Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I’d been in the garage soldering the wires back together that had succumbed to winter’s fury, aka, road salt.  I was hot and cranky so I went down the basement to relax where it was cool. My butt no more than hit the couch when the phone rang, the voice from the other side told me to get my butt out side.  It was my good friend, Dr. Carl Peshoff of Northern Ohio Ducati in Akron Ohio. I went out and to my surprise sat a brand spanking new Ducati Multistrada 1200S Pikes Peak Edition with a whopping 32 miles on it!

The bike is beautiful with plenty of carbon fiber pieces including the carbon fiber cam belt cover complete with air duct to help keep the beast cool and a mini carbon wind screen that that has about 4” of vertical adjustment.  The fenders were also made from carbon fiber.  I liked that the turn signals are incorporated into the hand guards.  It  makes the bike a little more stream lined and removes one less piece to get ripped off the bike in a mishap.  I doubt too many of these bikes will be seeing heavy brush, saplings or tree bark, so I’m sure they’ll hold up better than fairing mounted signals. 

I was given a quick overview of key-less ignition and the controls for the suspension and engine modes.  There are 4 engine modes; sport, touring, urban and enduro that can be changed on the fly using the button located on the turn signal switch.  There is also a selection of suspension settings to chose from depending on whether you are riding solo, 2 up or if you are carrying luggage or not.  There are also a multitude of other screens and displays that show you gear selection, typical engine displays, gas mileage, miles until empty and more.  Once I thought I had everything covered, I hit the starter and heard the v-twin rumble to life, flipped down the visor and headed down the road. 

Fast! - I only had to go to the end of my one block long street to know, this bike was going to be a blast to ride!  The bike's weight is claimed to be 432 lbs, 40 lbs less than my 950 Adventure but felt even lighter.  Add the fact the motor has about 150 hp, 55 hp more than my 950 and you can only guess how fast this thing scoots down the road, and that was with me respecting rpm’s during the break in period.  With its 5.3 gallon tank and approximately 50mpg freeway rating, you should be able to get a good 4 hours in between fuel stops.

I was wondering what it would be like to ride with 150 hp in the dirt and gravel on a bike with the instantaneous throttle response this bike has and could see myself launching the bike into a ditch or worse yet, a tree.  I refrained from taking the Multistrada down my "short cut” Because I didn‘t want to be the one to put the first scratch on it or get it dirty.   I changed the engine mode to “Enduro” on the fly and immediately I could tell the bike would be far more dirt friendly using the Enduro Mode.  According to Carl, Enduro Mode reduces the horse power down to around 100 hp, a hair bit more than the 950’s 94 hp.  It may have reduced the power output but I also noticed the initial throttle opening became a bit smoother which should allow a little better throttle control riding off-road or in loose gravel.  In Enduro Mode, the bike is still quick but in sport mode, the bike is a rocket.

The engine seems smooth enough to ride all day without being buzzed or vibrated to death but a test ride longer than 20 miles would help me decide that.  We didn’t get to do a 2-up test to get Mrs. G's opinion of the saddle but I found it to be pretty comfortable even though I only got to ride it 20 miles.  There is more than enough power to haul 2 adults with full saddle bags comfortably down any freeway or back road.  The ergonomics didn't feel too bad even with the bars rotated back to fit Carl, but that's something anyone can easily fix with a wrench.  Unlike the other bike adventure touring bikes, the Pikes Peak edition has a smallish wind screen aimed more at protecting the instrument panel and taking a small portion of the wind blast from your torso rather than trying to protect your whole body. In some ways that is good as the larger wind screens can be intimidating as a guillotine when riding in technical terrain but a little cold if you ride all winter.  

The day before Carl showed up, I was out playing around at the local MX track on the 640 Adventure and I had been wishing for more braking power.  The Multistrada's Bosch-Brembo ABS system's dual 4-piston calipers and 320mm discs gave me all the braking power I could handle and I'm positive there is enough to spare for hauling down a loaded bike from speed.  Along with the ABS, this Ducati also has Traction Control as standard equipment.  Since I tried to ride the bike respectfully, I never felt either system activate and thankfully not the ABS.

I’m used to hydraulic clutches and the juicy clutch on the Ducati felt right at home in my hands.  The clutch is effortless and smooth but the transmission felt a bit notchy, more than likely due to being new and not fully broken in.  It also could have been the shifter being tipped down to fit Carl , but I had a little difficulty getting my foot under it.  However, the shift shaft has plenty of splines and the adjustable linkage will allow you to fine tune it to your foot.  All it will take is a few minutes of time and a couple wrenches to make it perfect.

The Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) by Öhlins is pretty sophisticated compared to what I am used to.  One of the things you will notice is the wiring coming from the tops of the fork tubes that control the suspension settings for compression and rebound.  The rear shock is also controlled by the same system however it also has an electronically controlled pre-load adjuster.  The ride was firm even though I had the suspension set up for one person with no luggage.  The initial stroke of the suspension was a bit harsh and my  guess would be as the seals and bushings break in, the stroke will loosen up to a plusher ride.  With the lack of a passenger and time, I didn’t get to mess with the factory pre-set settings for the rider and luggage combos I mentioned earlier or did I have time to figure out how to set the optional personalized settings to my riding style or weight which are slow and heavy by some standards.

Along with the firm suspension comes a very flickable and light handling bike.  Of the adventure bikes I have ridden in the past, the Multistrada by far turned the easiest.  It also had the most streetable tires (both 17") that looked like they’d be more at home on a Monster than an Adventure bike.  Speaking of tires, I also noticed there is more room between the rear tire and the single-sided swingarm than I remember there being when I rode my 1st Multistrada.  I remembered thinking how easily that area would get clogged with mud and debris, however this model has about 1.5” between the tire and the swingarm.  I’m not sure if the swingarm changed but the tire sizes are different or it could be my mind is feeling the effects of old age, either way, having more clearance is better if you plan to get this beast dirty.

Ducati claims this bike to be "A dream Ducati - 4 bikes in 1. A sport bike, long-distance tourer, urban and road enduro are only one click away."   I can easily see this bike being ridden all four environments as Ducati intended it to be ridden in but if I were going to be doing the long distance touring, I may want to find a way to put the windscreen from one of the other Multistrada models on the bike just for the longer trips.  As far as the "road enduro" goes, I'm not sure how adventurous you'll want to get during any off-pavement excursions with the front exhaust header hanging down and in harms way.  I think it will more than likely take quite a beating but I'm sure someone will build an aftermarket skid plate to help protect it.

The bike was a blast to ride and the Pikes Peak model is definitely aimed at the high performance sport riding end of the scale.  The bike feels the more like an adventurous sport bike or a big supermoto than the adventure bikes I've ridden.  There are 4 Flavors of the Multistrada to choose from starting with the standard 1200, the 1200 S Sport, 1200 S Touring and the 1200 S Pikes Peak.  Learn more about the Multistrada line here  or go to Northern Ohio Ducati and Triumph at 1915 Brittain Rd, Akron, Ohio 44310

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