When the Ducati Multistrada was first released it got rave reviews from the motorcycle press. Here was a motorbike that could do anything, and was fun doing the anything that it could do! Or words to that effect. (The "strada" part of the name means "road", by the way - so "Multi-road" is what the name of the bike means). When I first met the Multistrada, I only sat on it, but I took an instant dislike to it. I banged my knee getting on, and when I did sit on it the seat felt like a block of concrete! Ugh! And it didn’t even look good! Then a riding friend had one; the 620 version. He liked it. He referred to it as a “sports-bike” (which it isn’t), and sometimes rode it accordingly. If we were out together and the red-mist descended, I just let him go. I assumed it would out-perform my XJ600 anyway, and his tales of scraping foot-pegs on mountain roads had me assuming he would also ride harder than I would even if the XJ could keep up. Later though, he became a bit disillusioned with it; mainly due to servicing-costs and a couple of build-quality issues. And he traded it on a Harley. (Go figure!). Anyway, when the Ducati test-fleet came to town again I Thought I’d take the opportunity to take one for a brief test-ride. The version I rode was the 1100. This time I didn’t hit my knee getting on. But the seat still felt hard. Maybe not “concrete-hard”, but still hard! The riding-position is very up-right, of course, which is okay, except the bars felt a bit close for my lanky old arms. I felt a bit cramped on it. Combine a less-than-ideal riding-position with that hard seat, and my dodgy old back was telling me that it wasn’t happy on this thing! It wasn’t too bad, mind, but just not my ideal. The instruments contain an analogue tacho numbered to 11 (and with no red-line), and a digital speedo. There’s a lot of other info available on the big LCD display too. (Don’t ask what, I didn’t experiment with pushing buttons!). Take a look at it on the left there, and you've got to admit that it's, well, it's (how can I put this?), well it's not overly-attractive is it! No, let's be honest, from this angle especially, it's downright ugly! Having the blinkers in the mirrors is very modern, but not when the bike is this tall, and the mirors are so high. At night you'd think a UFO was coming in to land! Out on the road, threading through suburban roads and traffic, it felt pretty good. It handled well at these sort of speeds and was an easy bike to get confident with. I soon found I was tipping it into corners easily and really enjoying the handling. But as speeds rose it began to change. I rode this on the same day I rode the Monster S4RS, and the handling of the two bikes was kind of opposite. Where the Monster felt just a bit slow to turn in, but perfectly stable at all speeds, the Multistrada was quick to steer at town speeds, but felt less stable on the open road. It certainly wasn’t as stable as the Monster, even at normal highway speeds. It seemed to be effected by wind too, causing a bit more instability. At 110kph the rider was getting blown around a bit too. So, great around town, not so great on the highway! Weight is quoted at 196kg. This certainly isn’t heavy, and it didn’t feel top-heavy around town, but I’d reckon the centre-of-gravity would be higher than on a sports-bike or sports-tourer, which could also account for the instability at higher speeds and effect the wind had on it. Now, I have to emphasise that these weren’t major problems; but having come from riding the Monster, which was beautifully stable, it was certainly noticeable. The engine is the usual Ducati twin, with 1078cc, producing 70kw and 102Nm of torque. It too, is great around town. It pulls easily and smoothly from low revs; even from around the 2,000rpm – 3,000rpm mark. And there’s good acceleration there too. Out on the open road it’s geared for easy cruising, with 110kph pulling 4,000rpm. I didn’t get a chance to test it on rough roads, but it seemed to ride okay. Smaller bumps made their presence felt more than I expected, but a larger bump I came across was absorbed very well. What else did I notice? Well, I did notice a fair bit of heat around my legs at slow speed and when stopped in traffic. I also found it hard to get neutral. (Other than this, the gear-change was good though). Price is always a point of contention with Ducati. And at $18,995 it is a bit expensive for what it is. To put it in perspective, it’s about $6,000 more than the Yamaha TDM900, and about $3,000 more than the Triumph Tiger. And on the subject of money, as I stated in the Monster S4RS test, Ducati claim to have reduced service-costs by around 50%; but I still reckon it’d cost more to run than an equivalent Jap (or British!) bike. Okay, I can understand how people could like this. Especially around town. But I didn’t enjoy it. It was fun around town, for the relatively short time I rode it, but over-all, no, not for me! The riding-position and the hard seat had me feeling less than comfortable on it, and the effect the wind had on bike and rider at highway speeds, made it unpleasant too. And I still reckon it’s a pretty ugly-looking thing! No, if I was going to buy this type of bike there are a couple of other bikes, including the ones I mentioned above, that I’d be taking a long hard look at first.
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