The Ducati Multistrada 1200S - The Magic of Variable Valve Timing

It had been an interesting few weeks on two wheels last month. I'd been fortunate to ride the Ducati Panigale 1299S and the Ducati Multistrada 1200S. Both are Ducatis, for those unaware, one its top superbike and the other its top sportstourer. For the road, the Ducati Multistrada 1200SD shades the Ducati Panigale, metaphorically. Naturally, it's not as quick but as a road bike it is superior overall because it does many things almost as well as the superbike and a range of practical things vastly better. One is all precision and power at the expensive of comfort and utility – the Ducati Panigale is a pain in town running – while the Ducati Multistrada is a lovely balance of ride quality and cornering prowess, almost as happy commuting as two-up touring and Sunday blasting.

Off-roading in enduro mode? Hmm, not so much on the Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires, despite the suggestive name. A million Baht 250 kilogram trail bike? An expert might, but most will think gravel rather than clay, wet mud infested tracks.
Anyhow, the Ducati Multistrada 1200S does the kind of things you'd want a decent road bike to do, turn easily and effortlessly within the width of the road, for example while the Ducati Panigale does the kind of things you'd want a decent track bike to do, blast you round at speed, safely and in style. You could take the Ducati Multistrada on the track and have fun too, especially with its almost limitless chassis set-up configurations. I fluked on getting into the submenus a few times but tried to turn off wheel control but failed to commit the changes to memory. So we gave up on that caper. Clearly it is even more complex than the second-generation MS because I managed to turn off traction control on that one and it took off like a bird.

The alternative, we discovered, was to use the Enduro mode which has wheelie control set to zero, but with reduced power output I couldn't get a rise out of it in that setting either. Never mind because scrolling between Sport (in which most settings are backed off, thugh preload is set high) and Touring (moderate intervention from the safety systems, but preload set in about the middle) proved educational enough. On rare smooth roads, you'd use the Sport set-up so on most Thai roads 'Touring' is the better electronic suspension setting, despite there being a bit more dive under brakes and a little more weave in high speed turns. The upside is decent suspension compliance and great bump absorption both ends. You cannot get enough of that on a motorcycle designed to gobble up long distances.

The real guts of the third-generation Ducati Multistrada is the engine upgrade, for the 1198cc Testastretta 90-degree V-twin adopts continuous variable valve timing, both for the intake and exhaust cams. Dubbed DVT (Ducti Variable Timing) it bulks out the mid-range without detriment to the top end power. And man-oh-man does this thing have top end clout?

Most performance V-twins aren't that keen to lug down below about 3000rpm and the Ducati Panigale 1299 doesn't feel properly until 4000rpm but the Ducati Multistrada 1200S is much happier in the superbike's phantom zone. It potters around twon from 2000 to 3000rpm merrily and from 3000 to 4000rpm the DVT system is clearly starting to work as the Ducati Multistrada pulls decently from 100km/h in top. Crack open the throttle and amidst the gasping you're starting at 120km/h in a flash. The Ducati Panigale 1299S isn't even as convincing, though it is pulling taller gearing. Only from 5000rpm onwards does the Panigale awaken and go nuts. But so too does the Ducati Multistrada; it is just a ball to ride in the 5000 to 7000rpm zone, and with shorter gering doesn't get you into instant loss of live situations.

Power really is better for the track Ducati Panigale while torque is preferable for road conditions Ducati Multistrada. With the Multistrada and its DVT you can seemingly have both. It soars beautifully from about 5000 through to 10,500rpm, and it's hard to believe it only posted a best 80 to 120 overtaking time of 1.57seconds. That's a second better than the original however, and is alos considerably quicker than the best selling Adventure Bike, the BMW R1200GS which doesn't quite break 2.0seconds 80 to 120.

Why is the BMW R1200GS suck a great seller worldwide? Partly because it makes over 100Nm of torque at 3500rpm, and while peak torque in the Ducati Multistrada engine, 136Nm, is achieved at 7500rpm (125Nm torque at 6500rpm for the BMW R1200GS), there's only 80Nm on tap by 3500rpm. However, that explains why the traditional Ducati shudder (reluctance to pull when rolling on from low revs) has relocated from about 3000rpm to below 2000rpm. And the BMW cannot anything like match the Ducati at the top end, its best 0 to 100 in the mid-4s, while the Ducati Multistrada comfortably gets into the high threes. It would have been even quicker had it stretched t 100km/h in first gear.

Ducati recognizes that the vast majority of owners never take their Adventure Bikes off-road; they just want to be seen on a rugged looking bike. The situation is very much akin to the lure of the 4WD SUV with skid plates and such. They look up for a spot of dirt tracking. Hence the decision to use 17-inch wheels, and tires shod with rubber primarily for road use, Pirelli Scorpions, Good on them, because compromise rubber would have meant less lean, and the Ducati Multistrada loves to get a lean on. That's another advantage of using a V-twin oriented along the frame; there's little in the way of inertia when turning in. And with wide bars and lots of leverage this relishes twisting roads. The other advantage of this layout is a narrower knees-together riding position; which the seat set in the higher of its two positions you can ride for hours without any discomfort. Set lower and you tend to slide forward into the fuel tank. Nuts to that. New for 2015/2016 is a simpler three-position screen adjuster, up high and you can tuck in behind the screen for less wind rush. It's possible, for taller folk at any rate, to see above the screen not matter the setting. Hand guards are standard and help keep the gloves dry.

Compared with what was previously an excellent motorcycle, the latest generation Ducati Multistrada feels like it has had a magic want waved over it. From being adequately strong it is now bristling with muscle, and has a top end resembling that of a sportsbike. Plus it's plush. BMW's R1200GS might well be the default buy for many but with the new DVT Testastretta engine spread across the entire Multistrada range, you'd be mad not to at least check this out before defaulting to the BMW GS bandwagon.Tag: Ducati Multistrada 1200S 1200cc V-Twin Adventure-Bike DVT
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