Ducati getting a little harder edged with soft-roaders
What comes next…?
Ducati have until recently never really played up the off-road chops of the Multistrada, they didn’t pretend that they were gunning for the sort of off-road ability BMW GS aficionados have come to expect. Instead Ducati concentrated on pushing the road performance and all-round touring ability and comfort provided by the Multistrada platform throughout much of the model’s history. Things do seem to be changing in this space though….
Ducati Multistrada History
That first 992 cc Multistrada in 2003 was a little half-baked in regards to its touring amenity (that seat!), and performance (84 hp), but the model started to hit the mark a little more accurately with the introduction of the S version complete with Ohlins suspension in 2005.
A 620cc version was also introduced at a much lower price point in 2005 and used an improved version of the 618 cc Monster engine that had also been used in the discontinued 600 SS model. That year (2005), the Multistrada 1000 DS retailed for $18,995 while the 620 Multistrada was a much more affordable $14,495. The smaller bike had a 20 mm lower seat and weighed around 15 kilograms less than big brother. A 15-litre fuel tank held five-litres less than the 1000 while both models sported improved seats (hallelujah) and taller screens. The 620 also had a conventional swing-arm while the larger capacity machines had always sported single-sided swing-arms.
2007 saw the engine grow to 1078 cc and longer service intervals start to be adopted by Ducati via engineering improvements that were aimed at changing Ducati’s reputation for high servicing costs. This factor was obviously very important for machines that would be expected to clock up plenty of touring kilometres.
These improvements signalled Ducati’s intention to evolve the Multistrada into a more up-market offering and the model continued to make leaps forward in all round performance and road manners. The model also took on more importance in the Ducati line-up with the discontinuation of the ST range of sports-tourers in 2007.
With the arrival of a new decade the Multistrada grew to 1200 cc in 2010 and the option of electronically controlled suspension was adopted. It was also around this time that Ducati first started mentioning any semblance of ability away from sealed roads in regards to the Multistrada.
2014 saw the arrival of the second generation Testastretta 11° DS engine which then also gained variable valve timing. The Superbike derived engine was modified to be more malleable in its touring role but could still be a little recalcitrant in stop-start riding, it still begged to be flogged. Variable valve timing was the introduced to further tame the beast and make the engine much more flexible and more suitable for touring. It was now starting to become a much more polished performer.
In the most recent decade Ducati really started to put more significant resources and efforts into the robustness of the model and at 15,000 kilometres the service intervals are now equal to best in industry. Valve clearances are still a little more involved than required on conventional engines but are now required only every 30,000 kilometres.
2016 saw Ducati start to put a little more of an off-road slant with the introduction of the ‘Multistrada 1200 Enduro’ variant that was much taller, offered much more ground clearance and sported a huge 30-litre fuel tank.
The rims were spoked and the front increased to 19-inches in diameter for more off-road stability. This was the first time Ducati really started to use more seriously off-road specific shots in their marketing for the Multistrada.
Marketing shots of the earlier models were pretty much all strictly on bitumen but the introduction of the Enduro model saw Ducati actually start to market the bike as being off-road capable.
In recent years the sporting potential of the Multistrada has been pushed by Ducati through their involvement at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which they won in 2018 with Carlin Dunne victorious on a Multistrada 1260. Sadly, Dunne was killed the following year while trying to repeat that feat on the new Streetfighter V4.
The latest off-road oriented version is dubbed the Multistrada 1260 Enduro and is powered by the full-monty 1262 cc Tesastretta DVT engine that puts down 158 horsepower and 128 Nm of torque. The semi-active Sachs suspension gains more travel compared to its road going siblings with 185 mm of stroke at both ends but in the market it is still not largely seen as a genuine off-road option in the adventure-touring segment.
This year Ducati entered the 2850-kilometre Transanatolia Rally with factory test rider Andrea Rossi on a Multistrada 1260 Enduro. While the top places were predictably all taken by pure competition based 450 enduro bikes, with rally legends Xavier De Soultrait (Husqvarna FE450) and Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha WR450F) finishing first and second respectively, at the end of the seven-day competition the first larger capacity machine home was Rossi on the Multistrada 1260.
The Italian was ninth outright in what was a 25-rider field, somewhat lower in numbers than normal due to travel restrictions caused by the current global health crisis. Still, an impressive achievement, and the first twin-cylinder machine home after a serious week-long competition that is a true test of man and machine.
It would be interesting to know just how modified the machine was for the trek but Ducati did note that the bike sported options from their Performance Accessories range that included protection bars, radiator guards and higher muffler. Ducati also stated that ‘the configuration was standard with the exception of a high saddle more suitable for extreme off-road, suspensions adjusted according to the type of route and side number plates required by race regulations.‘ Thus it seems they are claiming that very limited modifications were made for the competition.
“Since 2016 I started working with Ducati on the development of the Multistrada Enduro project, so I know very well its potential, its robustness and its countless qualities, which is why it was decided to participate in a demanding rally like the Transanatolia with a practically standard bike,” explained Andrea Rossi.
“The rally proved to be even more challenging and complete than I thought. We had to tackle exhausting stages of slow, stony and technically punishing mountain, very fast stages on the Anatolian dirt tracks and stages on the sand of the Black Sea beaches. The Multistrada 1260 Enduro overcame all adversities in an excellent way. For me it was a great joy to take it to victory in the Twin-cylinder category and in the top 10 of the overall classification“.
Ducati now also run a DRE Enduro Academy in Europe, a riding course that helps riders refine their off-road riding technique on Multistrada models.
This more recent focus towards off-road performance and exhibiting that potential publicly could mean Ducati will take even more steps towards being more competitive in the harder side of the adventure segment.
There are spoked rim versions of the Scrambler 800, including the retro styled Desert Sled that sports a 19-inch front and 200 mm of suspension travel. We are yet to see any real off-road styled or suspended variant of the new 1100 Scramber range though…
Could we see Ducati do a more hard-core version of the lighter 178-kilogram 950 Hypermotard complete long travel suspension and a 21-inch front…?
The Hypermotard lay-out doesn’t exactly cosset the rider, but it does highlight how Ducati can do light. The current 950 version of the Multistrada is only a few kilograms lighter than the 1260, thus it would seem that if they wanted to offer a more hard-core model in the adventure market then the chassis would have to be derived from something more minimalist.
Of course this recent focus towards the more off-road persona of the Multistrada, and Ducati pushing some Multistrada marketing along those lines could be, and probably is, simply an effort to promote the Multistrada brand as a whole. Still, the shift in marketing towards these aspects does fill me with hope that Ducati might indeed surprise us with something very dirty in due course.
And at EICMA last year they did show off this Scrambler DesertX concept bikes….
Stranger things have happened….
Did you know a Ducati engined bike won the 1990 Paris-Dakar…? Read about it here. They won Dakar again in 1994.
Or that another Ducati engined rally special was brought in to Australia to compete in the 1994 Australasian Safari…? The Cagiva 906 Elefant SP.