If you were going to rob a bank on a motorcycle, what would you choose? It needs to be fast, like any good getaway vehicle, and agile enough to evade Johnny Law. There might as well be comfort and amenities too, right? Bluetooth connectivity to contact your crew on the burner phone, plus cruise control so you maintain an inconspicuous speed while you make the call. Plus electronically adjustable suspension and ride modes for city, freeway, and back roads. You’re a bank robber, not an animal! And of course, you’ll need space for the stacks of money.
Allow me to suggest a Ducati Multistrada. It’s fast, comfortable, dripping with technology, and there are approximately 10,000 new ones on the road each year, so you won’t stand out in the wrong way. Since you’ll be wealthy from your bold raid of First Merchants you might as well spring for the swankiest one to date: the 2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Touring. Yes, I know, $22,395 is a pretty penny to spend—and we’ll talk about why you might as well splurge on the S version rather than $18,695 for the base model—but you get an awful lot of motorcycle for the money.
The Tech, And What’s New
You might be thinking that the new Multi 1260 looks a lot like the bike that debuted in 2010 with the 1,198cc 11° engine, and you’d be right. Aesthetics withstanding, since then the bike has been updated with Skyhook semi-active suspension (2013) and Desmodromic Variable Timing (2015) as well as many other small upgrades over the years—saddlebag latches, a color dash unit, and the like. The meaningful moves for the 2018 model involve inheriting the XDiavel’s 1,262cc engine, a longer wheelbase, and updates to the color dash.
First, the powerplant, which caused a bit of a stir around here when it debuted the DVT valve system. Genius as it is, DVT didn’t work perfectly right out of the gate, but in XDiavel form the engine grew to be monstrously torquey (thanks to 1.6mm of stroke added) and smoothed out considerably with evolution of the tuning. Ducati claim 18 percent more torque at 5,500 rpm, patching the dip in torque that plagued the Multi 1200 DVT mill.
The chassis updates involved lengthening the swingarm by 1.9 inches and adding a degree of rake (and 0.2 inch of trail), which adds up to a wheelbase that’s 2.2 inches longer—that’s a lot. The frame was also updated to hold the XDiavel powerplant, and while the Sachs fork and shock use the same external hardware, they are adjusted differently for the new setup. I asked why the wheelbase and rake stretch and what I heard was, “stability.” Apparently, Ducati felt it could make a bike just as agile but more stable when ridden fast with a passenger and full luggage. More on that later.
The dash is the same size but has a higher-resolution TFT screen and updated software to navigate the galaxy of options within—that includes everything from damping characteristics in the suspension to adjusting each of the electronic rider aids individually. Basically, instead of only offering a spread of settings from which to choose (1 through 8 for traction control, for example), there is guidance built in—select TC Level 2 and the bike tells you that’s best for performance on dry roads, where TC Level 7 is best for performance on wet roads. It’s all a little arbitrary, and dependent on rider skill, of course, but it’s a step toward people learning how the system is meant to operate. (For an example of how the menus look and work, see the video embedded below.)
Other changes and updates slung around the Multi 1260 include new heated grips, a “more reliable” keyless ignition (evidently the previous one was finicky), an up/down quickshifter option (standard on the S), and a tire-pressure monitoring system option. There’s also the Ducati Link App, which will allow owners to adjust settings from their phone, link with social media, track and share rides, win badges and points for logging miles, and keep track of service intervals—18,000 miles between valve adjustments, by the way, and 9,000 for basic service. The app is available starting in February of 2018.
How It Feels To Ride
Enough with the specs! You want to know how fast this sucker can get you away from the vault and into the hills—hypothetically, of course. The short answer is, quickly and splendidly. So much of what has made the Multistrada a popular machine since 2010 is captured wholly in the new 1260. The engine is the biggest improvement. Ducati claim 6 additional ponies over the 1200, but it doesn’t really feel faster. The longer wheelbase makes it less prone to wheelie, I’m sure—mostly it’s how linear the power delivery is that made me smile. It’s happy to lug around town, and has a fat midrange that won’t disappoint.
The chassis updates didn’t do it for me. In adding rake and trail and wheelbase I think they’ve dulled one of my favorite parts of the Multistrada blade—only a little, but it’s noticeable. It just doesn’t feel as light and direct to steer as it has in the past. The old bike is agile enough to crush a trackday, and I love that about it. Ducati staff say the more relaxed geometry helps direct more feedback to the rider, but I’m not sure I felt it. If it’s for the sake of safety and stability, then I can’t argue—that should always be a priority in motorcycle design. Even if it felt less excitable, I dragged my toes all day and never broke a sweat. The 1260 is fully capable of slaying a twisty road.
More to the point of a getaway vehicle, the Multistrada’s ride modes are still some of my favorite of any bike. Trundling through small towns on the test ride, I flicked the 1260 into Urban mode. The preload in the shock automatically decreases, making the ride height lower (nice for stoplights) and the damping in the fork and shock loosens way up. Then there’s the engine, which mellows out in the Low power mode, making the bike easy to trot through suburban streets. Lastly, the dash reconfigures to show the clock and speedo nice and big, and forgoes the tachometer. Who cares about revs in the city? It’s excellent.
Should your getaway cover be blown and you need to make haste, Sport mode awaits. The suspension tightens, dash displays a prominent tach, and all 158 claimed horses are on tap. Touring mode is somewhere in the middle, and Enduro mode is designed to help if your ride takes you off road. Lots of bikes have different power modes available, others have adjustable suspension, and some even do this same trick of tweaking everything at once. In my opinion, though, the Multistrada offers the most comprehensive and drastic available changes. The bike’s personality really does change, and it’s a fantastic option to have.
Moreover, every parameter built in to the ride mode—traction control, wheelie control, ABS, throttle map, dash display, quickshifter, and suspension settings—are able to be tailored individually in the menu. That means each of the four ride modes becomes customizable to your preferred settings. Urban mode could be soft suspension for the cobblestone street approaching the bank, Touring mode could have full preload in the shock to account for the payload after the robbery. I’m just spitballing here. My preference for twisty roads was Sport mode, with the preload set a shade high, rear ABS and wheelie control off, and the throttle map set to Medium (that’s full power, but gentler delivery).
Aside from the nifty tricks that the Multi does, it delivers everything a sport-touring bike should. The weather protection is good, and easily adjustable via the pinch-’n’-slide windscreen. The mirrors are decent, the seat is nicely shaped, and the brakes are stellar. The seat is adjustable for height, if you please, and the saddlebags work nicely other than not being able to leave them unlocked. The quickshifter is great, and the LED headlights that come on the up-spec models also include cornering lights.
The Bottom Line
The Multistrada 1260 S Touring delivers everything it promises and, in my opinion, it damn well should. For a price tag north of $22,000 you, the consumer, should be getting everything you want in a motorcycle. Back to one of the first questions I posed: Why not get the base bike? For a “scant” $18,700 you can still have the new engine and new chassis so why not? The upsell is $2,300 to the S (in red), plus $1,400 for the Touring, and $200 for the gray paint on my testbike, which ends up at $22,595. That’s a no-joke, at nearly $4,000 more than the base bike, but I still say it’s worth it. If you want this burly beast of a sport-tourer, then you want the quickshifter, the color dash, LED headlight, luggage, centerstand, and the fancy suspension.
You can think the Multistrada is ugly, or doesn’t sound good, or is too big. Opinions are good to have. As far as delivering an exciting and capable grand touring experience, the Multistrada 1260 succeeds in spades. It would probably be a perfect getaway vehicle, too, if you happen to be up to no good.
|PRICE||$22,395 (S model)|
|ENGINE||1262cc liquid-cooled 90° V-twin|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||158.0 hp @ 9500 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||95.1 lb.-ft. @ 7500 rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Sachs 48mm fork with adjustable spring preload and semi-active compression and rebound damping; 6.7 in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Sach shock with adjustable spring preload and semi-active compression and rebound damping; 6.7 in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Brembo M50 four-piston calipers (S), 330mm discs with ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Brembo two-piston caliper with ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||33.3/32.5 in. (845/825mm)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||5.3 gal. (20L)|
|CLAIMED WET WEIGHT||518 lb. (235kg)|