2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200S: Looks like a Beauty, Kills like a Beast
This is for those who just want to know – buy or no?
Buy the Multistrada 1200S in India (16.56 lacs ex-Showroom Delhi) if you want to have the thrill of a superbike, a legacy of a great Italian marque, the looks of a spaceship, some of the best safety features out there on a motorcycle, want to go fast on a track and then want to go to Ladakh (with a few modifications, primarily belly pan and dual purpose tyres).
Do not buy this bike if you plan to just ride it the nearest McDonalds (by all means this bike will coerce you to flaunt it everyday) or if prefer the refinement of an inline four. Then your only other option (in the same segment) is the BMW S1000XR which will be a cool 10 odd lacs (!) costlier than this! And you cannot say you own a Ducati. So perhaps you can buy the MTS 1200S and also get a Scrambler and also have some money left over for some cool accessories.
If you have time and sipping some fine coffee, read on.
I am a bit off you know. We were invited to the party pretty darn late by Ducati. The rest of the world had already raised a toast to this fine Italian red wine while we were made to look at its brochures on the internet.
Ok. I have made peace with that. Better late than never.
So a handful (and a bit more) of Indian journalists were stuffed into flights and invited over to the Asian test ride center for Ducati – Thailand. If it is someone who knows how to take advantage of the Asian economic boom and low cost labor force it’s the Europeans (more recently that is), more viz. KTM and Ducati with BMW also well on its way.
For a brand like Ducati it was a big step to start manufacturing outside of its iconic Bologna factory. The place had to be just right – the government support, quality workforce and who would have thought – a place where you can invite the ‘choicest’ of international journalists (forgive me that extravagant expression for it includes me too) to ride the masterpieces they produce.
There is still some resistance from the west to Ducatis being produced in Thailand, but just think about this – what if they were being manufactured in China with the same quality ethos and checks? Sounds hard to gulp down, isn’t it?
This is the third made-in-Thailand Ducati which I had been asked to ‘test ride and review’ as part of a journalist contingent. The first two being the Monster 1200S and the Scrambler. Wait, was the Hypermotard 821 too made in Thailand that I rode in Bali? Too much going on!
Coming back to the subject at hand, we were flown into Bangkok and then after a short layover, another flight to Chiang Rai from where it was another hour or so by bus to the Golden Triangle, which is the confluence of three countries – Laos, Thailand and Myanmar! We were checked into an absolutely stunning Anantara Elephant Camp resort. I could see vast forests and the confluence right from my hotel room with elephants taking a stroll and bathing in the forests below. Truly incredible.
Beautiful Morning before the ride:
Food For Thought
I have this habit of mildly digressing from the topic, but not at the risk of being entirely disconnected. Here I would ask myself why couldn’t India put up such a show (there was perhaps just this once when HD called international journalists to Rajasthan)? Why cannot journalists from around the world be called here for a change? Despite KTM making the smaller Dukes here, never have we seen a launch for those in India. The answer may be pretty simple – because it is logistically too much of a headache working with government and various authorities. Now where did this crop from? The next paragraph details out on how I was blown away (yet once more) by what I experienced in this ride.
Thailand has to be one of my favorite places to enjoy a new launch ride in. It is close to India, it is cheap, people are so friendly, the weather is usually fantastic, the roads are usually great and there is no guerilla warfare type fund raising happening in the name of teaching us how to ride within the speed limit by vehicles sporting psychedelic disco lightings – read that as the local police. And yes, fantastic shopping malls where I could get some great scale models to add to my collection!
But that’s from my perspective. From a company’s point of view, especially with respect to this ride, this is what I experienced – we were given around 20 brand new Multistrada 1200Ss and none of them had a registration number. And we had two police escorts on decently fast motorcycles. And we had a fully equipped Ambulance. And we had world class photographers. And the police created a green corridor for hundreds of kilometers, through many towns and traffic lights (not that these were littered with stray dogs and cows and unruly traffic- see my frustration is quite evident regarding apna Bharat (my India) as far as road etiquettes go).
Not only this the police actually stopped traffic both ways on big country roads in two instances for the Ducati photographers to do th-eirrr MotoGraphyTM, if I can term it that. And no one was honking or complaining. The traffic waited patiently.
They respect the police, the men at work. Yes attitude and etiquettes, that’s why you want to do something like this in Thailand. I found it way better than the overrated European countries. Australia and NZ is a big no-no for this kind of thing, they are nanny states. USA can be a tad better, going by the number of launches being done there, but I reckon you can’t get the government support like this elsewhere; after all there are benefits of being in a Kingdom!
Hold on, one more benefit of doing this thing in Thailand – FTA. India gets things cheap from Thailand under the Free Trade Agreement, so this new Multistrada which costs 16.56 lacs (ex-showroom Delhi) would have cost north of 20 lacs if it were to be imported from Bologna – at the very least. And all spares would have been more expensive as well, and time consuming to get it shipped to here in India.
So you see, Thailand is that good!
We did 300 kms in Thailand around Chiang Rai and Chaing Sen starting from Golden Triangle. Good roads and beautiful spots like these made it worthwhile for the phone camera as well.
800 words and still no word about the bike? Oh come on. You let the damn engine warm up before riding it hard, don’t you. And I gotta rant somewhere. It is too stressful for me these days.
La Bella Moto: The beautiful motorcycle and a bit of its history
Someone told me Biology is millions of years old. Laws of society are mere infants in front of it. What he probably meant to say is that it is hard to ignore a beautiful woman and for us petrol heads it is hard to ignore a beautiful motorcycle. There is no second thought about it – the Multistrada 1200S 2015 is a beautiful motorcycle worthy of being shot in the middle of the Colosseum. And very few people can challenge that, san art purists, maybe.
Let me go back a little in history of this motorcycle.
The Ducati Multistrada 1000DS, when it was initially launched, was quite a risky attempt by the Italian manufacturer with it promising to be a tourer, city and sportster bike all rolled into one. With 90 odd bhp it wasn’t going to be a tarmac scorcher, but with the upright seating position and steel trellis frame, the bike promised to be a fast comfortable tourer. And it did that with aplomb, it gave any candidate Ducatista a motorcycle on which they could tackle any kind of road, urban/ rural/ twisties. It handled like a charm. On the flipside, the bike was uncharacteristically ugly. Almost like it started off being designed by an Italian who then got kidnapped by Ducati rivals and produced this under duress. Still not sure how it passed the top management approvals though, especially with the front not living up to what one expects from the Bologna based manufacturer. Nonetheless, it built up a reputation for itself and has grown and evolved over the years to become what the latest Ducati Multistrada 1200 S is.
The biggest change to the Multistrada came in 2012, seven years since the DS was launched in 2003. And it was a giant leap and improvement in all departments.
This was the Ducati Multistrada which the world was waiting for – with a power of 150 Bhp out of a 1198CC Desmodromic V Twin. The Multistrada 1200 (or MTS 1200) underwent another improvement in 2013 with the engine getting twin-plug cylinder heads for smoother and more efficient combustion leading to a 5% increase in torque and 10% improvement in fuel consumption. It also got an active suspension system christened Sky Hook and has got 6.7 inches of travel both ends.
The biggest change on the new Multistrada as compared to the 2012 version is the motor that powers this bike. The Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) is the first variable valve timing system inside the cylinder head for a motorcycle. The bike might not look very different on the outside in comparison to the outgoing version, but the DVT is a big step up from the previous Testatretta 11 degree used in the previous iteration (2013-14). The engine has more flexibility as it gets real time adjustment of camshaft position based on load and rpm. This gives the engine a far greater range of overlap, making it much smoother than previously. The intake and exhaust camshafts are independently controlled thus providing good power at high revs, great low-end torque, low fuel consumption and as a result it meets the stringent Euro 4 regulations (and Bharat Stage IV!) comfortably.
The bike also gets a host of new electronics. The tech wizardry sets this bike apart in more ways than one. ABS is not the regular run-of-the-mill stuff, but is ‘Cornering ABS’ which senses when you are in a corner and accordingly regulates the amount of brake pressure required. ABS can be switched off, but since it is so good and unobtrusive, you will probably never feel the need to switch it off. The Bosch 9.1M1 ABS unit coupled with Brembo M50 brakes and a 20mm larger diameter rear disc, means that stopping power has improved greatly.
The Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) is also Bosch powered, like most of the other techno-ammo. This measures the lean angle on the bike, which helps with the ABS as well as the Skyhook Semi-active suspension. The Skyhook is similar to the 2012 model, but is more evolved and rounded now. This IMU has five axes to measure roll, pitch, yaw angles, lean and rate of change, all of which help control the Skyhook and Cornering ABS. Anti-wheelie and the Traction Control system also gets all its information from the IMU. The Ducati Lights Control also uses the lean angle sensors, thus it knows in which direction the bike is headed and adjusts the headlight spread to illuminate the road in front of you. This was probably first seen in the fantastic BMW K1600 GTL in 2010 – adaptive headlights.
The Ducati Multistrada 1200S also gets a new frame and swingarm. This allows the engine to be fitted higher within the frame, increasing ground clearance, which is a boon in a motorcycle meant to tour on any sort of tarmac, especially if you want it to roll on the Spiti river beds (with a change of tyre and reinforced bottom plates).
So that’s a bit of tech rundown. But how is it to ride? Ultimately isn’t that’s what everything about. I have come to realize that it is not as objective as us ‘moto journalists’ make it out to be. It depends on a lot of factors – where you live, what kind of roads you take it out on, what’s your riding style, how do you like your engines to sound, do you like Vs or I4s and so on. And of course what style of bike you prefer and do you like them flashy, purposeful, inconspicuous (then this bike is definitely not for you, at least not in red or white!).
About The Ride
I may very well have the distinction to be the Asian who has ridden a Multistrada for the maximum number of kms so far – over 85,000 kms across 21 countries. So does that put me in a position to review this bike without any bias?
The biggest draw for me with any Ducati is its character which amalgamates the following:
- Brand Legacy
- Brand Positioning
- The Sound (yes!)
- The brotherhood, induction as a new Ducatista.
Should you one day decide to ride any Ducati across the world, or even a part of it you will understand what I mean. In my rides across countries I was treated as a part of a big family by Ducati owners, Ducati showrooms both offline and online. It is a crazy big joint family.
The Multistrada is the big daddy which symbolizes the touring spirit in Ducati with its positioning and usability, and no better bike to meet Ducatistas around the world than this mile muncher.
It comes under the Adventure bike category, right along with the Triumph Tigers and BMW Adventures of the world, yet they will never have the global camaraderie like owning a Ducati, be it even the Cucciolo, no especially if it is the Cucciolo!
So let me take you through my ride experience, as I unfolded it one by one.
The new MTS 1200S looks amazing. Solid built, top-notch quality. Nothing to say it was built in Thailand or Bologna if you judge them by these parameters. The S version is top of the line and has one of the biggest visual differentiating factors: The horizontal multiple LED light cluster gives it a fantastic futuristic look. Then my eyes start spreading out around the front. They have cleverly added a black side overlay with Ducati written on it with individual embossed letters. That looks and feels very premium. Until the 2012, the Multistrada only had a sticker on the tank.
Then I see the sharp beak, it is impossible to miss that and defines the overall look. Gives it a look which partly resembles a predator and partly a very sleek deep space probe, or at least this is how I would want my space pod that takes me to planet Mars to be. Musk, you hear me?
The Ducati 3D insignia on the front beak is a very thoughtful and tasteful addition. This could well be worthy of a front end on any superbike. It is that aggressive, yes.
Zoom back a little and the elements that make it an adventure tourer start becoming more apparent. The high and narrow wind-screen, the upright handle bars, the lower belly engine guard plate, the awesome brushed aluminum knuckle guards.
Further down the plush seat beckoned me to sit on it and ride another 10 countries. That reminds me of my 2500 odd kms trip in these very parts on the 2013 Multistrada 1200. I started from the Ducati HQ in Bangkok and rode the 1864 curves of the Mae Hong Son Loop. Here is a shot:
One of the most immediate visible changes were the use of LED in the tail lamps and the tear drop shaped end on the twin vertically stacked exhausts that now almost all Ducatis seem to be following (even with the new Panigale 959).
As I swing my legs over the bike (the seat height for my bike was in the lower setting) I can’t help but notice the giant TFT console ahead of me. Ever since 2010 the Multistrada has a Keyless FOB with a great looking key for the new edition. You just need to keep it in your pocket and use the starter button to bring the bike to life. The all color TFT console comes to life as the bike performs the usual checks. There is a lot to see on the console and sometimes in can be confusing. But Ducati has made it really easy to control most of the options using just your left thumb.
It is also quite easy to change the ride modes with just your left thumb. It is almost like playing a video game with so many buttons (ergonomically placed though). Since this is the S version, I connected my phone with the bike using the DMS (Ducati Multimedia System) and the bike to the Ducati App on my iPhone which then transmitted all my ride data to it, including lean, average and top speeds and more. I found the link to take some fiddling around with the settings on the phone (it connects via Bluetooth) and the app proved to be buggy as well. But I think it’s a great start and things will improve on this end. But it is impressive to see what bikes have become today!
The sound of the bike was good enough for me to want it to rev more. It’s meaty. The engine felt substantially smooth compared to the previous versions of the MTS, and definitely the one which I rode the most – the 2012 one. Low speed handling was good, with a good turning radius (one of the major things to see on an Adventure bike).
I would have liked the handle-bars to be a tad higher for more confidence while standing up on the pegs on those long hauls, but probably you can get that done with cheap spacers.
The power was excellent. I felt I was riding a darn superbike a few times. Absolutely phenomenal. The only thing which is probably stopping Ducati from making this a 190 bhp beat from the hell is the customer base they want to target. David James, the Marketing Head of Ducati Asia mentioned that Ducati aimed to woo the veterans in motorcycling with this bike back into the motorcycling scene. Obviously the veterans will be old and prone to, well, violently achieved high speed induced rhythmic issues in their heart (I am trying to be polite). Due to the DVT the power was pretty much available at any revs and right up to the top gear. I found the acceleration off the block to be pretty incredible with the DWC working overtime. However I still feel that Ducati needs to work a bit more on the DTC (Traction Control). I am not entirely comfortable with those power cuts if the rear loses its grip, not in such a perceivable way at least. But it is far better than the 2012 MTS which I was riding. The brakes felt absolutely fantastic and confidence inspiring; even without the added placebo of the cornering ABS it was great.
I’ll be very frank – I never changed the modes. Well I did once switch to Urban, but the loss of 60 bhp just didn’t appeal to the petrol head in me. But it’s a useful thing to have, no doubt. So much for four bikes in one.
The MTS 1200S uses Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2 tyres, which are supposed to be good general purpose dual compound tyres. I have done a lot of riding on Scorpion Trails so definitely this should have been even better. For some reason the rear was losing it in many places. I assume the issue was with the roads and the diesel spread on the tarmac due to the heavy vehicles. Obviously Pirelli knows what they are doing though.
I was watching others ride ahead of me. I did not like the way the rear indicators and number plate vibrates on roads, for practical purposes it is supposed to, but I would have loved a body integrated turn signal setup, like the Hayabusa perhaps. Another useful thing to have was the single hand adjustable mechanical wind screen. Though there is always room for improvement when wind protection is concerned, primarily due to the varying heights and sizes of the riders and their sitting stances, it did the job pretty well for a stock screen.
The bike should take you to the other side of 250 kms on one single tank (20.5 litres). It also a confortable pillion seat on which you can go from Kashmir to Kanyakumari without taxing the pillion. The suspension is also dynamically adjustable (Skyhook) but I felt it should have been more hard in the Sport settings. Maybe I could have changed using the many available parameters using just my left thumb.
Service Backup? Truth be told – India is not an easy country to setup base in and to service high end motorcycles. They don’t get sold enough (though sales are increasing for sure!). And some of you already know what the erstwhile distributor (read : crook) did to the Ducati brand in India leaving the company hapless. Fortunately, the Ducati brand is so strong that it has more than bounced back with a subsidiary in India. And one of the largest showrooms in Delhi NCR with a good service facility it is going the right way. Do not expect spares to be available right off the block, but yes they will come sooner and cheaper thanks to Thailand route.
This is humungous Ducati service facility in Gurgaon, India. I hope they get their sales up to justify the space they have here.
And the showroom in the same building. Not too many bikes, but getting there
Also since Pirelli has come to India with CEAT as their distributors, things are looking even more bright should you feel an immediate urge to sacrifice your tyre to the petrogods in a burnout.
Before I end, here is a quick recap of the various models of the Multistrada 1200 available today for you : Multistrada 1200, 1200 S and 1200 S D|air and two new additions will be made in 2016 to this already compelling lineup – the 1200 Enduro and Pikes Peak Edition.
The Multistrada 1200S and Multistrada 1200 actually are quite a bit different as highlighted below:
Multistrada 1200 S (and Multistrada 1200 S D|Air)
-Ducati Red (Multistrada Non S version is only available in this) with black wheels rims (1200 S and 1200 S D-Air)
-Iceberg White with black wheels rims (1200 S only)
I am particularly sad that they don’t have a more purposeful color – like the gray in the 2012 MTS 1200. This was the bike I rode around Australia, isn’t she a beauty!
You can click here for lots more photos from my 24000 kms ride around Australia on the 2012 MTS 1200.
-Ducati Testastretta DVT engine
-Bosch IMU: Inertial Measurement Unit
-Bosch-Brembo ABS 9.1ME Cornering braking system
-Front brake discs with diameter of 330 mm, Brembo M504 4-piston radial calipers (1200 S only)
-Electronic cruise control
-Ducati Multimedia System (DMS) (1200 S only)
-Ride-by-Wire Power Modes (PM)
-Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC)
-Ducati Traction Control (DTC)
-Electronic Sachs suspension (front and back) with the semi-active Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) Evolution system (1200 S only)
-Full LED headlamp with Ducati Cornering Lights (DCL) (1200 S only)
-Instrument panel with 5” full colour TFT screen(1200 S only)(Non S version features only a simple LCD console)
-D-Air® system (Multistrada 1200 S D-Air only). What is D-Air?
There are various packs available for the MTS 1200 as well (I am not sure how much extra is for each pack, or its availability in India):
Touring Pack :
Urban Pack :
So, will it go to Ladakh? For sure! Just add the right tyres! We took the 2012 Multistrada 1200 to Spiti Valley and the then World’s Highest Motorable Village, but with the wrong tyres, the bike performed flawlessly, but the rear tyre got insane amount of punctures! Here is a video:
Will it go from Delhi to Thailand? Hell yes, again the right tyres and preparations matter. Will it just go the grocery store? Yes, just get the panniers…
With the Yamaha Super Tenere
With the Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200XC
With the Suzuki V-Strom 1000
With the Moto Guzzi Stevio 1200NTX
With the KTM 1290 Super Adventure
Here is a comparison with a bike which is 10 lacs cheaper than the MTS 1200S, compare what you are getting with the BMW S1000XR which 10 lacs more than the MTS!
With the BMW R1200GS
With the Benelli Trek Amazonas 1130
With the Aprilia Caponord 1200
With the Kawasaki Versys 1000
Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom
We were recently invited to a part of a ‘treasure hunt’ ride by Harley Davidson India. Working in a group of four (yours truly and 3 others from different publications), we had to solve a puzzle and make sense of a set of clues given by the folks at HD India to reach a destination somewhere near Jaisalmer, some 300 km from our starting point in Jodhpur. And to cover those 300 km, we had a variety of bikes available from their Indian stable. Cracking the clues, we reached our destination a little past sunset to join two other teams of auto journos who were already there.
The final set of clues gave revealed our final destination for the day!
The treasure ultimately hunted out was the new Sportster 1200 Custom that was launched on that evening against the grand backdrop of the Suryagarh Palace Hotel. The 1200 Custom joins the Sportster range in the Harley Davidson India family where it will sell alongside the Iron 883 and the oh-so-gorgeous Forty-Eight. The other member of the Sporster range, the SuperLow which also happened to be the most affordable HD after the Street 750, was discontinued recently.
Vikram Pawah, Managing Director, Harley-Davidson India on the 1200 Custom during the launch
The new Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom will come to India via the CKD route to be assembled at their Bawal Plant and is priced at INR 8.9 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, which puts it 50K below the Forty-Eight and 1.5 lakh above the Iron 883. What you get for the 8.9 lakh rupees is classic cruiser styling with a round headlamp, low seat, slightly raised handlebar, and tons of chrome. Other goodies on offer are the tastefully designed 5-spoke alloy wheels, which have a steel coating on them. Also adding to the visual bulk of the bike is the biggish teardrop shaped tank. Visually the most distinct feature of the 1200 Custom is its fat front end, which primarily comes from the Michelin Scorcher rubber with a roundish profile. The saddle looks spacious enough to accommodate even the biggest of bottoms without much fuss, though we cannot say the same about the pillion seat which is comfortable but wide enough and requires a pillion backrest if you don’t want to see your pillion falling off of the bike in case of sudden acceleration! The instrument cluster is a round shaped one, which houses an analogue speedometer along with a small digital window that displays gear position, clock, distance-to-empty, tachometer and trip meter in digital format. The switch gear assembly on either side of the handlebar is the familiar Harley one, which uses top quality plastic and has a good solid feel to it. The overall fit and finish leaves nothing to worry about.
Powering this latest Harley in the country is the 1200cc, air-cooled, V-Twin Evolution engine, which makes a healthy 96 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. This is mated to a 5-speed gearbox that transmits the power to the rear wheel via a belt drive. The bhp figures, as customary with cruisers, were not disclosed by Harley Davidson. There is generous amount of chrome sprinkled over the engine covers as well. The same engine also powers the Harley-Davidson Forty Eight. Thumb the starter and the engine comes to life vividly with a sweet rumbling exhaust note as it settles to idling.
Photo: Harley Davidson India
You realize the compactness of the 1200 Custom as soon as you sit on it. No, it doesn’t feel tiny but also doesn’t intimidate the rider with its bulk either. The low seat height also adds to the rider confidence. The rider sits with his/ her leg positioned comfortably on the forward set foot pegs and the hands on the slightly raised handlebars. And as soon as get used to the bike you realize how nimble it is. The 268 kg of mass moves ahead smoothly with a gentle twist of the wrist and you realize soon enough how much fun it is have 96 Nm of torque that is available at just around 3500 rpm. You get a meaty low and mid-range. Getting in the triple digit speed range was effortless where it felt firmly planted and seemed to be capable of cruising at around 120 kmph mark the whole day without any visible stress to the engine at all. You do feel some vibrations, but not enough that you can’t live with. The narrow roads of Rajasthan with a generous sprinkle of desert dust held us back from trying to test the top whack. The suspension setup felt a little on the stiffer side and negotiating big bumps and potholes was an event in itself. The smaller ones were dispatched with utter ease though.
The brakes felt adequate and had a nice and reassuring bite to them. Sadly, there is no ABS option as of now but will soon be introduced on the 1200 Custom as per the folks at Harley Davidson.
So if you are out in the market with around 9 Lakh rupees in your pocket and are looking for a nice mid-range cruiser, take a test ride of the new Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom. We do believe that the chances of that test ride converting into a purchase decision would be quite high if you keep your expectations realistic. What you get for those 9 lakh rupees is a bike that is compact, yet has good presence on the road. It is planted at high speed straight line runs and feels agile and nimble to tackle city traffic with relative ease. It has that big bike feel to it, yet it doesn’t intimidate you. The saddle is comfortable and spacious. The overall ride quality is good. Though the ground clearance of just 105 mm and the lack of ABS do take some shine off of the deal.