Öhlins Releases a Semi-Active Suspension Upgrade for the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S – But, What’s Next?

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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