How apropos, to be aboard Ducati’s new Multistrada 1260S, in a striking Volcano Grey paint scheme, on the volcanic isle of Gran Canaria. The island is one of seven that comprise the Canary archipelago, which juts up from the Atlantic Ocean some 93 miles off the northwestern coast of Africa. On the same longitude as Mexico, Gran Canaria has agreeable December weather and, more importantly to a motorcyclist, near perfect pavement.
The roads utilize ground-up volcanic rock that provides substantial tire grip, accommodating the lean angles inherent with spirited riding. And spirited riding is what Gran Canaria gifts motorcyclists, thanks to a plethora of winding mountain passes and serpentine coastal routes.
My two-wheeler completes the package as the ideal vehicle for exploration. Since its 2003 introduction, the Ducati Multistrada has evolved into a sophisticated sport-touring machine with the heart of a serious sportbike. For 2018, the Multistrada receives a refinement to its wedged bodywork and a 1262cc Testastretta DVT L-Twin engine. The DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) has variable timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, marking a significant advancement in performance.
With four valves per cylinder, the dual spark, liquid-cooled powerplant produces 158 hp at 9,500 rpm and 95.1 ft lbs of torque at 7,500 rpm (of which 85% of peak torque is available at 3,500 rpm). This level of engine performance is beautifully complemented with a dry weight of 467 pounds (518 pounds wet). The 6-speed transmission is perhaps one of the smoothest to come out of Ducati. Gear changes can be greatly enhanced with the optional electronic speed shifter, which allows throttle on, clutchless shifts.
The Multistrada employs Ducati’s signature tubular trellis frame with a forged, single-side swingarm, rendering a stable wheelbase of 62.4 inches. Seat height is adjustable (32.5 inches to 33.3 inches) and lends a reduced knee bend to the pegs and relaxed arm reach to the heated grips for a comfortable riding position. And ample leverage is provided by the wide handlebars.
The Multistrada possesses an impressive package of electronic riding aids, which includes advanced cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control, and vehicle hold control. Electronically-controlled, fully-adjustable suspension allows dialing in to suit riding preference and situation (baggage or passenger), while a wide range of settings for engine mapping tailors performance to conditions (sport, touring, and rain). These advanced rider aids are controlled through a redesigned dashboard operated by easy-to-reach left thumb buttons. The new dash is highly visible and surprisingly easy to master. This electronic wizardry extends to the throttle, which is a ride-by-wire system.
Attractive new wheel design and Sachs suspension units (48mm upside-down forks and single rear shock) are bolstered by massive, dual 330mm rotors mated to Brembo radial-mount calipers on the front, with a single 265mm rotor on the rear. The combination grants the Multistrada a superlative balance of incredible stopping power. Anti-lock braking is standard.
All of these advancements give the Multistrada 1260S uncanny alter-ego characteristics; the gentlemanly air and comfortable demeanor of a classy touring machine crossed with the irascible heart of a superbike. Yet the bike’s exceptional performance is kept in check with a host of riding aids in what Ducati sells as; “comfort with performance, safety with fun.”
The Ducati’s windscreen is manually adjustable and provides plenty of protection, sans any strange turbulence in the cockpit. A 5.3-gallon fuel tank easily provides a range in excess of 200 miles (depending how indulgent one is with the throttle). The finish and attention to detail is all Italian, from the lever covers and hand guards to the aluminum valve cover decal. Optional panniers are sculpted to flow with the attractive design cues of the Multistrada’s bodywork, and the finely stitched seat provides all-day riding comfort. The new 1260S is available in Ducati Red, Volcano Grey, and Iceberg White.
The day of riding on Gran Canaria aboard the new Multistrada was testament to Ducati’s penchant for crafting beautiful motorcycles that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are abundantly endowed with raw performance. Whether it was ascending from the beach to the island’s 6,417-foot peak, or descending to trek Gran Canaria’s infamous west coast road (where nothing save a single guardrail is all that separates motorists from the 900-foot drop to the Atlantic), the Multistrada tackled all facets with surprising ease and confidence.
After thousands of gear shifts and brake applications, endless turn-ins and gleeful rolling on of the throttle, the Multistrada 1260S continued to perform with exacting and exciting brilliance—a powerful pronouncement that Ducati plans to keep its place at the top of the sport-touring category.