Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Review
|A bike that can accelerate like this needs to stop and the brakes are powerful with a good degree of feel. With it still lent over a gentle but consistent application of the throttle finds the bike catapulting forward like a stallion responding to a cracked whip. The 1200S is a very involving machine and I love mine.||
|✓||Comfort, power, brakes|
|×||Really high seat, economy|
2012 Multistrada 1200 S
My bike buying journey is short. It spans a few years now but short all the same. So short I can list them in one simple sentence. The dates are approximate as well, I mean who can remember more than 25 years or so? I passed my test on a Honda CB100N in 1983 and used this for a couple of years to get to a farm in Glossop where I was doing a YTS or youth training scheme. It was kind of close to slave labour as your going to get but it welcomed us into the world of employment. The posh lads had LC250RD’s and boy they were nice and that was back in ’83! Still you had to start somewhere. It was the last bike my dad rode too. He bought it for me and rode it back from Hyde. For that reason alone, I should have kept it. I should have learned then never to sell any of my bikes again. I’m just getting to why I chose the Multistrada. I sold the Honda in 84 and didn’t sit on a bike again for 12 years, enter the Ducati 916. A year later I changed it for an SPS which I kept for a few years till it was destroyed in a fire (boy do I regret to this day taking it into the dealer on sale or return). I needed something to keep in the garage as I just had kids and never really had the time to ride anymore so along came a Ducati Monster M900 in 2008.
Now as the kids were getting older I had a little more time and although the monster was a great town bike it wasn’t ideal for longer journeys. Sports bike? Those days were long gone as I was quickly approaching 50. The choice of the adventure bike with its upright riding position was appealing. I’d been bitten by the Ducati bug way back when I first saw the 916 in a show room window. A Multistrada seemed like a logical choice for me. They looked great and were in my opinion ideal for an ex sport bike rider like myself. In the summer of 2015 I tried a DVT. I took it half a mile and thought its just too big for me. At 5’8” with a 30” inside leg it was a mountain of a bike. I took it back and thought what do I do now? Fast forward to March 2016 and I was passing Rochdale Honda when I saw my 2012 Multi 1200S in the window and I thought wow, just like I did all those years earlier when I saw my 916. I was ready for that sinking feeling though when I sat on it but wait a minute, the balls of my feet were touching the floor and not my tip toes like before. The reason for that was the previous owner had it lowered by Kais suspension in Atherton. The firm is no stranger to me as they had worked wonders on the handling of my 996SPS years earlier when they had set the bike up properly for my weight and riding style. They had restricted the stroke front and back and although there was a little less ground clearance (an inch or so) I could get touchdown! Maybe this was a little bit of destiny.
Buying a used 1200S the first job you should do is change the battery in the fob. It's only 2 quid but as it’s not your bike and therefore you are unsure when it was last changed its always going to say “low battery” mid ride. Its not something you want to do on a ride out. Youtube how to change it and take your time. In April my first ride out of any real distance and I’m half way up the glorious Tan Hill near Hawes and motorcycling heaven when the low battery sign pops on. As I’m a guy I hadn’t read the manual. So answers to what battery was in there, how difficult was it to change, what happens if the battery goes dead while I’m riding I didn’t have answers too. So I returned home sharpish and ruined my ride. My other recommendation is the gearing on this bike. It couldn’t decide which gear around town it was happiest in. It was chugging low down in 3rd. Just on 30mph 2nd was a bit high and 3rd was a bit low. They cured this on the DVT but there is a fix. It's not a cheap fix but compared to the extra cost of the DVT it suddenly becomes cheap. I imported a set of chain and sprockets from America with the rear sprocket up from 40t to 42t. It’s a great improvement just raising the RPM for the bike to be happy at 30mph in 3rd.
The 1200S was never shy at accelerating. On the test ride I pulled into a layby on a twisty section from Rochdale over the A680 Owd Betts road and selected the Sport mode. Short shifting up to around 5 or 6,000 revs and the multi takes on a different persona. At this rev range it passes anything out there rapidly. Worryingly or encouragingly there’s still 4000rpm to go! This is a fast bike should you choose it to be so. Comfortable with it too. I’ve done several 300-mile trips on twisty roads. Motorway work should you really have to is a breeze you could sit there all day in comfort on that big saddle. I’ve never had a sore bum or back ache. I weigh just shy of 12st.
A bike that potentially can accelerate like this needs to stop and the brakes are powerful with a good degree of feel. Just a few weeks ago I’m on my favourite stretch of country road that I know and I’m out of a bend with hedgerow either side travelling around 60mph and I’ve got 2 tractors side by side trying to get past each other at a trickle. I’m on the brakes in an instant and they pull me up with just a slight skip of a heart beat. The brakes work well. Apply the brake pressure in degrees of least effort to more effort will give you the best results. Given time you can trail brake into corners without issue chasing that vanishing point that the multi insists you must do from time to time. Other bikes I’ve ridden have too much initial bite and upset the balance of the bike. The multi feels just right. For a big bike its immensely playful and belies its 220kg weight. It tips into bends with ease and is made for fast sweeping corners but also is at home on narrower country lanes ducking and diving as it goes.
There is a lot of engine braking on offer with this twin. If you are a bit ham fisted with the throttle the bike will become unsettled pitching the weight forward, then aft as you open and close the gas. Better results are found in a slightly higher gear riding that wave of torque as you go. This is where you will find the big smiles. Dropping the bike into a tight-ish mid corner bend say at 45 mph. With it still lent over a gentle (at first) but consistent application of the throttle finds the bike catapulting forward like a stallion responding to a cracked whip. The Michelin PR 4s offer grip, grip and even more grip and fire you out of corners like only a Ducati V twin can. Its intoxicating and a real wow factor of this bike. I have had help though. I mention Kais again as they tweaked the suspension set up for my weight/sag and I’ve since ever so slightly fine tuned it. Even so I have never had the traction control light come on so maybe I’m not trying hard enough. It’s nice to know it’s there though. I have the Touring mode set on the comfy side just to get me home after a long day set in Sport. It’s a neat feature to have.
Urban is the bikes lowest setting and if I’m coming in for fuel I can set it to this mode as some garages they are a bit slippy under foot and it’s good to have 2 feet flat on the ground or almost anyway. There is an Ohlin’s SCU upgrade that turns the suspension into a semi active type that respond to the road surface and your inputs every mili second. I’ve not gone for it yet as the main benefit seems to be riding with a pillion. Ohlin’s don’t do upgrades just for the sake of it, so it must have a real benefit. There is some feedback online and if you do ride 2 up its worth considering for around £350. I took my pal out he is an Italian lad so seemed appropriate and he weighs in at 10st, just a short lad he is! I set the riding mode to Sport with 2 riders. The suspension whirls away adjusting itself. That’s a cool trick by anyone’s standards. He was impressed with the ride, the comfort and the way it gets up and goes. We were pushing on a bit and you have to allow for some extra braking time, but this bike is more than competent 2 up. If you are used to a smooth 4 cylinder bike its going to take you some time to get used to this twin. Downshifting needs to be smooth and blipping the throttle to match the speed of the wheels with the revs of the engine takes practice but benefits in a smoother ride. Get it right and its rewarding get it wrong and your passengers’ lid will keep hitting the back of your lid annoyingly, but it’s your own fault. Practice makes perfect, but this is the compromise of all that grunt and torque that’s on offer.
Not long into ownership I did fit a Leo Vince pipe kit and a Termi exhaust can. The Cat was removed and saved around 6kg in weight. With a baffle in its loud, you wouldn’t really want it any louder. I wear ear plugs, I always have. It sounds great with a little pop every now and again on a down shift. It gives the bike a real character and presence. Expensive at around £800 but well worth it to me. They don’t test for emissions on a motorcycle so it’s no issue losing the Cat.
I changed the high screen for a shorter sport type from Puig that really helped with the turbulent air creating a lot of wind noise and added buffeting. It's now a lot better. For just £5 I also fitted a phone case to the handle bar and wired in a USB socket to the battery, so I can charge it on the go. Just little mods but useful. Thanks eBay.
Maintenance wise its just had its big Desmo service at 15000 miles. Its expensive at £850 through a main dealer but considering what’s included its actually good value weighing up the cost of the parts alone. The only reliability issue I had was a broken gear return spring, so it wouldn’t shift down. It’s a £250 fix and if it happens to you while you are out an elastic band can sort it or failing that massaging the gear lever at the end in a circular motion and you can find a lower gear. Not easy though.
Ridden normally you can expect 220 miles out of a tank of fuel costing around £18 to £20. Around 47mpg. Maybe 190 if your spirited. I don’t get the opportunity to ride it that much for it to be a concern. I’m hoping to visit the Pyrenees in 2019 and tour a bit on it. Maybe even get caught in the rain if I can get to do the NC500.
The mirrors are good up to around 50mph when they suffer from a mild vibration and can blur a bit. Another trait of that V twin I’m afraid.
Bizarrely it only seems to get dirty one third up from the floor! If you like cleaning your bike you wont like this one as it’s a bit of a doddle. Unless you’ve been in the mud, it’s really easy and quick to clean. The large panels help and engine casings. There’s no excuse not keeping your multistrada clean.
Today a 13000-mile 1200S can be bought for £8000. That’s a lot of bike for the money. I’d say it’s ideal for an ex sport bike rider who is between 5’10” and just over 6ft in the main but not exclusively. It’s a deeply diverse bike that wont suit all the people all the time. Like I said at the start of the review I’m not selling my bikes again after all the research that’s gone into the modifications. Just how much better is a 2019 model? Another £10k to make it new again? If you like to be involved with your bike I’d have to say that the 1200S is a very involving machine and I love mine. But I would say that.
- Dave B, 2018
Capacity: 1,198 cc
Power: 148 bhp
Seat Height: 850 mm
Wet Weight: 220 kg
Range: 180 miles