Some creations are answers to questions nobody asked. Take the motorized ice cream cone for example (yes, it's real. Look it up). I never knew there was anything wrong with a conventional ice cream cone, but apparently some people are too lazy to lick their own ice cream. That got me thinking about other useless items I've been noticing lately. Sunglasses for dogs, or "Doggles," for example. Really? What's the point in that? In fact, what's the point in Halloween costumes--or just clothes in general--for animals in the first place?
Apply this same rationale to two wheels and some other inventions come to mind. Linked braking--never understood it. Don't like it. Want it to go away. Trikes is another one (ok fine, that's three wheels, but you get the idea). I don't understand those either. Not for me. Want them to go away.
Lately more and more electronics have been making their way on to motorcycles, all in the name of rider safety. Initially I was against aids like traction control and instead preferred to handle the motorcycle myself. But as time goes on and these systems become more refined, I can't help but find myself taking advantage of these different rider aids (and sometimes getting saved by them as well).
Leave it to Ducati, then, to focus all its energy into a machine full of electronic techno-gadgetry, both to assist the rider and tailor it into just the motorcycle the rider wants. The 2010 Multistrada is a technological tour de force for Ducati that showcases just how far a group of dedicated engineers can go when not restrained to the confines of racing and certain rules packages. What makes it so special? The fact that the bike truly can transform into four different motorcycles--Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro--at the push of a button is one of them. Once that button is pushed, the Mitsubishi ECU completely changes the engine characteristics to suit whichever setting you choose. Not only that, but traction control settings vary depending on the mode as well. But perhaps the neatest thing about the new Multistrada is the DES--or Ducati Electronic Suspension, designed in conjunction with Ohlins--that literally allows the rider to adjust the compression, rebound and preload all electronically via buttons on the left switchgrip. On the S model (standard models get traditional forks and shock by Marzocchi and Sachs, respectively), not only is the engine output varied depending on which mode is selected, but suspension settings are also varied as well. And if that's not enough, both power output and suspension circuits are completely customizable to give the exact ride that you, the rider, desire.
But wait! There's more! The suspension isn't the only thing to get a makeover. Ducati engineers practically redesigned the venerable 1198cc V-twin seen in the company's superbikes to best suit the Multistrada. To extract the most out of the engine to win races, the 41-degree valve overlap achieves greater volumetric efficiency by "scavenging" excess air while both valves are open. Unfortunately, this makes for poor combustion at low engine speeds, where the majority of Multistrada owners will ride their motorcycles. Instead, the Testastretta Evoluzione engine in the Multi is now re-tuned with 11-degree valve overlap, sacrificing peak horsepower for torque and driveability.
In the June, 2010 issue you'll be able to read my complete first ride impressions from the international press launch in Lanzarote, a small Spanish island just west of Morocco. The small volcanic island deserves a feature of its own for its amazing landscape and wonderful roads, but for now we'll settle for a few hours riding the Multistrada there. So how is the bike? It's pretty special, I've got to admit. Its ability to change characteristics on demand is what separates it from just an average motorcycle. Whether you're traveling alone or fully loaded with a pillion, the Multistrada can adapt.
Sure, it may be the answer to a question nobody asked. But I prefer to call it the catalyst to a question we should have asked sooner.