The current Ducati Multistrada came out as a 2015 model with the 160PS 1,200cc 90 V-twin and variable desmodromic valve timing. While the original menu included the basic 1200, the 1200 S with its semi-active suspension and the flagship Pikes Peak, Ducati has introduced the Multistrada Enduro into the mix. Celebrate variety or channel Muddy Waters? Let us find out.
The Ducati Multistrada 1200 S is the middle model in the three-bike line of road-biased Multistradas. It, however, not only outsells all the other models, it is amongst the single most popular of Ducati's motorcycle across the board.
The reason for this isn't hard to fathom. First, despite how large the motorcycle looks, the 1200 S is actually not an idiotically large motorcycle to ride even in traffic. It has a surfeit of electronics but they combine to produce a sublime motorcycle that lives up very deftly to the promise in its name - many roads. The difference in feel between the bike in Sport and Urban mode is vast and extremely useful. And having a powerful and nearly invisible electronic safety net makes riding a 270kmph capable, 160PS motorcycle in India's chaos a heck of a lot easier than you can ever imagine.
The basic Multistrada doesn't wilt like a four-week-old rose once the road ends. But its road-bias and sportsbike reflexes are clearly its highlights. The Enduro raises the off-road ability quotient and gives potential Multistrada buyers a dramatically different choice in how they'd like the bike to feel.
The Enduro, as a result, feels a bit slower to react in inputs but every time you face a giant pothole or jump a speed breaker you experience a range of suspension that strongly reminds of you a dirt bike.
There's no disguising the weight and size of the Enduro, but its unflappable control stays confident and unerring over almost every surface you can imagine. It feels indestructible in a way that even the robust Multistrada 1200 S cannot rival.
Ducati also says the Enduro, especially with the optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres, is a genuine off-roader with press shots as well as promo videos full of riders on Enduros doing things best left to small off-roaders. But given how amazing the road Multistrada is in what it can do, the Enduro's abilities should not come as a surprise, yes?
The basic engine is exactly the same. It's got the world's first production continuously variable valve timing system, and it works with Ducati's signature desmodromic valves. It produces the smoothest feeling Ducati engine we have experienced yet.
Also identical is the 5" colour TFT screen that both bikes use to display information. The layouts are clean and you get used to locating the information quickly at a glance. One of my favourite features is the fact that once your pair you phone, if you do not have a headset, the display quickly flashes the name of the caller. I can quickly glance at it and decide if I want to stop and take the call or ignore it for later.
Similarly, while the Enduro is taller and the lights are higher up as a result, the stunning LED headlights are the same across the two. These are some of the best headlights we have ever tested on a two-wheeler.
For off-roading, Ducati altered quite a few bits on the Multistrada to create the Enduro. The chassis now employs a new pivot plate on which sits a double-sided swingarm which is heavier, more robust and also 65mm longer. That combined with 1 more rake and a hint of more trail - 110mm versus 109mm - makes the Enduro slower to steer and more stability oriented.
The suspension on both is what Ducati called Skyhook Suspension or DSS. Sachs makes both fully adjustable units but the compression, rebound and preload adjustments happen electronically and the suspension is semi-active. The difference is that the 48mm front fork offers 200mm of travel versus 170mm on the Enduro and the Multistrada respectively. The rear Sachs monoshock, similarly, offers 200mm and 170mm of travel too.
While Ducati didn't touch the engine at all, the first gear on the Enduro is a lower ratio for off-road work. Ducati also gave back some of the rideability and acceleration to the Enduro by lowering the final drive a bit with three extra teeth on the rear sprocket. This lowers the top speed from roughly 270kmph to 240kmph, but honestly that is still so fast that in our conditions, it doesn't matter.
Now, let us get to the juicy bit, choosing between the two motorcycles. It's a finely nuanced choice, so pay close attention.
The price difference between the Rs 23.08 lakh (on-road Mumbai) Enduro and the Multistrada S is just Rs 70,000, in favour of the 1200 S. This is such a small difference in relative terms that the price isn't a factor which should make your decision.
There is no doubt that the Enduro is vastly superior to the 1200 S in value. The bigger fuel tank and the longer travel suspension both count for more range and ability and that could be vital, for example, on the 365km run from Tandi to Leh - the longest petrol pump free run I know of. The extra strength and ruggedness of the Enduro should also be factored in - that bashplate is vastly stronger and the double-sided swingarm means strength as well as the chance that any mechanic will be able to extract the rear wheel if the need should arise, for example. Hard-core metal for money, then? Firmly the Enduro.
This is where it gets a little bit more murky. The 1200 S is not the hottest motorcycle OVERDRIVE has tested. It can get hot in slow traffic on a warm day to be sure. But if you're wearing gear, you won't complain too much. The Enduro is an oven. I believe the extra capacity of the tank causes an obstruction in the evacuation of air from the radiator and this hot air ends up fired into your thighs and crotch relentlessly. The addition of a tall screen and the low seat (standard in South East Asia) means you sit deeper in the motorcycle - and hence out of the airstream. So you get heat from the engine and almost no air from outside. Result is either you're baking slowly or you will end up standing on the pegs to ventilate yourself a fair bit. The 1200 S is vastly, vastly easier to live with then.
Then comes the size and weight. The extra weight and the fact that the huge fuel tank is located up and high make the Enduro much harder work at slow speeds. Whether you've to walk it about in the parking or execute a walking pace U-turn, as you might in traffic, the Enduro is hard work. It's harder enough for you to think that the 1200 S is vastly easier. So much so that while I am happy to commute on the 1200 S daily, even I would think twice about wading in with the Enduro.
The difference in ability is genuine. The Enduro feels indestructible while the 1200 S feels robust. Once the tarmac ends, the Enduro does feel more controllable, more at home and generally happier. This is not to say that the 1200 S feels like you should park it and start walking. But that the Enduro feels more natural.
But that's exactly the thing. Serious off-roading on the Enduro requires skill and experience - it makes 100PS in Enduro mode! And if you don't have that skill, you'll get just about equally far down the trail with either motorcycle. It sounds like a small thing to think about, but this is one of the two big things that separate the two motorcycles. The latent ability of the Enduro off-road only makes sense if you have the skills needed to use it.
The only area where the Enduro scores over the 1200 S in on-road performance is the ride quality. The extra travel allows it to create a plushness that the extremely comfortable 1200 S cannot match. But that's it.
Because the 1200 S is a sports tourer, sportsbike and flickable street bike by turns. The steering responses are super-sharp and accurate, and despite its visual size, it feels like a reasonably small motorcycle to ride. You will find yourself leaning over all the way to the edge of the tyres without a care, and the taut poise of Sports mode versus the elegant grace of Urban mode's absorptive ability is a wonderful range that covers everything chaotic India can throw at the motorcycle. You'll never ride as carefree as the Enduro perhaps, but the lighter feel, the more sharper responses and the sheer sense of zeal that the 1200 S has areunmatched. Unmatched, and not just by the Enduro.
The 1200 S makes the Enduro feel slower to respond and slower to steer. The difference is just enough to make the Enduro feel older and a bit less lively.
The Enduro versus 1200 S argument is real. I stood in front of the pair in the Ducati Mumbai showroom while a close friend tried to persuade me to change my booking to the Enduro because it was more value for my money. But I didn't.
And the reason is that the Enduro's advantages over the 1200 S are very specific in nature and they only accrue if you either have a plan - extended, endless touring - or skills - at playing hard off-road. And if either of those two things is exactly what you had in mind, the extra dosh you will spend is paltry in relation to the price of the two motorcycles.
In every other way, the 1200 S's lighter weight, smaller size, quick reflexes and extra performance make for a more entertaining motorcycle. It is also just easy enough for your ride every day if you like. And that's why I think the 1200 S is the better motorcycle and the one I would recommend.