It’s eight years since the Multistrada 1200 was launched, starting a new era of sporty and sweet-handling Ducati V-twins with outstanding comfort and versatility. Since then the name and four-bikes-in-one philosophy has remained while the Multi has evolved, gaining semi-active suspension, variable valve timing and even more refined electronics as it established itself as one of the Bologna firm’s most popular and influential models.
Now the name changes by one digit with the arrival of the Multistrada 1260, as Ducati’s all-rounder is updated once again in an attempt to head off rivals including BMW’s S1000XR and KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure S. The Multi’s distinctive, sharp-nosed shape remains but there’s far more to this update than the larger, 1262cc desmo V-twin lump whose additional capacity is reflected in the title.
Describing the engine as “new” is stretching the point because the Testastretta DVT powerplant, whose extra 64cc of capacity comes from a 3.6mm longer stroke rather than a bigger bore, comes from the XDiavel. Ducati relocated the water pump from between the cylinders to the right side of the cases, and shifted the engine mounts to suit the Multistrada chassis. More importantly the dohc, eight-valve unit’s internals and its output to the maximum of 156bhp at 9500rpm are unchanged, meaning the Multi gains 6bhp at the top end as well as a big chunk of torque lower down the range.
The steel-framed chassis is also revamped, with the aim of boosting high-speed stability, especially when heavily loaded with luggage and pillion. The 48mm usd forks are kicked out by a degree, from 24 to 25 degrees, which also increases trail, while the aluminium single-sided swing-arm is lengthened to increase wheelbase. The cast wheels have a new pattern, and the grab-rail is borrowed from the Multistrada 1200 Enduro.
That off-road oriented Multi keeps the 1198cc engine, but most of the family gets the bigger lump. The 1260 comes in standard, upmarket S and sportier Pikes Peak varieties, plus a DAir version of the S, which connects with Dainese’s airbag clothing. The S-model, which traditionally provides the bulk of sales, incorporates a revised Skyhook semi-active suspension set-up instead of the standard model’s conventional KYB/Sachs combination, or the Pikes Peak’s more sophisticated but also conventional Öhlins set-up.
A host of electronic updates includes the addition of Ducati’s bi-directional quick-shifter for the 1260 S and Pikes Peak. Those models also get a new TFT instrument panel that incorporates colours to help distinguish between the four riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro), and has a new interface. Other changes include revised switchgear, tyre pressure monitoring and heated grips; and a new smartphone app that gives social media connectivity and can be used to adjust some of the bike’s settings remotely.
The S-model’s more colourful dash and more rider-friendly interface are obvious as soon as you climb aboard the fairly tall, adjustable seat. But the Multistrada feels familiar in most respects and its screen, which can be adjusted using one hand, is unchanged. The V-twin rumble from the two low-slung silencers on the right is familiar, too, although the exhaust system is revised with an extra balance pipe between the downpipes.
Once you pull away it’s easy to believe Ducati’s claim that this bigger engine kicks out almost 20% more torque at 5500rpm, and is stronger through most of the rev range. The previous Multi was far from gutless, thanks partly to the impressively smooth-acting DVT variable valve system, but this bike pulls harder at low and medium engine speeds before picking up the pace in typically enthusiastic Testastretta V-twin style.
The Multistrada remains smooth enough to encourage plenty of revs, though there’s a touch of vibration through the seat to confirm you’re aboard a big, hard-charging V-twin. The upright and roomy riding position (unchanged from the 1200’s) means there’s a bit of wind pressure at speed, too, but the screen has sufficient adjustability to give most riders a fairly quiet ride – if not a relaxing one, at least when the throttle is wound open…
As before, the Ducati’s sweet throttle response means that Sport, the most aggressive riding mode, is very controllable. Switching to Touring gives a slightly more gentle delivery and, in the case of the 1260 S, also softens the suspension by reducing shock preload plus damping at both ends. Urban and Enduro mode are softer still and also cut maximum power to 100bhp.
In all modes the S-model (and Pikes Peak) benefit from the new quick-shifter, which is as impressive as it is on Ducati’s Panigale models and makes changing gear effortless both up and down the box. Those models also get the top-level front brake set-up of 330mm discs and Brembo’s M50 monobloc calipers (against the standard model’s 320mm rotors and M4.32s), which means outrageously powerful stopping along with Bosch cornering ABS.
Switching between modes quickly highlights the way the 1260 S changes its suspension settings to suit. Sport mode works superbly for aggressive riding, when its extra shock preload and firm damping settings help make the Ducati feel very agile and well controlled, despite its more relaxed steering geometry and the unchanged and generous 170mm of travel at each end.
In Touring mode it still steers and holds its line effortlessly, helped by the leverage available through the wide bars, but doesn’t feel quite as precise. Payback comes on a bumpy surface when the suspension’s extra compliance is welcome. And the same is even more true in Urban, whose softer ride means the previously generous ground clearance is reduced, meaning that on good surfaces the footrests touch down when the capable Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2 tyres still have plenty of grip to spare.
That’s not a problem when the Multistrada allows such effortless, push-button adjustment of both engine and chassis performance. On a long trip you’d be grateful for the more supple ride quality provided by the Touring or Urban modes, which would add to the long-term comfort of the broad and fairly firm seat. Most riders will manage 45mpg or better, giving a respectable range of around 180 miles from the unchanged, 20-litre tank.
It all adds up to a Multistrada that is as versatile as it is fast, especially when it’s enhanced with the accessory Touring Pack of panniers, centre-stand and heated grips. (As before, there are also Sport, Urban and Enduro Packs that add features ranging from billet aluminium bits to top-box, and which can be fitted separately or together.)
The Touring Pack is most popular and costs an extra £1000 when factory fitted, bringing the price of the 1260 S as tested to £18,195 in red or £18,395 in white or grey. (The standard 1260 costs £14,295.) That’s a substantial sum of money, but in the case of the Multistrada 1260 S it buys a fast, sweet-handling and versatile V-twin sports bike that is more refined and better than ever.
|Ducati Multistrada 1200 [1200 S] (2018)|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled 90-degree desmo V-twin|
|Valve arrangement||DOHC, eight valves|
|Bore x stroke||106 x 71.5mm|
|Carburation||Bosch fuel-injection, oval throttle bodies|
|Maximum power||158bhp @ 9500rpm|
|Maximum torque||129.5N.m @ 7500rpm|
|Front suspension||48mm inverted telescopic KYB, 170mm travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment [Sachs with electronic adjustment via Ducati Skyhook Suspension]|
|Rear suspension||One Sachs damper, 170mm wheel travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment [electronic adjustment via Ducati Skyhook Suspension]|
|Front brake||2, four-piston Brembo radial monobloc calipers, 320mm discs with cornering ABS [Evo M50 calipers, 330mm discs]|
|Rear brake||Twin-piston Brembo caliper, 265mm disc with ABS|
|Front wheel||3.50 x 17in; cast aluminium|
|Rear wheel||6.00 x 17in; cast aluminium|
|Front tyre||120/70 x 17in Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2|
|Rear tyre||190/55 x 17in Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2|
|Fuel capacity||20 litres|
|Weight||209kg [212kg] dry; 232kg [235kg] wet with 90 per cent full fuel tank|
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