The adventure motorcycle market is exploding right now. Covid has exacerbated the situation as people continued to look for outdoor activities where social distancing could be accomplished. Harley-Davidson entered the fold with the Pan America 1250 Special which surprised everyone with how good it was for a first effort in the segment. BMW’s GS lineup continues to be the benchmark, but models like the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S and newly launched Ducati Multistrada V4 S are hot on its heels.
We had the chance to test the new Multistrada recently. Covering a motorcycle while attending a media launch is challenging. You’re often jet lagged and have precious little time to review multiple models while riding new roads surrounded by riders of varying abilities. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on. Over the course of a week-long loan at home, we were able to better evaluate how a motorcycle behaved in a familiar environment.
Ducati is offering no less than eight models of Multistrada-ness, from the 950 that starts at $16,495 up to the recently unveiled V4 Pikes Peak edition which retails for nearly double the price at $32,695.
All three V4 models get variable riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro) that can be adjusted on the fly, ABS and cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control and daytime running lights. The V4 features backlit handlebar switches, 5-inch TFT colour display, but the S model gets an upgrade to a 6.5-inch TFT colour display with Ducati Connect and full-map navigation system, as well as a full LED headlight. S and S Sport get the Ducati Skyhook suspension, cornering suspension, quick shifter, hill hold and cruise control, while the S Sport adds a carbon fibre front mudguard and an Akrapovic muffler.
Light alloy cast wheels come standard on the V4, V4 S and V4 S Sport (19-inches on the front and 17-inches in the rear) with Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires, but our Ducati Red V4 S tester was equipped with the spoked wheels (a $900 upgrade) and Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber which adds an extra $565 for a grand total of $30,010. Other colour options include Aviator Grey and Sport Livery.
Heart of the beast
The liquid-cooled 1,158 cc V4 is good for 170 hp at 10,500 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 8,750 rpm. With a dry weight of 218 kg (481 lb) and a curb weight of 243 kg (536 lb) when loaded up with fuel (it has a 22 L tank) and fluids, the V4 S pulls and pulls hard up to its redline through all of its six gears. For comparison, the Pan America 1250 Special weighs 254 kg (559 lb) and the BMW GS weighs 249 kg (549 lb) in running order.
How does it ride?
Rolling back your right wrist at 100 km/h produces 25 percent more torque than the outgoing 1,262cc L-twin – and it shows. The engine also sounds magnificent. The multiplate wet hydraulic clutch is precise and predictable, offering excellent feel when navigating stop-and-go traffic, dirt or gravel whether sitting down in the sit or in a standing position. Despite the abundance of power on tap, throttle modulation on loose surfaces is smooth and predictable. Ditto when it comes to stopping thanks to the dual 330 mm semi-floating discs and radially mounted Brembo M50 Stylema monobloc four-piston callipers up front and the 265 mm disc with Brembo 2-piston floating calliper in the rear. The position of the rear brake allows for easy use while in a standing position.
It’s easy to tell the differences among the Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro riding modes which adjust suspension settings and throttle response. Choose the riding mode via the toggle switch beside the left handgrip then simply roll off the throttle to set. Sport firms up the suspension and offers up all the bike’s horsepower, while Enduro noticeably softens up the ride.
Steering is smooth and lightly weighted. The high handlebars and 24.5-degree rake assist with making it one of the easiest motorcycles to navigate at slow speeds I’ve experienced. Find some twisties and the Multistrada will roll into the turns with ease. It’s still a heavy adventure motorcycle, so has limitations both on- and off-road.
The 6.5-inch TFT screen is well laid out and easy to read. A Ducati Connect app allows you to mirror your phone and manage navigation, communications and vehicle settings. There’s a handy storage compartment just below the fuel door containing a USB connection where you can plug in your smartphone. The door itself is a bit on the cheap and flimsy side for a motorcycle that feels premium in every other way, including the heavy key fob. Keep it in your pocket and use the integrated ignition switch to turn the bike on and off.
Safety comes standard
Adaptive cruise control has become ubiquitous in the auto industry, being offered in virtually everything but entry-level econoboxes. Merely turn on the cruise control and it will adjust throttle inputs and braking to keep the preferred set distance from the vehicle in front of you. If the vehicle in front of you slows down, you can activate your turn signal to change lanes and it automatically accelerate to the set speed. Handing over any element of control is an eerie sensation, but the Ducati system feels well sorted. In addition to the front radar, the rear radar system will warn you of a potential collision from behind.
Another motorcycle industry first is the integration of blind spot detection. The top of either mirror illuminates to let you know if someone has entered the pre-determined area within your blind spot. While it isn’t a replacement for mirror or shoulder checks, the system is like having an extra set of eyes that could help you out if you need to make a quick evasive maneuver. The mirrors also offer excellent visibility.
Life is a highway
The knobby Rally rubber was quite obviously better suited to riding off-road, but the Multistrada was otherwise smooth and quiet at elevated triple digit speeds. The manually adjustable windscreen may be small, but it is easy to raise and lower, and is effective at redirecting the wind from your chest and face. The quick shifter changes gears quickly and crisply either up or down.
Claiming 6.5 L/100km, the Multistrada has excellent range, particularly when ridden with a sensible right hand. The only thing limiting long stretches in the saddle is the seat. The shape is good, but the material is firm so wears on your backside sooner than it should. The seat can be adjusted between 840 mm – 860 mm (33.1 in – 33.9 in).
The Multistrada family offers something for most adventure riders. The V4 S resides in the middle of the lineup, providing a lot of content for the money. It is a very impressive premium feeling motorcycle that has character to spare and ups the ante when it comes to safety without diluting the amount of fun you can have while riding it. If you’re in the adventure market, if should most definitely be on your list.