First Rides

Test ride review: Ducati Multistrada 1260 S

Ducati

How do you upgrade a super-capable machine into something even better? Ask Ducati

  • Ducati
  • Ducati

When Ducati launched the Multistrada 1260 in India, the keyword often used during the pitch was ‘sports tourer’ and not adventure tourer, like we’d have preferred to call it. You see, the 1200 S was a proper badass motorcycle that could spank the asses of big-bored superbikes at will. However, times have changed and Ducati now has a Multistrada 950 and the 1200-derived Enduro in the portfolio. While the 950 caters to entry-level ADV aficionados, the Enduro caters to hardcore off-road buffs. So what does Ducati do with the 1260? Well, the Multistrada is one of the most perfect motorcycles in the world right now, no second thoughts about that. The question to answer then was whether the 1200 was meant to take on superbikes or was it meant to be something else? Maybe Ducati has the answer now with the 1260. The Multistrada 1260 knows its purpose in life, unlike its predecessor and still excels at everything it does! Here’s the story of what could be the most important motorcycle for our times right now.

“The Euro-IV compliant motor claims to produce higher torque at lower range; in fact the 1260 churns more torque at 4,000rpm than any of its competitors”

New bits?

The changes are many but to begin with the most important one – the engine. Derived from the XDiavel, the 1262cc L-twin comes with Ducati Valvetrain Timing (DVT), popularly known as Variable Valve Timing. The Euro-IV compliant motor claims to produce higher torque at lower range; in fact the 1260 churns more torque at 4,000rpm than any of its competitors. 85 per cent of the twist is available at just 3,500rpm and there’s 18 per cent more torque at 5,500rpm, making the Multi more tractable than ever, according to Ducati. The power figure stands at 156bhp, which seems lower than the 1200 by 2bhp; however, you can blame Ducati’s new measurement methods for it as the new figure is actually up 6bhp.

The Multi 1200 came with Ducati’s characteristic snatchy power delivery, but the 1260 comes with a new ride-by-wire system that claims to offer smoother throttle control. You also get Ducati’s brilliant Quick Shift system, that allows you to blip the throttle without using the clutch. And to stick to the ‘sports tourer’ pitch, Ducati has lengthened the swingarm and added to the wheelbase to make it stable at high speeds on straights and in corners too. At 25deg, the steering is slightly raked out as well. Being Ducati’s flagship tourer, the 1260 S also comes with a plethora of features including cruise control, active Skyhook suspension, cornering ABS, full-LEDs with cornering lights, Ducati Wheelie Control, eight-level traction control, full LED display with Bluetooth connectivity. The Ducati Link app on iOS works seamlessly and provides detailed info including your lean angle, maximum speed achieved, maximum horses used and a lot more details to keep the eight-year-old alive in you.

“I have heard from a lot of people that big ADVs are intimidating to look at, but once on the saddle, you’ll forget that you’re seated on a horse”

Well, onto the saddle then…

There isn’t much to differentiate between the 1200 when it comes to the aesthetics. As you sit on the bike, you’ll also notice how comfortable it is, just like the 1200. I have heard from a lot of people that big ADVs are intimidating to look at, but once on the saddle, you’ll forget that you’re seated on a horse. At 825mm, the seat height is in fact lower than the 390 Duke’s by 5mm and even lower by the G 310 GS by 10mm. Who said this one’s a horse again? The tank tapers down towards your thigh region to allow you to use the landing gear properly. At my height (5ft 11in), I could put both my feet flat on the ground without any hassles.

The next thing you’ll notice is the update to the TFT cluster. The previous gen TFT cluster was not so intuitive to use and the backlit switch gear makes for an even better experience. Press the starter and the classic soundtrack of the Ducati L-Twin begins to play. However, the acoustics are subdued now (sigh!) and the rumbling sound, reminiscent of thunder has faded away too. I begin with the bike slotted in Sport mode, as I’m way too curious to unravel the Multi without its inhibitions. First up you notice, how the snatchiness of the throttle is now a thing of the past. The 1260 S pulls cleanly without any fuelling trouble, which again has been a 1260 a brilliant cruiser with enough; actually more than enough power to get to blistering speeds. The cruise control will help your case if you are game for a laidback ride. And then there’s the quickshifter, which works well enough though there were a few deadshifts that we encountered while shifting to higher cogs, especially past fourth. However we don’t know if this was a one-off on our bike or a recurrent problem.

Sportbike killer?

The Multistrada 1200 was ridiculously capable when it comes to agility and handling. The 1260 may not be in the same league thanks to the revised geometry, but what it has gained is rock solid mid-corner stability and on straights too. There weren’t many slow corners on the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway, where we tested the bike, but from whatever I could decipher, the 1260 is slightly slower to tip into corners and requires some effort to change directions. However, what you gain in terms of stability adheres to Ducati’s brief about it being a ‘sports tourer’. The windscreen, although not adjustable (adjustable one on Enduro only) is about perfect for my height and was throwing the wind away from the helmet precisely. Too much throttle into a corner? Fret not, the IMU will take care of it, without throwing you off the bike. The Skyhook suspension sets up the rear as per the load and you can now manually choose the pillion and pannier weight too! The ride quality is impeccable, even in Sport mode, you barely feel any potholes or undulations. Add the brilliant Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs along with the superbly calibrated Brembo M50 and you can brake late into corners, and throttle out aggressively. Love it!

“The 1260 is much faster than its predecessor throughout the rev range”

Well, the 1260 S isn’t really off-road eligible thanks to its low-ly 170mm suspension travel at both ends. However, the torque spread now allows you to have fun sliding around the rear at will. The Enduro mode limits the power (thankfully) to ‘just’ 100bhp and reduces ABS and TC intervention to a minimum. It may not be friendly as the Tigers or the Beemers, but it is still capable for the job. Standing on the pegs is no problem, however it doesn’t feel as natural as on its adversaries. It is a big beast to tame, but the brilliant electronics package makes you look like a hero.

Okay, so buy the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S or no?

There is no doubt that the 1260 S is one of the best tourers in the world right now. It is not only more user friendly, but also makes a stronger case for itself thanks to that brilliant motor and superb ride and handling setup. Ducati is charging a premium of Rs 60k over the 1200 S but that isn’t too much to ask for when you know that you’re getting an evolved product that is not only faster but also more capable than ever. If that doesn’t seal the deal, maybe YouTube Dunne’s sub-10 minute Pikes Peak run that made him the fastest man at the hill climb this year, will do it for you. And no prizes for guessing which bike he used. And now that I’ve told you all, it’s time to solve my own dilemma. XDiavel S or the Multistrada 1260 S? (And of course, the cash that I don’t have!) I hate you (not) for this Ducati!

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