In 1916, Floyd Clymer piloted an Excelsior motorcycle to victory at the inaugural Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC). Sadly, World War I broke out in 1917 and motorcycles wouldn’t return to the mountain until the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sanctioned the races in 1954. Thanks to technical advances in the ensuing decades, competitors dipped into the sub-14-minute times by the mid-’70s, cracked the 13-minute mark in the early ‘90s, and set the first sub-12-minute time in 2006.
Just six years later, in 2012, Carlin Dunne broke the ten-minute barrier with a 9-minute and 52-second charge aboard Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 S. That same year, Ducati released the first Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak to commemorate Greg Tracy’s 2010 PPIHC win. Dunne wasn’t done with the Multistrada though, taking the PPIHC checkered flag with the 1260 Pikes Peak edition in 2018. Sadly, the following year, in 2019, Dunne died while attempting to break the PPIHC record when a highside ejected the rider from his Ducati Streetfighter V4.
Dunne’s passing not only shocked the road-racing world but also forced Pikes Peak organizers to postpone all motorcycle competitions. Despite that indefinite ban, Ducati still owes a sizable portion of the Multistrada’s success to the Race to the Clouds. As of today, the sporty trim accounts for nearly 17 percent of the big-bore adventurer’s total sales. For those reasons, Ducati brings back the Pikes Peak Multistrada in 2022, but will the new V4-powered ADV keep the road-racing spirit alive?
Ducati invited us to Palm Springs in December, 2021, to answer that very question. A scenic ride along the mountainous Palms to the Pines Highway (HWY 74) was the perfect venue to put the Pikes Peak to the test. Unfortunately, torrential downpours, gale-force winds, and freezing temps only proved that we could survive the mountain on the Multi—not conquer it. So, Ducati left a 2022 Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak in our charge for a week to determine if it can truly rule all mountains.
Back to its Roots
When Ducati introduced the original Multistrada 1000DS in 2003, the company set out to pair supermoto handling with a tourer’s comfort and convenience. Ducati achieved that balance with a 17-inch wheelset, Showa suspension, and an 85-horsepower, 90-degree V-Twin. While the standard Multistrada V4 family now touts a 19-inch front wheel, the V4 Pikes Peak returns to the model’s sporty roots with 17-inch hoops, Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension, and a 1,158cc Granturismo V4.
The latest Pikes Peak also adopts Ducati’s signature single-sided swingarm and Marchesini forged wheels that shave 8.8 pounds off the base model Multi. Renewed geometry adjusts rake to 25.75 degrees and elongates the wheelbase to 62.8 inches. Those figures may seem like a step in the wrong direction for the Pikes Peak’s sporty ambitions, but Ducati reports that the new dimensions strike a balance between agility, stability, and comfort. After spending considerable time aboard the V4 PP, it’s hard to argue with them.
In addition to the Multistrada’s superbike-derived V4 Granturismo powerplant, Ducati outfits the adventure bike in the same Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 suspension and Brembo Stylema calipers found on its Panigale V4 sportbike. Pairing that potent package with a Marchesini forged wheelset delivers the power of a perennial heavyweight with the agility of a twinkle-toed featherweight. Steering is light and direct, and holds a line with precision and predictability. The Pikes Peak is ready to tip in at a moment’s notice, and it dives into corners with the slightest input.
The bike’s sporty demeanor is most evident in the esses, where the V4’s counter-rotating crankshaft and lightweight Marchesini wheels allow the 527-pound adventure bike to two-step with the lithest sportbikes. While the Multistrada’s snappy side-to-side transitions belie its size and weight, the chassis is just as composed at corner entry and exit. The Granturismo V4’s 170 peak horsepower and 92.2 lb-ft of torque may steal the headlines but the Brembo radial master cylinder and Stylema calipers easily tame the fire-breathing mill.
Thanks to a direct and linear feel at the lever, the rider can control speed down to the percentage point. That braking accuracy and Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso IV tires allows users to place the Pikes Peak anywhere on the pavement. From hitting apexes to firing out of corners, the V4 mill also keeps the control in the rider’s right wrist. Even in the new Race riding mode, the Multistrada remains manageable due to a more gradual rev limiter and more direct throttle response.
Race mode doesn’t just change the Pikes Peak’s power profile though, it also adapts the Öhlins suspension to aggressive road riding. In Urban and Touring mode, the electronic suspenders lower preload to the fourth setting for comfort, while Sport mode ratchets that number up to eight. Race mode goes another step further, cranking preload to 14.
Of course, the event-based suspension system adjusts stiffness according to the rider’s style and current conditions. However, even in Race mode, the suspenders are still suitable for road use. Only hitting successive large bumps at lean compromised the chassis’ steely composure, but Öhlins’ latest suspension sorcery delivers equal doses of high performance and high comfort.
Over the Long Haul
To promote a more aggressive riding position, Ducati shifted the Pikes Peak’s footpegs up and back by 10mm (0.4 inches). The team also lowered the handlebars by 15mm (0.6 inches). That tighter rider triangle may encourage a spirited pace but it doesn’t sacrifice comfort in the process. The cockpit feels just as spacious and accommodating as the standard Multistradas. After several hours in the saddle, I never encountered stiffness or soreness, despite that more compact riding position.
However, not all of Ducati’s sport-focused revisions are suitable for long-distance travel. The smoked windscreen may call back to the PPIHC-winning Multis, but the shortened unit doesn’t yield the same wind protection as its dirt-worthy counterparts. In the lowest position, the shield directed wind right below my helmet’s chin bar. Luckily, the side deflectors helped diffuse the air evenly, allowing it to stream past my lid with minimal disruption.
The same can’t be said for the windshield in the highest setting though, as the raised screen introduced turbulent air to the crown of my helmet. Of course, results will depend on the rider’s build, but at five feet, 10 inches, a large portion of Pike’s Peak owners will likely spring for an extended unit from Ducati’s accessories catalog.
If you’re really planning on munching miles with the 2022 Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak, the radar-assisted adaptive cruise control (ACC) will certainly come in handy. Similar to the system found in the 2021 Multistrada V4 S and 2022 BMW R 18 B, the Bosch-developed ACC performs surprisingly well out of the gate. Rider’s may require time to develop trust with the new technology, but its reaction to traffic speeds and four-level following distances never made me feel uncomfortable or out of control.
The addition of a rear-facing radar and a blind-spot detection system also ensures that the Pikes Peak has the rider’s six. Several times while meandering through traffic, the mirror-mounted blind-spot lights caught my attention when I couldn’t spot a car in the neighboring lane. That technology is also helpful on the open road, where speeds are high and passing power is critical.
While the MTS V4 PP has more touring-friendly doodads than many of its competitors, the lack of heated grips or a heated seat feels like a misstep. Especially with the Pikes Peak’s streamlined handguards, heated handgrips would keep the sensation in the rider’s digits and the Multistrada on the road. On the other hand, the thirsty V4 only returned 30 mpg in our time with the heavyweight ADV. With a 5.8-gallon tank, riders can expect a 174-mile range. That total may satisfy some tourers, but dedicated travelers will prefer a bike that nets 200+ miles per fill-up.
The Final Word
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will forge ahead without motorcycles this year, but that hasn’t stopped Ducati from delivering one of the most complete packages of 2022. The Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak may not play in the dirt, it might not have heated grips, but it still remains the optimum balance between performance and comfort.
At $28,995, the latest Pikes Peak MTS is anything but cheap. However, the impeccable handling, advanced Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 suspension, top-spec brakes, forged wheels, evocative V4, radar-assisted safety features, and cutting-edge electronic suite easily justify the price tag. Without the PPIHC, the 2022 Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak may have lost its ideal venue, but the sport-oriented ADV proves that still has what it takes to conquer the mountain.