Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro

Riding a big Italian adventure bike off the beaten path.

Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro
Ducati Multistrada 1200 EnduroCourtesy of Ducati
Ducati on the beach
There is no denying that Ducati goes big - literally.Courtesy of Ducati

Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro – Web Test

In the land of passion, pasta, pecorino cheese, and pretty awesome motorcycles, we get a chance to ride Ducati’s first real attempt at a truly off-road–capable motorcycle, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro. After spending a day riding both the pavement and dirt on the beautiful island of Sardinia, Italy, here is our first impression.

First off, this is a big bike. With a claimed wet weight of 560 pounds, the machine isn’t going to be throwing whips or racing a National Enduro. Without getting too far into the standard Multistrada, Ducati explained that there are more than 200 major part differences between the standard and the new Enduro model. All of these are aimed at making it more dirt worthy. We’ll hit the main parts of the bike and how they worked from a off-road rider’s perspective.

Ducati straight on
Ducati spent a lot of time working on the front end geometry and riding position to make the Multi Enduro feel better and more natural off-road.Courtesy of Ducati

Ergonomics

Most off-road and moto bikes have an overall standard feel of how thin, tall, long, etc. a bike should be. It goes without saying that the Multi feels way wider than an off-road bike but not that far off than say, a Kawasaki KLR650 or any of the other 650 singles. This is one area that Ducati spend a lot of time working on. They wanted the bike to feel completely natural when the rider is standing, which they did a great job. The off-road style pegs feel normal (once the rubber covers are removed) but could stand to stick out a little farther from the bike. At the pegs the bikes width makes it a little hard to get that ankle pinch that off-roaders are used to. We tried both the standard and low seat (our rider is 5’8”) and while the lower seat made it easier to touch the ground, it gave the bike an awkward sit-in rather than sit-on feel that off-road bikes normally have. The bar has a little more sweep than we’re used to but it wasn’t far off the mark. There is a lot of bike between the knees but not as much as you would think looking at the nearly 8-gallon fuel tank. Riding sitting down is very comfortable for a full day in the saddle, yet the foot peg-to-seat distance is smaller than off-road bikes.

Ducati Motor
The 1200cc L-Twin engine is a potent powerplant. It can be a bit of a handful in the dirt, but the Enduro mode taylors the engines tune to be less aggressive and more rider friendly when you get off the highway.Courtesy of Ducati
Ducati on the street
As you would expect from a Ducati, the Multi Enduro's street manners are superb. Some of the street-only testers at the launch said that the new steering geometry made it a little lazy feeling compared to the standard Multistrada, but from our dirt perspective it felt amazingly sporty and we were definitely the limiting factor on the asphalt.Courtesy of Ducati

Motor

Ducati knows how to make a deathly potent power plant that is still fun and controllable. The 1200cc L-Twin engine thumps to life with a stab of the button and has a smooth yet barky character and exhaust note that no single could ever have. When talking about the engine, one has to consider the electronic controls on the bike because each of the four modes have a different power delivery. We’ll get to the electronics next, but first we will talk about the motor in the Enduro mode, the mode we used in the dirt. The bottom-end is relatively mild but has a boat-load of torque. We could get the bike moving by just letting out the clutch in first gear without even using the throttle. Even with that torquey character, the engine spools up quickly, faster than the BMW 1200 GS, which is good and bad. Tons of power plus loose dirt equals wheel spin. On the other hand the variable traction control can help with that (more on in the next section). With so many ccs, there is power on tap at any rpm. In the Sport mode (for serious street riding) the throttle response is nearly instantaneous and a twist of the grip blast the bike forward with aggressive force. In Enduro mode, however, it spools up just a little slower and, we wouldn’t call it a hesitation, but the throttle response is not as crisp. This is a good in the sense that there is a little buffer zone between your right hand a massive amount of HP, but we did have to use the clutch if we wanted a quicker engine response.

Dashboard on Ducati Multistrada
Choosing and modifying the riding mode on the Enduro was very intutive and easy to use, not that we have a ton of experience with toggling through menu screens on bikes. Perhaps because of our lack of experience and how easy we found it shows that Ducati got the rider interface right. It was actually fun to change different settings and immediately feel the effect.Courtesy of Ducati
Ducati airborne
Getting a nearly 560-pound motorcycle off the ground wasn't as hard has it sounds. You just have to remember to keep on the throttle longer than you think because so much of the weight is forward of the rider.Courtesy of Ducati

Electronics

This was the biggest surprise of the bike. We’re knuckle-dragging dirt guys and all those computer aids seem like more of a hassle than a help. But, in less than five minutes we understood how to easily switch modes and how to customize each one on the fly. The four modes are Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro. Sport and Touring have the engine tuned at maximum power (160 hp) while Urban and Enduro have an overall milder tune (100 hp). The main factors that the rider can change are the ABS, front and rear and what level out of eight, the wheelie control, the traction control and the rider suspension preload. The Enduro mode has the wheelie control off, the rear ABS off, the front ABS at a low level, and traction control (how much the rear is allowed to slide) at the lowest level (level one out of eight).

At first we found the traction control to be invasive and awkward, especially in the first part of our test where we were climbing a moderately steep, loose, dirt road with uphill switchbacks. We tried to slide the back around in the uphill turns but the traction control would cut in and the bike feels like it has a minor bog, or is jetted to rich. It doesn’t cut the power drastically but it does take some getting use to. Since we could, we turned off the traction control completely, which is only recommended for those with great throttle control. At first, with the TC off, the bike felt normal and we could slide the back how we wanted. But then we made a slight mistake (tucking the front) and tried to gas it out, the rear spun way too fast and the bike hit the ground (Note: at 560 lbs this isn’t a machine most riders can pick up by themselves). We finished the test with the traction control back on the lowest level, which still allows a small amount of wheel spin before it kicks in.

Lastly, there is Ducati’s Vehicle Hold Control. We’ve all stalled a bike going up a steep hill, but doing so on such a large vehicle would really suck. Therefore, on the Multi Enduro, just squeeze the front brake or depress the rear pedal firmly until the indicator light turns on in the dash. Once activated, the brakes are electronically modulated so, when starting from a hill, you just have to use the clutch and throttle. We tried this on a slight grade, nothing that you’d actually need it for, but did work as promised. We had the front brake lever pulled in while idling in neutral to keep the bike from rolling backward, then pulled hard on the lever, saw the lamp on the dash and let go of the brake and the bike stayed put. All we had to do was let out the clutch and roll on the throttle.

Climbing a hill on the Ducati
The Multistrada 1200 Enduro employs accelerometers and sensors on both sprung and unsprung parts of the bike to know just how the bike is positioned at all times. This information is used by the Skyhook Semi-active suspension to change the compression and rebound damping to keep the bike level, almost as if suspended by an imaginary hook, hence the name.Courtesy of Ducati
Jumping a big dirt bike
The semi-active suspension was like magic on small bumps, chatter, and moderate-size holes, but when hitting a waterbar or any other trail obstacle that you wanted to hop over, the fork and shock would bottom out on both takeoff and landing. That being said, in Enduro mode the stock suspension setting is on the soft side and if you know that you want more performance than comfort, just a quick toggle and you can dial in more stiffness and more preload, front and rear, independently.Courtesy of Ducati

Suspension

Everyone at the intro seemed to know what Ducati’s Skyhook Semi-Active suspension was, but we had to ask for an explanation. Our basic understanding is that the bike has sensors and accelerometers at different sprung and unsprung locations and the computer uses this info and an algorithm to keep the bike level at all times like there is an imaginary point above the bike from which the bike is hung, i.e., Skyhook. Also, it is “semi” active because it only controls the compression and rebound damping levels, it doesn’t actively push the wheel down or pull it up, while other electronic suspension does.

The riding sensation is a little strange. With the fork, when hitting a hole or square edge bump there is the tiniest bit of harshness right at the top of the stroke, but then it smooths out and absorbs the impact with a very dead, balanced feel. This might be the sensation of the compression damping having to access, then start to work. The shock was a bit too soft and was bottoming on the water bars we crossed so we went from the single rider preload setting to the rider-with-luggage preload setting (about 20 percent stiffer) and the rear held up more. This adjustment is done with the handlebar toggle and takes all of 10 seconds. The suspension works really well to keep the bike balanced at all times giving the rider off-road confidence and comfort and not feeling too wallowy or having a lot of front to back movement like other big bikes we’ve ridden off-road. Full disclosure though, we were not riding on any single track or even difficult two track and even in second gear, we used the skid plate as the bike bottomed on both the take off and landing off waterbar jumps.

Ducati up the hill
Ducati spent a lot of time on changing the front end of the Multi to be more stable off road. Overall, it is pretty planted and when the front and rear do start to slide, there is a lot of feedback and a predictable feel allowing the rider time to adjust.Courtesy of Ducati
Heading down hill
It is surprisingly easy to change directions and initiate turns on the Multi Enduro given its size and weight. But once the bike starts to lean too much, it is hard to correct it.Courtesy of Ducati

Handling

The weight of the Multi Enduro feels like it is almost entirely in front of the rider, which makes sliding the back around easy (with traction control off) but it also made us feel we were waiting for the front to slide out any minute. But that was more of a feeling than a reality. The front end has a lot of rider feed back when turning and, with pushed too far, will predictably give the rider fair warning. The overall width of the bike limits the amount that the bike can be leaned under the rider when standing up, which meant that we had to slow down a little more in some turns where, on a normal off-road bike we would just lean the bike more. It was very easy to initiate turns and the girth of the bike was well hidden. We would love to ride this bike in softer dirt - the dirt roads we were on for the test were pretty hard with gravel on top and any large ADV bike would lack in front wheel (and back wheel) grip. On the road, the Multi is amazing both in the motor and handling department; nothing less than we expected from Ducati. Even for a on-road novice, the bike inspired us to lean deeper and charge harder into corners than any other adventure bike.

Ducati through the mud
With a base price over 20 grand, this is a premium priced motorcycle, yet from what we can tell after a long day aboard the machine, it won't have a hard time justifying that price tag.Courtesy of Ducati

So, we always ask ourselves the question, “Who is this bike for?” After spending a weekend with the Ducati engineers, R & D director, and other personnel and seeing the level of attention to detail that the Italian company puts into every aspect of each motorcycle they make, we would say that this is a bike for an adventure rider looking for a particularly polished, classy, well thought out motorcycle that can get pretty dirty. Ducati claims that it is for the globetrotting motorcyclist. We’d just like to add that we think it is for a more discriminating globetrotter who cares a little more about style and a road-racing pedigree. It has been a while since we rode the Multistrada 1200 Enduro’s direct competition, the KTM and BMW adventure bikes, but we can say that they are no longer alone in the category of do-it-all motorcycles.

2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro

MSRP: $21,295
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 90-degree L-twin, desmodromic DOHC w/ DVT & 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,198.4cc
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheel travel: 7.9 in front and rear Wheelbase: 62.8 in.
Seat Height: 34.25 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 560 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 7.9 gals.