MCN Fleet: is it a hit or miss for the Multistrada

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In the 2500-odd miles since last month’s update, the Multi has been a beguiling mix of extraordinarily good and bloody frustrating. We’ve been as far North as Berwick-upon-Tweed and briefly danced in and out of the Scottish borders, flitted West to Cardiff, South to Tunbridge Wells, East to Thetford Forest – and a myriad of places in between.

There have been a couple of 200+ mile days, but this month’s mini great escape was a 707-mile, 16hr day in the saddle: Stamford to the Pennines, a lap of the Northumberland 250 route, and home again. It’s just the sort of riding the Ducati Multistrada V4 was born for. So what have the miles revealed as the best bits and buggy niggles?

Hit – Cosseting comfort

Some bikes like to hurt you – the Multi isn’t one of them. Repeated longish rides (4hrs in the saddle stopping for nothing but red lights, junctions or a rapid fuel stop) are no more arduous than a 20-minute nip to the shops. But my Northumberland loop really proved its cosseting kindness. A little over 14hrs out of the total 16 were spend onboard in motion to stick 707 miles on the odometer and there was no bum ache, knee cramps, hip discomfort or back or neck ache during the ride – nor anything the day after.

More long-term tests

Hit – Secure sweeper

The 19in front rim robs it of a degree or three of the aggression a 17in allows, but the trade-off is a rolling smoothness and graceful security on the move that feels more beneficial when you’re doing anything other than trying to pretend you’re on a sportsbike.

Plus, you really can take it off-road. It’s a matter of personal preference, but if the price for genuine versatility is arriving 15 seconds later at my destination because I couldn’t push the front so hard in a hairpin, I’m unfussed by the delay. The rear Scorpion Trail II is getting a noticeable square lip now though, so a change of rubber is high on the agenda. Go more roady, or hardcore adventure? I can’t decide.

Hit – Grunt factory

Treat it gentle and the V4 is a tame, refined, smooth force of petrol-burning nature. Dial up the menace, and it becomes a wailing maelstrom of drive. The anti-wheelie will stop things getting out of hand, but it’ll lift of its own accord in the first three cogs, and even at Autobahn speeds you can tap the throttle in sixth and it’ll keep adding digits like you’d dropped a cog first. It’s not got the electric turbine-smooth drive of a VFR1200, or the thumping brutality of a V-twin Multi – but an endearing blend of the better bits of both.

Miss – Lost in space

I’ve mentioned the Ducati Connect app previously, and the daftly complex connectivity which mixes both Bluetooth and an onboard WiFi link – but it’s worth another mention. What was a sporadic refusal to connect has become more persistent, regularly resolutely refusing to connect phone app to dash. At best, it’s frustrating, at worst you’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t access the satnav.

Navigation station

I’ve fitted a Beeline Moto back-up which has now saved me on multiple occasions when Ducati Connect wouldn’t connect at all. Then – for reasons known to no-one – it’ll decide to work perfectly for a while.

Miss – Persistent flasher

You get the choice of auto-off or manual-off indicators in the settings menu. But it’s not as simple as that. I have them set to self-cancel because doing so is a great safety net against un-cancelled indications – and yet I quite often notice they’re still flashing when they shouldn’t be. So I’ve been experimenting when there’s nothing around to misread my signals. Sure enough – sometimes they cancel, sometimes they don’t. The only constant is that they appear to have a mind of their own.

Miss – Stopping power

Brembo’s Stylema calipers are plenty powerful, but there’s no escaping the fact that they’re just not that special in use on the Multi. They should have stopping power to spare, but I find myself using an additional good dose of back brake when speed really needs scrubbing off fast – and I’m not normally a regular back brake dragger.

Stopping power of the V4S

They’re nowhere near as weak as an Africa Twin’s (different postcode of stopping weakness), but they are disappointing. A pad upgrade beckons to see if it’s as simple as a lack of bite.

Jump to previous updates

Update Three: Delighted to be back on the Multistrada

Published: 08.06.2021

The Ducati Multistrada V4 S

Ducati didn’t get off to the best start with the Ducati Multistrada V4 – a supplier failure with the tolerances of their valve guides causing a significant, and expensive, recall to replace the engines.

But that remedial work is surging through dealers and the supply chain now – and after a seven week wait and a full engine swap, I’m also now back on a Ducati Multistrada V4 S. And loving it. Having picked it up a week before this report, I bashed into the first service mileage limit in just two days. That now completed, I’m free to start using the full range of the engine and to pile on the miles.

Second first impressions

I only had 250 miles on the first engine when the recall hit – and having put 1241 miles on a Multistrada 1260 Enduro loan bike in the intervening weeks, it was fascinating to jump back on the new V4 again. It’s almost a shame that Ducati have kept the instantly familiar styling and Multistrada name, because the two generations are chalk and cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, the 1260 is a great bike with a truly bonkers engine, but the new Multi is better in every way. The engine manages to be more insane but also more flexible and refined at the same time. The comfort has jumped a significant notch (first wiggle in the seat after 280 miles of constant riding – broken only by a rapid fuel stop), the airflow over the bike at all speeds is dramatically calmer, quieter and more cosseting, the handling is just as precise when pushing on but more refined and consistent at lower speeds and on poor surfaces, and the dash and connectivity have taken a generational leap, too.

Jump to previous updates

I’m a tight bastard, but even I can see why this full-spec Multi is £21.5k. Show me some of its peers in the adventure-sport market and the value-for-money equation looks dramatically less attractive – along with their residual values, ownership experience, and riding pleasure.

It’s not all perfect

Let’s not get too evangelical though, there are still annoyances. While the dash almost always picks up the Bluetooth connection to my phone, sometimes it’s reluctant to establish a WiFi connection to the Ducati app that runs all of the connected services. The app itself is distinctly 1.0 in terms of the evolutionary spectrum, too. When it does connect seamlessly (which is 95% of the time) the functionality through the dash is great for calls, media and satnav (via the linked Sygic app).

Digi display on the Ducati Multistrada V4S

The only other grumble to add to the first impressions list is how miserly the panniers are on the inside. They look large, but while the left-hand one will swallow a decent amount of swag (35 litres), the exhaust-dodging right one is akin to a 1980s briefcase: inversely Tardis-like. It’ll still take 25 litres, but the shaping means you’ll need to be a clever packer.

Update Two: Engine recall interrupts glorious first impressions of best Multistrada yet

Published: 05.05.2021

Riding the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro

Those of you who are awake and capable of cognitive thought will immediately notice that this Ducati Multistrada V4 S, well, isn’t a Ducati Multistrada V4 S. Confusing, isn’t it? Instead, what you see here is a Multistrada 1260 Enduro. And, as we all know, that’s a different beast all together. So, what on Earth’s going on?

Valve guides. That’s what’s going on. Ducati have two suppliers for them, and one of them got a batch wrong, resulting in a rather simple part of the engine compromising the integrity of their fabulously complex and Swiss watch-like Granturismo V4. Cue global recall for affected bikes – and one immaculate V4 S with a mere 481 miles on the dash wending its way back to Ducati for remedial action, to be replaced in the interim by this beige behemoth.

More long-term tests

But while there’s no swerving the disappointment felt by all affected owners – some had already got their bikes, some hadn’t – I’m encouraged by the number of owners who’ve been in touch to say their supplying dealer has treated them superbly in getting their bike sorted. That process is in full swing right now.

It’s all in the delivery

So, with V4 joy halted just as I was getting into the swing of my time with it, I’ve leapt onto a V-twin 1260 Enduro instead (600 miles and couniting so far) – which, perversely, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. It’s been over a year since I last rode a 1260, so getting reacquainted is invaluable in better understanding just how far Ducati have moved the dial with the new V4.

Most immediately notable is the extraordinarily cunning trick they’ve played with the engine delivery. The V4 somehow manages to be more visceral, more aggressive, faster and more engaging – and yet significantly more user-friendly at the same time. Drive, especially off the bottom of the rev range, is so much more usable.

Where the V-twin kicks hard like a jackhammer, invariably making the front dance lightly over the tarmac, the V4 just delivers blistering forward momentum. Of course, that’s not just the hardware, but also the controlling software – and again, the step up in electronics feels palpable on the V4, delivering the same impact, but with more finesse. It’s so clever. The V4’s engine braking is gravitationally strong though. I’ve not had enough miles to know if I like it or find it unnerving – but it’ll certainly save on brake pads.

Integration station

The next thing that strikes you is the shift in integration, connectivity and information display. The 1260’s dash is no eyesore, and they both share similar interfaces so that 1260 owners would feel immediately at home navigating around the V4 – but the newer dash is like comparing a 2021 TV to one from the 90s. The app-driven satnav is a huge step forward, too.

On the 1260 you need to mount another solution, have nowhere to stash your phone, and have to reply on an exposed power source. The V4 integrates a USB power source into the built-in cubby hole for your phone, which connects via Bluetooth and WiFi to the bike’s systems. Getting the satnav app to connect the first time wasn’t quite seamless, but it eventually worked – the only gripe being the need to pair it on every start-up, leaving your phone running unlocked, and it being slow to link. Once working, though it’s nearly as good as CarPlay.

Saw you coming…

Another headline change is the radar-enabled cruise control. I won’t pretend it didn’t take a leap of faith to give it a try – but it works really well. It’s not as deft or subtle as your own inputs would be, but it’s less ham-fisted than some riders. Jump to the 1260, and it suddenly feels noticeably absent. Who knew that repeatedly fiddling with the Set, Cancel and Resume buttons was such a ball ache? Perhaps even more surprising in usefulness are the mirror-mounted blind-spot warning lights. I’m not a lazy observer on a bike, but I’ve been impressed by the additional layer of look-out assistance. Again, you really notice it when it’s gone.

Next level

The final of my first impressions is a more holistic one. Everything about the V4 S manages to take the sense of premium product up to the next level. The 1260 Multi (from £17,895) is no pig’s ear and sets the standard pretty high – but the new Multi feels significantly more special. The fit, quality of the finishes, attention to detail and refined obsession is apparent everywhere – only let down by the slightly cheap feeling phone cubby hole door, which could definitely be better. But in this 'Full' spec V4 S trim, you can really see where your money has gone.

The Africa Twin I tested last year was the same price in top spec, but with very little obvious reason why. The 1260 is a superb bike – but the V4 S really does move the game on. When it’s working, of course.

What’s 'Full' about it?

The Multistrada V4 is available in many forms, with a large number of option extras. Get your dealer to bling a V4 S to 'Full’' spec – like this one – and you’ll add:

• Panniers

• Radar cruise control

• Centre stand

• Heated grips

• Heated seats

• Akrapovic silencer

• Carbon front fender

The V4 S starts at £18,543 in 'Essential' base spec, while the 'Full' loaded version costs from £21,643. The range-topping V4 S Sport costs £22,093, while a completely base Multi V4 costs £15,643.

Update one: Introducing the Ducati Multistrada V4 S

Published: 05.04.2021

A side view of the Ducati Multistrada V4 S

I never really gelled with the old Multi 1200/1260 (but loved the 950), so deliberately picking the new Ducati Multistrada V4 S to live with was always going to be either a revelatory stroke of genius or a terrible mistake. Having covered a few hundred miles on it, it felt exceptional – right up until Ducati took it away to replace its engine under recall!


Ducati Multistrada V4S

The rider Richard Newland, MCN Editor, 47, 5ft 11in. Riding for 36 years, all year round.

Bike specs 1158cc | 170bhp | 240kg | 840mm seat height

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Richard Newland

By Richard Newland