2 Apr 2011

My thirteenth bike is another Ducati Multistrada...

Ducati Multistrada 1000SDS


You will have noticed the IS in the title. This is the bike that I currently ride. It has, of course, had the odd modification from this original specification. The Norton Commando is at the doctor's for a mechanical and esthetic face-lift at the moment.

I owned my first Multistrada (the grey one shown in the previous entry to this series) for 3 years, and, when participating in the Centopassi rally in the Alps with it during the summer of 2005, I spent quite a bit of time riding with a few Ducati-owning friends I made there. One of them was a guy called Marcel Camilleri, the owner (at that time, and still today) of the Ducati concessionaire in Toulon. I understand he has since expanded his business, and I am glad for him. He is a really nice guy and a very good and fast rider, including when he has his wife, Michèle, behind him. (If you read this Marcel, all the best!). Anyway Marcel was riding the "S" version of the Multistrada 1000 (a red one), whereas I had the ordinary version. The "S" has Ohlins supension front and back and a few other goodies, including stronger handlebars. Maybe my bike of that time had some slight handling problems as I had dropped it previously and perhaps the front wheel had taken a small ding. In any case I found it hard following Marcel along the twisty bits (hell, there wasn't much else!) even when trying quite hard, and he was riding two-up and me solo. So he agreed to swap bikes for a while and the difference was so amazing that I decided then to switch for an "S" version as soon as I could. This is how it went, when following a KTM which loves the same kind of going...



Marcel's Multi also had some very sticky Michelin tyres, whereas I ran (and still do) the standard Pirelli Scorpions that were apparently developed for this machine. I think I will try the latest Michelin tyres on the bike this summer. The real revelation was the supension though. It made the bike feel like it was glued to the road even when the surface got bad. And it kind of ironed out a lot of the smaller bumps. My grey Multi used to shake its head often coming hard out of corners, whereas the S version was so much easier to keep straight.

So, during the winter of 2005/6, I traded the grey one in for a low-mileage black 'S' model that had been the Ducati Paris dealer's demo bike.  And I still have it and love it. Problems and modifications? Oh, a few in both compartments, but just as with any bike that lives and has its own spirit. Let's do the modifications first. 


Termignoni exhaust system with suitable admission programming, to let it breath a bit better, as well as making a nicer sound (the original noise I found a bit tinny). A 14 tooth front sprocket, to lower the gearing and improve acceleration low down. A small mudguard at back to protect the rear suspension. Later on I got rid of the catalyser in the exhaust system, which made it breathe even better and make a slightly deeper sound too. The motor has felt much crisper since then. When I go on long trips I add on rear paniers. As the left-hand mirror kept breaking through vibration, I have fitted smaller and more solid Ducati Performance ones, which seem ok so far (they had better be, given their price). These are not fitted to the bike in this photo, which isn't mine. A clutch kit which has slightly reduced the clattering and prolongs the clutch life, and a partly open cover to the dry clutch. Other minor mods so far have been aesthetic. I have kept the original seat which I find quite ok on this model.


Problems? I have mentioned the rear-view mirrors. Much more serious have been the valve guides which, on the engine series of which mine is a part, apparently had a metal deficiency of some kind making them wear prematurely after about 15,000 kms. This meant changing the cylinder heads. Expensive, but I hope worthwhile in the long run. Since I had this done last summer the bike starts better, idles evenly even whether cold or hot (this wasn't the case before) and seems to accelerate better too, although the latter impression may have something to with removing the catalyser, which was done at the same time. It currently has over 25,000 kms and will do a lot more this summer. Great bike, and it can do much more than I am able to let it.

Am I tempted by the new 1200 Multistrada? Well, for a start I cannot remotely afford one, and I don't like the look of the thing much either (that horrible duck's bill at the front would have to go!). It is, by all accounts, a very good bike and perfoms well above the level of my 6-year-old model. But why change a machine that suits you so well? It can do town if needed to, with no problems. I hate motorways on a bike but it cruises fine thanks to the fairing, and when equipped with the side packs and a tank top makes travel easy. Its best part of course is playing the twisties and the hills. That is its true element. A very good all-rounder, with an engine that has feel, good acceleration and quite enough power for roads, excellent handling and braking, and just a couple of foibles to keep you amused (that ******* fuel gauge). And I love the clatter of the dry clutch.

If I had to (or was able to) buy another Ducati, it would be a 749 or 999 (the S or R versions) for another kind of fun. I tried a 999 once and loved the feel. But that is not on the cards right now. We will talk about dreams another time.

Night, night.