Ducati Multistrada V4 S: Faster Adventures
BY: NIGEL PATERSON | PHOTOGRAPHY: PHIL JAMES
Sports mode on the V4 S is nuts. So much fun: 170 horsepower on tap to loft the front wheel, charge between corners, give sportsbikes a serious hurry-up … the adrenaline rush is amazing.
This is a high-power Ducati, and it shows. It’s seriously fast, fast enough for fun days at racetracks — yet slip it into Enduro mode and it’ll happily charge down dirt roads.
Performance, versatility and then there’s touring ability, especially if you add the optional panniers.
And it’s Ducati red. And it’s actually pretty good looking … for an adventure bike. But how much of an adventure bike is the Multistrada V4?
Ducati has been building Multistradas for decades. The early models, powered by the old air cooled L-twins, were as ugly as anything I can think of from the company which has also built some of the sexiest machines ever to roll off a production line.
By the time we got to the 1200s the style was sorted; now we had one of the best-looking adventure bikes … but hang on, was a Multistrada (strada meaning road) really an adventure bike?
Marketing the bike as four in one because it was one of the first to come with various riding modes (Urban, Sport, Touring and Enduro) Ducati did want you to think this machine, complete with 17-inch wheels and sportsbike tyres, was a valid alternative to the BMW GS range or KTM’s Adventures.
It was, however, one of the most versatile road bikes you could buy and it wasn’t even afraid of a dirt road. As they developed the bike it got even better, but serious adventure riders stayed well clear until the Multistrada enduro debuted with laced wheels, including a 19-inch front hoop.
Then the 950 came along, with cast wheels but a 19-inch front.
The Multistrada V4 S is a big motorcycle, but it’s not huge. The seat height and distance to the footpegs and handlebars are pretty standard for the class: if you’re over 170cm you’ll probably find it fine. If you’re short or particularly tall there are some options to help to get the bike to fit better — Ducati has bet big with this generation of Multistrada and doesn’t want to leave anyone wanting.
Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro are the modes you can choose with the Multistrada V4 S, but each can be highly customised to suit your needs and desires. Out of the crate the Sport and Touring modes give full power, the Urban and Enduro reduced output while suspension damping, wheelie control, traction control, ABS and more are tweaked for each setting.
Ride one away from your dealer in Urban mode and you’ll find a big, lazy, docile machine underneath you, comfortable and easy to get through the traffic. Urban is aimed at taking on the weekday grind, and if you have to ride your bike in traffic or rain occasionally it’s fine.
But it’s better out of town, in touring mode, where full power is available, where the excellent Bluetooth system lets you navigate via Sygic on your smartphone (which rides in a special compartment in the tank), listen to tunes and take calls (you’ll need a headset of course, my generic Bluetooth headphones worked just fine).
Eating miles with long days in the saddle is fun on the Multistrada, although the seat starts to feel pretty hard before the sun disappears over the horizon.
Going hard is another option. Sport mode unleashes a sharper throttle response, tunes the suspension to riding hard and squirts red mist all over the inside of your visor.
OK, I was kidding about the red mist, but you might see some anyway — this bike in sports mode is an animal, snarling and barking in its efforts to use all the horsepower, get to the 10,000rpm redline quicker, corner harder … super fun.
And then there’s Enduro mode, where it warns you the rear brake’s ABS is disabled, where it understands you might want the front wheel to pop up in a rut-hopping wheelie, where having the rear tyre spin and slide under power is exactly what you wanted.
If only it could shed 100kg at the same time, it really would be an enduro bike …
ERGOS, COMFORT AND MORE
Adventure bikes are generally fantastic ergonomically. Although not everyone will find the wide handlebars, tall seat and standard footpeg position ideal, it certainly worked well for me. In an effort to keep the seat height reasonable while giving the footpegs clearance, the peg-to-seat distance is a little compromised, but I’d reckon the optional taller seat would fix that. If you find the stock bike too tall I’d seriously consider the suspension-lowering kit rather than the thinner seat, because you might find that more comfortable overall, but it will depend on where and how hard you ride.
For 2022 there’s an update to the electronic suspension, achieved through a firmware update, which lets the suspension sink to its minimum setting if you hold down the suspension adjustment button for a couple seconds. For any time you’re concerned about getting your feet comfortably on the ground it sounds pretty good, although not as good as Harley-Davidson’s automatic system which does a similar thing. Unfortunately the test bike didn’t have this update installed so I wasn’t able to test it out, but it sounds great.
The fairing screen is awesome, adjustable on the move with a single hand and providing excellent buffet-free wind penetration. The shape of the screen combined with the peak on my RXT adventure helmet made this one of the quietest bikes to ride at highway speeds ever.
With the touring pack there are heated seats and handgrips, which should make colder rides more comfortable, and there are a couple of the European DIN-style power ports on the bike which could power electric gear in winter — or your GPS etc.
The smooth engine is great on the freeway or backroads when eating long distances. It’s relaxing and capable, with blistering overtaking available with a snick or two on the quickshifter. The radar system’s adaptive cruise control was excellent, at least the way I used it. I would set a speed I was comfortable at and if I caught up to someone the system would simply slow the bike gently until I was travelling at the pre-set distance behind.
I loved the adaptive radar. It works following another bike and while there may be some issues in some situations (overtaking for example, I’ve read if you’re too close while overtaking it’ll roll off the throttle — but I disengage cruise to overtake). The blind spot monitoring, where an orange light becomes visible in the mirror if someone is close by, is also great.
Braking and handling are top-notch, with quality standard equipment which works well.
The fuel tank of the bike features a phone pocket in
a rubber-like material that isolates the phone from vibration and keeps it safe from the weather. There’s a USB port there for charging, and connectivity is by both Bluetooth and WiFi, with Sygic for navigation and it was very good. The joystick controller on the left switchblock lets you get to contacts, music, navigation and phone quickly and easily, and my budget Bluetooth headset worked just fine (hint: disable a connection to your phone so the headset must connect via the bike, for fewer bugs).
I can honestly say I had less trouble configuring and using the Multistrada’s connectivity than anything else I’ve tried. It might not have the range of functionality as offered by Carplay, but I got it working easier than anything else I’ve used.
When using Sygic the TFT display is almost entirely taken over by the map, it’s a great experience.
However, I was shocked to find Sygic doesn’t support GPX — the file format used to transfer routes and tracks — something you can download for many of the touring stories we publish in Australian Road Rider. The other problem I found is I use my phone for a lot more than just music and calls — my garage door opener, podcasts, Waze, Swift Volume, GPS Speedos, fuel check … seriously, I reckon I’d dig out an older phone from the bottom drawer, install Sygic and a heap of music, set it to share the internet from my main phone and leave it in the bike. No good for taking calls, but I don’t really have friends anyway …
TOURING & ENDURO
Adventure bikes are touring bikes, so I was pleased to see a 22-litre tank standard on the V4. However, I wasn’t as pleased with the fuel consumption. At around 15km/L I was only able to comfortably get 300km out of a tank before seriously looking for a servo. That’s OK: it’s just not great these days, and even in touring mode at highway speeds the fuel consumption wasn’t great.
Covering long distances is what Multistradas are really all about. Comfortable all day (well, have I mentioned the seat gets a bit hard after a while?) and offering a great ride across all types of surfaces, it’s easy to imagine Ducati were thinking of Australian riders when the bike was designed.
Most of us ride out of urban areas to good riding roads: some of those are in the mountains, with smooth curves and little traffic, where Sport mode is king and getting the revs up is going to provide an adrenalin hit like a sportsbike should.
But some of the roads will be unsealed, or you might need to do unsealed sections to get to the good bits — which is what Enduro mode is for. I got the Multistrada dirty over some gravel roads in the Hunter Valley, standing on the pegs and kinda wishing the tyres were a little more dirt-focused, not because they aren’t good, but because I don’t do enough gravel these days and it takes a while to get that confidence back.
The rubber inserts in the footpegs can be removed for off road riding, but there’s no grip offered by the tank when you’re standing — that’s something I’d have to fix with some adhesive panels.
But the big problem with riding this bike on dirt roads is how expensive the panels look, and how heavy the bike is. Ducati offers a bash plate and some engine guards, but I’d consider the SW Motech crash bars if I were considering doing anything where I thought the bike might fall over at low speed. Nothing’s going to save it from a high speed crash, but damaging panels and the tank because a bike has fallen over on something slippery is pretty frustrating and can be expensive.
I don’t mean to single out the Multistrada here either, I’d put crash protection on any adventure bike, for no other reason than I’ve seen too many needing to go home by ute due to minor falls.
At 240kg the bike isn’t too heavy for the class, but it’s a lot of machine to hold up if everything isn’t going to plan — and why sales of mid-range adventure bikes have gone nuts in recent years — if your plan is to spend as much time on dirt as bitumen, you want a lighter machine.
So I’ve come full circle here: back to Italian designers and what sort of roads the Multistrada is really expected to be ridden over. I’d say if it’s lots of low-gear trails standing up, you might have chosen the wrong bike. But if it’s good dirt roads and touring at higher speeds, the new V4 S is fantastic.
So, who should choose the $1100 option of laced wheels over the standard cast wheels? If you live on Australia’s East Coast you might want to consider the tougher, more repairable option, but only because of the damage all the rain and bushfires have done in recent times.
Adding crash protection, laced rims, aluminium panniers … all is possible with the Multistrada, but I wonder if you’d be better off starting with the new DesertX … maybe if you’re planning the around-the-world trip?
One of my favourite road bikes is the BMW S 1000 XR — a ripper four-cylinder engine with heaps of power, long-travel suspension to take the hits from Australia’s crappy roads, a comfortable riding position and optional luggage. Interestingly BMW introduced it to compete with the 1200 Multistrada, which did all those things too!
Both of those bikes have 17-inch wheels capable of taking sporting rubber if you don’t want to ride on gravel surfaces much. Neither are particularly good adventure bikes, but they will both cope better with gravel roads than their roadbike stablemates.
Now Ducati takes the formula for the Multistrada, ups the power with the new V4 engine, yet equips the bike with a 19-inch front wheel, seemingly for better adventure riding.
The funny thing is, for the most part, it’s worked. Sure, if you take a Multistrada V4 to the racetrack, maybe you’d prefer a 17-inch front wheel, especially because it’ll give you more sticky tyre options. However no road bike designed to be versatile across a wide range of conditions is going to be particularly great on a racetrack, so what you lose there you get back in spades on the street and on the gravel.
The 19-incher works great on Australia’s crappy roads, whatever their surface.
HOW MANY POTS?
Most adventure bikes have two cylinders. GS BMWs, all the larger KTMs, Suzukis and Yamahas all have two pots. Only the Triumphs with three and the BMW S 1000 XR with four break from the mould.
Ducati has moved to four pots for the Multistrada, developing the Granturismo engine in the process, the first non-desmo Ducati engine in many decades. Four pots gives more revs, smoother performance … and the offset crank makes it sound and feel like a twin.
Now here’s something I’ve never noticed before: the specifications list maximum power being produced at 10,500rpm, 500 revs after redline. Now back in the dim, dark past I remember the occasional machine having an orange line, which was explained to me as “maximum sustained revs” … so redline was there for brief times, but you wouldn’t hammer down an autobahn beyond the yellow line.
I’m wondering if Ducati’s trying to do the same thing with the Granturismo engine — if it breaks through redline on a track day or when you’re chasing you mate’s Panigale, fine, but if you’re trying to set a new lap-of-Australia record (please don’t) keep it under 10,000rpm.
A surprising characteristic of this is a relatively narrow rev range — I really didn’t like the V4 below 4000rpm. Maybe it’s Euro5, but I found the engine felt a tiny
bit lean at low speeds in high gear with small throttle openings. Cracking the throttle in the higher gears from below 4000 results in vibration and slow progress — snick the quickshifter down a cog or two first and it turns into a rocketship.
So for me, I didn’t really like the bottom-end power of the V4; to me it’s all about the midrange and top-end, which is fantastic. Combine the new V4 with a wide-ratio box and the engine is spinning hard enough even at low speeds for instant throttle response in first and second while being relaxed and smooth at highway speeds in the high gears.
While Ducatisti may sneer at the lack of desmodromic valve actuation, moving to springs means the clearances now don’t need to be checked until the bike has done 60,000km. Even oil changes are out to 15,000km, so the maintenance required by this bike is minuscule compared to older Ducatis.
If you’re a high-mileage rider, that could save you some serious dollars.
Some people like the right bike for the job, others like one bike to do it all. The Multistrada V4 S certainly falls in the latter category, and does it well. Super fun to ride fast, comfortable on tour, capable on dirt roads and even easy to ride through cities, it often does make you feel like you can have your cake and eat it too.
The tech on the V4 S is great too, from the excellent dash to the riding modes to the semi-active suspension, radar and connectivity. It’s modern, well thought-out and effective.
But I keep coming back to the price: not much change from forty grand (as tested). It’s one of the most expensive mainstream bikes around and while you get a lot for your money, it’s a lot of money. For not much more you could buy a DesertX and a Supersport, or a Multistrada V2 and Scrambler.
None of those bikes will do what a Multistrada V4 S will do though: carry you all day in comfort across all sorts of roads at whatever speed you are capable of riding at with safety, tech and entertainment all rolled into the package.
And that just might be priceless.
SPECIFICATIONS: DUCATI I MULTISTRADA V4 S
Type: V4 Granturismo, V4 – 90°, 4 valves per cylinder, counter-rotating crankshaft, Twin Pulse firing order, liquid cooled.
Compression ratio: 14:1
Engine management: Electronic fuel injection system, Øeq 46 mm elliptical throttle bodies with Ride-by-Wire system.
Claimed maximum power: 170 hp (125 kW) @ 10,500 rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 12.7 kgm (125 Nm, 92 lb ft) @ 8750 rpm
Type: 6-speed, optional quickshifter
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet with hydraulic control, self- servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Chassis: Aluminium monocoque frame, aluminium double-sided swingarm
Front suspension: 50 mm fully adjustable USD fork, electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension
Rear suspension: Fully adjustable monoshock, electronic adjustment with Ducati Skyhook Suspension
Front brakes: 2 x Ø 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially-mounted Brembo Stylema monobloc 4-piston 2-pad calipers, radial master cylinder, Cornering ABS
Rear brake: 265 mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, Cornering ABS
Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II – F: 120/70 ZR 19, R: 170/60 ZR 17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed wet weight: 243kg
Seat height: 840–860mm
Fuel capacity: 22L
ELECTRONICS, RIDER AIDS & CONVENIENCE FEATURES
6.5” TFT colour display with Ducati Connect and full-map navigation system • keyless ignition • Ducati Connect • Cruise Control 4 configurable riding modes • Cornering ABS • Cornering Traction Control • Wheelie Control • LED headlight • Daytime Running Light • Cornering Light • Brake Light • Vehicle Hold Control.
Wheels: Alloy or spoked rims.
Radar ($1900): Radar system (adaptive cruise control and blind sport detection)
Travel & Radar ($4600): Radar system, panniers, centrestand, heated grips, heated seat
Full ($7000): Radar system, panniers, centrestand, heated grips, heated seat, Akrapovic muffler, carbon front guard
Price: V4 S from $34,200. As tested $38,800 (ride away)
Colours: Ducati Red, Aviator Grey, Iceberg White. Test bike supplied by: Ducati Australia uRl: www.ducati.com/au/en/bikes/multistrada/multistrada-v4
Warranty: Two years, unlimited kilometres