Ducati Multistrada gets bigger, cleverer and more powerful for 2018 – and it’s more rideable too.
For 2018 Ducati has updated its Multistrada range with four new models: the standard 1260, the 1260 S (the one we tested), 1260 D|Air which connects with the Dainese airbag system, and the top of the range Pikes Peak model with Ohlins suspension, carbon fibre mudguards and panels, Termignoni exhaust and forged wheels.
WORDS: Mikko Nieminen, Editor of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure PHOTOGRAPHY: Milagro
The S model differs from the stock Multistrada 1260 in six ways. It has higher spec brakes, Ducati Multimedia System, up and down quickshifter, full LED headlight with cornering lights, hi-res TFT instrument panel, and the Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) Evo semi-active electronic suspension.
Jumping on the 1260 S is a familiar feeling if you’ve ridden the 1200 S. The two bikes look and feel very similar, and for a good reason: the differences in aesthetics are subtle to the degree that it’s difficult to tell them apart, and the chassis updates are measured in millimetres, so you need a keen eye to spot the difference.
What was clear from the moment we set off on the test ride was that the new engine provides an improved riding experience. Maximum power output is 156bhp at 9500rpm, while the peak torque of 95.5lb-ft is achieved at 7500rpm. Compared to the old engine, the stroke is now longer (from 67.9mm to 71.5mm) to achieve the 1262cc capacity. Ducati says that at 5500rpm the power delivery is 18% higher compared to the last model, and that 85% of the torque is available at under 3500rpm. Riding the bike at slow speeds and revs, you can really feel the difference. The 1200 used to get a little lumpy in town unless you kept the revs at a healthy level, but the 1260 seems to be happy with anything above 2000rpm.
Working together with the new engine is the upgraded electronics package, which for all bikes in the 1260 range includes a new ride-by-wire setup, cornering ABS, wheelie and traction control, self-cancelling indicators, cruise and hill start control, and ride modes. Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) keeps track of which way the bike is pitching or rolling to enable the clever stuff to happen.
The ride modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro) transform the ride experience through electronic trickery that is the closest thing to witchcraft I have experienced on a motorcycle. This is because on the S model the ride modes also control the suspension settings in addition to the power modes, ABS, traction and wheelie control – the transformation from one ride mode to the next is impressive. If you have the bike in Touring mode and switch to Sport, you can actually feel the suspension firming up underneath you, the throttle response becoming crisper, and power delivery more immediate. Scroll through the simple to use menu to the Urban mode and peak power is cut to 100hp, and the once galloping stallion slows down to a gentle trot. If you’re brave enough to take the bike off the tarmac, the Enduro mode keeps the power capped at 100hp, switches off cornering ABS and lets you perform all the skids and wheelies you want. The ride modes can be changed while you’re riding the bike; you simply have to close the throttle for the change of mode to register.
The 1260 S has retained the distinct character of the different ride modes, and added a new ride-by-wire system that makes the throttle response smoother than before, while still maintaining the immediacy of the connection from the wrist to the rear wheel when you have all the dials maxed out. I started the test ride on the Urban setting in town, but as soon as we were out in the open, I quickly switched to Touring, and then to Sport mode to let the Multistrada stretch its legs a bit more.
Playing with the new TFT screen revealed that it’s far more intuitive and simple to use than the old version. Everything from the ride modes to the specific settings within them is quick and easy to access.
The new 1260 S comes with an up and down quickshifter as standard, which is a great improvement on the previous model. To be honest, the gearbox was probably my least favourite part of the old bike, and it’s still not perfect, but at least the quickshifter makes it easier work. Gear changes still require a positive input, and sometimes – especially in town when the going is slow – slipping a bit of clutch helps keep things smooth.
The big question is does the new bike deliver? And I would argue that it does. The new bike gains a quickshifter, cornering lights and self-cancelling indicators over the old model, and the power delivery and throttle response are better too, making the overall riding experience better. It’s an improvement on an already impressive adventure tourer.
For the full in-depth review, pick up a copy of the March issue of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure, out in early February 2018.
Specification – Ducati Multistrada 1260 S (2018)
Engine: 1262cc Testastretta DVT, L-twin, liquid-cooled
Power: 156bhp (116.2kW) @ 9500rpm
Torque: 95.5lb-ft (129.5Nm) @ 7500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame
Suspension: (F) Sachs 48mm fully adjustable USD forks. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment; (R) Fully adjustable Sachs unit with electronic spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping adjustment. Wheel travel 170mm both front & back.
Brakes: (F) 2 x 330mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc Evo M50 4-piston calipers (R) 265mm disc, 2-piston floating caliper. Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Tank capacity: 20 litres
Claimed MPG: 54mpg
Weight: 235kg (wet)
Seat height: Adjustable: 825-845mm