Ducati designed the first Multistrada with a specific road in mind, the Futa Pass that runs between Bologna and Florence in Italy. The original Ducati Multistrada 1000DS felt like a big, practical supermoto but was an entirely road-going offering.
Ducati are best-known for building loin-tingling pieces of automotive exotica; the sorts of bikes that can live comfortably on bedroom wall posters alongside Lamborghinis and Ferraris. Just like their four-wheeled contemporaries, Ducatis also had a reputation for being expensive, temperamental and entirely impractical in real world conditions.
The Multistrada (Italian for ‘many roads’) was a bold move into a new market for Ducati and would evolve over time into a truly capable adventure motorcycle with some of the most advanced suspension and traction control technology on the market.
Ducati Multistrada 1000DS
Ducati’s first attempt at the Multistrada was a slightly whacky-looking upright motorbike that blended big trailie dimensions with a 992cc V-twin engine and sporty wheels and suspension.
Despite its 820mm seat height, the Ducati was manageable at low speed thanks to the seat being narrow at the tank. The 1000DS’ looks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but it's worth remembering that the adventure bike class didn't exist at the time and so the bike's looks, especially from a manufacturer like Ducati, were quite a shock.
The original Multistrada was launched in 2003 and the 1000S with Ohlins suspension was added in 2005. In 2007, the engine was upgraded to an 1100cc version.
In 2005, Ducati launched a middleweight version of the Multistrada which used the 618cc engine from the Ducati Monster 620. The bike was 15kg heavier than the Monster and so it felt a little less spritely but it was still a fun prospect.
The Multistrada was a good, practical bike but it was out-gunned by cheaper rivals like the Yamaha FZ6 Fazer and Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. As an entry-level Ducati, the spritelier and cheaper Monster was probably a better alternative.
Ducati released the Multistrada 1200 in 2010 using a detuned version of the Testastretta engine from the 1198 superbike in an all-new package. The revamped engine used 11 degrees of valve overlap to give a smooth delivery of its 150bhp while improved valve seat material doubles the previously short valve clearance service interval to 15,000 miles.
The aim of the new Multistrada was to give riders a single bike for all kinds of riding and it used a choice of riding modes to achieve this. The flagship S version went further still with ABS as standard and Ducati Electronic Suspension (developed by Ohlins) which adjusts itself depending on the mode you’re using.
Ducati introduced its Skyhook suspension to the S model from 2013 to move the technology on yet again. The system was developed with Sachs and reacts automatically to changing road or trail conditions.
Although primarily a touring bike for the tarmac, the Multistrada 1200 and 1200S are capable of dabbling with the dirty stuff, too.
Just as the Multistrada 620 had offered a less powerful alternative to the 1000, the 950 did so for the 1200. First released in 2017, the 950 was a slightly lower spec version of the 1200 that used a Ducati Hypermotard 939-derived engine producing 113bhp.
There’s no high-tech suspension in sight, but the 950 was £2700 cheaper than the base 1200 at release so that’s not really a surprise. It still had pretty impressive adjustable suspension and switchable rider modes, though, and ABS brakes courtesy of Brembo.
The Ducati Multistrada 1260 and 1260 S models build on the Multistrada 1200 models. The S model designation once again gets Ducati Skyhook Suspension and quickshifter/autoblipper plus bigger discs and monobloc Brembo M50 brake calipers.
The engine is the same 1262cc lump used in the XDiavel which uses a longer stroke to achieve its increased capacity. What's more, 85% of the engine’s torque is available from 3500rpm, making swift overtakes a cinch.
The Multistrada has become more capable on the dirt over the years and, in 2016, Ducati released the most off-road biased version yet, the 1200 Enduro. The Enduro was bigger and taller and had wider bars than the standard version and used the same 160bhp 1198cc engine.
Despite its off-road focus, the Enduro 1200 is still a capable road bike, but lacks the full sportsbike-on-stilts performance of the 1200S, which was the one to go for if you never intend to head off-road.
The Enduro was a large, heavy and intimidating beast that only the most capable and confident riders would get the most from. In 2018, the 1260 Enduro was released to address some of the inaccessibility of the model.
A lower seat and centre of gravity, combined with improved ergonomics and a host of subtle changes like thinner peg rubbers and lower bars create a much friendlier machine overall.
Ducati at the Pikes Peak
Back in 2008, Ducati made their debut at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb event in Colorado, America. They’ve racked up six victories since then and held the all-time course record between 2012 and 2017.
In recognition of this history, Ducati launched the Multistrada 1200 Pikes Peak in 2012 with a Termignoni exhaust and an array of carbon parts. The Multistrada 1260 has its own Pikes Peak spec version and Ducati headed back to the race with it in 2018 having lost their crown to KTM.
Carlin Dunne brought the title home for Ducati, narrowly beating Rennie Scaysbrook on a KTM 1290 Super Duke R (by just over seven tenths of a second).
What are the Multistrada’s competitors?
The Multistrada’s long history and adaptive nature means that there is a plethora of alternatives and rivals to consider. It’s impossible to discuss adventure motorcycles without mentioning the ubiquitous BMW GS family.
The Multistrada 1200 and 1200 Enduro were competing with the BMW R1200GS and R1200GS Adventure, and the fight will continue between the Multistrada 1260 and BMW R1250GS model variants.
If the road-going performance of the Multistrada is what piqued your fancy, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, BMW S1000XR and Kawasaki Versys 1000 or even super nakeds like the Yamaha MT-10 Touring, Honda CB1000R or Triumph Tiger 1050 Sport should be considered.
The smaller capacity Multistrada models fall into the firing line of supermoto-derived bikes like the KTM 690 Duke and 790 Duke (which holds the current Pikes Peak middleweight crown). There are also the BMW F650GS and F800GS models to consider, too.
The baby Multis also have to contend with cheaper options like the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, Yamaha Tracer 700 and Kawasaki Versys 650.