The Good All-Rounder – The Air-Cooled Multistrada
Since its debut as a 2004 model, the Ducati Multistrada has been a bike coveted by Canadian Biker staff. Ducatis have graced our Vancouver Island premises in the past—ST2, ST3, Monster 800 and, recently, the 999—but the Multistrada 1000, with its combination of looks, ergonomics and power is unique to the lineup and one we considered perfect for the roads we frequent here.
The Multistrada has been controversial since its introduction because it appeared to break from the Ducati philosophy. The name of the bike implies versatility as does the tall stance, but the small tires and street rubber seem to suggest on-road use only. An upright riding position, an unusual profile showcasing two vertically stacked headlights and a divided fairing that allows the glass, but not the headlights, to follow the handlebars all work together to defy classification. It has an avant-garde style not universally appreciated, and for all the bikes it may hint at being—a dual sport, an adventure touring bike or a supermotard—everyone seems to agree that the unusual machine is a lot of fun to ride. But is it the all-round bike that Ducati claims?
While not as timeless a design as the 996 or Monsters, the 2006 Ducati Multistrada’s appearance gets better the longer you have the bike. There are the traditional Ducati elements that allude to its Italian heritage; beautiful trellis frame, a deeply sculpted tank, underseat exhaust with a cheeky upward angle, a single-sided swingarm and, of course, the only colour a Ducati must be, fire engine red.
The truest thing you can say about the 432-lb. (195-kg) Multistrada is that it offers sportbike performance without sportbike ergonomics. The 1000 is probably the most comfortable go-fast machine on the market. It has the handling abilities of a supermotard, the performance of a sportbike and the comfort of a big dual sport. The tall stance, upright ergonomics and wide flat bars may hint at a dual-purpose ability but it is strictly an asphalt runner. To illustrate, compare the tall bike to its stablemate the Monster 1000. The Ducati Multistrada has slightly less rear travel and 1.4” more front travel with identical rake. This means that it would take more than dedicated rubber to make the Multistrada dirt ready. However, the platform is excellent for carving backroads or slicing through urban traffic. The tall seating provides a topnotch view of traffic on the road, while the wide bars and broad steering sweep make it extremely maneuverable. And, because it is a red Ducati, the bike draws a lot of attention from other drivers. They may not know what the heck they’re looking at, but they definitely appreciate it is something special.
THE SOUL OF THE DUCATI MULTISTRADA IS THE MOTOR. The fuel-injected, air-cooled, dual spark L-Twin outputs a claimed 92 hp at 8,000 rpm and 68 ft/lbs. torque at 5,000 rpm. The short-stroke motor revs quickly into the sweet spot above 4,000 rpm. Disengage the clattering dry clutch and peak torque is immediately available just beyond idle. The motor’s quick-revving work ethic is voiced operatically through twin upswept barrels protruding from beneath the seat.
The six-speed transmission has the same highway-friendly ratios featured with the touring ST3. To effectively use top gear your speed has to be greater than 60 mph (100 kmh) because, in the low triple digits, the motor is just lugging at 3,500 rpm. Vibrations diminish and the power band ramps up at 4,000 rpm and at 6,000 a twist of the throttle brings an immediate and satisfying response. The only downside to a bike with such great city ergonomics is that neither the engine nor the transmission is particularly happy below 25 mph (40 kmh). Sooner or later, even in the city, you will be riding at this speed even if the bike is a fire-engine red Ducati. It was always a little surprising to look down at the gauge and discover how quickly and unobtrusively you’d gathered speed in town. The bike knows what feels good and gravitates toward the comfort zone.
Twin semi-floating 320mm discs with four-piston calipers up front combined with the Pirelli rubber make for excellent braking and controlled stops. There is a 245mm disc with two-piston calipers out back, but because of the effectiveness of the front binder, the rear brake package will probably last the life of the bike.
The Showa suspension pieces include an adjustable 43mm inverted fork in the front and an accompanying rear monoshock that’s also fully adjustable. The ride quality is firm but controlled, inspiring confidence when the pavement gets uneven, which perhaps explains how the term “multistrada” was derived. On hard braking, the long front end dips but never bottoms out. But if you feel you have not spent enough on your Multistrada, (MSRP $15,995) opt for the “S” version that’s been upgraded to Ohlins suspension front and rear.
MUCH HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE DUCATI MULTISTRADA’S “UNCOMFORTABLE seat.” Well sometimes your butt fits and sometimes it doesn’t. The broad saddle may not be plush but it is wide enough to distribute weight over a larger area. The riding position is canted neither forward nor backward, and there are no uncomfortable pressure points, but with a 33.5” (850mm) seat height, it’s easy to believe this is a tall bike. But, with its wasp-waisted nature and narrow tank, getting both feet planted on the ground is no problem. The footpegs are placed directly below the seat with plenty of legroom, though throwing a leg over the seat still requires some limbering exercises. Tellingly, our test unit’s passenger grab rail, which is a good four or five inches above the seat, had been scuffed by boots scraping across it.
Instrumentation includes a digital speedometer and an analogue tach, both of which glow a cool blue after dark. Also included on the digital read-out is a variety of trip and fuel consumption data including average speed, the rate of fuel consumption, the number of litres used on the trip and the distance remaining before you run dry. This last calculation is in conflict with the fuel light which tends to come on after only nine litres have been consumed—leaving 11 litres to go. It is good to err on the side of caution but that is a little too conservative.
Multistrada on the Road
ON THE ROAD THE DUCATI SHOWS WHY IT IS A FAVOURITE AT THE Centopassi in its native Italy. The wide bars, tenacious rubber on 17” rims and accessible torque allow the bike to charge through tight roads with agility. The bike is light when pushing through the corners and you can lean it way over without having to slide your butt around and hang your knees out like the sportbike crowd. In the hands of a skilled rider the Multistrada is a bike few hardcore enthusiasts could outrun when the pavement gets twisted. Adding the optional hard bags converts the 2006 Ducati Multistrada to a weekend touring machine that emphasizes the word “adventure,” though a rider has to ignore the light and plan regular fuel stops For all its dragon-eating potential the Ducati is just as capable when the road is wide open. It is comfortable and relatively vibration free in the motor’s sweet spot, but the fairing disappoints in its ability to deflect wind—there’s significant turbulence in the helmet and chest area.
Ultimately the Multistrada 1000 DS is capable of multiple functions. It can be a real rocket on the backroads if you want to hang it out there with the sportbikes. It can make riding around the city an interactive experience by dicing the traffic and allowing its rider to see those who may not be watching him, or you can equip it with the available touring accessories and hit the road. It is confidence inspiring and will do the things that a sportbike will do, except at the extreme end of the scale, and yet do it in comfort—depending how high comfort rates on your scale.
by John Molony Canadian Biker #222