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Features | Motorcycles | Wheel2Wheel / 12-11-18

2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Press Test, Gran Canaria, Spain


By Miguel C. Bichara Photos by Ducati and author

 

Among many things, Ducati is best known the world over for its racing heritage in World Superbike, MotoGP and its utter dedication to building ridiculously fast and beautiful motorcycles. But things have changed quickly for this iconic Italian brand, as best highlighted with the introduction of Ducati’s bigger displacement and latest generation Sport Tourer of the year: the Multistrada 1260. Yes, you read it right.

The new 2018 Multistrada is now equipped with a bigger DVT engine displacing an actual 1262cc over the predecessor’s 1198cc DVT motor. Significant modifications were needed to bring the new multistrada to a whole new level, with the aim being for a softer delivering, stronger bottom-ended performance, better electronics and more stability at speed. This is really an “All- New” Ducati Multistrada. Ducati has changed the rake of the frame, extended the swingarm by 48mm, increased displacement to 1262cc, upgraded all the electronic hardware and software with minor facelifted  panels on the side, makes this the best Multistrada ever to come out of their Bologna Plant.

Being invited to test the all-new 1260 S Multistrada at the Gran Canaria mountains in Spain, was a surreal experience. Ducati had at least over 20 units of the Volcano Grey 1260 S models sitting outside the parking of our Sheraton Hotel in Gran Canaria. This new color scheme now comes with matte gold wheels and anthracite colored frame on all its variants except on the Pikes Peak series which will retain the red frame for 2018 as a distinguishing racier look as always.

The Volcano Grey color with its anthracite frame and matching gold wheels surely gives this new Multistrada a classier look. Ducati took us for a 250km ride through the Gran Canaria mountain twisties. There were hardly any straights except when we hit the highway to and from our hotel. The rest of the trip was travelling through vast sections of beautiful scenic twisty roads. This was done to showcase the new Multistrada’s performance in agility and stability.

Having lazier dimensions due to a 48mm longer swingarm and steering rake that has been increased from 24 to 25 degrees added a dramatic increase in stability which was an issue with the 1200 elder sibling. This takes the wheelbase from 1,530mm to 1,585mm, now longer by 55m… But this didn’t hamper the side-to-side handling of the Multistrada. Ok yes, it may be a few notches lazier in the handling department but the offset of better ride stability was needed due to the more powerful motor. Ducati took us to endless twisty roads that were as smooth as glass in some areas and some riddled with potholes and loose gravel. This all-new 1260 Multistrada handled much better than its predecessor did. Believe me it is better. The bike just seems to stay on track once lean angle is achieved with no instability issues powering out of the corners. Ducati has done its job here, finally.

Ducati also added something most current superbikes have, which is the electronic clutchless up and down quickshifter. This made the 250km trip more enjoyable as I only used the clutch a few times when getting in and out of the city limits before hitting the mountains. This quickshifter will come standard on the S and Pikes Peak variants. Speaking of variants, there will be four available – The Standard 1260, Multistrada S, the S D-Air, and the racier Multistrada Pikes Peak though I heard from Ducati that only North American and European countries may get the S D-Air variant. This D-Air variant is similar to the S series but with the added safety feature of an airbag. The airbag deploys when front fork hits an object head on. Also, the new 1260 Pikes Peak now comes with forged aluminum wheels which are 3kgs lighter than the cast wheels on the current DVT 1200 Pikes Peak.

On the S D-Air variant, there is a sensor located on the fork which will make the airbag deploy immediately. Any of the latest airbag suits made by Dainese must be purchased and can be made to link with the electronics of the 1260. How cool is that! There’s no questioning the Multistrada’s level of sophistication, which is taken to the next level on the S and S D-Air variants and will feature panniers, a center-stand, heated grips and semi active electronic suspension as standard. Talking about semi-active suspension, I am not a firm believer on these semi-active suspensions on motorcycles. Being an old school type kinda rider, I would prefer a set of manually adjustable Ohlins suspension instead. But this so-called Skyhook, which is a semi-active electronic suspension, is the best I’ve been on so far. It simply impressed me on the ride quality which was buttery smooth in the entirety of the 250km trip we did. Whether pushing superbike-hard in the corners or simply touring/cruising the mountainsides, it simply destroyed the notion I had on semi-active electronic suspensions. I was blown away at how well the system functioned. I recommend that all sport touring rigs use this kind of suspension system from now on. It simply works really well.

Then there is this new super high definition 5” color TFT dash, which seems not much bigger than the previous model but the resolution is the best I’ve seen so far! It really is as Ducati claims “super high definition color”. The dash is so clear that it seems you can watch a Netflix video in it. Seriously, I’m not kidding! Ducati has also made maneuvering of the menu buttons so much easier now that switching modes, adjusting levels of comfort, power, ABS and traction control sensitivity is now so much easier with less things to press to get to the desired setting you want. It shows a clearer view and explains the setting you’re getting into. Simply impressive! That’s the way to do it, as I hate dash systems that are so confusing to work on. Ducati again did their homework on this one.

Ergonomics are identical to the current model. You simply sit upright and gives you the usual comfortable stance all Multistradas are known for. Pulling the bike through the corners was easy due to the exact same wide handlebars. You can really hustle this bike around the twisties with ease, due to those wide bars. Handling wise, I prefer this bike to the current 1200 variant. I was hesitant at first as the current 1200 seems more flickable, but this 250km trip in the Gran Canaria mountains proved me wrong. I realized the stability, handling, midrange and power is better on this new bike. Ducati has chosen the excellent place for this International Press test of the all-new Multistrada 1260 for us motoring journalist.

Power? Let’s talk about performance of this all-new 1262cc motor. So we all know displacement was increased from 1198cc to 1262cc, so what are the power gains? Ducati claims the same 160Hp due to strict Euro 4 emissions, but with 18% more torque as low as 3,500rpm. Well, I was super satisfied with the previous power characteristics of the current Testastretta 1200 DVT engine, so adding more torque by increasing displacement was a good move. Ducati concentrated on increasing torque figures instead of going for outright top end horsepower. This is no repli-racer superbike where the rev range is always needed to be at its peak. Ducati designed this Multistrada to give the pulling power needed whether riding tandem and loaded with luggage. Real-world technology needed for us real-world street riders, the way it should actually be.

I also noticed that this new 1262cc DVT engine is much smoother at all rev ranges as well. You get the same four riding modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. Rider aids are also the same with wheelie control, cornering ABS, clever cornering lights that are incorporated in the Multistrada’s “S” LED headlight which are in turn controlled by Bosch IMU which incidentally also interacts with the Skyhook suspension.

Aesthetically, the new 1260 has received new side fairing panels only, not veering away from the current Multistrada look, and not making the current ones look too dated. Ducati has perfected the 1260 DVT engine on this bike. As a whole package, this bike may be the unbeatable sport touring rig every rider may ever need. Those looking for a premium bike that can tour comfortably and take on some sportbikes in the twisties, look nowhere else. It really is that good and Ducati hit the nail right on the head on this one. If you’re thinking of upgrading your current 1200 Multistradas with this all-new 1260, I encourage you; sell those 1200s before the 1260’s come ashore. This is definitely a dramatic upgrade in performance and handling. Look no further.

Specifications:

 

Engine: Testastretta DVT, liquid-cooled, EFI, L-twin, Desmodromic, dohc, 8-valve, 4-stroke

Displacement: 1262cc Euro 4

Max power: 156 bhp @ 9500 rpm

Torque: 95.5 lb ft @ 7500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat height: 825mm -845mm

Fuel capacity: 20 liters

Curb weight: 232 kg (with oil and fuel)

Top speed: 265 km/h (estimate)

Price: PhP 1,515,000

Plus: Faster and more stable

Minus: Not much