Well, this is a bit of a surprise, considering how well the 1198 does, but Ducati has announced that it will withdraw from World Superbike for the 2011 season, and will not support a factory team.
Blogging has been light so far this week. Alas, it’s gonna get a lot lighter over the next week, as I take a vacation cruise. I’ll be returning to motorcycle blogging after Labor Day. I may sill blog some over the next day or two, but if not, you’ll know why.
CycleWorld probably has the best known annual bike of the year awards in the US, but Motorcycle.Com is following in their footsteps, and presenting their choices for the best bikes.
Like everyone else, they’re raving about the BMWS1000RR, and the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S. I’ve been doing a little raving about the Ducati myself recently.
Maybe you think loud pipes are an important safety feature. You’re entitled to your opinion, even if I think it’s a pretty stupid one. What you’re not entitled to do, however, is physically threaten city officials who want to keep the noise to a bearable level by introducing noise limits. But that’s what’s happening to Saskatoon city councilor Bob Pringle.
Saskatoon city councillor Bob Pringle says he’s received several threatening phone calls after asking city administrators to examine the possible prohibition of aftermarket exhaust pipes that amplify a motorcycle’s exhaust note. Pringle claims he hasn’t been threatened so much since his days as social services minister under former Premier Roy Romanow in the 1990s.
“Bikers are very angry. They feel like I’m targeting them unfairly and they need this extra noise for safety reasons,” said Pringle in a recent interview.
Many loud pipe proponents have called Pringle to simply tell him to back off, but others have been more sinister, he claims.
“I would love to meet you in a back lane and you wouldn’t come out,” said one caller, according to Pringle.
I guess if you’re foolish enough to think that super loud pipes are the only thing standing between you and certain death, you’re probably foolish enough to make terrorist threats against officials who try to limit the noise.
The thing is, loud pipes don’t actually appear to save lives. The Hurt Report shows that motorcycles with modified exhausts are involved in accidents more frequently than bikes with stock pipes. I wonder if that has more to do with the attitude of the rider than the decibel output of the pipes.
As Motorcycle Cruiser puts it:
Yeah, there are a few situations—like where you are right next to a driver with his window down who is about the to change lanes—where full-time noise-makers might help a driver notice you, but all that noise directed rearward doesn’t do much in the most common and much more dangerous conflict where a car turns in front of you. Maybe it’s the fatigue caused by the noise, maybe it’s the attitudes of riders who insist on making annoying noise, or perhaps loud bikes annoy enough drivers to make them aggressive. Whatever the reason, the research shows that bikes with modified exhaust systems crash more frequently than those with stock pipes. If you really want to save lives, turn to a loud jacket or a bright helmet color, which have been proven to do the job. Or install a louder horn. Otherwise, just shut up.
That last piece of advice is particularly good.
Motorcycle Daily’s Dirck Edge has re-posted his “Being Invisible” post, which is full of advice on how to survive the mean streets on a motorcycle. It got me thinking.
As part of my blogging here, I have some standard Google search feeds set up, such as “Honda Motorcycles”, “Harley-Davidson Motorcycles”, “BMW Motorcycles”, etc. These feeds sometimes provide me with links to interesting stories that other motorcycle publications or bloggers haven’t found yet. A very large percentage of the time, however, they provide me with more grim headlines, of the “Motorcyclist Shredded Into Tiny Pieces Then Ground to Paste by Semi”. There are horrific accident stories every day on those search feeds. Every day. It really brings home to me, on a regular basis, that we are involved in a dangerous sport.
Sometimes, in these stories, the motorcyclist is clearly at fault, usually because alcohol was involved, or excessive speed. I have no sympathy at all for the motorcyclist in the former case, and often little sympathy in the latter.If you drink and ride, you’re a complete fool. If you push the limits of your ability and something bad happens…well, those are the breaks. It’s unfortunate, but if you play dice with your skill set, sometimes the wrong card is gonna turn up. And I say that as someone who in no way could be characterized as the poster-boy for conservative riding. It’s something that could very well happen to me. This, as the Mafiosi say, is the life we’ve chosen.
But a lot of those accidents are the fault of motorists, rather than motorcyclists, with the common refrain from the motorist, standing over the broken body of a motorcyclist, is “I never saw him!” Because, to a lot of motorists, you are, in fact invisible. My accident a couple of years ago happened when I was riding in a Hi-Vis yellow suit, with my brights on, doing about 20MPH, when a guy pulled out from the stop sign of a T-intersection. He never saw me, either. Partly, this is psychological. Drivers are looking for cars, so they get “car tunnel vision”. If an object doesn’t register as a car, it may not register on them at all, and then they do something that causes a Bad Thing to happen to a motorcyclist.
That highlights a fallacy of a certain class of rider who thinks that, because they have a sharply honed riding skill set, that they can avoid accidents via their madd skillz. That’s utter BS. Your skills are only half of the equation. No matter how good a rider you are, drivers can always put you into a bad situation in an instant.
Chris won’t even ride pillion with me any more, because she just can’t take sitting helplessly behind me and watching drivers do the silly things they always do in the vicinity of motorcycles. The last time she rode with me, she ended up cursing a blue streak at cagers who cut us off, made irrational lane changes, followed too closely, and generally did all the things that those of us who regularly ride the streets have to get used to.
So, Dirck Edge’s advice is about as good as it’s ever going to get. Remember that you are invisible. Stay focused, and scan the surrounding traffic. Look for escape routes. Make yourself as visible as you can.
And, going beyond that advice, wear the proper gear. When I had my accident, I was bumped and bruised, with a broken toe, but I didn’t have a scratch on me, because I was ATGATT. My knees, shoulders, elbows all came through with flying colors too. At the end of the day, when that car makes an unexpected lane change and slams into your bike, it’s too late to regret being clad in a half helmet, wife-beater, shorts, and tennis shoes. You are now going to experience unpleasantness.
Just some free advice. What you do with it is up to you.
Since its release last year, Ducati has made many claims about the new Multistrada 1200, calling it four bikes in one: A tourer, a commuter street bike, an enduro, and, not least, a sport bike. That’s a pretty tall order, even for a pretty tall bike like the Multistrada. Does it live up to the Ducati hype? Or to the hype from Cycle World, which named it the Best Open Streetbike of 2010? To answer that question, I showed up at Moto Forza in Escondido, to try one out.
The Multistrada comes in three basic configurations, but I got to take out the top of the line S model with Öhlins suspension, Ducati Traction Control (DTC), and the on-the-fly riding mode/ suspension setup.
Visually, the Multistrada looks like a big bike–and a tall one, too, with a long-travel suspension to support its enduro pretensions. Despite looking like a large, unwieldy bike, the specs tell a slightly different story, as the Multistrada weighs only 423 lbs dry, and 478 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride. That weight puts it in sport bike territory, and despite its size it’s surprisingly light once you’re sitting on it.
The center of gravity is very low. The Multistrada uses the same engine as the 1198 sport bike; the L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled power plant that puts Ducati racers on the podium. The engine has a power output of 150HP at 9250RPM and 87.5 fl-lbs of torque at 7500 RPM. In the Multistrada’s case, the engine is placed with one cylinder parallel to the ground, so the weight of the both the crankcase and cylinder are placed as low as possible. This makes the Multistrada very well balanced, and easy to hold up–even on tiptoes.
As you’d expect, the 1198 engine has been slightly neutered from its superbike version, which has a peak output of 170HP and 97ft-lbs of torque. The compression ratio has been similarly reduced from 12.7:1 to 11.5:1. Still, the Multistrada’s peak output far outshines its GS-style competition–and most street bikes. By way of comparison, the FJR1300 outputs 145HP…and weighs 200 pounds more.
The ergos are extremely comfortable, from the well-cushioned stock seat, to the easy reach to the wide handlebars. The ground was a bit of a reach for my 5’10” frame and 32″ inseam. I couldn’t quite flat-foot the bike, so, shorter riders will certainly want to opt for the optional low seat which is 1″ shorter, but, sadly, not as well padded. The passenger seat also serves as a short backrest/support for the rider, and is something you’ll be happy to have when you open the throttle. The position of the mid-mounted foot controls is very natural and comfortable, and the upright seating position is perfect for long-distance riding. Practically everything, from the brake and clutch levers, to the foot shifter are exactly where you’d want them to be, with everything in almost ridiculously easy reach. It’s hard to see how Ducati could have done a better job creating a bike that caters to your creature comforts.
The instrumentation on the Multistrada is well thought out, too. It’s all electronic, with an LCD readout that’s easy to read even in bright sunlight. The image to the left is a good representation of what you see as a rider in bright daylight. As you can see, the entire panel is quite legible, with a large speedometer readout on top, and the tachometer readout stretching all the way across the bottom.
You’ll also notice the round “Set Up” readout on the right, showing that the engine output is set to “Urban”, with the suspension set to one rider with luggage. This “Set Up” system is central to the Multistrada riding experience, as it controls the engine’s output, the DTC setting, and the suspension preload and rebound.
The riding mode has four settings. The Enduro setting limits engine output to 60% of maximum, or 100HP, while setting the DTC at a relatively loose setting to allow for some power sliding (on well-maintained unpaved or gravel roads, anyway). The Urban setting also limits the output to 60%, while tightening up the DTC to provide more intervention when traction is lost. Both the Enduro and Urban settings provide very linear, controllable throttle response from the Mutistrada’s fly-by-wire throttle system. The Touring setting opens up the full 150HP available from the L-Twin power plant, while providing the same linear, controllable throttle response of the previous two modes. Finally, there is sport mode, which unleashes the full power of the engine, full DTC, and an extremely responsive–but not frighteningly so–throttle. In short, the mode control offers noticeably different ride characteristics. It’s definitely not a fancy switch that costs lots of money and does nothing.
Similarly, the suspension control automatically adjusts the preload and rebound of the Öhlins suspension to handle a single rider, rider with luggage, two riders, or two riders with luggage.
In addition to the preset factory settings, you can also set the DTC, engine mode and suspension setup independently, and you can store those personalized settings in order to call them up at need. this allows you to tailor the engine modes, DTC, and suspension settings to your personal preferences for various types of riding.
Starting the bike is done via a keyless ignition system that depends on the close proximity of an electronic key fob. If you lose the fob, however, all is not lost, as an alternate method is available that allows you to start the bike by entering a 4-digit PIN. Also, if you’re on the road, and you drop the fob out of a pocket or something, the electronic display immediately flashes a message telling you that the fob is lost, which substantially narrows down your search area.
There is, by the way, a price to be paid for all this electronic goodness, which is that there is a constant drain on battery power at all times. Leave the Multistrada sitting in the garage over the weekend, and you’ll be OK. Leave it there for a week, and you’ll need to hook it up to a battery tender.
Once the engine is running, the Multistrada produces a throaty growl that hints at the vast reserves of power on tap. Clutch pull is fairly easy, allowing for one-finger operation. The friction point is also set very close to full out, so that the clutch engages with very little pull. Give it a little throttle, ease the clutch out, and the Multistrada pulls right away from a stop, without requiring excessive revving.
Starting out in downtown Escondido, I set the engine setup to “Urban” and I was off. The Multistrada is very maneuverable in town, although, if you plan on splitting traffic at stoplights, you need to be aware of the extra-wide handlebars. The Urban setting provides very controllable power in traffic, and you can flick the bike from lane to lane with ease. There’s more than enough power to pull away from traffic or for passing, but the 60% power limit ensures that it’s never anywhere near the limits of the rider’s control.
Two minor shortcomings are apparent in city driving. First, the engine hates anything under 3,000 RPM. It shudders, rumbles and coughs. It’s nowhere near as revvy as a sport bike, but it clearly doesn’t want to stay in the low RPMs. Above that, however, the throaty L-Twin smooths out, with surprisingly little vibration. Second, the transmission really wants to make neutral easy to find when downshifting from 2nd gear. Kicking the shifter, releasing the clutch, and being rewarded with a screaming rev and no power is…embarrassing. You need a firm foot to get it back down to first. It’s easy to learn, and it only happened to me once, but it was a bit of a surprise.
Prior to getting onto the I-15, to head towards my favorite canyon road near Bonsall, I changed to Touring mode. Throttle response was still very smooth, but you could certainly feel the increase in torque, as the acceleration pushes your butt back against the front of the passenger seat. I told you you’d be happy to have that passenger seat back there, because, even in touring mode, the Multistrada has a ton of acceleration. First gear on the 6-speed gearbox is fairly short, but in second, the 10,500 redline allows you to hit speeds in excess of 90MPH almost instantly. But be careful: when you hit the redline, the rev limiter kicks in and it is not unobtrusive. On the freeway, 5,000RPM translates to 90MPH indicated in 6th gear. At highway speeds, 6th gear is relatively gutless, requiring a downshift to pass briskly. The rear-view mirrors, while having a noticeable amount of vibration, are still usable at highway speeds.
Also, at highway speeds, you notice that the relatively small, manually adjustable windscreen comes up a bit short in the wind protection department. There’s a lot of airflow over the shoulders and arms, and noticeable buffeting on the helmet. There’s an optional, larger windscreen, but it’s only about 1/2″ wider and 1″ taller, so I’m not sure how much of an improvement that would provide. As such, long-range touring, while technically possible with the 5.3 gallon tank, would get a little tiring over the course of the day. Happily, California Scientific already has an aftermarket windshield to help solve that problem. What can’t be helped is the Multistrada’s high profile, which does make it susceptible to freeway crosswinds, so it does do a little bit of a dance in those situations.
Other than that, however, this is a very comfortable highway bike. The ergos are so natural and the seat is so comfortable that solving the air management problem would make the Multistrada a truly all-day steed. What would make it even more of one, would be to have cruise control, and maybe self-canceling turn signals, neither of which seems like an unrealistic expectation in a motorcycle with a $19,995 MSRP.
Getting off the highway to attack the curvy canyon road of Camino Del Rey, going into Bonsall, I set the Multistrada up for Sport mode, and tightened the suspension to the firmest setting. At the lower settings, the long-travel suspension seems a bit too cushy for serious sport riding, being comfortable but lacking that firm, sporty feel. Once tightened sufficiently, however, it transmits the feel of the road right to your seat and hands, and it turns the Multistrada into a surprisingly–and highly–capable sport bike.
Strafing the canyons on the Multistrada is a real pleasure. Its height makes it easy to lean, and gives you tons of ground clearance. Both 2nd and 3rd gears are fairly wide, so you can pick a gear appropriate for the desired audacity of your attack. If you choose 2nd gear, the Multistrada accelerates aggressively, and once the L-Twin power plant hits 5,000RPM the Multistrada is a rocket. It can power through curves at a speed substantially north of twice the suggested speed, taking curves with a suggested speed of 30MPH in excess of 80MPH. The throttle, while noticeably more responsive than in Touring mode, is aggressive without being snatchy. Even in full-on Sport mode, the Multistrada is a confidence-inspiring bike, and allows attacks on the curves to be far more aggressive than I can manage on my FJR1300.
Turn-in requires a bit more input than you’d expect, thanks to the Multistrada’s conventional, even conservative, geometry. It’s not telepathic like an R1 or a Gixxer. So, initiating a turn requires some input on the bars or in body English. It’s not a lot of effort, but the Multistrada needs a little more rider guidance than a full-on sport bike. The upside to this is that the Multistrada will pull an enormous amount of lean while remaining rock-steady through the turn. It is in no way as jittery as a CBR, with its more aggressive geometry, and doesn’t require constant inputs through the turn to hold a line. Instead, it holds a line like no one’s business. Or like it’s on rails. Take your pick of metaphors. When you hit the apex of the curve and roll on the throttle it rockets out of the turn, once again scrunching your butt into the front of the passenger seat. You’d think a more low-slung sport bike would work the turns better. You’d be wrong. The Multistrada eats curves for lunch, and miles of tarmac for dinner.
It also transitions from side to side very well, remaining composed and stable. Again, flicking from side-to-side takes a bit more effort than a dedicated sport bike, but it’s extremely compliant, following the rider’s inputs to the letter. In short, the guys on ZX-10s will not be leaving you behind when the going gets twisty. If you know what you’re doing, quite the reverse may be true. And you’ll be far more comfortable throughout the day, with no sport bike kinks to work out of your back when you’re done. Did I mention the Multistrada was comfortable? It’s quite nice to get sport bike performance without suffering through the tortuous sport bike ergonomics.
The canyons also show off the power and reliability of the Brembo brakes. The brakes simply have loads of feel, and the response is progressive and powerful. They can get you out of trouble about as fast as you can get yourself into it. The key word, there, being “about”.
The ABS isn’t intrusive, nor is the DTC when you get into serious sport mode.
Heading back to Escondido, on the long sweepers of Old Highway 3, I switched back into touring mode, and set the suspension to the cushiest, single-passenger setting. The suspension smoothed out the rather poorly maintained tarmac, while the user-friendly throttle response smoothed out the bike’s acceleration, while not taking much of anything away from its exhilaration.
There was one final problem I noticed with the Multistrada, which is the annoying tendency of the speedometer to display triple-digit speeds, when your seat of the pants speedometer is telling you that you are traveling substantially slower. When it’s in Sport, or even Touring, mode this bike is, as our friends in Boston would say, wicked fast. You expect something more like the BMW R1200GS in performance when you look at the Multistrada. But when you ride it, you notice that you’ve hit 90MPH…and haven’t shifted to 3rd gear yet. 50MPH on the Multistrada seems…painfully slow.
I didn’t take the bike onto a dirt road or fire road, so I can’t speak about its Enduro performance. I suspect the 17″ front wheel would limit its Enduro ability, compared to the BMW GS, with it’s 21″ front wheel. But I can say that for city streets or canyon-carving, Ducati has created a truly enjoyable, versatile motorcycle in the Multistrada. I would be perfectly happy to have this as a replacement for the FJR. This is about the best all-rounder I’ve ever ridden.
So, it seems like Ducati’s claims for the Multistrada’s versatility are not so much hype as…the truth.
Moto Forza in Escondido has a brand new Ducati Multistrada 1200 S waiting for me to take out for a test ride. More will definitely follow…
In the meantime, Motorcycle.com has a new shootout with the Ducati Multistrada 1200, compared against the Honda VFR1200F, and the Kawasaki Z1000. Interestingly, their goal in this shootout is to try and determine which of these three bikes might make a decent sport-tourer.
I may be able to get on the Multistrada as early as tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll have my review up as soon after that as I can, while the experience is fresh in my mind.
Italians seem to be pretty happy that MV Agusta is back in Italian hands, “where it belongs” according to Italian motorsport enthusiasts. Sadly, though, while Harley-Davidson gave MV a reprieve from an untimely death, it remains to be seen whether that temporary reprieve turns into a permanent salvation. Hiring Massimo Bordi, who did fantastic work making Ducati successful, as MV’s new CEO is a good first step, but some of MV’s old problems are still there. Before the Harley purchase, MV produced fantastically expensive bikes in very small numbers. Reliability problems were an issue, and troublesome one, as MV Agusta dealers were few and far between. The slightest mechanical problem might keep an MV off the road for weeks or months while some arcane part was produced and shipped from Italy.
But that may be changing. In an interview with the Italian web site Il Solo 24 Ore (Italian), MV’s new owner–or is that re-owner–Claudio Castiglioni, opens up about the bike he hopes will save the company.
Pictured at left is the brand new MV Agusta F3. According to Castiglione, the F3 is powered by a 675cc triple, just like the Triumph Daytona 675. This bike will come in a base model, as well as an upgraded “sport” model.
Where things get really interesting is that Castiglioni quotes a base model price of €9,000 ($11,520 at today’s exchange rate), and a price of around €10,500 ($13.440) for the sport edition. The actual price in US terms probably won’t reflect straight exchange rate calculations, however, so, we might see a price of around $10,000 here in the US. They’re also planning an as yet unnamed Brutale-like model of this bike, which will probably go for somewhere in the vicinity of $9,000, pleasing the fans of naked bikes.
At that price point, the F3 seriously undercuts the $12,995 sticker price for the base model of the Ducati 848, and even puts it in direct competition with the Triumph Daytona’s MSRP of $10,000. With pricing at that level, Castiglioni hopes that MV can sell 10,000 of these bikes next year.
Having said that, it’s still an open question whether MV even has the capacity to produce 10,000 supersports in the next year. If they can–and they can sell them–then MV stands a good chance of not returning to it’s pre-2009 state of slowly running into the ground.
The Yamaha (or Star Motorcycles, as I guess we’re calling that branch of the company now) V-Max has been the archetypal hooligan/power/super cruiser since its debut in October, 1984, at the dealer show in Las Vegas. In 2010, we’re so jaded about “superbikes” and whatnot, that it’s hard to remember sometimes, just what a revolutionary–and frightening–machine that 1985 V-Max was. There were professionals who were frightened of the thing back then.
Many years–and several generations of engine power upgrades–have passed since then, but after a bit of an absence, the V-Max returned in 2009, with the original 1200cc V-4 replaced by a monster 1700cc V-4, with a claimed output of nearly 200HP.
But, Triumph’s response to the V-Max is the 2300cc triple of the Rocket III. With the largest motorcycle engine in regular production–the Boss Hogs notwithstanding–the Rocket III is no slouch in the musclecruiser category.
Now, Motorcycle USA has tested these two bikes head-to-head. At the end of the test, the difference between the bikes–aside from the much lower price of the Rocket III–really is a tale of the Dyno.
With its much higher torque and low RPMs, the Rocket has grunt to spare, starting below 1,000RPM. The V-Max, on the other hand, requires a more sportbikey riding style, dragging the power out of the high-RPM horsepower. Either way, these bikes have tire-shredding, front-wheel-lifting power to spare.
When Harley-Davidson announced that MV would be sold back to Castiglioni, they didn’t mention the price of the sale. As a publicly traded company, however, you can’t actually keep that a secret.
Via the Wall Street Journal, according to the company’s 8-K filing, the sale price was 3 Euros. But get this:
In the filing Harley said it “contributed 20 million Euros to MV as operating capital” that was put in escrow and is available to the buyer over a 12-month period. The buyer is Claudio Castiglioni, who, with his brother Gianfranco, ran MV Agusta for years before selling it to Harley two years ago for about $109 million.
So, H-D paid $109 million for MV, they then had to pay $162.6 million in write-downs to cover MV’s bad debts, and then they had to pay Castiglioni another $20 million to take it back.
I’m sorry, but that’s just hilarious!
But, of course, I’m not a Harley shareholder. They probably aren’t as amused to learn this.
I suspect that unemployment in Italy’s technology sector is about to rise very slightly.
Via Asphalt & Rubber, it seems that some excitable webmaster has jumped the gun, and put the downloadable service manuals for the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 and Dorsoduro 1200 ABS online in the maintenance section of Aprilia’s web site. Since Aprilia hasn’t even announced this bike, other than via rumor, and its release probably wasn’t even scheduled until the EICMA show in Milan in November, this is certainly going to take the wind out of the sails of Aprilia’s PR department.
As far as the bike itself, we can’t tell much about its power output, but we now know it sports an 1197cc v-twin engine, and weighs 492lbs wet.
Oh, and, since I suspect that Aprilia will probably yank this off the Internet in due course, here’s my personal copy of the 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 & 1200ABS User Manual, in English and Dutch. Enjoy.
Oh, and I think we can confirm that there will, in fact, be a Dorsoduro 1200 for 2011.
UPDATE (8/12/10): Sadly, it won’t be a Dorsoduro that we see on this side of the pond. Aprilia says: “We are extremely pleased with the sales of the Dorsoduro 750 and do not plan on importing the 1200 at this time.”
So, none for the US market at all for 2011.
The Spanish Motorcycling web site SoloMoto is touting an exclusive (in Spanish), which is that Honda will replace the venerable ST1300 with a touring version of the new V-4-engined VFR1200F. They state that their information is that a presentation of the new model will be held at the international motorcycle shows in Cologne or Milan (October or November respectively).
They report that the new model will be available with or without bags, as well as with or without the new DCT transmission option. Compared to the new VFR, this touring model will have higher handlebars and more relaxed seating position, suitable for touring. Based on the drawings they show, the preload adjustment for the rear suspension will be moved to the right side of the bike, and the front braking system my be different from the current VFR, due to having inverted forks. They also speculate that the rider’s seat height will be adjustable, and that the windshield will have electrical height adjustment. The new bike also seems to keep the dual-layered fairing of the current VFR.
So, for all you ST1300 lovers, Honda may be providing you with something to love even better.
Let’s just hope that while they’re piling on all these touring amenities, they give us a fuel tank larger than the VFR’s 4 gallons.