Enduro mode softens throttle response by about 30 percent (same as Urban), but with more substantial automatic changes to DTC and ABS, which have both been refined for 2013. The ABS is now adaptive as well, meaning it uses accelerometer data to “decide” how much to mitigate braking. Although the test ride’s only off-road terrain was a short descent from a coastal road to the seaside on a dilapidated half-paved path, we were most impressed with the adaptive ABS in Enduro mode. The ABS does not allow full rear-wheel lock-ups but seems more lenient when intervening astern. In the same vein, the DTC in Enduro mode disallows big slides but continues putting power down even when traction is broken, whereas Sport mode on gravel was much more cautious.
Testing the DTC on pavement is a more delicate operation, but since it rained the night before our ride in and around Bilbao, Spain, testing the limits of the fat, 190-width Pirelli Scorpion Trail rear tire on damp paint lines and pine needles proved worthwhile. As with other DTC-equiped Ducati models, the corrections to save slides are abrupt but effective, and do well to remind the rider to be more careful.
Skyhook is nice, but the true genius of the Multistrada is disguising a wheelie-happy nake
And make no mistake, care is to be taken because sending power through the vast network of electronics is an updated 1198cc Testastretta 11-degree engine, the last remnant of the 1198 superbike. Despite receiving the final baptism of sport-touring detuning—a Dual Spark head—it still produces a claimed 150 bhp and nearly 92 lb.-ft. of torque. Fueling has been refined for 2013 as well, along with throttle response in the different power modes. The result is enough thrust to carry the front wheel easily in the first two gears and, with a little encouragement, third gear, too. If that sounds intoxicating, it is. In classic Ducati fashion, the brakes will cash any check the engine writes, with beefy four-pot radial calipers that squeeze 320mm floating discs.
The 2013 S Touring model we rode also boasts an optional 58 liters of pannier storage, heated grips, and a center-stand. This is the same bike, remember, that backs into hairpins like an Aprilia Tuono V4 and wheelies like a Triumph Speed Triple.
Because current Multistrada owners wanted more touring capability, in addition to the touring-oriented upgrades available on the 2013 model there is the S Gran Tourismo trim level. This means 20mm taller bars, a slightly larger windscreen, an upgraded seat, auxiliary spotlights, larger-capacity, 73-liter saddlebags, and a 48-liter top case.
The other end of the spectrum is the S Pikes Peak edition, which comes draped with carbon fiber bits, forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, and a look-at-me stripey paint scheme. The Gran Tourismo shares pricing with the Pikes Peak at a cool $21,995, with the S Touring priced at $19,995 and the base model coming in at $16,995. The non-S base model does not get the fancy new Skyhook or DES, but does get adjustable power modes and the Ducati Safety Pack that includes traction control and ABS.
Four trim levels mirror Ducati’s motto for the Multistrada of “four bikes in one,” a conceit that still smells of marketing gimmick. Fact is, though, technology has advanced to a point where three-bikes-in-one is realistic. In the not-so-distant past it was impossible to create a visceral motorcycle that would quench the thirst of thrill-seekers while providing a comfortable touring option and docile commuting manners. That time has come. This is that bike.