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First ride: New Ducati Multistrada 1260 S 'gives you more of everything'

Published: 15 December 2017

Ducati’s New £17,195 Multistrada 1260 S proves it has it all, here at its world launch in Gran Canaria. Like a superbike on stilts it delivers giddying levels of performance and is crammed full of the latest electronics. But like a tourer, it has a spacious, comfortable, upright riding position.

Trackdays, commuting, touring and general tarmac assault are all in a day’s work for a sports adventure bike like this and once you’ve ridden one, it’s hard to go back to a cramped sportsbike or lethargic tourer. The new Ducati is one of the ‘big three’ sports adventure bikes, sitting alongside the BMW S1000XR and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. 

The original 2010 Multistrada 1200 was based on Italian firm’s then flagship 1198 and as riders discovered a more relaxing way to enjoy their superbike-levels of speed, it became a huge success. 2015 saw a new Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) motor hung from its steel trellis frame, like a piece of art and now here’s the latest version: the Multistrada 1260, out in dealers in February next year.

Available in four versions (standard, S, S D-AIR and Pikes Peak), the S model has always been the most popular and it’s what we’re riding here.

The new Multistrada 1260 range gets a new, longer-stroke 1262cc X-Diavel-derived motor with new mapping and exhaust, raked-out steering geometry, a longer swingarm, 340 gram-lighter wheels, 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.

Although Ducati engineers have been busy, because the designer has been on the same all-inclusive getaway as the chap who penned the new Panigale V4 and those who styled just about every new bike of 2018, it’s hard to tell the 1260 apart from the current 1200. But look closely and you’ll see the ‘floppy ear’ side panels are more faired-in like a 2017 MotoGP wing, the ‘Testastretta DVT’ cam cover logo is now metal and there’s a new grab rail, pinched from the Enduro. Fit and finish is improved, too.

The £14,295 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.

That extra £2900 gets you 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.

Our test bike also has the Touring Pack fitted, which includes heated grips (they should really come standard for the money), a centre stand and panniers. It jacks the price up to £18,349 when you throw the satin grey paint in, too 

Sport, Urban and Enduro Packs are also available, as well as an Internet full of accessories, most of which are interchangeable with the 1200 

Ducati claims an extra 6bhp and 18% more torque at 5500rpm from the bigger V-twin motor. 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.

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.

Riding mainly on 2nd and 3rd gear mountain roads and slow motorways during our test, we never encountered the kind of conditions that would’ve made the 1200 turn to jelly, so its hard to say if the calmer geometry has worked, but the good news is it hasn’t blunted the Multistrada’s fun-filled agility.  

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).

Big Multistradas always gave you everything you ever needed: performance, luxury, style and practicality. The new 1260 might not seem a huge step forward but it gives you a little bit more of everything, which, when it had so much in the first place, makes it very special indeed.

Meet the Multistrada 1260 family

  • Multistrada 1260 158bhp, 232kg £14,295
  • Base model Multistrada 1260: new longer stroke engine, chassis and electronics.
  • Multistrada 1260 S £17,195 (S D-AIR £17,895), 158bhp, 235kg. Semi-active suspension, bigger brakes, LED headlights, colour dash and more electronics. ‘S D-AIR’ version works with Dainese Airbag jacket, using bike data for more accurate crash prediction.
  • Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak £20,795, 158bhp, 229kg, mechanically-adjustable Ohlins suspension, 2.5kg lighter Marchesini forged ali wheels, Termignoni exhaust, carbon fibre mudguard, screen, side panels and keyless ignition cover. Overall 6kg lighter. Yummy.

Sports adventure rivals

  • BMW S1000XR £12,650 (£14,00 Sport, £15,010 Sport SE), 163bhp, 228g: Updated this year with more power and Euro4 tweaks, the superbike-based machine sits in the middle between the wild KTM and more relaxed Ducati. It’s MCN’s Sports Adventure Bike of 2017.
  • KTM 1290 Super Duke GT £16,299, 173bhp, 228kg: Launched last year, the GT started life as the beastly Super Duke and its super naked genes are still present and correct. It has the front end most superbikes could only dream of and a voracious appetite for wheelies. 

Ducati Multistrada 1260 S stats

Price £17,195

Engine 1262cc 8v V-twin

Frame Steel trellis

Seat height 825-845mm

Suspension Fully adjustable 48mm Sachs forks and rear shock. Semi-active electronic

Front brake 2 x 330mm front discs with four-piston radial Brembo Evo M50 monobloc calipers. 265mm rear disc with twin-piston caliper. Cornering ABS

Colours Red, grey, white.

Available February 2018

Power 156bhp@9500rpm

Torque 95.5ftlb@7500rpm

Kerb weight 235kg

Tank capacity 20-litres

Ducati revealed new Multistrada 1260 in Milan

MCN was at the EICMA show in Milan when the Multistrada 1260 was unveiled last month.

While the new Panigale V4 took all the headlines during Ducati's extravagant press conference, CEO Claudio Domenicali also unveiled an upgraded Multistrada, and confirmed the capacity increase to 1262cc.

The Multistrada doesn't just get a new engine for 2018 - the chassis is new, the electronics more advanced and the looks slightly different.

The DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) engine delivers 85% of its torque at under 3,500rpm, and Ducati say torque delivery at 5,500rpm is 18% higher than on the outgoing model. Ducati claim this increase in torque gives the new Multistrada 1260 the highest torque output in its class at 4,000rpm. Ducati claim a torque figure of 95ftlb and power figure of 158bhp for the new engine.

The chassis has been updated with a longer swingarm and wheelbase, as well as revised geometry for sharper handling without compromising stability.

As is now the norm with flagship adventure bikes, the 1260 comes loaded with electronics and rider aids. Ducati have opted for the Bosch 9.1ME inertial measurement unit, which takes care of ABS, cornering lights (only on the 1260S), Ducati traction Control and Ducati Wheelie Control.

Both traction and wheelie control feature eight settings which can be adjusted by the rider. Vehicle Hold Control (VHC) will come as standard on the standard 1260. When activated, VHC applies the rear brake while stationary to help the rider pull away, especially on gradients. The Bosch IMU also interacts with Ducati's semi-active Skyhook suspension system on the 1260S.

Both the standard 1260 and the 1260S feature cruise control, while the S also comes with a Bluetooth module for the Ducati Multimedia System. This will enable the rider to control basic functions on their smartphone, such as receive incoming calls or playing music.

Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak

The Multistrada Pikes Peak also receives the new engine for 2018, a well as new forged aluminium wheels, and Ohlins suspension front and rear, which require mechanical adjustment. #oldschool

The Pikes Peak comes with much of the electronic trickery featured on the 1260S, including cornering ABS, cornering lights, DWC, DTC, VHC, and the multimedia system. There's also an up and down quickshifter. A Termignoni exhaust and carbon fibre screen are available as accessories.

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