2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 First Ride

March 8, 2010
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
Road Test Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

Make no mistake about it  2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 is capable of being 100  sport.
Make no mistake about it the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 is capable of being both a sportbike or a touring machine.

For 2010, Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati has released the successor to its tried-and-true motorcycling Swiss Army knife: The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200. Despite using the same name as before, the new generation machine expands upon its original concept by utilizing a multitude of imaginative technologies that we’ve never seen on a Ducati, or any other production street bike. This allows it to achieve higher levels of performance, comfort and, above all, practicality. To discover some of its potential, Ducati invited MotoUSA to ride the new machine in one of Mother Nature’s most rugged, diverse, and ultimately magnificent proving grounds: The Canary Island’s Lanzarote, located west of the Moroccan coast.
The Concept

For Ducati the new Multistrada represents a changing of the guard within the walls of its Borgo Panigale factory. It’s a much more broadly-focused motorcycle, designed for use by all types of riders. From zigzagging through canyons, to touring cross-country, jetting across the city or the occasional mild off-road escapade, the new Multistrada is designed to do it all.
Weighing in at a claimed 478 pounds, ready-to-ride, its 12-lbs lighter than its predecessor—an impressive feat considering the switch from an air-cooled engine to a significantly more powerful liquid-cooled unit. Advanced electronics in the form of a ride-by-wire throttle control system, traction control, optional anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronically controlled front and rear suspension give the rider not only more performance, but more control. This enables the motorcycle to perform as hard or soft as one wants. And the best part: It can all be done by the simple push of a button.

In addition to DES  The S models Touring package comes with side luggage  a center stand  and heated grips. Price is  19 995.
In addition to DES, The Multistrada S model’s Touring package comes with side luggage, a center stand and heated grips. Price for this machine is $19,995.

Many features not normally found on Ducati motorcycles have also been integrated. These include the manually-adjustable windscreen, twin 12-volt power outlets, storage solutions (one under the seat, a small cubby spot in the cockpit and the optional external hard luggage) and keyless ignition system. Considerable engineering time was also devoted to its ergonomics in order to give the bike some actual real-world riding sensibility—something that most Ducati motorcycles have traditionally lacked. But the best part is that none of these new fangled apparatuses detract from the soul of the brand.
Tech Talk
Historically Ducati has been known for sharing powertrain and chassis platforms between its model range. We’ve seen this with its 848/1098/1198 Superbike and Streetfighter models, as well as the Monster and Hypermotard lineup. However, in the Multistrada’s case engineers began with a near clean sheet of paper, borrowing little more than the 848’s brake hardware and wheels, the basic engine layout from the 1198, and the slim-line switchgear from the Streetfighter. Everything else is new.
The big news in the engine department is the incorporation of Ducati’s 1198 World Superbike-derived L-Twin engine. It retains identical bore/stroke dimensions, but the compression ratio has been reduced slightly to 11.5:1 (down from 12.7:1). Each cylinder receives fuel from a smaller 56mm bore elliptical throttle body and a solo fuel injector, both now sourced from Japanese companies Mikuni and Mitsubishi, respectively. Both the intake and exhaust ports are reshaped and the ignition and cam timing were modified all to boost low-to-mid engine performance. Lastly, a heavier flywheel was fitted to further enhance engine tractability.

The new Multistrada gets a reworked version of Ducatis 1199cc L-Twin World Superbike racing engine.
A cast aluminum single-sided swingarm extends wheelbase to just over 60 inches  which is 2.5 inches longer than the bike it replaces.
The 10 Ducati Multistrada 1200 exhaust is mounted beneath the engine.
(Above) The new Multistrada gets a reworked version of Ducati’s 1199cc L-Twin World Superbike racing engine. (Middle) A cast aluminum single-sided swingarm extends wheelbase to just over 60 inches, which is 2.5 inches longer than the bike it replaces. (Bottom) The ’10 Ducati Multistrada 1200 exhaust is mounted beneath the engine.

Within the cylinder head the metal valve seats have been made more durable. Valve overlap was significantly lowered from 41 degrees in the 1198 to a much more conservative 11 degrees. This reduces the time in which the engine’s intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time, thereby sacrificing high rpm performance for enhanced smoothness, fuel economy, as well as emissions output. Together this engineering know-how extends mileage between valve adjustment intervals to 15,000 miles.
Ducati has finally ditched its signature undertail exhaust configuration for a more contemporary layout. Twin stainless-steel headers funnel exhaust into a triple-chamber silencer fitted underneath the motorcycle. Exhaust than exits via twin tapered aluminum barrels that look as if they might have been pulled off Smith & Wesson’s assembly line. Not only does the new setup look lethal, it helps keep the bike’s center of gravity lower, not to mention reducing exhaust heat on the rider and passenger.
Collectively these changes give the Multistrada not only superior bottom-to-mid rpm running characteristics but a more favorable torque curve as compared to the 1198. In fact, the Multistrada’s engine cranks out more torque and horsepower than the 1198 until 6750 rpm, before reaching its claimed torque peak of 87.5 lb-ft and 150 horsepower (measured at the crankshaft) at 7500 and 9750 rpm, respectively.
More powertrain enhancements come in the form of a new wet-style multi-plate clutch lubricated via the engine’s internal oil supply, allowing it to operate quietly and with greater day-to-day reliability. As opposed to the wet clutch used in the 848 or the Monster’s APTC unit, this one uses a different actuation mechanism that not only reduces clutch-lever-pull effort, but it lessens engine back torque during aggressive deceleration.
The transmission was also upgraded and features “optimized” internal gearing and final-drive ratios in order to reduce vibration and boost fuel mileage. Like before, the Multistrada utilizes a lightweight chain and sprocket final drive.

A high-end engine management system utilizes both an electronic ride-by-wire throttle system with push-button power mode selection and DTC. The ride-by-wire replaces a conventional cable connection between the twist grip and the throttle body butterflies, instead syncing them electronically. Three unique power modes are offered, including Sport (maximum engine power with a sport-oriented hard-hitting power delivery), Touring (full engine power with a more progressive, less touchy delivery), and Urban/Enduro (limits maximum engine power by 33% and significantly smoothens delivery throughout the rev range). Each mode uses its own corresponding level of traction control sensitivity.

The Multistrada 1200 uses the same brakes as the 848 Superbike. Additionally a Bosch Brembo ABS system comes with the S model and is available as an option on the standard machine.
Ram air ducts direct air into both the oil cooler and the airbox.
(Above) The Multistrada 1200 uses the same brakes as the 848 Superbike. Additionally a Bosch/Brembo ABS system comes with the S model and is available as an option on the standard machine. (Below) Ram air ducts direct air into both the oil cooler and the airbox.

The DTC system is identical to that of the Ducati 1198S and 1098R/1198R Superbikes. It uses front and rear wheel speed sensors to measure each wheel’s velocity. If it senses the rear wheel is moving faster than the front, the system will then will either retard ignition timing and/or incrementally shut-off the fuel supply to one or both of the engine’s cylinders. Sensitivity to wheel spin can be adjusted in eight different settings (1 being the lowest, 8 the highest). Circular red lights around the Riding Mode section of the LCD panel illuminate when the system is intervening.

Keeping sprung mass as low as possible was a key fundamental design principle of the new Multi. Engineers achieved this in part by developing a hybrid frame comprised of a traditional Ducati trellis-style steel main section mated to a cast aluminum midsection and a mixed steel/polymer fiber subframe. This gives the frame almost a 20% increase in torsion rigidity with no weight increase penalty. Further weight savings comes in the form of an ultra-lightweight magnesium front fairing stay and a 5.3-gallon capacity plastic fuel cell. Out back the new Multi comes fitted with a sleek cast-aluminum single-sided swingarm, stretching the wheelbase to just over 5 feet, an increase of almost 2.5 inches over the previous bike.
Suspension on the $14,995 base model consists of a thick 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork up front and a Sachs coil-spring shock absorber at the rear, which attaches directly to the frame and swingarm without a linkage. Both components provide 6.7 inches of total travel, plus allow tune-ability courtesy of independent spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjusters. The rear shock also features an easy-to-use plastic knob for adjusting spring preload located just under the left side of the seat.
The ‘S’ version replaces the manually adjusted Marzocchi/Sachs set-up for electronically adjustable pieces from Ohlins. Dubbed DES (Ducati Electronic Suspension), both the fork and shock can be independently adjusted by the push of a handlebar-mounted button. The rider can choose from one of four preset riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro) or create their own custom suspension settings. Additionally, each of the four settings can be further modified based on whether the bike is being piloted solo with luggage and/or riding with a passenger. This gives the rider 16 independent levels of pre-set suspension adjustment.
Braking hardware is shared with the 848 Superbike. The front brakes are comprised of dual 320mm rotors, each clamped by a radial-mount Brembo caliper and powered via a radial master cylinder. A solo 245mm disc and twin-piston caliper keeps rear-wheel speed in check. Both brakes operate through steel-braided brake lines. An optional Bosch-Brembo engineered ABS system is also available for $1500 on the base model and comes standard on the ‘S’.

The Multistrada rolls on the same s of 10-spoke cast aluminum rims as used on the 848/1198 Superbikes. The wheels are shod with Pirelli’s Scorpion Trail tires which were specifically engineered for the bike. The tires feature a double-compound set-up, in which a longer-lasting strip of center rubber is sandwiched between softer, tackier shoulders.

An all fully digital display provides a plethora of information
A fully digital display provides a plethora of information

Instrumentation consists of an oversized and brightly-lit LCD flanked by a smaller LCD and assorted warning lights. The main display provides digital speed, a horizontal bar-graph style tachometer (escalating as rpm increases), gear position, trip and odometer mileage functions, engine coolant temperature, fuel level and time. The smaller inset LCD allows the rider to navigate through each of the four preset riding and suspension load modes as well as the DTC settings. It also provides instantaneous and average fuel consumption, average speed, air temperature, total trip time, and a Freezing Conditions alarm that activates when riding at or near 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another Ducati first is the new keyless ignition system. A small plastic transmitter (with switchblade-style flip-key) communicates with the ECU and activates the power system when within 6.5 feet of the motorcycle. The flip-key is used only for opening the fuel cap, removing the passenger seat or the optional accessory hard luggage.
Riding Impression

Despite a longer wheelbase  the new Multi is still quick on its feet. Cranking up the spring preload setting on the shock absorber exacerbates this trait.
From sport to touring and even off-road  the ergonomics package is well balanced.
(Above) The Multistrada 1200 uses the same brakes as the 848 Superbike. Additionally a Bosch/Brembo ABS system comes with the S model and is available as an option on the standard machine. (Below) Ram air ducts direct air into both the oil cooler and the airbox.

Slip into the saddle and the Multi 1200 feels a bit larger dimensionally than the bike it replaces. The seat is much thicker than one would expect from a Ducati, though at 33.5 inches off the ground it is easily comfortable for an average-height male. An inch lower accessory seat is also available for those more vertically challenged. While the seat fit us perfectly, it feels short front-to-back and might not be the most accommodating for plus-sized folks.
Since there isn’t a traditional ignition key, the engine starting procedure now consists of flipping down and holding the red button fixed on the right-hand side of the handlebar for three seconds. The motorcycle’s electronics then come online and the engine may be started by sliding the same switch upwards, revealing the black starter button. The plastic transmitter must be within a radius of 6.5 feet or the bike won’t fire. For our test we left the key in the small cubby hole located in the cockpit. Also, in the event of losing the key, the bike can still be started by entering a pre-programmed four-digit pin number.
The engine cranks over with the identical voltage-sucking sound that you hear on Ducati’s Superbikes. While the sound isn’t necessarily the most reassuring, the engine always fired without a problem; we will be curious to see if battery life suffers due to all the added electronics of the Multistrada.
In spite of its added girth, the Multi is still easy to maneuver at parking lot speeds. The wispy clutch lever pull, shorter first gear, and much smoother bottom-end power delivery make it even easier. We are also fond of the added level of adjustability afforded by both the front brake and clutch levers, especially for those with smaller hands.
Yank on the right grip in Sport mode and it’s impossible not to recognize that trademark Ducati Superbike engine, as the bark from the exhaust is identical to the 1198, only without the sometimes annoying clatter of the dry clutch. No surprise here, acceleration force is a tremendous improvement over its air-cooled predecessor. Regardless of the mode you are in, the engine must be running at over 2500 revs or else it chugs along roughly. But keep the revs above that magic number and it’s simply amazing how much smoother this motor runs compared to the 1198’s.
Out of the three preset engine maps, Touring was our favorite, as it made the throttle response less twitchy than it is when you ride it in Sport mode, which was especially helpful during more delicate riding situations – i.e. wheelieing. We did find that the Urban power setting was equally appreciated while running through some of the narrow city streets we encountered during the course of our ride. 
Working through the gearbox reveals the same sort of looseness that is typical of Ducati’s transmissions. While it shifts between each gear without fuss, the transmission doesn’t feel anywhere close to as “tight” as a Japanese bike. We do love the bike’s gear ratios, however—especially first and sixth, which enable the rider to pull away cleanly from a stop and to cruise at just a tick over 3000 revs at 62 mph.
As long as you keep the rpms above 2500, the engine transmits minimal vibration through the control surfaces, making the bike perfect for extended rides. Ducati claims it spent an enormous amount of time perfecting the ergos and it shows. The cockpit is exceptionally well balanced too. The footpegs are mounted low enough as to not require any silly sportbike-like knee contortions and the aluminum handlebar is quite wide and features a tall bend, fitting us well. Furthermore, it can be tilted forward or backward by loosening the four top clamp bolts to work with a variety of riders.

The difference in ride compliance and handling between each of the 16 available suspension settings is quite noticeable.
With the addition of its effective ABS and DTC the 10 Multistrada has far more off-road prowess than before.
Technical partner  Pirelli specifically engineered its Scorpion Trail tire for the new Multistrada. The tire features dual compound zones for improved grip during cornering and longer tire life when riding straight.
(Above) The difference in ride compliance and handling between each of the 16 available suspension settings is quite noticeable. (Middle) With the addition of its effective ABS and DTC the ’10 Multistrada has far more off-road prowess than before. (Bottom) Technical partner, Pirelli specifically engineered its Scorpion Trail tire for the new Multistrada. The tire features dual compound zones for improved grip during cornering and longer tire life when riding straight.

The windscreen offers just over 2.25 inches of vertical adjustment via two plastic knobs on either side. The knobs are easily accessible; so much so that one can actually adjust the height of the windscreen while riding. However, we found that the windscreen isn’t quite wide enough to completely eliminate wind buffeting at highway speeds, no matter the position.
One would assume that a bike with as much electronic doo-dads, menus, and buttons as the Multi would be hard to figure out, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The menu system is very logical and straightforward to operate. The primary LCD is not only legible but it is mounted high enough so the various functions can be navigated while riding without too much distraction from the road ahead. Surprisingly, one key feature that the new Multi is lacking is cruise control.

We piloted ‘S’ models for our First Ride introduction and as such they came outfitted with DES. And the system works fantastically. Literally, modifying the bike’s handling and overall ride quality is as simple as pushing a series of buttons.

For fast sportbike-style riding our preferred mode was Sport with passenger and luggage-load options enabled. With this mode selected, suspension is firmed and rear preload is cranked down, holding the bike up in the suspension stroke for more aggressive steering. This allowed the bike to turn into the corner more sharply without compromising stability while clipping along at a triple-digit pace. It also aided the bike in feeling much less top-heavy than it did in the softer/faster-action suspension settings. The amount of a difference which could be felt in each of the four riding modes and load settings was impressive.
On the pavement we never rode quick enough to explore the functionality of the DTC. We did, however, get a chance to feel out the system briefly in the dirt. With Enduro mode selected (DTC Level 2) you can literally pin the throttle and the rear end slides briefly before coming back inline and slowly accelerating forward. This without a doubt adds a degree of safety when attempting to accelerate hard on loose surfaces.
Considering the Multi’s higher curb weight, one might assume that the 848-sourced braking system would be underpowered, yet it’s a perfect match. Overall braking force is abundant and front brake feel can be appreciated by even the most capable sport rider. We came away pleasantly surprised by the braking system, especially considering we could never say the same about the system when used on the 848.
Having less-than-pleasant experiences with other street-based ABS systems, we were pessimistic to how the Multistrada would perform going in, but it too impressed. The system is a bit more intrusive than we would have preferred, with it activating well before the point of wheel lock-up, but overall it works agreeably for all but the most insane road riding pace. Even better is that the system can be manually disabled by, you guessed it, a simple push of a button.

Final Thoughts
Coming into this test, I had lofty expectations of Ducati’s new do-it-all two-wheeler. And after spending only a few hours aboard the bike, I quickly realized it was everything I thought it would be and then some. With the tap of a button it’s as sporty or as docile as you desire; it’s in its element blasting around a corner with the engine roaring at lean, or just quietly soaking up the

Youd be hard pressed to find a better universal two-wheeled companion than Ducatis Multistrada 1200.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better universal two-wheeled companion than Ducati’s Multistrada 1200.

countryside on a backwoods highway. The Multi somehow manages to be both comfortable and sporty, plus has realistic cargo capacity when you feel the need for an adventure coming on. It actually works for mild off-roading and its pavement-based rider aids (ABS and DTC) only increase its off-road potential.
The new Multistrada 1200 is a big – no, scratch that – humongous step forward for Ducati. It’s mainstream enough for any rider to appreciate, yet still retains that wild, rip-roaring Superbike pedigree that we know and love. This leads me to believe that Ducati may have got the bike’s name wrong. Maybe they should have called it the Italian Army Knife?