Road Test: Ducati Multistrada 620

Ducati keep it in the family with a brand new baby Multistrada. Tim Dickson braves the worst of Sicily's weather to find out more.

Multistradas rock, and Ducati know this - the current Multistrada 1000 is their biggest-selling single model, both in the UK and worldwide. And now they're looking to capitalise on that success by expanding the family in a modular, Monster-like style, both with the tricked-up 1000S and this, the new, entry-level Multistrada 620.

And 'entry-level' is the key, because Ducati have clearly recognised the advantage in hooking riders as early in their bike riding - and bike buying - career as possible, and engineering-in brand loyalty from the off. And it's a brand that's as tangible an asset to Ducati as the motorcycles they make. While serving motorcyclists may hanker after Ducatis for their heritage and racing success, people otherwise not into bikes are being drawn to two wheels because they want in on the Ducati name. And that's something most other motorcycle manufacturers can only dream of.

Outwardly, and certainly aesthetically, the new 620 is very similar to the basic 1000. Differences between the two, motor aside, are aimed at keeping the 620's weight and cost down. Most significantly, the 620 is a whole 13kg lighter than the 1000 at a claimed 183kg dry. A lighter, double-sided, hydro-formed swingarm replaces the 1000's heavy single-sider and a smaller, 15-litre fuel tank means there's now some storage space under the seat. Seat height itself is 20mm lower, making the 620 more manageable for less surefooted riders. On top of that, all new Multistradas, this one included, now come with a re-designed and more comfortable seat, a taller screen, less precarious sidestand and more sticky-out mirrors for better seeing behindness. Everything you could ask for, really.

Except a bit more power, perhaps? It's been a while since I last rode a Monster 620, source of this new Multi's engine, and I don't recall its motor leaving a particularly favourable impression. Heading to the Multistrada 620's launch expecting to be underwhlemed once again, I couldn't help thinking Ducati had missed a trick by not deciding on a Multistrada 800 instead, using the excellent motor from the new S2R. But I must have been having a bad day with the Monster 620, because the mini-Multi took me by surprise. Not in a 'bugger me' fast way, more 'oh, that's alright, actually', with decent low down punch and a free-breathing, revvy - if not ultimately rapid - top end. Both internal and final drive gear ratios are identical to the Monster 620's, so perhaps it's the off-roadish riding position dulling expectations of performance.

Whatever the reason, there's enough power at the top end - a claimed 63bhp delivered at 9500rpm - to just about entertain, while delivery is manageable enough for far less cynical riders. It's as sprightly as anything around town, there's enough poke for safe overtakes out on the open road and 85-90mph cruising is possible - the upright riding position means much more than that is barely sufferable for long anyway.

And it's that supermoto-esque riding position, combined with the oddball, ugly duckling styling, that kind of dominates the feel of the Multistrada. Ducati chanced their arm producing something so off-the-wall looking as the original Multistrada, but the gamble appears to have paid off. I still can't make up my mind if I like the look of the thing or not but, whatever your opinion on the aesthetics, as a riding experience the concept works. Fact.

If you're used to more conventional road bikes it may take a while to adapt to the Multi's slightly weird combination of firm, street-focused suspension and upright riding position, but once you do you'll have a ball. If off-roaders are your thing anyway, or you're simply pretty new to bikes and know no different, then you'll be at home from the off. Steering is light and precise, handling surefooted and feedback excellent - we damn well knew all the time just how little grip there was on Sicily's glass-like wet, muddy, poorly-surfaced and, at times, hail-covered roads.

Brakes are, umm, fine. The fronts are the same twin-piston sliding-pin Brembos as on the S2R Monster, which we criticised a couple of months back for lacking in outright stopping power. Here they seem better able to cope with scrubbing off speed because you've usually got less to get rid of. The rear works okay with decent power, but feels a little dead at the pedal.

So lots of talk of new and inexperienced riders then, which is squarely where the Multistrada 620 is aimed. However, I'm occasionally dogged by a nagging doubt when, as now, suggesting a particular Ducati might be suitable for new riders. Ducatis aren't quite like other bikes. On the whole that's a very good thing, and it contributes to their unique appeal, but they do have quirks which sometimes mean they aren't best suited to novices.

Take changing gear. Every time I ride a Ducati I have to spend several minutes and as many miles re-learning my throttle/clutch/gear lever coordination. The unconscious, pre-programmed shifting sequence in my brain that works so smoothly on every Japanese bike doesn't seem to work on Ducatis - this Multistrada included - and I have to make a conscious effort to do it a bit differently.

Is that a problem for the less experienced riders who are bound to be attracted to the Multistrada 620? Possibly. It may come as a bit of a shock to some, but with less entrenched experience to get in the way, perhaps they adapt more readily. I guess it's the same with the APTC Power Torque Clutch which is, mostly, very impressive. The lever action is unnaturally light, but perhaps best appreciated by riders more used to Ducatis of old. New riders with little experience of anything else will just get on with tugging lightly on the lever without reason for complaint. But while the lever itself requires little effort, the hydraulic action lacks feel at the biting point. It's as if you let the lever out and someone else operates the clutch remotely, based on your instruction. It just takes getting used to, unless you know no different. The slipper mechanism also works very well, although it could be argued that it removes a bit too much feel from the rear wheel. Again, newer riders won't miss it.

Novices aside, Ducati also reckon this new mini-Multi could be appreciated by riders down-sizing from a sportsbike, but I think that's pushing things a bit far. They'd soon be gagging for more power. Now, a Multistrada 800, on the other hand...

But that's a story not written yet. In the meantime we've got the Multistrada 620. It is, in a nutshell, a good bike, with appealing oddball looks and at just about the right price - £5495. A cheap way to buy your way into the Ducati family, though still pricey compared to some new-rider-friendly fare.

While its 620 motor and kooky looks mean it perhaps lacks the broader appeal of Ducati's 800cc S2R, also new this year, it should attract new-to-biking novices, the less experienced, town riders after something different and Ducatisti on a budget. It's in the shops right about... now.


The Multistrada family welcomes a new addition. Fun, quirky and just the ticket for new riders who want in on Ducati's name




PRICE NEW - £5495


POWER - 63bhp@9500rpm

TORQUE - 41lb.ft@6750rpm

WEIGHT - 183kg



TOP SPEED - 110mph

0-60 - n/a