Multistrada 1200S 4/4: Faults, Foibles & Thoughts

Nothing’s perfect and any new product is going to have its share of things that either need fixing for existing customers or improving for future versions — the test for the manufacturer being how openly and clearly they respond to problems. The Multistrada is no exception here, so herewith my nags and niggles for Ducati:

  • The Pannier Lids: While the panniers are well designed for the most part (particularly the handles and locks), it’s mildly annoying that the cutout for the exhaust in the right pannier prevents it from taking a full-face lid (something fixed by the optional wider lids). What’s a lot more annoying is that the lids themselves are, frankly, pants: there’s a 3-4mm gap twixt lid and body at the front, into which the rain does pour. Not good, but Ducati have acknowledged the problem and claim to be working on a fix.
  • The Centre Stand. Presumably in an attempt to provide the maximum leverage for getting a fully-laden ‘Strada onto the stand, Ducati have made the stand’s arm far too long: it fouls the rider’s left foot and pushes the stand down, causing it to ground out far too early. And, if you’re like me and ride with the balls of your feet on the pegs, as the pace rises and you put more weight on your feet, the stand gets pushed down further and grounds out more readily the faster you go. Not a good combination. Again, an acknowledged problem and we’re waiting for a fix.
  • The Termignoni Carbon Slip-On Exhaust (official Ducati accessory): The heat shield for this bulges out so much that it’s impossible to place your right foot properly on the footrest. It also fouls the centrestand spring, pushing the stand down and causing it to bounce against the bike when riding. Ducati have already issued a redesigned replacement heat shield and I’m just waiting for mine to arrive.
  • Low-rpm surging: I’ve mentioned this above and some bikes seem to suffer more than others. I’ve not been particularly plagued by this, but there is a new software map to install, so at least some attempt has been made to address this.
  • Pillion Position: this gives me an occasional speed-related pain in the kidneys. Nothing to do with the comfort but with the fact that the step up to the passenger perch means that my beloved can easily see the speedo. Ignorance used to be bliss…

And that’s about it: the encouraging thing being that all real problems have been acknowledged by Ducati, so we’ll wait and see what they actually do about it. There are a couple of other warranty tweaks to be done, but nothing that’s affecting the use or ability of the machine.

The Value Thing

The Multistrada ‘S’, in either Touring (panniers, centre stand & heated grips as standard) or Sport (lots of carbon fibre) guises, comes in at a wince-inducing £14,295 — admittedly only a little more than a fully-loaded GS but still a goodly chunk of dosh. There is however a base model that’s a very good value at £10,995 (£11,700 with ABS) — it lacks the panniers, stand & heated grips (which total the best part of £1000 as options) and substitutes Marzocchi and Sachs suspension for the S model’s Öhlins. But it still has the traction control and engine modes, so what you’re missing there is the electronic suspension adjustment and the basic quality of the Öhlins suspension. Both worth paying for in my book, but a personalised revalve of the Marzocchis and a rebuild of the shock to suit your weight and riding style will also yield major benefits for a lot less than the difference in price between the two.

Myth and Mystique

There are a few myths that really should have been be put to rest years ago: that England can play football, that buying a GS will fill you with an irresistible urge to head for the Polish border and that Ducatis are prone to breaking down if you insult their mother’s cooking. This is about the last of these.

I’ve done about 120,000 miles on my various Ducatis and have broken down exactly twice on the road, both times within a month, one due to undiagnosed corrosion in the electrical harness of my ’02 ST4s, which now has 50,000 miles on the clock and the other to a faulty third-party replacement ECU, which had gone in as part of the diagnostic process. That’s it.

In the meantime I’ve lost track of the amount of time I’ve spent on tour waiting for tow trucks for GS’ with broken gearboxes or final drives, hunting for new rectifiers for VFRs (a problem they did share with late 90s Ducatis) or scouring Northern France on a Sunday for oil for BMW boxers. So nothing’s perfect, but my longish experience of Ducatis tells me that, used properly (ie ridden hard and serviced on the nail) they’ve certainly not been more of a long distance risk than anything else out there.

Servicing is another matter: not only have servicing costs been cut (Ducati claim by 50%), but service intervals for the Multistrada are now up to 7,500 miles for an oil change and 15,000 miles for a full “Desmo” service.

There certainly was a time when the Ducati factory would create an inspirational engine, wrap it in a finely-honed and minimalist frame, then clear off for a vino and rather forget about the rest (mostly rooted in the Italian government’s protectionist measures of the 70s that stopped Ducati — then state-owned — from buying non-Italian peripherals). But even my 1980 Pantah had German electrics and Japanese instruments and, with the exception of a dodgy patch in the early to mid-nineties, things have been improving ever since. And, with the Multistrada, it’s clear that Ducati are making a bigger effort than ever before — recognising that they’re pulling in people used to BMW levels of service (actual or mythical), they’ve got a new head of QA who used to do the same job for Audi and the factory has even called me on a couple of occasions to check how things are going and to respond to my complaints about the panniers and centre stand.

And I don’t usually name my machines, but the Multistrada was crying out for one, so it’s now officially The Raven — ‘cos it’s black, beaky and has an evil glint in its eye. ‘Nuff said.

Da Capo

The world turns and bikes — good and bad — come and go. But here we have an all-rounder that doesn’t just excel at sporty touring: in my ‘umble opine it moves the experience to a whole new level. And it just happens to be a Ducati. Meanwhile and elsewhere, there’s a new king of the ultimate sports bikes, and THAT turns out to be a BMW. That’s not so much the world turning as turning on its head. My self of thirty years ago wouldn’t have believed it. I’m not sure I believe it now. But I’m still buying Ducatis. At least I can afford to service them now.

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