Call it a quest. No, make that a mission. When I inherited former Senior Editor Charles Everitt's long-term 2005 Ducati Multistrada, it had just 6928 miles on the odometer after a year and a half of service. That's what happens when you live 1.5 miles from the office and don't get out much on weekends. So while you could say that the bike had been "Doin' Time," it hadn't done that many miles-certainly not the 10,000 that we strive for in our long-term tests. I vowed to reach that milestone.
Most of those remaining 3000 miles were racked up on my daily commute-26 miles of mostly city streets with numerous stop signs and traffic lights. Predictably, the dry clutch suffered from all this stop-and-go riding, and more so since Charles had fitted an STM slipper clutch from Lockhart Phillips' Options Italia division ($1499.95, www.lockhartphillipsusa.com). Not just any slipper clutch, this was the top-shelf version with 48 teeth (up from the standard 12), 45-degree ramps (as opposed to 35) and an Evoluzione diaphragm spring (replacing the standard six coil springs). The result was noticeably less engine braking while decelerating and downshifting, and deft lever feel that with a touch of rear brake made it easy to back the bike into corners supermoto-style. That frankly felt wrong on a gentrified adventure-tourer with a top trunk, but it made my ride to and from work that much more entertaining.
The clutch plates aren't the only service items nearing the end of their life cycle. The front brake pads are now emitting a squealing sound and causing the front end to shudder. And the current Pirelli Diablo radials, which replaced the original Scorpion Syncs at around 5000 miles, are with that many miles again starting to look a bit threadbare.
Contrary to popular opinion, this Ducati hasn't needed much in terms of service. We changed the oil and filter ourselves at 3000 and 9000 miles, and brought it in to Southern California Ducati for a full service at the specified 6000. There, technician Eric Beaman changed the oil, filter and spark plugs; cleaned and re-oiled the air filter; cleaned, lubed and adjusted the chain and cables; checked all fasteners for proper torque; and checked the brake pads and fluid, tire pressure, battery voltage, charging system and light operation. Moreover, though it's not required in the Ducati Service Manual, he synchronized the throttle bodies and adjusted the trim for proper air/fuel mixture. As for the valvetrain, two worn half-ring keepers were replaced to get proper closing valve clearance and the timing belts were adjusted; no shims needed replacing.
The one legitimate problem we had was a leaky fuel tank, rectified by replacing an O-ring under warranty. The low-fuel light drove us nuts, illuminating seemingly as soon as we left the gas station, and because Ducati didn't redress that until '07, owners of '05-'06 models will have to live with it. We learned to keep an eye on the display that shows how much fuel the bike had used since the last reset, and went as far as 155 miles on a tankful. The engine warning light also often illuminated for no apparent reason, so we learned to ignore it. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but then what could we do?
Otherwise, over the course of two years, the Multistrada gave perfectly reliable service. I never did warm to the look of the Ducati Performance top trunk ($554.60), but aside from its rubber vibration dampers falling out it proved its worth in daily service. It's so much easier to maneuver through crowded city streets with a trunk than saddlebags. You just need to adjust the mirrors so you can't see it, and remind yourself what a dork you are!
Ringleader: Aaron Frank
Average fuel mileage: 44 mpg
Accessories & modifications: buell top case/side cases, tall windscreen, triple tail pad, stow-and-go underseat bag
You know how I know I'm turning into a more, um, mature motorcyclist? Because the most exciting accessory I've added to my Ulysses long-termer is not a honkin'-loud exhaust or blingy piece of billet-it's the style-sucking hard-case luggage. The modern equivalent of a strapped-on milk crate, nothing screams moto-dork like hard luggage: "Wanna compare mpg figures? I picked up 1.875 mpg after switching to Rotella tractor oil from Farm and Barn. I've got my mileage log right here in the trunk.
Adding Buell's three-piece hard-case system ($1124.95) transformed the Ulysses from a recreational toy to a legitimate transportation alternative. Having the ability to safely and securely carry six bags of groceries nearly doubled my opportunities to ride instead of drive, not to mention the possibilities for extended travel.
The Buell luggage system is quality kit, essentially rebadged Journey-model bags from respected German maker Hepco & Becker. The molded plastic bags (each with an integrated carrying handle) mount on a sturdy steel rack that bolts directly to the bike's subframe and feature a storm-seal gasket that so far has kept the bags watertight, even in extended wet-weather riding.
The 42-liter side bags hold a full-face helmet with room to spare, and elasticized shock cords in both sides of the clamshell keep cargo secure. The 40-liter top case likewise hides a helmet, and incorporates a full-width reflector for rearward visibility. The locking bags come on and off in seconds after turning the key and flipping a lever, and the latches that open the bags are separate (unlike the BMW luggage that uses a single lever for both functions) so you don't inadvertently unlatch the bags from the bike when you're trying to open them-a nice feature. My only complaint: Side and top cases are keyed differently, requiring two separate (but identical-looking) keys. This is occasionally annoying, as I always seem to pick the wrong one.
I also added Buell's optional windscreen (4 inches taller than stock) that moves the windblast up from my chest to over my shoulders, improving comfort at highway speeds. Buffeting remains virtually non-existent thanks to Buell's unique "floating" design that maintains a small gap between the base and the screen to allow wind flow behind the screen to minimize turbulence. You do lose some convenience with the taller screen. Where the stock screen snaps off without tools for easy cleaning, the tall version bolts to the base instead (presumably to resist the increased windblast), which makes cleaning the backside a pain.
Two other minor accessories-the Triple Tail backrest pad ($69.95) and the Stow-and-Go underseat bag ($24.95)-round out this month's mods. Passengers appreciate the gel-filled pad, especially when wheelying (way too easy on the Ulysses), and the storage bag is a more elegant document-carrying solution than the Ziploc snack baggie I used before.
Buell also sent an on-board Quest GPS navigation system, but since the included Garmin software only works with PCs, a review will have to wait until I find mapping software compatible with the chosen computer system of the civilized world (i.e., Mac)