I have always been keen to run a Ducati but, to be honest, was not that eager to have the small of my back and my wrists tortured during the long rides that I planned and enjoy. Hence exit, at least for the time being, dreams of the fabulous but uncompromising sports bikes for which Ducati is rightly famed. Years ago when working part-time as a tester/photographer for Bike magazine in the UK I had ridden, in and around the factory, a 750SS prototype. I just loved the sound and feel of it, whilst hating the belting it gave my body on everyday roads. This must have been in about 1972/73. Much later on (30 years, how time flies!), when the firm from Bologna brought out the Multistrada, and depite is somewhat ungainly looks (although it has its good angles), I instantly felt that this would be the ideal combination for a now slightly older biker who still likes his ride to go fast, brake and corner well, and yet not turn him into a basket case at the end of each trip of above 100 miles. The Multistrada offered me the mechanics of a sports bike with adjustable and confortable supension and a sensible riding position for road use.
Having run it in quite carefully, I found not much to criticise in the bike. It went quite fast enough for my limited capacities on normal roads, although it did tend to thump and protest a bit below 3000 rpm. The acceleration had plenty of "grunt" and the bike held a line well, although it was not that keen on uneven surfaces when leant over a bit. The braking was spectacular (well, what modern bike wouldn't be compared to the Commando I had previously owned, but I did also have the benchmark braking of the Guzzi Le Mans embedded in the seat of my pants!). Luckily I tend to brake mainly with the front item as the back brake is not that great. The worst thing about it for my use was the seat: hard as nails and very uncomfortable. I changed it fast for a comfort model (rider and passenger) sold by Ducati and very good. I also changed the screen for a marginally higher one with a slight reverse curve at the top edge which made a lot of difference when cruising on motorways (not that I do much of that). And I fitted removable paniers for those longer trips. One thing I never managed to sort was the silly petrol guage which goes onto reserve more than 100 kms before you run out of petrol. I just got used to that and started counting when the warning light comes on!
The above picture shows me on the grey MS with paniers chasing a red one during the first day of the 2005 Centopassi rally in 2005. At the end of the first day we were based in one place so the paniers stayed behind in the hotel.
The MS is a perfect bike for these mountain roads. The Centopassi rally spends three days in a mountainous part of Europe. I have since joined the European Multistrada Club to do similar things in a more relaxed atmosphere, as the Centopassi was polluted for me by a few young Italians on Japanese superbikes taking themselves for V. Rossi. This is fine on a track, but stupid and inconsiderate on open roads.
This, my first long-term experience with a Ducati (apart from the spin on the 750SS, I did borrow a 450 single from a friend once, but I had problems starting the thing: it probably needed the timing adjusted or something), was to lead to another, as you will soon discover.