I developed a liking for V-twins when I test rode (on a whim) a 2019 KTM Superduke. I grinned and giggled during the test ride because the thing was mad. At the end of the test ride I had put a deposit down! I had that bike for a couple of years and mostly loved it. The only thing I missed was a bit more weather protection, and some more touring practicality.
The mighty KTM 1290 Superduke
Checked out my Options First
When I traded in the Superduke I did look at the KTM adventure options but they didn’t do it for me in the looks department. Quite fun on a test ride but big, hefty machines and not the best looking in my opinion. For adventure touring style bikes, I’d always loved the look of the modern Ducati Multistrada range. They also happen to be V-twins so have similar character with loads of low-down grunt and plenty of engine braking. I kind of like to ride on the throttle and rarely touch the brakes unless really pushing on.
Went for Wee One first
I thought I’d be more ‘sensible’ and opted for the Ducati Multistrada 950 S. A bit tall for me really, but only a problem when fully loaded or on an adverse camber. A really good bike and I enjoyed trips round Ireland and to the Alps. There were only three niggles. I wasn’t a huge fan of the 19-inch front wheel as it was ever so slightly vague in hard cornering. I did miss the crazy pull of that KTM. The other ‘niggle’ was that it had a conventional swing arm and I’d always had a thing for the single sided versions.
I Initially went for a 950S
The old Superduke grunt that made me grin in my helmet and encouraged the slightly silly side to come to the fore (you only live once) was probably the main thing I missed. I’m not claiming the 950s was lethargic by any means, but it just didn’t have quite the pull-your-arms-off urgency of the Duke.
The solution (we’ll get there in the end) was another Multistrada. This time a 1260s. I know the new V4 is out which everyone seems to love. However, I didn’t want to remortgage to get one! Just as importantly and if I’m honest (say it in hushed tones) I really don’t think it looks nearly as sexy as the Multistrada 1200/1260 it replaced. Anyone else see it and think Triumph?
So Ducati 1260 Multistrada it was then:
Single sided swing arm? Check.
Lower seat height (despite being a bigger capacity bike)? Check.
Decent touring comfort, luggage capacity and tank range? Check.
17” front to make rubber choice easier?
Check. Sexy looks? Check.
Put one on order? Check!!
Soon switched to the full fat 1260S
Shortly afterwards a very tidy 2018 Ducati 1260 Multistrada was mine. Time to find out if I had made the right shout.
It’s even got a colour Telly!
Good but not Perfect; Modifications required
I had read that the throttle on the 1260 could be a bit snatchy before I test rode it. But I didn’t find it too bad. I had once had a 2015 Yamaha MT09 Tracer that was pretty snatchy and had got decent at controlling it with a smooth hand. Two recommended fixes are a change of sprocket and the exhaust valve ‘fix’. The exhaust valve had already been done when I got the bike, but I did change the standard 15T front sprocket for a 14T before heading to Portugal. The thought of tackling the Portuguese Stelvio hairpins with a lumpy throttle low down wasn’t appealing.
Worked a Treat
This combination I found does make the Multi very easy to live with. And it also improves the acceleration which was already pretty awesome. It does impact top speed, but this not really something I was worried about. I have to say that it slightly increases the revs at motorway speeds but to be honest it’s not made any difference there that’s bothered me enough to notice. The low down difference is noticeable and of value, the upper end changes not so much.
The screen was already an after-market shorty Puig effort with an adjustable spoiler which I quite liked. There were also after-market levers and a bunch of Evotech protective parts but otherwise the bike was stock.
So – what’s it like?
I’ve ridden the ‘new’ (to me) 1260s on a few longish days around Scotland, on the (afore-mentioned) Euro trip to Portugal and a jaunt down south to catch up with friends in Worcestershire. I can say that it does so far seem to be the goldilocks bike for me. I have the 1260s with full luggage (panniers and a top box). The same luggage setup was on my 950 too and I did a 2-week trip around Ireland, and another to the Alps on that. Plenty of space for me and the obligatory tools for travelling with others on less reliable marques…
Even with that load on the bike is far more surefooted in the corners than I felt the 950 was. The suspension on both bikes is excellent featuring the semi-active Skyhook suspension: Sachs on the 1260 and Showa on the 950. The Multistrada are known for this. I think the larger wheel on the 950 was better at soaking up the really big bumps/potholes
I have to say the 1260 is good enough even on the really rough surfaces. but also turns in that much more sharply in the tight hairpin bends on mountain passes. Despite being bigger and heavier it’s also very agile. Even at low speed, on steep cambered and really tight Portuguese streets (ask me and my Garmin how I know) the bike turns more tightly than you’d think it should.
The Engine is probably a touch softer than the Superduke. Both acceleration and engine braking, but to be fair the Ducati engine is hauling a lot more weight around: That weather protecting fairing/fuel and luggage all add up.
This doesn’t stop it being an absolute blast. Plenty of oomph to nip past vehicles even on short straight sections of tight Portuguese mountain passes. All this means nothing else can really spoil your fun for long. On the longer straights I found it addictive to twist the throttle and feel the bike propel you forward at great pace.
The riding position is pretty upright and very comfortable for long journeys and also allows me to lean forward slightly when pushing on. I stick a sheepskin over the seat for the longer trips: The run to Portugal was for 15 days and just under 4000 miles all in, so a bit of extra comfort was appreciated. Otherwise the seat on it’s own is pretty comfy. I have bought aftermarket seats before for other bikes but have not felt the need on the Multistrada.
The front brakes are excellent but as mentioned I don’t use them a lot as I like to setup for the corners using engine braking unless I’m pushing on more. The rear brake on mine is only there for show as stamping on it doesn’t do much. There is apparently as issue with the rear brake on a lot of Multi’s as the rear brake line is routed too close to the exhaust on the rear cylinder, so the fluid has a tendency to boil once it’s absorbed some moisture. I’ve bought some fluid and will trying changing fluid and bleeding to see if it improves but so far it’s there in name only.
Keep an Eye the Levels
It did burn some oil on the Portugal trip. The weather there was really warm (high 30s most days) and near the end I found it had burned a load of oil and needed topped up. A fellow rider with a Multistrada 1200 has the same issue during the trip so not unique to my bike but something to be aware of. Okay when home so seemed to be a combination of the really hot weather and throttle getting stuck on the on position too often 😉.
Checking out Portugal
So several thousand miles in and I am a happy boy. I have managed to find a bike that mixes the hooligan element of my old KTM and blended it with the comfort and capability of my old 950 Multistrada. All without breaking the bank for the full fat V4!
Words and Pictures: Ian Bryden