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Two tours with a Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally

Updated: Jul 5

It is big and it is clever: the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally Pic: Mark Manning

Money no object, what bike would I have? It’s easy to fill a fantasy garage with exotica, a different ride for every occasion. But if it had to be just one bike – a single machine to do everything – it could well be this, the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally.


It’s one of those instantly impressive machines that people look at with a hint of envy blended with curiosity. Not because of the name but because, even from five feet away, it reeks of well-finished quality. There’s a lustre to the paint, offset by the brushed metal section of the tank, the dense mass of the engine, the purposeful point of the beak.


Purposeful and well-built. It's a good-looking bike

It just looks great – that’s the envy. But the curiosity is: will it deliver? After about 4000 miles around France and Spain on it, I can assure you that it does.


From the second you pull away, the Rally starts to deliver everything it promises. It’s a big thing: the standard seat is 870mm or 890mm high (though heights can range from 805mm to 905mm with accessory lower and high seats, and a lowering kit). The riding position gives uncramped legs, a relaxed reach to the wide bars and is high enough for an excellent view ahead.


But the experience is dominated by the 1158cc motor. Peak power is a claimed 170bhp (if you keep it revving to 10,750rpm) but it’s the creamy wave of torque that sweeps you off your feet. The claimed 98.2lb.ft peak is at a fairly lofty 8750rpm but it comes in powerfully pretty much from tickover – crack the throttle hard open and it’s more tsunami than wave. Especially in Sport mode.

 

First impressions

I picked it up from Ducati, hurrying home to pack while trying to get used to all the toys: trying the Urban, Touring and Sport modes; playing with adaptive cruise control (good); the blind-spot indicators that light up orange in the corner of the not-very-adjustable mirrors; pulling the easily adjustable screen up and down (it’s best fully up); poking the heated grips (very hot) and seat (prefer it off). Even by the end of that mostly main-road run, I was thoroughly impressed.

Impressive from the off Pic: Mark Manning

But impressive isn’t the stuff of which dream garages are made… To live there, a bike needs to be better. And I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t sure the V4 Rally was quite in that territory, even though there’s a lot to like here. Yes, a lot to be impressed by.


First things first, obviously it’s fast. Bloody fast. Maybe not quite in the nothing-this-big-should-be-so-fast category, but certainly fearsomely, easily three-figure fast with no effort – smooth and stable all the way to the top of the revs. What’s even more impressive is the way it cracks out overtakes. It’s brisk in Touring mode but murderous in Sport. Easy to lift a wheel – but not too much, unless you delve deeper into the settings and change the level of the anti-wheelie control.


Lots going on but it's all easy and intuitive to use

There are a lot of settings on this bike, all accessed through the commendably clear colour TFT with a joystick. It’s simple to use and though the deeper settings can’t be accessed on the move, the things you do need are easily operated. Once you’re used to the layout, so you’re not hitting the indicator when you want the joystick and the joystick when you want the indicators, that is – took me a couple of hour to adapt.


I left the bike in Sport mode (with the standard level of wheelie fun permitted) most of the time, using the joystick to set the suspension’s preload – though there is an auto mode that basically twiddles its electronic spanners depending on how many pies you have for lunch. The semi-active damping’s part of the mode (firmer in Sport than Touring) and the ride quality is lovely.

 

The Picos de Europa

My first trip with it was great– out through the West Country to Plymouth and over to Santander for a Chickenstrips tour of the Picos. I was meant to be testing the onboard nav system. First you load the Sygic app on the phone. Then you pair the bike to your phone through Bluetooth, then open the Ducati Connect app and not only confirm the Bluetooth pairing but also connect to the bike’s wi-fi. Then that 6.5in (165mm) super-clear colour TFT dash becomes your sat nav.


Compulsory deer-statue selfie in the Picos

I have to say, going A-to-B, it’s fine. It got me from my house to my mate Weeble’s with no drama and from his house straight to Plymouth for the ferry, on the fastest routes. You do need the phone on charge or it murders the battery (90% to dead in 40 miles) but there’s a pocket in the fairing where you can charge the phone – it’s fiddly but waterproof and it’s cooled, so the phone doesn’t overheat.


Unfortunately, running touring routes… let’s just say it’s not good enough. I tried half a dozen different ways to build files for it but, no matter what I did, it fell over after hitting the first waypoint. Every time. That’s when it would even navigate – rather than just “previewing” the route.


Dash is excellent – so is range. Over 250 miles here

The Ducati bit of the process, integrating the phone with the bike and the dash, is hard to fault… it just deserves to be paired to a much better app. This one just doesn’t work any better than Google Maps. Actually, not even that well.


Thankfully the V4 Rally really does work and the Picos showed it. On the dry days, it was heroic – devouring straight roads and tearing through twisty ones with the agility of a bike half its size (with that 30L tank full it’s a hefty 260kg). On wet days it was reassuring, even in Sport mode on shiny, slippery roads. I’d have liked a bit more feedback from the OE Pirellis but they clearly had plenty of grip. By the end of the trip, I was more than impressed – I really liked the V4 Rally.

 

The Pyrenees

Round Two was another Chickenstrips tour – this time heading to the Pyrenees. By now I was feeling properly at home with the Multistrada. Happy with the keyless ignition, though having to get the key out for the filler cap was still annoying. The luggage is huge, robust and watertight, but doesn’t affect the handling (see also: 170bhp; what’s a few KG stuck on the side?). I was happy to trust the adaptive cruise on the way to port, scrolling through music and making phone calls through the phone paired to the dash.


A sunny day, a mountain road and a V4 Rally. Heaven

It was, I’ll be honest, very much a tour of two halves. We had dry days filled with majestic scenery and fantastic roads – smooth, wide, empty, scrolling through the foothills and up into the mountains. It’s slightly more open riding than the twisty stuff in the Picos and the Rally was in its element – even making light work of the hairpins as we hit the higher mountains.


Then there was the other half: stuck inside a cloud with 10ft visibility, thick gravel strewn across the road, rain… More demanding than the bad weather in the Picos but the Rally was just as reassuringly surefooted. The worst thing you can do in those conditions is get tense and you’d think a snarling 170bhp monster underneath you wouldn’t help you relax… but the accuracy of the Ducati's throttle, the composure of the chassis and the sheer flexibility of second and third gears (especially flipping seamlessly between them with the up/down quickshifter) made it all easy. Best terrible ride I've had in ages.


Good weather or bad (and it got much worse) the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally was a confidence-inspiring ride

Then the weather got better again and something clicked. I went from liking the V4 Rally to loving it. I can even pinpoint the moment: on a sunny day, charging over the Coll de Jou. It all came together – just the ease with which the huge Ducati sliced through the bends, leaning forever (“You’re going to get those panniers down,” shouted Bruce over the Cardo) and then leaping out on the next unsuspecting straight like a lion pouncing on a wildebeest. Everything just felt right – from the glorious exhaust noise to the immaculate feel for the grip and that glorious, glorious engine.


Happy riders on the Chickenstrips tour

Sometimes you can have one of those great rides, but next day get back on a bike and it doesn't recapture the spirit – it’s a bit meh… a bit ordinary again. Didn’t seem to be that way with the Multistrada V4 Rally. Now it seemed I’d really dialled into it, I was enjoying every mile more. Maybe carrying a few more revs – and though it’s an anecdotally thirsty engine, the dash still claimed it was averaging 46mpg (and with a 30L tank, who cares, eh?).


Even a detour down a dismal rough road and a little bit of gravel track to avoid a cycle race didn’t phase me – though I resisted the urge to stick it in the Enduro mode and start spinning it up (with me, that would probably end in tears). Now I'd clicked with the bike, every mile was more fun than the one before.

 

The verdict

So the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally really is dream-garage material. It tackles every road brilliantly, it’s agile, superbly comfortable, has a wonderful engine and is a really practical tourer. Riding it back-to-back with the V4S – which is lighter, has 20mm less suspension travel and a slightly shorter wheelbase – the Rally doesn’t feel quite so perky and sprightly… but I’m not so perky and sprightly myself anymore, so for me the big one is the better choice.


It's a brilliant bike but it's expensive Pic: Chippy Wood

There are only two problems* with the Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally. First, there’s the price: starting money is £23,590. In the tested spec, with the luggage, adaptive cruise, heated grips and seats, Akrapovic exhaust and carbon mudguard, it’s an eyewatering £27,140.


The second problem is it’s great for pillions and now my girlfriend wants one…

 

Find out more or locate a dealer for a test ride at www.ducati.com

 

*Okay, the third problem is the Sygic app needs to be better. Much better.

 

 

SPEC SHEET

Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally

Price: from £23,590. As tested: £27,140

Engine: 1158cc, 8v V4

Power (claimed): 170bhp @ 10,750rpm

Torque (claimed): 89lb.ft @ 8750rpm

Transmission: 6-speed, chain, slipper clutch, up/down quickshifter

Engine modes: four (Enduro, Urban, Touring, Sport) including wheelie control and lean-angle-sensitive traction control

Front brakes: 2x 330mm discs, Brembo radial monobloc 4-pot calipers, cornering ABS

Rear brake: 265mm disc, Brembo 2-pot floating caliper, cornering ABS

Front suspension: fully electronically adjustable semi-active 50mm upside-down forks, 200mm wheel travel

Rear suspension: fully electronically adjustable semi-active single shock, 200m wheel travel

Front wheel: 19in spoked rim, 120/70 R19 tyre (OE Pirelli Scorpion Trail II)

Rear wheel: 17in spoked rim, 170/60 R17 tyre (OE Pirelli Scorpion Trail II)

Rake & trail: 24.7° & 105.5mm

Wheelbase: 1572mm

Seat height: 870-890mm standard seat; choice of accessory high and low seats (plus factory suspension lowering kit) gives a range of 805-905mm

Weight: 227kg dry, 260kg wet

Fuel capacity: 30 litres

Fuel economy (tested): 42-47mpg, average 45mpg

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