Ducati invited me and a select few others to the Bosch testing facility outside of Detroit, Michigan, with the promise that it had made the 2015 Multistrada nearly impossible to crash. Unless of course you hit something. With both a new anti-lock breaking system and traction control system, which uses sensors to measure the bike's movement in every direction, the Multistrada is able to provide the maximum amount of brake or acceleration allowed by the available traction in the tires...even while you're leaned over. At least in theory.
Here's what I learned putting all that to the test.
1. Ducati's not joking—the Multistrada 1200 really is nearly impossible to crash
The 2015 Ducati Multistrada features Bosch’s new Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC), which is composed of a five-axis lean angle sensor, wheel speed sensors, and Bosch’s latest ABS system. These systems work together to give you the maximum amount of brake pressure or torque allowed by the traction available, updated literally hundreds of times per second—even when leaned over.
I guess we can ditch that whole don’t-touch-the-brakes-mid-corner concept. If the tires have enough traction to accept a touch of brake, it'll let you. If not, it won't. Simple as that.
2. It can't defeat the laws of physics
One of the other journalists on the same trip managed to find the limit of the stability control and ABS systems: he hit a pavement lip while using the front brake as he entered a graveled section, and put the wheel into the air. Sensors can't do much good if the wheel is off the ground.
3. Cornering ABS and traction control are amazing technologies
To test the cornering ABS and traction control, I was instructed to ride in circles at 35, 45, and 55 mph at 35 degrees of lean angle and then to stab at the brakes or throttle with increasing severity—in the rain. On any other motorcycle this would result in an immediate lowside crash, but the Multistrada refused to go down. As I gained trust in the systems, the speeds and lean angles increased until the pegs started scraping. Grabbing full throttle on a 160 hp motorcycle, in the rain, at 52 degrees of lean angle, just shouldn’t be possible—but it was. It almost felt like cheating.
4. All of these features make you faster, not just safer
Having systems like wheelie control, stoppie control, traction control, and ABS not only keep you safer in normal riding conditions, but they also keep you safer in performance environments. You can worry less about all that power getting you into trouble. As long as you don't go too much faster than the bike can handle, it will make up for a lot of your deficiencies as a rider, meaning you can safely push that much closer to the edge.
5. You can adjust the systems to your own riding style
While the motorcycle stability control system is great for keeping riders safe, those who have been riding for a long time enjoy a little of the sliding that comes from heavy braking and accelerating. Because the entire point in owning a fire-breathing, 160 hp beast is using all that power whenever you want to, the ABS and traction control systems can be turned off or set to one of eight modes—allowing the user to tailor the level of intervention to the riding conditions and his or her needs. They're aids, not training wheels.
6. Even without the rider aids, the new Multistrada is fantastic
This latest iteration gets a 10 hp bump and feels like it carries its weight much better. It also gets Ducati’s variable valve timing—which means it’s smoother at lower, around-town speeds, while improving low-range torque. In short, the 2015 feels absolutely brilliant in comparison to its predecessor.
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