Call it form following fantasy.
“Adventure touring” is a big deal in the motorcycle business. I put the words in quotes, though, because I still cannot believe that is the name they gave this segment of tall, heavy and powerful dirt bikes with knobby tires, aluminum saddlebags and enlarged fuel tanks for long-distance travel.
These machines also have about as much chance of going off-road as the Ford Explorers, Jeep Grand Cherokees and Chevy Suburbans drivers began snapping up in the 1990s. Most riders know small, modest trail bikes are generally better than big, bulky ones at tackling serious off-road terrain.
Still, one has to dress up whether or not there is someplace to go, and that includes Ducati.
The Italian motorcycle maker unveiled a new, off-road-worthy version of its Multistrada 1200 sport-touring model called the Enduro. The bike has more suspension movement, a 30-liter (7.9-gallon) gas tank – up from 20 liters on the standard model, and a seat with a narrower front end to make it easier for riders to stand up on the foot pegs.
The Multistrada Enduro is available with more aggressive off-road tires and has traction control, anti-lock brakes and engine electronics that work together to help keep the bike upright and the rider in control on challenging trails.
Ducati’s move brings the Multistrada in line with the rising wave of adventure bikes trying to carve out a share of a market long dominated by the BMW R1200GS. Honda is reviving its Africa Twin model, Yamaha brought out the similar Super Tenere last year and other makers like Suzuki and Triumph have beefed up the off-road capability of their multipurpose touring models.
It will not be easy for Ducati and other competitors to catch BMW because the German company has been building big dirt bikes for 35 years and knows the market well. But the wider range of manufacturers and models is a boon to consumers, who have a better chance of finding the touring bike they want at a price they can handle.
Adventure bikes are pricey across the board, but if the Dakar Rally is not in your plans, why spend $19,000 and up for a BMW R1200GS Adventure when a Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure is about $5,000 less? You could also buy three Kawasaki KLR 650s for the price of one GS. But while the KLR has a large, loyal following, it is hardly a high-end bike.
Ducati said it expects to have the Multistrada Enduro in dealerships by March, with a starting price of about $22,400.