First Ride

First ride: Ducati Mulistrada 1200 Enduro Review

Ducati’s new Multistrada 1200 Enduro comes out swinging, with genuinely good off-road performance and road handling to match

DUCATI’S Multistrada has never been a bike that pretended it was truly capable off-road. Its upright position is a comfortable disguise for the road-focused weapon underneath. For many years it seemed that was as close to off-road as Ducati would ever get. What sits before us now is a bike that Ducati have pointed squarely at the dirt.

On paper it’s a big challenge to see how Ducati, a company with zero knowledge or heritage in off-road, would go about turning their upright, tarmac ripping, 160hp Multistrada into a bike comfortable on dirt.

The crux of the story is that they changed everything bar the engine and frame, creating a bike that the Italian brand wanted to be capable of swallowing any terrain in its path with with skill, comfort and grace. By replacing almost every single major part and altering most of the fundamental dimensions, they’ve truly achieved this.

The fuel capacity has been increased to a whopping 30 litres and the suspension travel is lengthened to 200mm. A 19-inch front wheel joins the new forks, with wire-spoke wheels as standard. The new double-sided swing-arm is stiffer, more balanced and longer, thus the whole bike is stretched some 65mm. They’ve changed the front axle offset, increased the rake by a degree, upped the ground clearance and completely changed the riding ergonomics of the bike. This means new handlebars and risers that sit 50mm higher, a new seat, chunky steel foot-pegs, a folding tip steel gear lever and a height-adjustable brake pedal.

The main frame design remains identical to the sister Multistrada, as is the engine. To gain more torque at the rear wheel, the rear sprocket is now three teeth bigger (43-tooth) and all the electronic riding modes have been calibrated to match the chassis changes. This applies to the suspension damping (DSS), ABS, traction control (DTC), anti-wheelie (DWC), throttle response and fuel injection.

There are numerous other, smaller alterations including new mirrors stems, grab handles, a longer front beak, a frame-mounted sump-guard and a new rear silencer designed to sit higher and allow maximum room for the Touratech panniers that come in the optional Touring accessory package.

As I swung my leg over the very reasonable 870mm seat height, one thing became instantly apparent. The new 1200 Enduro is not a rehashed Multistrada with wire-spoke wheels. Everything about the bike is dramatically more dirt friendly. It’s remarkably slim through the middle and easy to get feet down.

The 70km off-road portion of the test ride couldn’t have shown the bike in a better light, with a packed sandy trail winding its way up the mountain, providing great grip and feeling. The Multistrada Enduro quickly showed its ability, with the comfort, precision and balance of a bike totally at home on dirt. It’s a world apart from its sister.

Every single element of the ergonomics is perfectly positioned to allow you to operate the bike as needed. There are no hindrances, nothing to catch your feet on, nor mirrors hitting forearms and it makes a huge difference to the ride. Between your legs the bike is slim and smooth. The handlebars are a fantastic bend and high enough that only the very tallest riders will struggle. The whopping foot-pegs provide a great connection to the bike, allowing little adjustments and inputs that translate well. Instead of feeling like a road bike off-road, it’s sharp, effective and very playful.

Kerb weight including a 90%-full tank is 254kg, but the Multistrada Enduro carries itself well. It feels balanced to ride and turns precisely and smoothly. It’s predictable and readable, and the chassis provides good feedback, allowing you to do everything you want at all times, be it backing the bike in, throwing power-slides or cruising the trail.

The engine is a huge asset, smooth and easily controlled. In Enduro mode the power is set to 100hp but this remains more than enough. As the revs grow the bike gains speed incredibly quickly. However, at no point is it aggressive, a handful or intimidating. It builds in a linear fashion, especially at low revs. The ride-by-wire throttle provides a huge range over which the power is spread, allowing for very precise and accurate modulation of the rear wheel. The end result is a bike that is easy to control and find grip on.

As well as being incredibly easy to ride fast and dramatically, the bike was equally comfortable at slow, technical riding. Novice or even first-time off-road riders will find a huge area of the power that is usable, friendly and gentle in delivery.

That smooth character combines well with the chassis to create a bike that is incredibly manageable and easy to ride off road. The ABS and traction control systems also perform superbly and add dramatically to the accessibility of the 1200 Enduro. The ABS was a standout feature, with performance remarkably close to the limit of grip available. It’s a system that 85% of the time is capable of dealing with the ground in an efficient and ultimately safe way. It makes the bike more stable under braking and quickly gets the job done. In Enduro mode it works only on the front brake, with the rear brake still able to be locked.

The traction control system is efficient and smooth, interfering very gently and allowing the rear to slide a nice amount before holding it in place. It’s a little more limited than the ABS. Making good progress was easier with it switched off, but it’s pretty capable nonetheless.