We had to find out what the record-setting Multistrada is like and Ducati happened to have a Pikes Peak lying around for the ride. Didn\’t take much to put the two together
There\’s a Termignoni exhaust screaming out high revs and the noise is bouncing off the mountain wall on my right. The surface is flawless and the traffic, incredibly light. The corners are flowing from one to the next and I can count the number of cars that have gone past in the last half hour on my fingertips. But then, I have better things to do with my fingers, two of them tapping the brake lever, sitting behind the knuckle guard. The only thing I need to watch out for are stray stones that have rolled down the hillside, onto the road and are strewn around corners. This may not be Pikes Peak and the road isn\’t really climbing, but it is an epic stretch rolling through the ridge line, high up in the mountains and I could not have asked for a better ride perched on the saddle of a, err, Pikes Peak, the motorcycle.
Yes, that\’s what you see in pictures here, the 2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak. It\’s a bit of a mouthful, but then, you can let that pass, especially for a motorcycle that set the fastest time at the hill climb, from where it derives its name, a couple of months back. Yes, this same version \– a big touring motorcycle \– did that and all the help that it had came from a set of racing slicks, a different handlebar and a heavy duty master cylinder for the front brakes. Oh, and a chap called Carlin Dunne, who happens to be crowned \‘King of the Mountain\’, every time he points a motorcycle up the Pikes Peak hill, electric or petrol powered.
On the backroads of Himachal though, the Multistrada has to deal with my limited abilities, but it is being kind enough to take me along for the ride anyway. I\’ve patiently run in the motorcycle over the last 500 kilometres on wide open highways with great restraint on my right wrist and mostly stood around to appreciate the Pikes Peak colour scheme along with hordes of people at various dhabas along the way. Ducati has played with the contrast a little more with larger surfaces being painted white, but I think the previous one was a better scheme. There are plenty of carbonfibre bits slapped on and a much smaller Termignoni exhaust to make it quite easily distinguishable from the rest of the line-up. It gets special lightweight alloys too, in case you were wondering.
All the lightweight bits of kit and the lack of the adaptive \‘Skyhook\’ suspension on the Pikes Peak make it 6kg lighter than the S. For a piece of machinery that weighs in at 229 kilos and packs in 155bhp, that doesn\’t really make much of a difference. Unless, you are Carlin Dunne, I suppose, and want to set a sub-ten minute run up the hill. I\’m pretty sure the extra dollops of butter on my aloo parathas have taken care of the weight saving anyway. What does make a difference though is the bark that the stubby little can lets out every time you start up the 1262cc, L-twin motor. The pop that it lets rip with every well-timed upshift on the quick shifter and the louder bangs it produces with an aggressive downshift. And, if you are unlucky and chance upon a cop in Chandigarh, at anything more than idle speed on the motor, a traffic violation challan for a \‘loud\’ exhaust.
Clearly, I have developed a soft spot for this particular soundtrack coming off the Termignoni, but let\’s not get distracted. There is more to the Multistrada 1260 than just a slightly bored out motor. Ducati has managed to squeeze an extra six horsepower over the previous 1200 with this iteration of the xDiavel\’s motor and the frame has been re-worked to fit it in. Moreover, the swingarm has been lengthened and the rake has been changed to make for a slightly longer (56mm longer) wheelbase compared to the 1200 that I remember enjoying thoroughly on the road. While they were at it, they threw in a better display that sports a higher resolution and looks even more crisp than the last one.
With most of my time spent on the highway in \‘Touring\’ mode, I finally made it to the \‘Urban\’ mode while navigating the many roundabouts through the grid-based city of Chandigarh. Acceleration was fairly smothered, with 100bhp available, which made it easy to deal with crawling traffic. While the new quickshifter worked well, it had a bit of a rough edge to it. In town, I had to resort to the good ol\’ clutch lever. It isn\’t the lightest action in the world and by the time I made my way across the several start-stop situations in town, I was ready to let my left hand have a bit of rest. Fortunately for me, the threat of rain and light drizzles had cleared and I was looking at a day of riding in the hills with clouds hanging low. I whipped out the map and plotted my way to a backroad that I\’d heard about; it was finally time to let the big Multi loose.
But first, I had to deal with the many landslides and mudslides on the highway up towards Shimla. If you ever wanted to find out if your car or motorcycle can deal with some level of off-roading, this is the highway to be on. In fact, it gets bad enough in stretches to warrant a switch to \‘Enduro\’ mode to allow for a bit of slip through the dirty stuff. Luckily for me, Google asked me to turn off the highway and out of traffic. It carried on deep into the hills and the surface kept getting better around every corner. The stage was set and the Multistrada switched modes one final time to hit \‘Sport\’. Acceleration stayed linear, but there was a notable bump in the way the horses rushed to the rear wheel every time the throttle opened. Stringing together a series of corners as the road looped through the hills was incredibly satisfying and the Pikes Peak hung on to the edge of its tyres with a sort of confidence that made me push a little more every time. I eventually did over cook a couple of corners, but the front brakes proved particularly strong at sorting out wayward moments. All the while, the Termignoni exhaust cheering me on.
There\’s plenty to like about the 1260, especially the way it pulls through the revs right from 4000 rpm, until the redline, with plenty of urgency. It gathers pace at a shocking rate and has the brakes to scrub it off doubly fast. Top it off with its electronic suite and flashy bits and there isn\’t much arguing with the Multistrada, especially if it is a quick highway tourer that you are after. At 21.4 lakh (ex-showroom), the Pikes Peak is an extra 3.5 lakh over the 1260 S. But then, for a Multistrada that can embarrass sports bikes at a track day, the Pikes Peak just looks and sounds the part and tugs at the heart strings a little more. The 1260 S surely makes more sense and is what most people will opt for, but then the Pikes Peak isn\’t really for most people, is it?