The ADVENTURE TEST
The adventure bike market is quickly becoming incredibly competitive. Justus Visagie puts the newest contender on the market – the 1200 Ducati Multistrada Enduro – to the test on a 250 km road trip along some of the windiest passes in the Western Cape.
Like a German emperor of old, the BMW R1200GS rules the domain of the large adventure bike as if by divine right. And, though it is an excellent motorcycle, the big GS is neither perfect nor invincible. KTM has slowly been chipping away at the armour of the GS; and, more recently, an unlikely antagonist has joined the battle: the Ducati Multistrada Enduro.
From the Ducati dealership in Capetown, I collect a satin white 1200 Multistrada Enduro with less than 50 km on the clock. “I will run it in gently,” I say to reassure the salesman. “Don’t bother,” he says. “We’ve conducted tests and it makes no difference – the bike is built for adventure, after all.”
I start off in Urban mode, which limits the output of the engine. But, the knowledge of Sports mode that unleashes every shred of power and torque from the 1,198 cc L-twin engine, soon becomes a temptation too enticing to bear.three presses on the menu button and the Sports mode is engaged; the throttle – already responsive to even the slightest touch – becomes a nuclear launch button on the desk of Kim Jong Un.
It is no surprise. Of all the bikes I have ridden, the Ducati Xdiavel is the most eager to gain speed. It just so happened that the Xdiavel shares its engine with the Enduro. At only 3,500 r/min, its 1,198 cctestastretta twin already churns out 100 Nm, charging to a maximum of 128 Nm at just 7,500 r/min.
To the East of Devil’s Peak, the speed limit jumps from 80 to 120 km/h. I open the throttle and it seems as if the traffic slows en masse. Feel-good chemicals flood my brain as the big tourer surges ahead. The flat and dreary N2 highway has become an unlikely amusement park.
As progress slows where the N2 divides Strand and Somerset West, I am faced with a choice between sweeping over Sir Lowry’s Pass or taking the scenic, twitchy coastal road that is Route 44. But, it is getting a fresh lick of tar in places, so the Multi and I rocket to the foot of Sir Lowry’s.though it is named “Enduro”, the Multi wears smooth Pirelli road tyres as standard. For now, I am thankful for the road-biased semi-slicks as I cautiously lean the bike into the sweeping right-hand turn. It feels confident and compliant.
At Peregrine farm stall, I turn right into Viljoenshoop Road, freeing the Multi from the crowded motorway. This is a winding and hilly tar road that passes orchards and farms. I ride for six kilometres and turn left onto Highlands Road. After another nine kilometres the Multi gets its first taste of gravel and I switch it to Enduro Mode.
The abundant torque from the L-twin engine causes the rear wheel to lose traction on dusty patches, and then the traction control cuts the power. I stop the bike, adjust the anti-slip regulation to zero, and ride on.
It is hot as hell and I turn onto Iona Wine Estate for a glass of water – and maybe just