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Testing a Ducati Bike with a Velomacchi Pack

When adventure calls, there are many ways to respond,  only one of which is unacceptable.

“I’m busy” just won’t do.

We’re all busy, and that’s precisely why we need to break from the daily grind and learn something new about ourselves. Where, how, and with whom you explore isn’t nearly as important as the resolve to go.

I speak from experience. Before my latest trip, I declined opportunities to camp, overland, and hike as if I was the only person in the world saddled with responsibilities. Sure, my excuses were legitimate, but they were also roadblocks to the kind of renewal only adventure yields.

Thank goodness I wised up.

velomacchi and ducati
Miles Branman/The Manual
Miles Branman/The Manual

When constructing the ideal getaway, I typically start with a place and fill in the details later. This time, however, I’m starting with a product — two of them, actually.

As a marketer, I’m privy to the sort of jargon-laced mission statements and product descriptions we commonly find in the consumer marketplace. Velomacchi skips the BS. In short, the company creates innovative, durable products for two-wheeled travelers based on the needs and desires of its own enthusiast workforce.

It’s Velomacchi’s 40-liter Speedway backpack that catches my attention and inspires an overnight motorcycle trip. Built from high-quality, waterproof materials, the Speedway boasts a magnetic sternum coupler and hinged shoulder pads, among other nifty features.

Equipped with the perfect bag, I now require the perfect ride.

Dual sport/adventure bikes are fascinating instruments. Imbued with dirt bike capability and cruiser comfort, there’s no motorcycle more versatile. Today’s range of dual sport options is extensive, but Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 Enduro Pro is about as extravagant as it gets.

Powered by Ducati’s iconic L-twin motor, which is good for 152 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque, the Multistrada 1200 Enduro Pro is tamed by an eight-level traction control system and can be configured via four drive modes. Other highlights include 48 mm front forks, a Sachs monoshock rear suspension, 7.9 inches of travel, a Skyhook adaptive rebound system, tank guards, LED spotlights, and Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires. Think of a place, any place (reachable by land), and the Enduro Pro can get you there.

Joshua Tree National Park near Indio, California, is more than just a place — it’s an off-road playground. A mere two-hour ride from my domicile, J-Tree offers sand, gravel, and rock trails to test the Enduro Pro’s Billy Goat engineering and the pack’s long-haul comfort.

Before setting off, I load the Speedway pack with (almost) everything I’ll need for an overnight journey. Fortunately, my pals in a Toyota Tacoma will be joining me and can carry bulky items like a tent, water jugs, and a sleeping pad. Into the Speedway, I fit a sleeping bag, compression pillow, DSLR camera, 24-105 mm lens, GoPro Hero 6, layers, clothes for the following day, toiletries, sunglasses, gloves, a beanie, sunscreen, scarf, wallet, and phone. Thanks to the pack’s easy-access pockets and hidden nooks, it takes little effort to find a home for each item.

For the most part, the Speedway’s style and functionality blend seamlessly, however there’s one tiny detail that favors cool design over ease-of-use. The pair of elastic tie-downs on the front external pocket are simple to unfasten, but difficult to maneuver back into the eyelets. It’s a small detail, but one that could prove frustrating during daily use.

Hopping on the Enduro Pro, I quickly realize this bike has a height requirement … or rather a leg-length requirement. At six-feet tall, but with a longer torso, I barely touch the balls of my feet to the ground. Ducati does offer a lower seat (0.75 inches lower than stock), which would make the bike more accessible without sacrificing comfort, but my tester isn’t equipped as such. Therefore, with extreme care, I waddle the 575-pound moto out from its parking spot, noting its heft at low speeds. Once I’m in gear and cruising, however, the Multistrada’s feels incredibly light.

Over 140 miles of highway riding lay ahead. I select the Touring ride mode, engage hands-free cruise control, and pair my smartphone to the bike’s Bluetooth system for navigation. The Enduro Pro’s lower windscreen invites a tad more buffeting than the standard Multistrada, but the rest of the cruising experience is smooth and comfortable.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

In a flash, I turn off at Joshua Tree’s southern entrance. Switching to Enduro mode, the bike transforms into a low-end torque fiend. From the moment the hybrid tires leave pavement, I sense its extensive capabilities. The first several miles of riding traverse loose gravel and deep sand. Gaining speed, the tail begins to wag on the low-traction terrain. Rising to a standing position improves stability appreciably and regains the sense of nimble handling. Jogging the Enduro Pro through first, second, third, and fourth gear is a breeze, and a clamp of the Brembo brakes hauls the bike down in a hurry.

As I gain elevation, gravel and sand turn to rocky, undulating trails. Plotting the right path to avoid getting stuck and losing momentum is essential. The last thing I want at this stage is a 1200-cc bike flopping over and pinning my limbs to a jagged rock. Fortunately, the Enduro Pro’s ample thrust presses on without incident. The bike was competent on sand and gravel, but it excels in crawling conditions.

ducati multistrada
Miles Branman/The Manual
Miles Branman/The Manual

With only an hour of daylight remaining, I join my friends at the campsite. We assemble our tents expeditiously and gather tinder for a fire. Twenty minutes into my labor, I realize I’m still wearing the Velomacchi bag. The pack’s freedom of movement and high-back position make it easy to forget when worn over a riding jacket.

The sun dips out of view, outlining the hilly horizon and casting a gorgeous mix of purple, yellow, orange, and red hues across the sky. The chilling air draws us around the fire. Completely at ease, we reminisce, plan future trips, and admire twinkling stars. Almost any topic is fair game, but we steer clear of work-related discussions. No one dares taint an adventure with talk of toil.

Early to bed, we are early to rise. After a hearty breakfast, we break down camp and saddle up for the 10-mile trek out of the park. Firing up the Enduro Pro, the color TFT display shows ample fuel left within the 7.9-gallon tank.

I know what awaits me back home: chores, emails, and tedium. There will always be reasons not to be here,  miles from anything resembling productivity. But today, all I care about is this vast, captivating landscape. It’s time to play.

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