The Ducati Mutistrada is a difficult bike to categorize. Pitched as an Adventure Tourer, it has all the requisite parts and pieces to fit the bill, but there is no denying it’s so much more (and less). For 2013 the Bologna-based company blurs the lines even further with a selection of four refined models in the Multistrada line. There is the base Multistrada 1200 that most closely resembles the 2012 model, the Multistrada S Pikes Peak replica racer, the Multistrada 1200 S Touring and the fully loaded Multistrada 1200 S Granturismo. All are built on the same basic architecture, and priced from $16,995 all the way up to $21,995; there is something for every adventure seeking Ducatisti.
Last week Ducati assembled the U.S. Press in Bilbao, Spain to sample the one of the four models available, the Multistrada 1200 S Touring. The other models were on hand for display, but this particular example would give the best representation
The 2013 Multistrada may not look that much different but there are many improvements to the engine and chassis.
of the abilities of the complete line. They all share the same engine, frame and drive train and all of the S models share Ducati’s new semi-active Skyhook Suspension upgrade. The rest is just a matter of difference in saddlebags, bits of carbon fiber, tires and wheels. Under the threat of rain we set out into Spain’s Basque county on a tight twisting route to see how the host of refinements by the Italian engineers work.
The very first thing that anyone that turns a mile on the Multistrada mentions is the engine. For 2013 Ducati massaged the Teststretta 11º L-Twin for increased torque while offering smoother operation. The fuel injectors were repositioned to spray directly on the hot intake valve for a straighter shot into the combustion chamber with better vaporization. The cylinder head now gets two spark plugs for a more complete burn from a twin-flame front that consumes the air/fuel mixture quicker. This reduces the variation from one firing cycle to the next, and extra fuel is injected at low rpm to further reduce the variation. To counteract the rich condition used to smooth the engine feel at low speed, a secondary air systems releases air into the exhaust port to complete the combustion of unburned fuel before reaching the cat. After all these changes Ducati claims the Multi’s mill puts out 4.5 lb-ft more torque, that’s a 5% increase at the peak of the torque curve.
While the increase in performance and smoother operation is big news, the semi-active Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) is the most important change to the Multistrada line. Three of the four models get the new Sachs-built suspension. The DSS uses an electric solenoid valve to control the damping of the suspension to give a desired ride quality for the four riding modes available: Sport, Touring, Urban or Enduro. The DSS system monitors information from accelerometers, throttle position and the ABS feedback to constantly manage the damping rate based on the four settings. Not only does the DSS
The Sachs 48mm fork’s damping is controlled electronically for compression and rebound automatically depending on the riding mode that is selected.
system conform to certain modes, it also continually adjusts to the immediate situation and riding environment. Ducati claims the Skyhook Suspension system gives the rider a comfortable ride without compromising sport handling.
Aside from technical updates the Multistrada line also received some cosmetic tweaks and a new adjustable windscreen. Now 18mm taller and 43mm wider, the new windscreen is adjustable up and down covering a range of 60mm via a simple yet affective “pinch and lift” adjuster. Cosmetic changes include Panigale style wheels and headlights that feature LED low-beams, LED position lights and new hazard lights. The S Touring also gets side luggage and a center stand. The Granturismo model has larger side luggage, a top-case, heated grips, a comfort saddle, LED foglights and engine protection bars. Carbon fiber abounds on the Pikes Peak edition along with Marchesini forged wheels and a Termignoni carbon fiber silencer.
Almost immediately on the road you can feel the newfound smoothness on the second generation Testastretta 11º, especially when chugging through the city or being lazy on the shifter. Gone is the hurky-jerky lumpiness when the revs drop below the optimum cruising rpm. Even below 3000 rpm, the engine is smoother than any Ducati to date. It makes for a much more relaxing ride when you just want to roll through the scenery
The 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring is a just as much of a rocketship as before but is now smoother.
in third gear. Adding the smoothness down low just enhances the character and usability of the Multi. Downshifting is not needed for the sake of smoothness, only to tap into the surge of power for the wonderful 1198-derived mill. Having not ridden the previous version for more than six months it is difficult to ascertain if the increase in torque is noticeable, but with so much already on tap the Multistada’s cup overfloweth. Honking-huge wheelies are always on tap, and the rush from corner to corner approaches superbike standards. Choose Urban or Enduro and the power mellows to a softer top-end power setting of 100 hp rather than the 150 available on tap in Sport and Touring. We encountered wet patches and dirty pavement often, and the traction control settings were spot on for each mode and a welcome safety net when turning the screws.
A new, smaller Bosch ABS controller handles keeping the front and rear wheel traction to the maximum when on the brakes. For 2013 there are three modes of ABS to suit the four riding modes. ABS 1 is the default for Enduro mode and is meant to work better in the dirt thanks to reduced rear brake intervention. We didn’t get any real chance to test this setting as we only crossed a handful of short gravel sections. I did set it to Enduro however in the gravel and tried to lock up the rear brake. The Bosch unit still kicks in fairly early for my seasoned dirt skills. Personally I would still prefer ABS to be off as the default for any dirt duty. Sport riders will prefer the ABS 2 level, which is the default for Sport. Intervention is minimal at speed during charging hard in the mountains, and I only experienced the rear being manipulated while trying to hack the ‘Strada into tight downhill corners. ABS 3 is linked to Touring and Urban modes and ensures the rear wheel does not lift off the ground. This setting didn’t feel any different than ABS 2 – stoppies and endos are not an option for me at international press introductions. Lets just call it good manners.
This brings us to what you’ve been patiently waiting for – the evaluation of the Skyhook Suspension. Short and simple answer, it works and works well. As we headed out of town I immediately set to switching up the riding modes to see if I could feel a difference between them. Without a doubt the changes between each mode is marked and noticeable. Each is
The Skyhook suspension works unbelievably well but takes some feel and feedback out of the front-end.
calibrated to that mode’s intended usage with Sport being the most stiff and Enduro the softest. That being said, each model was amazingly compliant when needed. Even in the Sport setting the suspension was glued to the tarmac no matter the surface. As well as it works, not all is perfect. I am a rider that relies on front-end feel to gauge my margin for error when entering a corner. Because the suspension follows the road so well and back to front weight transfer during braking is reduced, feedback from the front tire is slightly muted. This is most notable on turn-in. That being said, after about an hour in the saddle I gave up caring that I had less feel and things got fun. You just have to trust the system as you would traction control. As soon as that trust was established, the Multistada was a corner-carving virtuoso. Ducati Skyhook Suspension takes electronically adjustable suspension to a new level and is unbelievably calibrated for a first generation system.
At the end of the day, I was left impressed with the refined 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring. I enjoyed the previous version, but was left with some gripes and wants. All of those criticisms, save the ABS off default for enduro, are gone. We have posed questions about durability of Multistrada in a mixed-use environment, and we will have to answer them down the road. For now, I have nothing but positive recommendations for those riders looking for a do-it-all Motorcycle with a soul that is unmatched in its segment (or lack there of). Ducati set out to provide a better Multi by keeping all of the character and passion, but making it more controllable and safe for every rider. I would say the Italians have a resounding success on their hands, and Ducati needs to commence back patting immediately.