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Text: Jesse Miller
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar
When I woke up this morning I didn’t think I would be getting chased down an airport runway on an unfamiliar motorcycle by a stranger in a plane. I digress.
If I was going to buy any motorcycle today it would be the Ducati Multistrada Enduro. It’s not that the Enduro is perfect, it doesn’t boast the kind of teutonic conquest in function over form that we have become accustomed to in the adventure market. It doesn’t have bars to bolt your GPS, rally course notes, or kindle to, and it’s not as easy as removing a sparkplug to evacuate water from the cylinder if you, or your movie star friend, happen to drown it in some remote Mongolian river! But I can’t help thinking that after you’ve bent a conrod thanks to hydraulic lock, the trouble of removing the tank to access the top of the new Desmodromic V-twin might not seem so significant, and really, what’s more adventurous/manly than reading a map and then assuming you can remember all the directions to the next fuel stop unprompted? No, the Enduro, does adventure with a distinctly Italian flare, like wearing your stilettos to do your grocery shopping. The Ducati Enduro is beautiful…
Ducati did a great job with styling the normal Multistrada, but the Enduro is bigger, it’s bulgier, thanks to the enlarged fuel tank, now 30 litres, and it’s taller thanks to longer travel suspension and a new 19″ front wheel. Some people scoff at the notion of some bikes having more character, or soul, than other bikes, but look a Multistrada in the eye and you can see its soul is up for anything. I imagine it covered in mud like a Navy SEAL recruit who’s just come through a muddy training course, standing steadfast and defiant as some drill sergeant does their best to break them, but that could be the fantastic green colour of our test bike that can be best described as “military” and only adds to the toughness of the bike overall.
This is not a hard core ride review, partly because I’m not a hard core racer, or motocross madman, and partly because we were touring around looking for scenic places to take pictures, which is probably exactly the sort of duties most of these bikes will see with their loving owners. Our journey saw us negotiate the heavy traffic of the inner city as we rode around looking for urban shots, much like picking through a daily commute to work. I found the “urban” setting worked wonders in taming the beast while I became accustomed to the big twins sharp throttle and short clutch in the start-stop traffic. From there we headed out onto the highway and further afield to find some off-road locations.
Once up and running the agility of the bike belies its mass to the point that you may forget how tall and heavy it really is, until a low speed near drop while manoeuvring for a picture makes for a strenuous lesson learned. It’s bloody heavy when you can barely reach the ground. This is not a complaint about the bike, because it’s actually not heavy for a 2-up ADV bike, but rather a compliment about how confidence inspiring it is.
We didn’t venture too far from the black-top, just far enough to see where that track went, or if there was anything interesting to see, which is again in keeping with the likely use for the bike. There’s nothing worse than riding all day to go and explore somewhere, and not being able to do the last kilometre because the bike you’re on doesn’t agree with the road surface.
It was one of these brief sojourns off the road that saw us stop at an airfield. No sooner had we pulled up than “Tom”, an aerophile standing by the runway came over to inspect the bike and offer his approval. While Tom was looking at the bike “Sally”, who we had passed on the road earlier, rode up on her bicycle with her dog in a basket on the back. Sally wanted to have her picture taken with the Ducati. Just then a plane landed, turned round, and taxied back to where we were standing. “Bob” the pilot, had come to see what all the fuss was about and we took the opportunity to push our luck and get some pictures on the airstrip.
The grass on the side of the runway gave me a good opportunity to try out both the Multistrada’s traction control and enduro mode. The traction control worked brilliantly on the wet grass, but the activation was noticeable. In enduro mode the bike became tail happy, enough for a novice like me to get a thrill and a little nervous, but obviously smooth and controllable enough that, with some practice, gravel roads would provide great enjoyment.
Now was the time. Lined up at the end of the runway beside the aircraft was one of those moments you dream of as a motor loving boy. Adrenalin pumped, but not enough for me to forget about the propeller next to me, and all those air crash investigation television shows I’ve seen! We tore down the runway. Initially the plan was for the plane to pop a wheelie, and as we approached take off velocity and my steely nerved Motographer friend, I tried to decide if I should wheelie too? Something I’m no good at, because I’m not a stunt rider. But it was too late. A slight gust of wind, or a touch too much air speed and the plane lifted off rather than wheeling. Bob broke left, climbed, and I tore past the other side of the camera, then parked the bike back with its small crowd of admirers.
After circling around, and landing Bob pulled back up where Tom and Sally, and Sally’s dog, stood waiting by the bike. It was at this point that I remembered that saying about meeting the nicest people on a Honda, but the most interesting on a Ducati. The Multistrada Enduro is as quintessentially Italian as an adventure bike could be. It doesn’t compromise on function for form, it recognises that form is a big part of function. It’s like wearing your stilettos to the grocery store because you just never know who you might meet and what adventures that may lead to.
So what’s new?
A hell of a lot! The Ducati Multistrada Enduro isn’t a regular MTS with knobby tyres and a raised suspension. The Bologna manufacturer has in fact used 266 new parts in the Enduro to make it dirt ready, which is almost 30% of all the parts used in the bike! This shows the level of commitment from Ducati to ensure that their bike is ready to rumble.
Visually, the 19 inch front spoked wheel, 30 litre fuel tank and high seat height on the Enduro make this immediately different from the MTS. The suspension travel has been increased to 200mm, ground clearance is up by 31mm and rake angle has been increased by a degree to 25 degrees. The rear sprocket gets 3 additional teeth. Electronics have been tweaked. New sump guard. New higher mounted silencer. Handlebar height has been increased by 50mm to make riding while standing easier. The wheelbase is up by 64mm. The side panels are now aluminium and the front beak is longer to save the rider from flying mud! The seat is slimmer than on the MTS, which allows the rider to get his foot down, even though the seat height is considerable. A double sided swingarm which is more rigid and longer helps maintain stability in the dirt. The foot pedals are steel which bend and not break, so stay safe in case of a crash, the rubber mountings on the pegs are easy to remove to show the dirtbike claw pegs below it. And all these are just what are visible!
What hasn’t changed is the solid Testastretta engine churning out 160 bhp and the chassis which has proven itself yet again.
The bigger they are the harder they fall!
Riding a big, heavy bike on dirt is generally a recipe for disaster. Any off-road rider will tell you, fall you will, fall you must. But Ducati has tried to reduce your tipping points to a bare minimum. Along with Ducati’s Skyhook suspension system, wheelie control, traction control, and cornering ABS, the bike also gets Vehicle Hold Control. VHC gets activated when you are on a steep incline and releases the rear brake gently even after you have removed your foot off the pedal, this is to help you get moving when you find yourself stuck trying to climb a steep mud slope. In Enduro ABS only the front brake is controlled, which allows you to slide the rear to your heart’s content!
Most importantly, though, power in Enduro mode is restricted to 100bhp. Ample for your needs, without being downright scary! All these safety nets are necessary, because if you do drop your bike, picking it up alone won’t be quite a walk in the park and paying the repair bills will surely be no picnic!
The Enduro is in a different league on dirt when compared to the MTS, but on tarmac it is no slouch either. Even on its stiffest setting it is still too softly sprung for being manhandled on asphalt, but that is a trade-off one has to live with on an off-road biased motorcycle. Though taking its size, weight and bulk into account, the Enduro does a respectable job on tarmac as well.
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