2016 Ducati Multistrada
1200 Enduro: On New Terrain

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Ducati

Somebody said something about a revolution. But revolutions change things radically; Ducati just put a bigger front wheel and a larger tank onto the Multistrada and called it the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. At least that’s what I thought when I heard about the new bike. My expectations were raised when Ducati noted that only experienced off-road riders should take part in the test ride in Sardinia and that proper off-road equipment would be required.

Behind the Curtain

The evening before a test ride, there is usually a tech presentation by marketers and the project’s lead engineers. You get to hear a lot of numbers about suspension travel and horsepower. One of these I found astonishing. Ducati claims to have designed 266 new parts for the 1200 Enduro, and that’s not even counting small pieces like nuts and washers. 

On the new Multistrada, the most evident changes are rugged spoked wheels with tubeless tires (Pirelli Scorpion Rally are optional knobbies), a more stable double-sided swingarm, 1.2 inches of additional suspension travel and ground clearance, and a large eight-gallon tank. For serious touring, heated grips, aluminum panniers, and a topcase by Touratech are available. Ducati claims a hassle-free top speed of 112 mph even when the bike is fully loaded! A Skyhook semi-active suspension, steering damper, and geometry change (including a 2.5-inch-longer wheelbase, one degree more rake, and four millimeters more trail) are responsible for the promise.

The 160 hp remains untouched. New mapping—which is also available for earlier Multistradas with Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT)—provides a smoother throttle response. The final gear ratio has been changed for more off-road-friendly riding, which helps in tough sections when in first gear.

The footpegs are made of microcast steel and have removable rubber inserts. The rear brake lever can be adjusted to a higher position within two seconds for off-road riding, and the seat, available in three heights, is narrower at the crotch area. The handlebar is raised two inches. A center stand is standard. And a sturdy aluminum sump guard helps riders tread confidently over and through obstacles.

On the Road and Trail

It shows Ducati’s faith in their product that they put us on a 35-mile off-road loop with tricky rocky sections. But first we test the new machine on the Multistrada’s main playground: sporty asphalt ripping. 

Riding mode is set on Touring, which provides full horsepower, a smooth throttle response, and a comfortable suspension setup. This is done with a left-handed thumb switch and full-color five-inch TFT display. The many choices (eight-level adjustable wheelie control, plus traction control and ABS control) are almost too many. Luckily, they can be personalized, which saves the rider from playing around every time he or she starts the bike. 

The seat, set at its standard 34-inch height, proves to be comfortable even after 130 demanding miles. Everything is where you want it to be. The sound emanating from the super-slim exhaust is Italian-style emotional, a true Ducati. The engine pulls smoothly and linearly from 1,500 rpm. Even in sixth gear, convenient acceleration from 2,200 rpm is possible. The 19-inch front wheel is something even a sport rider couldn’t complain about, and the 6.7-inch rear tire lets the bike handle the twisty coastal roads with ease. Switching to Sport, the 1200 Enduro shows its real character. While in Touring, everything is softened (the best option if you have a pillion and want to keep it that way), but in Sport throttle response is very direct. Wheelies in third gear (when wheelie control is switched off) are on the agenda. The front end becomes more steady. This is the mode for maximum fun on the road. But it’s no secret that Ducati builds great street bikes. How will the new Multistrada 1200 Enduro behave in its so far rather forbidden habitat?

After lunch we set the riding mode to Enduro, which cuts the power to 100 hp and switches off rear wheel ABS. Turning onto the dirt it becomes necessary to stand up. The bike’s ergonomics fit very well, at least for my six-foot frame. Ducati has done their homework. Road-tight switchbacks with loose gravel would be a great challenge on Multistradas of the past. Not on this one. Enduro mode’s smooth and predictable power delivery combined with the well-working suspension setup never leaves me high and dry. Having rear ABS disabled helps turn the bike into corners with a locked wheel. Front ABS is still working inconspicuously. I wouldn’t want it to be switched off on a 600-pound bike anyway. 

In between the off-road section are a couple of miles on asphalt. Suddenly the 1200 Enduro feels strange. I even stop and look at my rear tire, suspecting a puncture. But no. I just need to switch back to Touring or Sport to get the more direct suspension setup I’m used to from the morning ride. With a push of a button it’s like you’re on a completely different motorcycle. When frequently changing from on- to off-road riding it’s quite helpful.

To Sum It Up

Are there any downsides? Only two minor things. The optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally rear tire looked worn after two 35-mile hard-ridden off-road loops. A 600-pound bike, 160 hp, a lot of fun, and knobby tires don’t fit that well together, at least not for very long. This is not Ducati’s fault; it’s a conceptual materials problem. Also, during the test two bikes were dropped at low speeds off-road. Both times the plastic handlebar protector with the integrated indicator broke at the same point. Some aluminum reinforcement like on real dirt bikes would go a long way here. But I’m sure the aftermarket will close that gap. 

Now that the Multistrada 1200 Enduro is as capable on loose terrain as on the street, the “Multi” in the name finally lives up to its true meaning. In my off-road-biased opinion, it is the best Multistrada so far: more versatile and with better touring features. This bike puts a smile on your face, anywhere and at any time. It’s not a revolution, but definitely an evolution toward the better.