Daring to be different with a Multistrada

Published: 26 May 2004

Phil West is MCN’s road test editor. He’s running a Ducati Multistrada this year.

You can email him about it on phil.west@emap.com.

Here’s what he has to say about the bike: Call me awkward, but I’ve always warmed to bikes which dare to be different and defy traditional categorisation – and there’s currently no better example of this than Ducati’s Multistrada.

By combining the mechanicals and spirit of a sports bike (decent suspension/brakes, single-sided rear swinger) with those of a supermoto (upright riding position, wide bars) and sports-tourer (half-decent comfort plus hard luggage kit), Ducati has not only pulled-off some kind of motorcycling masterstroke, it’s also managed to befuddle most of the biking public at the same time.

And I count myself among ’em. The twin underseat pipes and single-sided swinger are enough to make any biker’s mouth water. But what about the high chrome handlebars or the odd (but admittedly clever) split-fairing, which moves with the bars?

On the road it takes some getting used to, too. The air-cooled, dual spark Desmo which grunts away happily from virtually no revs was to be expected. What wasn’t was this ‘trailie bike’s’ steadfast composure which means it can be kept wound through and out of the most demanding switchbacks with the only limits being the edge of the tyres and the pegs.

It’s not perfect, of course. Being Italian there’s the inevitable trade offs for all that flair and performance. First, a transmission that has the traditional SS-creak from standstill and groans like an old man levering himself out of a chair under full load. Then there’s the cans which, up close, look like something out of Thunderbirds and will simply have to be replaced with a set of Termis.

And one further, heart-breaking grumble. Try as I have to keep the red beauty away from British spring rain, it all came to nought. Damp roads combined with a myriad of Multistrada nooks and crannies mean the Duke attracts dirt like Jeffrey Archer and I’m going to seriously have my work cut out to keep it mint.