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Wednesday, July 23 2014 @ 02:48 PM ICT

The 2013 Ducati Multistrada Tested for the Weekend

Motorcycle ReviewsThe 2013 Ducati Multistrada featuring adaptive Skyhook suspension and a number of improvements tested for a weekend.

If memory serves me correctly, the first time I heard the word 'Skyhook' was back in 2001 when Maserati had just collaborated with suspension-maker, Sachs, to produce semi-active suspension for the 4200 GT Coupé, and the term referred to the new system. This used an imaginary fixed point above the car, from which suspension sensors measured their relationship to each other and adjusted the spring and damping rates accordingly. It's taken 12-years for Sachs to apply the same technology to motorcycles, but judging by the way it enhances the already impressive dynamics of the 2013 Ducati Multistrada super-tourer, the wait has not been in vain. If there's a better do-anything motorcycle on the Thai market, I've yet to see it...

But the new 'Skyhook' suspension isn't the only change to the Ducati Multistrada. The upgrade for 2013, driven primarily by Ducati responding to feedback from existing Multistrada owners, is comprehensive. The result is a more efficient and refined powertrain, better ABS calibration, improved weather protection and headlight illumination, and a roomier riding position, modifications that address the previous model's minor shortcomings. Completing this first major improvements, the Skyhook adaptive suspension is the icing on the cake.

Thus is the 2013 Ducati Multistrada ready for its next challenge in the marketplace: and entirely new, liquid-cooled BMW R1200GS. Staying true to the spirit of the original 2003 air-cooled Mulitstrada, the liquid-cooled 2013 version is intended to be a sportier, lighter, more road-oriented alternative to the wider-focused BMW. And the latter will have its work cut out to match this new dynamic benchmark for the 'tall-challenge, BMW, because, in my option, the 2013 Ducati Multistrada now has the worldś finest twin-cylinder motorcycle engine! We were already excited by the 11-degree 'testrastretta' L-twin engine – it was a reason that the previous Ducati Multistrada became the best motorcycle for 2010 – but it's now made smoother and more efficient by new twin-spark cylinder heads, new injectors and a host of engine management improvements.

It produces lower exhaust emissions, but that has done nothing to diminish it. While it speaks in a quieter voice, it still smites the road into submission. With 150 horsepower on offer, it remains, for now, the most powerful engine in the adventure touring class, and its improved smoothness and ridability make the performance feel that much more effortless. The chain-snatching grumpiness that high-compression Ducati twins exhibited when under load at low revs is not a thing of the past. Refilling the Ducati Multistrada is now more likely to surprise than shock the rider. According to Ducati, the motorcycle averages 5.i liter/100 kilometers a 10 percent improvement, allowing a cruising range of more than 350 kilometer for its 20-liter fuel tank.

The last generation of uptown Ducati Multistrada models used Öhlins suspension with convenient stepper-motor adjustment to provide four modes can now be tailored to 'rider with pillion and luggage'. Once selected, any of the 16 settings operates as an active suspension system that uses information from four sensors – two for unsprung mass, two for sprung mass – to vary spring and damping rates instantly according to changes in road conditions and operator mood. If that's not enough, all of the settings can be fine-tuned according to rider preferences via a customization mode. The explanation may be complicated, but Ducati have made the DSS system a doddle to operate. Mode shifts can be made on the move with a couple of button inputs, and all that is required to confirm the change is to close the throttle for three seconds.

The selection of each riding mode also affects engine output, throttle sensitivity, ride height, and the trigger points of the ABS brake and traction control system. The Ducati Multistrada was already capable of multi-role riding applications, but the extra tailoring permits the 2013 Ducati Multistrada to be a masterful ride in just about all. I can't personally speak for Enduro mode, as I didn't take the Ducati off-road, but Urban, Touring and Sport all offered rewarding enhancements – once I'd figured out that 'rider with luggage' was the optimum setting for my riding weight, with baggage that consisted of a towel and rain protection. In contrast, the 'rider only' settings were overly soft for my needs.

I felt that Sport made showed the greatest improvement over the previous Öhlins package, especially when you need a bit more power riding in the hills

But don't get the idea this is some kind of crash-proof ride. Sure, the 2013 Ducati Multistrada is now more sophisticated, but the grip afforded by its multi-purpose Pirelli Scorpion radials is inferior to dedicated road tires, and there were a couple of moments when they found their limits.

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