Riding 200+kg adventure bikes off-road is daunting even for some experts. In truth, plenty of owners would never ride their big money, big weight adventure bike off-road, any more than you’d take a sports bike on a motocross track. But as more of us switch to riding adventure bikes and dream of the big ride through Africa, it’s nice to know that the bike you have underneath you can do off-road, and more importantly that you as a rider are up to the challenge too.
“It’s all about overcoming the obstacle, making sure that you are ready to face whatever gets in your way and teaching you to overcome it.” Those are the words of 10-time Paris-Dakar veteran Beppe Gualini as he stamps his TCX enduro boots in the sacred soil of the Prescobaldi family’s vineyards where Ducati’s latest riding school is based.
He’s the technical director for Ducati, a man who has tested the new Ducati Multistrada Enduro for tens of thousands of miles on and off-road, and is now heading up Ducati’s Multistrada Enduro DRE (Ducati Riding Experience) in a dream location with thousands of acres of private land in Tuscany.
This is Ducati’s dream ticket for anyone who wants to ride their adventure bike off-road in the luscious surrounding of the Tuscan hills. Ducati claim the Multistrada Enduro is the ultimate global adventure bike, and after riding one on this course, and extensively on the press launch earlier this year I’d have to agree. It’s a Multistrada 1200 on steroids. Beefed-up, toughened up for world travel duties. It might have the same name but the Multistrada Enduro has more than 100 different parts compared to the standard Multistrada. It was tested for 150,000km on road, some 40,000km at a test track, and 10,000km off-road testing in Southern Italy and in Spain, where a test rider told me they were given the brief to ‘try and break it.’ Apparently they couldn’t.
So we know the bike can do it. But what about the rider? That’s where the Multistrada Enduro DRE comes in. Building from Ducati’s established track training DRE, the Multistrada version is about training the rider to be confident with a full-blown adventure bike when the going gets tricky.
Starting with the basics, we have 16 blokes on brand-new Ducati Multi Enduros. Modifications are kept to a minimum and run to cut-down screens, removal of mirrors and the fitment of Pirelli Skorpion Rally tyres, running low psi for maximum grip on the rough. The bikes are also set to 100bhp (as opposed to 160bhp in full-power mode), soft suspension setting and zero traction control, so you get a feel for what the bike is doing. ABS is set to level one, so it works on the front wheel only.
It starts with some classroom basics at the base for the course, the magnificent Castello di Nippozzano, and then we head off to a gravelly road to practice slaloms and body position to really feel the front tyre dig in and to ensure that you have your body in the right position to lose the weight of the bike.
More than one person topples off in the deep gravel but the bikes take it thanks to massive Touratech crash bars.
It’s the A-B-C of learning to ride off-road but it’s great to practice the basics and really drum them home,. It is relentless practising, until it becomes second nature to hang to the outside of the bike, not to the inside like we do as road riders.
We then move to controlled braking on gravel with some massive skids, before moving to the school’s real playground. A massive field that is off-road school heaven. There are areas dug out to simulate ruts, tree trunks dug into the ground to ride over, a massive mound of earth to practice body position, and a five-foot high see-saw dug in the ground. Riding up it the first time is pretty scary, but it’s all about making the bike work for you, trusting your braking and balance and getting your body forward on the way up, and back on the way down. Life skills for sure, whether riding on the road or off-road.
The logs help you practice getting over an obstacle and moving your body around to help the suspension get to its maximum length to smooth out the bumps. It’s incredible just what a massive global adventure bike like this can do. And at low speed the bikes are incredibly manageable, they’re tractable at almost no revs and find grip. If I hadn’t already fell in love with the Multistrada Enduro, then by the end of this course I was working out marriage, or a PCP deal at least!
Because of weather (for two hours the rain was more like Wales than Tuscany) the course schedule was turned around so we went riding in the afternoon in the mountains on the first day. Using mostly private roads and trails we disappeared off into the hills of Tuscany to really put into practice what we had learned. Riding single file following Beppe and his chief instructor Andrea Rossi, Tuscany on a Multistrada Enduro is trail riding heaven. Yes, it’s no 100kg enduro bike, but you will be amazed that with the right riding technique and a bit of confidence how good the tuition makes you, and how fantastic this bike is.
Switchback trails through woods come out of dark gravel roads onto some of the most stunning vistas straight out of an Italian tourist board’s Instagram.
But as good as the trail riding is, and the chance to see parts of Italy on a motorcycle you could never dream of seeing ordinarily, my best part was the chance to play on a 1.4km ‘track’ mowed into a field. With hairpin after hairpin, off-camber corners and tightening up braking zones it gives you a chance to use everything you’ve been taught. I’m no expert but thanks to the DRE I went away smiling and feeling way more confident off-road than I did a day and a half before. Some of the skills Beppe taught me will stay with me for life.
And ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Other off-road skills courses are available, and on some of them (like BMW’s Off-Road Skills Course, and Honda’s Adventure Centre) the training is as good, but none of them give you a chance for a weekend break in stunning Tuscany and riding a brand new Ducati at the same time. What a bike, what a trip.
PRICE: 680 Euros Includes one and a half days' of training, two lunches and a dinner at the fantastic Castello di Nippozzano, plus a tour of the cellars. You can pay 140 Euros extra to bring a friend/other half who will be driven round in VW Amorak trucks to observe the training, and join you for lunch and dinner. Flights and hotels are NOT included. We recommend flying to Florence (30 minutes away), or Bologna and getting a hire car for the 1.5-hour drive.
Dates still available at time of writing are: September 2/3, September 3&4, September 16/17, September 17/18.
For further information, visit the official website at: http://dreenduro.ducati.it/en/