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Ducati Multistrada 1200 S: Multiple personalities

THERE are many types of bikes out there, with each having its own characteristics. Unfortunately, most bikes are either street bikes or off roaders.

Although some riders can afford to own more than a bike for different occasions, many can’t, and they have no choice but to stick to a particular type of motorcycle at a time until they upgrade.

This was why Ducati introduced a hybrid of a “supermoto” and a sports tourer named Multistrada (which means “many roads” in Italian) in 2003.

As the name suggests, the bike was made to perform well on tarmac, asphalt and also gravel. Thanks to its versatility, it gained popularity in no time despite looking hideous.

The model remained pretty much the same until 2009 with a few minor updates being added along the way. The model only went through a full model change in 2010, featuring a new look, a new engine, Ducati Traction Control (DTC), and ABS, among other features.

As it looked like the Multistrada was going to remain as it was, the 2013 version was launched in Malaysia last month with a significant amount of updates.

Thanks to Welly World Cycle Sungai Buloh, we managed to get our hands on the Multistrada 1200 S recently to see how much it has improved.

Powered by a retuned version of the 1198cc Testastretta L-twin engine producing 150hp and 119Nm of torque, the Multistrada is now smoother, and packs more punch than the outgoing model. The engine, which has been massaged to be more flexible, is controlled by a high-tech “Ride-by-wire” computer system that is arguably one of the most advanced to be fitted on a bike.

We could choose from four riding modes (Urban, Touring, Enduro and Sport), where fuel mapping, traction control, ABS and suspension settings automatically adjust themselves depending on what mode we were in. Thanks to the computer system, all of the above could be done with just a button on the left handlebar grip.

In Urban mode, power output was limited to 100hp with maximum traction control and a comfort oriented suspension set-up. Even with limited output, it was very quick. We had to make sure that we were gentle on the throttle as we could clock speeds of up to 120km/h in mere seconds. There was just so much power waiting to be unleashed.

Power aside, the suspensions did a brilliant job in tolerating bumps and potholes, ensuring that the ride was super comfortable at all times.

Despite its size, the Multistrada 1200 S felt very light once we got moving. Its agility could match most naked bikes out there, as it has a tight turning radius, making U-turns and splitting through city traffic a “piece of cake”.

And then there was the Enduro mode, which softened the suspension and kept the throttle response gentle. This mode was ideal for mild offroading. Like the Urban mode, power output is limited to 100hp in Enduro. Traction control is also kept minimal, easing on the grip and allowing us to ride through gravel and mud smoothly.

In Touring mode, suspension set-up was comfort oriented, with maximum traction control. However, all 150hp was available, with gentle throttle response. In the Sport mode was when the Multistrada’s full potential was unleashed. We had access to all 150hp, with an aggressive throttle action. Even the slightest twist on the throttle sent the bike pouncing in motion. The suspension was very firm, and traction control was set up in a way that it kicked in late.

Besides the four riding modes, the Multistrada 1200 S also allowed us to choose from four different load settings (rider only, rider with luggage, rider and passenger or rider and passenger with luggage), where the height and suspension stiffness vary from one mode to another.

The level of customisation on this bike is mind blowing. We could customise each riding mode down to how much compression damping we want on each fork, use the dash as a lap timer, and even turn the ABS off. However, we chose to leave the advanced settings alone and enjoy things as they were. Besides all the high tech features above, there is keyless ignition, and an adjustable windshield.

As impressive as it may sound, the Multistrada still has room for improvement. For instance, the windshield should have been bigger. Even after pulling it up, wind was still hitting the rider’s head. After a certain speed, it vibrates as well. For a bike its size, we found the gear lever and brake pedal rather small.

These petty things aside, the Multistrada 1200 S is a great bike to ride. It is powerful, yet playful. The amount of technology put into this bike, the menacing looks, the amount of power it delivers and its versatility make it a raging all-rounder. It impressed us not only on the highway, but on gravel, through the tightest bends, and of course, the hectic traffic of Kuala Lumpur.

Specifications of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S

Engine: Liquid cooled, Desmodronic, L Twin
Displacement: 1,198cc
Transmission: Six-speed
Max power: 150hp @ 9,250rpm
Max torque: 119Nm @ 7,500rpm
Suspension (front): Marzocchi 50mm fully adjustable forks
Suspension (rear): Progressive linkage with fully adjustable Sachs monoshock
Safety: ABS, DTC
Price: RM118,999

* Contact Welly World Cycle Sungai Buloh at 03-6156 1768 for more details.

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