It's no secret we have mixed feelings about the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S. Sure, it’s got a face only a blind mother could love, but the funky chicken also has superbike power, electronically-adjustable suspension, and all-day comfort. Skeptical of all the praise being heaped on the bike as a honest-to-god, world-beating, do-it-all motorcycle capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, we took it to Bear Mountain’s notoriously wretched mountain roads during the middle of a monsoon.
- 150 HP and 87.5lb-ft of torque. To put those two numbers into perspective, that’s just about on par with a 999R.
- Possibly the most comfortable seat on a motorcycle ever. Honda Goldwing included. The pillion pad even gives a touch of lumbar support. Coupled with a sit-up-and-beg riding position, the Multistrada S is all-day ridable and you won’t ever get off it exhausted.
- So perfectly balanced I could sit at stop lights without putting a foot down.
- Ducati Traction Control doesn’t interfere unless you need it to. With roads covered in debris from the downpour, I tried breaking the rear loose on corner exits. DTC just kept the bike from entering crazyland. But, you can still do rolling burnouts.
- The ABS brakes are perfect for those times when a flock of turkeys run out into the middle of a wet and leaf-covered road.
- Heated grips. Why don’t all motorcycles have them?
- Easily adjustable engine modes. Like other systems used by people like BMW and Aprilia, you just pull in the clutch, let off the gas and push a button. Then get back on the gas.
- Those four modes also simultaneously control the settings of Ducati's (DES) suspension system, tweaking the Ohlins fully-adjustable rear shock and 48mm forks on the fly. This means adjusting suspension settings from “Touring” to “Sport” can be done without pulling over and taking out the tool kit.
- The retractable handle located on the left passenger peg mount allows you to pull the Multi up on its centerstand quickly and easily. A brilliant example of clever, simple, useful design.
-The clocks are easy to read. Regardless of the nearly overwhelming amount of features the on-board computer offers, navigating the LCD screen remains intuitive.
- The keyless ignition and steering lock. Let's face it, without a kickstart, using a key to start your bike is an anachronism.
- The kill switch covers the start button. Flicking it up is like arming a missile launcher. Which you kind of are.
- There’s a waterproof compartment in the right fairing. Perfect for toll booth money.
- All the above plus roll-on wheelies during a torrential thunderstorm and a tornado watch.
- There’s not enough room between the rider and passenger foot pegs to allow you to ride on the balls of your feet. Ducati says they’re fixing this for 2011.
- The rubber-capped pegs are slick like ice when they get wet. This was a serious problem several times in mid-corner on Bear Mountain when buckets of water were coming down. Especially since I couldn't properly put weight on the balls of my feet due to the previously mentioned problem. (Possibly redesigned for 2011.)
- The fuel injection gets the hiccups between 2,700 and 4,000 RPM, which also happens to be the engine's sweet spot for commuting. (Fixed for 2011.)
- The throttle is sticky when riding in the rain. Going uphill in mid-corner leaned over, easing on the throttle to keep speed was impossible without getting an unwanted and uncontrollable surge of power. Thank God for the DTC traction control, which saved my ass more than once.
- The engine is obviously struggling to exhale through the giant, restrictive exhaust.
- The ABS automatically turns itself back on at every restart. This wouldn't be too terribly bad if I didn't have to dig several clicks into the computer before getting to the ABS feature. Ideally, I'd love to have an option to indefinitely disable ABS.
- The rear brake is pure mush.
- The beak. There's no getting around that ginormous nose. Yikes.
- The funky chicken's no off-roader. While the bike handles alright in “Enduro” mode, falling down just isn’t an option. The plastics and bar-mounted electronics are clearly not built to be crash friendly, much less resistant. Throwing the Multistrada S down a gravel road in the middle of nowhere would most likely be disastrous.
- The brush guards with integrated blinkers aren't made to withstand a bashing either.
- The panniers are laughably small. While the large left pannier will just fit a full-face helmet, the compartment is so awkwardly shaped that even the small hardcase for my tiny camera kit wouldn't fit. The small right pannier is so small it fits little more than a satchel or your girlfriend's purse. Unless she likes big purses, at which point she'll have to hope said purse fits in the left pannier.