Light, low, and seriously fast, the Multistrada 620 is a crowd-pleaser with a difference

Specifications
Engine: L-twin 618cc air cooled
Power: 63 bhp (46.4 kW) @ 9500rpm
Torque: 55.9 Nm @ 6750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive with APTC wet clutch.
Colours: Red, Tangerine Red, Yellow, Black (and matt black on Multistrada Dark)
Price: Around £5,495

Specifications
Engine: L-twin 618cc air cooled
Power: 63 bhp (46.4 kW) @ 9500rpm
Torque: 55.9 Nm @ 6750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive with APTC wet clutch.
Colours: Red, Tangerine Red, Yellow, Black (and matt black on Multistrada Dark)
Price: Around £5,495

Multistrada is the Italian for many roads, which drops a huge hint about what Ducati motorbikes with that name are supposed to do. The idea is that they offer sports performance without compromising on comfort and are capable of roaring along mud-covered trails before speeding serenely down the motorway two-up with luggage.

Impossible? In recent years Ducati have come closer than most to producing a genuine bike for all seasons. It is the 1,000cc Multistrada. As owners of the original model will confirm, this father of the family is genuinely versatile but not perfect. The original seat was rigid to the point of bruising. Weather protection was soakingly limited. These limitations have been ironed out in the 2005 model but, while tremendous in the hands of an experienced rider, the big Multistrada is also powerful enough to scare newcomers and a little high off the ground for most female riders - and many men.

So, give a big welcome to the 2005 Multistrada 620. It is rare for a scaled down version to offer tangible improvements on the original but this one does. The baby Multistrada is a comfortable, confidence-building bundle of fun. It is fast, eminently chuckable even into tight corners and sure footed at speed.

The 618cc Desmodue engine only feels strained at the extreme limits of performance. I felt good as soon as I sat on the bike. The upright riding position is comfortable and the newly simplified instrument panel a model of clarity. It features an analogue rev counter, digital speedometer and backlit liquid-crystal data display.

Ducati call their new clutch the "power torque" It is finger-light and a tremendous boon in heavy traffic. Ease of operation helps to emphasise the brisk agility of the whole bike. It is stable and simultaneously so eager to turn that I felt confident about racing it through a roundabout after just half a mile in the saddle. The new clutch is also fitted with a race-derived device that prevents rear-wheel slip when downshifting fast. Inexperienced riders often make this mistake. I did it on purpose, honest. Conclusion: the Multistrada 620 indulges error without turning mistakes into injuries.

The rear-view mirrors, once offering larger riders a view of their own arms, have been moved 40mm out along the handlebars. It is now possible to change lanes on the motorway without performing a pirouette in the saddle to check for onrushing people carriers. Other manufacturers take note: mirrors do not make bikes faster or sexier but they do keep riders alive.

The Multistrada 620 is Ducati's entry-level model. It will appeal to riders with newly acquired licences and returning bikers unaccustomed to modern sports bikes. But that description risks making it sound bland and limiting when it is neither. In experienced hands this motorcycle is among the best fun bikes on sale.

Lighter and lower than its big brother it is fragrant with Ducati sporting heritage. Handling is gentle enough to reassure the most nervous novice but this Multistrada is thoroughly exhilarating under pressure and quite capable of taking rough treatment from fast motorcyclists.

Styling reflects Ducati's commitment to modernity. The full-throated gurgle of the air-cooled twin engine is, in contrast, entirely traditional but invigorating to the ear. The rest of the bike delivers on that promise. The new Multistrada is a classy real-world motorcycle for owners with a touch of romance in their souls.

There is healthy competition in the medium powered market. Purchasers should check the Suzuki 650 V-Strom, Honda Trans Alp and BMW F650GS as well. But, even among impressive company, the Multistrada 620 is an attention grabber. Those seeking economy as well as quality should try the Dark version that comes in matt black colouring with a single 320mm front disc in place of the twin 300mm versions on the standard bike.

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