2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S First Ride

Adam Waheed | March 24, 2015




(Top) The nose of the Multi is wider than before and does a better job of shielding the rider from the elements. We also appreciate how simple it is to adjust the height of the windscreen. (Center) The Multistrada 1200 features an ingenious variable valve timing system that makes the engine run smoother, with greater efficiency than ever before. (Bottom) The S-model gets a full-color instrument display. While we love the sheer number of features it offers some of its fonts are pixelated and aren’t commiserate with a motorcycle costing nearly 20 grand. For that amount of money, it should be touch screen, too.

Riders seeking a heavyweight do-it-all street bike should pay attention to Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 ($17,695). Already one of the stronger performing motorcycles in the Italian company’s lineup, the updated Multi features a carefully enhanced version of the Superbike-derived 1198cc L-Twin and fresh electronic solutions to deliver a superior riding experience.

The ’15 Multistrada may only appear to be a minor facelift from the outside, however, underneath its beaky Ducati Red bodywork (or Iceberg White colorway available on the up-spec $19,695 S model) the majority of the components are of new design (aside from its key-less fob-type ignition that we’re still not fans of). Starting with the engine, Ducati continues to advance the dynamics of its tried-and-true 1098/1198 twin-cylinder engine platform by fitting a variable valve timing hardware inside the cylinder head dubbed Desmodromic Variable Timing. This allowed engineer’s greater tune-ability by adjusting camshafts position in real-time, based on load and rpm. This complements the engine’s existing capacity to alter fuel injection and ignition timing for enhanced running character, performance and combustion efficiency.

In application the DVT solution is a revelation. It builds upon the purpose of the previous Testatretta’s 11-degree valve overlap design by facilitating a far greater range of overlap thereby boosting the smoothness of the engine at all rpm. Where the previous generation water-cooled Multi engine was subject to surging and felt like it suffered from overly lean fuel mapping (especially at low rpms), the new engine runs night and day better. It effortlessly chugs along from as low as 2000 revs all the way to its 10,200 rpm redline. It’s easily the smoothest-running Ducati motorcycle we’ve ever ridden. Another plus is the improved action of the six-speed transmission with each gear engaging more aptly – a positive side effect of the updated design according to Ducati’s tech team. Despite the added technology (and weight) of the valvetrain, valve clearance check intervals were increased by 3600 miles to 18,000 miles.

Despite its smoother demeanor, the engine doesn’t sacrifice that core sport performance that’s at the heart of a Ducati. Get into the throttle and the motor piles on revs so quickly that you could mistake it for a Panigale. The Twin pulls especially hard through the mid-range and continues to pump out wheelie-inducing torque all the way to the rev limiter. On the pipe the Duc’s rapid heartbeat echoes through the cockpit which promotes the jolly thrill of speed.

Multistrada 1200 S Settings
Suspension
Fork
Preload: 17mm, 3 lines showing
Damping: Medium
Shock
Preload: Maximum (rider, passenger, luggage)
Damping: Medium
Drivetrain
Power Mode: Touring
DTC: 3
ABS: 1
DWC: ‘Off’

Engine power and throttle response can still be tuned electronically by selecting one of four riding modes. ‘Sport’ and ‘Touring’ modes deliver maximum performance with Sport more aggressive than the smoother throttle response of Touring. While the ‘Urban’ and ‘Enduro’ settings cap engine power at 100 hp with a softer response – ideal for riding on wet and/or slippery surfaces, or, when a gentler overall riding experience is desired. Each setting offers a correspondingly level of traction, wheelie, ABS and, on the ‘S’ model, suspension damping control.

In the electronics department, the Multi shares the 1299 Panigale’s newly introduced hardware including a Bosch-sourced IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit) and lean-angle sensitive 9.1M1 ABS brain box. The IMU chip combines gyro and accelerometer functions giving the motorcycle positional awareness on the road by measuring pitch, roll and yaw. This data enables the Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) and Ducati Cornering Lights (DCL) functions. DWC helps mitigate front wheel lift during hard acceleration (by reducing engine torque) and is adjustable in eight increments (one being the least and eight the most). On the road the wheelie control felt a little gimmicky, still it’s nice to see Ducati trying to include race-derived technologies onto its street bikes. DCL allows for the operation of the LED corner lights that illuminate in the turn the motorcycle is directed toward, though we didn’t get a chance to sample it at night. The IMU also complements the ‘S’ models upgraded Skyhook suspension, designed in conjunction with Sachs, as well as ABS. Cruise control is now standard equipment and heated grips are available as an option.

The heart and soul of a sportbike with the comfort and amenities of a touring steed. That sums up Ducati’s Multistrada 1200.

Speaking of brakes, both Multi’s features monobloc Brembo-sourced calipers. However, the ‘S’ model gets 10mm larger diameter cross-drilled rotors matched to higher-spec M50 racing calipers. Both systems are augmented through sportbike-style radial-pump front master cylinder and a 20mm larger disc out back for increased rear brake feel. Both braking set-ups performed as advertised, and we’re pleased with Ducati’s ABS, as it behaves so effectively, there’s little reason to ever disable it.




(Top) Ducati’s DVT valvetrain solution is literally a revelation and makes the engine feel and run smoother than any other Ducati motorcycle we’ve ever ridden. (Center) The Multistrada 1200 receives all-new switch gear. Some riders might like the key-less fob-style ignition, but for us nothing replaces the mechanical simplicity of a conventional key. (Bottom) Considering the smooth road surface we toured across it was difficult to get an accurate read on the Multistrada’s updated Skyhook suspension. It did perform as advertised and we appreciate the automated damping control based on the actual riding dynamic of the bike.

The suspension benefits from a reworked inverted fork with enhanced low friction design improving action thorough its 6.7-inch stroke (identical travel as the shock). The S model’s shock utilizes a sensor to determine how much stroke is being used. The Skyhook ECU processes this information, as well as the data from the IMU to modify damping force based on dynamic riding conditions. Suspension damping can further be tweaked by selecting between one of five presets (softest, soft, medium, hard, hardest) a la the 1299 Panigale S. The rider can also select between various shock spring preload settings (represented by solo riding, riding with a passenger, and/or luggage icons in the color display). A servo motor then adjusts spring tension accordingly. Non S-model Multi’s get an easily accessible hydraulic adjustment knob. Regardless of model, fork preload adjustments have to be made the old fashioned way, with a wrench.

The ‘S’ model also gets a large color display relaying all information prerequisites, while the standard model employs an more simple LCD set-up. Its various settings are accessed via new switchgear on the handlebars, though we wish it offered touchscreen access. Initially the menu is a little tricky to navigate, but once you understand its nuances it’s actually pretty easy to make adjustments. Still, there’s some room for improvement in the overall sharpness of the color display with some of the letters, icons and numbers appearing pixelated and not commiserate with a machine costing nearly 20 grand. Other nice touches include the 12-volt power plug next to the instrument display and the USB-port underneath the rear seat.

Despite appearing the same the Multi gets a new frame and swingarm design for ’15. Not only does the engine sit higher inside the frame (thereby increasing ground clearance to seven inches) steering rake has been decreased from 25 to 24 degrees with an corresponding 4mm reduction in trail to 106mm. Steering lock was also increased by four degrees for improved maneuverability in and out of tight parking spots. Wheelbase remains unchanged at 60.2 inches.

Considering the bowling ball alley smooth pavement we rode on, it was impossible to find fault with the suspension or the chassis. Overall we preferred the maximum preload setting as it gave a sharper steering feel with no discernable stability or ride quality penalty. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to run through the preset damping events, aside from medium, but even in the standard setting the chassis felt taut and composed.

Perhaps the most notable chassis improvement is the Multi’s reshaped ergonomics. The nose of the motorcycle is wider creating quieter airspace behind the windscreen. The standard seat can accommodate both 32.5 and 33.3 inch seat heights and shorter riders will also appreciate the accessory option thereby reducing height to either 32.3 or 31.5 inches.

Ducati Multistrada 1200  Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Smoothest-running Ducati engine ever produced
  • Fast and fun to ride
  • Improved riding ergonomics
Lows
  • S-models color display could have better quality
  • Wheelie control calibration needs work
  • Key-less ignition can be a pain for some riders

The width of the seat has also been trimmed by 1.6 inches and the fuel tank and seat area were re-shaped to improve grip with the rider’s knees. Although it appears a little narrow, the windscreen proved effective at shielding us from turbulent air and we love its simple and effective adjustment lever for height.

At the end of the day we’re happy with what Ducati’s done with its 2015 Multistrada. It retains its authentic sport performance that appeals to throttle jockeys yet the DVT-equipped engine adds a level of polish that until now Ducati’s have always lacked. It continues to carve corners with the appeal of a sportbike but is calmer, more comfortable and easier to adjust then before.

2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Specs
 The standard 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 starts at  17 695.
Engine: 1198cc liquid-cooled L-Twin
Bore and Stroke: 106.0 x 67.9mm
Compression Ratio: 12.5:1
Valvetrain: Desmodromic Variable Timing, 8-valves
Fuel Delivery: Single Stage Fuel Injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; hydraulic actuation
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain 15/40 gearing
Frame: Steel-trellis
Front Suspension: 48mm Sachs inverted fork; three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound; 6.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Gas-charged Sachs shock absorber; three-way adjustable for spring preload, low-speed compression and rebound; 6.7 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-mount Brembo monobloc calipers
Rear Brake: 265mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II; 120/70R17, 190/55R17 Curb Weight: 511 pounds
Wheelbase: 60.2 in.
Rake: 24.0 deg. Trail: 4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gal.
MSRP: Starting at $17,695
Colors: Ducati Red; Iceberg White
Warranty: Two year
2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S in Iceberg White colorway   19 695 .Although it lacks color the standard Multistradas instrument panel is more legible than the S models.The Multistradas seat can be adjusted in one of two heights. An even lower seating option is offered as a Ducati accessory part.
While we applaud Ducati at adding racing derived technologys to its road bikes its wheelie control felt gimmicky and wasnt as functional as other systems weve used recently.Engineers hoped to boost off-road performance slightly by raising the engine in the frame. The Multistrada wouldnt be our first choice for serious off-road riding  but its still a capable machine on fire roads.The Multistrada offers a convenient push-button Enduro mode which reduces traction control  disables rear ABS  enables the rider to lock-up the rear brake  if desired  and reduces engine power throttle response for enhanced control off-road.
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Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying th