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2005 Ducati Multistrada 620 - First Ride
By Kevin Duke

Somewhere in Sicily's twisty mountain switchbacks, surrounded by rain and snow, the newest member of Ducati's Multistrada family was happily shrugging off the challenging conditions. In fact, I was having a blast on this two-wheeled equivalent of a cute-ute SUV.

In the 24 hours it took to get from my house to Ducati's hotel in Sicily I had plenty of time to think about this new Italian all-rounder, and I must admit my expectations for the baby Multistrada weren't very high. Not that Ducati's "many-road" concept isn't a good one; in fact, we controversially named the Multistrada as Best Standard of 2004 in our year-end Best-Of Awards on the strength of its do-anything attitude and gutsy but smooth 992cc engine. But I was worried that the 618cc version might leave the impression of a castrated version of its big brother.

The original Multistrada 1000DS is joined for 2005 by the Ohlins-equipped S version of the 1000 and the smaller-displacement bike you see here, simply called the Multistrada (officially, no "620"). As you might imagine, the primary difference between the models is the size of the lump hanging in Ducati's traditional gorgeous trellis frame that it shares with the 1000. Ducati claims 63 hp at 9500 rpm for the littlest Ducati V-Twin that is mechanically identical to the Monster 620, down almost 30 hp from the 1000DS.

Although the family of Multistradas shares the same frame, Ducati claims the 618cc version scales in 29 pounds lighter than the big one, in large part due to the lighter crankcases in the smaller bike. The MS620 has several other differences from the MS1000s, changing from higher-end components to mid-grade stuff in order to be able to sell the smaller bike for just $7995 compared to the 1000DS that retails at $11,995.

Instead of a fully adjustable Showa or Ohlins fork, the 620 gets by with a non-adjustable Marzocchi piece, though it's still a beefy, 43mm inverted design. Working the mid-line Sachs shock (that includes preload and rebound-damping adjustability) is a double-sided steel swingarm that replaces the pricey single-sided aluminum unit on the 1000s. Weighing in at 12.5 pounds, this new swingarm is hydroformed using water pressure to make room on its right side to clear the exhaust routing necessary for the Multistrada's undertail cans. In addition, the 620's cat-equipped exhaust doesn't have the 1000's ugly "pre-silencer" goiter ahead of the rear wheel.

All 2005 Multistradas get a reshaped seat that is much more comfortable than the original model's while still providing plenty of positioning options. Other across-the-model-line changes for '05 include more useful mirrors, now wider by 1.6 inches, and a more protective windscreen that offers nearly 2 inches of extra height. A 20mm-longer sidestand addresses a complaint that the earlier 'Stradas leaned over too far when parked.
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