The sun was dropping fast and taking the temperature with it, but we were at the bottom of Hwy 243, one of the best stretches of twisty pavement southern California has to offer. And just because none of the other journalists (except the Canadian, of course) bothered bringing heated gear, shouldn’t mean he and I had to suffer. We were both warm and chomping at the bit to ride Ducati’s newest sportbike up the mountain. But our ride leader, former professional road racer Jake Zemke, who also wasn’t engulfed in thermoelectricity, didn’t see it our way.
Did I say sportbike? Isn’t this a review of Ducati’s “many roads” Multistrada? Yes and yes. As with previous Pikes Peak iterations, Ducati shed any off-road affectations by outfitting this Multi model differently than any of its stablemates. To begin with, the Pikes Peak model wears 17-inch Marchesini light-alloy forged wheels front and rear, dressed in Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV rubber. Footpegs are positioned 10mm higher, as well as 10mm farther back, while the handlebar is 15mm lower and 9mm narrower. Brembo Stylema calipers grip 330mm discs with Panigale brake pads, an Akrapovič performance exhaust exits spent gases, while the electric Öhlins Smart-EC 2.0 fork and shock were lifted straight from the Panigale V4 S. And, new for any Multistrada but most befitting this one, is the Race riding mode meant to unleash anyone’s inner hooligan. So, yeah—sportbike.
Weighing approximately 525 pounds fully fueled, the Pikes Peak is a hefty sportbike on paper but in the real world the bike hides that weight well—especially with those Marchesini forged wheels removing about 8.8 pounds of unsprung weight vs. the Multistrada V4 S. The bike being light on its feet was the first thing that came to my mind when our ride day began. While I never got to push the bike to my personal street limits during our guided cold pavement tour, it’s obvious this Multistrada can hold its own against more specialized motorcycles.
I already mentioned the electric Öhlins Smart-EC 2.0 fork and shock, and while I’m aware that the downside to more technology is more things that can go wrong, I’ve been enthralled with electronic suspension since its introduction years ago. This iteration only strengthens that affection. The on-the-fly ability to switch between the bike’s ride modes, which also changes suspension performance, is a godsend, made even more so by how this system functions. According to Ducati, the “event-based” system adjusts to the aggression level of the rider, whereas the Skyhook version adapts to road conditions.
When the bike is stopped, you can tweak each ride mode by way of the engine, throttle, suspension, traction control, wheelie control, and ABS settings via the handlebar-mounted switchgear and full-color, highly legible 6.5-inch TFT display. Manipulating the settings is intuitive when learning the system, inviting you to customize each ride mode to your personal preferences. Once arranged, you have a ride mode for any circumstance or weather condition.
Adaptive cruise control is a new-to-me technology I haven’t sampled even in the common automobile, so I was eager to see how it operates on a motorcycle. I engaged the tech while riding on a twisty road as well as a straight one, and it functioned impressively well on both. Testing it through the curves was purely an exercise in curiosity, because navigating a two-wheeler through a set of curves with cruise control is the antithesis of why we ride motorcycles.
What I learned when going straight is that the forward-facing radar will prioritize what is in its immediate path. This means that if you’re riding in a staggered formation, it might miss the bike to your left or right and adapt to the motorcycle farther ahead but directly in front of you. A very cool feature of Ducati’s adaptive cruise control is the fact that you can change gears without deactivating the system. For example, if you’re cruising at 75 mph in sixth gear and traffic slows to 40 mph, a few downward presses on the quickshifter-equipped transmission will keep the engine spinning relative to the speed you’re traveling while never having to re-engage the cruise control.
The rear-facing radar is used to power the bike’s blind spot detection technology that’s meant to alert the rider of another vehicle in the immediate vicinity or of one that’s rapidly approaching from behind. Small lights integrated into the mirrors illuminate to communicate the situation. The brightness of the lights is adjustable according to your preferences. As for me, I never pay attention to the same technology in our family’s SUV, nor did I while riding the Multistrada. However, your tastes may vary.
To wrap up commentary of this technological tour-de-force, I should mention that the Multistrada Pikes Peak is also outfitted with vehicle hold control, a tire pressure monitoring system, cornering-ABS, and the whole party gets underway via a keyless ignition. Considering all the above, it’s easier to see how Ducati got to the Pikes Peak’s MSRP of $ 28,995.
Heart & Soul
It’s hard to believe that only a handful of years ago, Ducati was primarily engaged in the production of V-twin-powered road bikes. The introduction of their V4 ushered in a whole new era for the company. Boasting a claimed 170 hp and 92 lb-ft of torque, the 1160cc Granturismo engine powering the Multistrada Pikes Peak is a wonderful, stirring, charismatic, time-warping internal combustion engine that leaves a rider punch drunk for more. The engine picks up revs so fast you’ll be glad the quickshifter is there to help you row the gearbox, and equally glad the Stylema front brakes are confidently capable of slowing your entry into the next corner.
The stock Akrapovič exhaust system emits a pleasing, legal growl while looking identical to the racing exhaust system that, for an extra $ 3,200, will increase horsepower by 10 hp, torque by 5 lb-ft, and reduce weight by 11 pounds—claimed, of course. All good things, and, I suppose, if you’re shopping in this price range what’s another few thousand dollars?
Other Multistradas are already comfortable motorcycles, so even with the more aggressive ergonomics of the Pikes Peak model, I never felt as if my 5-foot-11-inch frame was sandwiched in any way. I did have the tall seat (0.8 inches higher than standard) installed, but that was because it was heated, not because the 33.9-inch standard seat height isn’t tall enough for me. To clarify, the stock seat has two height options: 33.1 inches or 33.9 inches. The tall seat can be set at 33.9 inches or up to 34.6 inches, while the low-seat option goes from 33.1 inches to 32.3 inches for a total range of 2.3 inches of height options among the three seats.
I doubt spending the day aboard the standard seat height would be an ergonomic deal-breaker. The same goes for the lower handlebar height. The sportier riding position helps weight the front better than a normal Multistrada while providing better front-end feedback without causing undue stress on the wrists or neck. The one-handed, manually adjustable windscreen probably does something to help wind flow, but I couldn’t discern a difference during our ride day.
Ducati literature refers to the Multistrada Pikes Peak as the company’s sportiest crossover as well as a sport-tourer. Considering the Pikes Peak model severely deviates from the Multistada’s original intent, it’s understandably hard to categorize. But crossover? Forget about it. Ducati’s not fooling anyone about this motorcycle being a crossover, regardless of its Multristada namesake.
I struggle a little with the sport-tourer moniker because, to me, it should come equipped with luggage instead of it being an expensive option ($ 950 for the rigid side panniers plus $ 175 for the color-matched covers). I would again argue that maybe the Pikes Peak is better viewed as a very comfortable sportbike, straddling the line between a Streetfighter V4 and a more standard sport-tourer. Come to think of it, a comparison test between the Pikes Peak and KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT—an equally crazy fast but not quite as expensive sport-tourer that’s also devoid of stock saddlebags— would make for a very interesting shootout. The irony, of course, is a V-twin competing against a V4 from a company renowned for its V-twins.
2022 Ducati Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak
+ punchy yet predictable power delivery, super comfortable sportbike, latest and greatest tech, amazing engine
– expensive, luggage not included
MSRP: $ 28,995
Engine: V4, 90-degree, counter-rotating, chain final drive
Power: 170hp @10,500rpm; 92lb-ft @8,750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, quickshifter, hydraulic wet multiplate, assist/slipper
Wet Weight: 572lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 33.1 or 33.9in
Fuel Capacity: 5.8gal
Fuel Grade: premium