This is an unusual test. Ducati’s Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak hasn’t been officially announced. To be frank, we’re not even completely certain it’s going to be called ‘Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak’ because Ducati were keeping very tight-lipped on that and many other matters. We don’t know its price, weight or power and torque figures as Ducati weren’t forthcoming on specifications either. No, this was a ‘blind test’ of a new prototype Multistrada V4, which will probably be called the ‘Pikes Peak’ but we do know it will be officially revealed to press and public before the year is out.
What we do know is that regular BikeSocial contributor, Adam ‘Chad’ Child, was chosen alongside one Italian and one German journalist as the first three outside Ducati to ride it and that, as you can see, the bike is not even fully finished. It’s a test mule for the Pikes Peak’s development team who allowed Chad a few sessions on track to get a flavour of what’s in store for 2022.
So what is it?
The Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak promises to be the most powerful and sporty Multistrada ever.
Although Ducati wouldn’t reveal any power figures, its Panigale-derived Granturismo V4, now with conventional spring-operated valves and 36,000-mile valve-service intervals, is certain to have more grunt than the older Pikes Peak’s Testastretta DVT L-twin. I’d expect peak power to be fraction higher than the current Multistrada V4’s 168bhp @ 10,500 (up from twin’s 152hp @ 9500rpm old model) with torque output in line with the current V4’s 125Nm (92ftlb) at 8750rpm. There could possibly be a small increase in over-rev for such a sports-focused machine.
When Ducati introduced the new Multi V4 this year, a major shift was the move to a 19-inch front wheel to improve its off-road capabilities. For the Pikes Peak model, Ducati has opted for 17-inch wheels front and back, which highlights both its track-focus and new lack of off-road ambition. And to show how serious Ducati are about its sporting intentions, the test bike was fitted with Pirelli SC1 slicks front and rear (120/70x17 front, 200/60x17 rear), although that was just for the day of my ride.
The older twin-cylinder Pikes Peak ran conventional Öhlins units but now Ducati has opted for semi-active Öhlins suspension, front and rear, instead of the electronic Skyhook Marzocchi items found on the 2021 Multistrada V4S. Ducati are keeping the full official specification close to their chest so we don’t know dimensions or travel, but they appear similar to those on Ducati Panigale V4S.
There are four riding modes to choose from: Race, Sport, Touring and Urban. The Race mode has replaced the standard bike’s Enduro mode, as getting dirty isn’t on the Pikes Peak bucket list.
As you’d expect, a plethora of rider aids are linked to these modes, including lean sensitive traction control and ABS, plus wheelie control. The large TFT dash highlights the riding mode, rider aids, and the pre-selected suspension set up, even the spring pre-load. There’s also an up and down quickshifter. Obviously, the rider aids will be completely new, with new settings and algorithms to match the new chassis and shorter-travel suspension. Launch control wasn’t discussed or tried, but we can assume cruise control as standard, probably Adaptive Cruise Control first seen on the Multi V4 this year.
The radial-mounted Brembo M50 Stylema brakes appear to be the same as those on the V4S Multistrada, although the discs and brake pad material are likely to be different. Again, the lean sensitive ABS will have a different setting compared to the long-travel Multi V4.
The large TFT dash and switchgear are similar as the standard Multi V4. Mirrors were not fitted to our test bike, and I’m unsure of fuel tank size and seat height, but it’s certainly lower than the standard bike.
The prototype Ducati Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak sits alone on paddock stands, tyres cooking in a deserted paddock. Due to the secrecy of this test, Ducati has exclusively hired the Autodromo di Modena racetrack. All the garage doors are closed, except ours. There are just four Ducati staff present, and me.
I know this tight and twisty Italian track having recently tested the new 2022 KTM RC390 there, so lap one is taken to 50 or 60% to scrub in the slicks, then it’s flat out, pushing for a fast lap. Those were the orders!
At the end of the straight, towards the top of fifth gear, it’s then hard on the Brembo stoppers and back to second gear on the quickshifter’s auto-blipper for a tight right. Stopping power is immense, while the bike’s stability and control are equally impressive.
Next up: turning. The Pikes Peak is in a different sporty league to the standard Multi V4. I thought it might struggle on such a tight track but it makes light work of even the slowest turns. Knee-down left to knee-down right is so easy it can’t just be down to the smaller-diameter wheels. I think Ducati has reduced both unsprung weight and possibly the bike’s overall weight, too. They may also have moved the centre of mass to sharpen up the steering as it’s ridiculously simple to bang the Pikes Peak from one side to the other.
In Sports mode, power isn’t arm-rippingly brutal, and I suspect available torque is limited in the first two gears. Driving hard out of the final turn in second gear, it’s quick but not harsh or aggressive. With the throttle against the stop, 100% pinned, I can feel the rider aids controlling the front wheel lift in second gear (and there’s little better in life than a sticky front tyre hovering above a warm racetrack).
Each lap I brake a little later, turn a little faster and the prototype delivers. As you’d expect with Pirelli slicks in perfect conditions, grip isn’t an issue. Instead, the problem lies in getting used to carrying so much lean and corner speed on a bike originally designed to be an all-rounder.
Eventually, pegs start to scrape and I begin to run a run wide of corner apexes, signalling the limit for the Sports mode suspension settings (designed for aggressive riding on road tyres), so it’s time to head to the pits for a breather and try Race mode.
Above: Chad gets up close with the 2022 Pike Peak
Into Race mode, and the suspension is now catering for track riding on grippy tyres. The ride is firmer, pre-load is up from 16 to 21 and clearly shown on the dash. Rider aids are also backed off; in fact, I could have opted to switch them off completely, but as this is a priceless prototype, and one of only two in existence, I thought it would be prudent to ride with a safety net.
The difference between Race and Sports mode is immediately apparent, which highlights the quality of the electronics rider and semi-active suspension. There is even more control and noticeably less fork travel which, with less intrusive lean sensitive ABS, allows me to brake fractionally later, holding on to the lever right up to the apex. In Sports mode, at race pace with slicks, I’d miss the occasional apex, now it’s easier to hit it every time. Stability when braking heavily from high speed is solid and reassuring. At extreme lean angles generated via the grip generated by the Pirelli slick, the pegs still touch down, but they’re not buried into the asphalt as they were previously in Sports mode.
Changes in direction, so fluid in Sports mode, are now electric as the taught chassis allows you to turn a fraction quicker and get on the power sooner. In Sports mode, there’s more travel and you have to ‘lift’ the bike over the rear shock, then for a fraction of a second let it settle. Now that transition is much quicker, allowing me to get back on the unintimidating and useable power early, again still with the rider aids there in the background.
Power output in Sports and Race mode feel similar, with Race a little sharper at the bottom and the throttle map slightly more aggressive. But again, this isn’t scary Panigale-type power; it’s manageable and usable (despite having similar power to Ducati’s 1198S from 2008-2012!).
It’s a slightly odd feeling riding the Pikes Peak as hard as I could on a track – and no amount of clever development can disguise the fact that it is a large motorcycle. Yet for a big bike it not only works on track but is also relatively easy to manage and ride quickly. When we eventually see a production Pikes Peak for real, it certainly won’t be intimidated by the trackday fast group and, given that it’s a Multistrada, should deliver a cracking ride home afterwards too.
We’ve only had fascinating and tempting taste of what the new Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak will be like. There’s no spec-sheet yet and the development team is still putting the final touches to the bike. But we do know it will be the sportiest Multistrada ever.
The old twin-cylinder Pikes Peak was good but essentially a standard Multistrada with a higher specification and accessories. For 2022, the new Pikes Peak will be significantly different to its stablemate with 17-inch wheels, new chassis dimensions and all-new track focus – effectively an SP version of the Multistrada and only the same in name and engine.
Price-wise, expect it to be higher than the £18,605 you currently need to pay for an S version Multi, and I’m sure dealers are already taking deposits. After all, a bike that can whisk you comfortably to the track, cut it in the fast group, then rush you home again without fuss – and do all those things without noticeable compromise – will be extremely popular. We can’t wait to ride the production version on the road.
Photos: Ducati / Alex Photo