Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro: Same Price,...
- Jul 9, 2019
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Ducati’s Multistrada could easily be called a sportbike dressed up as an adventure tourer. While it was high on thrills it ran a bit low on ADV sensibilities. But, Ducati has been making sure that customers got what they wanted. In 2015 the new generation Multistrada gave riders improved everyday usability with variable valve timing. It also upped its sporty quotient by bringing in IMU-backed rider modes and of course even more evolved electronic suspension. This made the Multistrada a motorcycle that could tackle commuting duties in India just as well as carving up Alpine passes. It was damn near perfect. Just two years later, we now have the Multistrada 1260, and we are wondering: what was left to fix? Let's find out.
We're climbing up one of the mountains on the Gran Canaria island. My fingers are starting to feel a bit stiff, a result of the rapid drop in temperature, a sign that we are climbing fast. The serpentine road is narrow, with plenty of hairpins that seem to pop out of nowhere. It would be easy to get caught off-guard, but there's a new weapon in the Multi's arsenal that's keeping the going surprisingly easy - usable torque. Lots of it! Imagine chugging up a steep slope in 3rd at 30. We did. And that's just a small slice of what the new engine brings. 85% of torque available at 3500rpm. More torque at 4000rpm than any other bike in the category. 18% more torque at 5500rpm than the older Multistrada. These statements from Ducati should make clear what its priorities were. Usability.
So, how was it done? The Multi 1260 takes the variable timing-equipped engine from the Diavel, which in turn was a longer stroke version of the 1198cc unit on the Multistrada 1200. A change in the way Ducati measures power shows the Multi 1200 to be better, on paper, at 160PS compared to the new bike’s 158PS. And 132Nm instead of 129.5Nm. However, the new engine actually makes more power (up by 6PS) and more torque too. But, as the earlier statements make clear, the real advantage is the slug of torque available from low revs.
On the road, the advantage of the new engine and the new, more sensitive ride-by-wire command module makes riding the 1260S very refreshing! You can choose to run the engine from 2000rpm with just a hint of the grumble that L-twins are famous for. Have no doubt, an inline-four would be smoother and would be able to carry a gear higher. L-twins, on the other hand, are different beasts, known for the or chugging, chattering and explosive nature. But the 1260 is almost civil! Even as you go on-and-off-and-on again with the throttle around bends, the suddenness of the engine response has been toned down dramatically. The 1260S feels surprisingly refined, and is much quieter and smoother than the 1200.
Choose to crack the throttle open and the engine's hunger for the next corner becomes all too obvious. The rev limiter remains at the 10,500rpm mark, and since there's no change to the gear ratios, how fast the Multi can go hasn't changed. But how it gets there is a different story. To help you ride at a faster pace, there is the new Ducati Quick Shifter. The shifts from this unit are hugely impressive. Smooth and largely fault-free irrespective of the speed or rpm, it's a unit that can make your right hand a bit lazy. Also, the IMU now interacts with the engine braking, so if you are leaned over, it will offer a more gentle intervention. All in all, a great deal more usability and maturity from the engine.
Along with the meatier motor, the chassis has been updated too. The Multi 1260 now uses a more relaxed 25-degree steering angle. And more trail. The wheelbase is longer, by 56mm, but that's because the single-sided swingarm is 48mm longer! You get the picture. Here too, the focus was on making the Multi more planted to ride at higher speeds or with a pillion and luggage on board. That should put a small dent in the Multi's sportbike-like handling, right? Finding the answer on the unbelievably scenic roads of Gran Canaria was easy enough. But we took our time.
This is where the Multistrada's true change in DNA becomes apparent. It still has the appetite for curves. It tips in quickly, and feels a touch smoother when entering corners. For most riders the Multistrada will still feel ridiculously sporty. It can tip from one side to another very quickly.
So, there is a shift in attitude. Whereas the 1200S felt sportbike-like by default, now you have to put in more effort to get the Multi to act hurried. Also, understanding how the electronic suspension works takes some time. On the racetrack-smooth roads of Gran Canaria, it was easy to brake deep into corners; however, the suspension seemed to adjust as you turned in, causing the bike to tip in more than expected. Also, you could feel the rear moving around and it took a bit of effort to keep the line clean. The Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres provided superb grip to keep it all under check.
Even in the "Hardest" suspension setting in Sport mode the suspension felt a bit soft. Through the on-screen menus the preload can be adjusted for the rear Sachs monoshock; however, the front Sachs forks’ preload is only manually adjustable. As before, the suspension settings still lean towards the softer side, but with the new chassis the 1260 prefers to be ridden at a pace that's less manic. Clearly, the Multistrada has finally toned down the sportbike attitude to be a better tourer. This is sure to make it a more likeable motorcycle for most riders, but we say that with a twinge of sadness.
What else has changed?
Lots of small things. In terms of design, the front side fairings are new. These have been redesigned, says Ducati, to smoothen out airflow around the pillion or top box. To clean up the look, there are shrouds for the evaporation canister and the coolant pump. There is also a filler panel under that runs just under the edge of the rider's seat to mask the gap when the seat is set to the "High" position. At the rear, the Multi uses a larger grab rail and has LED turn indicators.
In terms of technology the screen is new -- it is brighter and richer. The menus also have a more visual theme and hence changing settings is much easier now. Scrolling through the menus feels quicker too. The wireless key system can now sense the key even if it is a few feet away and not just when you are on the bike. The wheels have a different design and are around 300gms lighter too. The tyre pressure monitoring system has also been updated and now relays a warning when the pressure varies by 25%. Also, the new Ducati app, available from April 2018, will allow riders to save setting changes on their phones -- and the next time the phone is paired with their bike the settings will be automatically updated.
What hasn't changed?
The 330mm discs with Brembo's superbike-spec Monobloc M50 Evo calliper combination is still fantastic for slowing things down with confidence. The cornering ABS functionality is very handy and the light pulsing at the lever doesn't distract the rider. The ergonomics are, as before, upright and spacious. Adjusting the windscreen is easy on the go and requires just one hand and manages to keep the wind blast off you fairly well. Seat height is also similar to the older model between 825-845mm.
Unless you want an adventure bike for its outright dynamic ability -- and I know how silly that sounds -- the Multistrada 1260S will feel like a step in the right direction. You'll find more opportunities to relax in the saddle thanks to the new engine that's smoother and also willing to get the job done without having to be revved up. There's confidence and calm to be found on the road as the Multistrada feels more stable and relaxed at high speeds. It is still a Ducati, with serious performance and dynamism when you call for them, but for the first time the balance between sportiness and practicality is tilting in the other direction, and for most riders it’s the right direction.