Mul­tistrada Pikes Peak vs S1000XR

Want a bike that’s use­ful as well as a riot to ride? Du­cati’s new Pikes Peak Mul­tistrada and BMW’s S1000XR of­fer su­per­bike per­for­mance in tow­er­ing pack­ages. Time for a quick and dirty in week­end in Europe...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Contents - Words JOHN McAVOY Pho­tos MARK MAN­NING

’VE RID­DEN PAST the sign­post for Le Tou­quet in North­ern France what feels like hun­dreds of times, al­ways on the way to some­where else. Each time, I’ve said to my­self that one day I should pay a visit to the an­nual beach race, but like ev­ery other Ros­bif who emerges from cross-channel con­veyances at Calais, Le Tou­quet is one of those places I al­ways simply pass on my way to some­where else.

The nutty beach race at the French sea­side town has been on my ‘to do’ list for years, as has the Pikes Peak hill­climb in Colorado, USA. One is a tank and a half of fuel, and just a few hours away, the other is thou­sands of miles and a hefty flight, and there­fore un­likely to get ticked off the list any time soon. The com­pro­mise: take the new Pikes Peak-spec Du­cati Mul­tistrada to Le Tou­quet, bring PB’s YouTube guy John Ben­nett along with a BMW S1000XR for ref­er­ence, and tick some­thing off my ‘to do’ list by sell­ing it to New­big­ging as a use­ful road test. He bought it. Mug...

In fair­ness, the Du­cati in par­tic­u­lar is a tempt­ing prospect, and it’s had a hefty over­haul for 2018. While the ad­ven­ture bike genre is rarely a blip on PB’s radar, the new 1262cc V-twin now has 160bhp: the sort of power we were stunned at litre sports­bikes kick­ing out 10 years back. Now you can have it in a bike with pan­niers...

It gains its ex­tra ca­pac­ity over the old bike via an in­crease in stroke from 67.9mm to 71.5mm. New crankshaft, con rods and of course cylin­ders are there­fore the only me­chan­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween the en­gine in the old bike and this new ver­sion. Its vari­able valve tim­ing op­er­ates on the in­let valves and ex­haust valve, and has been set up to op­ti­mise low-down torque, so much so that Du­cati claim 85% of its peak torque is avail­able be­low 3500rpm, and there’s 18% more at 5500rpm.

Else­where, the 2018 Mul­tistrada gets up­graded elec­tron­ics, most no­tably cor­ner­ing ABS, a quick­shifter and auto-blip­per, plus fully ad­justable rid­ing modes with anti-wheelie and trac­tion con­trol. There are also some trin­kets in the form of a full colour TFT dis­play, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and cor­ner­ing head­lights. Don’t push that but­ton... But the less said about the key­less op­er­a­tion of the bike the bet­ter. With key fob stashed in a pocket, the bike is then pow­ered up via a but­ton just be­low the en­gine starter but­ton. Both but­tons are very sim­i­lar in size and pro­file, and right next to each other on the right hand switchgear. You can prob­a­bly guess what hap­pened next...

Care must be taken when reach­ing a thumb out to press one of the two but­tons to restart the bike if you stall at a busy junc­tion. Be­cause when you press the wrong one, you shut the bike down com­pletely in the mid­dle of the road. Push the cor­rect one, and you’ll get away with only mild in­dig­nity and laugh­ter from your mates.

Cock it up, and that in­nocu­ous stall be­comes star­ing death in the face as the lorry that was a safe dis­tance away is now bear­ing down on

‘The Mul­tistrada’s trump card is its mas­sive spread of torque. Put it in third or fourth, and simply twist and go’

you. Only once you’ve pow­ered the bike up again can you get it in gear, and sub­se­quently get out of Dodge.

As you can guess from my spe­cific out­lin­ing of the po­ten­tial for dan­ger, just such a thing hap­pened to me, and by virtue of the fact I am able to re­lay those mo­ments of ter­ri­fy­ing ve­hic­u­lar paral­y­sis, I clearly got away with stalling the Mult­strada on a main road. Apart from the huge shit that dropped in­side my un­der­wear. Dear Du­cati: please ad­min­is­ter a se­vere beat­ing to who­ever de­cided to put those two but­tons so close to each other. Bet­ter still, take your key­less sys­tem, and kill it with a dogshit-cov­ered fire ham­mer.

The chas­sis is new, and free from pant- fill­ing de­sign over­sights. There is a new swingarm which is 48mm longer, and over­all the ge­om­e­try is slightly lazier thanks to a very small in­crease in rake from 24 to 25 de­grees, and an in­crease in the wheel­base by 55mm. The over­all ef­fect is an in­crease in sta­bil­ity without a sac­ri­fice in agility due to lower weight, claim Du­cati. Brakes are Brembo M50s, so no grief there.

The Pikes Peak pays homage to the fa­mous hill­climb in Colorado Springs where Du­cati have had suc­cess over the years, and it loses a lit­tle tour­ing sen­si­bil­ity to do sporty stuff bet­ter. Set­ting aside the usual car­bon what-nots and spe­cial paint scheme, the notable up­grades are light­weight forged alu­minium March­esini wheels which are claimed 3kg lighter than the reg­u­lar Multi’s cast wheels, a me­chan­i­cally ad­justable Öh­lins TTX36 rear shock and forks up front in place of Du­catis ‘Sky­hook’ semi-ac­tive sys­tem on the Mul­tistrada S. There is also a par­tic­u­larly tasty-look­ing car­bon Ter­mignoni ex­haust, which is es­sen­tially cos­metic as it is

‘There is not only a gulf in price be­tween the BMW and Du­cati, but also in their han­dling abil­ity’

ho­molo­gated for road use. It does look good, still sounds fruity enough and might save a bit more weight... All told, the bike is 6kg lighter than the Mul­tistrada S, most of which is un­sprung weight. At £20,795, it’s not cheap, though, even along­side the S, which will set you back £17,195, and the base model Pani­gale V4, which costs £19,250.

In con­trast, PB’s cur­rent favourite tall/fast tourer thing, the BMW S1000XR (rep­re­sented here in Sport SE spec) is un­changed for 2018, and could be seen as a bar­gain at £15,010, when you con­sider that of­fers 165bhp from its S1000RR-de­rived en­gine, plus an ar­ray of cool fea­tures and toys. Notable dif­fer­ences as stan­dard to the Du­cati are semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion, prepa­ra­tion for GPS (an of­fi­cial accessory Garmin Nav­i­ga­tor costs around £600 ex­tra), a cen­tre­stand, hard lug­gage fas­ten­ings and heated grips. On the sur­face, it makes the case for any of the Mul­tistradas a dif­fi­cult one, let alone the Pikes Peak model. But this is PB, and it takes more than a mas­sive spec sheet and list of gad­gets to impress us.

Dif­fer­ences aside, both share one thing: they are mas­sive, es­pe­cially when fit­ted with pan­niers. I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I had to open both doors of the PB lock up to get a sin­gle mo­tor­bike out, but this was one such rare oc­ca­sion. They’re broad-shoul­dered bikes any­way, even without their pan­niers fit­ted. They came in handy for vlog­ger John – he painstak­ingly packed his hard lug­gage with all his video record­ing kit, and enough as­so­ci­ated para­pher­na­lia to make Ewan Mc­Gre­gor and Charley Boor­man look like rank am­a­teurs. Even­tu­ally, we set off in the di­rec­tion of France. Later, we’d dis­cover that John’s fas­tid­i­ous pack­ing of cam­era equip­ment came at the ex­pense of personal items. Like his trousers and shoes, neatly left on his car seat in the PB of­fice car park. Bell-end...

The 160 mo­tor­way miles from PB to Folke­stone were largely un­event­ful apart from oc­ca­sional bouts of cruise con­trol-in­duced amuse­ment on the Du­cati, rid­ing hands-free, steer­ing with my arse. Once on the train, John noted that the BMW’s han­dle­bars had felt quite vibey – a com­plaint of the first-gen XR, ap­par­ently not cured by new han­dle­bar mounts for this re­vised model in­tro­duced to the world last year.

He should be grate­ful he was able to feel the bars at all. My hands were so cold on the Du­cati, I couldn’t feel any­thing from about 20 miles af­ter we had set off, and the hand­guards don’t ac­tu­ally seem to pro­vide any wind pro­tec­tion for fin­gers. Mi­nor griev­ances (or maybe not, given the salty list price): gen­er­ally speak­ing, they make this sort of mid-dis­tance tour­ing a damn sight eas­ier and more com­fort­able than at­tach­ing it to a nor­mal sports­bike. But this isn’t RiDE mag­a­zine: I wanted them to make me smile too.

Twits abroad

We spent the next day look­ing for some­where for John to buy some trousers and flip-flops to save an­other night eat­ing moules et frites in sweaty tex­tile trousers, by razz­ing round the back roads of North­ern France on these two over­sized, over-pow­ered be­he­moths. Usu­ally, you’d by­pass this part of the world in search of sun­nier or more moun­tain­ous climes, but while it’s no Alpine pass, it’s quiet and undi­luted in its French­ness – just the thing to break the house­bound win­ter te­dium.

As good as the Du­cati’s en­gine is on the mo­tor­way for de­liv­er­ing roll-on ac­cel­er­a­tion, in many ways the same char­ac­ter­is­tic makes it per­fect for blast­ing along back roads. Its trump card is its mas­sive spread of torque and smooth power de­liv­ery. You barely need to touch the (per­fectly good) auto-blip­per or quick­shifter – just put it in third or fourth gear, and twist and go for mile af­ter mile. Su­per Duke-own­ing John is a self con­fessed V-twin fan, and was gush­ing about the Mul­tistrada’s power de­liv­ery for be­ing so flex­i­ble.

As good as it is, for me the Du­cati’s stand-out fea­ture is its han­dling. I’ve rid­den the XR be­fore, and it’s good, but the Mul­tistrada is shock­ing in how ef­fec­tive it is. No doubt the

light­weight wheels have a big part to play, but the Pikes Peak has an agility to it that is as­ton­ish­ing con­sid­er­ing its size and weight.

It makes the BMW feel like a canal barge by com­par­i­son. It flicks, turns and holds a line with such ease that it takes some time to adjust to us­ing a large pair of han­dle­bars, fes­tooned with gad­gets and tech nor­mally the pre­serve of proper tour­ers, to ham­mer along back roads like a good (if lanky) su­per-naked. Its agility feels like it’s cre­ated by the high cen­tre of grav­ity more than its ge­om­e­try. The result is that the quan­tity and qual­ity of feed­back from the tyres is less than you get on a pure sports­bike, but trust the tyres (which grip just fine de­spite the faux trail-look tread pat­tern) and the Pikes Peak turns out to a re­ally play­ful bike which as well as be­ing com­pe­tent as a prac­ti­cal, long-dis­tance mile muncher, is ex­cit­ing and bit edgy when you’ve dis­pensed with bor­ing get-you-there miles.

It’s like a straight-A stu­dent who cage-fights for a hobby. The sus­pen­sion feels a lit­tle un­der­damped, most no­tice­able dur­ing fast di­rec­tion changes, but with some ad­just­ment (and a rise in road sur­face tem­per­a­ture) I’m sure the lev­els of feed­back from the tyres would in­crease.

There is a gulf in price be­tween the BMW and Du­cati, and there is also a gulf be­tween them in terms of their han­dling. That doesn’t mean the BMW is a poor han­dler. It’s pretty good in iso­la­tion, and we’ve dis­cov­ered be­fore that it can be put to good use chas­ing sports­bikes on road and track.

It’s only that the Pikes Peak seems to be on an­other level. Ac­knowl­edg­ing the fact that you could spec your S1000XR with some BMW HP forged al­loy wheels to bring it more in-line with the Pikes Peak spec (though, from ex­pe­ri­ence, they don’t make a big dif­fer­ence to the BMW), and still have thou­sands of pounds left over, the BMW feels like it car­ries all its weight lower down than the Du­cati, which would still pre­vent it achiev­ing the Du­cati’s out­right agility.

It is also phys­i­cally a big­ger bike, with a more spread out, wider rid­ing po­si­tion, which gen­er­ally makes ma­noeu­vring it into and through bends a bit more of a phys­i­cal af­fair. Don’t think for one sec­ond think that the S1000XR is a 165bhp blanc­mange, though – the slim­mer Du­cati is just sharper all round.

Bavar­ian bhp

Any edgi­ness or deft han­dling the XR may lack next to the Corse-in­spired Du­cati, it more than makes up with the top-end power rush from the S1000RR-alike mo­tor. The 1260 simply can’t touch the Beemer be­yond a cer­tain point. Fur­ther­more, the BMW’s elec­tron­ics are less in­tru­sive than the Du­cati’s, al­low­ing power wheel­ies, while scoop­ing up unexpected slides off damp French round­abouts with the ab­so­lute min­i­mum in­tru­sion. It’s hard to fault their in­ter­ven­tion on the road.

It’s eas­ier to find fault with the BMW’s front brake set-up, though. The com­bi­na­tion of the first touch of the lever gen­er­at­ing a lot of power im­me­di­ately, and the ini­tial part of the fork stroke be­ing un­der­damped, is un­nerv­ing. It’s almost as if there is a very slight de­lay where the sus­pen­sion re­acts to ini­tial dive of the fork, then an abrupt over-com­pen­sa­tion. I’d like the brake set-up to be softer on the first touch and with bet­ter mod­u­la­tion. The me­chan­i­cal Öh­lins set-up on the Pikes Peak feels re­ally well matched to the Brembo brake set-up. It feels more ana­logue, and fa­mil­iar. It’s a shame the BMW sys­tem only al­lows you to choose pre­set modes, rather than tailor the elec­tronic pa­ram­e­ters a bit more.

They’re mi­nor is­sues, and John echoed my thoughts, find­ing him­self hard-pushed to find any­thing wrong with the BMW, other than it doesn’t have a V-twin en­gine (a personal choice), and its (heated, warm) han­dle­bars vi­brate slightly at mo­tor­way speeds (annoying to all). And that’s the thing about the BMW – there is noth­ing wrong with it at all. We liked it be­fore, we like it now. There is a lot right about it, es­pe­cially the price tag.

‘Don’t think for a sec­ond that the BMW is a 165bhp blanc­mange; the slim­mer Du­cati is just sharper all round’

Beach ap­peal

How­ever, as we roll into Le Tou­quet on Sun­day morn­ing through the po­lice road blocks, and make our way to the seafront past thou­sands of pissed up Frenchies, it’s the Du­cati that they’re all point­ing at, tak­ing pic­tures of. The BMW is in­vis­i­ble. Maybe they’re still a bit touchy about Ger­mans pitch­ing up on the seafront in this part of the world...

We watched the first bit of the beach race and de­cided to head for home. It turns out that once you’ve seen one pile-up of mo­tocross bikes and the odd bro­ken col­lar­bone at the bot­tom of a mas­sive sand dune, you’ve seen them all. Half an hour’s view­ing was more than enough: turns out I was prob­a­bly right to blast past this place on the mo­tor­way. Oh well: box ticked, sights seen.

Our bikes proved much more en­ter­tain­ing, though for com­pletely dif­fer­ent rea­sons. As it hap­pens, we both pre­ferred the Pikes Peak Mul­tistrada. For me, the re­duced weight and posh sus­pen­sion you get from this race-rep ad­ven­ture bike brings it much closer to the sports and naked bikes I love – so much so, I’d gladly own one. Not some­thing I pre­dicted – usu­ally they’re a bit soft for my tastes. John ap­pre­ci­ated it for much the same rea­sons, and for be­ing a storm­ing ex­am­ple of a big twin.

The BMW, while an un­de­ni­ably good bike, doesn’t ap­peal so much. Com­par­a­tively, it’s less dy­namic, although still pretty handy, and a bit more prac­ti­cal. Also, such a hard-revving en­gine gives one hell of a rush when it’s rock­et­ing such a big bike along the péage.

When it came to choos­ing which bike to ride home, nei­ther of us had a pref­er­ence; they both ful­fil the prac­ti­cal side of the de­sign brief: if we were go­ing to keep one once we were back in Blighty, how­ever, it’s the Du­cati that won the hearts of these sports­bike fans.

‘If we were go­ing to keep one once we were back in Blighty, it’s the Du­cati that won the hearts of these sports­bike fans’

Main: Johnny and John set off in search of re­place­ment trousers Left: The stul­ti­fy­ing Euro­tun­nel ex­pe­ri­ence is coun­tered by a rea­son­able French break­fast

Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all

Lower level of elec­tron­ics in­ter­ven­tion al­lows the front to come up under power Left: Le Tou­quet’s beach race fans couldn’t give a mon­key’s about the Beemer

Nim­ble, en­gag­ing: the Multi gets the nod on back roads Right: “You’re shit­ting me, John: you’ve lost an­other pair of shoes?”

This, ladies and gen­tle­men, is the start of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship

De­spite numb fin­gers, Johnny still has the horn for the Pikes Peak Multi

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