Ringleader: Tim Carrithers
MSRP (2010): $19,995
Mods: California Scientific windshield, CRG Roll-a-Click levers, Evoluzione Cyclesports billet throttle controller, Spider Grips Slim Line SLR grips
Depending on where you sit, the idea of a practical Ducati is either a stunning oxymoron or a Multistrada 1200S. From where I’ve been sitting for the last 2950 miles, the latest definition comes much closer to the latter than the former. After waiting months to lay my sweaty palms on this one, enduring indignities like Joe Neric’s somnambulant Honda NT700V, I can tell you a couple of things: This new Multi isn’t perfect. But after making a few strategic tweaks, I figure perfection can’t be far away. And here’s one more thing: Contrary to what you may have read in the brochures, Multistrada adventures should be confined to paved surfaces by those who would rather avoid painful, expensive contact with rough, pointy parts of the planet. Graded dirt is okay. Hang it out on anything rougher and don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The California Scientific medium-height windscreen works fine if you’re willing to trade m
Since my waking hours have been more or less evenly divided between iMac and Multistrada, initial amendments begin in the cockpit. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Ducati’s grips and levers. But Spider’s SLR street grips ($16.95; www.spidergrips.com) and CRG Roll-a-Click brake and clutch levers ($109 each from www.constructorsrg.com) make the 160-mile round trip between home and the MC M.C. almost bearable. The Spider Grips transmit more front-end feedback and less vibration than the stockers, which is all I could ever ask for. Billet-aluminum CRG levers fit their respective Brembo radial master cylinders perfectly. They’re beautifully made, easy to adjust on the fly and more comfortably shaped than anybody else’s aftermarket equivalents. An Evoluzione Cyclesports billet-aluminum throttle controller ($90; www.evoluzione.net) makes it easier to keep a precise handle on Ducati’s enthusiastic Testastretta 11. It slows things down for the first 45 degrees of opening, then speeds things up the rest of the way, reducing the distance between idle and wide-open to a twinge less than 90 degrees. Better control right off the bottom and a quicker trip to the adrenaline zone up top makes me very happy.
Time and nearly 3000 miles made a compelling case for something more than the standard windscreen, but this medium-height replacement from California Scientific ($185; www.calsci.com) isn’t what I had in mind either. It’s broader and taller than the skimpy stocker, which means more wind/weather protection. But bigger isn’t necessarily better, and it doesn’t fit particularly well. The cockpit is still noisy and turbulent, regardless of how far up or down the Multi’s adjustable mount happens to be at the time. There’s a screen out there somewhere that delivers more coverage and less of that infernal noise. I just haven’t found it yet.
They may not look like a big change, but CRG levers and Spider Slim Line SLR grips add up
Meanwhile, the factory has been busy ironing out the original 1200’s most irritating irregularities for 2011. That would be cold comfort if it weren’t for the fact that Ducati North America is updating 2010 Multistradas to 2011-spec for free as part of the original warranty. My bike emerged from Southern California Ducati’s shop with an ABS reflash (less invasive ABS actuation, especially when you’re riding hard), a fresh fuel map in the ECU (goodbye rough idle, stalling and fluffy low-rpm fueling; hello seamless acceleration and more accurate range predictions from the trip computer) along with a saddlebag latch retrofit (two extra latches per bag keep rain out, but make it harder to get in).
Contrary to what you may have heard from my more pessimistic friends, that’s just the second time this bike has been in the shop. We changed the oil and filter at 3500 miles. I know that’s 4000 miles sooner than Ducati recommends. I read the manual too, but fresh oil equals cheap insurance. Besides, it starts and shifts much more willingly with a sump full of 15w50 Maxima synthetic ($14.99 per liter; www.maximausa.com). The instrument panel will let me know about anything else that needs to be done 621 miles in advance. Thus far, it’s been as reliable as an Italian anvil.
What else can I tell you? Rear-view mirror images degenerate to blurry uselessness at about 68 mph or on rough pavement, a.k.a. most of the time. If anybody out there has a fix for that, I’d love to hear it. The Brembo brakes don’t slow things down as aggressively as they did a month or two ago, especially up front. Smoked pads, I suspect. And while the all-surface Pirelli radials are wearing well enough, steering is less than perfectly linear. I’m shopping around for something stickier for the street, along with a stiffer spring for the hlins shock to make the next 3000 miles or so more enjoyable than the last.