An interesting development on the aftermarket side of things has graced our desks, as Öhlins has released a “suspension control unit” (SCU) that upgrades the electronically adjustable suspension on the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S so that it becomes a semi-active suspension system. Whhhaaaat??!

So, if you’re the proud owner of a pre-2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S, and you think that your electronically controlled Öhlins suspension is no longer boss, now that Ducati has released its Sachs-powered “Skyhook” semi-active suspension pieces on its new batch of Multistrada sport-tourers, there is a remedy for your motolust.

The upgrade itself is fairly straight-forward, as the Öhlins SCU is a direct plug-and-play replacement for the stock ECU on the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S. Naturally, the new SCU uses Öhlins-made damping algorithms to adapt the rebound and compression settings for the road and riding conditions; and for bonus points, the Öhlins SCU upgrade works with Ducati’s four-way riding mode feature on the Multistrada. Booyah.

Beyond being another advance by Öhlins in brining semi-active suspension to the aftermarket masses, the move from the Swedish brand is pretty interesting. Öhlins is not competing head-to-head with Ducati, which no longer makes a standard-suspension MTS1200 S, and thus is providing a useful upgrade to current Multistrada 1200 S owners who feel a bit left out by Ducati’s mid-model upgrade.

However, one has to wonder about Ducati’s other motorcycle models with the electronically controlled suspension pieces: the Ducati 1199 Panigale SDucati 1199 Panigale R. The process for Öhlins, in adapting the Multistrada SCU to work on the Panigale, is a fairly “simple” goal to achieve — in that the R&D department has already done the hard part of decoding Ducati’s ECU (interesting DRM issues abound here though).

But the Panigale line has its own challenges. With the BMW HP4 raising the bar on what to expect from the superbike category, our thoughts after riding the Panigale R is that Ducati should have brought a semi-active suspension package to its flagship machine, which would have helped justify the Panigale R’s $30,000 price tag, and further distinguished the R-spec machine from its S-spec predecessors. But here, Ducati has a problem.

Customer feedback on the Sachs-powered Ducati Skyhook Suspension is that the brand is not perceived to be as prestigious as the Swedish one it replaces — never mind how the units actually work on the road. While Ducatisti might be more forgiving on a sport-touring bike’s suspension, you can bet that anything but Öhlins on a Ducati 1199 Panigale S or Ducati 1199 Panigale R would be considered superbike heresy.

While Öhlins has demonstrated that it has the means to create such a product, we doubt however that the Swedes will supersede Ducati in releasing such an option to the public ahead of Ducati’s own solution — after all, Ducati is one of Öhlins’s most-loyal customers.

Our prediction? Semi-active suspension for the Panigale to debut at the 2013 EICMA show, with Öhlins releasing an aftermarket solution for pre-2014 Panigale S & R owners. You heard it here first.

Source: Öhlins

  • Interesting development. BTW Jensen I’m pretty sure Sachs is a German not a Japanese suspension company

  • Mark, I had Showa on the brain.

  • JCB

    So are you saying I should cancel my Panigale R order I placed yesterday and stick with my 1198SP?


  • Jason

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think that a suspension control unit upgrade to the Ohlins available on previous Multistrada’s and current 1199’s will make those forks and shocks work like the semi-active Sachs units.

    I believe the Sachs units have an electrically actuated valve inside than can respond very quickly and can adjust damping very quickly as well.

    The Ohlins units just adjust spring preload, no?

    My point is that I don’t think that a new SCU will make your Panigale’s suspension work like an HP4’s.

  • Jason, that’s not correct.

    The MTS1200 S had electronically adjustable pre-load, compression, and rebound. The Panigale S &R have electronically adjustable compression and rebound damping.

    The only thing ever holding back the DES systems from being semi-active suspension pieces was the software.

  • paulus – Thailand

    Easy purchase decision.
    Ohlins; 30+ years of race developed and win proven credibility… at the highest level of motorcycle sports.

  • smiler

    Norton also using a semi active suspension unit for the TT…….This is an Ohlins item though.

  • thatguy

    Not sure how this accomplished with just an ecu upgrade on the Ohlins. Without the front and rear accelerometers that the 2013 model has how does the Ohlins ECU “see” wheel travel and hence know when to dampen? Unless there are sensors already in the forks that we don’t know about I’m not sure this will work the same as the Sachs unit.

  • thisguy

    thatguy is way off, you have no idea what you are talking about, you problem don’t even own a ducati or any Ohlins equipped motorcycle. that are sensors everywhere, that’s how the government keeps track of you. also very tiny cameras…

  • thisguy

    Accelerometer is in the new ECU…

  • jbrown

    Ducati still makes a standard model Multistrada 1200 with standard (manually adjusted) suspension. The standard model 2013 MTS1200 retails for $16,995 and comes with fully adjustable Marzocchi forks up front and an adjsutable sachs shock at the rear.

  • thatguy

    Even IF the accelerometer is in the ECU that would only allow it to sense acceleration and heavy braking, and not very well at that. No way for it to adjust in real time to road conditions that way like the Sachs. So in the end it will not work as Sachs system does or as well. I want it to, as I do own a 2012 MTS S and I will take any upgrades I can get, but this looks to be the reality. Unless there is something I am missing Jenson?

  • alessandro borroni

    all that matters is that gold color… we all know that 99% of us couldn’t pass a blinded test to identify what brand suspension we have. But, you know very well that gold forks give you hard-on.. so in the end.. Ohlins has achieved incredible brand equity and recognition, to the point that even when the OEM picks a potentially better option in a segment… that without the brand recognition customers will complain.

    I think Jensen’s prediction is insightful… and just may prove to be true. good article Jensen.

    PS. i heard you were chosen for bingo at Dainese SF… please read the numbers even faster than Clelland did and drive the Dainese girls crazy LOL.

  • MikeD

    Interesting. . . i still hold hope ONE DAY to own AN AFFORDABLE motorcycle with fully automatic (active ?) adjustable suspension before i become an old fart that can’t hold on to the handle bar for dear life or die before my time.

    Key Word……………..AFFORDABLE………………i can’t yet justify anything on 2 wheels more than $5K.
    Sucks to be poor, tell me about it.

  • Luke

    This will not make the Ohlins suspension work liek the Sachs skyhook. The Ohlins suspension uses stepper motors and the sachs suspesnion uses electronically controlled valves via a soleniod system. The Sachs system uses accelerometers and potentiometers throughout the bike to make damping adjustments.

    The DES system allows the rider to select 4 different settings while stationary depending on their requirements.

    My guess is that the new SCU will allow for adjustements while on the move. However, the adjustments will be slower due to the stepper motors. Ohlins have developed a minor upgrage. That’s all.

  • Luke

    This can be classed as ‘semi- active’ as the Ohlins SCU will select the best predetermined setting based on the riding conditions the bike is subjected.

    Note: The Sachs Skyhook suspension will react in 10 milliseconds to every bump in the road. The Ohlins system with the new SCU will take 1-3 seconds to make adjustements.

  • yung

    I think Luke is right here. Even though I’d love to add the SCU to my Multi S…the Ohlins hardware isn’t able to adjust as quickly as the Sachs hardware.

    Still waiting on a good review of this unit on the bike before I take the plunge

  • MikeD


    If i were in your shoes i would rather sell your current steed, perhaps one of your kidneys & buy the new-er Sachs equipped Multi, IF what Luke said pans out to be THE TRUTH.

    Don’t settle for less, i know it would be bothering me always if it were me…that nagging feeling of “what if and why didn’t i” always on the back of my head.

  • luke

    Hi Guys, To be honest my post does not explain in detail the system, just an overview.
    There is a bit of clever marketing from Öhlins going on here. They are right to categories this system as ‘semi active’ however it is not comparative to the Sachs system. Öhlins categorise the Sachs system as fully active.
    In part this is true, the damping is fully active, however a truly fully active system will have electronic automatic spring preload adjustment which the Sachs system does not.

    Anyway, the Öhlins system will improve your MS and allow for adjustments in damping characteristics while on the move. It’s up to you as to how much value this will add to your riding experience.