With so many great big adventure bikes around, you’d think that it was difficult to improve the concept further. Most of the top bikes in this category are already powerful, comfortable, agile, and usable for almost any kind of riding. So when I say that the Multistrada V4 Rally ticks all those boxes, it’s not exactly a surprise, is it?
But the Rally takes all of those things to the next level that very few others can reach. It takes everything you love about adventure bikes, and supersizes it: more power, bigger brain, better handling, and improved comfort. It feels like it’s raising the bar for everyone.
But what is it that makes the Multistrada V4 Rally special. Well, it all starts with the engine. The Rally is powered by the 1158 Granturismo V4. An engine that Ducati calls a ‘compact V4’, and I’m sure there are bigger ones around, but it’s still not something that I would call small. And neither is the performance that it offers. With 170hp and 121Nm ready to propel you from here to Timbuktu, this is one potent engine. The difference from the old V2 that previous generations of Multistradas used wasn’t bad either, with very similar torque figures, and only around a dozen or so less horses galloping through the cylinders. But the new V4 is something else. It’s been developed from the Desmosedici Stradale V4 that powers Ducati’s top sportsbike, the Panigale V4 and its naked sibling, the Streetfighter V4. What was a race-bred, roaring and raw engine for performance thrills, has been tamed for a more of a touring purpose, something that is pleasant on long rides on roads, or even off them. But make no mistake, this is still a very potent engine indeed – the Rally might be a bit of a heavyweight with its its 260kg wet weight, but the sheer amount of power from the V4 makes it dance like a lightweight. Squeeze that throttle, hear the engine roar, and watch the scenery go all blurry. It can really shift.
The engine, however, is not unique to the Rally, but is shared with the standard Multistrada V4 and V4 S, as well as the muscle cruising Diavel V4. The main difference between the basic Multi and the Rally is that the latter has rather grown in stature. The Rally is built for longer distances and more varied terrain, which in the world of adventure bikes means that it needs a bigger tank, longer suspension, components to take on the rough ground, and a few electric tricks up its sleeve to make it all work.
The suspension on the Multistrada V4 Rally is absolutely sublime. The bike is equipped with the latest version of Ducati’s Skyhook electric suspension, which not only works very well, but makes any adjustments as easy as a push of a button. You can select the level of preload depending on whether you ride solo, two-up or with luggage, or you can just set it to auto. Any damping and rebound adjustments are made by the electronic brain of the bikes. I know that electronic suspension is becoming the norm for premium bikes, and there are plenty of similar solutions out from the competitors, but it just never seizes to amaze me how well the systems work. The ride quality is very difficult to fault when the bike floats over bumps while still keeping everything stable and smooth when cornered hard.
The generous suspension travel (200mm), and the size of the bike itself means that the seat is rather high. You can adjust it between 870-890mm, but either way, it’s no place for a shortie. One clever trick that the Rally offers, however, is that with a press of a button you can take the preload out of the rear shock to the minimum, so when you slow down to stop, just press the button, and by the time you need to put your foot down, you have a better chance of doing that. You can also get lower seats and lower the suspension to the degree that the lowest you can have the seat is 805mm. You will still need to be able to reach the ground well enough to hold a 260kg motorcycle, so it’s not for everyone, but the reduction in height is quite impressive.
To give the Multistrada V4 Rally more of a world-shrinker appeal, the bike has a massive 30-litre tank (compared to the 22-litre one in the standard Multi). You would think that this makes the Rally much more bulky and top-heavy, but it really doesn’t feel like that in practice.
A nod to the more adventurous side of touring are the wire-spoked wheels. They are the same sizes as the basic Multi, 19” front and 17” rear, so this is not a full-on offroad setup, and with the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres that are fitted as standard, you really want to avoid venturing anywhere too technical offroad. Of course, with more dedicated offroad tyres and a skilled rider, almost anything is possible, but I don’t expect seeing many bikes costing £24k on green lanes any time soon. There is an Offroad ride mode available if you do take the bike off Tarmac, but I left that one untouched.
In terms of electronics, the Multistrada V4 Rally is right up there with the top bikes in this category. It has the usual suspects such as a quickshifter, cornering ABS, traction, wheelie and cruise control, keyless ignition, ride and power modes, and probably some more that I didn’t even have a chance to explore. But it also adds a bit of extra with front and rear radars that enable adaptive cruise control and blind spot detectors. I know these technologies are still relatively new in motorcycling, and they divide opinion, but I find them very useful. On long journeys, when you need to clock up motorway miles, the adaptive cruise control makes it easier and less taxing to do the distance. And even though I like to think that I keep a keen eye on my mirrors, every now and again the blind spot light flashes and reveals a car where I hadn’t spotted one.
Riding the Rally is a joy. The riding position is very neutral and relaxed, the bars big and wide, and switchgear easy to use. You have a big TFT dash that shows you everything that’s going on, and although its design is not perhaps the best we’ve seen, it does the job perfectly well.
Weather protection is very good with an easily adjustable wind screen and little deflectors to its sides. There are also hand guards to take the chill off your paws, and the bodywork offers some shelter for your legs too.
With the combination of what feels like limitless power, sublime suspension, and keen handling, the Rally is a terrific too to tackle any roads. Our test ride was not long enough to comment on long-distance comfort, but I can’t imagine that being a problem when shorter rides are this luxurious.
The main reason why some will not consider the Multistrada V4 Rally is its price tag. With prices starting from £23,590 this is a serious investment in motorcycling. You can pick up a BMW or KTM equivalent for around £7k less, Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports between £5-9k less depending on whether you want DCT or not, or a Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally for £4-5k less. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of money. What you get for your money is very good, there’s no two ways about that – the question is whether you feel like you are getting enough extra to justify the cost.
Ducati has built a strong reputation for good quality, high performance bikes in the recent years. They are definitely in the premium category of motorcycling, and the quality of the components and build back that up with impressive 9000-mile service intervals.
If you want to experience what high-end adventures are like, test riding a Multistrada V4 Rally needs to be on your to do list.
Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally specification
Engine: 1158cc V4
Power: 170hp/125kW @ 10,750rpm
Torque: 121Nm @ 8750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Aluminium monocoque frame
Suspension: 50mm inverted telescopic forks. Cantilever suspension mono-shock at rear. Skyhook semi-active electronic preload, rebound and compression damping adjustment
Brakes: Brembo Stylema 4-piston calliper and 330mm semi-floating discs at front. 265mm disc and 2-piston calliper at rear.
Wheels: 19in front, 17” rear, wire spoked
Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II. Front 120/70-19. Rear 170/60-17.
Seat height: 870-890mm (lowering options available)
Kerb weight: 260kg (excluding panniers)
Fuel capacity: 30 litres
Words: Mikko Nieminen
Photos: Ducati, Jason Critchell