To me, this is the bike that invented the segment of the market I was interested in. This was the bike that promised that one bike could comfortably travel all roads, be as sporting as you could want on public roads capable of touring, and handle the odd unpaved (dirt) road as well. Put simply, it had built a big reputation, spawned a subclass of bikes and had a lot to live up to!
Photo courtesy of Werner Bayer.
What surprised me the most about this bike, was that after I rode it, I believed the hype! Unfortunately, the local Ducati dealer has to have someone accompany you on the ride (in other words: they lead the way). The previous test-rides were more in the vain of: throw you the keys and point you in the direction of fun roads. This turned out to be a requirement of their insurance policy, but did rather control the test environment as a result. Despite their location, they had an admirable “test-loop” which encompassed some twisty roads, some inner-city and a brief burst of highway.
My first surprise on this bike, was how low the seat height felt. I could comfortably flat-foot both feet at stand-still. The accompanying sales-guy was adamant that the adjustable seat was in the highest position, so I do wonder if taller riders would find the position a little cramped, but at 5”10, with 33” in-seam, it seemed both comfortable, and natural.
I have mentioned on numerous occasions, that I’m not a mechanic. I am also not a bike journalist! I suspect they become quite desensitised to the constant stream of new motorcycles they get to ride. It allows them to be not so “caught up in the moment” when riding new bikes as to notice subtleties of the bikes they test. Me, I was too busy idiotically grinning as to how cool the Ducati sounded as I blatted it through the city streets. The base model I rode did not feature a quick-shifter. Much like the Aprilia this allowed a liberal dosage of blipping the throttle on down shifts to complement the wonderful noise the bike made on the overrun. The V-Twin (or L-Twin as Ducati call it) also gave a slight pulse through the frame. It was not buzzy, like the BMW, just a gentle reminder of the engine layout (in case you were deaf)
Also not featured on this particular model, was the adaptive electronic suspension. The front end felt a little soft. Again, that overly long travel was noticeable to me, but really, it gave good feedback through the bars. I guess to describe it, it just felt “a long way away”. Judging by the speeds I was doing on an unfamiliar bike, it must have been pretty good… With familiarity, it would be a real weapon and give the average sports bike rider a real hurry-up on the roads.
Next part of the test-ride involved a brief highway stint – during which I tested the cruise control and adjustable windscreen. I found the cruise control intuitive and easy to use although I’ve heard the button layout is harder to control with thick winter gloves. The screen adjustability too was easy to manipulate on the move, but I have really yet to appreciate the difference this makes on any bike. One thing I have always admired was how good the wind protection is on the VFR. None of the potential candidates for the role of “my next bike” could really compare favourably against it. Anyway, it was easy to adjust allowing for long highway trips to allow plenty of contemplation and comparison between screen heights. If I had to guess, I would suggest that the bar-width on the Multistrada was slightly narrower than on the S1000XR. It seemed to be a more competent lane-splitter and commuter bike, if such things are important to you.
Overall, this is a seriously impressive bike. It lives up to the hype surrounding it. In a game of top-trumps, it loses out to a similarly specced version of the BMW S1000XR in almost every category. But, I agree with a lot of the reviews I have seen on it – somehow it ends up being a more desirable bike than the BMW. The new styling with the colour matched beak doesn’t look as good as the older black-beaked bikes to me, but I would never argue with someone if they felt otherwise. That’s always going to be a subjective opinion. In my eyes, the new “Enduro” Multistrada, with its 19 inch front wheel and wire spokes falls into the “ruggedly handsome” territory, but somehow the styling of the normal Multistrada just left me feeling disappointed. If you disagree with me on that, then this might seriously be your dream bike. It really is as good as that!