Ducati Multistrada v BMW S1000XR. Review and Video!

Adventure bikes are big, heavy, slow, poor handling, and ugly, right?

That’s the preconception of most sports bike riders about adventure bikes. But ride one and you could never call the king of adventure bikes like a modern day 125bhp R1200GS heavy, for instance.

It may even be ugly but it certainly isn’t slow either.

Yet the new breed of sports adventure bikes has taken that concept even further but added a whole load more sports bike into the mix.

The new BMW S1000XR and Ducati Multistrada 1200S are designed for riders who want a bit more performance and better handling yet still want to cover ground in comfort, on bikes that also have the practicality to ride every single day.


This is the Adventure Sport club, or sports bikes in an adventure bike frock. They’re sports tourers in drag if you like.

Hovering near the £15,000 mark they’re good-looking in your face motorcycles that make a claimed 160bhp and top out at an indicated 160mph-plus.

That’s the kind of numbers that ten-year-old sports bikes were making back in the day, yet these bikes come with some of the most advanced safety devices of any motorcycles. But safety doesn’t have to read dull.

The spec list of these top-spec models reads like a techno nerd’s wet dream. There’s electronically-adjustable suspension, traction control, cornering braking systems, and cruise control. And that’s just the BMW S1000XR Sport SE. The Ducati Multistrada S gets wheelie control adjustable for eight settings, back-lit switchgear and cornering headlights which keep the beam pointing the right way even when banked over in a turn. It works a treat and means night riding has never been so easy.

Standard BMW dashboard with sat navDucati: Keyless ignition means this is the lock button

But a spec sheet is one thing, riding them as they were intended is another. And that’s why we took the new BMW S1000XR and new Ducati Multistrada 1200S the long way to the Yorkshire dales on a two-day mini tour around Whitby and a few laps of Olivers Mount. With a couple of commutes thrown-in too, the bikes did 500 miles in only two days.

What we learnt is that both bikes are way more than their impressive spec sheets might suggest They can cover miles, they’re as fast as 99% of bikes on the road, they handle, can take pillions and luggage in comfort and they’re rapid. Seriously rapid in fact. Especially when it comes to the BMW which on our test strip hit 0-100mph in 6.05 seconds, the Ducati hitting the same speed in 6.85seconds.

I was already familiar with the Ducati Multistrada 1200S after riding the bike on its launch. I’ve also covered a couple of thousand miles on Bike Social’s long-term test version of the same bike in the last couple of months and have fallen in love with it. It’s an incredibly accomplished bike. The motor uses variable valve technology so it’s smooth and mellow around town, and comes to life as a revvy, booming V-twin out of town.

It’s proper fast, has some of the best acceleration and grip levels of any bike off a corner thanks to its brilliant engine and traction control system. It’s comfortable on a long run, smooth, has endless features to keep you amused as an owner for years, and it even does 52mpg on a longer ride.

Industrial looking BMW and the curvy Ducati

But since the BMW S1000XR was unveiled at last year’s Cologne Show and I’d spoken to the engineers about this new breed of Adventure Sport bike, I’d been gagging to ride it.

It’s big. So big in fact that at six-foot four I could touch the floor fine but plenty of other riders below six foot may struggle. It’s got a seat height of 840mm, the lowly Ducati is still tall in most circumstances but comes in at an adjustable 825 to 845mm.

The BMW is not only Germanic in its dimensions, but Germanic in its appearance too. Where the Multistrada is all curves and packaging to make it look stunning and neatly packaged, the S1000XR is a bit more industrial looking. The pannier rails fitted to our Sport SE spec bike are made from big ol’ chunks of metal. The sub frame adopts the S1000RR’s view of ‘just make it out of really strong metal’. Whereas the Ducati takes a more subtle, arty approach. It’s more swoops and curves, the panniers slot neatly into the sub frame so you don’t notice it when they’re taken off. The rear sub frame is hidden neatly behind bodywork.

At home on track at Olivers Mount

The Ducati may cost some £1245 more but it feels like it too. There are span adjustable quality Brembo levers that look like they’re off a race bike. The Ducati has a more sophisticated traction control system that’s fully adjustable, there’s the wheelie control adjustability we talked about, the Brembo brakes on the Ducati are higher-spec Monobloc M50 Evo calipers, compared to the BMW’s Monobloc calipers, the same as those fitted to the standard Multistrada.

Though both bikes have the same Bosch-powered cornering ABS system which means you can brake deep into a corner without fear. It sounds easy, but takes some getting used to and requires the rider to recalibrate their own safety system to make it work first. For the record, on the test strip the Ducati stopped faster too, hauling up from 70mph to 0 in 3.10 seconds over 47.5 metres. The BMW did it a fraction slower at 3.30 seconds in 47.58 metres.

Removing the panniers for the 'track test' was sensible

The screen too can only be adjusted up or down by reaching over the front of the bike and grabbing a handful of screen. The Ducati has a more sophisticated catch system which can be adjusted by 60mm up and down on the move using just one hand. BMW should have used the same system as the one-handed adjuster from the BMW R1200GS.

On the move, the screen on the Ducati is better and the fairing is wider at the shoulders so it takes more wind off you. And the dash is nicked straight off a BMW S1000R. It works fine and the menus are easy to use to adjust the suspension and fuelling modes. But it’s just not as neat when compared to the Ducati’s beautiful TFT colour screen and infinite gadgets to adjust from within the menus. There are definitely a lot of toys on the Ducati, compared to the BMW.

Contemplation takes place over a Humber Bridge HotdogThe Ducati’s suspension is infinitely adjustable, there’s Bluetooth connection to your phone so message display on the dash, the traction control is fully adjustable, as is the wheelie control. The BMW’s settings though to be fair work perfectly. Stick it in road mode on the fuelling and it softens up the power delivery. Dial in road on the suspension settings and the set-up is plush. Select Dynamic and the fuelling feels more lively, and select dynamic pro on the suspension button and everything firms up to give you a half decent sports bike level of suspension damping.

The Ducati uses a similar set-up so you have pre-set settings for suspension and power delivery, from touring to sport, along with a setting to give 100bhp in town and a setting for riding off-road which also adjusts the level of traction control to allow rear wheel sliding, and turns the ABS off. It also lifts the suspension to its highest to improve ground clearance for off-road riding. It comes with semi-trail Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres too.

I’m yet to test the Multi on anything other than a gravel road although its seventeen inch front wheel doesn’t fill me with confidence off-road. And the BMW makes no pretence about its off-road prowess, arriving on road-based Bridgestone T30 sport touring tyres.

Remember though that the Ducati we have here also had the £950 Touring pack on which means it comes with panniers, a centre stand and heated grips. The BMW was in Sport SE mode which means electronic suspension, centre stand and pannier racks.

Despite all those small differences, on paper on pure hard technical specifications they’re like for like, blow-for-blow.

Dropped in to see if Greengrass fancied a rideBut then you ride them and at first the BMW blows your head off. It’s way sportier than the Multistrada, handles better, stops nearly as well, and feels like it has another 10bhp over the Ducati. The four-cylinder motor is eager, it likes to rev, and the mid-range overtaking grunt makes the taller-geared Ducati feel lethargic when going for a top-gear overtake. You always have to change down on the Ducati to match the speed of the overtaking BMW. On the motorway the Beemer romps away when both opening the throttle at the same time.

The figures from the test-strip back that up too, with the BMW performing the top-gear roll-on test from 40-120mph in 11.54 seconds. The Ducati takes almost four seconds more and covers another 153metres further to achieve the same speed in top gear.

It may claim the same power as the Ducati, but the BMW’s engine delivers it faster, and snappier, and it feels like it has another 10bhp over the Ducati. The Ducati’s motor is peachy smooth though, where the BMW’s isn’t, but we’ll come on to that soon as well.

The BMW is ultra-accurate in the bends too. My first proper run on the BMW was on the sweeping Horncastle to Caistor road in North Lincolnshire on the way up to Whitby, it’s a road famous for its fast-sweepers and light traffic. Just watch out for tractors.

Beautiful Robin Hood's Bay

Despite carrying an extra 21kg over the S1000R it’s based on, the BMW doesn’t feel any worse for it. At a wet weight of 228kg it weighs 7kg less than the fully-fuelled Multistrada S too, and it feels lighter on the move than the Ducati, and when moving it around. And before you say it, we did test the Ducati with and without panniers, but couldn’t get panniers for the BMW in time for the test.

You can nail the BMW into a bend, there’s fantastic stability in high-speed corners, the throttle connection to the rear tyre feels more natural than the Ducati’s slightly remote feeling ride-by-wire and the traction control works a treat, even if it’s not ultimately as advanced as the Ducati’s system which feels next generation compared to the BMW.

Ride it old school, turn the electronics off and the S1000XR turns into a playful beast, lifting its front wheel over crests, and leaving big black lines on the exit of corners. As a sports bike with adventure bike bodywork the S1000XR is hard to beat, even against the mighty Multistrada, itself a fantastic motorcycle with handling and character that defies its adventure bike styling.

But it’s in the real-world where the XR starts to annoy.

The high-up riding position dominates the traffic. The links to the S1000RR’s styling are familiar, and those twin eyed-front headlights and tall riding position mean cars move out of the way. It’s a great riding position in town, but it’s a 40mph when you’re about to exit town and get it accelerating away where the XR starts to really annoy. Just before 5000rpm there’s a vibration from the rigidly-mounted motor which vibrates the handlebars and the footrests.

Vibrations through the handlebars and foot pegs are a put-offTour the word then sling it around a road race track - multi purpose Multistrada

It’s not subtle, imagine someone has put a vibrating toothbrush in your gloves and in your boots and you’ll know the feeling. It stays vibrating until 7000rpm, gets less after that and then disappears by 9000rpm, right in the meat of the mighty S1000R-based motor. At the top-end the bike is incredibly fast and it howls with exhaust noise and induction roar, but every time you slow down there’s that vibration again.

It’s right where you want to cruise that it hits as well. 75mph is in the heart of the vibration zone, and as marvellous as the S1000XR is in almost every other way I couldn’t buy one. Day-to-day when you’re not wanting to go bansai the BMW is incredibly annoying and frustrating to ride, all because of that vibration. It’s also not as comfortable as the Ducati as the seat padding seems to flatten off after an hour, the screen and fairing aren’t as good at keeping the wind off you, and it’s not as nicely finished as the Ducati.

And it’s for that reason that what should be a brilliant motorcycle, I couldn’t recommend. And if it was my money I’d take the Multistrada every day.

The Multistrada loses points against the BMW in a corner, even without its panniers on, the handling isn’t as precise as the BMW and you don’t get that feeling of front-end grip and stiffness on the hardest suspension settings that the BMW gives you. It’s not as fast either.

But the rest of the time when you want to go fast the Ducati is fast enough, the motor gives that V-twin grumble rather than a slightly annoying howl, it’s more comfortable, easier-to-live with, suits a wider range of riders with its slightly physically smaller dimensions, is better equipped and just feels better thought out than the S1000XR.

If you want the maddest, fastest adventure bike on the market then the BMW is it. It’s way more accurate and sportier than the Ducati and incredibly exciting to ride.

But the rest of the time, when you want something that’s almost as fast, something that handles almost as well, and covers ground with ease, in comfort and at speed whether two-up or on your own, the Ducati is the one.

BMW: sports bike in adventure clothesDucati: V-twin purr


Looking for girlfriend or a wife?

The BMW v. Ducati battle is a tough one to call for me. They are both excellent bikes for different reasons. Both have the build quality, equipment and mechanical agility expected of a c.£15k motorcycle and while on paper they match up, on the road it’s a slightly different story.

If you’re not interested in marriage and instead seek a bit of fun, a thrill, something that will look good on your arm at a soiree but you might not take home to meet your mum then the four-cylinder BMW and its 160bhp is the tall, skinny, flighty thing that will float your boat. Superbike fast with sporty characteristics and an agile chassis might be an ideal catch but realistically how long will it keep you interested. The handlebar vibration isn’t a game-changer for me but the raw power could be. I’d be forever looking over my shoulder or in every layby for a uniformed man with a radar gun and while the Ducati sure isn’t slow, it’s less on edge.

The BMW will keep you on your toes. It’s all-action. A sports bike disguised as a very tall adventure bike, a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you will. But is speed and agility all that’s required in a sports adventure bike? Ride it back to back with the Ducati and you’ll discover a more refined, demure, classy bike putting up one hell of a showing for your money.

Think of it like this, we’re sure you’d want to date a supermodel for a while but what about being married to one, 24/7?


Acceleration, Roll-on and braking dataDucati's quick off the line but BMW streaks ahead from 60mph upwards






999cc, water-cooled, four-cylinder in-line, DOHC

1198cc, liquid-cooled V-twin, 4 valves per cylinder, DVT


160bhp @ 11,000rpm

160bhp @ 9500rpm


82.6 ft lbs @ 9250rpm

100.3 ft lbs @ 7500rpm


Aluminium perimeter frame, engine self-supporting

Tubular steel trellis


Front: upside-down telescopic fork, stanchion diameter 46mm, adjustable for bump and rebound (optional Electronic Suspension Adjustment)


Rear: Aluminium double-strut swing arm with central spring strut, adjustable for rebound (optional ESA)

Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Skyhook compression and rebound damping adjustment. Skyhook spring pre-load adjustment.


Aluminium single-sided swingarm


Front: twin-disc brake, floating brake discs, 320mm, radial four-piston brake callipers


Rear: single-disc brake, 265mm, twin-piston floating calliper

Front: 2 x 330mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo


Rear: 265mm disc, 2-piston floating calliper, cornering ABS


Bridgestone T30 tyre. Cast aluminium wheels.

Front: 120/70 x ZR17

Rear: 190/55 x ZR17

Pirelli Scorpion Trial II

Front: 120/70 x 17

Rear: 190/55 x 17

Seat Height

840mm (optional low seat available)


Fuel Capacity

20 litres

20 litres

Weight (wet)



MPG (indicated on test)




Standard: £12,400

Sport: £13,645

Sport SE: £14,750 (as tested)

£16,945 (as tested inc. £950 Touring Pack)

Which do you prefer?  or 


Action camera: Drift Ghost-S

Michael Mann

Helmet: Shark Race R-Pro, designed by Rich-art Concepts

Jacket and trousers: Richa TG2 jacket and Richa TG1 trousers

Gloves: Savage Waterproof by RICHA

Boots: S-Speed by TCX

Marc Potter

Helmet: Arai RX-7 GP

Jacket and trousers: Alpinestars Calama Drystar Suit

Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro

Boots: Alpinestars Monofuse

VIDEOGRAPHER: Geoff Potter & Michael Mann