Many people dislike Ducati Multistradas. They consider them ugly, a cardinal sin for Italian machines from a manufacturer famed for aesthetic sensitivity. This prejudice has dissuaded a lot of riders from finding out what the Multistrada family has to offer. I had my blinkers removed during the 2005 Motogiro road race, when I rode the baby Multistrada 620 over hundreds of miles of glorious Italian countryside. It served me well, as did its original big brother, the one-litre Multistrada, when I tested it in Scotland.
So, I approached the new Multistrada 1100 expecting to be impressed. Setting off along the lanes between Coventry and Tamworth, I was. Power and torque are noticeably greater than on the 1,000cc model, and the new wet clutch is smooth and quiet. Below 3,000rpm, you need to stay in low gear to achieve rapid acceleration, but the flaw disappears as revs rise.
When the road opened out, the big motor began to feel truly sporty, and the handling matched its punch. This bike has a slight tendency to twitch under extreme pressure in fast corners, but it is a mannerism, not a fault: the Multistrada never came close to dumping me on the ground, and, as I became accustomed to its character, I began to appreciate its sophistication. It powers through long bends at serious speeds, and stays glued when the twists get tighter.
Rubber mounts inserted where the handlebars meet the top yoke have expelled another Ducati characteristic: vibration through the frame. Common in all big twin-cylinder bikes, this can be exhausting on long journeys. The Multistrada 1100 is almost vibration-free, and the residual tremble at illegal velocity is more reassuring than annoying. The ride is even better than on the smaller Multistradas. Long journeys are now more pleasure than chore.
Comfort is further enhanced, for me at least, by the tall (850mm), broad seat. Resting my back against the pillion step-up, I was totally relaxed. There is ample pillion space, too. This is a fast bike with proper long-distance potential. After an extended motorway ride, my wrists didn't ache, and neither did my legs or back. The riding position is superbly designed, and affords excellent vision. A tall rider on a Multistrada 1100 commands the road exactly as a safety-conscious motorcyclist should.
On the day I rode it, the bike gave a fair impression of being everything that Ducati claims it to be: it is fast; it handles; and wind protection is good enough for extended fast cruising. The colour-co-ordinated panniers are not huge, but they are big enough for clothes, washing gear and emergency chocolate.
Fuel consumption is frugal. My display said that I averaged 49mpg, and I was riding quickly. And it offers the option of indicating how much further you can ride before filling up.
I like Multistradas in general. Where others see an unlovable pug that betrays Ducati's sporting heritage, I see a well-made, practical motorcycle capable of meeting all of a serious, year-round rider's requirements. It is robust enough to commute on, easy to navigate through dense traffic, entirely relaxed two-up, and sufficiently long-legged to ride from London to Perpignan in a day.
This is the sort of motorcycle people on vast, heavy adventure-tourers should be riding. The larger engine makes little difference in terms of top-end speed, but achieves greater flexibility when climbing, and remains relaxed at autobahn cruising speed. , equipped with off-road performance they will never use,However, I do have two caveats.
The first is that the British-made Triumph Tiger 1050 offers just as much practicality, comfort and load-bearing prowess, combined with a better engine and tremendous agility. (Discerning purchasers might also consider the Suzuki DL1000 and the Buell Ulysses 1200.)
The second is based on reports from colleagues and friends. I had no problems, but a trusted friend who has been riding a Multistrada 1100 for months, finds it extremely annoying, and complains of faulty electronics.
Maybe he was just unlucky. My Multistrada 1100 felt better the further I rode it. But I would still like to test one over several thousand miles.
Engine: 1,078cc, air-cooled, four-stroke, L-twin
Maximum power: 95bhp @ 7,750rpm
Maximum torque: 76lb-ft @ 4,750rpm
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, chain final drive
Brakes: front dual 320mm discs, rear single 245mm disc
Seat height: 850mm
Fuel capacity: 20 litres