The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is America’s version of our Isle of Man TT. It’s a race to the clouds, 14,115 feet above sea level to be exact, where a bunch of lunatics with motorcycles, quadbikes, cars and trucks carve their way up 12.42 miles of mountain course, flirting with its 156 turns, hairpins, and cliff edges while battling snow, bears and altitude sickness. And Ducati are a big player in the event, winning their class six times and retaining the motorcycle course record, set in 2012 on a Multistrada with a cracking time of 9:52:819.
Ducati produced a celebratory, ultra-sleek Pikes Peak edition of the Multi back in 2011. And we’ve been treated to an updated model for 2016, which uses the 2015 Multistrada 1200S as a donor bike. It comes complete with carbon-fibre goodies, fresh racing livery, Termignoni silencer, new three-spoke wheels, new DVT engine and most importantly, it swaps the semi-active Skyhook suspension for fully adjustable conventional Öhlins.
The Multistrada is billed as a versatile machine, its very name translated is ‘Many Roads’, hinting at how it can tackle everything. And now with exquisite, top-spec Öhlins and carbon trinkets, the Pikes Peak edition promises to be the sportiest Multi in the range, too, all in honour of the USA’s toughest test. So it makes sense to put it through our own, gruelling UK test on British roads.
Our band of MCN test riders spent a week with the Peak, putting it through its paces on track, attacking the UK’s biggest hill climb, camping on a Peak District adventure and enduring a dirty commute, covering more miles in a week than most Pikes Peak models do in a year. Have that, America.
Commute: Windsor to Peterborough
My mind wanders. I’ve been on a continuous stretch of grey road for a hundred miles, sharing it with car drivers battling tiredness on their boring traffic-heavy commute. I can’t stand it any longer, my mind peels away, and my front wheel follows. I miss the exit for work. I miss the next four, too.
Flat tarmac crumbles into gravel, then stone and finally mud before I realise I’m at the foot of a long trail. I whip out the rubber pegs and flick this bad boy into ‘Enduro’ mode. As I stand on the pegs it’s like my helmet is filled with a sudden rush of cold air blended with caffeine.
The Scorpion Trail rear tyre flicks left and right, spinning up when mud tickles the tread, traction control and ABS are nowhere to be seen. Instead, it slithers purposefully like a snake chasing a baby iguana. Enduro mode knocks 60bhp off, calming it down ever so slightly. Its torquey and tractable power delivery and finely honed Öhlins make it a blast.
I reach the end of my fourth trail, hot and sweating, take a rest and catch a glimpse of the clock. I’m pretty late, but… just one more!
Miles covered: 219