By Adam Childs
Ducati’s 2021 Multistrada V4 for is a significant step forward from the previous model. There’s a completely new V4 engine, a new and lighter chassis, and new wheels, with a more off-road-oriented 19-inch front.
It also comes loaded with class-leading technology never before seen in the motorcycle market, like rear and forward-facing radar, along with a new look and style.
The new V4 is derived from the Panigale superbike with its counter-rotating crank, but not a lot of that 214 hp motor remains. The big talking point is the move to conventional spring-operated valves rather than the desmodromic actuation. The main reason for this is to extend the service intervals to an industry-first 60,000 km before needing to check the clearances.
In contrast to the V4 Panigale engine, the Multistrada’s capacity is up by 55 cc from 1103 cc to 1158 cc, with a larger bore of 83mm, out from 81mm. Peak power from the valve-operated engine is an impressive 170 ponies at 10,500 rpm, and 125 Nm of torque at 8750rpm. Compared to the old V-twin, that peak figure is up by about 10 horsepower and, like the torque, higher up in the rev range. Peak torque is down from 129 Nm to 125 Nm.
The new V4 is also 1.2 kg lighter than the former model, 8.5 cm shorter, 9.5 cm lower, and only two centimetres wider. It also now sits higher in the chassis, which gives the new Multi 220 mm of ground clearance, which is 46 mm more than before.
Ducati has also thought about the heat generated by the V4, so the back two cylinders are switched off at idle to stop heat build-up. And there are additional and very neat little wings on either side of the engine to deflect its heat from the rider.
It’s got some serious voodoo
For the first time, the motorcycle market gets a bike with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) as an optional extra, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD), which is also an optional extra, which works with the front and rear radar detection. In straightforward terms, you set the cruise control to any speed between 30km and 160km, and the adaptive system will control your speed, gently accelerating or decelerating according the information gathered via the front radar’s detection.
The BSD uses the rear radar to monitor vehicles approaching from the rear, and illuminates an LED in the rear-view mirror as a warning.
And of course, the new Multistrada V4 is laden with other advanced rider aids, including corning ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, wheelie control, cornering headlights, and hold control (both standard on the V4 S or optional on the other models), plus multiple rider modes: Sport, Touring, Urban, and Enduro.
As mentioned earlier, the new Multi comes with a 19-inch front-wheel, as opposed to the more conventional road going 17-incher on the previous model. The rear wheel has also been reduced in width. This is a major change for Ducati and a clear signal of the new bike’s off-road ability and aspiration.
The second big change is the introduction of a new aluminium monocoque (like the Panigale) chassis which is four kilograms lighter. The chassis dimensions are also sportier.
Those who like to venture off-road will be very pleased at some of the improvements. The mirrors are deliberately curved, which means they don’t hit your forearms when you’re standing up, while the pegs have been designed to cater for bulky off-road boots, and have easy, no-tool removeable rubbers, giving you plenty of grip in the dirt. Even the intake and exhaust are set high, so you can ride through deep water, and the standard handlebars have multiple positions and can be tailored for off-road riding.
Engage the keyless ignition, and the full-colour six-and-a-half-inch TFT dash lights up beautfully. A new back-lit toggle switch on the left handlebar enables me to scroll through the informative clocks easily and choose my specific riding mode. With blips of the throttle, the counter-rotating V4 comes alive and has a nice little bark to it. A light clutch-pull, into first and we’re away; the clutch is now unnecessary. The up-and-down quickshifter is all about smooth, clutchless changes.
The fuelling is perfect, and the engine is like silk. In Urban mode, the ride is easy and user friendly. The Multistrada doesn’t have the top-heavy, intimidating feeling of some adventure bikes, either. Hard acceleration onto the freeway is exhilarating. All 170 of those Italian horses enjoy a gallop.
At cruising speed, it is a delight, and with the screen fully up there is very little wind noise. The all-new clocks are clear and easy to navigate, and as we enter the countless Italian tunnels out of Bologna, I notice the backlit switchgear, which is always such a classy touch.
Now for the tech…
I’m riding in the middle lane and the left LED light above the mirror illuminates to warn me a vehicle is approaching from the left. A quick glance in the mirror and over my left shoulder I see an aggressively-driven BMW. The Blind Spot Detection is spotting vehicles, which I may have missed, approaching from the rear. Impressive.
I now try the Adaptative Cruise Control (ACC). I set it to 140 km/h, release the throttle and we’re doing 140 with the radar beaming its benefits ahead. A digital graphic on the bottom right of the huge TFT dash shows the ACC is working, and I can increase or reduce the range of the radar. As I’m slowly getting closer to a car in the middle lane, the radar detects it, and reduces power to match the speed of the car ahead. I check my mirror, indicate left, pull into the outside lane, and we accelerate back up to 140 km/h, and I’ve not touched the throttle or brake in the process. Also impressive.
Aside from the remarkable electronic gadgetry, comfort is excellent, Ducati has really excelled here. The Skyhook ride is forgiving, and there is little vibration despite the V4 cruising easily along at 160 km/h.
Sixth gear is tall, but at 160, I thought the revs would be a little lower. In this respect, it will be interesting to see how it compares to the competition. The Italian designers have also increased the fuel capacity to 22-litres to presumably compensate for the thirstier V4.
Ducati claim 5.47L/100Km, and on the test I averaged a little less than 6L/100Km, though the pace was brisk. Thankfully the Multi V4 isn’t going to be as thirsty as Ducati’s other V4 models. They all drink faster than a drunk at happy hour with a lottery win in his pocket. The quoted range is 334 km, but 300 is a more realistic estimate. This means you’re going to start looking for petrol stations at around 250km. Is that enough for a big adventure tourer?
The steering is excellent. It does not steer like a 243 kg (wet weight) adventure bike with a 19-inch front tyre. Instead, it is accurate and relatively easy to throw around, and change direction at speed. Superb cornering ABS and Brembo Stylema brakes are always there for you if you should dive in a little too hot.
Ground clearance is likewise impressive. Even during aggressive cornering, I didn’t have any issues and the feedback and grip from the Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2 rubber, which has been designed in partnership with Ducati for this model, is spot on.
The control offered by the 50 mm-diameter forks’ control is notable, but possibly more impressive is the rear, which always feels planted and controlled. You hit an undulation hard on the power and you can feel the rear compress, the Pirelli grip, but then it controls the rebound, and importantly, doesn’t recoil too quickly, thus reducing the push/grip to the rear tyre.
There is 180 mm of travel on the rear, which is 10 mm more than before, but it’s superbly controlled. A well-ridden Multi could give a sportier bike a run for its money on the right road, and that larger front wheel hasn’t hampered the steering or fun it offers the rider.
After a full day in the saddle, the ergos still felt excellent and I had no grievances. The wind protection and lack of wind noise meant I didn’t even bother with earplugs – and that’s no small thing.
In Touring mode, the suspension becomes more compliant when compared to the Sport mode, and again the rear radar detection was spotting crazy Italian drivers whizzing down the outside lane at speed, despite the fact I was cruising at 150 km/h.
Back in Bologna, and being careful of the fitted panniers as I lane-filtered, I flicked it into Urban mode. This noticeably softens the suspension, gives it more fluidity, and reduces the power. This really is a bike for all occasions.
Ducati has made huge gains in the off-road capabilities of the new Mutistrada V4, with the introduction of a larger 19-inch front wheel and greater ground clearance, along with a specific Enduro riding mode and electronic suspension. To allow us to get a flavour of the new bike’s off-road capabilities, Ducati provided a more off-road oriented model, with spoked wheels, crash protection, and off-road-biased Pirelli Scorpion Rally rubber.
In the specific Enduro mode, the Skyhook suspension is more accommodating to off-road riding, ABS is set to 1, there’s no cornering ABS, no ABS on the rear and no rear-wheel-lift prevention, while other rider aids are also minimised. I went a little further and turned off the TC. Then I also re-positioned the standard handlebars a little higher and removed the rubber from the pegs for more boot-grip.
The new Multi feels more at home off-road than its predecessor. The old model was only good for a gravel drives, well graded bush roads or the pub carpark. Now the Ducati feels comfortable on the lose stuff. The slim seat allows you to move freely while standing, the high handlebars are more accommodating, the mirrors don’t get in the way, and while there is lots of room for bulky boots, you can also change the gea-lever position to accommodate them.
The power is soft and without any peakiness, and the new Multi finds grip pretty much all the time. In fact, you have to provoke a slide in order to show off to friends. The suspension is controlled, so even when the shock is on the upward stroke it’s measured and doesn’t allow the rear to break free. I was worried there would be too much power, but in Enduro mode this is limited to 115 hp.
Despite its size and weight, I felt comfortable off-road. I only got a taste of what this bike can do, but first impressions are good and it is clearly ahead of the old model on the dirt. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the competition in tougher terrain.
The L-Twin Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro with its 30-litre fuel tank and 19-inch front wheel will continue in the Ducati line up for now.
Adding a larger front wheel hasn’t impeded the Multistrada’s rideability, while vastly improving its off-road capabilities. Fuel consumption is higher than the competition, and for some, the range may not be enough. The Multistrada is not cheap, but service costs are relatively low.
It really is hard to find fault with this new V4. Now more versatile than ever, it truly is four bikes in one. It’s capable off-road, comfortable for touring, it can make you smile in the bends, and is relatively easy to live with and use around town.
The 2021 Adventure group comparo is going to be interesting…
2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 Pricing
- Multistrada V4 – From $28,990 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 S – From $33,490 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 S Travel Package – From $35,990 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 S Travel + Radar Package – From $37,590 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 S Performance Package – From $35,690 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 S Full Package – From $39,690 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 Sport S Performance Package – From $36,790 Ride Away
- Multistrada V4 Sport S Full Package – From $40,690 Ride Away
2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 Specifications