Techno adventure for Ducati.
A FEW years ago Ducati wowed the motorcycling world with its revamped Multistrada, the MTS1200.
Before then the Multistrada was known as an unremarkable, funny-looking model that was popular for its versatility - Multistrada means 'multiple roads' in Italian - a trait no one really associated with Ducati motorcycles. But in 2009 Ducati re-launched the Multistrada as a direct rival to BMW's R1200GS, in a bid to grab a slice of this lucrative adventure bike market. It did so by giving the Multistrada the brand new Testastretta 11-degree engine and packing the bike with technology which, at a touch of a button, could transform it into whatever machine you wanted - sportbike, touring bike, city bike or enduro bike.
This meant an electronics package that included ABS, Ducati Traction Control and preload suspension that could all be adjusted, along with the power, via a handlebar button from which four modes are selected - Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro.
Well for 2013 Ducati has taken this electronics package a step further by giving all of its S models (there are three plus a base model) semi-active suspension called Ducati Skyhook. The technology adjusts the suspension damping rates on the go as it responds at lightning speeds to changes in the road surface and the bike's speed.
The technology is derived from cars and only just misses out on being a first in motorcycling - BMW fitted it to its brand new S1000RR HP4 that was launched a few weeks ago.
The rest of the Multistrada's electronics have also been upgraded. The ABS system now comes in three levels and it also gets a combined system so the rear brake is applied to a degree when you squeeze the front brake lever.
And the Ducati Traction Control has a smoother, more seamless operation so you barely notice it as it saves you from launching yourself into orbit at those hamfisted corner exits.
Updates to the engine make no difference to the power figures, but torque is boosted by 5%.
More importantly, the engine runs smoother at lower revs making it more pleasant to ride at slow speeds. Ducati also says economy is improved by up to 10%, always welcome in these days of high petrol prices.
Other improvements include LED lights on a dipped beam, which stay on in full beam for a broader and brighter spread of light.
A reshaped screen improves wind protection, but also reduces wind noise - a criticism on last year's bike.
The screen is also easier to adjust. The upper fairing is reshaped to accommodate these changes but other than that, the bodywork remains the same. The rider's seat is longer, allowing the rider to move around more - an important upgrade as it makes the overall bike feel more agile.
Finally, the wheels are new 10-spoke versions similar to the ones on Ducati's flagship superbike, the Panigale - apart from on the higher-spec Multistrada, the MTS1200 S Pikes Peak, which gets forged three-spoke Marchesini lighter weight wheels. This top of the range model also gets carbon fibre parts, a Termignoni silencer and red stitching on the seat. It costs PS17,250. Like last year, there are two other versions of Multistrada. The 1200 S Touring comes with 29-litre panniers, heated grips, a centre stand, the full electronics package and a PS15,195 price tag.
The base model MTS1200 is the only one that does without the skyhook system, but it still gets the choice of engine modes with the eight-level traction control and three-level ABS. It costs PS12,395 and if you want luggage, you can buy it aftermarket from Ducati. But for 2013 Ducati has created a fourth version of the Multistrada: the MTS1200 S Granturismo, for what's expected to be around PS16,200. This one gets larger 36-litre panniers and a 48-litre top box - enough to carry your wardrobe and the kitchen sink - a Ducati Performance comfort seat for those long hours in the saddle, a larger screen, 20mm higher bars, LED sportlights, engine protection bars and Pirelli's new Angel GT touring tyres. The new Multistrada will be at the dealers by January - a great start to the New Year for Ducati enthusiasts.
fast facts Ducati Multistrada MTS1200 Engine: 90-degree V-twin, liquid cooled, desmodromic dohc 8v, 1198cc Performance: 148bhp @ 9,250rpm, 92lb.ft @ 7,500rpm Economy: 47mpg Fuel capacity: 20 litres Transmission: six gears, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive Chassis: tubular steel trellis Seat height: 850mm Weight: 234kg wet