Testing the 2013 Ducati Multistrada (and how it compares to the 2010-12…

27 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Testing the 2013 Ducati Multistrada (and how it compares to the 2010-12…
Ducati 250 Mark 3 D

Testing the 2013 Ducati Multistrada (and how it compares to the 2010-12 Multistrada)


The weekend before last I had the privilege of riding, back to back, two great motorcycles: the 2010 Multistrada and the brand new 2013 Multistrada.  After a short three years in production we have here a rather long list of changes in the 2013 model.

Can you spot the differences? The 2013 Multistrada (Silver) and the 2010 Multistrada (Red)

The motor and the suspension are where the key changes were made, I would call one evolutionary, the other revolutionary. So, what are these changes and how do they translate into the riding experience? Is it an improvement?

Would these changes go as far as making you call the 2010-12 models “old school” bikes (not that there is anything wrong with that)? So let’s find out. To do it properly, I asked the great folks at European Motorcycles of Western Oregon (thanks Scott and Madelyn) whether I could have both motorcycles available for a test ride. When they graciously gave me an okay I invited my friend Doug to join me in the effort.

Effort? Ha! That was some fun!

Looking back to 2010

It was love at first sight when I first laid my eyes on the much anticipated 1200 Multistrada back in 2010. Once it showed up at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon I took the 2010 Multistrada S (Sport) for a test ride and I was immediately impressed by its power, loved the ergonomics, how the bike feels light, the oh-so-sweet fast turn in, and the Ducati 1200 cc L-twin motor experience.  That motor… you twist the throttle and on the blink of an eye you are on the next zip code.

If your arms did not fall off their sockets, there is. Because you are doing all of that while riding on a very comfortable, and even plush, I would venture saying, upright touring / enduro / motard riding position. I couldn’t find a way to describe that riding experience with the Multistrada, but the word “visceral” was what came to mind at that time.

The Ducati Multistrada 1200. September 3rd, 2011

The motor on this bike has a successful racing pedigree, based on the 1198 Superbike motor, from where it was tuned down for a street application, and Ducati called it the 11 degrees Testastretta, referring to the narrower valve overlap as compared to the 30-something degrees on the original 1198 motor. Making such motors rideable on the street and also have them meet fuel emissions is not an easy task.

The result of this first incarnation of the TestaStretta was that it has all the power you may want but it runs lean hence poorly (surges) at anything less than around 3 to 4 thousand rpm at constant throttle position. It actually doesn’t feel really good until you get past the 5,500 rpm.

Ducatisti around the world proudly justify this as par for the course in the forums, “that’s what gives it character” they say. But in reality many of these same owners work on the few available fixes, not perfect solutions and sometimes quite expensive, but in the end it shows great improvement.

Although I like the rough on the edges contrast you experience between that wild motor and the overall refined design concept of the 4 in 1 bike, it was not quite what I was looking for on a motorcycle. I would had preferred another Jekyll and Hyde proposition: A motor subtle and smooth for the “touring” mode,  but which is capable of showing its wild character upon a “sport” setting request! And that would make the bike’s 4 modes in 1 concept more realistic as well, in my opinion.

2010 Multistrada, Photo from September 2011

I had a chance to ride that very same bike again in September of 2011. Now the bike had some 2,000 miles on the clock, the motor was broken in and some tune work had been done to it and it felt substantially better on the low range.  I was still unconvinced, though. After all, it had Urban and Touring modes, right? Shouldn’t these two modes give you a more refined riding experience?

In reality I had a feeling I was the only one complaining because this bike was pretty much hitting the top end of the popularity charts. The sales figures were the prove of its  success. That wild character was the postcard of this bike, Sport mode was champion!

Admittedly, this bike had a lot more to offer than what could be hindered by my humble impressions of a lumpy motor on partial throttle. Back in 2010 the 1200 Multistrada was a trend setter and it still is today. The idea of a sports bike motor on an enduro style body, offering plenty of comfort for touring, with four riding modes ranging from enduro to urban to touring to sport was new back then. Somehow it is still new today!

The Multistrada brought a new perspective to the adventure and sport-touring bikes segment with the electronically controlled suspension setup based on top-of-the-line Ohlins suspension systems which was and still is a major hit for performance riding. Other manufacturers are only now arriving at what Ducati has had for three years already.

Like Audi, their new partner, once used in their adverts, much before the start of their joint venture last year: “you lead or you get out of the way.” Who could have imagined Audi and Ducati together back then, right? But that is another story.

Ohlins, Baby! Offered on 2010-12 model S and Touring!

The story of three years on the market.

So three years later and now with the benefit of the story cumulative sales data can tell, we can say that the gutsy move played by Ducati with this bike paid off.  This motorcycle impacted the Adventure segment and pretty much impacted Ducati itself. The average Multistrada buyer is 45 years old.

And for about 80% of the owners, the Multistrada was their first Ducati. Ben Cope at Visordown puts it well:

Ducati has sold 20,500 Multistrada 1200s since its launch in 2010 and it surprised me to see that, for 80% of buyers, this was their first Ducati. They ride, on average, 50% more than the typical Ducati owner (no jokes, please) and the stat that stands out most is that the previous bike MTS1200 owners came from is equally split between sportsbikes, naked bikes and adventure bikes.

This motorcycle conquered slices in the sales pie of the adventure, sport and naked bikes segments. Prove that the 4 in 1  concept worked, and more than that, it offered an alternative that was nonexistent until then in its merge of comfort ergonomics with a sport performance. This bike makes its own segment and its uniqueness remains.

Furthermore, this bike became an introduction to Ducati to many riders around the world. Success nonetheless. When I visited the Ducati factory and museum in 2011 they proudly talked about the Multistrada as their best seller bike at that time.

While there I had a chance to meet Lidia, the Multistrada that went around the world in a promotion stunt which was proudly displayed in its own room in the museum. But I digress. Again.

Lidia, the multistrada that went around the world with Paolo Pirozzi in 2010. Ducati Museum, Borgo Panigale, Bologna, Italy. October 26th, 2011.

So why change, you may ask?

In soccer we often say we don’t change the roster of players nor the game strategy when the team is on a winning streak. But of course, there is much more to that on the motorcycle world. I see two reasons for change that make sense to me.

One is Ducati’s official story. Ducati claims the changes implemented in the 2013 model are a result of their consultation to customers and from data gathering of riders’ opinions on motorcycle forums. I wasn’t alone on my complaints after all! The bottom line was to make the Multistrada a motorcycle with a stronger touring capability and fix a few niggling issues here and there.

This could serve two objectives: consolidate their newly acquired customer base by offering an upgrade and improved product; and conquering yet more new customers by offering a better touring product which taps into a larger more mature slice of the market. Ducati’s move with this bike in its 2013 fashion could be to assume a more mainstream position by offering a de facto touring machine. But which still had that wicked sport mode!

They wouldn’t want to lose that edge, right?

On the other hand, we can also speculate how Ducati wants to keep this bike at the trend setter position it started in 2010. Other manufacturers are catching up to Ducati’s challenge and are offering motorcycles with riding modes and electronically controlled suspension systems not unlike what Ducati has been offering on this bike since 2010. And not only that, they are also offering semi-active suspension systems on 2013 models.

Two examples are the 2013 BMW R1200 GS and the 2013 Aprilia Caponord. And there is more: I’ve heard a rumor that one major and traditional manufacturer of large adventure motorcycles of the 1200 cc variety (which I will keep nameless here because it is a rumor, despite the fact that rumors always have a hint of truth…) wanted to emulate some of the Ducati feel on their heavily revised 2013 model. Too much of a hint?

Anyway, you lead or get out of the way, right? Ducati is again taking chances with this bike, introducing changes including the new semi-active suspension technology to the motorcycle market.

2010 Multistrada. Photo of September 2011

Evolutionary, you said?

So where is this long list of changes? Although these bikes look about the same, Ducati has touched just about every system on this bike. They kept the four riding modes (Enduro, Urban, Touring and Sport) but outside of that it seems everything else was fair game. Some of these changes are here:

LED headlights for low beam. Besides being brighter and more visible to traffic, its lower power consumption allows for low and high beams to be on at the same time, improving illumination overall. High beams remain the same as previous models.

Upgraded ABS brakes with three levels of interference including levels of front and back linked actuation, which changes depending on the riding modes (latest version of Bosch’s 9ME ABS system).

Upgrade to the 8 level Ducati traction control (DTC) sporting smoother interference with torque reduction of up to 60 per cent now controlled by retarding the ignition, and the fuel injection being interrupted only for greater levels than that.

New windshield with better wind protection and which allows one hand operation, so you can move it up or down on the go.

Other cosmetic changes, like wheels, the stickers are gone in place of high relieve plastic, slight changes to the shape of the headlight, the seats, and perhaps other things that I have missed.

There is a shuffle on the models available: A base (no semi-active suspension) continues to be available, and the Touring model is also available, the S model disappears and in its place you get only the Pikes Peak version. And a Gran Turismo model appears.

Touring, Pikes Peak and GranTurismo

This one really shows the new direction towards a more touring appeal. The bike comes in only a graphite color, with a few accessories that make it more geared for touring (higher screen, different seat, fog lights, engine protection bars, and tires more geared for touring than sports performance).

2013 Multistrada 1200 Granturismo. Photo form Ducati press release.

But the two main areas of change as mentioned earlier are in the motor and in the suspension. I recommend you check “Ash On Bikes ” for Kevin Ash’s excellent comprehensive technical review of the specific changes to the motor and suspension, including Ducati’s diagrams explaining in detail the changes. It is worth a look, I guarantee you that.

But to summarize, these changes make a lot of sense to me, they say it is smoother at the partial open throttle range. It has a 5% increase in torque and up to a 10% reduction on fuel consumption. With its Dual Spark (DS) plugs per cylinder, angle of fuel injection more directly across the intake duct, and an auxiliary air injection, you can call it an evolutionary change.

Ducati calls this new motor the Testastretta 11 degrees DS.

And the revolutionary change is on the suspension. Ohlins electronically controlled suspension is out, Sachs semi-active suspension is in. It is the Skyhook semi-active suspension, Ducati calls it DSS. This type of suspension has been in the auto industry for several years already. Ferrari and Maseratti are great examples, but it has become more prevalent on other top tier car manufacturers as well.

Semi-active suspension allows for on-the-fly, fraction-of-second changes to compression and damping that are based on several parameters (speed of travel, throttle position, brake actuation, measurements of front and rear wheel travel if I haven’t forgotten something). The objective of this suspension is to maximize wheel contact with the pavement while maintaining the chassis as stable as possible. In theory it improves traction while also improving rider comfort.

Again, I recommend you check Kevin Ash’s review on the “Ash on Bikes” site linked above.

You must be thinking too much talk and it is not on the riding experience. So here we go. We got a scheduled date for the ride and I counted the days waiting for it to arrive.

The day it was scheduled, a Saturday morning, Doug and I met for coffee early before getting to the EMCWOR. Doug shows up on the 850 Moto Guzzi Eldorado. I show up on my Triumph Tiger 800 XC.

I already know it is a problem selecting a bike to go for a Ducati Multistrada test ride because chances are your motorcycle will feel underpowered when you get back to it after the test ride. You are better off driving a car to the test ride, so you avoid the inevitable comparisons. Follow my advice or you risk buying a new bike!

The Eldorado and the Tiger

Ducati 250 Mark 3 D

Having Doug join me on the test ride would allow us to have both bikes out at the same time allowing back to back comparisons and an opportunity for a photo shoot.  But most importantly I would have someone with whom I could exchange notes along the way, and not just someone, but a guy who knows about motorcycles. I could write a few pages here to describe the portion that I know of Doug’s Curriculum Vitae on motorcycle matters.

  But let’s just summarize here that Doug is a motorcycle enthusiast with experience on the race track and great overall knowledge on several aspects of motorcycles and motorcycling in general. And I should add that I learn about riding and about motorcycles every single time I go on a ride with him. I was really glad he was available and willing to join me on this ride.

  Of course, you should know there was no arm twisting here, it was not difficult at all to get him to join me on this ride.

EMCWOR provided us with their new 2013 demo bike and a 2010 that has been an executive demo at the shop, my friend of the previous two test rides, now with about 4,700 miles on the clock, with brand new tires. The bikes were ready to go when we showed up at the shop at about 10:00am give or take.

Bikes ready to go at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon

If you haven’t ridden a Multistrada yet, you should know these bikes require instructions regarding the operations of their several systems. It is pretty much intuitive, but it had been a long time since the last time I rode the 2010. And the 2013 has a few important changes and added features that we wanted to know.

Below you can see the default set up for sport mode, DTC at level 4 (just below medium interference level, 8 being highest) and ABS at level 2 (less aggressive with independent actuation of front and rear). On Touring, ABS is defaulted to level 1 indicating front and back braking is linked when operated by the handle bar lever. On Enduro, Level 3, you can get rear wheel lock up, if I remember correctly, the order of levels could be inverted and the defaults could be different.

  What is important is that you can customize each of the riding modes the way you like it. So you can have the 150hp map (touring or sport) with a different set of ABS, suspension damping/compression and DTC that is different than the default. And it will stay there until you change it again or bring it back to default.

The 2013′s more informative dashboard

I asked to ride the 2010 first. I was wondering about what does “evolutionary” meant, so going from the 2010 to the 2013 would tell me the story, if there was a story to be told. The outside temperature was 42 degrees and both bikes showed the ice warning symbol on the dash. I climbed on board of the bike I already know relatively well. I was surprised to realize the 2010 was even smoother than I remember it was last time I rode it in September 2011.

I was following Doug going west on 11th at the 35 mph traffic and the bike was doing fine at partial throttle on second gear.  I was immediately comfortable with the bike’s ergos. I’m 5’10″ and this bike fits me like a glove.

A bit taller than my Triumph Tiger 800 XC when I have the Tiger’s seat on its lower position, shorter than the Tiger with the Tiger’s seat on its highest position. But it feels laterally lighter than the Tiger when stopped, which is important when only the ball of one of my feet reaches the ground. Handlebars reach is spot on! Perfect distance seat to pegs.

Very comfortable indeed.

We took off towards the south hills of Eugene.  When we hit the open road we let the bikes show a bit of what they are all about but as soon as we hit the hills we were engulfed in a thick fog. Roads were wet.

I slowed down.

We went towards Crow, OR, to show the bikes to a riding friend of ours and make some time waiting for the fog to lift some. But he was not home, so we took the opportunity to talk about the bikes so far and examine some of the differences about the bikes. When we stopped and helmets were off, first thing Doug said was: “I like this bike!” On one of the intersections, half way there, I had helped Doug change his bike’s mode from Touring to Sport.

I think that’s what did it for him!

And about the windshields, can you spot the differences?

2013 Windshield is taller, wider, and is shaped differently.

Besides being taller, wider and shaped differently, the operation can be made by a one-hand-move, on the go. It is quieter than the previous model. But it is not quiet. And for me it works better on the low position. On the high position if I lower my upper body to a position that actually makes it uncomfortable to be riding at any distance, but it makes it really quiet.

I wonder if the windscreen of the Granturismo model, which is taller will offer less wind noise for long distance traveling.

There is a slight change on the shape of the headlights. Can you tell? On the new model the top of the headlight cuts towards the front and center of the fairing on a more straight line.

  Looks less like it is surprised like the previous model and more like it is determined.  You can also see the new windscreen is bolted with four attachment points, so they are not interchangeable with the previous model (three bolts).

A more straight line on top of the headlight makes it look more determined.

The fairing on the front, on that area from the headlights to the dashboard, has a different angle when it connects to the black plastic on the dash. I only noticed that now that I was paying more attention to the photos. Looks better integrated with the dashboard. The upper part of the fairing as well, it has a new indentation where it connects to the wider wind screen.

Very small changes that require one to be paying close attention to notice.

We got back on the bikes, I was still on the red 2010 bike.  We went towards the King Estate Winery, it is always a great setting for photographs. And there is a great set of curves with very rough surface on the way to the winery.  The Ohlins suspended bike took it well. I felt some jarring on the handlebars, the bike pitched some, but it was solid.

Once at the winery we stopped for more photographs at their entrance road.

The rider’s seat on the new bike is a bit longer.  That was Ducati responding to some taller riders complaining they felt cramped on the seat.  To me it was okay for regular touring, unless on situations when I needed to move around and then I would hit the lip to the passenger seat.

I think this change was actually already incorporated on the 2012 model. Another small change is the stitching on the new seat. Looks really nice.

Ducati 250 Mark 3 D
Ducati 250 Mark 3 D
Ducati 250 Mark 3 D

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