Ducati made a bunch of significant upgrades to its best-selling (in Europe) Multistrada line for 2013, and invited the moto press to Bilbao, Spain, to sample its wares—specifically, the 1200 S Touring. But all four Multis (1200, 1200 S Touring, the new Granturismo, and Pikes Peak Edition) get a new, second-gen 11-degree DS Testastretta V-Twin that’s claimed to make 5 percent more torque than before. Most of the credit for the increase goes to what hinted at by the DS designation: dual-sparkplug heads. But redirecting fuel injector nozzles onto hot exhaust valves improves atomization and a new air injection system similar to the Panigale’s allows the Multi to run a richer mixture when necessary, which results in smoother running without smoking past Euro 3 and EPA emissions standards.
All the Multis except the base 1200 get all-new “Ducati Skyhook Suspension,” a semi-active system that uses electronics to help maintain the bike’s front-to-rear balance as conditions change—as if the bike were suspended from the sky, says Ducati. Two pairs of accelerometers (the front pair on a fork lower and at the bottom triple clamp, the rear pair on the swingarm and subframe), measure wheel movement at each end and feed it to the bike’s ECU. The ECU then controls one electronic valve in the left fork leg, and another in the shock. Built by Sachs, these needle-and-seat valves regulate oil flow within the suspension units, responding so quickly, says Project Manager Federico Sabbioni, that a single valve is able to control flow on both compression and rebound strokes. With the Multistrada having 150 claimed horsepower, 6.7 inches of travel at both ends and a mission that includes sometimes carrying full saddlebags and maybe a passenger, DSS makes sense.
Skyhook is fully integrated with the selectable riding modes (Touring, Sport, Enduro and Urban), and adjusting damping and rear preload is as simple as pushing a couple of buttons. In the correct sequence. It’s not too difficult even if you’re jet-lagged, overhung and over 40. The latest Bosch 9ME combined ABS is likewise fully integrated with the various riding modes, and now lets the rider lock the rear wheel in Enduro mode, among other things. It uses the same control unit as the Panigale.
In Urban mode, the Multi is a marshmallow, reducing output to 100 horsepower and soaking up what few nasties beautifully groomed downtown Bilbao has to offer. On twisting, tight roads along Atlantic cliffs in Sport mode, exiting sometimes damp corners with all 150 horses, the new engine provides awesome low-rpm lunge from only about 3500 rpm—the kind that lets even the wheelie-impaired experience the joy of crossed-up one-wheel travel in second gear. The new, dual-rate rear spring’s second stage is stiffer than before. Between it and the Skyhook, the bike is able to put all its considerable power down and really launch itself out of corners, with a nice seat bolster to keep the rider in place and a widish, tapered aluminum handlebar to keep him somewhat in control. Ducati Traction Control is a nice security blanket, particularly when trying to keep up with the Joneses over damp leaves. (In Sport mode, DTC defaults to level 4 of 8.)
I don’t think I ever managed to invoke the ABS; in Sport mode, there’s less “link” from front to rear, and stoppie control is deactivated. On the other hand, when diving into those tight corners with the brakes on, Skyhook didn’t seem to allow the front end to stroke deep enough to weight the front tire as much as some might prefer. (After our Bilbao ride, some other journalists said that Touring mode is the way to go for more weight transfer.) Later, reading through the press material, I realized it’s also possible to add or reduce compression and rebound damping from either end by manipulating the DSS buttons. My bad. Less compression up front might’ve been just the ticket. Apart from that, you’ll have to be a swifter rider than yours truly to find fault with the Multi’s ride and handling. We’ll delve (dive?) deeper into tuning DSS when we get a testbike stateside.
For normal sane travel under varying loads and conditions, the new Multi’s slightly revised styling—incorporating a new LED headlight and a bigger manually adjusted windscreen—coupled with the new electronics, adds up to an amazingly convenient, integrated package, even if all the wires that make it possible make the triple clamp area look like the back of your stereo cabinet.
Prices range from $16,995 for the base model—which gets all the electronic updates except the Skyhook suspension—to $19,995 for the 1200 S Touring with bags and Skyhook, to $21,995 for the new Granturismo or Pikes Peak. The new Granturismo gets bigger sidebags and a trunk, plus 20mm higher handlebar risers and a bigger windshield. The Pikes Peak arrives with a box containing a Termignoni exhaust system and a smaller carbon fiber windscreen, sports a number of c-f components and rolls on Panigale-style Marchesini wheels.