It was only this last February in 2016 when I finally had a chance to ride the Multistrada DVT. Launched in 2014 as a 2015 Model, the substantially revised Ducati Multistrada with its Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) motor is already a well known machine. Several reviews have already covered this bike in detail, I will not repeat that information here. Instead I’m going to describe my observations about what this bike represents to the motorcycle industry, especially the adventure segment. I will summarize my thoughts whether this bike is still top of the heap in its own established sub-category of adventure bikes. Of course, I will also describe my riding impressions of the DVT machine, and it will be from the perspective of the owner of a 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak.
What the Ducati Multistrada represents to the motorcycle industry
When the Multistrada 1200 was launched in 2010, the notion of adventure motorcycles was just being consolidated as a category. At that time, and still today, the BMW R1200GS was the lead of the category, number one in sales volume around the world, the yard stick to which others are measured, the icon of adventure riding. The success story of BMW has led other motorcycle manufacturers to bring large adventure motorcycles to market. Today most every brand has a large adventure motorcycle in their line up.
In 2010, perhaps we could call it the early years of large adventure motorcycles, the launch of the adventure-styled Multistrada with its superbike motor, four riding modes (urban, touring, sport and enduro), electronically adjusted suspension, and three engine maps (100HP, 150 HP low and 150 HP high) created quite the stir. People didn’t quite know what to make of this very powerful yet versatile machine with enduro ergonomics. Was Ducati after the BMW R1200GS market? Well, it had an “enduro” riding mode, good suspension travel and certainly there was a demand for adventure motorcycles then, as there is now. It was something different, though.
When we look at the large adventure motorcycle category today, only six years after its 2010 launch, we see plenty of options, with at least one new model being launched every year since that time. When we compare 2010 to 2016 and see what patterns emerged from all the new large adventure motorcycles launched since 2010, the Multistrada clearly shows up as the leader of a new segment. The sport bike motor, the high level of electronics and riding aids, a glossy bike on an enduro platform have influenced many manufacturers which since have followed suit. Including BMW and KTM. Overall one can say two new segments within adventure motorcycles, which incidentally have already been observed and discussed by many, are now consolidated, especially when we consider the launch of two key new products in 2015.
The S1000XR is one of these products, a clear attempt by BMW to cash in on what is now being called the sport touring category or some variation on the theme (in Italy they like to call it “cross-over”). I call it adventure-inspired sport touring motorcycles. What else, right? While the other new product, Ducati’s Multistrada Enduro, makes it clear the original Multistrada was, in fact, a road version of an adventure motorcycle, it was a new segment within the adventure motorcycle segment. The Multistrada Enduro is clearly eyeing the R1200GS market, a more dirt oriented machine, if you dare. While the S1000XR goes after the Multistrada market, the adventure-inspired sport touring market, with an emphasis on the sport side of it.
Yes, I know, and I haven’t forgotten, other manufacturers have already been sorting themselves out on this branching field. Aprilia has its Caponord in a “regular” and a Rally version, Moto Guzzi has several years of its NTX version of the Stelvio. KTM launched its 1200 Adventure line in two models, one a bit more road oriented than the other, although both can be placed more towards the real adventure side of this equation. Of course, BMW has been offering the GS in Adventure and in regular trim, and the regular trim can be bought with alloy or spoke wheels. There are plenty of other examples to mention.
The important point here is that not unlike what the BMW R1200GS has done to the industry, the Ducati Multistrada has established itself as a product leader within this segment. In fact, it has created its own segment. You call it what makes most sense to you. As mentioned before, I currently call it the adventure-styled sport touring segment. They are bikes built around superbike motors with an adventure flavor with their enduro ergonomics, reasonable suspension travel, as ready for the long haul as they are for spirited canyon riding or track days. These are enduring descriptors, not unlike what people used in 2010 to describe the 1200 Multistrada at is launch. The question is: does the 2016 variant of the Multistrada still deliver the goods in this increasingly competitive market?
Top of the Heap
With leadership comes responsibility. At some point in the early 2000’s I traveled to Oakland, California for a professional development training on “Scenario Planning” offered by Global Business Network. I was the low profile guy sitting side by side with executives from giants such as Coca-Cola and Procter and Gamble. As part of the Scenario Planning activities I learned from these executives, the biggest fear of their organizations was to one day no longer be number one in their industry.
Ducati must feel the same about the Multistrada. The Multistrada has been its best seller product until the Scrambler came along. It remains a strong seller in its segment, despite its getting crowded. I can only assume Ducati has been working hard to keep itself on top of the sales sheet for the Multistrada. Or at least keep a strong presence and maintain the Multistrada status as the yard stick against which others measure their products.
The specific case of the BMW S1000XR comes to attention, because when BMW enters a market, you pay attention. Arguably perhaps, I see it as the most direct competitor Ducati has ever had for the Multistrada, despite Aprilia’s Caponord being much more of a fac-simile to the Multistrada. Aprilia products do not show the sales volume BMW products do. It seems to me there was no question Ducati knew what was coming and got ready for it in two fronts. The DVT bike is the third generation of the Multistrada 1200 in six years of production, now seven years. That’s quite a quick evolution process, clearly denoting the need to stay fresh, incorporate the newest technology, stay ahead of the game. In its Multistrada Enduro version, Ducati opens a second front of attack, but that is not the bike we are depicting here.
I had a chance to ride the BMW S1000XR and learned from that experience that it is clearly a top notch product. It has more actual horse power than the Ducati, a nicer and smoother gear box, quick-shifter assist, and it perhaps shows a greater appeal to a younger crowd especially the four-inline motor lovers. Is it enough, though, to take the top post away from the Multistrada? Several comparisons have been made by journalists pitching these bikes against each other. The results have been consistent, with most of them pointing their preference to the BMW. I can see their point. Until touring comes to mind, that is.
The Ducati still has a motor with longer legs for touring. The twin motor revs effortless at higher speeds, it seems it is relaxed at cruising speeds, and it is always ready for more, if you so want. And the DVT makes that an even greater experience by making it work smoothly. On my Multistrada, 500-mile days are easy days. With the DVT, I project this is an even better experience.
The revised seat height, which is lower than the previous Multistrada, and I believe is lower than the S1000XR, will make this bike available to people who may have felt Mjltistradas were too tall for them. The DVT motor offers more throttle stability for low speed riding while offering an unparalleled V-twin rush of power past 6,000 RPM. And the throttle by wire of the Ducati seems a lot more direct, it resembles more of a traditional cable-operated throttle than the BMW’s toned down (even on dynamic mode) twist-to-power ratio. Well, some people may prefer the tamer throttle actuation BMW offers in its S1000XR. Not my case, I’m a sucker for instant but manageable power delivery. The Ducati Multistrada, both in DVT and pre=DVT versions does it very well, in my opinion, at its highest performance engine map.
The one area the BMW notably lacks is the touring capability. Not that it can’t do it, just that its motor seems to always be over-exerting itself (it is not overexerting itself, obviously, it is just how its 4-inline motors behave), and most people complain about a buzzing vibration at the handlebars which kicks in exactly at cruising speeds (between 5 and 6 K RPM). I did experience the vibration when I rode it and although it didn’t bother me on spirited riding and just tooling around town, I can imagine how much of a problem it could be on long average speed journeys. When riding fast on mountain roads the BMW shows its edge by offering more gear options (more gears are the “right” gear for each circumstance), better riding aids (shift assist), and overall more of a sport bike feel.
Overall, though, the Multistrada remains a more complete motorcycle, it remains top of the heap in my opinion. I have a feeling this is not the conventional wisdom about this bike, unless longer journeys are in the planning, when the Multistrada edges the S1000XR. It makes, in my opinion, the Multistrada DVT a more complete package considering urban, canyon carving, and touring riding options.
Having said that, we need to keep things in perspective here. We are talking here about two motorcycles that are clearly above the rest of offerings in this field. One can’t go wrong going either way.
How does it compare to my 2013 Pikes Peak?
The Multistrada DVT is better than my 2013 Pikes Peak in all aspects. It is more powerful (160 HP compared to 150, 100 ft-lb of torque compared to 90), it has better technology (Bosch’s latest ABS product, the so called “cornering” ABS), the motor is smoother, suspension has been improved (Skyhook “Evo”), seat height is lower (better reach to ground), it sounds better, it has color TFT dash, cornering lights, better fuel consumption, more intuitive navigation of menus for riding options. Did I miss anything?
Turning the motor on you immediately notice the lower pitched growl of the motor. Releasing the clutch and it is smoother than my 2013. I started it on touring mode and as soon as I got to the country roads I got a taste about how it behaves on the upper range of the RPM. On touring mode you clearly notice a flat spot on the RPM band, from about 4,000 to 6,000 RPM. But once you hit the 6K mark, if you keep on the throttle you will experience a rush of power that has been unequaled on my riding experience. What an awesome sensation. It sounds great and it delivers instant response to throttle input.
Soon I was changing to Sport mode, which by the way is now much easier to execute while on the move with better menu navigation. On sport mode the 4-6K flat portion of the torque curve is less noticeable, diminishing a bit the impact you experience once you hit the 6K RPM. But the greater power delivery of sport mode is there. The engine is smoother under heavy acceleration when compared to my 2013 model. You clearly perceive the overall greater power delivery of the DVT motor. It is a new motorcycle.
The bike I tested was the standard version, with no Skyhook suspension (it comes with fully adjustable Marzochi/Sachs mechanical forks/shock front to back respectively). And the dashboard was not the color TFT version. Other than that, it is the same bike with cornering ABS, DVT and all the fun bits that comes with the revised motor. The suspension was a bit on the soft side and I noticed front dive under braking. Suspension adjustments could probably take care of its softness and perhaps some of the brake dive. I would definitely the S version, though.
Further on the list of improvements, the windscreen is taller and wider than the previous models. It has the same easy to operate adjustment – you can move it up or down while in motion.
The DVT bikes have two height adjustments for the seat. The bike I tested had the seat positioned on the highest level and I still had a better reach to the ground than what I have on my Multistrada. The bike looks better as well, more upscale, although this is obviously subjective.
So here comes the question you might be wondering: will I update my 2013 Pikes Peak with a DVT? There is no question this bike is better than my 2013 Pikes Peak. Having said that, my 2013 is practically still new to me. I still like its performance, I still like its look, and I’m happy with its reliability. Furthermore, the new Pikes Peak, comes with Ohlins forks and a rear TTX shock. It is a great option, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to mechanical suspension after enjoying the Skyhook. Second, the new Pikes Peak does not come with the lighter weight, forged Marchesini wheels I have on my 2013 Pikes Peak. Even if the new Pikes Peak was a straight improvement across all options, I still would keep my 2013 for now.
Eventually the time will come for me to upgrade the Pikes Peak. When that time comes the DVT Multistrada, in Pikes Peak form if available, will certainly be on top of my very short list.
If you are in west/central Oregon stop by the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon and talk with Mickey to organize a test ride of this great motorcycle. You don’t want to miss this opportunity! Last time I checked they had a few Multistradas on the floor (Pikes Peak, Red S Touring, White S Touring, and the base Touring model I tested).
Thank you for reading… and hang on to your wallet if you take this bike for a test ride or this bike may follow you home. You’ve been warned.