Words: Alex Waters Images: Ducati UK
First seen at the end of 2015, the 1200 Multistrada Enduro is Ducati’s first effort at a genuine off-road adventure bike, aimed squarely at stealing a piece of the high-end adventure market from BMW’s GS Adventure and KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure. Rather than dressing up a standard Multistrada in knobbly tyres and a paint job, Ducati developed this bike with ex-Dakar racer Beppe Gualini to give it bona fide off-road credentials, and – in short – it’s worked.
A recent Ducati run out at the Touratech UK Travel Event 2018 gave me an opportunity for a quick spin on the model. This follows JB’s experience of briefly riding a pre-production example in the wilds of Madagascar during the Touratech UPoA ride in 2016. JB, and the Ducati’s rider on that occasion, Benjamin Myers, were super-impressed by the Ducati’s capabilities, it being robust enough to shrug off all the challenges a week-long saturated jungle ride threw at it, but as well being a surprisingly amenable performer, with narrow mid-section and decent off-road riding position. JB missed out on a further ride of that bike when it returned to Europe, reporting that Herbert Schwarz (then CEO at Touratech) hogged it, having fallen in love with it while riding the ACT Portugal later that year. So it comes highly recommended…
NOT SO BIG – BUT BIG ALL THE SAME…Getting on the big Multistrada Enduro the ergonomics are surprisingly spot on for an average height guy. With a standard seat height of 870mm (there is also a low seat factory option), at 5’11” my feet were comfortably on the ground and moving off the Enduro immediately feels beautifully balanced for a big bike. Standing up, despite the super-sized 30-litre fuel tank, the bike feels narrow through the middle and the full-sized, grippy enduro foot pegs only add to the feeling of security and stability. No bar risers are required here either as these bars are already 50mm higher than on the base Multistrada model – yep, someone definitely put some thought into spending extended periods of time stood up on this beast (Beppe, no doubt). Spending 40 minutes on the bike doing the DRE off-road academy enduro taster, the big Italian continued to impress while negotiating tight turning circles, weaving through cones and crossing narrow planks. Steering the bike with weight distribution through knees and the pegs – i.e. proper off-road riding technique – it’s all surprisingly manageable. And the 19” Pirelli Scorpion Rally shod wire-spoked front wheel certainly adds to its prowess in the dirt. My only slight gripe is the clutch is a little heavy for extended periods of real nadgery riding like this, but honestly how often are you going to be negotiating these types of obstacles on a maxi-adventure bike? That said, it’s nice to know you could.
The ride height has been slightly jacked-up over the road version and offers over 200mm of suspension travel – right in the ballpark for such a model. The suspension by Sachs feels quality, it’s semi-active (called ‘Skyhook’ by Ducati) featuring the electronically controlled monoshock on the rear which can ride soft or firm depending on ride mode but as well stiffens up for the big hits – and even has a stopper incorporated into the final stroke to prevent the big bike overwhelming itself under extreme riding conditions. It feels plush and of course there are a plethora of riding modes right up to full enduro settings with ABS enabled only on the front wheel, traction control reduced to a minimum, power backed off to 100 of the available 152 horses and the suspension softened-off.
All of this is controlled by the obligatory but in this case attractive and mostly intuitive TFT instrument panel located centrally above the bars. Helping maintain control over all that potential, we note Ducati have lengthened the Enduro model, to a wheelbase of 1594mm (that’s +65mm), and with the steering rake relaxed to 25º, plus the effect of the 19” front wheel, there’s a fair deal of stability built in for off-roading.
As well, a conventional double-sided swingarm replaces the Mulistrada’s mono-arm, which is probably stronger for off-road and not only looks good but also keep everything stable at speed. Added to all that, there’s a steering damper as back up. Belt and braces…
Stepping off the bike and looking more closely, the build quality is superb and there are some nice design touches that demonstrate the thought and development Ducati have put into this Enduro version The crash bars and proper aluminium bash plate both bolt directly into the frame rather than the engine casings or other more fragile fastening points, and the higher-level exhaust should keep clear of rocks and other obstacles.
There are various accessory packs available, not least of which is the touring pack which includes a quality aluminium pannier set. And to my eyes at least, there isn’t a better looking big adventure bike out there.
The Enduro uses the same 1198cc Testastretta engine as the 1200 S road model with the same power (152hp), torque (128Nm), Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) and engine mapping – and boy is it a peach. It delivers plenty of punch throughout the rev range (especially on full power, although the 100hp in enduro mode feels plenty in the dirt) and it sounds glorious at the top end. Equally important for the long-distance traveller, Ducati has engineered-in longer service intervals with 15,000km between services and 30,000km between valve adjustments. The Italian stallion is a big, bruising tough guy for sure – it is what we expect from a top end ‘maxi-enduro tourer’ (as Ducati defines it), but is refined enough for mega road distances and competent enough to tackle the rough stuff when you reach your destination. For a first stab at this market sector it’s amazingly capable and very much a match for the competition. A proper adventure bike then.