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Feb / Mar 2011
Sporting and touring

WRITER: Kevin Hackett

Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 might just the finest multi-purpose bike made to date. A tourer, off-roader, racer and urban machine all in one, the Multistrada is an ingenious machine.


There’s a very good reason for the Porsche 911 being the most successful sports car of all time: it offers all things to all men. If you’re in the market for a car that can do pretty much anything you want, a Carrera 4S is a very tempting proposition. It’s practical, with four seats and reasonable luggage space. You can see out of it and it’s comfortable on long journeys; four-wheel drive means it can go where other sports cars cannot and, when the mood takes you, you can drive it extremely hard. It excels as a true all-rounder.

So when a bike manufacturer claims to offer the same breadth of ability but on two wheels, it’s bound to cause a stir. BMW did just that with its R1200GS – a bike that, on the surface, appears to be just a large trail bike but in practice is just as happy on the open road as it is in the rough. It’s as close as a bike comes to being a 911, but Ducati has something to say about that in the athletic form of the Multistrada 1200.

The problem with motorcycles has always been that they’re one thing or another. For touring you’d need something with a comfortable seat, a big fuel tank, a commanding ride position and plenty of low-down torque. That’s in direct contrast to sports bikes, which are generally uncomfortable, uncompromising and mind-bendingly fast. If you wanted to go off road then you’d need something with knobbly tyres, plenty of suspension travel and a transmission happy to operate at often very low speeds. Urban riding calls for a very different set of abilities, too, and the thought that one bike could do all these things was laughable. Until now.

Four bikes in one. That’s the bold claim made by Ducati regarding the Multistrada, and key to this multiple personality is the electronic management system found on the Multistrada S. Both the standard and S models share a 1198cc engine that has already seen active service in Ducati’s 1198 superbike, which is as fine a starting point as is possible. In the Multistrada it’s tuned to provide more torque lower in the rev range and it pumps out an impressive 148 horsepower. So far so good…

The S is blessed with an engine and chassis management system that enables the Multistrada to live up to its name with four individual control modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. Depending on which mode you select via the indicator cancelling button, the bike’s engine characteristics and its suspension settings are dramatically altered to suit your terrain, be it the urban or literal jungle. 

Sport mode offers the full works with all that power available in an instant but select Enduro and the power delivery is decreased, becoming more manageable. The same goes for Urban, ensuring the Multistrada is a piece of cake to take around city streets where a normal superbike would be quite unusable. Go for Enduro and the engine not only decreases the power but the suspension jacks itself up, enabling this awesome bike to deliver on dirt trails too.

It really does work. On the road it’s every inch the superbike thanks to the almost shocking power from that mighty engine. The tyres have been specially developed by Pirelli to be truly multi-purpose, meaning you can lean over with the best of them on your favourite racetrack and still be able to traverse the trickiest off road terrain. They provide plenty of feedback with grip and an accurate ride, which inspires the utmost confidence – essential to get the best out of any two-wheeled machine.

The Multistrada S also comes with practical panniers, but the right-hand side one is dramatically cut away to make room for the exhaust, however, it does limit the available space. There’s room for a passenger and that trick suspension makes allowances for this too at the touch of a button and this serves to make this Ducati entirely stable, whether two or one up.

It’s a brilliant bike, this. All too often a manufacturer makes claims about its products that can’t really be believed when it comes to the real world, but this is something else. Never before has something with two wheels come so close to being all things to all men. How on earth will they manage to top this? It’s a truly capable all-rounder, but as one designed and built with Italian flair and passion it comes highly recommended. Get out your maps and start planning that adventure now – you’ve just found the ideal vehicle. 

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