Any Time, Any Place, Any Where


Photos by Milagro

A few years ago most dual-purpose bikes were boring devices: too slow to be fun on the road, and too crude and heavy to be much good off it. BMW changed all that with the hugely popular R1200GS, as ridden round the world by Ewan McGregor. But even the GS can’t match the amazing blend of style, speed and versatility that is the Ducati Multistrada 1200S.

Ducati tried to crack the dual-purpose market a few years ago with its original Multistrada, which added some practicality to the Italian factory’s traditional recipe of red-blooded V-twin engine and light, sporty chassis. That Multi was a handy bike but it looked a bit gawky and its 992cc aircooled engine wasn’t particularly powerful.

Not so the completely redesigned Multistrada 1200, which is a much more serious piece of kit. To create this outrageous device Ducati sharpening the styling, bolted in a thunderous, 150bhp liquid-cooled V-twin motor developed from that of the super-sports 1198, and added the most sophisticated electronics package motorcycling has seen.

By pressing a button on the handlebar, the Multi’s rider can toggle between Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro modes. This instantly changes the bike’s power delivery and level of wheelspin-reducing traction control. On the more expensive Multistrada S (there’s also a cheaper standard model) it also electronically adjusts suspension settings to suit everything from fast road riding to off-road exploration.

It might be a dual-purpose bike, but the Multistrada is a proper Ducati. Despite having wide, raised handlebars that give a comfortably upright riding position, it comes to life with a throaty V-twin bark. When you open the throttle at low speed, the Multi accelerates so hard that its front wheel comes up before you know it. This is no bike for novices but it is addictively entertaining, all the way to a top speed of over 150mph.

Fortunately the beast can be instantly tamed by a press of that button. Selecting Urban or Enduro mode smooths the power delivery, limits maximum output to 100bhp, and softens the S-model’s suspension. Like this the Ducati is responsive and easy to ride; fine for slicing through town traffic. It copes reasonably well on a dirt track, too, though its softened suspension still clonks over potholes, and its Pirelli tyres are very much road biased.

It’s in Touring or Sport mode that the Multistrada excels. Despite being 20bhp less powerful than the 1198, it blends raw power with wonderfully flexible delivery, and very light yet stable handling. It’s also a very versatile machine that has a wide and comfortable dual-seat, comprehensive instrumentation, and a 20-litre tank that’s good for well over 150 miles. That almost matches the R1200GS, and far surpasses Honda’s VFR1200F sports-tourer.

The BMW gives better wind protection and is a more rugged off-roader, but for road use the Ducati is much faster and more fun. The Multistrada S comes either as the Sport, with mudguards and other parts in carbon-fibre; or more usefully as the Touring, with heated grips, panniers and centre-stand. If you want a single motorcycle for commuting, touring, rapid road riding and even the occasional track day or gentle off-road excursion, there’s simply nothing to match it.