2017 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro review, test ride
10th Jun 2017 7:00 am
We get astride this giant from Ducati to see if the beast can be tamed. Or does its sheer size make that impossible?
Sometimes, just on that rare occasion, there is beauty in monstrosity. And it is the sort that is so in your face. Enter the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. Its sheer size is jaw-dropping. It's an intimidating motorcycle to look at and is capable of getting you across continents. And if you've ever been bitten by the adventure bug, you're quite aware then that motorcycles are one of the best ways to go on that adventure. But what is it that you look for in an adventure motorcycle? Probably low weight, decent power, off-road capability and extreme comfort. Besides being anything but dainty, the Multistrada is what the modern-day apex of adventure motorcycles looks like.
When you first approach the motorcycle, the facade is sure to grab your attention. That predatory front beak and a set of dual headlights with the high flyscreen are a signature of the Multistrada series, although the Enduro version gets an even bigger front beak. But look beyond and the proportions seem to get gargantuan in nature. The 30-litre, bulbous fuel tank sits authoritatively at the centre, and this is what really stands out on the Enduro. The curves blend seamlessly with the edges, and finally, there's a nice deep swoop-into seat. If anyone could make a purpose-built, adventure motorcycle beautiful, it had to be the Italians. The rest of the seat, the pillion seat, and the rear end are shared with the other Multistrada models.
This Enduro version simply towers over the other models in the series, thanks to the spoked wheels that sport larger 19-inch front tyres. And these aren't just regular rims; if you look closely, you'll notice that the spokes sit on the outside of the rim. In addition to being durable – and expensive – this feature allows the Enduro to use tubeless tyres, quite like what's seen on the BMW R1200 GS. It also gets 200mm of suspension travel at the front and the rear; about 30mm more than what you see on the other Multistradas. And let's not forget the use of a double-sided swingarm instead of a single-sided one, which can take more of a beating and really helps with stability when riding off-road. The Enduro also gets a raised, side-slung exhaust that's in tune with the typically Ducati L-Twin soundtrack.
Enter the cockpit
If you've ridden the other Multistrada models, the TFT instrument cluster is going to be a rather familiar feature. It is well laid out, customisable, easy to read and light-adaptive. But the Multistrada's party trick is its rider modes. This can be accessed via the toggle buttons on the left switchgear which are reasonably easy to use. Once you get the hang of navigating through the menu, it's simply amazing how customisable the entire motorcycle is from the cockpit itself. This is the top-of-the-line Multistrada model. So everything from the suspension to the engine's character can be controlled electronically. The four basic rider modes – Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro – can be switched on the go. But when you are at a standstill, you can go into each mode and customise the character and limitations of the Enduro even further.
Besides the three levels of power output, which is 160hp on high (Sport and Touring) and 100hp on low (Urban and Enduro), you get eight levels of traction control, wheelie control and ABS. Although, it must be noted that, in Touring mode, you get 100hp until the 4,000rpm mark, and from there the full 160hp kicks in. To make the Enduro ideal for various riding conditions, and your level of skill, Ducati's electronic Skyhook Suspension offers four settings and 24 levels of preload. It also gets Ducati's version of a hill-hold which releases the brakes gradually when stopped in Enduro mode.
The comfort zone
Getting on the bike can be a bit daunting. I'm about 5ft 10in and my feet just about reach the ground. The good part, however, is that it gets a main stand but you'll need some proper muscle power to actually use it. This is definitely a bike for taller, larger-built riders. Once you're astride the Enduro, you're sitting well inside the bike; the seat is enormously comfortable. The handlebars are nice and wide and the front visor is manually adjustable and easy to use. And once you get it all the way up, the wind protection is just brilliant. Just a slight tuck in and you can hold this position all day, with minimal fatigue from windblast. And if you start to get a bit tired, all you have to do is stand up. The spiked pegs hold your feet in place brilliantly, and the tank has just the right contours to squeeze in your knees. This position feels so natural on this bike, you could probably stand and ride all day.
The Enduro gets Ducati's Testastretta DVT (Desmodromic Valve Timing) engine which has benefits on and off the road. The engine pulls smoothly from 2,000rpm, ensuring you don't have to sift through the gears too much. However, you have to keep an eye out for the false neutrals between fourth, fifth and sixth gears – typical in Ducatis. The throttle response is sharp and power feels good as the revs climb, with the bike pulling noticeably harder around the 6,000rpm mark. But the fuelling did feel a bit jerky in Urban mode. The 160hp produced is enough grunt for a motorcycle this large. Although, while off-road, putting it in Enduro mode with power limited to 100hp is definitely advisable; it's more than adequate while riding in the dirt.
Float or sink?
The crowning glory of the Multistrada is how well it changes its character in the different riding modes. Once you actually get moving, all assumptions of it being a ridiculously large motorcycle start to fade away. It is extremely manageable and rider-friendly. Here's where you get to explore the beauty of the different modes. In Urban mode, the Enduro feels a bit underpowered, but this should be good for wet riding conditions. The fuelling feels a bit jerky as well. The problem here, however, is the amount of heat generated in slow-moving traffic. The larger tank restricts the flow of air around the engine and ends up sending searing levels of heat towards your left thigh. A short blast into triple-digit speeds does see the temperature drop.
In Touring mode, the suspension feels soft and absorbs bumps at all speeds beautifully. However, in the corners, it does tend to lollop over bumps and that hampers precision. In Sport mode, the Enduro's nature changes from relaxed to very crisp. Although the suspension is still a bit soft, the bike encourages you to push it harder. It tips into and tackles corners with poise and precision; not something you'd expect from such a large motorcycle. And even with its upright riding position, it could give sportier machines a run for their money.
But it's the Enduro mode that sets this Multistrada apart. It just makes the motorcycle so much fun on dirt. There's still a lot of muscle power required here. With the ABS set at level one, the front ABS remains active while the rear switches off and allows you to lock up, square-off and tighten turns. Of course, I did find the traction control to be a bit intrusive when trying to get the rear sliding, but that was sorted out by switching traction control off altogether. If you know what you're doing, this motorcycle could do trails all day. It would still be way too heavy for the more technical stuff.
The world is your oyster
So, all in all, we're quite impressed with how capable this motorcycle is despite its gargantuan proportions. But this is not a motorcycle for just anybody. And it's definitely not a motorcycle for the city. Even if it falls within your budget, and you're large enough to manage its size, you need that ability to really appreciate what this motorcycle is capable of. If you've managed to tick all these boxes, and you have the wanderlust within you, we wish you a whole lot of excitement on the adventures you have coming.