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Ducati Multistrada 1200: Game Changer?

We can’t tell you how many times readers have complained to MD that “Naked bikes always get detuned motors” or “I think you can go just as fast on a bike that sits upright”. When we tested the Ducati Multistrada 1200, we knew it was good, damn good. When we read that Cycle World recently named the new Multistrada to its 10 Best List, as “best open streetbike,” no less, we had to rethink the impact of the new Multistrada.

The seating position is bolt upright… even more so than a sport tourer. The bike is light. The bike has a 1200cc v-twin derived from Ducati’s superbike engine. It has decent wind protection. It’s as comfortable as sitting on your couch when compared to most sport bikes. It frikkin hauls ass, and could easily leave the latest sportbikes for dead through the twisties with a skilled rider aboard, and said skilled rider could dart off on the next fire road and really disappear. It even has saddlebags! State-of-the-art superbike brakes! Fully adjustable suspension! It cannot make your breakfast or serve you a martini, but it might make you want to ignore your girlfriend on the weekend, unless she is really good looking.

I guess we don’t disagree with Cycle World. The Multistrada 1200 (that’s the 1200S in the picture) is a game changer, of sorts. An expensive game changer, but a game changer nonetheless. For all you fans of adventure bikes, if you have the coin take a look over here.

120 Comments

  1. Tommy See says:

    This machine will set the standard for all the new birth adventure touring M/C`s.
    Triumph and others will copy the electronic modes and wait for what? More HP?
    Ducati you have a Kick ass beast on 2 wheels.
    Thumbs up for you. Please lower the price! yah rite.

  2. Norm G. says:

    i’ll give ducati their due on this one. but this isn’t so much of an industry game changer as it is a game changer internally for them. wasn’t too thrilled about the styling till i saw it in person (and even then i wasn’t completely won over). it was when i got to see it at the dealer that i was swayed a lil’ more. the automotive style push button start and toyota/lexus “wiz-bang” dash on this thing are definitely the future. as pointed out, yes, that could also be considered a bad thing depending on your perspective. it’ll be interesting to see what the failure rate is and how much of a burden the warranty costs turn out to be for a tiny company like ducati when all this stuff starts breaking. even MORE interesting to see will be how much this “loss” they attempt to “socialize” across their dealer network. i can’t help but get the feeling, to make up for lost time, they’ve rolled out too much new stuff (for them anyway) all at once. ie. the flatscreen dash, the keyless start, the new abs, throttle by wire, electric suspension, etc. etc. this could go really really bad, or really really good.

  3. Nate says:

    I’ll stick with my BMW K1200S.

  4. jim says:

    I do belive the Aprila Tuono was tuned the same as the Aprila Mille. That naked bike has the full power of its sport bike brother.

  5. Cajun says:

    It is so encouraging to see that motorcycle enthusiasts can’t have a spirited discussion about what we love most without mocking and divisive comments made about or fellow cyclists. What possible consequence can results from an individual’s motivation for purchasing a particular machine? As long as someone is representing the sport in a positive manner it is of absolutely no importance whether they are a so called poser or wannabe or “need their egos supported by what they purchase”. Something that does matter as it impacts the sport negatively is the division within our ranks which make it that much easier for those who would like to take away our right to ride. Until we stop criticizing each other and spending more time and energy on fighting amongst ourselves then helping our sport our rights will continue to be eroded.

  6. Tim says:

    I wish that riders would start using the term retuned instead of detuned.
    Most ADV bike riders don’t ride at or near redline. They want torque in the low and midrange. Retuning a superbike motor seems to be the right thing to do. So you lose a little peak horsepower. The trade off is that you gain more usable power.

  7. Neal says:

    I’ve had mine for a little over 3 months now. There’s one descriptor you left off you article: hooligan bike. I didn’t buy this bike for its offroad capability (or lack thereof). It can handle fire roads just fine, and that’s all I expect from it. And anyone who expects it to do more than that hasn’t actually read Ducati’s marketing material. I bought it for it’s touring, sportbike, and hooning abilities…not to mention that fat vtwin torque.

  8. Daniel Breitbach says:

    Well I’ve ridden the standard model twice now. It really is a fantastic bike! That being said, I’m a little concerned about the electronics and the Ducati fragility! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of electronics, I’ve been bitching about dirt bikes not being fuel injected for years now! It’s just that I don’t know if I trust the Europeans yet to make something as bulletproof as the Japanese. As my friend likes to say ” hey it’s Italian, it’s 90%”. I have to say, the one I rode this past weekend had been obviously used like I would and I saw some signs of weeping around the gaskets. I’d hate to spend 20 Gs on a bike that leaked oil or was unrelable. That being said, I’m still thinking!

  9. The Bear says:

    “Is the Multistrada 1200 a game changer?” That’s a pretty general statement but that answer isn’t a straight YES or NO. It’s definitely a great bike, but it’s a Ducati and I’m just not convinced that the dealer network in the USA is good enough to support a bike like this for use of its intended purpose. I owned a 2006 Multistrada and sold it two months ago due to a continual string of problems – parts inadvertently breaking, warping fuel tank from ethanol contamination, shot bearings, poor fitting Ducati accessories, ect. Ducati’s are fantastic machines – they really are, but if you’re looking for a daily rider that can be ridden as intended that most folks can afford, this bike is NOT the bee’s knees. Exclusive, yes. A ground-breaker on every front, almost. It has become like so many other Ducati bikes in that people will adorn their computer desktop wall paper with them and talk extensively about them, but not be able to own. In my opinion to be a ‘game changer’, a company must make the technology at a price point where people can actually afford the machine. Being able to buy a $20,000 bike is one thing, but will those few lucky owners actually use the bike off road and on cross-country road trips? Doubtful. After all, the Ferrari 599 GTO is absolutely amazing, but is it a ‘game changer’ at $460,000? I think not. All of the electronics are a marvel, but what happens when they fail to function as designed (and let’s face it, Ducati’s don’t use the most reliable electronics)? I fear that so much electronic wizardry is being applied to our two wheeled machine that at some point we will be riding droids. The whole allure to motorcycling may be lost. MotoGP champ Casey Stoner recently did an interview where he pointed out that so many electronic nannies are interfering with MotoGP racing that it has detracted from the essence of the sport. Obviously many racing teams (Ducati and Hond, I’m looking in your direction…..) allow racing technology to trickle down to their meat and potatoes products that actually make the money, but at some point it becomes a little ridiculous. Yamaha recently announced that they will sell the Super Tenere 1200 in the USA next year. I would think that any real motorcyclist who is not a poser would be hard pressed to find the Multistrada 1200 $7,000 better than Yamaha’s Super Tenere. You won’t get the ‘cool’ Ducati image, but one would have to consider that Yamaha has been building these types of bikes much longer than Ducati. The Multi 1200 is indeed awesome, but at $20,000 anyone who thinks this bike is a gamer changer is high as a kite.

  10. Holmes says:

    It didn’t do too badly at Pikes Peak, not many KLR’s in the running either?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5JQdgvzuL0

    http://vimeo.com/12627930

  11. MattJ says:

    It has a center stand, nuff’ said ;)

  12. Bill says:

    Many call this style bike ugly , my DL1000 is a constant joke to my fellow riders , well all I can say to that is they have never rode one so they just don’t understand these bikes are for riders not profilers !

  13. Jack Peters says:

    I must ask the question, why this over the terrific KTM 990 SMT? I realize it’s faster and has more gizmo’s on it but really I figure the KTM is a better bargain.

    • Gary says:

      I looked at the KTM and think it is a terrific bike. But I’m put off by the lack of available dealerships. Of course, you could make the same argument against the Duc compared to, say, a Yamaha or Honda.

  14. Paul says:

    It’s ugly and … Did I mention it’s bloody ugly! I don’t care how well it handles and how fast it goes, it’s bloody ugly! I guess you could ride it in the dark. Who exactly fooled the whole world into buying silly looking bikes? It reminds me of my first girlfriend. She had a nose just like this bike.

  15. JustJoe says:

    How so many can miss the point, I just don’t know…I’m really not sure if this is a reflection on the demographic that reads MCD, or just perhaps on those who post. This is a superior bike for inferior roads. You won’t cringe when you see “Rough Rode Ahead-Next 20 Miles”, nor will you think twice about snapping past a line of tractor-trailers clogging a one lane twisty highway…even 2 up and bags full. The top case holds 2 full face helmets, the suspension doesn’t need working over like nearly every stock bike, and it’s all very well managed and controllable. Riding pothole laden city streets is not a teeth-jarring exercise. It’s not a dirt bike, but the comparison is silly…your KLR, DR, V-Strom are not as good a dirt bike as my WR 250, which is a horrible motocrosser in comparison to my RM 125…so what? I’m pretty sure it is a much better than my Speed Triple was when you realize the shortcut called “4wd road” really means what it says.

    Yep, it’s not cheap, and if you throw it down the road it’s probably going to be expensive. If that’s a problem, and for some reason you don’t want to properly insure it, it might not be a good choice for you. I don’t think that’s a reason to hate on it.

    • Gary says:

      That’s true, but there are scores of road bikes that would also do quite well on fire roads. The R1200R and the Kawasaki Z1000 come to mind. They just as good off road as bikes being marketed as “adventure tourers.” If you want to ride offroad, get an offroad bike … not a wanna-be poser bike, like a GS.

  16. jerrylee says:

    In the “real world” there simply isn’t a need for the modern repli-racer. I like to “see” them and I’m glad they exist for those much younger than I but having purchased and ridden naked and adventure bikes for several years I can honestly say I’ll never go back. A 1200GS with about 50% more horsepower and a few pounds less weight is certainly a winning concept in my world.

  17. yaya says:

    Wow lots of comments.Yes its a new kind of bike because of the very impressive electro gizmos(special mention goes out to the elec. adj. suspension)and not that it can do anything or drive anywhere that hasn’t already been conquered before by other models. I’ll mention a honda varadero here in addition to the vstrom and ktm adv. already mentioned is where the more practical will look to first.

    The best test of a great bike is if you drop it can you live with it now.

    This is a great advance in suspension tech now in production. Were getting closer to having a truly do everything all in one bike. Add this suspension with all the other abs,tc,ect… keep the weight around 550lbs and get an electric motor in there with some range and well be there, 10 years from now i’m thinking, till then ride whatever you can.

  18. LJ says:

    P.S. Bob, that tight front fender moves up and down with the tire and wheel.

  19. Walter says:

    It is a game changer- but for a street standard; not an adventure bike. I think this is like calling station wagons “crossovers” just because of what the name brings to mind. It’s hard to call any bike with 17″ front rim an adventure bike. I would be interested if this had a 19/17 setup, especially if it had spoked rims that could run tubeless tires like a GS or CapoNord. Until then, it’s a dynamite street bike for the aging (and well-heeled) sportbiker lol.

  20. LJ says:

    Ducati did test the Multistrada in real world off road conditions.

    http://a2.vox.com/6a01101684c06f860c0123ddb7cd0a860b-pi

  21. Allison says:

    Finally real super bike power in a bike with an upright comfortable (ala dirt bike) riding position. No one has ever done this. Go ahead and start naming all your favorite naked/standard/touring/sport touring bikes… none of them produce rear wheel horsepower equal to a modern race rep litre bike. Always watered down, weak motors, always. Read the story you are commenting on, he is right. There are many people like me that want all the power they can get but don’t want to fold their body into a tiny race replica bike. The manufacturers seem to think that anybody that doesn’t want a race rep isn’t interested in performance. I’m sick of it personally, I’ve been waiting for years for someone to put their racing engine in another form of bike without de-tuning it. As for the off road thing, bashing it on that basis is just ignorant. It’s not an off road bike, Ducati knows this. The bike is definitely derived from a dirt bike blue print, which in turn translates to a street bike you can feel confident ripping around on dirt roads. That aspect of the bike is just a tiny little part of the over all package. I hope all the other manufacturers get the message. Whether I can afford it or not, I love what this bike stands for.

    • Chris says:

      You do realize that the Multi 1200 has a detuned engine don’t you…???

      • Allison says:

        Yes, I know they changed the valve overlap for better service intervals, and If you’ve ever taken a duck in for service, you would know thats a good thing. It is detuned, but its still a twin making 134 ponies, if you cant work with that then…

        • Chris says:

          They also lowered the compression ratio…

          The end result, it that the Multi 1200 is about 20 hp down to the 1198 Superbike.

          It is still plenty of power. BUT. Detuned is still detuned anyway you try to slice it.

          • Allison says:

            Dude, your killin me, you seemed to have locked in on one word in my entire post. This is an adventure touring bike, it would be difficult to sell an adventure touring bike with the service intervals of an 1198. Unfortunately Ducati is in the business of making money. My point was (which I thought was pretty clear) is compared to other manufacturers, I think Ducati only tweaked what they HAD to, in order to sell an adventure touring bike with their race rep mill, in other words, leaving the valve overlap and comp ratio the same were not even an option. Compare that to the neutering other manufacturers do to their race rep motors repackaged and the Multi does look like a game changer. So, I still love the bike, any way you slice it. Just out of curiosity… what do you think of it? cheers.