... which is Italian for "Adventure Road".
Ducati's Multistrada is a bike I hate to love. For all its quirks, "character", and polarizing styling, it just flat works for me. It's the first bike I truly love to ride anywhere for no reason at all, and few could argue that there's a more multi-talented (pun intended) road bike out there.
But there's more potential locked inside that ugly little Italian bike... much more.
I was raised on trail riding and enduros, so the rider-forward riding position of the Multi just feels "right". Shortly after I bought it in the spring of 2006, I roosted it down a dirt road or three near my house, and the bike seemed to take to it like a duck to... well, dirt. Hmmmm....
Ducati insists that the Multistrada is strictly a road bike, and a quick trip through the specs or a shred down a twisty road bears this out: 17" wheels, tubeless tires, road-oriented steering geometry, etc.
But take a few steps backward and look at a few of the other specs from an adventure perspective: (relatively) light weight, 5.5 gallon tank, extra-narrow bulletproof air-cooled L-twin, 6+" of suspension travel, well-protected and high air intakes, hi-mount undertail exhaust, quick-change real wheel, etc.
Definite potential there, but some serious tweaking is going to be needed:
1. There is no protection for the sump, oil filter, or starter motor
2. There is no crash protection for the wide fuel tank (which is plastic, fortunately), side-mounted battery, or the glove box
3. The forks have WAY too much compression damping, whereas the remote-preload-adjustable shock is surprisingly good.
4. The front fender is too tight to the front tire
5. The factory saddlebags won't even survive a garage tipover
6. There is no way to bungee anything to the back of the bike
7. The headlight, while good, doesn't throw a wide enough pattern (and is over $500 to replace!)
8. The upper fairing subframe, which holds the instruments/windshield, is prone to breaking in a crash, as it rotates with the bars
9. There is no aftermarket for the Multistrada, unless carbon fiber key guards is your thing.
So... project "Strada Avventurosa" was born.
The intent is not to create the next Dakar winner, just broaden the bike's already wide capabilities by adding dirt road and two-track to its repertoire'. I just happen to be an Industrial Engineer for a medium-sized custom fabrication company, so that helps... a bit ;')
Here's what I started with, a 2004 1000DS Multistrada:
First order of business is to fabricate a sump guard. One of the things we do at the shop is rapid prototyping on a Flow Waterjet & CNC press brake, but it still took quite a few samples to get the sump guard to fit right. Here's the finished part in .080" 304 stainless steel:
Next was to fab some crash bars that don't look like a$$, and are strong enough to take a good throw down. This is particularly difficult on the Multi, as you need to protect plastic panels that are either removable or hinged for access to the battery, fuse block, and glove compartment. Plus, there is precious little room, and no convenient mounting point(s) for the bars.
This part of the project took more time than anything else. What I wound up with are bars made from 1.063" OD structural steel tube, which is pinned at one end to a rubber-isolated mounting plate behind the steering head (specifically engineered to prevent frame damage), and pivots on a special alloy steel "axle" which replaced the forward engine mounting bolt:
But the system works, and a week after installation, was (unintentionally) crash tested in a 40mph lowside on asphalt:
Next item up is hand guards. My experience is that those with aluminum spines can bend the bars in a crash, at least when you're bouncing off trees in the woods. While I won't be doing the same thing on the Multi, the sheer weight of the bike sure is going to add to the impact force that the hand guards are going to take, so it's kinda the same thing. So a set of Acerbis Rally guards were bolted up to a Renthal medium-rise "Street" bar. No problems here, and they also survived the crash with no damage to themselves, or the bars:
To get my bling on, I ordered a set of PIAA 520 ATP lights... that was easy. The hard part was where to mount them? Any location I tried, either meant that the lights would be too low, partially obscured, or subject to crash damage. I've never really liked the "grille" on the front of the bike, so I popped it off, made a bracket and strut, and viola! The lights are aimed 10 degrees off center on purpose, and are astoundingly bright:
Next was unbolting and chucking the front fender; I substituted an Acerbis Supermoto fender, since it's in proportion with the 17" front wheel, and its chiseled lines match the bike quite well. I fabbed a bracket from 304 stainless, and bolted it to some existing holes in the lower triple:
Then, to protect the (now) exposed fork tubes, I made from fork guards from the same 304 stainless, and I'll probably get these powdercoated black:
I wanted a small, unobtrusive rear rack that I could bungee my raingear bag to, which incorporated my Cateye taillight & LED turnsignals. Off came the rear plastic, which is crash-damage-prone anyway, exposing the rear of the trademark Ducati framework. The Leo Vince Evolution cans look great fully exposed, and the rear of the bike now looks super-narrow... awesome, as I'm not into the whole big booty thing... not that there's anything wrong with that... :'O
I designed a small rack that is made from .125" & .250" 5052 aluminum, Tig welded it together, and had it powdercoated to match the upper nose fairing gray color. (Any similarity to 'Transformers' or 'Decepticon' is purely unintentional. Really.)
Luggage was pretty straightforward; the factory bags are beyond flimsy, and aluminum boxes are clunky and damage way too easily. I decided to use Pelican cases, but of course, I'd have to make my own bracketry.
With a catch:
I *hate* the way bag brackets look without bags, especially on Italian art, so I designed brackets that permanently attach to the Pelican cases, and quick-disconnect from the bike. The only thing left on the bike are 4 stainless pins; everything else folds and locks to the bags. And since they're made from 250" alumninum, they add very little weight. And once the bags are mounted/locked onto the bike, they will take a beating. The system works so trick, that I have applied for a patent for it:
In addition, the underseat exhaust and single-sided-swingarm of the bike mean that even generous-sized cases (Pelican 1500, in my "case") don't make the bike wider than a city bus:
To fix the overly slow compression circuits in the forks, I drained the oil and refilled with 5w. While it made a little difference, I need to modify the shims to really get it right. At least it's just about right for rough (paved) roads now!
- Ducati Hypermotard pegs are a hybrid design; a dirt-grip-style base which has a removable rubber insert.
- Dunlop D616 tires are about as aggressive as you can get on 3.5x17/5.5x17 rim sizes. I've had really good luck with them, but as always, YMMV
- Magellan 400 Explorist GPS: Compact, waterproof, and can be operated without obscuring the screen
- Third eye barend mirrors. The stockers are miserable. These are $12 each and actually allow you to see things behind you... What a concept?
- Breakaway shift & brake levers. I haven't gotten them done yet, but the stock cast aluminum brake lever survived the crash surprisingly well!
- Shark fin & passenger peg guards in a "trellis" motif in 6061 aluminum
- Thick 3M adhesive headlight protector
- Marsee Rocket Pocket tankbag
- Hoosier Hooligans crank end cover: my only sparkley bit ;'P
Disclaimer: I'm sure there are folks who think I'm an idiot for doing this to a Ducati, that's not what they're for, there are "better" bikes for adventure riding, blah, blah, blah. Whatever... I don't care... talk to the hand.
As it stands, the bike works great for me, and what I intend to use it for. It's unique, and that counts for something with me.
I like it.