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Ducati's exhilarating new Multistrada is a bike that ticks all the boxes

By David Neely

Ducati’s new Multistrada 1200 is one of the few VIBs – Very Important Bikes - of 2010. And it also underlines an interesting twist in that the European motorcycle manufacturers are out boxing and out foxing their Japanese rivals.

The Multistrada, I discovered, is more of a sit up sports bike than a pure big adventure trailie but that doesn’t distract from it for one moment. And the model illustrates that when it comes to pushing the boundaries of bike development, the makers leading the field are from outside Japan. They are, primarily, BMW, Ducati and Triumph.

I’m not saying the Japanese don’t make very good bikes, of course they do, but it has to be said that these three, and not forgetting Aprilia and KTM, have caught them with their piston skirts down. Probably the best example is BMW’s S1000RR sportster.

But let’s return to the Multistrada because this is my report of the new Desmodronic liquid cooled l-twin. The model I sampled was the S, Sport Edition, the demo of Millsport Motorcycles, of Ballymoney. All three variations of the model use the same 150bhp (@9,250 rpm) engine.

The riding position on the Multistrada 1200 is sit up and beg and very comfortable, similar to BMW’s GS s and KTM’s Adventure series; upright and not a chin on the tank and bum in the air position.

It’s a keyless start, the key fob remains in your jacket or trousers or trousers and with the engine switched on there’s a choice to be made of four modes, Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. As a brand rear tyre had just been fitted after 3,000 hard, demo miles, I thought that Touring was the wise choice until the cover was properly scrubbed.

People who normally ride sports machines falsely assume that touring is another word for boring, a type of motorcycling cliché for the older pipe and slippers brigade, if they ever existed. Rubbish. In the Touring mode, I soon discovered there are still plenty of horse available.

The S model is electronically exceptionally sophisticated as the suspension is automatically adjusted for each mode. It has top quality Ohlins inverted forks and an Ohlins single rear shock. There’s also an advanced traction control system which again adapts to the different modes.

With a some miles under my belt it was time to switch to Sport which takes the bike into a different league altogether. There’s a rawness about it – don’t take that as a roughness – and engine seems to plead, ‘come on, I’ve an awful lot to give.’

Indeed it has and I sampled it as much as possible on open roads. But to take it to its limit you need to go to a track day. I made do with a run up to Donegal, one reason being that I wanted to see how the suspension would cope on all sorts of surfaces.

The truth be told Donegal’s roads, by and large, are no worse than ours and on a couple of minor B routes it was still possible to keep up a respectable pace with the suspension finding its own level for the speed and the conditions. Full marks here.

The bike handles exceptionally well, more like a sports bike than a roadster, and if on occasions the speed going into a corner was maybe a tad fast it was simply a matter of pushing the bars a bit more and leaning over that little bit extra.

Like all the equipment on the S, the brakes are top notch, Brembo front and rear, and the light weight of the machine, 192 kg dry, makes pulling up from any speed straightforward. The six speed box is smooth, a slipper clutch is used to prevent the rear wheel locking up on fast down changes.

The small screen is very effective, giving loads of protection. The decent sized tank holds 20 litres and the mpg figure worked out at 42—43 mpg with enthusiastic riding. After all, that’s what the bike is about.

The bike differs from the GS series in that final drive is by chain and not shaft and it also comes with 190 rear tyre, much wider than the German flat twin series. In many ways this is a machine establishing its own, unique territory.

Sports bike riders will find it will give them, in the real world, all the performance they need but with a major difference – in comfort. I would take this bike over Ducati’s own 1198 superbike for a long trip any day.

Prices: there’s a base 1200, same power but with Marzocchi forks and a Sachs monoshock, without ABS, for £11,200 (an extra £600 for ABS), then the S Touring, complete with panniers, heated grips and a centre stand at £14,495, or the Sport, as tested, at the same price and loads of carbon fibre parts.

To date Millsport as sold 14 machines, one base, one Sport and the remainder Touring. The Multistrada is probably the most important Ducati, leaving aside the 916, that the Bologna factory has produced to date.

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