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 a totally new bike. 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, a totally new motor and this is perhaps the most radical change to this bike. And actually it is the most radical change to Ducati’s L-twin motors since the development of the superquadro motor 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 by saying that the output numbers generated by this motor are really impressive.
Comparing with the two previous Testastretta generations, we know this new motor is a good step up in performance. 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 we 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 for the DVT motor. Because Ducati thought it important enough to publish IMEP COV numbers 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 strict emissions standards have pushed motors towards operating at the lean side of the spectrum, making certain motorcycles, especially single and twin-cylinder bikes but not exclusive to them, practically unrideable at low RPM speeds. 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 other home tuning gadgets to resolve this issue. And it never completely cured the problem. Despite some improvement on engine stability from all this aftermarket work, the hesitation at low RPMs and abruptness off idle was always there.
The dual spark motor of the 2013-14 models showed great improvement on this issue. When we tested the 2013 bike in comparison to a 2010 bike we noticed considerable improvements on the motor’s rideability. The dual sparks associated with a changed angle of the fuel injection and an auxiliary air valve improved burning efficiency at low RPM which in turn improved the fluidity of the motor at low RPMs while increasing torque at the same time. 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 with the DVT motor Ducati is raising this bar to a much higher level, presenting 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; while maintaining the motor’s running stability. ECU-based fuel management systems have optimized motors to expand the limit of lean burn operation to improve fuel efficiency and reduce 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 2010-12 Multistradas 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 actually experience it when riding our fuel injected motorcycles and we all know it is a lean fueling issue resulting on cycle to cycle variability. 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 along perhaps with other parameters, has reduced cycle to cycle variability, as measured by the indicated mean effective pressure or IMEP. IMEP is a measure of the average pressure over a cycle in the combustion chamber of the engine. The pressure stability from cycle to cycle, IMEP COV, shows high correlation to a rider’s subjective rating of an engine smoothness.
As a result, we assume these motors can run a leaner mixture, which explains at least partially the improved fuel economy, without compromising rideability. In fact, it has improved engine smoothness substantially from a more stable fuel burning cycle to cycle which helps with emissions, which we believe is the main push for this technology. A virtuous cycle of sorts.
And we want to add one more item to this discussion, although it has not been mentioned anywhere yet, so it is just a speculation from our part: perhaps a more efficient motor in terms of fuel burn cycles produces fewer emissions resulting 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, so reductions in size can influence overall weight of the motorcycle and compensate any increase in weight due to a few added parts to the motor.
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? We don’t know, but considering the torque increase, the Testastretta DVT motor can only improve an already awesome machine. We will know what to say about this 78% number 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 that we can’t see from these photos. And we don’t know what are the reasons for this change.
We’ve been hearing about a new seat with adjustable height on the Multistrada. 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 may have been modified. Certainly a lower seat would be a welcome addition to this bike, opening 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 is windshield on the spy photos bike, but judging by the base of the shield on the photos, it seems like a hybrid from the 2010 and 2013 models: back to the three anchor points of the 2010 but perhaps retaining 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.
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 this bike 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 forks are not a property of Öhlins. Or this bike could be fitted with older Öhlins technology.
Besides the gold color commonly associated with the Öhlins, there is that blue on the logo, which actually seem to point this bike to really 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 while the Sachs/Skyhook combo has proven itself effective on the last two years of operation.
Color Display, Switch Gear, Cruise Control
We do not have pictures of what the 2015 Multistrada dash display looks like, but it is almost certain that this bike will have a thin-film-transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display similar to the one 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 the new riding modes, we can speculate the four riding modes (Urban, Enduro, Touring and Sport) will have been retained and perhaps revised and improved with the new motor with DVT. That assumes the possibility of playing with such an important new parameter available at the ECU such as variable valve timing. We assume it opens more options for engine management.
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 suspension, 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 comprehensive and sexy 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. That is 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) in sport touring guise, for example. There are 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, it makes us believe the 2015 Multistrada will be a good improvement to an already excellent and still rather unique machine.