Ducati Multistrada 1200 (2015) Review

Anyone who knows anything about Ducati’s top selling Multistrada 1200 knows it’s all about versatility. For 2015, a roster of revisions makes it even more refined.Anyone who knows anything about Ducati’s top selling Multistrada 1200 knows it’s all about versatility. For 2015, a roster of revisions makes it even more refined.

Versatility Redefined

It took many hours and multiple flights to reach Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where Ducati had scheduled the world press launch of its new Multistrada 1200—so much effort and time to get there, and all for a single day in the saddle. But the new MS1200 is worth it. It hasn’t been transformed at all since it was first introduced in 2010, though it was updated in 2013 and more seriously for 2015. There are motorcyclists who will always wish for complete re-dos, but there really was no reason to rethink the Multistrada because the original idea, a true do-it-all motorcycle, was a darn appealing one. So, Ducati smartly kept refining the concept. 

The 2015 Multi retains the general architecture of the 2010-2014 models but adds a stronger frame and more powerful version of the Testastretta 1198cc V-Twin. It outputs a factory-spec 160 horsepower and 100.3 ft/lb. torque (versus 150/91.8) and now features variable timing. 

As for electronic assists and functions, which were already a big part of the Multistrada and its “4 bikes in 1” sales pitch, there are now (a lot) more of them, especially on the S version. While both the base and S models are now equipped with leaning ABS, the latter additionally benefits from semi-active Skyhook suspension and 1299 Panigale brake components. 

The four riding modes—Touring, Sport, Urban and Enduro—are still there and a new wheelie control assist is now added. ABS and traction control are standard. The S pushes things even further with its own multi-function instrumentation with five-inch colour screen with Bluetooth connectivity allowing the rider to control a phone or a music player with the motorcycle commands. An upcoming app called Multistrada Link will allow many more possibilities. The $20,795 S ($200 more in white) is also equipped with its own LED directional headlights and forged wheels. The base Multistrada 1200 is priced at $18,995. 

For those of you wondering whether or not all those functions amount to a lot of “work” for the rider, the answer is they do. We’re talking multiple menus to scroll through and numerous settings that significantly affect what the bike does. Owners have to understand it all. The upside is the Multistrada does have the ability to switch from comfy travel companion to track tool at the push of a few buttons. The net result is the Multistrada 1200 can indeed be multiple bikes to multiple riders, especially as there are now accessory packages to choose from accentuating the sporty, the urban or the touring side of the bike. 

What I’ve found the new Multi to be first and foremost is a fast and competent sportbike, one with ergonomics influenced by the adventure class. With great torque and 160 hp to play with, and with a light, solid and precise chassis handling it seamlessly, the MS1200 will prove plenty satisfying for maturing Racer Replica owners wanting to transition to something less radical in terms of riding position and practicality, yet still fun, fast and exciting. Though the entire package is responsible for that quality, the combination of high performance, wonderful character and impressive refinement offered by the latest gen V-Twin is key to the Multistrada being a motorcycle capable of seducing the most discerning and experienced riders. But it’s not perfect. The tall seat might bother some shorter riders, the windshield creates degrees of turbulence, and some electronic functions exhibited inconsistent behaviours during my road test of this new motorcycle (Ducati says the bugs will be fixed on production models). There’s also the complexity of understanding all these functions, the high (though somewhat justifiable) price, and the very limited off-roading capability even if there’s an Enduro mode. 

Some of these negative points have been around since day one, but there used to be quite a bit more. Not huge problems, but rather smaller stuff that seemed to prevent the Multistrada 1200 from achieving its ultimate mission of unmatched versatility. 

The 2015 model addresses and eliminates almost all of these minor yet noticeable issues, resulting in a remarkably refined machine capable of being very satisfying to a very wide range of riders in very diverse conditions. I personally keep wishing, as I have for years, for a smaller 821 version that would also be considerably more affordable so that more motorcyclists could enjoy what the MS has become. But until and if that happens, those with sufficient funds will definitely be buying not just an excellent do-it-all motorcycle, but also one of the very best and most enjoyable machines built today. It’s now that good.

It took many hours and multiple flights to reach Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where Ducati had scheduled the world press launch of its new Multistrada 1200—so much effort and time to get there, and all for a single day in the saddle. But the new Multistrada 1200 is worth it. It hasn’t been transformed at all since it was first introduced in 2010, though it was updated in 2013 and more seriously for 2015. There are motorcyclists who will always wish for complete re-dos, but there really was no reason to rethink the Multistrada because the original idea, a true do-it-all motorcycle, was a darn appealing one. So, Ducati smartly kept refining the concept. 

The 2015 Multi retains the general architecture of the 2010-2014 models but adds a stronger frame and more powerful version of the Testastretta 1198cc V-Twin. It outputs a factory-spec 160 horsepower and 100.3 ft/lb. torque (versus 150/91.8) and now features variable timing. 

As for electronic assists and functions, which were already a big part of the Multistrada and its “4 bikes in 1” sales pitch, there are now (a lot) more of them, especially on the S version. While both the base and S models are now equipped with leaning ABS, the latter additionally benefits from semi-active Skyhook suspension and 1299 Panigale brake components. 

The four riding modes—Touring, Sport, Urban and Enduro—are still there and a new wheelie control assist is now added. ABS and traction control are standard. The S pushes things even further with its own multi-function instrumentation with five-inch colour screen with Bluetooth connectivity allowing the rider to control a phone or a music player with the motorcycle commands. An upcoming app called Multistrada Link will allow many more possibilities. The $20,795 S ($200 more in white) is also equipped with its own LED directional headlights and forged wheels. The base Multistrada 1200 is priced at $18,995. 

For those of you wondering whether or not all those functions amount to a lot of “work” for the rider, the answer is they do. We’re talking multiple menus to scroll through and numerous settings that significantly affect what the bike does. Owners have to understand it all. The upside is the Multistrada does have the ability to switch from comfy travel companion to track tool at the push of a few buttons. The net result is the MS can indeed be multiple bikes to multiple riders, especially as there are now accessory packages to choose from accentuating the sporty, the urban or the touring side of the bike. 

What I’ve found the new Multi to be first and foremost is a fast and competent sportbike, one with ergonomics influenced by the adventure class. With great torque and 160 hp to play with, and with a light, solid and precise chassis handling it seamlessly, the Multistrada 1200 will prove plenty satisfying for maturing Racer Replica owners wanting to transition to something less radical in terms of riding position and practicality, yet still fun, fast and exciting. Though the entire package is responsible for that quality, the combination of high performance, wonderful character and impressive refinement offered by the latest gen V-Twin is key to the Multistrada being a motorcycle capable of seducing the most discerning and experienced riders. But it’s not perfect. The tall seat might bother some shorter riders, the windshield creates degrees of turbulence, and some electronic functions exhibited inconsistent behaviours during my road test of this new motorcycle (Ducati says the bugs will be fixed on production models). There’s also the complexity of understanding all these functions, the high (though somewhat justifiable) price, and the very limited off-roading capability even if there’s an Enduro mode. 

Some of these negative points have been around since day one, but there used to be quite a bit more. Not huge problems, but rather smaller stuff that seemed to prevent the Multistrada 1200 from achieving its ultimate mission of unmatched versatility. 

Anyone who knows anything about Ducati’s top selling Multistrada 1200 knows it’s all about versatility. For 2015, a roster of revisions makes it even more refined.The 2015 Multistrada 1200 addresses and eliminates almost all of these minor yet noticeable issues, resulting in a remarkably refined machine capable of being very satisfying to a very wide range of riders in very diverse conditions. I personally keep wishing, as I have for years, for a smaller 821 version that would also be considerably more affordable so that more motorcyclists could enjoy what the MS has become. But until and if that happens, those with sufficient funds will definitely be buying not just an excellent do-it-all motorcycle, but also one of the very best and most enjoyable machines built today. It’s now that good.

by Bertrand Gahel, September 2015 issue

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