MCN PIKES PEAK SPE­CIAL AD­VEN­TURE

PIKES PEAK TO PEAK DISTRICT De­signed to bat­tle Pikes Peak, Colorado. Made for the Peak District, Der­byshire.

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment - By Liam Mars­den MCN WEB PRO­DUCER

It’s ex­actly 9.30am on a Tues­day in the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber. To my right, the calm, ob­sid­ian black wa­ters of Langsett reser­voir lap gen­tly against the bricks as the cooling en­gine of the Pikes Peak ticks and pings. Just a moment prior, the boom­ing tone of the Du­cati and its Ter­mignoni ex­haust shat­tered the au­tum­nal peace and re­ver­ber­ated among the coun­try homes.

It’s cold – the Du­cati’s dash tells me 10°C - but with the hills sur­round­ing the reser­voir hid­den un­der a thick layer of mist it feels much cooler. De­spite the peace and quiet I can’t linger – I have roads to ride. The Du­cati booms into life once again, the ex­haust note bounc­ing off the bridge wall, be­fore dis­si­pat­ing into the cold morn­ing air. The sud­den vol­ume spike makes an early morn­ing run­ner jump and quicken her pace.

This will be the first time I get to ride the Pikes Peak - a bike I’ve longed to try since it was first an­nounced in 2011 - on the kind of roads it was de­signed for. Even if they are damp and cov­ered in wet leaves. The Peak District is full of well known, beau­ti­ful roads. The A57, bet­ter known as Snake Pass, is per­haps the most fa­mous, but the morn­ing starts with a ride along the Strines; a tight, un­du­lat­ing road that I ab­so­lutely hated the last time I rode it. Pot­holes lit­tered the en­tire stretch, which made brak­ing for the first gear, down­hill hair­pins an in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence.

Since my last visit, the en­tire road has been resur­faced with race­track smooth tar­mac, wind­ing its way through the mist and trees like a per­fect black rib­bon of mo­tor­cy­cling heaven. It still re­quires first gear on its tight­est bends, but in the belly of the deep­est val­leys, wind­ing on the Pikes Peak’s throt­tle ac­com­pa­nied by the ca­coph­ony of 160 thor­ough­bred Ital­ian ponies try­ing to es­cape from the en­gine is now filled with sheer adren­a­line rather than trep­i­da­tion.

‘ Since my last visit, the en­tire road has been resur­faced with race­track-smooth tar­mac’

I’m al­ready in love with the Du­cati. Sheep idly stand­ing in the road seem less en­am­oured with the bom­bas­tic red ma­chine, and tan­gle them­selves in fences and bushes as they re­treat.

Fi­nally on to the A57, the sun is burn­ing through the morn­ing mist, the road slowly dry­ing as I warm up with a quick cuppa. By 11am the ma­jor­ity of the road is dry and at this time of year Snake Pass is quiet. No car­a­vans, only a hand­ful of cy­clists brav­ing the winds and un­pre­dictable weather. The Multi is in ‘Sport’ mode, which is per­fect for roads like this. Power de­liv­ery is never snatchy, it’s per­fectly smooth and shoves the big Du­cati for­ward out of corners, front wheel hov­er­ing above the tar­mac as the ad­justable wheelie con­trol cre­ates a per­fect Mo­togp-style power wheelie.

The scenery sur­round­ing the A57 is beau­ti­ful, I know this from ex­pe­ri­ence, but on the Du­cati there’s no time to sit and ad­mire - the bike is per­fectly happy at slower speeds, but I know it re­ally wants to be let off the leash. I’m happy to oblige. The huge spread of torque pro­vided by the en­gine means gear changes don’t hap­pen all that of­ten – the Du­cati loves driv­ing out of corners from 2000rpm, with power ris­ing all the way to the red­line. The Mul­tistrada is equally at home in the tight first gear corners as it is in the long fast sweep­ers, toes­lid­ers scrap­ing, en­gine roar­ing.

After five hours charg­ing through the hills I take a moment to sur­vey the land from the top of Holme Moss and re­alise I’ve not even stopped to eat. The Pikes Peak was hold­ing all my at­ten­tion that well. I could head home, but there’s still a few hours of day­light left, it’d be stupid of me to waste it. We head out for a slightly more re­laxed ride, tak­ing it in, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the land­scape and the mad beauty that is the Du­cati Mul­tistrada 1200 Pikes Peak Edi­tion. Built in Italy, made for the Peak District.

Min­utes ago, the big red Du­cati was waft­ing me in calm com­fort to Oulton Park on this crisp, damp morn­ing.

But now, with the sun break­ing through the clouds, I’m about to find out if this Pikes Peak Mul­tistrada, the most un­likely of track­day bikes, will shine at one of the most breath­tak­ing cir­cuits in the coun­try. Be­fore the morn­ing’s safety brief­ing and 102db limit noise test­ing (the Du­cati is no louder than the stan­dard bike, de­spite its flashy Ter­mignoni can) it’s time to start pre-flight checks. We’ve fit­ted Met­zeler Racetec RR K3 track­day tyres, so my first job is to drop the pres­sures: 31psi rear, 33psi front. Now, go into the on-board com­puter menu and cus­tomise the ‘Sport’ rid­ing mode: we’ll keep the full fat power, but dis­able the ABS and anti-wheelie and turn trac­tion down to ‘2’. The track is lit­tered with damp patches and the red flag is hung out to scrape bikes off the track ev­ery few laps – of ev­ery ses­sion. Like the cur­rent ‘S’ model, the out­go­ing Pikes Peak had semi-ac­tive Sachs ‘Du­cati Sky­hook’ sus­pen­sion, but for 2016 the Ital­ian firm have gone back to a reg­u­lar Öh­lins fork and shock set-up. When you’ve paid £19,295 you at least want a few de­signer la­bels, and the Swedish sus­pen­sion brand is one of the best. You also get lots of car­bon-fibre good­ies and a Du­cati Corse paintjob, but this year’s model does away with the light­weight forged al­loy wheels and has cheaper, heav­ier cast items in­stead.

With no Sky­hook but­tons to push, set­ting the sus­pen­sion is all about a socket set, Allen keys and that sat­is­fy­ing, oily click of damp­ing, re­bound, com­pres­sion and preload ad­justers. We’ll see where ev­ery­thing is set to be­gin with and tweak from there.

But for the life of me I can’t find the shock damp­ing ad­justers and have to ring a mate who’s got a Pikes Peak. They’re hid­den un­der the seat, be­hind a plas­tic in­spec­tion cover. Thanks, Bob.

In the queue to join the track the Pikes Peak tow­ers above ev­ery­thing else: sports­bikes, track tools and full- on race bikes. It’s like one of those laugh­able, speeded-up pieces of track footage from a Her­bie film, where a VW Beetle some­how man­ages to fly round the out­side of Porsches and Fer­raris.

The Mul­tistrada and Oulton Park are a pretty good match. This isn’t a power track and it’s more about keep­ing max­i­mum mo­men­tum through its ma­jes­tic curves, whoops and cranked over jumps. A race bike is short, snappy and ag­gres­sive around here, but the Pikes Peak, with its lazier 160bhp vari­able tim­ing V-twin mo­tor and long travel sus­pen­sion, sim­ply glides round.

Even with­out tyre warm­ers, the road-com­pound Met­zeler track tyres are good to go within a few corners. Ably as­sisted by the classy Öh­lins and kind power de­liv­ery, they find huge grip on the cold and some­times damp tar­mac.

The se­cret to fast and safe laps is not to take it by the scruff of the neck, but to be smooth and let ev­ery­thing set­tle be­fore ham­mer­ing it hard. Let the weight trans­fer to the front when you come off the throt­tle be­fore squeez­ing the brakes, then let them off gen­tly be­fore throwing it on its ear.

With so much grip and rear weight

‘ The se­cret to a fast lap is to be smooth and let ev­ery­thing set­tle, be­fore ham­mer­ing it hard’

trans­fer when you crack the throt­tle, you can squeeze the power on very hard, even with high an­gles of lean. It takes your breath away hard, you can sling­shot out of corners and it digs in harder than a stiff sports­bike.

Of course, it wasn’t de­signed for the track, so it’s not a sur­prise that it’s hard to get into a race tuck down the straights. You have to sit on the Du­cati’s rear seat to re­ally get un­der the bub­ble and it’s only then you re­alise you can’t see where you’re go­ing, as all you have is a car­bon blade for a screen.

As the ses­sions flick by, the damp patches dis­si­pate and warm sun­shine spills over the track. The Pikes Peak feels ever tighter and more poised with grad­ual sus­pen­sion tweaks. Wind­ing on more rear preload helps sharpen steer­ing, and a turn on the front stops the forks bot­tom­ing out on the brakes. Adding more re­bound and com­pres­sion damp­ing each end adds sta­bil­ity.

De­spite hav­ing Brembo monoblocks, brak­ing power and bite isn’t up to su­per­bike stan­dards. Whether that’s down to the pads or the way the brake hoses go via the ABS pump on their way from lever to caliper, even with the elec­tron­ics turned-off, I’m not sure. But that’s the only real weak link in the Peak’s make-up. Last year’s lighter wheels would’ve helped on track, too.

But now it’s time to leave Oulton Park’s wood­land dream­scape be­hind and get on the road. We pump the tyres back up, twiz­zle the sus­pen­sion ad­justers back to stan­dard and set the elec­tron­ics to ‘safe and steady’ Tour­ing mode.

On the far less glam­orous M6, A50, M1 and A14 back to MCN HQ it buck­ets down, but I don’t care. Cruise con­trol set, I’m comfy, dry and still beam­ing on the same bike that, just a few hours ago, was mix­ing it with R1s, ZX-10RS and GSX-R1000S on track.

Need to recharge the bat­ter­ies in the great out­doors? The Multi will take you to some far-flung places Quiet roads of the Peak District are per­fect hunt­ing grounds for the Pikes Peak Multi

In the corners, the Multi can put sports­bikes to shame

Sport mode is a pre-req­ui­site at Oulton

Yes, Neevesy got some funny looks

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