Several spy photos of a typically disguised motorcycle have been circulating on the internet pointing us out to what the 2015 Multistrada will look like.
Judging by the photos and what we already know about its new motor, the 2015 bike has incorporated enough revisions to make it practically more than a third generation of the 1200 Multistrada since its introduction in 2010. Although the general shape is still there, there are changes everywhere on this bike, from the motor, to the frame, to the seat, and to some subtle design elements everywhere. Nothing was spared, it seems.
A New Motor
The changes start with the most important component, the heart of the new machine, and this is perhaps the most radical change to this bike, and actually to Ducati’s L-twin motors since the development of the superquadro of the Panigale, we comfortably risk saying. On our previous article we covered the Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) motor in detail, using official information provided by Ducati. We can summarize, though, that the output numbers generated by this motor are really impressive.
Using information provided by Ducati from this new motor and also from the two previous Testastretta generations, we know this new motor is a good step up in performance based on key parameters. We see a 7% increase in HP, an 8% reduction on fuel consumption, and our favorite one, a 9% increase on torque values.
But we also want to direct your attention to one number and parameter on the Ducati’s specs, the -78% IMEP COV. It is something that I have not seen discussed anywhere on forums and reviewers of this motor so far. What is IMEP COV, a “smoothness index” Ducati says? And what a 78% reduction may represent from a rider’s perspective?
Of all variables posted by Ducati, IMEP COV shows the largest gain from the DVT motor with respect to the previous, 11 degrees motor. Because Ducati thought it important enough to publish about IMEP COV we decided to investigate more about it. It is not something sexy like HP, or something serious like torque, or something practical like fuel economy. But it is a fundamental parameter on engine development. Touted as a “smoothness index” by Ducati, our short and superficial research led us to some important and interesting findings.
All of us have learned along the years that fuel injection motors when combined with emissions standards have pushed motors towards the lean running side of the spectrum, making certain motorcycles, especially single and twin-cylinder bikes but not exclusive to them, practically unrideable at low RPMs. That was especially the case for the first version of the 1200 Testastretta 11 degrees motor. Owners of those bikes spent thousands of dollars, and we are not exaggerating here, on full exhaust systems, re-programmed ECUs, dynamometer time, and some home made contraptions to resolve this issue. And it never completely cured the problem. Some of it improved the condition but it was always there.
The dual spark motor of the 2013-14 models showed great improvement on this variable. When we tested the 2013 bike in comparison to a 2010 bike we really noticed improvements on the 2013 motor’s rideability. The dual spark per cylinder associated with a changed angle of the fuel injection and a few other changes improved torque delivery and fluidity of the motor at low RPMs while increasing torque. Although the torque increase on the 2013 model was really small, it specifically improved torque delivery at low RPMs. And that motor also improved fuel efficiency by a good 10%.
But now Ducati is raising this bar to a much higher level, presenting to us further and substantial torque improvements, fuel efficiency and HP improvements from the DVT motor. And on top of that, there is this 78% reduction of IMEP COV which we assume is a figure derived from a comparison to the already improved dual spark motor.
Engineers the world over have been designing motors on the envelope determined by three main conflicting sets of variables: more torque and power; better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions; and better rideability of the motor. ECU-based fuel management systems have optimized motors to expand the limit of lean burn operation to improve fuel efficiency and lower exhaust gas emissions without compromising power. But lean burns increase cyclical variation in the combustion intensity, which directly affects the rideability. This is what we experienced in the 2012 Multistrada for example, and so many other motorcycles since emissions regulations have become more stringent. This rideability effect is measured by the coefficient of variation (COV) of the indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP).
Although the consumer has little access to this information we experience when riding our fuel injected motorcycles. What we experience on the throttle and on a stumbling motor at low RPM is a result of cycle to cycle variability. This is what determines the boundaries of a lean mixture, which is where all these bikes have been. Too much cycle to cycle variability, however, challenges lower idle speeds and engine stability. Therefore, when Ducati claims a reduction of 78% on IMEP COV on the DVT motors, they are basically saying variable intake and exhaust valve timing has reduced cycle to cycle variability, as measured by the indicated mean effective pressure.
As a result, these motors can probably run a leaner mixture (resulting on improved fuel economy) without compromising rideability. In fact, it has improved it substantialy. And it also helps with emissions (which we believe is the main push for this technology). Ducati claims a substantially improved “smoothness factor” as measured at speeds of 50km/h (31 mp.h).
And one more item although it has not been mentioned anywhere yet, so it is just a speculation from our part: Perhaps producing fewer emissions has also resulted in yet another reduction on the size of the catalytic converter (it was already marginally reduced in size on the dual spark motor of the 2013 model). We know the catalytic converter is a heavy component of the bike.
How will DVT and the 78% reduction of the cycle to cycle variability (as measured by IMEP) translate into a riding experience? Has it solved the rideability issues? I don’t know, but considering the torque increase, the Testastretta DVT motor can only improve an already awesome machine. I sure can’t wait for an opportunity to get my hands on a 2015 Multistrada. We will know what to say about this when 2015 demo bikes become available.
A New Frame
Another very important change on the new 2015 Multistrada is a revised frame.
Comparing to the current frame on our 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak you can see some obvious changes right away.
We can see one brace of the frame is gone, there are some new angles on the remaining elements and what seems to be revised anchor points to the engine. There may have been other changes to the frame, what we can’t see. And there are the reasons for why this change, which we don’t know.
We’ve been hearing about a new seat with adjustable height. On the photos you can see the seat is different, there is something like a trim or a layer on the seat.
We can’t quite tell from the photos if the seat is really lower. But it seems more curved closed to is rear portion, so perhaps that whole area of the bike where the seat rests on may have been modified. Certainly a lower seat would be a welcome addition to this bike, as it may open up its market to a large group of inseam-challenged riders.
And having the seat be adjustable will probably not exclude the current set of tall riders who enjoy the Multistrada’s triangle dimensions (handlebar – seat – pegs) and its height.
New Front End
Another obvious change, judging by the set of circulating photos, is a revised front end.
A few changes we can see right away: It is wider, has larger air intakes, it is more square and less beak-like. It gives the bike a more aggressive look.
There are no pictures of the windshield on the 2015, but judging by the base of the shield on the photos, it seems like a hybrid from the 2010 and 2013 models. It is back to the three anchor points of the 2010 but seems to retain the one-hand operation of the 2013.
Also, the base of the shield seems to be a bit more vertical than the two previous models. Besides the angle itself, the bodywork arriving at the sides of shield shows how it is more integrated. But it could have been shaped to allow the shield to be slightly more forward and vertical.
Either way, windshields are an Achilles heal of adventure styled motorcycles due to the wind buffeting they generate in their job of providing protection from the elements to the rider. Let’s hope on this third iteration of the Multistrada Ducati has managed to find the sweet spot for wind management.
Öhlins or Sachs/Skyhook?
A gold front fork on the spy shots points to Öhlins. But gold stanchions are not a property of Öhlins. And this bike could be fitted with older Öhlins technology.
But besides the gold color commonly associated with the Öhlins, there is that blue on the logo, which actually seem to point this bike to being back with Öhlins.
But will it really? Independent of it being Öhlins or Sachs, we will go out on a limb to say the 2015 Multistrada will retain its semi-active suspension operation. After all, this has been proven to be an effective technology and has become the new standard on the top tier of the large adventure motorcycle segment. Öhlins has developed semi-active technology since the 2013 Multistrada was launched, so that is a possible scenario. But I would say an unlike scenario due to the cost of Öhlins when the Sachs/Skyhook combo has proven itself effective on the last two years of operation.
Color Display, Switch Gear, Cruise Control
Although we do not have pictures of what the 2015 Multistrada dash display looks like, it is almost certain that this bike will have a thin-film-transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display similar to what is found on the Panigale. We hear the switch gear will be different and the bike will finally have cruise control.
Riding Modes, Suspension Settings
Without knowing anything about new riding modes, we can speculate the four riding modes (Urban, Enduro, Touring and Sport) would have been retained and certainly improved with the new motor with DVT. That is, the possibility of playing with such an important parameter such as variable timing certainly opens more options for engine management from a push of the button, besides the explained sensor managed DVT operations based on different riding conditions.
And the semi-active suspension settings may have benefitted from lessons learned from more than two years running of the Skyhook system. If this bike goes back to Öhlins, it should be something with semi-active operation.
Finally, it would be fitting to this bike’s role of being a leader of technological innovation if the 2015 bike incorporated the latest ABS system from Bosch, something similar to the system that has been available in the KTM 1190 for the last two years under the MSC name.
This is a completely new motorcycle. It retains the overall shape of the two previous versions but the body changes seem far from subtle. The new motor on itself is enough change to make this a new bike.
We expect this new motor to be the key selling point of the new Multistrada. But we would expect other structural, software, functional and cosmetic changes that we described or speculated were probably made by Ducati with the objective of keeping the Multistrada in its position in the market: a seamless package representing the forefront of technological advancement while maintaining a multi-personality where riders can enjoy it as an urban, enduro, touring or sport machine.
We believe the timing for the change is about right, although we have had only two years of production of the dual-spark, Skyhook version, because the competition on this segment of the market has increased. We hear BMW will bring an S1000 with a more upright riding position with bags (or bag attachments) and wind shield in sport touring guise, for example. We have three KTM products competing directly with the Multistrada (the 1190 Standard, the 1290 Super Duke, and the new for 2015 1290 Super Adventure). And there are a few other bikes that have evolved in the last few years and have been knocking at the door of this segment of the adventure market.
When we see the 2015 Multistrada for the first time, perhaps at EICMA in a little more than a week from now, and certainly when we see it in person and test ride it, we will have a better idea about how we believe this bike will position itself in the market.
Considering we have been riding a Multistrada for the last two years, what we hear about the DVT motor and what we’ve seen so far in spy photos and rumors, makes us believe the 2015 Multistrada will be a good improvement to an already excellent and still rather unique machine.