Motorcycles Reviews

Ride Review: Ducati Multistrada 1200S (2015)

I must admit, I have always been attracted to Ducati bikes. My first bike in the US was a 1997 Ducati Monster 750, and its character, sound and good looks are things I still love today. I rode a Ducati GT1000 to the Arctic last year, but like my Monster of old it was a street bike, and not a touring bike per sé. I’d be lying if I wasn’t interested in how Ducati’s flagship touring bike would hold up on a solid long road trip. Can Ducati make a true touring bike that holds it own, without losing what makes a Ducati so damn fun and exciting to ride?

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride Ducati’s latest and greatest bike — the 2015 Multistrada 1200S — for all of August through Europe, riding through five countries and thousands of kilometers to answer this question once and for all.


The basics

Staying true to its brand and formula, the Multistrada is powered by a 90° L-twin dual-spark engine shrouded in bright red (or optionally white) plastics and aggressive styling. Since a while back, Multistradas are liquid cooled, but riding it you can still feel some serious heat coming from the top cylinder. It’s a hot-blooded, red racehorse of a bike that just happens to have all the requisite farkles for comfortable touring.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (13 of 29)


At first glance, the new 2015 Multistrada is visually quite similar to the previous model. There’s a few areas where the aesthetics have improved; the ‘beak’ is a bit downplayed, some lines are smoother and more continuous. The biggest changes are apparent to the rider; the new, much improved instrument cluster and handlebar controls and the engine between your legs.

The Multistrada seems to have people split on its design: some truly love it, others seem to find it offensive.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (2 of 29)

No matter which camp you are in, it certainly looks modern — and strikes a fine balance between the aggressive curves of its superbike sister, the Ducati 1199 Panigale and the hooligan-oriented upright-posture Hypermotard, all the while adding comfortable touring features. In Europe I received a lot of compliments on it from all sorts of motorcyclists. If anything, it looks fierce.

A highly appreciated change Ducati made was the simplification of the cluster and its controls. But the changes to the main instruments don’t just end with the appearance of the cluster; the actual main display featuring your tachometer, speedometer and more basic information moved from traditional LCD technology to a true transflective LCD. Transflective LCD technology is fairly new, and has a serious advantage on motorcycles: it is incredibly bright in sunlight. I found it an incredibly nice experience, as a motorcycle rider that has always preferred traditional gauges over digital displays.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (28 of 29)

The cleverness of the instruments don’t end there; if I rode through a tunnel or the sun set, the display inverted its color scheme and became dark, making sure I wasn’t getting blinded by an all-white LCD screen. The cluster also has accommodations for media controls as well as GPS from a Bluetooth-connected phone, but sadly at the time of riding the ‘Ducati Link’ app that enables such functionality wasn’t yet available.

All in all, it added up to one of the best instrument displays I’ve seen on any bike. A bit of a shame is that Ducati has deemed it an extra: the entry-level, less-farkled non-S Multistrada 1200 has a much more basic greyscale LCD instead.



Coming from the 2014 Multistrada 1200S, the engine has been slightly upgraded: there’s 10 more claimed horsepower on the bike, which is a nice addition in a bike with little to no noticeable weight change.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (27 of 29)

A first for Ducati is the introduction of DVT, or ‘Desmodromic Variable Timing’. While variable valve timing has been a thing in cars for a while, Ducati has debuted it in its Multistrada — arguably to improve its engine character and performance on the lower end of the power band in first gear, while also improving the fuel economy. Bundled with the most advanced engine Ducati has put out yet are a host of electronic systems: an Intertial Measurement Unit (IMU) coupled with ABS, which can adjust braking power and application even while the bike is leaned over while maintaing stability.

Things get even crazier: the IMU can send data to the on-board computer so that as you lean the bike, the headlights automatically light up more of the turn you are turning into. It’s kind of insane when you experience it, and yet incredibly easy to get used to. The lights themselves, regardless of where they were aiming, seemed good at their job. If anything, a bit too good: by EU spec, seemed rather bright and aimed a bit high; I often got flashed by oncoming cars at night, which made me double-check if my high beam was on. (it wasn’t)

Throttle is ‘ride by wire’, which means that almost every aspect of the engine character and throttle response can be controlled by the computer. This enables the four riding modes, but also the sub-settings of each which you can tweak if you’d be so inclined. Features include Ducati Wheelie Control, Traction Control and about a dozen more settings. I played a bit with the basic settings, but found myself often staying with the ‘Touring’ setting which strikes a good balance of control, performance and comfort.

I did have moments, however, where it felt a bit like the ‘ride by wire’ created a bit of a disconnect between my inputs and what the bike was doing. It was a bit jarring, and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly when it kicked in, but perhaps I am simply too used to a Ducati being a bit aggressive and raw in its performance. The Multistrada felt — at times — a little too smoothed, as if the computer tried to average my inputs rather that respond to them. Something that could be fixed with adjustments of the many settings on board, possibly — but I found it apparent even in the supposedly untamed ‘Sport’ setting.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (17 of 29)

The bike is tall, as many bikes in its class, but thanks to its narrow, sculpted seat which is practically carved into the shape of the bike, it is easy to reach the ground. It’s certainly shorter than the comparable Triumph Tiger or BMW GS bikes in its class, in part thanks to the seating position putting you ‘in’ the bike rather than ‘on’ it. It makes for a well-planted position that lends itself well for aggressive cornering as well.


While the views expressed in this review are exclusively my own, the touring comfort aspect was also tested by my girlfriend in Europe who rode on the back. Pillion provisions are exceptional with the factory luggage option: the top hard case has a little back rest for your passenger, and the general geometry of the bike is such that your passenger will have a ton of space behind you to sit and move around.

After about three weeks of riding around Europe, we both reached the judgment that the Multistrada was easily the most comfortable bike we’d toured on. In its ‘Touring’ riding mode with full adaptive electronic suspension and the stock seat, it was no issue riding on it all day long. If you feel like it, you can even adjust the height of the seat.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (9 of 29)

The seat may be a bit secondary, though: it became instantly obvious how much comfort the suspension provides when I turned off the ‘Touring’ mode and switched to ‘Sport’ for a day. My butt was seriously hurting – I almost felt like it was bruised. Back to ‘Touring’ and the DSS (Ducati Skyhook Suspension) adaptive suspension made it nice and comfy again and my behind took the subsequent kilometers in stride.

Stock, the bike comes with a windscreen and hand-guards; the handguards, like the Ducati Hypermotard, have integrated turn signals which clean up the bike’s appearance nicely.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (8 of 29)

Other niceties are the one-hand adjustable windscreen and cruise control. While these are pretty standard features on a serious touring bikes, the implementation was superb. Compared to the equivalent BMW 1200GS — possibly the current highest-selling touring bike — the cruise control and windscreen controls were simpler and easier to use.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (10 of 29)

As a cherry on top of the almost-Science Fiction levels of technology in the new Multistrada, the bike comes complete with a keyless ignition system. There’s a key in case you need it, but much like modern cars you can just keep the key in your pocket and hit the starter to take off. It even automatically locks when you walk a certain distance away from the bike.


A touring bike isn’t a true touring bike without solid luggage options. In the past, Ducati offered a standard touring kit with hard panniers and this year’s model is no different. The case set is made by Givi and consists of a hard top case and side panniers.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (20 of 29)

While I am told it has been improved from the last year’s set, the Givi cases still fall short in several places. The side cases are side-loading, which means you have to open them up with the lid facing outward instead of being able to load them from the top. This usually results in most of your stuff falling out, even if you use the internal stowing straps. While likely a limitation of the ‘aerodynamic’ profile of the panniers, it’s just a deeply impractical design for more than minimal touring.

The aerodynamics of the cases is nice, but the general aesthetic is reminiscent of the hard luggage often seen on scooters, and clashes with the overall aggressive styling of the bike.


Fortunately there’s plenty of aftermarket luggage options available by now — though, do check fitment, as luggage mounting points have changed from the 2014 to the 2015 Multistradas.


Modern sport-touring bikes have departed from the mid-90s notion of being heavy and bulky thanks to Ducati’s practical reinvention of the category with its aggressively road-oriented Multistrada. With the 2015 1200S model, it adds enough features, technology and comforts to make BMW owners swoon — and the Bavarian company too, perhaps, as it recently entered the market by introducing its S1000-XR Multistrada-lookalike. However, Ducati shows its future vision in the new 2015 1200S: it is a solid update to an already impressive bike.

Ducati Mulitstrada 1200s 2015 review (6 of 29)

Whether or not the Multistrada is for you depends on what you want out of it. If you want the sheer, raw power and pleasure of a Ducati that is unforgiving, demanding and forces you to become a better rider, it is possible to work your way through the complexities of the Multistrada and peel down the layers of technology to reveal that yes, indeed, there is a high-powered race bike hidden in there.

But you shouldn’t — what this bike is perfect for is those people who want to take their time exploring well-paved parts of the world while still feeling like they are riding a sporty, aggressive bike that corners fantastically.

Where the BMW 1200GS is the motorcycle equivalent of a pocket knife, the Multistrada is designed for a specific purpose, much like a chef’s knife: touring the highway and carving the civilized, tarmac mountain and coast roads of Italy and beyond, where it will never fail to give you a comically big grin all day long.


Thanks for reading!


Alaska Motorcycles Ride North Travel

Ride North

Previously: Ride North

We rode our motorcycles North, until the road ran out.


In 2014, we ( — Sebastiaan de With and Stuart Philkill) rode our bikes North from San Francisco, until the road ran out. On this incredible trip we created a unique visual narrative with the intention of inspiring others and show-casing the natural and cultural beauty of the Northernmost West-American country.

It was featured on Buzzfeed, CNN, HLN, PetaPixel, The Blaze, Reddit, People Magazine and many more websites. We spoke on Reddit’s Upvoted podcast as well as giving a TEDx talk about it!




Our image gallery got almost 4,000,000 views, and tens of thousands of comments on imgur and Reddit, becoming the top shared image post of 2014.

Read some of the reactions here — or, listen to our interview with Reddit’s Upvoted:

We’re honored with the fantastic coverage of our journey, and were inspired to start Ride Earth, the website you are on today.


You can register for the second run of books online here, get a print or get a shirt from our online store.


Still want to read more about our Ride North?

Read about Sebastiaan’s Ducati GT1000 Adventure preparation!



Or read Sebastiaan’s detailed blog posts, full of images taken by him and written stories:

Week 1

San Francisco to Oregon


Week 2

Oregon to the Canadian Border


Week 3

Vancouver, and the road North.


Week 4

The Yukon and Alaska.


Week 5

Further North in the Yukon and Alaska


Week 6

Alaska, the Arctic and the Dalton Highway.



Thanks for reading!



Riding South

Our new adventure

After our ride to the extreme end of the road in the Northern hemisphere last year, we are now gearing up to ride our bikes to the Southernmost part of the American continent: Patagonia. We intend to ride our bikes completely from San Francisco to Ushuaia, Argentina, coming as close as we possibly can of the South Pole by motorcycle.

This epic ride will take is through all of Central America and South America, and has required significant preparation and training. We’ll be departing as soon as late November, and intend to ride the entire way save for the small interruption of the Darien Gap. We may suspend our ride at times to return to San Francisco for short periods of work before resuming the trip so that we can explore the area we cover without being rushed.

ride south map

Plenty of preparations are in full swing at the moment, as we are preparing our bikes and rounding up our packs. I will be changing bikes this time around: riding to Alaska on a street bike was one thing, but Latin America is not quite the place to bring a Ducati SportClassic. We’re also changing around our camera and lens setups, so expect posts on that as we get closer to our departure date.

Follow our preparations here, and enjoy the ride updates as they happen!


Thanks for reading!


Gear Reviews Travel

Internet on the road: Google Fi

Staying connected abroad has gone through a few distinct phases. Initially, the way to push content to the internet from another country was by finding an internet café, internet connected hotel or other hosts that had a computer you could use. As technology improved, Wi-Fi became fairly commonplace even in less developed countries, people started traveling with laptops (and eventually, even updating or staying connected with phones and tablets).

It’s interesting to see that increasingly, this Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly congested or only available for a fee, while cellular data networks are getting built out and improved across the world. A decent internet connection is now practically ubiquitous in urban areas on Earth, and even pretty far outside of densely populated areas one can find a decent GPRS / 3G signal.


Enter Google Fi. For US residents, Google Fi seems like a pretty sweet deal. Similar to T-Mobile US, Google Fi offers you a fixed fee ($10) per GB of data used abroad. Switching countries doesn’t incur additional charges; it’s simply added up on your bill. In my trip across Europe, I uploaded photos, worked remotely, and even streamed video; I used 2 GB of data in that month through my phone.

It was incredibly useful for navigation and staying in touch.


The phone — back then, only the Google Nexus 6, now also the Nexus 5X and 6P* — can share the data connection with my laptop, tablet and other devices, and at the end of the trip I was neatly charged only for 2 GB.

How’s the coverage, you ask? Overall, I found Google Fi’s roaming partners to be excellent. Throughout Europe, there was hardly any dead spots, and I usually got full 3G / 4G service. I haven’t been able to test it outside of Western Europe yet, but the results are encouraging.

What’s the catch? Well, there’s a few. For now, Google is limited to a few phones — though, this can be circumvented with some minor fiddling (* see footnote). The Nexus 6 was the biggest drawback of Google Fi as I was using it. Personal preferences aside (I find it outlandishly huge, even as a big dude), the phone ran out of battery in half a day and apps on it often crashed, losing directions while on the road. At times the whole thing randomly restarted.



Google Fi also requires you to pay for a ‘basic plan’: it’s not just data, but also a phone line. On the plus side, apart from that base monthly fee, you only pay for what you use: so if you used only 1 GB (domestically) one month while you usually use 3 GB, you pay less that month.

Another major issue is that for some puzzling reason, some verification text messages simply won’t be delivered to your phone. This can be simple two-factor authentication messages like Twitter or Apple’s, but also Bank of America’s ‘SafePass’ system for securely transferring large sums of money. There is a list on the Google Fi subreddit of working and broken services. Until this is fixed, Google Fi is little more than a nice travel hotspot that is neat but ultimately unreliable.



I found Google Fi to be a great service in its general setup and usability. The initial experience of receiving your welcome package is very nice, US coverage is good and customer support is excellent. On the road and abroad, it performs spectacularly for getting internet in most places. Until the issues with disappearing text messages and phone compatibility are ironed out, however, I wouldn’t rely on it quite yet.

* in the US, Google Fi intelligently swaps between the T-Mobile and Sprint networks for improved coverage. Apparently, this requires some special hardware in the phone (a modem with support for all frequency bands, and possibly a particular baseband firmware).

However, once abroad, you can simply pop the Google Fi SIM card in an iPhone and it’ll work absolutely fine after tweaking some settings. I was able to use data, call phones and receive and send text messages just fine in France and Italy on Fi with an iPhone 6.


Thanks for reading!



Tips: Europe by Motorcycle

Riding your motorcycle abroad can be a daunting experience, particularly if you are just not used to the changes in driving style and general traffic rules. With these few tips, you can take a lot of the stress out of riding and focus more on enjoying the incredible scenery, food and people of Europe.

1 – Mind Right of Way

In the United States, you can get quite used to everything being explicitly explained in signage. Not only will you find this to be quite different in Europe — signs are often set in pictograms so they can be understood by people of various linguistic backgrounds — but there’s also situations in which there simply aren’t signs.


Right of Way is often shown through street markings at an intersection. The general rule, even without these markings, is that whatever vehicle approaches from the right (your right) has the right of way. Keep this in mind when you come to an ambiguous traffic situation. Stay safe, and always look for markings on the street and not just on signs when you are confused.


2 – Be smart about speed


While Ride Earth certainly doesn’t condone illegal behavior, U.S. Interstate highways are fantastic places to speed. While the Highway Patrol is active, there’s no great fear of automated speed traps, cameras and other checks. You’ll find Europe, particularly the Western EU member states, to be far less lenient on speeding.

On many highways in France, the Netherlands, Germany (yes, even Germany), Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Denmark there are speed cameras installed that will measure your speed and snap a photo of your license plate if you exceed the posted limits. This is fairly straight forward, and the cameras are often marked as such. Be aware of other highway traffic abruptly slowing down to ensure they don’t get ticketed for speeding; a slow day slabbing it on the highway can reduce your attention on the road and you’re certainly at fault if you park your bike into the back of one of those cute, small European hatchbacks.

A newer type of speed control is called ‘Trajectory Control’ or SPECS, where an entire stretch of highway is used as a track to measure average speed. The method is simple; you merge onto a highway and at a certain overhead post your license plate is scanned. Several kilometers down the road, it is scanned again, and computers derive your speed based on the time you took to travel from one scan point to the other. If your average speed was even a few kilometers above the posted limits, you get a fine.

The name for this type of impossible-to-circumvent speed control varies per country; in Italy, you can see Italian signs mentioning ‘Tutor’ or ‘Safety Tutor’, whereas in the Netherlands and Belgium it is called ‘Trajectcontrole’, and finally, Austria labels it ‘Section Control’. As of this writing, those countries (as well as the UK) are the only ones using these systems.

Speed limits can and do change per country, so be aware of what the limit is in the country you are in! Look for these signs at the border:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 5.42.05 PM


3 – Split lanes and filter

Unless you are from California, it may be quite an adjustment to you to split lanes and filter. Not only is it legal in Europe, but it is expected of you in most places. Only Germany has restrictive legislation when it comes to motorcycle lane splitting; you may filter (that is, move past traffic which is at a standstill) but not split when traffic is moving. Elsewhere, you are welcome to split at speed.

Remember to stay safe while splitting lanes. A good speed is 10-20 km faster than traffic. Many riders in Europe turn on their turn signals or hazard lights as they split for increased visibility. It’s possible you come to a place where you cannot progress further due to a lack of clearance, in which case it’s perfectly OK to just sit between cars for a little bit.

In general, you’ll find people have a more relaxed attitude towards traffic rules with motorcycles and scooters, and police generally condone ‘grey area’ behavior. In most Southern parts of Europe (Spain, the South of France, Italy) you’ll find it is very commonplace to park motorcycles and scooters on open areas in public places. Inner city roads, which typically do not allow the use of cars are open to motorcycles as well. A good rule of thumb is to observe what other riders do or even ask them what is locally acceptable.


4 – Adapt to local driving culture

Speaking of more relaxed attitudes towards traffic rules, it may be a bit of a culture shock to ride in places like Italy and Spain where the rules of the road are taken as a gentle suggestion rather than law. In Central / Southern Italy in particular, you’ll find it common for scooters, motorcycles and even cars to pass quickly in blind turns, overtake two abreast or do other maneuvers that are considered dangerous in the US.


While they are certainly more dangerous and it’s not recommended to ride your bike like all the locals, where there is a different driving style, drivers also make different expectations and anticipate these types of situations. I found that passing on tight coastal roads with less clearance was at times safer than in California, as people actually pay attention to the possibility of oncoming traffic close to their lane.

Various places have different driving cultures, and you should take care to observe it. In Europe, the Northern countries tend to have a more relaxed and by-the-book attitude when it comes to driving, whereas near the Mediterranean you are expected to be assertive and at times even aggressive. Expect people to split your lane even when you aren’t sharing it; cars will pass you on highways without giving you excess space. Adapting to this is crucial to staying safe while you travel.

5 – Avoid toll roads

Roads in Europe are, in my experience, often stellar. A lot of the budget for road maintenance comes from access control in the from of tolls. If you travel far through a country, they can add up to a pretty significant cost. While motorcycles often get a discounted rate, I have paid over 20 euros in a day to toll roads at times.


However, the greatest cost of toll roads is missing some of the most beautiful roads in Europe. The best way to experience the countries and varied nature and sights is to get off the main roads. Michelin produces excellent (paper) street maps with scenic roads highlighted in yellow. These roads are toll-free, often curvier, well-maintained and will only add a few hours to your day at most. When in doubt, take back roads and find yourself some local history and cuisine.

On top of these tips, I highly recommend verifying traffic laws beforehand and make yourself familiar with notable exceptions. This website has good resources for a few notable European countries and general rules and tips.

Feel free to leave questions about riding in Europe in the comments, and ride safe!


Thanks for reading!



What is Ride Earth?

Welcome to Ride Earth! Ride Earth is a website founded by Sebastiaan de With and Stuart Philkill focused on adventure travel, motorcycles and photography.

After our highly shared “Ride North” in 2014 where we rode our motorcycles to the Alaskan Arctic, we decided to create an outlet for our ongoing travels where we can both chronicle our own adventures as well as help others go on trips of their own, by giving out tips and advice from ourselves and seasoned adventurers as well as opening ourselves up to any questions from our growing reader community.

Whether or not you are a seasoned traveler or someone curious about motorcycle travels, we hope to offer something for you.

Ride Earth doesn’t end there. There has never been a time where more products for travel and adventure have been offered for our consideration, and we hope to use this website as an avenue where you can read how this gear holds up under the pressure of taking it on real trips with actual, heavy use and abuse. We’re both absolutely crazy about gear, and we translate that into some pretty serious and honest reviews. You can read Sebastiaan’s Leica M review — in which he practically drives a full-frame digital rangefinder camera into the ground — to see what that entails!

Finding if an item truly lives up to its potential is only provable when taken on the trail or on the road, and we intend to give you an honest look into how our current (and the latest!) gear holds up.


The Ride Earth team currently consists of Stuart Philkill and Sebastiaan De With – two friends with a huge passion for motorcycles, photography, adventure and the gear that enables our adventures.

Stuart Philkill


Stuart’s interest in photography began as a child. He would play with everything he could find: from disposables to his father’s Nikon SLR. After a degree in biology left him with a future in a lab, he decided to take advantage of his youthful freedom and explore a creative career. 8 years later he is a freelance cinematographer and photographer. He began riding a motorcycle when he moved to the city for university. Originally it was the utilitarian advantages that appealed to him, be he quickly found that they’re incredibly fun to ride and it seems girls like them too. His combined passion for both cameras and motorcycles has led to opportunities exploring the world and capturing every possible moment.

Sebastiaan de With


Sebastiaan de With is a hired-gun designer, photographer and explorer from the Netherlands. He moved to San Francisco four years ago and has been exploring the American continent non-stop since. He loves European bikes, and his deep love for Ducati motorcycles still shows whenever a good-sounding V-twin comes around a bend. He does all the design and implementation of Ride Earth and does design work full-time at his design agency, Pictogram. He currently rides a BMW HP2.

Thanks for reading Ride Earth! You can support us by following us on your social media of choice and signing up for our email updates. We promise we’ll only share our very best adventure stories, photos and reviews with you. Plus, as we have just launched, we’ll be giving away some goodies before we head to South America!


You can contact us by email here.

Thanks for reading!



Our Bikes

What we ride

Currently, as we are preparing for our Ride South, we are riding and preparing these bikes:

Sebastiaan – BMW HP2 Enduro (2007)

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 11.45.44 PM

Sebastiaan’s new bike (he previously rode a Ducati GT1000) is BMW’s lightest-ever 1200cc bike. The HP2 Enduro wraps a seat, tank and some suspended wheels around the hex-head engine from the well-known R1200 GS adventure bike, but leaves behind excess weight and any electronics.

Modifications include an expanded capacity HPN gas tank, crash bars, valve covers, luggage rack, side cases, passenger pegs, an aftermarket seat, improved front lighting, upgraded suspension and a small windscreen.

The bike was purchased from an ADVRider member in Joshua Tree, and in true ADVRider tradition you can read about Sebastiaan’s short ride from Joshua Tree to San Francisco here.


Stuart – Kawasaki KLR650 (2001)


Arguably the most versatile and well-loved bike on the planet, Stuart’s nineties-red KLR650 has previously taken him to Alaska, and many other places. He first acquired the bike in 2014 in San Francisco and has tricked it out since, with a throttle lock, luggage carrier and custom-made Pelican side cases, subframe reinforcements and several reliability improvements like the famous doohickey replacement.

More details on his modifications and glam-shots of the KLR will be coming in future posts.


Thanks for reading!