This is not a comparison. A face-off might seem inevitable – the Ducati Multistrada and BMW R 1200 GS are two European 1200cc twins – but they’re as different as the countries they come from. Across the globe, the Multistrada is the newcomer and aims to challenge the R 1200 GS’s reign as supreme enduro, and does a pretty good job of it. The Beemer, by contrast, has been around for 30 years and has come to define the adventure-touring segment, and is the largest-selling bike in its class everywhere, including in Ducati’s home country, Italy. To me, a choice between either of these motorcycles will be similar to asking me to choose between either of my hands. I know one is more dexterous than the other, but do you think I’d give up the other one? Exactly, and I’m sure you feel the same too.
Speaking of sacrificing limbs, that’s exactly what the sight of these two parked together makes you want to do. You look at these gawky giants with a mix of trepidation (at the size) and elation (at the sheer spectacle!). The enduro proportions endow both machines with enough presence to fill a cinema hall on their own. But that’s where the similarity runs into a brick wall.
If ever there was a study of cultural characteristics infused onto two wheels, this is it – the Multistrada is a flashy Italian, the BMW is a sombre German. Oh, the absolute contrast of the whole thing is sheer poetry, and you can’t help but stare at them in silence. In every way you can think of, they’re as opposite as north and south – it’s the Ducati’s longitudinal twin against the Beemer’s lateral twin; one has spoked wheels, the other flaunts cast ones; both have single sided swingarms, but on opposite sides; ditto the 2-into-1 exhausts for both. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re so different that makes them look so good together, eh? Against a grey sky, the difference is all the more apparent. Looking at the Beemer gives you the feeling of imminent war, while the Ducati appears brighter and more cheerful than usual.
However, as different as they are, I still can’t decide which one scares me more. Standing as close to them as I dare, I see that they’d rather drop jaws with upper cuts than by gorgeous looks. Both feature curiously avian faces – the BMW is the legendary startled duck, while the Multistrada is an alien bird; just look at those nostrils and tell me you think otherwise. However, their purpose-driven designs do give them loads of appeal for serious motorcyclists. The aim is to inspire awe and make the rider seem like a warrior on his invincible chariot.
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