Although lacking the crispness in the corners of the 1290 Super Duke GT, or the angry composure of the S1000XR, the slightly softer out-going Multistrada 1200 always handled superbly and had brakes to shame many a proper superbike. If you had to be picky you’d point to a slight instability at extreme speeds, especially loaded up with pillion and luggage.
Ducati has retained that same reassuring handling character with the new 1260, but now the wheelbase is stretched out by 56mm (and has a 48mm longer swingarm), with 5mm more trail and 1 degree of rake. Now it promises to be more stable on the edge.
Semi-active suspension might be a technical masterpiece, but it works in the background, constantly adjusting, almost undetected, which is the biggest compliment you can give it. All you notice is the plush, stable ride and the ability for the Ducati to dig in and find grip.
Suspension support changes within the riding modes and if you’re fussy you can fine tune it further, just prod a button on the left switchgear and follow the cool Mission Impossible-style prompts on the new colour screen.
Original Equipment Pirelli Scorpion Trail II dual-purpose tyres are superb and give you confidence and bags of feel in all conditions. But if you’re never going to get your wheels muddy, fit sports, sports touring, or even track tyres to exploit the outer edges of the Ducati’s incredible all-round potential.
Speed, cornering and flies-in-the-teeth lunacy are all here, but the Ducati’s all-day comfort and practicality will be the reason a sportsbike rider will never look back. Sit back, set the cruise control, flick on the heated grips, soften the suspension, set the manually-adjustable screen just so (a smooth electronic version would be in more in keeping with the price tag) and keep going until you drain the 20-litre fuel tank (we regularly averaged a frugal 53mpg from the out-going 1200).
The Multistrada 1260 range gets a new, longer-stroke 1262cc X-Diavel-derived motor with new mapping and exhaust. Ducati claims an extra 6bhp and 18% more torque at 5500rpm from the bigger V-twin, but more importantly for the road, it makes 85% of its torque from as low as 3500rpm. Now, when you whittle that down to the improvement you’re actually getting at the rear wheel the increase isn’t huge, but the extra shove is noticeable and there’s even more instant overtaking poke for overtakes and catapulting out of corners.
Now it’s even easier to glide through turns in lazy gears and have serious acceleration on the way out. Point the Ducati’s evil beak to the next corner and enjoy the volcanic thrust, explosive grunt and perfect power delivery that only a booming Ducati superbike can muster.
With every degree of throttle opening the clever DVT system keeps the engine clatter-free at low revs, but with 158bhp in the tank it has a wild side when you prod it in the ribs. Serious speed and raw, unadulterated power are always there for the asking, but it’s nicely tempered with a slice of silicone support.
A superbike-developed up/down quickshifter keeps things on the boil nicely, although it’s on the clonky side mated to a motor with such grunt and wide-spaced gears. Top level engine braking, traction and wheelie control let you squeeze more out of the Multistrada 1260 than you’d ever thought possible, wet or dry.
Cycle parts are all top notch and Ducati claims improved fit and finish for the 1260. Service intervals are 9000-miles, or every 12 months.
It’s not cheap, but you do get an awful lot of engine, chassis and technology for the money. It’s a shame that things like heated grips are an optional extra and we’d like to see an electric rather than manually adjustable screen.
As well as the new engine and chassis, wheels are 340 gram-lighter, there’s a revised ride-by-wire system and tweaked rider aids: cornering ABS, traction control, anti-wheelie, gear-by-gear engine braking systems and riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro). You also get a hill-hold control, self-cancelling indicators, keyless ignition, new back-lit switchgear functions and cruise control.
The base model has all this, including mechanically adjustable 48mm KYB forks and Sachs rear shock, a new LCD dash and Brembo M4.32 calipers, which is a lot of bike for the money, but twist the bank manager’s arm even further and you can have this S model, dripping with more of everything.
You get the latest evolution semi active electronic Sachs ‘Ducati Skyhook Suspension’ (adding 2kg), 10mm bigger front brake discs (330mm), chunkier Brembo M50 monobloc calipers and a quickshifter/autoblipper mapped for each gear. It has LED cornering headlights, a new-look TFT colour dash and Bluetooth connectivity. You can even download a Ducati Link App, which records bike data, settings, routes, Strava-style riding challenges and interaction with fellow owners.