikes Republic would have noticed an increase in news on the 2015 Ducati Multistrada. Not a new bike in the “just introduced globally” sense of things, but new to Malaysia after its initial introduction towards the end of 2014. Sad that it took that long for the bike to get here but we are glad that it eventually did.
The test ride was organised in two stages; first a local test ride of the Multistrada 1200 up the winding roads of Cameron Highlands organised by Ducati Malaysia. And the Multistrada 1200S in Chiang Mai organised by Ducati Thailand. I don’t know why it happened that way but both rides were great fun.
The Multistrada 1200 on a near 700 kilometre ride to Cameron Highlands was impressive, with ample time to get to know the 1200 better. I described it then as a bittersweet experience because it was a good package let down by shocks that were too limp for a Sports Adventure bike.
In the first review, which you can read here, I said, “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.” — That’s how I described the suspension here.
But I should have adjusted the suspension accordingly before leaving. Both front and back shocks were set at the softest and so the bike behaved strangely. We will be running a retest of the bike with the suspension adjusted so watch this space for that.
The Multistrada 1200S though (yes the one with the S, pronounced as twelve hundred essss), is something else, but what’s different? I’ll break it down for you:
You can buy the Multistrada 1200 in Ducati Red with black wheels only.
But you can have the the 1200S in Ducati Red AND in Iceberg White with black wheels, which looks really good actually.
The 1200 gets the boring non-colour LCD screen (shown below) while the 1200S gets the superb 5-inch full colour TFT screen shown above. No prizes for guessing which is the better screen of the two.
This is an entirely new system that comes as standard on the 1200S. Utilising bluetooth technology, the system allows incoming phone calls, selecting your favourite songs and shows a new SMS whenever you get one.
The system connects to your phones and displays all the main multimedia functions like the song that is playing, a new SMS icon, or the name of the incoming caller. And just in case you are wondering, both rider and passenger are able to tune in to the music that is playing via earphones. The system also allows both rider and passenger to speak to one another. Watch the video below to see how it all connects together, making the 1200S Ducati’s first ever “connected” motorcycle.
It outputs 160hp @ 9,500rpm and 136Nm of torque @ 7,500rpm. It is 10hp more powerful than the old Multistrada and yet is 8% more fuel efficient. How Ducati does it and how the DVT system works is a little sophisticated, so I suggest you watch the one minute video below.
Now this is what makes the 1200S so much better than the standard 1200. Officially the system is called the Ducati Skyhook Suspension EVO. It consists of a 48mm front fork and Sachs rear monoshock. Together, the system works as a semi-active suspension control that automatically and continually adjusts damping according to road conditions and the riding mode selected (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro).
It is the evolution of the earlier Skyhook system, hence why it is called Ducati Skyhook Suspension ‘EVO’. The EVO here basically means evolution, and there are three things that are new to the new EVO suspension system: new hardware with a new pressurised 48mm Sachs fork. New electronics with a new rear spring travel sensor, and lean and pitch angle data from the new Inertial Measurement Unit. There is also a new software strategy that works synonymously with the riding modes better enhance comfort, handling performance and better stability on trails.
With four different electronically adjustable riding modes, the new Ducati Multistrada 1200S has been described as a four bikes in one package. But it is not just the electronics that give it that four bikes in one feel, the bike has also been designed to balance the demands of sport riders, tour riders and those who do most of their riding in urban conditions.
The chart below perfectly dissects power delivery, and electronic interference like ABS, Ducati Traction Control and Ducati Wheelie Control. Click here if you don’t understand what I’m talking about.
Gives you maximum power with direct throttle response, meaning it reacts to every single input. Traction control is at mid-setting (4 out of 8), ABS is also at mid-setting (2 of 3) and Ducati Wheelie Control is almost not on (2 out of 8). Suspension is set to stiff, and the bikes picks up every bump and tortures your spine on highways.
Also gives you maximum power but with a more gentle throttle response. It is perfect for those long highway rides when you are tired of hooning and just want to cruise. Traction control is set higher than in Sport (5 out of 8), ABS is set at max, and wheelie control is set at 3 out of 8.
Limits power to just 100hp, also with a gentle response. All electronics are off or set at the lowest for those slippery, sandy moments.
Power is again limited to just 100hp with a gentle throttle response. Electronics are almost at their highest because the last thing you want to do is start sliding around on tarmac with cars following close behind. Traction is at 6 out of 8 (8 being the safest), ABS is fully on (3 of 3), and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) is at 5 out of 8.
Utilising the onboard Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), the LED lights on the 1200S light up bends and corners which otherwise would have been dark. When the sensors detect that the bike is leaning, the LED lights are turned on and illuminate the path ahead, revealing objects which otherwise would not have been visible.
It is a system developed by Bosch that uses complex algorithms derived from sensors located at strategic points around the bike to provide the information needed to create a greater level of safety and riding experience. It is basically small little sensors that that tell the bike when you are riding beyond your skill set, and to save your a** when grip, or luck, runs out.
To break it down further, the sensors measure five things, roll rate, yaw rate, longitudinal acceleration, transverse acceleration and vertical acceleration of the motorcycle. This information is then processed at light speed to determine the lean and pitch angles, which is then used by systems like the cornering ABS, Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Skyhook Suspension, and Ducati Cornering Lights. This information then decides how much slide you can have or how close the front wheel gets to meeting the sky.
Different from the 1200, the 1200S features a braking system Ducati describes as ‘superbike spec’. The system is sharper, reacts quicker and generally feels better than the standard system. It comprises a race oriented PR16 brake pump managing two 330mm front discs and is coupled with Superbike-spec Brembo Monobloc M50 callipers. The rear is kept in check by a huge single 265mm disc gripped by a single 2 x 28 floating Brembo caliber with sintered pads. The hardware is in turn kept in check with a dual channel Bosch 9ME multi-calibration ABS with cornering functionality that provides maximum braking performance in straight lines and in corners.
The first generation Pirelli Scorpion Trail was impressive with a good balance of grip, reliability and durability. The new Scorpion Trail II tyres picks up on this and offers better grip on the edge of the tyres with light and precise handling. Pirelli says that the new tyre is a whopping 60% more durable than the model it replaces, and with the new central tread pattern and compound, offers maximum mileage on the street.
The Ducati Multistrada 1200S still isn’t the ultimate Sports Adventure bike, but it is much closer to that title than ever before. The suspension system is pin point accurate, hops and skips in sports mode for maximum control and absorbs bumps and creases in all other modes for maximum comfort.
As for power delivery, it is absolutely savage in Sports mode. The other modes are great and balance power, comfort and efficiency beautifully. You don’t get that annoying sharp jerk from the electronic throttle; throttle responsiveness is smooth and predictable. Of course the suspension adjusts itself accordingly as well; comfortable in Touring, Urban and Enduro, and brutally stiff in Sport mode, a feature not available in the standard 1200, manual adjustment only.
Electronic interference also depends on which modes you are in, for example Ducati Wheelie Control is set at maximum in Sport mode for maximum performance, while Enduro mode gives you nearly no electronic aid at all, because you may want to slide around in the sand and may need wheel spin to get you out of a tough situation.
Is there anything we do not like? Not really, build quality is good and those big clear switches for the cruise control are great to to fiddle with even at 160km/h, and is one of my favourite updates to the new Multistrada.
But there is also the fact that the screen adjustment still needs to be done by hand, which is quite primitive for a bike that costs RM135,999. The seat is nice and it is worth pointing out that I chose to opt for the highest seat setting (yes the seat is adjustable), which made the bike a lot more comfortable than the standard seat on which I rode to Cameron Highlands with (I am 5’10” in case you are wondering).
Other than that, the Ducati Multistrada 1200S is still a damn good bike, and one that offers a lot of fun and has plenty of style. In fact in the design department, there is no other Sports Adventure bike that comes close, and for some, and a part of me, that is all that matters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.