The Invincible

Ducati’s Multistrada is supposed to be an all-rounder. Adhish Alawani swings his leg over one to find out how


Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Ducati’s Multistrada is supposed to be an all-rounder. Adhish Alawani swings his leg over one to find out how

Google translate tells me that Multistrada in Italian means Multipath in English. While christening a bike Multistrada, Ducati must have thought a zillion times as to how the end consumer will perceive it. For a brand that is typically a sportsbike and a street performance oriented one, bringing out a machine that is supposed to be strong enough to attack multiple paths or surfaces is a challenge in itself. But that is something Ducati must have worried about a few years ago when they introduced the Multistrada for the first time. Over the years, they have gone on to improve the bike every now and then, and today, what we see as the current edition of Multistrada is sheer excellence of mechanical and electronic engineering put together.

At a first glance, this Ducati looks a little weird; difficult to suit my taste of styling. I love the way Ducati styles their bikes otherwise. In fact, why me, the whole world loves them. The 916 revolutionized motorcycle designing. And of course, we love the new age 1198 or the Monster or the Streetfighter. But the Multistrada is something whose styling has not been talked about much; and there are reasons for that. Being a dual-purpose machine, it definitely is tall with long suspension travel, raised handlebar and high seat – which is all perfectly fine. But look at the front end and the beak coming out from under the cross-eyed headlamps. It’s ugly. And weird. At the rear, is a sharp tail topped with grab-rails that double up as a base platform for your luggage. The twin slim exhaust pipes on the right hand side look a little small for the size of this bike. Actually, the Multistrada, as a whole, isn’t a bad looking bike. It’s good, but does not live up to the standards of art that Ducati has otherwise set and that’s mostly just because of that front end which reminds me vaguely of Uncle Scrooge from Duck Tales.

Getting on to the bike is a tough task for any one who is less than say 5’ 7”. At 850mm seat height, it’s fairly alright but the broad seat makes it tough for a short rider to reach the ground with both feet. However, for shorter people, there is an optional 25mm lower seat accessory. The posture is upright with raised handlebar and front footpegs. Knees tuck in fairly well behind the side panels. The seat is comfortable and the rear step seat provides an excellent support to the rider’s waist. Not being used to riding enduro or dual-purpose bikes much, It took me a little while to get used to the motorcycle’s overall tall character. But once on the road, instead of worrying about the tall, upright riding posture, I was enjoying hundreds of other things that grabbed my attention and how!

The Multistrada 1200 is powered with an 1198cc 90-degree v-twin engine borrowed from the 1198 superbike. The difference is that this one is detuned to 150PS from 170PS of the 1198 – now that’s not much of detuning and for a dual-purpose bike, it’s a lot of power too. With 150 horses available for unleashing at the twist of the right wrist, the Multistrada was getting to be a lot more fun than expected. Manoeuvrability through the city traffic was easy but the v-twin was irritating a bit with its jerky response every time the throttle was opened or shut. I knew about the electronics that govern this motorcycle and decided to play with them a bit to see if this issue can be addressed. Going through the big, white backlit digital instrumentation console, which displays a lot of data, I reached out to the ride mode setting. Toggling through the modes, I shifted from Sport to Urban and experienced something that I hadn’t imagined. I had read a lot about the greatness of the electronics on the Multistrada but experiencing is believing and it was really very hard to digest the kind of change these electronics had brought about. The throttle response got retarded and power came gradually enough to give a very smooth ride in the city traffic. The sudden engine braking on throttle roll-off disappeared.

The Multistrada had become way more sane and manageable now. So how does this work? Basically, the Multistrada has four riding modes – Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro. The ride-by-wire engine management offers four different mappings for these four different modes. The throttle response is quickest in the Sport setting and goes on decreasing gradually in the consecutive modes. To make it even more complicated, the maps vary the throttle response all the way through the rev range and also with the gear selection and engine load. The peak power output in Sport and Touring is the same at 150PS but it has been slashed down to as low as 100PS for Urban and Enduro modes. And it doesn’t end there. The Multistrada comes with DTC (Ducati Traction Control). Of course, there is an option to switch the DTC on or off. But the real fun is in the way the DTC synchronizes itself with the modes that we discussed earlier. For the first three modes, the DTC works on the same setting. However, in Enduro mode, the DTC modifies itself in a way so as to allow you the slides in the dirt to some extent without completely switching itself off. It’s like an optimum balance between letting you slide the bike without the electronics losing control over the bike. Impressive to the nth degree. 

Talking of DTC, it was another big thing that took me by surprise. With DTC switched on and the bike in Sport mode (to ensure full power and throttle response), I started attempting wheelies. In a normal course, a bike with 150PS of power and 118Nm of torque would pop power wheelies effortlessly. But with DTC on, one might as well forget about it. In fact, one should not even think of the clutch wheelies for that matter. As soon as the DTC senses the front wheel popping up in the air, it cuts off the power just enough to keep the bike planted on the ground. The DTC also senses rear wheelspins and manages power delivery to the rear wheel accordingly so as to make sure that you don’t lose traction. Switch off the DTC and you have all the access to the stunts you intend to do.

Moving away from the electronics of this bike, there are various other things that enthralled me in every possible way. The Multistrada is very impressive when it comes to handling. Personally being more of a sport bike rider, I took some time getting used to the way this bike behaves at corners but once in sync, the Multi delighted me even when leaned over. The frame design combines steel tubes that are typically seen on Ducatis with a central section of die-cast aluminium, plus a rear sub-frame whose steel tubes are reinforced by a techno-polymer section that contributes to its strength. The suspension comprises 50mm USD Marzocchips up front and a multi-adjustable Sachs rear shock with a remote preload knob. The higher version of Multistrada, that is the 1200S, replaces these with Ohlins, which are completely electronically adjustable suspensions giving you an additional option of raising or decreasing the ride height as suited for the road and ride conditions. The Multistrada comes equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres that have been developed specially for this bike and are suitable for road as well as dirt. However, they aren’t good enough for hardcore off-roading.

On the highway, the bike munches miles so quickly that it becomes a little tough for the rider to cope up with it. The credit for this goes to two aspects – the extremely powerful motor that can do 200kmph at 7,000rpm in the top gear (so cruising at 140–150kmph is just too easy on the engine) and riding comfort that doesn’t make you feel uneasy even at that speed for hundreds of kilometers. The front windscreen is adjustable for height and manages to keep away the windblast from the rider’s chest to a great extent. Off the road, the bike is brilliant too, with 170mm suspension travel and traction control that allows you slides but keeps the bike well under control. The 189 kilos of dry weight is on the lighter side on tarmac but is slightly heavier for Enduro riding. Maybe, that’s also because I am personally not used to doing a lot of off-roading.

All said and done, what was the impression at the end of the day? I must say that there are innumerable amazing motorcycles in the market today, which will impress every one in many possible ways. However, I have to admit that the Multistrada manages to amaze me in a very unique way. This Ducati has achieved a versatile state where it can deliver you the sportiness, touring abilities, off-road fun and most importantly an all-round usability with hardly anything to complain about. Multistrada is here to cater to your every need. That also makes me wonder whether motorcycles will be the same tomorrow as they are today. This motorcycle is a very good example of what we are going to see in the future from production bikes. Ducati has started it. No doubt, the future is already here!


1 The two knobs on either side of the windscreen let you adjust the screen for your convenience

 2 The design of the Multistrada is something that doesn’t live up to the standards the Ducati has already set

 3 The rubber tops on the pegs are removable. That leaves the pegs with metal spikes to give better hold when you wear off-road boots

 4 The high tech key with a proximity sensor doesn’t need to be inserted anywhere except for refuelling. The bike starts with ignition button only when the key is around

 5 The easily accessible knob for rear suspension lets you adjust the shocks to suit the riding conditions

 6 Apart from the basic info like speed, rpm, odometer, tripmeter and engine temperature, the digital console displays a lot more like average speed, fuel consumption (instantaneous and trip), ride time, air temperature etc. You can also toggle through different riding settings and traction control from the menu of the console

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