CW ARCHIVES: Ducati Multistrada 1100 vs. Triumph Tiger 1050 - COMPARISON TEST

Universal non-Japanese motorcycles

Ducati Multistrada 1100 and Triumph Tiger 1050 on-road action
Ducati Multistrada 1100 vs. Triumph Tiger 1050Brian Blades

The idea of adventure-touring often outstrips the reality. When faced with the image portrayed by bikes like the BMW R1200GS, say, we envision ourselves crossing the Sahara in a very Stephane Peterhansel kind of way (albeit slower), fully loaded with sleeping roll, tent, extra fuel and perhaps a revolver tucked away somewhere for protection from bandits. The reality is always more mundane. Something along the lines of a credit card in the wallet, a sack lunch in a courier bag and cruising to the coffee shop for a pre-workday boost, your biggest "bandit" worry being someone trying to steal your identity. Just as with many SUVs that never leave the suburbs and black tarmac of our civilized world, so is it that a large portion of big-wheel, long-suspension adventure bikes never see the Earth's dirty side.

Both Triumph and Ducati recognized this fact and positioned their respective adventure bikes purely for on-road duty. For Triumph's part, the all-new 2007 Tiger is a big departure from the previous model. The old Tiger had some pretense of dirt work in its design (big wheels, semi-knobby tires), but that is all gone. The Tiger is now a street machine with grippy 17-inch tires, a very sporty aluminum frame and braced swingarm, powered by the torquey and fun 1050cc Triple, one of the great street engines out there.

Ducati, of course, has its entire modern reputation built on a foundation of sticking to asphalt. The Multistrada was the Italian company’s recognition of the adventure-touring market niche, but because of Bologna’s somewhat moto-myopic point of view, it couldn’t help but make an essentially upright sportbike. Even better is that it is now powered by the air-cooled DS1100, a punched-out and punched-up version of the already sweet, 992cc, desmo 90-degree V-Twin. We have since its introduction loved the twin-plug DS1000, and now that the 1078cc version has arrived, it’s like falling in love all over again.

So what we have here are two very sporty, great street powerplants in good-handling chassis with humane riding positions. There is wind protection, good passenger accommodations and decent fuel range. Basically, motorcycles with a great combination of work and play.

Ducati Multistrada 1100 and Triumph Tiger 1050 static side view
Ducati Multistrada 1100 vs. Triumph Tiger 1050Brian Blades

Which is what we did with these two bikes. Grinding back and forth to the office at 60 miles a day showed that both groove through traffic nicely and are pretty comfortable. The Tiger has a more inviting seat despite the Multistrada’s improved pad from the upholstered brick originally used on the 2004 model. The boss termed that old one a “weapon of ass destruction.” The new seat is firm but workable. Like the bike itself, it is soft for a Ducati, firm in the grand scheme.

As it is with most modern motorcycles, even the niche manufacturers have managed to iron out the bulk of non-endearing quirks. Ducati clutches are still Ducati clutches but work better, Triumph gearboxes are still Triumph gearboxes but shift better, and so forth. This makes workaday riding on these two bikes a very trouble- and frustration-free experience.

But dead bugs tell no lies, so we hit the open road for two days and about 750 miles. A cold snap laid down upon us with heavy gray skies and threatened snow on Interstate 5’s Grapevine mountain pass, so we shot the coast northbound on Highway 101. It was chilly and not too cheerful, but anybody can ride on a sunny day.

Turning the front wheel of the Triumph toward the open road was a nice feeling. The cushy seat that made day-to-day commuting so pleasant held up really well for a straight five-hour run with stops only for fuel for bike and rider (hot coffee!).

Triumph Tiger 1050 studio side view
Triumph Tiger 1050Courtesy of Triumph

After a lot of saddle time on the Triumph, the contrast that is the Ducati is plain. Everything about the red bike feels “stuck in.” That is to say, the Multistrada feels more tipped forward, more aggressive and sporty, making it a slightly more willing companion if your mood turns to shredding a winding road. It’s not uncomfortable over long distances, but you start to fidget a lot sooner and the seat asserts itself before anything else. Did I say “asserts?”

Anyway, what’s odd about this feeling of agility from the Ducati is that its rake and trail specs of 24 degrees and 3.7 inches are more conservative than those of the Triumph. And while the latter doesn’t in any way feel heavy or slow-steering, it imparts a greater feeling of stability allied with agility that is but a small measure off the Italian bike’s. This stability quotient is odd because of the very sporty 23.2-degree rake and 3.5-inch trail. The Ducati does have a 1.5-inch-shorter wheelbase at 57.5 inches, but that can’t explain everything. So when I got off the Italian bike and said, “Whee!” Paul Dean responded by saying “Polar moment of inertia,” and went on to explain: “The disparity is the result of the Ducati’s lower center of gravity (V-Twin) and lesser polar moment (its ability to rotate about its roll center) compared to the Tiger’s transverse-Triple with a longer crankshaft (which acts as a gyroscope to provide greater resistance to turning). Thus, the Ducati can be more agile with ‘slower’ geometry.”

Anyway, damping is firmer on the Ducati, and even when you adjust to the soft side, you can’t quite soften it as you are able on the Triumph. Ducati gets points for making rear-spring preload a tool-free adjustment. But damping doesn’t account for the Ducati’s steering feel. Is it simply World Superbike in the DNA? Certainly the Multistrada’s narrower feel at the tank and footpegs does something to suggest lightness.

Other than the Italian's narrowness, riding positions are quite similar, with the Ducati getting a slight edge in roomier seat-to-peg dimension, but this is largely down to the fact that its 33.2-inch seat height is half-an-inch higher than the Triumph's. These bikes are both taller overall than comparable nakedish streetbikes (see the Yamaha FZ1 vs. Suzuki Bandit 1250S) but give the rider more legroom.

Ducati Multistrada 1100 studio side view
Ducati Multistrada 1100Courtesy of Ducati

In some respects, this comparison has a powerful subtext regarding a Battle of the Powerplants. Seriously, these are two of the most interesting and best-running engines you can buy in streetbikes today. The redesigned 1050cc Triumph's throaty growl was first heard in the 2005 Speed Triple, made its way directly into the Sprint ST and now the Tiger. It is fuel efficient, hits like a hammer at low revs, then keeps on pulling with a much broader torque band than the Duc, while offering 12,000-mile valve-adjustment intervals. The DS1100, meanwhile, expanded profoundly the likeability of Ducati's desmodue air-cooler. It runs smoother than ever, has way more bottom-end snap and seems to pummel unbridled exuberance from every fuel molecule. All this while turning in 45 mpg, even in our heavy throttle hands! And good news for Ducati fans, valve-adjustment intervals are now 7500 miles, with costs for maintenance said to be cut by 50 percent.

In any case, both bikes run great and offer excellent fuel range: The Tiger carries 5.2 gallons, while the Multistrada has 5.3. Despite the latter's better fuel mileage, the reserve light tended to illuminate sooner. It is hard to ignore, even if you know there is plenty of gas left. One way or another, though, as an owner you will learn the bike's limitations.

Output on the Cycle World dyno shows comparable peak torque numbers of about 65 foot-pounds, with the horsepower edge going to the Triumph (103 vs. 84). But what the numbers don't show is quality of response. Fuel mapping on both bikes is excellent and power delivery awesome. Choose your cylinder numbers, Twin or Triple, you won't be disappointed here.

Ducati Multistrada 1100 and Triumph Tiger 1050 road action
Ducati Multistrada 1100 vs. Triumph Tiger 1050Brian Blades

Wind protection got a pretty good test when we saddled up at 6:30 a.m. for our central California photo shoot and had to chip ice off the seats of the bikes! Brrr! The Tiger gets the nod for better leg and upper-body coverage. Helmet-level windflow is smooth on both machines. Excellent hard saddlebags can be found in both the Triumph and Ducati accessory catalogs, and for about $1000 you can make great sport-tourers out of these bikes.

For the really sporting pilot, the Multistrada makes the most sense. It has an edgy, sharp-responding chassis with more front-end feel and a lighter overall stance. It’s snappy, and even though the numbers don’t support it, the Ducati feels a little quicker and more agile.

The $1300-cheaper Tiger gives away a degree of chassis feedback and has a somewhat larger presence. But it also offers better comfort and composure, and if not more actual fuel range at least more confidence in how much gas is left. Straight-line performance is slightly better, with its power/handling/comfort combination adding up to a more inviting package for cross-town or cross-country use.

For everything short of bashing through the Sahara, then, the Tiger is ready to go when you are.

Ducati Multistrada 1100 studio 3/4 view
Ducati Multistrada 1100Courtesy of Ducati
THE NUMBERS
Price $11,995
Dry weight 469 lb.
Wheelbase 57.5 in.
Seat height 33.2 in.
Fuel mileage 45 mpg
0-60 mph 3.4 sec.
1/4-mile 11.65 sec. @ 113.33 mph
Horsepower 84.1 hp @ 7750 rpm
Torque 66.6 ft.-lb. @ 4800 rpm
Top speed 131 mph

UPS:

  • Agile, with great chassis feedback
  • Rear spring preload no-tools-required
  • Instant engine response

DOWNS:

  • Plastic fuel tank
  • Obsolete in the face of the Hypermotard?
  • Still looks like a bike with big forehead
Triumph Tiger 1050 studio 3/4 view
Triumph Tiger 1050Courtesy of Triumph
THE NUMBERS
Price $10,699
Dry weight 481 lb.
Wheelbase 59.0 in.
Seat height 32.7 in.
Fuel mileage 42 mpg
0-60 mph 3.2 sec.
1/4-mile 11.12 sec. @ 118.25 mph
Horsepower 102.8 hp @ 9100 rpm
Torque 65.3 ft.-lb. @ 3650 rpm
Top speed 135 mph

UPS:

  • Comfortable, cushy and fast
  • Good wind protection
  • Awesome torque curve

DOWNS:

  • Tool required for rear spring preload adjustment
  • No rear compression-damping adjustment
  • More bungee hooks, please