Long rides aren’t new to me. Not too long ago, I used to spend a considerable amount of time in the saddle. Mumbai-Goa-Mumbai has been the most frequented route, but things got little boring after a while because everything on those trips is now predictable. Lucky for me that Ducati threw an adventure my way, and beaches were a part of it. Love it when that happens.
1500km in two days on a Ducati Multistrada 1200S. If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will. The plan was to wrap up our inaugural BikeWale track day, rest for the night and start early the next day. Surprisingly, I was wide awake before the alarm rang. The ride began from the most famous place in Chennai – Marina beach. It was a good idea to enjoy the sunrise on the east coast. The view, the sun, the cold breeze filled me with positive energy.
Getting out of the city as early as possible was priority. L-Twins are known for frying the rider’s legs in city traffic and the Multistrada 1200S was no different. Even in urban mode, where power is limited to 100bhp, the engine still tends to get hot. The traffic on the way to Sriperumbudur was chaotic, thanks to the metro construction. Motorists were cutting lanes as if it’s their hobby but only a few dared to cut the Multistrada off. The rest were trying to understand what kind of bike this was. That means, a lot of curious looks and a lot of honking (for me to slow down so that they can see the bike in detail) but hitting the highway – the place where the Multistrada belongs - was the aim. Luckily, the bike’s coolant temperature managed to stay under 100 Degrees Celsius most of the time.
I crossed Sriprumbudur within an hour and the roads started to open up. No overloaded trucks, hardly any jaywalkers and a smooth two-lane Chennai-Vellore highway. To be honest, the original plan was to ride at a decent pace, enjoy the beauty that the three states would offer and reach home safely. But there was a change in plan and the Multistrada 1200S was at fault (you will know why in a bit). After a delicious breakfast, Andhra style, I set the riding mode and the spirit to Touring. In this mode, the engine generates full power at 160bhp, but with gentle throttle response. The traction control is set to five and ABS to three. The incredible Ducati Skyhook suspension sets to a mode which offers comfort for long distance.
The highway till Vellore is in really good condition. I was enjoying every bit of the 160bhp the bike offered by cruising at a decent speed. But things changed after crossing Vellore. There was suddenly a four-lane nicely laid highway in front and it was empty. I started to ride at speeds we’re not supposed to legally but doing 80kmph on such roads can get boring.
The way the Multistrada 1200S behaved on this road was startling. The bike is so easy to ride. The ergonomics, seating comfort and the weight distribution – all these gave me a new perspective of big touring bikes. The never ending Vellore-Bengaluru highway left me wanting for more. Thanks to the availability of sport mode, the adrenaline rush was easily accessible. The power delivery got aggressive, the throttle response was sensitive and the ride quality was stiff. The best thing about this motorcycle is the electronics which can be customised. So I could have 160bhp with aggressive power delivery and at the same time have a soft suspension setup.
By noon, I realised that chasing speed was more important to me than enjoying the scenery. Very rarely do we get our hands on a motorcycle as capable as the Multistrada, and a new experience beckoned; that of high-speed touring. A quick time and distance check at Krishnagiri showed that the last few hours of riding were unbelievably quick and the fatigue was still at a minimum. The adjustable windscreen and the new front-end design took care of the windblast effectively.
Krishnagiri to Bengaluru was a busy highway. It is home to fast and idiotic bikers, overloaded auto rickshaws and places with so many syllables in their name, you need a deep breath to say them. This stretch was the only place where I encountered traffic on day one. Filtering through this traffic on the Multistrada was a piece of cake. The best thing about this Ducati is that it might look intimidating with its big body proportions but once you’re in the saddle, it feels like a middleweight motorcycle. This feeling is very important when opting for a touring machine because you’ll be spending days, weeks and maybe even months on it.
I reached Bengaluru at noon and took the Electronic City flyover by mistake – should have used the Multi’s onboard satnav instead. The original plan was to take the famous Nice road and bypass the infamous Bengaluru traffic. Fortunately, I soon discovered a route to get back to the Nice road. It felt good to see the 120kmph speed limit there.
Once outside Bengaluru, it was decided that Hubbali will be the stopover for that night. So another 400-odd km to go. Sadly, this stretch was unexciting. The new plan was to reach the hotel before it gets dark but unfortunately, that never happened. I got overconfident about the fuel range of the Multistrada only to find that the bike didn’t have enough fuel to reach the next petrol station. So riding back was the only option. Luckily, I found a pump that accepted plastic money. Reaching the hotel for the night means riding through the heart of Hubbali city. Other than the unbearable heat from the engine and curious onlookers, everything was enjoyable. My ride for the day was done, but I wasn’t tired – I’m sure I could have gone on for a couple of more hours, if required.
The second day started when the sun still wasn’t up and I reached the national highway in no time. For the first time in my life, there was no excitement to cross into Maharashtra. The outstanding roads in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had left me wanting more. If the Multistrada could speak, I’m sure it would have shared the same feelings. The Hubbali to Nipani stretch is the emptiest stretch of all, but things starts to get messy once you approach Kolhapur. Cruising between 80 and 100kmph felt like bliss, but within a few hours, I crossed Kolhapur and started searching for a place to have breakfast. After a traditional Maharashtrian breakfast of poha and missal pav, I decided to stop directly at Pune. So with a full tank and nearly 300km riding range, I took off.
Thanks to that huge low-end torque, overtaking tractors and state buses that plague NH4 between Kolhapur and Pune was a piece of cake. Just after crossing Satara, a white Toyota Fortuner suddenly came dangerously close to me. The result was panic braking and thanks to the electronic aids on the bike, nothing unfortunate happened. Turned out the Fortuner driver wanted to take a very close look at the bike but there wasn’t much thought given to safety! I took a halt near the Katraj tunnel, just before Pune. After taking a few pictures of the bike, I started riding towards my final destination – Mumbai.
The 1500km ride involved being in the saddle for close to 20 hours and believe it or not, there were no signs of exhaustion or fatigue and that’s what makes this bike so special. The comfort and the satisfaction the Multistrada 1200S provides are commendable and that’s what one should expect from a touring machine, right? The bike can do triple digit speeds with ease and can stay there for hours.
In Mumbai, the mercury level was rising, as was the coolant temperature. Home beckoned, not because I wanted to end the journey but I wanted to get out of the hot Mumbai sun and extreme humidity. At around 4pm, I reached my final destination – Bandra Reclamation. I was fortunate enough to have a spectacular view of the Arabian Sea and the Mumbai high-rises. As I watched the sun sink into the ocean, my two days astride the Multistrada went through my head – watching the sun rise from the sea, the rolling fields of Karnataka, the winding roads on the way, the highly-illegal speeds when the road was empty… The Multi took them all in its stride. To all the serious tourers out there who want to travel the world on a motorcycle – save up and buy the Multistrada 1200S. It might take months or maybe even years, but it will be well worth it.
Photography by Kapil Angane