One of the most anticipated motorcycles of the 2021 model year is finally here for us to test, and in case the title to this review didn’t give it away, I am talking about the Ducati Multistrada V4 adventure bike.

Ducati has teased us long enough on this new ADV machine, including giving us an early look at its new Granturismo V4 motor, which is most notable for its lack of desmodromic valves. *Gasp* goes the Ducatisti collective.

With 168hp (125 kW) on tap, and 92 lbs•ft of peak torque coming from the compact V4 engine, it is hard to imagine why anyone would complain about what is beneath the fairings on this new Multistrada model, but then again…Ducati did leave a few sacred cows on the slaughterhouse floor when designing this motorcycle.

A pillar to Ducati’s two-wheeled lineup, the Multistrada V4 is a critical bike for Ducati to get right, as it accounts for roughly 20% of the company’s unit sales.

And for all of its changes and upgrades, the Multistrada V4 continues Ducati’s core principle for the Multistrada lineup – of having a model that is four motorcycles in one.

To see if Ducati got this recipe correct, the Italian brand invited us down to Borrego Springs, California, to ride the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Our ride involved equal parts of curvy mountain roads and sandy desert tracks, giving us a good glimpse of what the Multistrada V4 S was capable of on the street and in the dirt.

The verdict? It’s a big one. If there was only one motorcycle we could buy with our hard-earned blogging dollars, this would be it. The Ducati Multistrada V4 S is the new standard in the premium ADV space. Let me explain.

Ducati’s Multistrada Concept, A Primer

Before we get too far ahead in this story, let’s start with where it all began. Like many of Pierre Terblanche’s works, the original Ducati Multistrada was ahead of its time.

It was 2003 when the Ducati Multistrada debuted, just ahead of the rise of the ADV movement. I would consider the first-generation Multistrada thus not to be an ADV model, but instead a tall sport-tourer…before that was a cool thing to be.

It wasn’t until 2010 though that Ducati would revisit the Multistrada name, and debut its “four bikes in one” concept.

If you go back and look at history, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 was met with resistance, with Ducatisti clamoring that “this wasn’t a real Ducati!” at its debut.

And then, as is predicted by the five stages of grief, we hit a point of acceptance and an icon was born – the Multistrada 1200 would go on to be a key-seller for the Italian brand, with over 100,000 Multistrada motorcycles sold since its inception.

The Multistrada  would be revamped for the 2015 model year, with the addition of the variable valve timing (VVT) variant of the Testastretta engine finding its way from the XDiavel into the now Ducati Multistrada 1260.

Here we are now again, six years later, celebrating another sea change for this marquee motorcycle, as the Multistrada V4 is the third-installment in Ducati’s use of a four-cylinder engine platform, and this time around, the bike is sans desmodromic valves.

It is a peculiarity how intwined this method for valve actuation has become with the Ducati brand, maybe only followed in cult status by the rattling of a dry clutch, and the look of an undertail exhaust paired with a single-sided swingarm.

But has Ducati lost its soul though? As an owner of multiple red Italian machines, even I am not quite sure what this question means when it comes from Ducatisti.

Maybe it’s like asking about good pornography – impossible to describe, but you know when you see it. If that is the metric, then the measure of a Ducati’s soul doesn’t come from the feature list.

Instead, it comes from that feeling you get when you ride it; or as my bellwether has always been, the feeling of longing I get once I have parked the bike in my garage after a long ride.

If a motorcycle doesn’t beckon to you from your garage, is it really worth riding?

As such, the test for every new Ducati should be the following: 1) When you look at the motorcycle, does it evoke an emotional response, like one would get from viewing a fine piece of art? 2) Does twisting the throttle create a sensation that is part joy, and part the realization that evolution has not prepared you for this kind of velocity. 3) The level of luxury, features, and finishes should justify the price tag that comes attached.

With the rules agreed upon, let us get down to business.

The Ducati Multistrada V4 S, By the Numbers

To make the Granturismo V4 engine, Ducati took the four-cylinder motor it had originally developed for the Panigale V4 superbike (counter-rotating crankshaft and all), and extensively modified it for high-mileage, street-focused use (37,000+ miles before the first valve check, mind you).

The bore has been increased by 2mm, for a displacement of 1,158cc (stroke and compression have remained the same), and despite that size increase, the engine weighs only 147 lbs, which is 2.6 lbs less than the Testastretta DVT 1260 v-twin lump.

Despite its extra cylinders, the Multistrada V4 is more compact in most dimensions when compared to the outgoing v-twin motor – 85mm shorter and 95mm shallower, though 20mm wider.

Ducati says this allows the motor to sit higher in the Multistrada V4’s chassis, which helps with extra ground clearance.

The chassis continues Ducati’s philosophy of building off the engine itself, with an aluminum monocoque frame attached to the front head, which incorporates the headstock and airbox all in one piece.

Meanwhile, a steel trellis rear subframe holds the riders’ seats and panniers at the rear, and a cast aluminum double-sided swingarm secures the rear wheel.

To help get down the road, there is a 5.8 gallon fuel tank onboard the Ducati Multistrada V4, which is about half a gallon more than the outgoing 1260 model, but considerably shy of the nearly 8 gallons found on the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro.

Though a tall bike, there is some adjustability on the seat height for the Ducati Multistrada V4. The stock seat has two options, 33.1″ or 33.9″ – while riders can also buy Ducati performance seats that increase the seat height to 34.4″ or lower it to 31.8″, depending on your needs and preferences.

Of some controversy, all of the trim levels of the Multistrada V4 come with a 19″ front wheel, which previously had only been a size suited for Ducati’s Enduro model in the family.

Gone is the street-focused 17″ front wheel that has been the norm for the Multistrada since its inception (though, a 4.5×17 rim remains in the rear of the motorcycle).

What kind of wheels you get though depends on which of the three trims levels you purchase.

The base model Multistrada V4, the kitted-out Multistrada V4 S which we rode for this review, and a sport-focused Multistrada V4 S Sport all come with a cast aluminum wheelset as standard, though the Multistrada V4 S can also come with wire-spoked wheels (again, which is what we use in our review here).

Finding a base model Multistrada V4 will be hard to do in the United States though, as the $19,995 MSRP model will be primarily built to order, as very few dealerships have planned to carry the bike in stock.

This means that the model you are most likely to see at your local Ducati dealership is the Multistrada V4 S ($24,095 MSRP).

The bike features upgraded brakes with Brembo Stylema calipers mated to 330mm discs up front (the base model has Brembo M4.32 calipers with 320mm discs), as well as Marzocchi’s Skyhook semi-active electronic suspension.

The electronic packages remain mostly the same, with the key differences being a lack of hill-hold assist, cornering lights, up/down quickshifter, and LED headlights. The Multistrada V4 S also sports a color-rich 6.5″ TFT dash, while the base model continues with Ducati’s 5″ dash design.

Standard electronics between all the models includes IMU-assisted traction control, wheelie control, cornering ABS, changeable riding modes, daytime running lights, and cruise control.

The last item is one of note, however, as the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is the first motorcycle to offer the new Bosch adaptive cruise control (ACC) feature, as well as blind sport monitoring, thanks to radar emitters mounted at the front and back of the motorcycle.

In the United States, this will come on all the “S” bikes, though because of delays with the FCC, bikes shipped in 2021 will not have the software (but will have the hardware) to run this new technology.

Ducati hopes that by mid-summer, the regulatory bodies will allow the use of the radar system on US roads, and activating this will cost $850 plus half an hour of a dealer’s time (figure, close to $950 at current shop prices).

Lucky for us in our review, we were on bikes equipped with the adaptive cruise control technology and blind-sport monitoring software and hardware, and so we were able to see both of these systems in action during our review.

Answering the Question: Is the Multistrada V4 Still a Sport Bike?

My first expectation from any Ducati motorcycle is that it performs. Racing is in the core of this brand’s DNA, and while not every motorcycle that comes out of Borgo Panigale must be a race bike, evidence of that lineage is expected.

To that vein, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S does not disappoint. A crack of the throttle wakes up the ample torque on demand, with the bulk of the bike’s 92 lbs•ft peak figure available in a large band of the rpm’s.

This is where the spec sheet misleads a little bit about the Multistrada V4 lineup, as it isn’t so much about how much Ducati has or has not blessed upon this ADV bike, but how much of it is available throughout the rev range of where normal riders ride.

Smooth and linear, the power feels constant as the tachometer climbs, while the throttle crispness is adequate for street-oriented apex hunting.

I could see some sport bike riders looking for more from the Multistrada V4 throttle, especially in a track setting, which seems more appropriate if the bike still had its 17″ front wheel.

Despite this fact, the throttle feel is one of the places that wins the Multistrada V4 S a bunch of points in my critique, especially when compared to the Ducati Streetfighter V4.

Where the Streetfighter V4 just revs and revs to the moon, the Multistrada V4’s power feels more practical and realistic for the riding that I am actually going to do – which should say something, considering the praise I had for the Streetfighter V4 when I reviewed it last year.

With this, Ducati has found a good stratification between the Streetfighter V4 and Multistrada V4 models, with the prior being infinitely more sporty and a bike that is just as comfortable on the street as it is the track (almost more comfortable on the track, if I am honest).

Meanwhile, we can see from the spec sheet that Ducati has tried to push the Multistrada as more of an all-rounder. I am, of course, talking about the controversial use of a 19″ front wheel for this new generation of machine.

I will readily admit that ahead of this review, I was one of those who bemoaned Ducati’s choice to equip a 19″ front wheel to the Multistrada V4 – as my street-focus greatly preferred the feedback afforded by a 17″ wheel (not to mention the rubber options available in this tire size).

At the end of this review, I am not sure that my preference has changed (skip to the second-to-last section for more on this), but my fears have certainly been alleviated some.

Does the 19″ front wheel feel more vague than a 17″ wheel would? Yes, of course it does. Ducati has not redefined physics with the Multistrada V4 S. That being said though, is it enough for it to be a deal-breaker for sport riders? I don’t think so.

Pushing the Ducati Multistrada V4 S through the switchback turns that rise out of the valley that surrounds Borrego Springs, the 19″ front wheel on Multistrada V4 S felt hooked up and planted enough for me to get on the brakes and push the limits of the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II’s grip (I am a big fan of this tire, by the way).

The most disappointing thing that can happen on a motorcycle is when the machine limits the amount of fun you are humanly capable of creating on it, and this is where I think the fear and controversy surrounding the 19″ front wheel comes into play for fans of the Multistrada line.

Ducati has done the math though, hoping that a minimal loss on the street will translate into bigger gains off-road, and for their part, I think they got the equation right. 

Whether it is through the Skyhook suspension algorithm, or the chassis stiffness and setup, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S feels planted and responsive when pushing hard through the corners. 

I would suspect that the deciding factor is the 24.5° rake angle, which is more sport bike territory than ADV bike. That measurement is the same as what’s on the Streetfighter V4, for example, while a bike like the current KTM 1290 Super Adventure S comes in at 26° of rake.

Moving on, the gearbox on the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is another gem worth mentioning. Shifts are smooth and effortless, with nary a false-neutral to be had. I was equally impressed with Ducati’s up/down quickshifter, which is just as much fun banging through gears on the street as it is handy off-road.

Ducati has truly refined these two attributes in its lineup, and lesser brands should take note. This the way.

We didn’t get too many chances to test the traction control on the street, but we know that the IMU-assisted feature is well-honed now by Ducati, and its interventions are typically only noticed by the flashing yellow triangle on the dash, and not in the seat of the pants or at the throttle grip.

With a robust set of electronics, one can tailor the Multistrada V4 S to one’s liking, and easily toggle through those setup modes with the flick of a button on the left-hand control.

Overall, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is still very much a sport bike, and that pleases me.

A Trial of Miles – Highway Touring

Sometimes, to get the fun bits of road, you have to spend some time on the not-so-fun bits of road – or you are just one of those sadists that likes slamming miles of slab beneath their tires.

Whatever the case may be, touring is definitely a large portion of the Multistrada V4’s raison d’être.

In fact, the Ducat Multistrada V4 S is the most touring focused motorcycle in the Italian brand’s arsenal, and with that comes some big expectations.

Starting with the obvious, Ducati has spent a lot of time sculpting the fairings of the Multistrada V4 to suit riders who are traveling down the highway. 

The total fairing shape is designed first with heat management in mind (which I get into more in the “Bike About Town” section), but overall the effect is one that shields the rider from noticeable wind blast.

The windscreen is a very slick, one-finger design. However, my 6’2″ frame didn’t notice too much difference between the full-up and all-the-way-down levels of the clear plexiglass. That being said though, I felt minimal wind blast – even at healthy triple-digit jaunts (for science). 

The Ducati Multistrada V4 S does a nice job of keeping the rider out of the fray, including when an 100 mph rock is coming at your head. Thanks, Kevin.

That wind comfort is mirrored in the bike’s vibration comfort. While there are some high-frequency vibrations on the bike, Ducati has managed to keep them away from the pegs and handlebars.

Instead, you get a little buzz on your legs and ass, which is less of an issue, and might creep into the “character” realm for some riders. Is it Gold Wing smooth? No. But, the Multistrada V4 S is far more well-mannered than say…the BMW S1000XR.

To keep things warm on cold rides, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S comes standard with heated grips, and heated saddles for both rider and passenger.

It is a little confusing that the heated grips require two buttons to activate (one to select the menu option, another to select the heat level); that the rider’s seat requires a different menu option to be toggled and activated; and that the passneger seat has a dedicated two-stage button between their legs.

None of these items are difficult to use, it is just strange that Ducati’s engineers have found so many different ways to do the same task three times.

Moving to the rest of the ergonomics, I found riding the Multistrada V4 S to be very comfortable. The bar reach is not too far, the seat is rather plush, and I had no pains after our 6 hours of riding.

Some of that might be due to the Skyhook suspension, which while not coming from the company known for its gold fork tubes, the Marzocchi product works very well in a variety of riding climates.

I am especially a fan of its auto-leveling feature, and the fact that you can granularly control the damping and preload settings if you so choose to do so.

What I’m less of a fan of is the throttle response on the touring map, which is blunted, vague, and delayed.

Before becoming accustomed to the controls, I spent the first few turns on the Multistrada V4 S in the touring riding mode, and was surprised how the bike felt like a turbo – needing huge throttle inputs to do anything meaningful.

I can imagine that riding on the freeway for long durations, this kind of mapping might be better suited, but I also feel like the typical Ducati rider is looking for more sport than cruiser here.

For my purposes, I quickly set this map to have a snappier throttle response and twist ratio, and was much happier for it.

It is interesting that for as long as this technology has been available (thank you ride-by-wire) that manufacturers haven’t given riders more degrees of freedom and choice in this regard.

I am sure there are some touring riders who will love the default throttle map, while others will want something still sportier. The gradient between those two camps should be filled. Maybe it’s a matter of overchoice.

Of course, the piece of technology we really want to talk about is the new front and rear radar systems. I will tackle the blindspot alert (the rear-facing radar) first, since it is pretty simple.

In short, it works just as you may have already seen on an automobile. That is to say, when the rear-facing radar detects that a vehicle has moved into the rider’s blindspot, an LED light on the mirror illuminates to warn the rider.

In application, the blindspot alert works quite well on the Ducati Multistrada V4 S. It easily detects both cars and motorcycles, and is a fairly practical addition, and a nice touch for a bike at this price point.

The adaptive cruise control is a much more complex topic, and it centers around the front-mounted radar system.

For those who don’t purchase the ACC software package later this summer, Ducati has provided the perfect GoPro mounting point (see the photo above). However, if you want to use the headline feature of the new Multistrada V4 S, you will want to keep this flat surface free of cameras and other debris.

This is because Bosch’s front-facing radar is constantly scanning the road in front of the bike when the adaptive cruise control is engaged.

The ACC is easy enough to use, as the whole cruise control system has its own set of dedicated buttons on the left handlebar. The rider sets the speed they desire, and then can adjust the distance they want the bike to follow slower traffic.

You can even shift gears while in the ACC mode, and if traffic slows down too much, the bike will apply the brakes (not just cutting your throttle) to maintain your distance to the vehicle in front of you. This is weird the first time you experience it.

Even at its shortest distance, it seems the Multistrada V4 S still keeps a healthy distance, a little further than the two-second gap most riding schools will teach you, which seems a little conservative, but very lawyer-friendly.

The system works as advertised, and it is honestly very well-executed. There is an engineer somewhere that should get a raise for how the adaptive cruise control is implemented on the Ducati Multistrada V4 S – it works that well. 

I am just not sure who needs this technology. Over long highway distances, I can see the benefit provided, but the technology still feels like a solution looking for a problem to fix.

Whereas in a car, using the cruise control means that the driver can relax their foot and stretch their leg; on a motorcycle, a rider must continue to keep their hands and arms engaged in order to continue steering the motorcycle.

Also, a motorcycle is far more maneuverable and easier to accelerate, which makes it easier to clear slower traffic when on the highway. 

For me, I am not sold on this idea, but I am curious to see how the market reacts. Adaptive cruise control is the big new system that Bosch is pushing, and Ducati won’t be the only brand with this technology in the coming months and years (market depending).

Whereas the German company’s cornering ABS and IMU-systems have changed the game for the better, I am having a harder time seeing the value on this one. But, time will tell.

Where the Sidewalk Ends – A Dirty Review

For all the talk about the 19″ front wheel on the Ducati Multistrada V4 S, the big question is whether the departure from the 17″ front has been worth it for the Italian brand. To get to the point: yes.

It is not just the 19″ wheel though that makes the Multistrada V4 S a better all-rounder than its predecessor though. Borgo Panigale’s progress with the chassis, suspension, and electronics have made the V4 a better contender in the dirt.

For our off-road review, we took the Ducati Multistrada V4 S through no shortage of sandy and loose desert trails. A fair test for any plus-sized ADV bike, the Multistrada V4 S wasn’t completely at home in the deeper sand sections, but that is perhaps asking too much from a bike in this segment.

On the more packed surfaces though, the bike performed rather well. The weight still feels high in the bike, especially when compared to a machine like the BMW R1250GS, and the V4 engine doesn’t have the same traction in the dirt as its twin-cylinder counterparts.

But, the Granturismo V4 is easy enough to manage at the lower speeds that off-road riding demands, thanks to a rather short first and second gear ratio. Some more flywheels mass would perhaps improve low-speed hill assaults, but that’s a criticism that gets into the weeds of things.

Overall, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is very well suited for the typical off-road adventures it is destined to see, especially with the optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires fitted (I would like to see how this bike performs with a true 50/50 tire, like the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR).

Again, the Marzocchi Skyhook suspension shows its strength, with its off-road settings doing well to provide feedback through the handlebars and to keep the forks and shock from bottoming out during big hits.

Even getting aggressive against step-ups and drops, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S felt well-sprung. It is a different story with Ducati’s “enduro” traction control, however.

When off-road, Ducati gives riders two levels of traction control designed for the dirt – plus the ability to turn off the DTC altogether.

I am not sure what situation Ducati envisions a rider using the “Enduro 2” setting, as it feels like a street setting that is hellbent on never letting the wheel spin. The “Enduro 1” setting is better, and for new riders this might be a good choice, but it still carries with it a heavy hand.

Just about every bike stall in our group can be attributed to these settings cutting power to the rear wheel during an ascent, jolting the bike to a stop.

This leaves the rider really the only choice of taking all of the TC off, in order to use the rear wheel as the motorcycling gods intended. It is nice that this option exists for the Multistrada V4 S, otherwise the bike would be DOA for true ADV riders.

The thing I find most interesting about this, is the situation shows Ducati’s on-road focus as a brand.

I can’t remember off the top of my head how many levels of DTC exist for the on-road settings – it is a number between 8 and 12 – but it is interesting that off-road Ducati only offers two. Two.

Surely there is more of a gradient between Enduro 2 and complete traction control disablement than what Enduro 1 has to offer Ducati Multistrada V4 S riders?

I see this deficiency as an institutional gap that Ducati has to its Germanic rivals, who have seemed to crack the code when it comes to letting off-road riders roost with a safety net.

With all of the sensors on the suspension, throttle, and even the six-axis IMU. It is hard to believe this electronics package is the pinnacle of what can be created for hardcore ADV riders, and it is the only true weak point in the Multistrada V4’s off-road game.

Still, I give the Ducati Multistrada V4 S high marks on the trail. The Italian isn’t perhaps the best in this category, but it holds its own as a competent and capable machine. The days of the Multistrada being a fish out of water when in the dirt are now gone.

On the Streets, A Bike About Town

For as much focus that has been put on the other three riding terrains for the Multistrada V4, the one that is most likely to see the most seat time is around town in city environments. It’s not a sexy proposition, but it is a practical one.

To that end, the Ducati engineers and designers have spent a great deal of effort making the Multistrada V4 a pleasant grocery-getter.

My favorite go-to critique is always the switchgear and rider interface, which Ducati has evolved immensely over the years. With its backlit switches, and 6.5″ TFT dash, the Multistrada V4 S effuses a feeling of refinement and quality.

The dash is laid out in a fairly obvious and easy-to-approach manner, which makes handling the plethora of information that Ducati throws at you a reasonable task.

Most menus and settings can be gotten to with a few clicks, though the layers upon layers of setting heirarchy can be tough at times.

To remedy this issue on the road, there are dedicated buttons for the suspension and riding mode settings, which makes toggling an easier affair. 

My jury is still out on Ducati’s connectivity app and navigation suite, as it disconnected several times during our test ride (seemingly looking for a wireless hotspot), but when it worked, it worked quite well.

Overall, I would say Ducati’s solution ranks higher than most in the space, but honestly it seems riders just want to use their own navigation apps (Google Maps, Waze, etc) via a service like CarPlay or Android Auto rather than these proprietary setups. Despite its best efforts, the motorcycle industry has a long way to go in this regard.

For riders that worry about the heat management of the Multistrada V4 S (there were several of you in the comments section of my Gone Riding review primer), I have good news.

Ducati has really focused on mitigating the heat that the Granturismo V4 engine produces. The most obvious sign of this is the large gils on the side of the bike, which serve as channels for the air blownn off the radiator.

Above them, there is also an air channel, which is designed to direct cool air from the front of the motorcycle, and bring it past the rider, as a sort of cold-air shield from the radiator’s hot air exhaust.

Lastly, Ducati employs the same engine cylinder disablement that is on the Panigale V4 and Streetfighter V4, where a bank of cylinders turns off when the bike has been idling excessively, or the clutch lever has been pulled in for a long duration.

While I didn’t get to test the latter, the prior methods seem to do their job quite well. Even in an all-black airbag-equipped Dainese jacket and pants, riding on the Ducati Multistrada V4 S was rather comfortable, despite the California sunshine.

I was equally impressed with the bike’s low-speed characteristics, as the V4 motor is much smoother and easier to handle than its v-twin predecessor at speeds below 10 miles an hour.

One still has to contend with the 536 lbs of wet weight that comes with the Ducati Multistrada V4 S, and shorter riders can be caught out on uneven pavement when looking for a foothold (as one journalist discovered), but these are problems endemic to the segment, and not the Ducati in particular.

The One Big Thing I Don’t Like About the Multistrada V4 S

If you have made it this far, you can tell that my review of the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is rather glowing. In fact, there’s really only one big problem that I have with this motorcycle, and it has nothing to do with the bike itself. Instead, where does Ducati go from here?

By pushing the Multistrada even further down the “one bike to rule them all” pathway, Ducati leaves in the weeds buyers who are looking for a more focused experience.

What I mean by that is that it is hard to see a V4 Enduro model standing along side the Multistrada V4. What differentiates them? A bigger fuel tank? The 5.8 gallon reservoir on the Multistrada V4 is already rather large. I have been assured that a 21″ Multistrada V4 is not in the cards.

Similarly, is there room for a 17″ variant? I’m not convinced that Ducati will debut a Pikes Peak model of the Multistrada V4 S, despite what the internet might say; but if they did, I would hope that the machine is an even sportier take than the Multistrada V4 S Sport (a bike that really only sports a different paint scheme, homologated Akrapovic slip-on exhaust, and a carbon fiber front fender).

The basic abandonment of the base mode Multistrada V4 is telling of the market’s tastes in this segment as well, but Ducati still needs a competent middleweight ADV bike below $20,000.

Ducati cannot afford to put the Multistrada 950 against the current crop of bikes that are coming from Aprilia, KTM, and Yamaha. They are capable, they are cheap, and with exception of the Ténéré 700, they are feature-packed.

This Adventure-Touring / Adventure-Sport category seems best served by multiple models that are more focused to a variety of tastes than what one single bike can offer. And, I don’t see room in the margins for those options having now seen the Ducati Multistrada V4 S in person.

Ducati has a hit here with the Multistrada V4 S, but my worry is what the second (or third) motorcycle in this going to look like…if there is even room for one.

Yeah, But Would You Buy It?

Slowly over time, Ducati has warmed me up to the Multistrada V4. When we first saw the spy photos, I was put-off by the fact that Ducati’s design team had once again taken the “safe” route of just massaging the current Multistrada aesthetic, despite making a cosmic leap in the bike’s specs and capabilities (see: Panigale V4).

The 19″ wheel was a off-putting as well, especially to this sport biker’s heart and soul – though, my issues with this have waned since actually riding the bike. Seeing it in person helps too, as the bike’s real-life lines and colorings help complete the visual package.

Ticking the boxes of technology, fit and finish, performance, and capabilities, my only real gripe with the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S we tested is its price tag. $24,095 is a good chunk of change (this will be a cool $25k by the time you activate the radar features), and that is a hard pill for this writer to swallow.

Will that affect Ducati sales? Not one bit. There is no shortage for Ducatisti that are perfectly happy to shell out this kind of coin for a fine Italian motorcycle, and Ducati’s own sales numbers show that.

Borgo Panigale constantly sells more up-spec models than base models in the United States. We’re just fancy like that.

Looking at the price comparison’s in this category, it is easy to see that Ducati is at the top of the heap, even when you balance out the available options that are available between the various machines.

In some ways that makes sense. The Ducati Multistrada V4 S is the best in show when it comes to the premium big-displacement ADV bikes. It runs laps around its competitors on the road, though the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S does score well in this category.

And then as one gets further off the pavement, the Ducati proves itself to be extremely competent. In more applications and terrains, a bike like the BMW R1250GS perhaps outshines the Multistrada V4 S in outright capability, but the gains here are marginal. There is just only so far, and so hard, you are going to push a 500+ lbs motorcycle off-road.

This is where Ducati’s 75/25 street-to-dirt bias (I am just spit-balling a figure here) makes more sense than brands that try to push a bike that is more 50/50 in its approach, like say the Honda Africa Twin.

With its 21″ front hoop, DCT gearbox, and general bulletproofness (that’s a word now), the Africa Twin is by far one of the most capable “big” ADV bikes on the market. But, am I – or is the regular rider – going to go anywhere on it that I wouldn’t go on another bike? That’s a critical question in this category.

At some point, ADV riders realize that there are better weapons for the job. Whether that’s a full-blown dirt bike, modded with extra fuel and windprotection, or a lighter middleweight ADV machine is an entirely different debate.

This is a point that Ducati is going to have to address with its Multistrada lineup, as the Multistrada V4 cannot, and should not be the only offering in this space from the Italian brand…and in that same breath, the Multistrada 950 has to go.

Ducati has built its BMW R1250GS killer, and now they need to build their KTM 890 Duke killer. And while they are at it, a hard bag-equipped Streetfighter V4, with the Granturismo engine and more wind protection, needs to happen as well.

I have often said before, if I could put only one bike in my personal garage, that spot would go to the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, as the Austrian machine was peppy enough on the road to satisfy my need for speed, while being practical for longer rides, and ready to hit the dusty trails with confidence.

That line of thought ends today though, as the Ducati Multistrada V4 S takes over from the KTM (it helps that the newest 1290 isn’t coming to the USA for 2021, as well).

Ducati has reach its pinnacle in the Multistrada V4’s design, and the Italian company sets the new benchmark for on-road performance, technology, and overall fit and finish. It sets these benchmarks by leaps and bounds to its competition, and where it loses marks, it does so minimally by comparison.

I still struggle with the price, but when you’ ae buying the best…well, it is going to cost you. That brings us back to the original question, and the core argument of this 6,000+ word story…

Would I buy one? Friends, I am already looking for the $24k in my couch cushions.

Photos: © 2021 Mike Levin & Gregor Halenda / Ducati – All Rights Reserved