Flamboyant, fast and costing a fortune, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is a unique do-it-all motorbike

Buying a new bike has always involved a bag full of compromises. There is never any one bike that does everything equally well. A sports bike works well on track but is pretty much a pain on the streets, a good street bike is easily outclassed on a track, and an off-road bike is a handful on the road. But Ducati has come with a do-it-all motorcycle, using cutting-edge electronics and ingenious thinking.

The Ducati Multistrada 1200 is lean, its tall profile led by a purposeful snout of twin air intakes, just below a duo of smiling headlights.

The Multistrada shows off its Ducati heritage for use of a trellis type frame skeleton, while it leaves its muscular engine exposed. This big bike's got a large appetite for speed, as is seen in its adjustable visor that provides riders protection from wind blast. The instruments are digital, speed and rpm the highlights, with an odometer, twin trip facility, fuel and temperature gauge, gear indicator and clock in tow. An inset circular dot matrix dial tells riders which ride mode the Multistrada is in. This console also reads out real-time mileage, ABS on or off, as well as what level of traction control is currently being provided.

The Strada integrates its front turn signals into its knuckle guards. Heated grips with good feel are offered, as are reach-adjustable levers. There's also keyless access, with a button used to click open the key like a switchblade when required to open the fuel lid, seat or a pannier box. Starting requires keeping the key within a couple of meters of the Multistrada to enable ignition. The indicator-cancel button, importantly, also doubles up as the riding mode selector, making it the most important button on the Multistrada. There's also a pair of 12V charging points to charge mobile phones, as well as connectors for a Garmin GPS system.

The 1200's split seat climbs smartly over the tank, in which grooves comfortably accommodate a rider's knees.

The Multistrada uses a four-stroke, 1198.4cc, liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder engine in ‘L' configuration. Four valves work per cylinder with an 11deg overlap, and Ducati's desmodromic system mechanically opens and shuts these without relying on springs to return the valves. It's a fuel-injected motor, delivering a hefty 150bhp at 9250rpm.

The Strada's stubby twin silencers beat out a stirring exhaust note, loud, throaty at low rpm, and building with the rush of a superbike-like scream as the bar on the rev counter pushes upwards to 10,000rpm. Every ratio is perfectly thought out, and the Strada charges to an indicated 150kph in second gear. The big Duke zips past 200kph effortlessly, with plenty in reserve; top speed is in the region of 255kph in fifth, as sixth gear has purposely been left tall to aid relaxed cruising.

Pressing the ride-mode change button on top of the indicator switch can rein the Strada's herd of 150 ponies down to about 100bhp, tailoring power delivery for the best recipe on that particular road and condition. A rider can choose between Sports (150bhp), Touring (150bhp), Urban (100bhp) or Enduro (100bhp) modes, and further alter bike set-up to ride with a pillion, or with panniers. Having selected the right mode, these instruments confirm you need to shut the throttle to shift mode, an obvious precaution when the new mode sometimes boosts power up by as much as 50bhp.

The Multistrada uses Ducati Traction Control (DTC) that works its magic without ruining riding pleasure. Traction control intervention is minimal in Enduro mode so you can use the power to slide the rear wheel and control the bike, and is highest when running the Multi ‘Urban'. In ‘Sports' mode, power kicks in with a sharp, crisp feel an enthusiast will soon be addicted to.

The Multistrada 1200's brakes are reassuring, progressive and ABS enabled with good feel coming through the front lever. Expect the Multistrada 1200 to return between 15-20kpl.

The Multistrada 1200 is a landmark motorcycle. This isn't a bike that merely seems good on paper, and then fails to live up to expectations on the road; its as versatile as any motorcycle ever can be. The extraordinary new Ducati is a motorcycle that adapts to its rider, rather than demanding its rider adapt to the bike.

Ducati's Multistrada 1200 will hit Indian roads this May.