2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - First Ride

Ducati’s all-road touring adventure bike gets serious upgrades.

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John Burns aboard the new 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring

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.

Multistrada 1200 S Dashboard

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Dashboard

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.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - in-action left 3/4 view

John Burns aboard the new 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - in-action right-turn view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - in-action right-turn view

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - in-action left 3/4 view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - in-action left 3/4 view

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - in-action left-side view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - in-action left-side view

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - studio right 3/4 view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - studio right 3/4 view

The 1200 S Touring is the best-selling of the Multistradas. For $19,995 (3K more than the base Multi), you get those excellent saddlebags, the new Skyhook suspension (DSS), heated grips and a standard centerstand.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring with accessories - studio right 3/4 view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring with accessories - studio right 3/4 view

The top-line Granturismo adds bigger sidebags (up from 58 to 73 liters) and a 48-liter top box (each with a waterproof liner for easy transport of your wife?s stuff). You also get a Ducati Performance Comfort Seat, 20mm handlebar risers, heated grips and a bigger windscreen. $21,995.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - studio rear 3/4 view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - studio rear 3/4 view

Ducati says the Pikes Peak weighs 489 pounds all gassed up, which is 50 pounds more than the Streetfighter 848 I decided was my favorite Ducati last month. Suddenly it?s a tough call. Note the new dual-rate rear spring.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - studio right-side view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - studio right-side view

Commemorating Ducati?s 1-2 finish in the 2012 Pikes Peak Hillclimb (and Cernicky?s DNF the year before?), the 2013 Pikes Peak Multi gets Panigale-style Marchesini wheels, many carbon fiber components, a red-stitched seat? and it comes with a box containing an EU-approved Termignoni performance exhaust and a carbon-fiber low windscreen. Only $21,995.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - front fork

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - front fork

The latest Bosch-controlled 9ME ABS Brembo braking system makes its appearance on all four Multis. Front/rear combined braking in Urban and Touring mode automatically switch to less intrusive settings in Sport and Enduro.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - dashboard

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - dashboard

Buttons on the left bar allow adjustments to Ducati Traction Control and for 2013, three levels of ABS. Sport, Touring, Enduro or Urban Mode can be selected on the fly (and is displayed in the round window). Too much more to go into in this caption?
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring

Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS, natch) places one electronic needle-and-seat valve in the left fork tube and one in the rear shock. Four accelerometers feed wheel movement to the bike?s ECU, which uses that data to keep the bike on an even keel at all times.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - front headlight profile

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - front headlight profile

For ?13, an LED low beam joins the original LED position lights/turn signals. The low beam remains on with the conventional high beam for increased visibility.
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - rear tail light view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - rear tail light view

LED taillight should be difficult to miss, no?
Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - rear right-side view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - rear right-side view

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S - rear left-side view

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring - rear left-side view

Pirelli?s purpose-built Scorpion Trail rubber for the Multi are the first ever dual-compound tires for on/off-road use: A harder center compound for off-road and high mileage, with softer edges for grip on pavement. The Granturismo gets Pirelli Angel GTs.