Michelin’s latest Pilot Road 3 radials transform the Multistrada’s steering and stick like
Wrist: Tim Carrithers
MSRP: (2010): $19,995
Mods: Ferodo brake pads, Michelin tires, National Cycle windshield, Öhlins shock spring, Vibranator bar ends.
The Duck of All Trades has had plenty of chances to drown over the last 2965 hard miles, but it’s only let me down once, which we’ll delve into shortly. Otherwise, the Multistrada has been a trouble-free ride. Thanks to a few key enhancements—some more successful than others—it’s a better motorcycle now than it was. After being pressed into service as a high-speed photo pack-mule for our May issue’s sport-touring comparison, the stock Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires were beyond shot, but a fresh set of Michelin Pilot Road 3 radials ($137 front, $189 rear; www.michelinmotorcycle.com) fixed that and then some.
Our optional 100NM Öhlins spring is better at balancing the chassis under a full-sized rid
One trip around the block revealed more linear, predictable steering with none of the tipping into tight corners the Pirellis exhibited over their last few weeks on the job. Giving up the original-equipment tires’ most-surface capabilities in favor of more sporting rubber buys a whole lot more grip, especially in the wet, where the Michelins feel noticeably more confident. Wear is perfectly even after the first 1200 miles, with no signs of beveling, cupping or squaring-off. No complaints so far, and with any luck they’ll be with us for the duration.
The stock brake pads were nowhere near spent, but since I’ve never been crazy about the increasingly all-or-not-much feel up front, they gave way to HH-rated Ferodo replacements ($77.90 from www.braketech.com). After removing the residue left by their predecessors with a combination of contact cleaner and a 180-grit 3M sanding sponge, the front lever delivers more of everything: initial bite, feel and overall power. Mission accomplished on the sporting side.
I also solved a couple of other nagging problems, starting with a firmer, 100 Newton Meter shock spring ($99.74 from www.ohlinsusa.com) to replace the squishy 85NM stock coil. Our occasionally benevolent Shop Czar, Michael Candreia, removed the 1200S’s electronically controlled Öhlins shock, but since even the Czar’s Snap-On toolbox didn’t contain the required spring compressor, former Yamaha factory racing suspension tech Jun Suganuma of Knology Tuning (www.knologytuning.com) performed the actual swap. For anyone over 180 lbs., it’s a must-do mod. Setting sag to the desired 55mm (2.2 inches) is easy. Something stiffer would help the Multi on two-up expeditions with a week’s worth of gear in the saddlebags, but overall chassis balance is spot-on for solo sporty riding.
Additions intended to enhance the Italian omnivore’s long-distance comfort are a bit more ambiguous. Literally. Excess vibration infiltrating the mirrors creates a frustratingly muddled rear view despite the Vibranators replacing Ducati’s frail stock bar-end weights. Designed to reduce the amplitude of vibration by interrupting the harmonic resonance with a pair of mechanical damping devices that slip easily into the bar at either end, the Vibranators ($109.95 from www.vibranator.com) do cancel a bit of the Desmo’s endemic vibes; just not enough to make those mirror images any sharper. I’m not giving up on the idea just yet, but initial results are underwhelming.
After 800 miles or so behind a VStream Sport windshield ($179.95 from www.nationalcycle.com), the quest for more efficient wind protection is pretty much over. National Cycle makes two taller versions that are probably worth a try—especially when installation is such a piece of cake. At 17.5 inches tall, their shortest screen—2.5 inches shorter than stock, but 1.5 inches wider—punches a cleaner, quieter hole in the wind than anything I’ve tried yet. Since I’m looking over instead of through it, even at the top of the standard adjustment range, the dark tint hasn’t been a problem. That uppermost position provides clean, quiet, collar-high protection from hostile wind and weather. There’s no buffeting, and National’s 4.5mm-thick, hard-coated Lexan is far more scratch-resistant than stock. What more could I want? Come to think of it, there’s a decent chance something larger could make extended two-up travel more comfortable for Mrs. Carrithers, so I’ll be giving the sport-touring version a go: stock 19.5-inch height, but 2.5 inches wider.
It didn’t help that the only mechanical failure in 8370 miles happened on a perfect Saturday morning with the missus on back. Missing breakfast at the Green Valley Café didn’t go in the Plus column either. But look on the bright side: If your shift-lever pivot bolt is going to snap, far better to snap it in second gear, 500 yards from the garage than 38 miles away in sixth. My new best friend Chris, the refreshingly conscientious employee who picks up the parts-department phone at Glendale’s Pro Italia Motors, didn’t have the bolt in stock, but there’s one on the way.