2013 Ducati Multistrada ridden

By Adam Child -

First rides & tests

 27 September 2012 14:30

Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 revolutionised the adventure bike class when it was introduced in 2010.

Its sporty mix of 150bhp (derived from its 1199-derived V-twin), combined with high tech gizmos and real world comfort and usability proved a winning combination with over 20,000 examples sold worldwide so far.

Three years on, Ducati is aiming to keep the Multistrada ahead of the pack by giving it a host of updates, most significantly the firm’s first, revolutionary, semi-active suspension system as developed in partnership with Sachs, called ‘DDS’ (for Ducati Dynamic Suspension) and more snappily dubbed ‘Skyhook’.

At first the new Multistrada feels odd as, with the ignition switched off, the suspension reverts to its maximum setting and is obviously very firm, almost solid.

This is for safety so that if the power fails on the move the suspension will revert to its maximum settings, meaning the bike will remain stable and rideable. The system needs power from the battery to work. So no battery means no reactive suspension.

Therefore, as you turn the key the suspension returns to the settings of the last mode selected, whether Sports, Touring, Urban and Enduro.

Once moving it’s difficult to feel the new system working as it reacts and performs very much like the old Multistrada, which was far from a poor handling bike. Leaving the streets of Bilbao in North West Spain the new Multi feels like the old bike and I’m wondering if I’ve missed something.

Heading out of town I go for Sport mode. It’s the firmest setting and easily selected on the move – and then attack a few speed humps with anger and try braking hard over cat’s eyes to see what difference DDS really makes.

Now I can feel the difference: instead of getting bounced out of the seat the Multi’s suspension tries to compensate for the road imperfections and copes pretty impressively, giving a smoother, relaxing ride to the rider.

On a fast motorway section I try the opposite. I select Enduro mode, the softest setting, with pre-load reduced. Then, at 120mph, I ensure nothing is behind and jump on the amazing Brembo stoppers: the ABS doesn’t kick in, the new Pirellis aren’t at their limit but the front doesn’t plummet to the ground like a scared toddler, as it would have done previously.

The forks didn’t bottom out, as expected, it’s much firmer and the bike remains incredibly stable, which is impressive for this type of bike with such long travel in the suspension.

What does Skyhook do?
Ducati's DDS system has vertical accelerometers on sprung and unsprung parts of the bike, which constantly monitor the bike's posture and suspension activity.

DDS then uses an algorithm in it sprogramming that considers and imaginary fixed reference point above the bike, the 'skyhook', and calculates how to keep this point constant by instantly adjusting the damping accordingly.

DDS works in conjunction with the traction control (DTC) and ABS, taking data from both.

An emergency stop in Touring mode would see the DDS respond to minimise dive.

The system knows the speed of the bike, wheel speed (from the DTC) and brake pressure (from ABS) and it will know how quickly the forks dive and will act accordingly, adding more compression if needed, and even adjusting the rear rebound to control the rate at which the rear rises. 

Read the full test in the September 26 issue of MCN.