Multistrada V4 Review

Nick Selleck – Maschine

I have two words to describe the new Ducati Multistrada V4 - “adrenal fatigue”!

After a day of wheelies, skids and general shenanigans for a photo and video shoot my adrenal gland had pumped out about a month’s worth of heightened excitement in an 8 hour period! Such is the fuel injected excitement this bike generates. But really, does this world need 170 horsepower adventure bikes? Silly question. Yes of course we bloody do! 

The new Multistrada V4 is very similar to the previous 1260cc V-Twin in many ways, but also very different. It looks similar. Feels similar to sit on. Electronic riding aids are presented in a similar way. But dig deeper and you find the V4 is so much more refined and balanced. It truly is an all-new motorcycle. In fact, it is so different we were told by Ducati Australia MD Sergei Canovas, that the factory had contemplated at the 11th hour of the project to not even call it a "Multistrada". Ducati really wanted to position the product quite differently. From a marketing perspective I think that may have been branding suicide so they absolutely made the right call to continue evolving the Multistrada persona rather than attempting to introduce a new-born to the world.

Speaking of heritage, I know one Ducati staff member who was a bit concerned that perhaps the purist Desmo fans might shun the latest V4 engine technology. The desmodromic valve system has been synonymous with the Italian brand for decades. I honestly don’t think they have anything to worry about. One ride will convince any purist that the V4 engine is something they should have in their life. A bonus is that valve adjustment service intervals are now pushed out to 60,000km!

However, this bike is so much more than just a new power plant.

Heavy Investment

Ducati have invested a huge amount of resources in the development of this motorcycle. Ducati must get this motorcycle right. It is imperative. For anyone that has ridden in Italy you will know just how prolific the BMW GS models are on the roads. In fact, not just in Italy but in all of Europe the 1200/1250 GS is the by far the most popular motorcycle on the roads. Australia is not much different either, in the adventure segment anyway. And this is exactly who Ducati is targeting with this new model. They made no bones about targeting the conquest of GS riders. 

Can they do it with this bike? In some ways I think yes. The motorcycle itself is well and truly capable (and I would say superior) from a riding dynamics stand point. Ducati’s biggest challenge will be overcoming the 40 years of GS marketing momentum that BMW have. If someone is thinking about getting into adventure riding, they have almost already been brain washed by subliminal images over many years of somewhat odd-looking German motorcycles getting dirty in all corners of the globe. To conquest this will take time and "bums on seats" to experience what the Ducati has to offer. And it has a lot to offer!

My V4 Experience

I know I’m lucky to find myself in the position I’m in. I mean, how many people have a truck pull up in their street and have a brand new yet to be released $35k motorcycle delivered to them to play on and get comfortable with for a couple of weeks? A $35k motorcycle of which there is only six of in the country currently. Yep, I know I'm lucky!

Ducati entrusted me to be one of the first people in Australia to get familiar with the riding experience offered by this new motorcycle. In return it was then my job at the dealer launch event to try and help communicate the riding experience from a seasoned off-road riders perspective. 

To get acquainted with it I first ventured off for a full day’s ride from Port Macquarie down to the Hunter Valley and back to check out the venue and terrain we would be using for the upcoming dealer launch event. A ride of some 700km including all the usual ingredients of a great adventure ride. Sealed and unsealed. Smooth and rough. Fast and slow. Impressively I felt fresh after returning home from a full day in the saddle in spite of it being 10.30pm and having spent the last 3 hours riding in the dark. The amazing headlights definitely helped here.

Flash forward a week and on the day prior to the launch event Ducati were on a mission to capture some great content in the way of photos and video. With talented men like Damien Ashenhurst and Jorden Bethune behind the lenses it was up to me and riding partner Dave Maddock to make these bikes dance. Needless to say, this is kind of fun! It also really helped to highlight just how nimble these "big bikes" can be!

The following day I led three groups of dealers on a 100km ride loop that epitomised “all roads”. Whilst I was back riding the previous gen 1260 V-Twin for this segment, it only helped to illustrate the advancements Ducati have achieved. I briefly jumped back on a V4 at lunch time to provide a brief riding demo to help illustrate the bikes electronics package. I feel somewhat embarrassed doing this kind of "dancing monkey" routine but I sometimes forget that I’ve spent (mis-spent?!) 40 years of life hurtling through the bush on the back of motorcycles and I have learnt a thing or two over the years about how to throw a motorcycle around off-road and I have become proficient at that. Especially when I have an equally proficient bike at hand.

These riding scenarios are diametrically opposed which just goes to illustrate how adaptable this motorcycle is. A true "multi roads" machine.

I won't get into all the features and tech details, you can read all about that on the Ducati website. What I will tell you about is my riding experience from the perspective of someone that loves off-road riding and makes a living from leading adventure tours and training riders how to make the most out of their adventure bikes.

Power Overload?

Does anyone really need 170HP in an adventure bike? Hell no!

Does anyone really want 170HP in an adventure bike? Hell yes!

The power this bike delivers is the kind of power that leaves your brain behind. If you’ve never ridden a truly powerful motorcycle before, this is the feeling you experience when you get on the gas hard with great traction under the tyres. Brutal acceleration of this nature will make the blood drain out of your head leaving you feeling lightheaded with your vision narrowing up. Akin to a fighter pilot pulling G’s. You may also have the sensation that the globe is rotating a little quicker under your wheels! For sure you get used to this sensation but if you like speed, this is a natural drug you just can’t get enough of. 

In spite of this power overload the 1158cc engine is a smooth one and makes its gobs of torque and power accessible. Proof of this for me was doing some stand up 2nd gear wheelies for the camera that I “had” to do several times to make sure we got the shot. Of course, the front end comes up easily like you would expect from a bike with this much power, but the telling thing for me was just how balanced and composed the Ducati was standing on one wheel with the nose pointed skyward. It required very little throttle modulation to hold a nice balance point and literally cruise along without the speed increasing much. Even with a blustery cross wind going across the top of a ridge line the bike remained composed.

This accessible power also shone through when climbing some rocky hills on my first day off-road with the bike. With a few rock steps and some slippery mud to contend the engine (and electronics) allowed me to pick the times that I wanted delicate power delivery and the times that I wanted rapid acceleration.

As noted by many dealers on the launch, if you muff a corner up and let the engine fall very low in the rev range, opening the throttle will simply result in the bike hunkering down and smoothly getting on with the business of propelling you forward at a rapid rate of knots without protest. Impressive. 

What is equally impressive is how Ducati have managed to make an engine that has twice as many cylinders be lighter and more compact than the previous V-Twin 1260. Bravo to the Bologna engineers!

I have over 20 days and many thousands of kilometres riding experience with the previous generation 1260, 1200 and 950 Multistrada's. One aspect of the previous V-Twin engine I didn't particularly enjoy was that the power delivery wasn't very smooth. I felt a couple of "steps" in the power delivery and I didn't feel comfortable pushing it to the limit. An example of this is I didn't feel comfortable pulling big wheelies because the power wasn't smooth enough for me. Not so with the V4. Smoothness is the key word to define this new engine. "Thirsty" could also be another word used but I'll talk more about that later!

Customised Electronics

Definitely one of the standout features on this new model for me is the electronics package and it kind of goes hand in hand with the engine. It is phenomenal the level of electronic intervention and interaction this bike has available and that helps to make the bike so adaptable.

DTC, DWC, BSD, DQS, ABS, DRL, TFT.... so many three letter acronyms it made me think of a four-letter acronym a couple of times! To be honest it is confusing when you first get on the bike, trying to figure out what all the letters mean. It can simply be overwhelming. But the neat thing is, once you dial in your favourite electronic settings the bike will remember them every time you turn the bike on and off and swapping ride modes is easy to do on the fly.

The way Ducati approaches "riding modes" is something other manufacturers should take a look at. There are essentially four riding modes available: Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro. Nothing new there but inside each riding mode there is 8 parameters that can be customised from default settings to suit the individual.

During the dealer launch we finished off the day with a cool little off-road loop through a nice grass paddock on the property. This followed a tranquil walking track that had been mown in metre high grass on rolling hills. We promptly broke the tranquillity as I led the dealers out on one lap with Enduro mode engaged and DTC (traction control) set to level 1. This would allow for some wheelspin but still keep the wheels very much in line. The dealers had no problem on this initial lap. We stopped and reset the traction control to the "off" setting so the riders could experience closer to the full power. I say closer to full power but reality is we were in the "low" power setting of the three available so they were only dealing with more like 100HP and not the full 170HP! The following laps resulted in at least 4 drops in the slippery grass as dealers struggled to keep the tyres inline on the slippery surface. This was quite telling for a number of them!

To be honest for me as a more experienced off-road rider, I found DTC level 1 still too intrusive off-road. It didn't allow for enough wheelspin to be smooth. What I mean by that is I usually ride with traction control off for most of myriding. I do rely more on traction control in certain situations off-road, like if I'm getting fatigued towards the end of a long day or I'm trying to preserve my tyres on a long ride. This can help me when my brain is not as sharp as it normally is. In this case DTC 1 intervened too early and made the bike less smooth for me off-road. I prefer a little more wheelspin in my TC setting. For less experienced riders though I know they would appreciate the helping electronic hand.


The number one electronic stand out for me on this model is the radar Adaptive Cruise Control. Now I love cruise control for its licence saving abilities, but I was somewhat sceptical of a radar cruise system being way too intrusive on a motorcycle. My wife and I recently got a Volkswagen Golf with radar cruise, and I have experienced a few situations where it gets confused by twisting roads and slows the car down unexpectedly because it thinks there is another vehicle ahead in our lane, but reality is it the vehicle is in the oncoming lane on a curve. I experienced no such false readings with the Ducati system. Its adaptive cruise system worked exactly how it should with absolute accuracy. It would even gently apply the brakes in situations where the vehicle in front slowed rather quickly. I say gently apply the brakes because obviously as a motorcyclist the last thing you want your bike doing is slamming on the brakes when you're not physically ready for it! That could result in a face full of windscreen! The motorcycle is never going to apply the brakes to that degree so of course you must take ultimate control of the bike to avoid these situations.

The Blind Spot Detection also works incredibly well and was genuinely appreciated in several instances with the indicator lights on the mirrors grabbing my attention at the right times warning me there was a vehicle in the lane next lane behind my shoulder. 

In all it is a brilliant system and one that helps justify the price point of this motorcycle. 

Other Gadgets

Another electrical aspect I hugely appreciated was the headlights. Without question these are the most impressive lights I have ever followed home in the dark. Daytime Running Lights are there to define the bikes silhouette during daylight hours but once the sun goes down you will be amazed at how strong and clear the headlights are. Cornering lights illuminate the dark corners as soon as you tip into a corner. The beam reach straight out in front though is what I really appreciated. Magnificent!

Brake hill hold control is also available and what I mean by "available" is it's able to be used but is not intrusive. Before riding the bike I had read that it had hill hold control with the brake system but I never felt it come on during my first ride so I assumed it was deactivated. I checked with one of the Ducati staff and they showed me how to activate it which basically consisted of giving a very hard squeeze to either front or rear brake lever while stationary. Then to release it you must pump the lever twice and apply additional throttle as you take off. This works for me! On other bikes with hill hold I have turned it off because I found it held on unexpectedly and caused me to stall and drop the bike many times in technical off-road situations. Not so on the Ducati. 

Another bit of technology Ducati would like you to take advantage of is the Ducati Connect system. This allows you to connect your smartphone (Android or Apple) to the Ducati's dashboard and likewise your bluetooth headset. While I appreciate the fact that this will make it safer (and legal!) to operate your phone for core functions like making and receiving phone calls, playing music and viewing navigation maps. The reality is my need for smartphone usage while riding is greater. Now I know that I probably break the law and use my smartphone more than I should while riding. But I rely on it to do my job and navigate my way through the bush using topographic maps. This is something the combined smarts of Ducati Connect and Sygic navigation can't help me with just yet. I did try it but it's a no from me for my off-road use case. Other riders may appreciate it.

What I did love though is the USB port that is tucked away inside the waterproof phone box on top of the fuel tank. I simply ran my USB charging cable out of there up to my phone mounted on a Quad Lock on the bars. Win!

No Lightweight?

Make no mistake. This is a big adventure bike. It is designed to offer a comfortable perch for the rider on a mix of surfaces. It sits in that category of multi-cylinder adventure bikes that weigh north of 200kg. There are many bikes that share this space but the biggest contender, both in terms of sales and bulk, is the BMW R1200/1250 GS and GSA. 

I’ve spent a lot of time riding the 1200GS and GSA and to be frank, I have never gelled with them off-road. As good as they are on sealed bitumen roads, for me the bulk of them is simply too much to handle comfortably off-road. I’m not a big guy at 178cm and 73kg so I accept that maybe my power-to-weight isn’t ideal for this size bike. 

When I first rode the Multistrada V4 my initial thought was "Here we go, I have to get used to riding a big bike again". But, once I dialled in some of the bike controls to my liking the weight started to melt away. First of all, I was impressed with how easily I could perform a u-turn on a dead-end dirt track. This is a manoeuvre I have to perform all the time when I'm exploring on recce's. With the Ducati I could whack the bars around to full lock and complete an about-face with the bike bolt upright in the width of a car track. This was confidence inspiring because I didn't have to perform 3 point turns with reversing manoeuvres. On a lighter bike I will comfortably pivot the bike around on the spot with a good dose of throttle and wheelspin but on a bike that weighs over 200kg I'm always worried I won't be able to hold it upright.

I can also say with absolute confidence I was able to pull off some moves on this V4 that I simply wouldn't have thought about attempting on a GS. I could slide it into a berm with my inside leg out and be confident I was going to catch the bike and redirect it where I intended to go. I could get some nice pivot turns happening under a rear brake slide too.

At a claimed 218kg dry for the V4S that I rode, this makes it approximately 14kg lighter (allowing for 22 litres of fuel) than the 249kg wet bulk of the BMW R1250GS. Want to "upgrade" to the R1250GSA? That'll be another 33 kgs please sir!

Whilst it may seem I'm unfairly targeting the GS in this comparison; it is the exact bike Ducati are going after with the V4 and is a model that many adventure riders are familiar with. Some may argue that the GS "hides" its weight well because of the boxer engine layout. While this is true, I wouldn't say the Multistrada felt top heavy in any way. Quite the opposite.


Of course, an adventure bike is going to come across some uneven ground and needs to keep its belly off the deck. More electronic trickery comes into play here by way of electronically controlled spring preload and damping adjustment. 

Initially I choose "Auto" preload setting which is intended to set the suspension ride height based on the load it senses. I found this slightly harsh though and the riding situation improved when I choose one "helmet" as my preload setting. I weight 73 kg sans gear so other riders might find the Auto setting suitable. 

Damping wise I just ran with what each riding mode offered up and it felt pretty good. I did try cranking up the damping settings when we were launching off a little kicker for some photos and that helped minimise the protesting clanks and clangs. Multi-cylinder adventure bikes really aren't built to fly though so this was indeed an extreme use case.

Where the suspension did shine is picking my way up a rocky stepped climb. I experienced one full bottom out on a rock step but it remained controlled and composed right through the length of the stroke. It feels like quality components have been used and it always remains composed.


Going hand in hand with the suspension is the chassis and more in particular the new 19 and 17 inch wheel combination. The previous gen 1260 V-Twin used a 17" front wheel (the Enduro model rolled on a 19" wheel) which definitely held it back off-road. The bikes at launch had a mix of alloy and wire spoked wheels fitted but they are all now 19/17". A 19" front wheel will roll over holes much better off-road but still doesn't offer the same directional control as a 21" front in true enduro situations. As always, adventuring is about compromise!

It was interesting feedback from many dealers that they felt more comfortable on the bitumen on the wire spoked off-road wheel sets with Pirelli Rally STR tyres. Many felt the alloy wheel combos wiggled and shimmied a little driving hard out of corners. I think this came back more to the fact that we were running 32psi front/rear in the wire spoked wheels and 42psi in the rear for the allow wheels. Also, the bitumen roads were extremely bumpy and broken with more patches over potholes than original bitumen!

All up the chassis feel very planted and stable while remaining nimble enough to retain a sporty Ducati character.


How a bike fits me is super important. I feel I can ride any slug of a bike with crappy suspension fast if it fits me. If however the bike is stinking fast and it doesn't fit me then things can become downright scary when you go for a control lever and you can't find it!

The ergonomics on this Multistrada are on point. I really appreciated the narrow feeling between my legs. Considering it is a 4-cylinder engine you are straddling, Ducati have nailed this. Bravo!

Seat height is good. I have relatively short legs and had no issue reaching the ground with the seat in the high position. I also think tall riders will have no problem tucking their gangly knees in behind the fuel tank because there is heaps of room. I found the seat is very comfortable too. Did I mention I did 700km on the first day with the bike?

Handlebar reach is good with nice wide bars giving you leverage when you need it.

Wind protection is fantastic with height adjustments to the screen made easily on the fly.

I haven't tried with a pillion on the back but I'm sure your copilot while be comfy back there with the heated seats front and rear one clue that some thought has been given to the pillion.


Where does this bike fall short?

One of the biggest challenges for this bike being a successful tourer in Australia is fuel range. This is a thirsty motorcycle. I scored an average of 6.5 L / 100km in typical adventure riding. This equates to around 330km range out of the 22 litre tank. I also saw higher consumption figures than that 6.5 figure on other bikes during the launch. Range anxiety is not something I enjoy and just over 300km range is not enough in my book for adventure touring in Australia. Of course, it all depends on how you twist that right wrist so results may vary!

Ergonomics are great but two things still need tweaking for me to better suit off-road; wider foot pegs and the ability to raise the rear brake lever higher. Being able reach the rear brake while standing is vital and I like my lever tip to be basically level horizontally with the footpeg. Full adjustment saw me fall short of this mark by about 10mm. Not bad but could be better. Maybe we will see a change to this on a future Enduro model?

The clutch lever is fairly heavy too. I would prefer something that is easier for 1 finger operation off-road. I can live with it but for extended technical riding off-road I can see how finger fatigue could be an issue.


Can Ducati win over BMW GS owners with this bike? I think so yes.

Would I want to park one in my garage? Not if it was my only bike. But only because my style of adventuring sees a minimal amount of time spent on sealed roads and is more towards the extreme off-road end of the spectrum where my job sees me having to explore places one perhaps shouldn't even be on a motorcycle. Not solo anyway.

Is it the bike I would choose to take through the Italian Alps on our next European tour? Hell yes!

Is it the bike I would choose if I rode around on the city streets regularly and loved getting out for a blat on the regional areas on weekends? Yep.

Is it the bike I would choose if I lived in Australia and wanted to travel great distances in comfort and explore beyond where the pavement ends? Yep, it is.

Ducati have stepped it up a big notch here with this motorcycle. Riders deserve to ride it and experience it. 170HP is nothing to scoff at and neither is the electronics package. Both make for an exceptional motorcycle.

Bravo Ducati. Bravo!