Unlike any other Ducati we could mention, the Multistrada rarely inspires lust at first sight. Slotting in somewhere between stripped-down Italian expediency and conformist sport-touring, Pierre Terblanche's insurgent form triggers more derision than applause at first, but give it time. Here's a Desmo the logical, rational, analytical side of your brain can wrap itself around: one bike that's good at pretty much anything you can do on public pavement. Despite ad copy assertions to the contrary, this is a street bike.
Early editions suffer from too much cockpit turbulence and not enough seat padding (pop for the accessory Comfort saddle), but the basic idea-a simple sporting Ducati with agreeably upright ergonomics-remains sound. With consistent, proficient care, the evolutionary 992cc Dual Spark twin is essentially infallible, putting about 83 horses and 67 lb.-ft. of torque to the tarmac. At 486 lbs. topped off with fluids, the Multi is refreshingly athletic for a sport-tourer, flicking into tight bends with surprising ease and plenty of trademark Ducati feedback from both ends. Suspension and brakes are both quite good when fresh. In the minus column, low footpegs touch down early and often under an aggressive pilot, along with the annoying yet easily removable exhaust heat shield on the right. And roomy solo accommodations are a bit tight for two full-sized adults.
Functional mirrors, actual seat padding, a more substantial windscreen and various engine updates make the '05 Multistrada a little easier to live with, but if you can siphon enough dough out of the budget for an '07 1100, do it. Punched out to 1078cc with a 4mm bore job, peak power and torque numbers remain fundamentally the same, but the bigger twin makes more convincing thrust from fewer rpm. The net result is surprisingly quick, covering a quarter-mile in 10.71 seconds at 111.13 mph. Rubber-mounted bars are vibration-free, and the left lever cues a wet clutch, which is easier to pull than its dry ancestors and won't heat up and get grabby in the daily stop-and-go. Everything else is better sorted than on previous iterations. The 43mm Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock are fully adjustable and difficult to fault.
There are a few faults to find if you know where to look, especially on '03 and '04 models. That 5.3-gallon tank is typically closer to half-full when the low-fuel light comes on, and the dual trip meters are woefully inaccurate until they've been "flashed." Early instrument displays are something less than waterproof, and a stubby kickstand is prone to allow spontaneous capsizing. And then there's the recommended 6000-mile service interval (increased to 7500 miles for '07), which includes costly valve inspections, though actual adjustments are rare.
Track down the most recent vintage you can afford with inclusive service records and you'll have rolling proof that "practical Ducati" isn't an oxymoron. It's a Multistrada.
Italian style, personality, performance and all-day comfort.
Anti-theft styling, slightly notchy shifting, erroneous dash data.
Leaky oil-cooler lines, broken/loose dash pod, hard starting.
Italy's two-wheeled answer to the Swiss Army knife.
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The way to go if there's any dirt on your long way 'round. B
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