First Ride of Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally
7 mins read

First Ride of Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally

Let’s get down to business. The fact is, Ducati’s all-new Multistrada V4 Rally is as equally capable off-road as it is on-road. And anyone who’s piloted a Multistrada V4 over a decent variety of roads will testify that this is quite a statement. Quite a moment in the story of the adventure bike. Yes, the Rally will set you back but owners will be buying a rather remarkable and clever motorcycle, one that would certainly make me smile every time I open the garage door.

Let’s get the easy bit done first. Ducati has kept the power and torque output of the Rally’s Granturismo engine identical to the more road-focused V4 and V4S Multistradas, with peaks of 170 horsepower at 10,750rpm and 89 pound-feet of torque at 8750rpm. However, the Italians have added the heat-reducing rear cylinder deactivation system seen recently on the new Diavel V4. That system cuts the rear pair of cylinders when the bike is stationary or running below 4000rpm—depending on torque request from the rider. The alloy front frame is the same as the standard bike’s, but that is really where the similarities end and where the Rally begins to move the game forward.

Suspension and Electronics

To make the V4 Multi more capable off-road, Ducati redesigned its extremely clever, semi-active Skyhook EVO DDS suspension. The company added 30mm of stroke to the front forks and 20mm to the rear surprise, giving 200mm of travel at both ends. This increases ground clearance by half an inch to nine inches. Before anyone starts worrying about the effect on seat height, Ducati has made available a range of options for all sizes. There is also Ducati’s Minimum Preload system, which electronically removes spring pre-load, therefore reducing seat height, when you come to a stop (and is controlled by the rider, as not all riders have a 5ft 7in height issue like me). Additionally, there’s an ‘easy lift’ system, which opens up the damping when the bike is switched on, making it easier to lift off the side stand because the suspension is soft.

Other new electronics include a new Enduro mode and a smoother quick-shifter, but the big talking point is the Rally’s focus on comfort. The Rally has a larger, 7.9-gallon fuel tank which means longer times in the saddle. To compensate for this, the manually adjustable windscreen is larger, and bot adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection come standard. With a considerably larger tank range, the Rally should be able to rack up big miles and do so without fatiguing its pilot.

As noted, throwing a leg over the new Rally wasn’t a problem; with the preload electronically removed my boots could touch the road on both sides. Despite weighing 44 pounds more than the Multistrada S, and despite the extra mass of our test bike’s hard luggage, crash protection, and fog lights, the Rally immediately felt far from big or heavy. I could even flick up the side stand without the torment leg stretch required on some adventure machines.

On the move, you are welcomed by a widescreen 6.5-inch dash while an attractive brushed aluminum finish to the fuel tank oozes quality and class. And again, that sense of lightness prevails.

After a few miles of riding twisty coastal roads in Sardinia, I had to double-check the fuel gauge as I was convinced the tank must have been empty. But no, it was brimmed, so theoretically at least, hauling eight or so gallons of unleaded. Yet the Rally felt so nimble, steered so effortlessly for a bike in this class, that it felt more like a sporty middleweight than a global adventure bike.

The Rally defaults to a smooth and flowing ride and settles you into a rhythmic and unhurried pace that slows the outside world even when you are, technically speaking, going like the clappers.

When I increased the pace, I opted for Sports mode, which adds a rigid ride and a quicker edge. The throttle is more regulated without being snappy, and the rider aids retreat to allow more spirited inputs and the front wheel to hover an inch or two above the ground over small crests. It’s borderline comical what the Rally can do when it’s in this mood; even a track day could be on the menu, just.

Grip and feedback from the on-and-off-road Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber are consistently good on dry roads, even when pushed hard. Ground clearance wasn’t an issue for me (light and small) while the steering is as precise as it is light; in long lingering corners it carried speed and held its line perfectly. It didn’t even care if I braked mid-corner, relying on the excellent lean-sensitive ABS, or jumped on the power early to leave a long black line.

I must admit this was an especially quick ride – Ducati press launches are rarely anything else – and most owners with licenses to preserve won’t push the Rally so hard on the public road, but it’s nice to know what it can do. The rider aids are all-enveloping (in a good way) and can easily be trimmed to match your mood and ride. They allow you to relax and focus on the sheer pleasure of riding a motorcycle, behaving like a guardian angel riding pillion.

Then there’s the famous Granturismo V4 itself. In Touring or Urban mode, it feels as friendly as Ducati’s entry-level Scrambler: soft, forgiving, and perfectly fuelled. Then flip to Sports mode, turn off the Ducati Wheelie Control, and only KTM’s big Adventure can run the Rally close in the performance stakes. The route for this test mainly followed switchback coastal roads but on the odd occasion when the road opened up, the 170 hp V4 hardened and drove the bike forward in a way Multistrada owners have come to adore. Even when you add a pillion and luggage, it’s a mighty strong engine. Fast overtakes can be executed on only a whiff of the throttle.

Verdict

BMW’s R1250GS Adventure has dominated this all-round sector of the big adventure bike market for years. Now, with the Rally, Ducati has a serious contender for the leader in the class.

It’s comfortable and practical, rapid on road, supremely competent on gravel, and fun everywhere in between. It boasts a powerful engine that’s as friendly as it is fast. Superb brakes are backed up by excellent lean-sensitive ABS both on and off-road. In addition, its handling is a revelation: genuinely sporty on asphalt and as competent as a specialist off-roader when the going gets mucky. Add a plethora of rider aids that are easy to access, great build and detailing, and stunning looks and it’s hard to find fault beyond the expense of buying one. Even short riders like me can reach the ground, thanks to the electronic surprise which can lower the seat height at the press of a button.

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