YEARS OF DUCATI
ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL Continued over
ile upon mile of damp, slippery fire-trail wiggles like a giant, lazy worm across a warm, soggy landscape. The last tarmac is an hour’s ride ago. Since then we’ve been slithering over the rough surface, rear tyre spraying a moist plume of gravel and dirt into the Mediterranean air, 19in front gliding securely over the track. This is a masterful display of control from the big V-twin, flattering its nervous rider when the going gets tricky with fantastic chassis balance and welcome electronic traction and braking management. But it also lets off-road experts do their thing and have fun accessing the engine performance.
And Ducati’s new Multistrada 1200 Enduro is just as compelling later in the day on the relative safety of Sardinia’s grippy coastal blacktop. It’s secure, stable and slings itself through corners with an entirely chuck-able competence belying its long-travel springs. But then the Enduro is built around the standard Multistrada, and that’s a hell of a starting point because it’s one of the most versatile bikes on the road. With its flexible, variablevalve timed motor making 160bhp and spreading torque about like butter, yet with a luxury tech-spec that would put head offices in Silicon Valley to shame, the 1200 S is both staggeringly rapid in the bends and incredibly comfortable over any distance.
But although the existing 1200 S has Enduro mode, it isn’t fooling anyone. It’s only brilliant while it’s on a relatively solid surface. Until now.
The 1200 Enduro is Ducati’s first adventure bike with true off-road potential. But as soon as you ride the Enduro, the concept becomes such a blindingly obvious idea that it’s amazing they didn’t build it years ago.
The first thing an off-road bike needs is long-travel suspension to cope with bumps and ruts. The 1200 S already has that, but the Enduro gets 30mm longer springs for its semi-active Sachs forks and shock, and revised Skyhook damping software re-calibrated to suit the weight and chassis dynamic. Wire rims replace cast spokes Ð heavier, but stronger over bumps Ð with an all-important 19in front opening up
Moptions for better trail rubber and making steering on the loose stuff less haphazard than the 17in hoop on the 1200 S. A double-sided swingarm replaces the Multi’s single-sider Ð it’s stronger for a given weight Ð and gives a longer wheelbase. Further geometry tweaks and a damper calm the front end.
After that, the Enduro gets a selection of practical dirt details: flexible steel brake and gear levers instead of brittle aluminium (a nice touch is the springloaded reversible rear brake lever, to set at different heights for off-road use), higher bars for a standing-up riding style and off-road control, a longer front beak to keep mud spray down, and a narrower, deeper seat for better bodyweight positioning.
Now you can contemplate riding a Ducati on a round-the-world trip as easily as thinking of a BMW or a KTM etc. And to back it up, Ducati are keen to stress they have a global network of 766 dealers and service centres ready to scoop up your battered Enduro and make it good again should you throw it off a cliff in the middle of nowhere.
Of course, Ducati wouldn’t admit this but the customers who elect to go on year-long adventures are really unpaid ambassadors. For every Multistrada Enduro outside a hotel in Bamako, there’ll be hundreds outside hotels in Yorkshire, Norfolk, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall, whose owners have been inspired and empowered to have their own, more modest adventures.
And this is the Enduro’s real target market Ð which is why it also comes with a 30-litre tank (with aluminium knee panels for standing-up wear and tear) for 250 miles between stops; tank range is the first thing many potential owners will check in the spec panel and it’s a major consideration on a flagship adventure bike (41.5mpg average on the ride gives a theoretical 270 miles).
Potential owners will also be grateful
‘Such a blindingly obvious idea it’s amazing they didn’t build it years ago’
With specially tuned semi-active Sachs suspension giving 200mm of wheel travel front and rear (30mm more than the 1200 S), the Enduro’s Skyhook algorithm is adapted for off-road performance. The Ducati also adds a steering damper, to keep the 19in front wheel
A redesigned off-road seat is a non-adjustable 870mm, an inch higher than the 1200 S on its max setting – a lower (and taller) seat is optional. Bars are 50mm higher for better off-road control (with repositioned mirrors), and steel pegs are off-road style with removable rubber inserts.
Featuring the same exhaustive list of electronics as the 1200 S, the Enduro features Sport, Street, Urban and Enduro modes for various engine power, traction control, cornering ABS and wheelie settings, plus cruise control, hill hold start, Bluetooth hands-free and multi-colour TFT
Like BMW’S R1200 GSA and KTM’S 1290 Super Adventure (but not Triumph’s Tiger Explorer), the Enduro has a 30 litre tank and a 270mile range. Brake and gear levers are made from flexible steel instead of brittle aluminium. The footpegs have serrated treads and removable rubber
The Enduro uses the same 160bhp, 1198cc Testastretta as the 1200 S: same power, same torque, same variable valve timing, same engine mapping, but with a higher exhaust for really big puddles. The rear sprocket has three more teeth, making the motor feel
19in and 17in wire rims make more sense off road than the road version’s cast 17in wheels, adding strength (and weight) but allowing a wider range of off-road rubber. Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIS are standard, but the more technical Pirelli Scorpion Rally is an option. Ducati haven’t skimped elsewhere – the Enduro is no cut-down road bike. It has the same 160bhp, 1198cc 90° Testastretta V-twin as the 1200 S – the same power, same torque, same variable valve timing system to deliver optimum drive from tickover to its 9500rpm peak. They haven’t trimmed the electronics either; the Enduro features the same incredible list of technology as the 1200 S – four riding modes that change engine power, throttle response, traction control, wheelie control, engine braking, cornering ABS and semiactive suspension all at once, at the press of a button. The Enduro also gets cornering headlights, cruise control, backlit switches, Bluetooth multimedia integration and, for the first time, hill hold control – where the bike senses it’s on a hill and applies a brake so you can hold the clutch in without rolling backwards. Heated grips are still only an option, but a centrestand is standard.
And the key finding from a day of 50 miles off road and 100 on tarmac, is Ducati have hit the target. The Enduro is no less long-distance than the S, despite its off-road ergonomics. The bars are high and wide, great for levering the bike from side-to-side through bends. And the extra ride quality from the lanky springs reduces road noise even more than before, giving the new bike a composed, coasting feel over most road surfaces. In terms of ride dynamic it’s closer to the active, aggressive KTM Super Adventure, and more gangly and involving than the mellifluous, touring waft of the BMW R1200 GSA.
Ducati have also given it one of the most popular home-tuning mods, with three extra teeth on the rear sprocket so it feels more feisty in every gear.
As with the road-based 1200 S, the Enduro comes in four ‘packs’: Touring, Sport, Urban and, er, Enduro. But the various options of massive Touratech panniers (Touring), Touratech topbox (Urban), titanium Termignoni (Sport) or even crashbars, grilles and chain guard (Enduro) are all designed as a starting point; you can create your ideal Multistrada Enduro from there using the wide range of accessories.
So whether you cross continents by road or by trail, the Ducati Multistrada Enduro is a serious consideration. And about bloody time.