Ducati Multistradas At 14,000 Feet

Retracing the road from Newport Beach to the garden of the gods

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

If you were tuned in to something else last June 27th, Greg Tracy covered the 12.4-mile Pikes Peak course in 11 minutes and 46.55 seconds, taking the 1200cc class win on an FL Racing Ducati Multistrada. Only his brother Gary went quicker, topping the 750cc class on an Italian TM 660SMX supermoto bike that weighs about 200 lbs. less. Alexander Smith finished third on the #55 FL Racing Multistrada despite stepping off in the 156th corner while fighting for second. Never one to be left out, the legendary Malcolm Smith came home 10th in the 750cc division on a Husaberg 570.

Despite flirting with 140 mph on the fastest bits of pavement, the 1198cc Ducatis were no match for their lower, lighter rivals in 2010. "The 750cc supermoto bikes are so fast in the dirt," the younger Smith says. "The top of the course is loose, sandy, decomposed-granite stuff-real sketchy. The Multistrada is a chore to ride fast in the dirt sections. It doesn't like to be leaned, and you really can't back it in. That makes it hard to gain enough time on the pavement to stay ahead through that last dirt section. Things will be different next year when it's all paved. Everything from Glen Cove to the top will be a really fast roadracing course."

Fast-forward to a Secret Undisclosed Location in Southern California, a thousand miles and change from Zebulon Pike's illustrious chunk of granite. No road circuit here. Not much of a road at all, really. As Alexander's #55 racebike emerges from the FL Racing Sprinter, he's talking about the key to riding that mountain. "A lot of Pikes Peak is how comfortable you are," he says. "Start second-guessing the bike and you're in trouble, because there are so many other things to second-guess. It's all about going as fast as you can with just enough cushion to handle something unexpected. Imagine riding around a roadrace course with a dump truck up ahead, and you don't know when or where they're going to drop a load of something!"

Heading up a stretch of dirt that looks more like a chunk of the Baja 1000 with 145 horsepower and street tires, I'm about to drop a load of something else. In Pikes Peak trim, the Multistrada sits noticeably lower than stock. It spins up enthusiastically as well, trailing a plume of dust, rocks and Desmoquattro audio to entertain the free-range tarantulas. Paul Thede's suspension setup proves firm doesn't have to mean harsh, keeping both wheels on the broken pavement that makes the Bridgestones and me much more comfortable at the bottom of the trail. A whiff of throttle above 4000 rpm in second lifts the front one helmet-high, but you get used to that. Dynojet cured the stock bike's 3000-rpm indigestion. Long story short, it's everything we loved about the Multistrada without the stuff we didn't. And a whole lot of fun, which is what Faulkner Livingston Racing is all about.

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