The new Multistrada 1260 S is easier to live with and yet comes with a supersonic power delivery that Ducati is known for. It may have lost the hyper agile nature. But according to me, Ducati Multistrada 1260 is one of the best machines in the country today. It is truly great for all kinds of roads. But it still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to loose surfaces. Here is where the GS comes into the picture! The machine that started it all decades ago. Yet, it continues to lead by a fair margin in the form of BMW R 1200 GS, even today. And there we have it. The best full-sized ADV for the road and the most revered trail-bike of them all. Don’t judge us already, we are not going to pit them against each other. But rather find out what makes them the ‘legends’ that they are.
As soon as I get the Ducati from the dealer in Mumbai, I start the ride by putting the Multistrada 1260 S in the all-out Sport mode. Off I go onto the streets of South Mumbai. As I get to Peddar Road, past Antilla, I whack open the throttle. To my surprise, the Multi slides violently before the brilliant traction control system saves my ass. After snaking my way out of Elphinstone Road, I switch to Touring mode. It slightly tones down the engine, making the power delivery slightly smoother. However, the heat is way too much to handle. Especially when you’re in bumper to bumper traffic and the heavy clutch is taking a toll on my left hand. The bi-directional quickshifter works seamlessly. But with 156 Italian horses on tap, you cannot really get out of the second cog, especially in peak hour traffic. I immediately switch to Urban mod. This limits the 1.3-litre engine to ‘just’ 100 horses. After a two hour ride, I finally make it to Kalamboli, the end of Mumbai’s chaos basically.
Soon after lunch, I’m onto the Mumbai-Pune highway and the Multi is finally in its home environment – the highways. Immediately, I shift into Sport mode and the engine starts sounding angry as hell! The tyres have finally warmed up and the Multi is now ready to get into its element. Whack open the throttle in any gear and once you’re past 4000rpm, the Multi goes mental! So much so that within no time, you’ll have reached speeds that can be termed legal only on the Autobahn. Ducati claims that the Multistrada 1260 S produces more torque than any other big-bore ADV at 4000rpm. The ferocity of the torque of Ducati’s L-twin equates to goosebumps and wet pants. Thankfully, I didn’t experience the latter credit those big-ass discs being chomped on by brilliant Brembo M50 monoblocs. The track-spec brakes come in handy to go round low-IQ pedestrians on the highway.
Riding the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S home was a surreal experience. It felt a lot faster than it did back on the large, six-landed roads of Delhi. The Multistrada 1260 S requires some skills to go fast. Especially in the unhinged Sport mod. Though, once you learn to master it, you can have oodles of fun and traverse cities in no time. And that is why Ducati now calls it a sport tourer. They took some time to understand the USP of its product, but they are now up there. The Ducati Link app tells me the lean angles, maximum horsepower utilised, maximum speed achieved and what not! The app works really well and you can share your info with fellow riders and compare their stats later. There are so many reasons to love the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S but will the BMW make me go weak in the knees? The night was long and I couldn’t really wait to get ride them back to back the following morning.
The BMW R 1200 GS is a completely different animal. The lines may not be as well sculpted as on the Ducati. But the Beemer is definitely quirky and packs in oodles of character. This particular machine belongs to a friend, who has participated in Raid de Himalaya, having finished second on his debut! He swears by the GS and says that it’s the most capable ADV out there. To test it, we take it to a trail on the outskirts of Pune. The Multi excels at the task of getting to the trail. But once we get off the beaten path, suddenly Haresh starts getting away. The Ducati struggles with its pesky power delivery and stock 17-inch Pirelli Scoprion Trail Tyres. The BMW R 1200 GS has been equipped with optional spoked 19-17 inch rims, wrapped around with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres. And once we finish the shoot, I ask Haresh to exchange keys.
And suddenly I realise how polarising the two machines are! The BMW R 1200 GS comes with default setup that irks you stand and ride, the position is so natural that you’ll soon forget to sit even when you hit the tarmac. The 1170cc boxer engine is down on power by 33bhp but the BMW is so much smoother than the violent Ducati that it makes riding off-road effortless. The power delivery is smoother than most of the motorcycles I have ever ridden and the torque! There is so much of it that even when slotted in the third and left the engine to idle, the BMW R 1200 GS moves on its own at 25kmph, without stalling!
The power delivery is smoother than most of the motorcycles I have ever ridden
The off-road stability is mind boggling as well. The BMW does not come with an electronic suspension on this base variant, but the patented Telelever suspension is not a gimmick. It actually helps when you’re tackling those trails. It isn’t talkative like the Skyhook of the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S, but off-road is where the BMW R 1200 GS is meant to be. Haresh had half submerged the GS in a lake a few months back, but it soldiered on without any hiccups, he tells me. And having spent a day with the BMW R 1200 GS, I second his opinion. While I was getting blown away by the GS on the trail, Haresh was scaring himself to death round the twisties. The maniacal power delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. Even the sensorial experience stresses you out.
Yet here we are, enamoured by these two technological marvels. Machines that can give premium SUVs an inferiority complex with their tech wizardry. The BMW, like Haresh says, is meant for Raiding the Himalayas. While the Ducati is for those who want to travel the world at a pace that almost nothing can come close to. Everything filters down onto the smaller ADVs from these flagships. Everyone bows to them. If the world is your playground, then make sure you get one of these. You won’t go wrong.