For motorcycle manufacturers, getting the sport-touring equation right can be an elusive affair.
There’s either too much sport, making long treks feel like endurance rallies. Or more commonly, the design favors touring comfort—at the cost of aggressive styling and performance.
If there is an optimal balance of sport meets touring, Ducati found it in the Multistrada 1260S. The bike is versatile, eye-catching, wrapped with loads of ride enhancing tech—and with 158 horsepower, hauls some serious hiney.
I discovered this testing a Multistrada for a week from New York City to Connecticut. The bike’s Italian name translates to “many roads”. So from Tribeca to I-95 to twisty seaside roads, I took the bright red Ducati on as many paths as possible.
The Bike | The heartbeat of the Multistrada 1260S is its 1262cc, twin-cylinder, electronically fuel injected Testastretta motor. The engine’s 158 ponies are complimented by 95 ft/lbs of torque.
At $20,995, the 1260S is one of seven Ducati Multistrada variants. There’s a smaller 950cc model ($13,995) the base 1260 ($18,695), most expensive Pikes Peak bike ($24,995) and two dirt friendly Enduro versions.
For a couple grand extra the 1260S brings more comfort and performance tech than the standard Multistrada 1260. That comes first in Ducati’s digital Skyhook Suspension package, which allows riders to adjust damping on the fly, and for passengers specifically.
The 1260S also adds Ducati’s Quik/Shift (DQS) for upshifts on the 6-speed transmission at full-throttle sans clutch. It has cornering ABS—which allows for angled anti-lock braking through arced turns. The Multistrada 1260S also has Ducati’s Traction and Wheelie Control EVO, which can be turned off for those with an affinity for burnouts and front wheel popping.
From the bars and dash, the Ducati allows for multiple options to digitally program the bike’s handling characteristics.
Operators can make it easy by selecting one of four preset riding modes: Sport, Touring, Urban, or Enduro. Touring softens up the suspension and brings motor output down to Medium. Urban brings the engine down to 100 horsepower and softens the ride even more. Enduro reduces ABS, nixes Wheelie Control, and stiffens the rear shock. And Sport—where I kept the 1260S most of the time—delivers full engine torque and horsepower and optimizes suspension for aggressive riding.
And all these settings (and more) can be managed on a smartphone using Ducati’s updated Link app.
On comfort and convenience side, the Multistrada 1260S has cruise control and a pocket detectable, electric key fob—so you to jump on the bike, press the start button and go, without inserting anything.
For a little more cash, there are additional comfort and convenience options for the Multistrada—like heated grips or luggage racks—through Ducati’s Urban and Touring Pack upgrades.
The Ride | When it comes to the performance, Ducati’s Multistrada 1260S has a very welcome split personality. You can ride the bike as tourer or daily commuter in relative quiet and comfort—albeit with the panache of the Multistrada’s hallmark Ducati design.
In any riding mode—at low to mid RPMs—the Testastretta motor runs so quietly and smoothly its power can be deceiving. I learned this early cruising out on I-95. In 6th gear, from 60 to 75 mph, the bike is so quiet and smooth there were several times I thought I’d stalled it.
On each occasion, a throttle grab awoke Ducati’s signature roar and sent the bike speeding toward three digits on the speedo.
So the Ducati Multistrada 1260S can be comfortable and tame, but turned naughty in an instant. You can spank this bike and when you do it lights up and performs superbly in acceleration, high speeds, hard braking, and cornering. It’s a rare and welcome dichotomy for one motorcycle to possess.
Nitpicks | After a week riding the Multistrada 1260S it’s a stretch to suggest anything major for Ducati improve. I generally harp on manufacturers to put 400 pound plus motorcycles on a diet, but the bike’s 467 pound dry-weight is actually relatively light for a two-wheeler packing a 1200cc plus motor.
Of course, shedding a few pounds would only add to the Multistrada 1260S’s sport capabilities, though the bike currently feels lighter than spec weight out on the road. My two small suggestions for Ducati would be a little more stopping power from the rear brake and a few millimeters more surface area on the rear brake pedal—which I found a bit narrow. That’s it.
The Skinny | Ducati’s Multistrada 1260S offers an optimum balance of touring and sport capabilities in a stylish design package that sets it apart from the crowd. If you want a motorcycle you can tour on comfortably with a passenger one day—then hang with your sport bike pals on the next—it could be the ideal machine.