Saturday, August 31, 2013

Keys, lessons, modes, DTC and jumping a Multistrada

I've been enjoying the advanced electronics on the Ducati Multistrada more than I would have thought at first, so here's a few things I've learned over the past few months.


There are a whole lot of advanced electronics on a Multistrada 1200S, even the black ghost being a 2011 model (minus Ducati Skyhook Suspension of the current model), still has a full suite of electronically adjustable suspension, ABS and DTC (Ducati Traction Control). That's before you even turn the thing on.

Keys

Speaking of that, I lost a key, did I tell you? I don't think I did, probably too embarrassed to talk about it, but I'm over it now because it's fixed so anyway I lost a key. This is bad, really bad. I blame the fact that the MTS has keyless entry; a proximity sensor detects the key and kicks the advanced electronics into gear when you are close enough to it.

 I can be a bit absent minded when it comes to these things yet I really believe this was a genuine case of 'losing' and not 'forgetting' but somewhere between a 1hr lunch meeting in the city, I lost my key. I was sure it was in my jacket pocket, but I did take that jacket off during lunch and after when I walked my dear friend Rosie back to her work, so I could have flung it anywhere. It just wasn't anywhere and I searched the gutters to the local shops close by.



The key has one of those push button flick out blades that is to open the petrol tank and unlock the pillion seat; but you don't have a traditional ignition switch to put a key into to start it. For me that's the problem. I am mentally trained to insert a key into an ignition switch. You know, like this.




On, off. But because you don't need to be holding the key either, it's easy to forget you used it to unlock the seat and leave it in there while you do your business - then put your seat back on and ride off.

 Again the electronics are so that advanced that it even recognises this and will tell you within a few seconds that you have 'No Key' on the very active dot matrix display.

 It has so much technology it knows that the key is not in your pocket, but more than likely jammed into the seat release and you should probably stop and check.

 I got really familiar with this 'No Key' feature after I lost mine. You see, it even has a failsafe fallback plan for forgetting your key. You can remove the plug just above the petrol tank and push in a button that will bring up a PIN lock for the whole bike. That's right, no key needed. But you will see the No Key light more than you might like.


Lesson: Don't lose your key numb-nuts.

Getting over the lost key and hoodickey amazing keyless entry, PIN lock systen and proximity sensor detecting dot matrix displays, the technology doesn't end there. This bike has ride modes built into magic buttons, press them and things change pretty radically. That's right, push a button and you can be riding a magical marshmallow unicorn one minute, push it again and you are on board a savage deranged screeching banshee. Buttons!

Even more technology? Sure. Why not?

Fancy stiffening up that suspension because you're a six foot string bean and like things stiff? (That sounds bad but so be it). Push another button and you can raise the overall height and stiffness of the rear shock (dampening or compression? I can never remember). I love this bit, you can actually see the bike stand up on the push of a button by selecting two-up with luggage (my favourite setting). These things are all substantial differences to motorcycling than I have ever had the experience of owning. I am only now just coming to grips with half of them, and by half of them, I really mean the ride modes. That's the biggest and easiest function to get your head around to be honest, unless you really know how to setup a bikes suspension manually at least which I guess you can't really do on this bike unless you push buttons?

Urban mode

Who would have ever thought that you would willingly want to cut available power? As it turns out, you do. This is the easiest mode to use commuting. It cuts power to 100bhp and changes the torque curve completely while also cranking up the DTC and ABS settings. Acceleration is much softer and smoother,  you can just recklessly rap it on and give it all-the-beans-the-whole-time. You can still lose your license is second gear this way, hell first gear, but your chances are less than if you are living in Sport mode , trust me.

 I actually use Urban mode now quite a lot. Why not? Flick a button and there it is to try out. I use it in the rain and rely a bit more on that other techno wizadry DTC to keep me from sliding the back out. But this is what I have found about that particular phenomenon. I don't like it. I think I'm just going to disable DTC for a while now after really 'finding it' because I am not sure I am comfortable with a computer making decisions about cutting power on me.

At least that's what I found coming onto a merge lane while leaned over and pulling out to straighten up on the gas pretty hard. It cut power and my back end sort of stood-me-up; power spluttered and instead of a nice even slipping back end, I scored the wobbles and a minor freak out not knowing what was happening. That was when I 'found it' and since then I have been 'finding it' on purpose. Trying it out, seeing where it's cut in and out point are and I don't like it. A learning curve you might call it.

Jumps

I know, it sounds ridiculous and dangerous but I can't help myself. I've always liked jumping bikes since I was a kid on dirt bikes. I love doing jumps. It's freaking awesome and probably the best feeling you can have on two wheels - being airborne. It makes a big lump rise up in my throat and genuinely scares the crap out of me.

Excellent! So let's just clarify I am not talking about doing Supermans or Planking it through the air on the Multistrada, I'm just talking about nipping off speed humps or gassing it over a lift in the road and actually getting something in the air - front and back preferably and surprisingly it's not that hard to do in Sport mode. But DTC doesn't like it in Urban mode and the total torque isn't there so it again cuts the power or retards the throttle or some crazy shit and it just isn't what I am used to. I know to cut the throttle after the jump.

 You learn that on the dirt. You don't want your back spinning faster when it lands than when it left contact with the ground; you want to be able to pop it back on as you land. So having the bike cut in and out at times like these makes me feel less certain of how I should be using it. Or how I should be riding, and that's bad. I ride on instinct I think, I try to ride to the conditions, and I make my own decisions - isn't that one of the absolute pure joys or riding? It's just you and your machine.

Newsflash

3. The MTS doesn't have "anti-wheelie", the only way it may activate when you are pulling a wheelie is because of the speed difference between front and rear wheels - this is how the system works out if one wheel is not gripping as much as the other. The same applies to airtime - if both wheels are off the ground and you still have the throttle open, the rear will be spinning faster than the front and DTC will activate. Source: Ducati MS Forum thread on this topic! Excellent explanations all round. 

Making decisions for me is not what I think motorcycling is about either, but what do I know? I'm just a back yard scrapper, I've never even done a track day. Maybe technology is faster than my failing reflexes and it knows better than me about applying power when and where, but I have been riding for some twenty+ years now, and I know what I like.

I really like the ride modes. That is awesome and something I can use. It makes sense. I am sure I have to learn about ABS and DTC and I technically believe in the safety benefits to be found in both. These are also skills I'd like to add to my arsenal, and over time once I acquire those skills maybe I will learn to appreciate it all a bit more. Right now I'm just a cranky old dog resisting learning new tricks. Turn the traction off and let's go jump speed humps!