Let’s get down to business. The fact is, Ducati’s all-new Multistrada V4 Rally is as equally capable off-road as it is on-road. And anyone who's piloted a Multistrada V4 over a decent variety of roads will testify that this is quite a statement. Quite a moment in the story of the adventure bike. Yes, the Rally will set you back £23,590 but owners will be buying a rather remarkable and clever motorcycle, one that would certainly make me smile every time I open the garage door.
Let's get the easy bit done first. Ducati has kept the power and torque output of the Rally's Granturismo engine identical to the more road-focused V4 and V4S Multistradas, with peaks of 170 horsepower at 10,750rpm and 89 pound-feet of torque at 8750rpm. However, the Italians have added the heat-reducing rear cylinder deactivation system seen recently on the new Diavel V4. That system cuts the rear pair of cylinders when the bike is stationary or running below 4000rpm—depending on torque request from the rider. The alloy front frame is the same as the standard bike's, but that is really where the similarities end and where the Rally begins to move the game forward.
Suspension and Electronics
To make the V4 Multi more capable off-road, Ducati redesigned its extremely clever, semi-active Skyhook EVO DDS suspension. The company added 30mm of stroke to the front forks and 20mm to the rear shock, giving 200mm of travel at both ends. This increases ground clearance by half an inch to nine inches. Before anyone starts worrying about the effect on seat height, Ducati has made available a range of options for all sizes. There is also Ducati's Minimum Preload system, which electronically removes spring pre-load, therefore reducing seat height, when you come to a stop (and is controlled by the rider, as not all riders have a 5ft 7in height issue like me). Additionally, there’s an ‘easy lift’ system, which opens up the damping when the bike is switched on, making it easier to lift off the side stand because the suspension is soft.
Other new electronics include a new Enduro mode and a smoother quickshifter, but the big talking point is the Rally's focus on comfort. The Rally has a larger, 7.9-gallon fuel tank which means longer times in the saddle. To compensate for this, the manually adjustable windscreen is larger, and bot adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection come standard. With a considerably larger tank range, the Rally should be able to rack up big miles and do so without fatiguing its pilot.
As noted, throwing a leg over the new Rally wasn’t a problem; with the preload electronically removed my boots could touch the road on both sides. Despite weighing 44 pounds more than the Multistrada S, and despite the extra mass of our test bike's hard luggage, crash protection, and fog lights, the Rally immediately felt far from big or heavy. I could even flick up the side stand without the tortured leg stretch required on some adventure machines.
On the move, you are welcomed by a widescreen 6.5-inch dash while an attractive brushed aluminum finish to the fuel tank oozes quality and class. And again, that sense of lightness prevails.
After a few miles of riding twisty coastal roads in Sardinia, I had to double-check the fuel gauge as I was convinced the tank must have been empty. But no, it was brimmed, so theoretically at least, hauling eight or so gallons of unleaded. Yet the Rally felt so nimble, steered so effortlessly for a bike in this class, that it felt more like a sporty middleweight than a global adventure bike.
The Rally defaults to a smooth and flowing ride and settles you into a rhythmic and unhurried pace that slows the outside world even when you are, technically speaking, going like the clappers.
When I increased the pace, I opted for Sports mode, which adds a rigid ride and a quicker edge. The throttle is more regulated without being snappy, and the rider aids retreat to allow more spirited inputs and the front wheel to hover an inch or two above the ground over small crests. It's borderline comical what the Rally can do when it's in this mood; even a track day could be on the menu, just.
Grip and feedback from the on-and-off-road Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber are consistently good on dry roads, even when pushed hard. Ground clearance wasn’t an issue for me (light and small) while the steering is as precise as it is light; in long lingering corners it carried speed and held its line perfectly. It didn't even care if I braked mid-corner, relying on the excellent lean-sensitive ABS, or jumped on the power early to leave a long black line.
I must admit this was an especially quick ride – Ducati press launches are rarely anything else – and most owners with licenses to preserve won’t push the Rally so hard on the public road, but it’s nice to know what it can do. The rider aids are all-enveloping (in a good way) and can easily be trimmed to match your mood and ride. They allow you to relax and focus on the sheer pleasure of riding a motorcycle, behaving like a guardian angel riding pillion.
Then there's the famous Granturismo V4 itself. In Touring or Urban mode, it feels as friendly as Ducati’s entry-level Scrambler: soft, forgiving, and perfectly fuelled. Then flip to Sports mode, turn off the Ducati Wheelie Control, and only KTM’s big Adventure can run the Rally close in the performance stakes. The route for this test mainly followed switchback coastal roads but on the odd occasion when the road opened up, the 170 hp V4 hardened and drove the bike forward in a way Multistrada owners have come to adore. Even when you add a pillion and luggage, it's a mighty strong engine. Fast overtakes can be executed on only a whiff of the throttle.
Ducati has stayed with the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel sizes for the Rally but opted for spoked rims over the more road-biased alloys on the V4 and V4 S. If you want more off-road ability then you can opt for Ducati’s DesertX, with longer travel suspension and a 21-inch front wheel.
As mentioned, overall weight has increased to 240kg (wet, with no fuel), and the larger tank has increased the bike's width a fraction as well, but the Rally is just as impressive off-road as it is on.
In the flesh, it looks too bulky, too big, and too heavy to be any good in the back end of nowhere but, again, its looks and on-paper spec are totally deceptive.
Turn onto the dirt, switch into Enduro mode, and that apparent lightness once more comes to the fore. Okay, it’s not a middleweight KTM 890 R, and there are limitations but, with the optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber fitted, I was amazed by its calm off-road manners.
As the going gets challenging the tall and slightly intimidating dimensions of the Rally seem to minimize. Peak power is capped at 114 hp and the throttle delivers instant torque without ever feeling too sharp. In the meantime, the off-road rider aids, especially the off-road ABS, work effortlessly to help you find grip. You can flip over the rear brake lever to give a more direct feel when standing up, remove the rubbers on the pegs and lower the screen. It all gels.
I'm a reasonably experienced off-roader but not competition level, and throughout the day found my confidence building as my relationship with the Rally grew stronger. You do have to remain aware of the wide (fixed) panniers and theoretically damaging bushes and stone walls, while the front wheel can sometimes understeer on gravelly surfaces, but mainly the Rally encouraged me to mess around as if I were on a far smaller machine, and even to try the odd jump. When I paused I could electronically lower the rear ride height by removing the spring preload, so never had to worry about dropping the Rally on an uneven surface.
We got the opportunity to ride the Rally on and off-road for a total of 125 miles, and it scored superbly in all areas. However, we didn’t get the opportunity to try any long-distance motorway miles, though I have ridden the V4 S over long distances and know that the adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection systems are useful and effective.
As first impressions go, however, I can’t praise the new Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally enough. It’s not often you run out of superlatives for a bike both on and off-road. I should add that it's a stunning machine up close, one peppered with lovely details and finished with the highest quality. I guess the big question is whether you would be happy to take $29,995 worth of machine off-road. In fact, the model we tested, complete with panniers, crash bars, and auxiliary LED lights, is priced around $31,500.
BMW’s R1250GS Adventure has dominated this all-round sector of the big adventure bike market for years. Now, with the Rally, Ducati has a serious contender for the leader in the class.
It's comfortable and practical, rapid on road, supremely competent on gravel, and fun everywhere in between. It boasts a powerful engine that's as friendly as it is fast. Superb brakes are backed up by excellent lean-sensitive ABS both on and off-road. In addition, its handling is a revelation: genuinely sporty on asphalt and as competent as a specialist off-roader when the going gets mucky. Add a plethora of rider aids that are easy to access, great build and detailing, and stunning looks and it's hard to find fault beyond the expense of buying one. Even short riders like me can reach the ground, thanks to the electronic shock which can lower the seat height at the press of a button.
Bike of the year? Only a full test will decide for sure but, based on what we know so far, it's a hot favorite.