by Gus Breiland
What do you do when you are handed the keys to a brand new bike? Road trip, that’s what. I had been planning a 6-day trip with the Multistrada all summer and as you all know, well thought out plans are crushed by reality. 6 days running down the Memphis and the Art of the Motorcycle and then to BarberMuseum in Birmingham, Alabama was now reduced to 3.
With no time to spare, Mike and I headed south. He was riding Pierre Terblanche’s early creation, the Cagiva Gran Canyon 900 and I was riding his latest dual sport, the Ducati Multistrada MTS 620. Ducati has gone through an aesthetic shift that has some people loving their latest line-up of touring and sport bikes, and others questioning Ducati’s sanity.
The Multistrada, in my opinion, is one to love, while not falling into Ducati’s standard super sport bike or sport touring bike mold. The Strada 620, has just enough body work to add color to the bike, but not interfere with Ducati’s elegant trellis frame and stressed member motor. The twin underseat exhaust is one of the best-looking tail sections currently in production.
While having the same styling cues as the 1000, the 620 has a couple of changes that make it lighter and more nimble that its big brother. For instance, the tank has been reduced in capacity to 15 liters, or just under 4 gallons. While I am usually not a fan of smaller gas tanks, I was able to get 120 miles in before the fuel light came on which left me a gallon of reserve to start hunting for fuel. I was averaging anywhere from 40-45 miles per gallon with my worst average or 38 miles per gallon in a 120 mile head wind.
The instrument panel has been simplified and gives you your pertinent information. MPH, RPM, time, temp, trip and odometer are part of the digital display, while fuel, engine, turn signals and high beam are part of the row of lights across the bottom of the display panel. Ducati has seen fit to include a nice little system set on start up that flashes Strada 620 on the screen and lights up all of the trouble lights as the fuel pump changes and the bike readies itself to start.
With that, the cockpit is tight and simple. The only oddity that I found with the Multistrada’s styling is the windscreen. The top half of the front end, basically the windscreen, moves with the handlebars while the headlight portion is, as expected, stationary. While you cannot see this when the bike is in flight, it is a peculiar thing when the Strada is parked. The windscreen gives ok cover, but really needs to kick the airflow over the helmet. The headlight was wonderful. I would compare the Multistrada’s headlight to my favorite production headlight to day, the Suzuki V-strom.
The ignition has a passive security system included with the bike. It is an RFID system, where each key has a tag within it and the ignition has a reader specific to your bike. Put the key in and turn it to run and you have 15 seconds to kit the start button. If you don’t, the system will shut down start up, and you will have to turn the key to off and then back on to start the bike. Simple and effective.
The 620cc power plant is smooth and powerful. While cruising down through Iowa, then Missouri into Tennessee I was pleased with the pace that the Strada 620 allowed me to keep. With a larger bike in the 900 joining me, I was concerned about not being able to perform and keep pace, but the 620 never skipped a beat. Providing 63 hp at 9500 rpm, the Multistrada was a hoot slicing through traffic in St. Louis and Memphis.
The chassis is stiff and nimble and will allow you to appreciate the bikes light weight of 402 dry lbs, either in the corners of your favorite Wisconsin Alphabet road or in your garage. There is nothing worse then pushing a bunch of dead weight in and out of a garage, but the 620 Multistrada has a generous amount of handlebar width to allow for easy maneuvering.
Its wheelbase is a twistys loving 57.4 inches with 2 300mm 2-piston brakes on the front and a single 245mm disc 2-piston rear. The 3-spoke alloy wheels are exclusive to the 620, which are held on with a Marzocchi 43mm upside-down fork in front and a Sachs adjustable monoshock. Also exclusive to the 620 Multistrada is a steel double-sided swingarm. Honestly, I wish it was the single sided swingarm.
There is some vibration transferred through the bars that over the course of our 2200-mile weekend made my hands tingle a bit. The vibration is in the handle bars and is easily solved with some heavier bar end weights or a bar snake. A Throttlemeister kit would allow one to kill 2 birds with one stone and allow the rider to stretch their right wrist on road trips.
The only other issue I had with the bike was the seat. This is a gripe I have with any bike. Manufacturers have never put a comfortable seat on anything and that is why there is a thriving aftermarket seat industry. The stock seat is comfortable for around town, but 600-mile days tend to get uncomfortable around mid-day.
The 620cc engine provides power to a new APTC (Power Torque Clutch) “slipper” clutch which allows aggressive down shifting that on a standard clutch would bind and lock the rear wheel. The “slipper” allows the rear wheel to continue to turn, kind of like a poor man’s traction control system. This assembly also reduces the pull weight of the clutch to reduce fatigue, especially caused by morning rush hour.
Ok, enough of the reading from the spec book and let’s get into some good old-fashioned anecdotal research. I loved this bike. The 620 power plant is plenty of motor for hurling yourself all over the US. I wound up chasing Mike more than leading, as he can be a little impatient in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I also got to experience watching the Multistrada be put through its paces in St Louis as I was chasing Mike down due to our exit being roughly 3 or 4 miles of 95 degrees plus humidity asphalt behind us.
While searching for the Pyramid in Memphis and a way off of 78 in Birmingham, I was able to toss the Strada around low speed corners and make sudden changes of direction due to Mike’s or my internal GPS adjustments. The Strada was a wonderful urban assault vehicle that was capable of hopping curbs and slogging through ditches as you are attempting to make sense of a foreign city’s street layout.
As far as its moniker of Multistrada, the 620 felt at home on the pavement with a comfortable, forward leaning, upright seating position. The bike was easy to throw around on pavement and hard pack dirt. True dual sporting however would force me to put a more aggressive peg on for better control while standing.
We were also able to use a set of Ducati Multistrada saddlebags for this trip. What a great accessory, as they are made by luggage expert Givi for Ducati which means they are made to work, not just look good. They are large enough to hold a weekend of gear or a helmet while you are having dinner.
The Multistrada 620 is an affordable piece of Italian styling and performance at MSRP $7995. Overall, this is a wonderful machine that commands a rider’s respect. The 620 is big enough for my eighth ton o’ fun to be comfortable, while small enough to be an excellent commuter. With respectable fuel economy, the 620 Multistrada should be considered as you are searching for a way to fight the rising fuel costs.
by Sev Pearman
The engine was singing at 7,500 rpms and I upshifted into fifth. The Ducati Multistrada 620 responded by propelling me up and over the roller-coaster rise, the suspension unloading at the crest. I was riding my new favorite road in rural Eastern Wisconsin, full of curves and elevation changes. It is little traveled and free from prying eyes. This was a perfect moto-moment, combining a great road, no traffic, a dry sunny day and an excellent motorcycle.
I was riding a Ducati Multistrada 620. It is a smaller version of the mighty 1000cc MS, but don’t call it “baby brother.” The little red rocket makes enough steam to easily haul my 250 pounds at 205 Tilley-approved speeds. The 90º V-twin (L-twin in Ducati-speak) displaces 618cc through a bore and stroke of 80mm x 61.5mm. If you are a detail geek, skip on down to the Spec Box. Otherwise, all you need to know is that it is fuel injected, 2-valve Desmo drive, air-cooled and cranks out 63 bhp (9,500 rpm) and makes 41.2 foot-pounds torque (6,750 rpm)
What is it? The Multistrada is designed to be a capable sporting road bike with the ability to handle a variety of surfaces and conditions. It sits tall on its long-travel suspension, perfect for absorbing bumps, railroad crossings and potholes. The wide, straight handlebars provide leverage and for a Ducati, generous steering lock. The Multistrada isn’t simply a dual sport with a Ducati sticker. While no 916, the Multistrada has more sporting potential than most machines. With its underseat exhaust and tucked in pegs, you have amazing amounts of lean angle. All I was ever able to touch were my boots. With practice, a rider could easily embarrass other riders on edgier, “pure” sport bikes.
What the ‘Strada gives up in absolute performance, it more than makes up for with its comfort and utility. Yes, I said comfort. Much has been whined about the seat of the Multistrada. While it appears uncomfortable, it is deceptively supportive. I was fine, even after one 450-mile day. I did shift around while I rode, but no more than any other bike. While by no means the best stock seat I’ve been on (Yamaha FJR-1300) it was far from the worst (unnamed small-displacement 80’s Metric cruiser). I’d be fine with the stocker unless I planned back-to-back days of many hundreds of miles. Still not convinced? Go call Sargent or Russel. Now quit whining.
There is no complaining about the ergonomics — this bike is just about perfect. You sit upright, knees tucked in against the slender tank rear. You get ample leverage from the wide dirt bike bars. The narrow width offered by the tank and transverse V-twin motor mean you can easily hang off in corners. Want leverage and a planted front wheel? Slide forward on the seat enduro-style. Looking to scan traffic and react? Slide back and sit up straight. Scratching on a twisty road or looking for Interstate wind relief? Slide back further and tuck in behind the diminutive windshield.
The Multistrada has good ole tube handlebars. Don’t like ‘em? Feel free to swap them out to something with a better bend. Ducatisti felt the bars were too high. Coming off a 996, what would you expect? The three BMW GS owners I had sit on her felt the bars were too low. But Goldilocks thought that they were ju-u-ust ri-i-ight. Compared to a KTM Adventure, BMW GS, Triumph Tiger or Aprilia Capo Nord, the Multistrada has a lower sportier riding position. It is a far better sport bike than any of the large trailies.
Even though Ducati builds the little Multistrada to a sub-$8K price point (MSRP $7,995) it is no stripped parts-bin dog. Dual front discs are pinched by two-piston Brembo calipers, carried in an inverted 43mm Marzocchi fork. Fuel is sipped via crisp fuel injection through honking 45mm throttle bodies. Clutch activation is hydraulic. Clutch and brake lines are sheathed braided stainless steel. These are tasty performance upgrades not always found on bikes costing thousands more.
Even the mirrors are cool. They infuse Italian style with (dare I say) German function. The mirrors are mounted on rigid stalks and are long enough that you can actually see beyond your bug-encrusted elbows. Vaguely arrowhead-shaped, they include a lower “eyeball.” Not just a styling flourish, the eyeball permits you to see additional roadway behind. While clear at low speeds, they get buzzy when you spin the engine above 6,000 rpm. The blinkers are incorporated into the front side of each mirror. All this function and style boosts mirror replacement cost to a latté-spraying $108.00 (Ducati MSRP). You’ll only break one once…
Some have whined about the unique split fairing. The lower portion is frame mounted and fixed, while the upper half turns with the fork. Quit bitching about how it looks and go ride. It is good design and it works. Instrumentation pairs a white-faced sweep tach with digital display. Speed is displayed in large numbers, readable even in direct sunlight. Give the fairing partial credit for this readability.
One curiosity is the absent redline. We finally discovered a soft rev limiter (electronic partial engine cutout) at about 10,300 rpm. Did some stylist decree that red lines on the tach didn’t fit into the overall aesthetique? Somebody keep Mr. Terblanche away from the Absinthe.
There are also odo/tripmeter and coolant temp/clock displays. You select the desired function by pressing two oversized buttons on top of the LCD display. These are styled with rubber strips that imply you should press down when you actually need to press the bottom face of the button forward. This is function surrendering to style and is stupid.
Our test bike came in gorgeous traditional Ducati red wearing a brace of optional color-matched 34-liter hard saddlebags. Unique to the Multistrada, they are manufactured by Givi®. We know and love Givi® stuff. They lock securely, are 100% waterproof and simply work. The cases easily detach from the bike and can be carried like suitcases. Better negotiate when you order your bike, as they list for a robusto $1,162.10. [Correction: Price of bags is $873.70] This is more than I paid for my first brand new motorcycle in 1982! To be fair, this price includes all bracketry and hardware, though not installation. One wag pointed out that you could buy sturdy butch aluminum cases for similar dough. This is true, the advantage being that when you sold the bike, you could keep the cases, order up mounts for your next machine, and re-use them. Sure, you could do that, but would you want your fabulous babe to wear work boots with that slinky dress?
While not cheap, we thought the bags were worth it. Each bag easily swallows an XL full-face helmet. They have elastic straps to separate and secure your stuff. Water-tightness was tested with a 150-mile slog in steady light rain as well as MMM’s punishing hose test. There is no need for clunky waterproof bag covers or effeminate bag liners. Simply throw in your crap and ride-ride-ride. Take one trip on a motorcycle with waterproof hard bags, and you’ll never look back.
While unlike any bike made today, I found myself comparing aspects of the 620 Multistrada to other bikes. The frame mounted fairing and tank shape felt like that of a two-valve BMW R-100 GS. It is a practical, comfortable design that protects the rider from windblast. The upright seating position and wide straight bars reminded me of big dual sports, such as a Kawasaki Tengai/KLR or Honda Trans-alp. You get a comfortable, flexible machine with a riding position that encourages peg standing when the road disappears. The low mass, powerful motor and hard bags reminded me of touring on a bag-equipped Honda VFR. Imagine sport touring on a VFR that doesn’t punish you on rough pavement, or a better-appointed KLR fused with honest Italian sport bike performance.
Even after putting over 1,000 miles on her, I still discovered little touches. It was only after I finally cleaned the mirrors at a lonely gas station in South Dakota that I discovered that the mirror glass pivoted on a ball within the mirror head, like on your car. The station clerk looked like he had walked right off the set of a Coen Brothers movie and asked me, “Whutza Duke-A-T-ee?” I gave him a brief run-down on “the Ferrari of motorcycles” and tried to place the Multistrada in the motorcycling kingdom. He asked about its performance, top speed and insurance costs, but didn’t seem to get the overall concept. All I could do was tell him that it made a better tourer than any sport bike and was more fun to ride than any cruiser.
Some riders indicated that they would only buy the larger 1000 ‘Strada and this is too bad. The 620 makes more than enough torque and power to satisfy both as a tourer and as a sport bike. The larger 1000 DS lists for $11,995 MSRP. The additional $4,000 gets you 29 bhp (92 @ 8000 rpm) and 26 ft-lbs torque (68 @ 5000 rpm) The fork upgrades to a fully adjustable Showa unit and you get the cool single-sided swingarm. Other than that, they are about the same machine. Same chassis, wheels and brakes. Our advice? Spend that additional 4K on road trips and tires.
Unfortunately, the ‘Strada hasn’t yet found its audience. Sport bike riders don’t find it sporting enough. Adventure riders don’t think it “extreme” enough. No El Camino®, the Multistrada is an effective sport bike, a competent go anywhere ride and an awesome in-town daily driver.
So who is this bike for? It is for anyone who chums urban traffic, dodges allegedly maintained city streets, likes to take a week trip, enjoys a deserted twisty road, and needs to easily and efficiently carry stuff without BS. The bottom line? The Multistrada 620 is our favorite Ducati ever. Thanks to Jason Chinnock at Ducati North America for providing us with our tester.
Wife’s First Reaction—“Wow…Its beautiful…”
•620cc jewel churns out deceptive power.
•Integrated well-balanced package.
•Full-on Ducati style combined with humane ergos.
•Mileage plummets at speed with bags.
•Where is the redline on the tach?
•Anybody know a good Desmo wrench in Patagonia?
Aprilia 650 Pegaso, BMW F-650 GS & Dakar, Ducati 620 Monster, Moto Guzzi Breva V 750, Suzuki DL-650 V-Strom.