It is said that in business (as it is in life) that if you want to succeed you must constantly negotiate between trade-offs. That in order to gain an advantage in one area you most likely will have to sacrifice somewhere else. It is by this sentiment that I base my review of the new 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200S and its ability to just about ‘do it all’. Before you read through the rest of this review however I do want to take a moment and share that I have already purchased this bike and that I am in no way affiliated with Ducati or the Ducati brand. These are my own views, thoughts and overall impressions. I have not been paid nor will be incented in any way in writing this review. I am doing it simply as a favor for Bill Carr (owner of Indy Ducati) and will try to provide an unbiased look at the Multi. The way I will write reviews is to call out the things that I wished I knew before purchasing the bike and also call out a few areas of consideration as you think about making your own purchasing decision. I also wrote a review on the 2012 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO if you would like to take a look at that as well.
So with that out of the way, let’s begin.
Let me start by just giving you a bit of background on me: I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 16 years now and have owned mostly Japanese and Italian bikes that range from sport, naked to standards (2002 sv650, 2005 Kawasaki 636 and 2012 Monster 1100 EVO as a few examples). When I am typically looking to purchase a bike I’ve tended to gravitate toward bikes that are tuned\built for a certain type of riding. I purchased the SV because I wanted a light v-twin which I could take to the mountains when I lived in California. I purchased my FZ1 because I wanted a more comfortable bike I can ride long distances and still have that 1,000-liter power on tap. The only reason I began looking for a new bike (having the Monster 1100 EVO as my primary daily driver) was because my wife and I recently moved back to Indy from Seattle and decided to trailer the Monster and hit up a few places like Glacier National Park in Montana and Yellowstone in Wyoming and do a little riding along the way. That really reignited I believe her love of being on the back of bike however the experience of sitting on the back of a Monster for a few hours at a time left a lot to be desired (at least for her). Also not to mention having her on the back for a few hour long trips completely ate through my rear tire which I had to replace as soon as I returned to Indy. With that I began looking for different bikes that could accommodate two-up riding but still offered the thrill of corner carving and overall daily use. At this point I still had not decided if I wanted to sell my Monster being that I have invested so much into it and frankly I just think it is a beautiful bike. I looked at a number of different bikes including the Diavel, MV Agusta Rivale (which I actually almost bought), Monster 1200R\S and BMW GS. I ruled out almost all the other bikes in favor of a more comfortable riding position for my wife. I did a lot of research and was intrigued by the electronic suspension, TFT display and what everyone calls ‘an incredible riding positions for what is ultimately a super bike’. I’ve ridden the bike for around 500 miles now and wanted to provide some comments across a number of categories which I think really makes the Multi stand out.
I am writing this first because I think ultimately this is what would have really pushed me over the edge in purchasing the Multi had I known more about this prior to actually getting the bike. Don’t get me wrong, everyone knows and talks about the electronics package of the bike however I was in no way prepared at the depths of configurability available on the Multi. I am not talking about the display, Bluetooth or infotainment package but the riding modes and adjustability of the suspension however the companion Ducati Link App does provide a few cool ways at looking at this like power output, lean angle and fuel consumption (most of which can be displayed on the TFT screen itself). As I began writing this review I specifically called out that business (as in life) it is all about trade-offs. I feel like the Multistrada 1200 S is able to be that all around bike (the bike which uncompromisingly does it all) specifically because of the electronic riding modes and suspension settings. If you only do one type of riding and always have your bags attached to the bike and it is only you riding (all the time) then perhaps you can save a few grand and get the standard however now that I have experienced the ease of setting up a bike just through a push of a few buttons and for it to be optimized for a number of riding styles and engine loads – MY MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN AND MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER. It’s actually astonishing to me how everyone does not just talk about how incredible and confidence inspiring (not to mention how much more safety) this feature brings. If you want to learn more about what the riding modes and load settings do I am sure you can find more than enough videos explaining the feature on YouTube. Net\Net for me I would say that it reduces the amount of time and preparation that would typically have to go into setting up a bike based on the riding you are doing. Also, let’s all be honest – do you setup your bike each any every time you have a passenger hop on?
Now, let’s talk about a few features that are new and unique to the Multi – the infotainment system. So there is a Ducati App you can download on your iPhone (not sure about Android however I presume they do as well). It was a bit of work to get the APP to pair with the bike but after about 10 minutes I got everything to synch. The app is really cool and as I already mentioned you can measure things like lean angle, fuel consumption, riding modes and you can actually Map Your Rides from the Ducati App. I’m not sure however I do know that a lot of new cars(including my wife’s i3) has an app that you can use to interact with your vehicle and gain certain features. I think this is a fantastic addition to what VW most likely drove through its acquisition of Ducati. There are a lot of other cool little insights you get through pairing your phone with the bike like txts and phone calls show up on the dash of the bike. You can answer calls through interacting with the menu buttons on the left handle bar. You cannot make out-going calls using the menu buttons which is probably the right call the Ducati engineering team made. There is a lot of information and configurability on the dashboard and it is easy to get lost in all of the options. While you are driving your best bet is to keep your eyes on the road. One last note on the electronics package, you can actually change the suspension settings WHILE YOU ARE RIDING THE BIKE which to me sounds a bit risky. In the manual Ducati recommends being stopped or at least going on a low speed however I would recommend pulling over completely before changing any of the suspension load settings. I didn’t mention the cruise control but that is a neat feature as well which is actually available on the standard version while the infotainment and Bluetooth options are only available on the S (the engine mappings are also available on standard version from what I have read from the Ducati website).
I’m going to keep this fairly lite as there are a number of reviews that cover this in much greater detail. All I will say however is that the engine mapping settings really do change the dynamics of the bike. I was a little skeptical as to how much the feel of the bike would change and I was actually really surprised by how my throttle response and power delivery affects the riding experience of the bike. You can I’m sure find lots of videos on YouTube about the different power modes. I keep mine on sport and that has been fairly good to me. One thing that I will say about the overall performance of the bike – it is very difficult to tell the difference between going 65 MPH and 90 MPH which was very un-expected coming from riding a Monster as your daily driver where you can feel the effects of wind no matter how fast (or slow) you are going. On more than one occasion I was coasting at 65 MPH and I decided to overtake the vehicle in front of me or I wanted to pass a trailer (whatever the scenario) and I gave the bike what I felt like was a little throttle and as I look down I am suddenly going 95MPH to 100 MPH. You do feel the RPM’s rise and you do get pushed back in your seat a bit however I had on several occasions the scenario where I am going let’s say 45 MPH, pass a vehicle, I look down and I am going 80 MPH. I do miss the grunt of my monster and I don’t care what anyone tells you the Multi does not feel like a traditional vtwin. If the Monster is the Multi’s older cousin that may have done a stint or two in prison the Multi itself is the oxford graduate that is the rowing team captain and class valedictorian. It’s certainly the most refined bike I have ever drove. The only other bike I can compare it would be the FZ1 in that above 8K RPM (to I believe it’s 12K RPM Redline) the bike was a completely different animal altogether. When driving most vtwins you can expect a fairly linear power delivery however I would advocate the Multi’s engine is actually two motors in one. I have never driven a Panigale however I imagine they also have similar engine performance characteristics.
You just tip and it just goes. I already mentioned this however the electronics suspension tuning settings are very confidence inspiring. It certainly doesn’t feel like a 500lb+ bike. I really can’t see a scenario where you would ‘out ride’ the capabilities on the street. I completely understand why so many people actually took their Multi’s to the track. I believe it is as comfortable (maybe more comfortable actually) in a corner as it is coasting on the open road.
A lot of people might not like what I am about to say however I am not crazy about the looks of the Multi. I think the front looks like Lord Farquaad’s face from Shrek and the long rake of the front forks looks almost too much like a dirt bike. I do like the dual exhaust and the sound is not all that bad but nothing like an air-cooled monster. My wife appreciates it however and at least now when we go for a ride she doesn’t complain her ears are ringing and she smells like gasoline fumes (yes, my wife is ‘that’ kind of girl however is still a sport and loves riding on the back of my bike).
All in all – I think the Multi is suited for two demographic of individuals:
The rider that has been riding primarily ‘super-bikes’ and wants to graduate to something more refined, comfortable for longer rides and has lots of settings to tinker with.
The veteran rider that wants the latest in electronics to compliment longer distance riding and still has the ability to tackle curvy roads and keep up (if not beat) most super bikes.
I am still learning the capabilities of the bike, already planning for an ‘iron butt’ trip (which I can’t wait to do) and explore all of the options that bike has to offer. Most bikes I have purchased I get the feel of it’ capabilities in a few weeks\months. On the Multi I think I’m going to be continuously discovering (and hopefully) pleasantly surprised with all its little features, design choices and configurability for a great deal of time. It really does feel like a different bike every time I throw a leg over the seat. One other negative I'd like to call out in the summary which I didn't in the main review of the bike is the overall heft of the bike. I am of ‘course very biased because I have driven mostly light and highly torquey bikes (the Monster 1100 EVO specifically) and moving the bike on and off the center stand and in even just moving it around the garage you get a sense of how much bigger the bike is than what I am used to. I really have to think hard before I move the bike because if there is something in the way or need to change directions quickly you’re going to have a bad time. Once the bike is moving however you don’t feel the heft however I thought I would call this out since it is something that stuck out to me since getting the bike. I’m not a small guy by any stretch of the imagination (5’ 9’’ and 172 lbs.) however if you are used to ‘bigger’ touring bikes this may not even register as a concern to you. Per the Multi’s owner Manual the bike weighs 518 lbs. ‘wet’ 467 lbs. ‘dry’ (without a battery). I’m going to look into reducing the weight of the bike where I can and possibly also adding on some engine crash guards, touring lights, different levers and small upgrades here and there. Overall I’m very happy with the bike and I would say it’s easily the second best bike I’ve ever owned (the 08' Yamaha FZ1 as being the best). I’ll reassess after owning the bike for over a year, put in more miles and go on a few longer tips. That being said, maybe growing up isn't all that bad after all.
Thanks for reading this review, I hope you found it useful and regardless of the bike you ride – stay safe and keep both wheels on the ground.
[edit: added a link, grammar and punctuation]