The high fives, smiles, and excited chatter at the first rest stop on the road section of the test ride said it all: 158 hp in an adventure bike never gets old. Heck, 158 hp in any bike is exciting, but something about being sat up high, with wide bars and a big screen, makes horizon chasing with big power that extra bit nuts. People will say you don't need that much power on an adventure bike, and in some ways they're probably right. And they can carry on being right as they disappear in the rearview mirrors of the new Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro, as we ride off giggling at just how hard the new variable-valve engine pulls.

1260 Enduro
Ducati has boosted 2019 Multistrada 1260 Enduro’s power.Milagro

At first, adding capacity and boosting midrange power seems like a strange way to go about making a bike more accessible. But the trick is that rather than having to chase rpm to get drive when you need it, with DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) the engine responds well from anywhere in the rev range. Not only does this mean less time skipping up and down the gearbox, but also you now have the ability to pull a higher gear and get the bike to hook up better in low-traction situations. Where the new engine excels on the road is cruising from corner to corner, holding the same gear and riding the full width of the rev range. In third gear, you can comfortably let the revs drop right down below 2,000 rpm and when you roll back on, the bike drives away sweetly.

Multistrada 1260
The Multistrada 1260 Enduro’s new engine excels at blasting from corner to corner without the need to shift gears.Milagro

I felt a few little glitches in the throttle response, occasionally getting some surging at mid-rpm with small throttle openings, but this was mainly noticeable with the throttle response set to the full power and the most aggressive map. In the softest throttle mode the bike was silky smooth and exactly the riding feel you want to make you feel comfortable on slippery, unknown roads.

1260 Enduro's windscreeen
The Multistrada 1260 Enduro starts at $21,999. Our street test unit was fitted with optional hard cases and a tall windscreeen.Milagro

Looking back on my notes written throughout the day, I must have written down half a dozen times how easy it is to forget that this is a 1,262cc L-twin with almost 160 hp. The engine feels way smoother than a twin of that capacity has any right to; ditto for the way it loves to rev. With the various riding modes you can switch from wild, sportbike-hunting power to soft and cuddly and every stage in between.

1,262cc L-Twin
A 1,262cc L-Twin with 158 hp delivers a mild to wild experience on the Multistrada 1260 Enduro.Milagro

In the default settings for Urban mode, you have a bike with smooth throttle response and compliant suspension, a comfortable tourer that makes the ride easy, effortless, regardless of road surface. A quick cycle through the new 5-inch TFT display to find Sport mode at the crazy end of the spectrum and everything sharpens up. The power is immediate, urgent and constantly picking a fight with the traction control system. Despite my best efforts over bumps, surface changes and damp patches, the DTC (Ducati Traction Control) system kept everything safe, stable, and rubber-side down.

Multiple ride modes
Multiple ride modes tailor the traction control and throttle response for any situation on the Multistrada 1260 Enduro.Milagro

The bikes we rode for the road section of the evaluation were fitted with tall screens and Touratech luggage. When you really start to throw the Multi Enduro around, the weight is noticeable, particularly in fast changes of direction. But if you ride a little smoother, the actual cornering dynamics of the chassis are seriously impressive. Precise, yet not overly aggressive steering breeds confidence from the first set of curves. You never feel like the bike needs persuading to hold a line, but neither do you find it bumping into the apex when you don’t want it to. As you push harder and harder, the reprogrammed Ducati Skyhook Suspension system responds, keeping the bike stable and resisting the onslaught of late braking and hard acceleration.

confidence in the corners
Precise yet not too aggressive steering gives the rider confidence in the corners.Milagro

On the technical, twisting roads, the quickshifter was not always as quick as its name suggests and more than once I had to be really deliberate to get a shift. In faster sections, it was perfect, letting you flick your way up and down the gearbox without troubling the clutch lever.

We spent a good amount of time doing slow, tight turns in tricky spaces and there’s no better way to test how easy a bike is to get on with than on gravelly, off-camber maneuvers. The 15mm (0.6 inch) reduction in suspension travel and 10mm (0.4 inch) reduction in seat height make the bike easier to balance and, when you need to get an emergency foot out, you can. The accessory list stretches to 20mm (0.8 inch) higher or lower seats, coming in at 880mm (34.6 inches) and 840mm (33.1 inches) respectively.

So far, so good, but the Multistrada, in all its various guises, has never had a problem on the road. Still, it was reassuring to see that the Enduro version doesn’t sacrifice road manners and performance in search of off-road ability. At the end of the road test I was fighting between waxing lyrical about the ludicrous surge of power available and how easy the bike felt to ride in the softer modes. But I wasn’t completely blown away. By today’s ridiculously high standards, the Multistrada Enduro is incredible in the engine department and the chassis is great, but not game-changing.

Not available in red for the US Market
Those wanting a red Multistrada 1260 Enduro in the US Market will have to special order their machine; only Sand will be stocked on dealership floors.Milagro

Then we hit the dirt and, oh my, did the Multistrada come alive. For the off-road section, we rode bikes with short screens, no luggage, and Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires. In this guise the Enduro went from feeling like a ridiculously fast touring bike to an unstoppable hooning machine. Gravel, mud, dust, rocks all scattered out of the way of the bright red 158-hp riot. Where the handlebars felt slightly awkward in the road position, when rolled forward in the clamps for off road, it felt much more natural even when sitting. For me, at 5-foot-8, the riding position was spot-on, but riders right up to 6-foot-plus all had nothing but love for the stand-up ergonomics.

Enduro’s riding position
The Multistrada 1260 Enduro’s riding position was excellent for standing or sitting while shredding the gravel roads in Tuscany.Milagro

And that is where Ducati has pulled off an impressive balance—when you read that the suspension travel has been reduced by 15mm (0.6 inch) and the handlebar is 30mm (1.2 inch) lower, to those who like to adventure away from the asphalt that sounds like bad news. The footrests are also 10mm (0.4 inch) lower, which helps reduce the effect of the lower handlebars but in all honesty, they felt perfect. When Product Manager Stefano Tarabusi mentioned the reduced suspension travel, I think he heard the intakes of breath in the room as he was quick to point out the new evolution of the electronic suspension.

Ducati Skyhook Suspension
Although travel is reduced on the Ducati Skyhook Suspension, the Multistrada 1260 Enduro can still perform in the dirt.Milagro

The DSS (Ducati Skyhook Suspension) has been reprogrammed and takes feedback from the same Bosch six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) that forms the heart of the ABS, traction control and wheelie control systems. With all those acronyms, the Multistrada is clever enough to respond to the surface it’s on and adjust the damping settings as you ride. The result is a bike that is supple and compliant at low speed, but sharpens up as the pace increases. On drops or jumps, it actually senses that it is off the ground and stiffens up ready for landings. You can feel the system at work, with a noticeable difference in the way the bike responds as you switch from smoother gravel tracks to rough sections or drops.

few presses of a button
With just a few presses of a button, Ducati’s Skyhook Suspension can be set for the type of riding being done.Milagro

Ducati’s plan for this model update was to create a bike that was easier to use—more things to more people. Well, I’m calling it a success; it is easy to use and not intimidating at all in the softer power settings. The 17-percent increase in low to mid-rpm torque means there is more useful drive, and the power there is takes less taming to get the best out of. Crank up the settings and the Multistrada Enduro is ballistic, firing out of bends on the tarmac or hooking up third-gear power wheelies while sideways on the dirt. Switching between modes is easy and making tweaks to power settings or suspension for personal preference is straight forward. You still might not need 158 hp on dirt, but on the 2019 Multistrada 1260 Enduro it sure is fun trying to use it.

158 hp in the dirt
You may not need 158 hp in the dirt, but it sure is fun trying to use all of it.Milagro

TECH SPEC

PRICE $21,999
ENGINE 1,262cc, liquid-cooled Testastretta DVT L-twin, 4 valves per cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 158 hp @ 9,500 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 94.4 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
FRAME Tubular steel trellis frame
FRONT SUSPENSION Inverted 48mm fork; electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment; 7.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Monoshock; electronic preload, compression, and rebound adjustment; 7.3-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Radial four-piston Brembo Monobloc M4.32 caliper, 320mm disc w/ cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE Twin-piston caliper, 265mm disc w/ cornering ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.0°/4.4 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.8 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 7.9 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 560 lb.