Enchanting landscapes, snow-capped mountains and the Northern Lights provide the backdrop for the incredible story recounted by two riders, who decided to kit themselves out with Dainese’s technical gear and take the new Multistrada V4 for a spin on an expedition to the Arctic Circle.
Text & photo: Alessandro Broglia, 35, and Alessandro Mollo, 35
For anyone who, like us, has always been passionate about travel and nature, the four walls of our homes in which we have been forced to spend all of our time during the pandemic have left us feeling increasingly trapped. Hours went by as we sat on the sofa mulling over how we could get back out into the world, and, fortunately, our love for motorbikes finally gave us the answer.
After reading about the latest arrival to the Ducati family, the Multistrada V4, we came up with the idea of setting ourselves the task of putting this new jewel to the test in extreme conditions – a task that, aside from giving us an excuse to travel, would enable us to get our hands on and gain a comprehensive 360-degree understanding of this new motorcycle. They say it’s suitable for any and every terrain… but what about in the hands of riders with little experience in the snow?
And so we got to work on our proposal to the Bologna-born brand: an adventure ending up in the Arctic Circle, wholly in line with our motto, “Life begins outside your comfort zone”. The only problem, as we went on to discover, was that between the motorbike and the technical suit, we were actually unexpectedly comfortable, even in arctic temperatures.
Ducati eagerly accepted the challenge and gave us the green light just a few days later. We were off! With our wheels confirmed, we got in touch with Dainese to try and get our hands on some gear specifically designed to withstand the freezing northern temperatures, and once again we were met with an amazing response. They agreed to support us by providing us with everything we needed. And to think, only two days before, we were sat on the sofa.
Day 0 • Final pre-departure checks with the Ducati team
We couldn’t start our journey from anywhere other than the Ducati headquarters. Although we are only immersed into the heart of the Borgo Panigale-based manufacturer for a few hours, it’s undeniable that even the air that they breathe there is bursting with excitement. Before us stands one big family united by a beating red heart, every member of which is ready and motivated to give it their all. It’s here that passion is born, it’s here that the engines inside the companions of our two-wheel adventures roar for the very first time. Everything is ready, and we can’t wait to get going.
Day 1 • Initial riding impressions
On the 29th of January 2021, our alarm goes off early. It almost doesn’t seem real: this project that started out as a bit of a whim, literally a gamble, was about to begin. By early morning, we are standing beneath the iconic Ducati emblem posing for the customary photo with CEO Claudio Domenicali, who points out the strengths of the new Multistrada V4 to us before we set off. We can hardly contain our excitement, which explodes as soon as we fire up our engines. We’re in first gear, and the control is in our hands: the bike is docile, the gear changes are quick, and the engine is smooth with its 4 cylinders that don’t even vibrate. You get the first few kilometres under your belt. You don’t know each other yet, but the bike has already seduced you. It embraces you with its exceptional ease and comfort, and with the entire journey before us, we realise we couldn’t have hoped for a better start than this. Chilly Scandinavia awaits us.
The kilometres continue to amass beneath the wheels, our bikes gliding across them as if they were nothing. The riding position is perfect, the seat comfortable and heated, just like the handles. Hours and hours on the motorway could well be arduous, but the plexiglass shields us and the ventilated helmet peak limits “sail effect”, which prevents the muscles in our necks from becoming tense as we travel. As expected when covering distances of more than 1,000 km, tiredness hits us, but the technology on-board the Multistrada V4 is a real game changer. Why? It’s simple. With the radar-operated adaptive cruise control, you feel completely at ease, which in the long run means you feel less tired. The same can be said for the other electronic system enabled by the rear radar, the BSD (Blind Spot Detector), which is extremely useful for signalling any vehicles travelling faster than us (especially when it’s cold, when us motorcyclists are more cautious than drivers…).
After 650 kilometres of snowy passes through Italy, Austria and Germany, we arrive in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, where we decide to stop.
Day 2 • The Northern chill begins to set in
The alarm goes off at 6 am and we get straight back on the motorway northbound. We encounter snow and ice, however our 170 horsepowers are seamless, regular and unwaveringly powerful, and our technical gear keeps us protected and, thankfully, warm.
We travel several kilometres with snowflakes falling onto our helmets. Given that we need to keep racking up the kilometres if we are to stick to such a tight schedule, it wouldn’t have been practical to keep stopping to change in and out of our rainproof suits. That’s why the Antarctica suit with laminated Gore-Tex® outer membrane was the only choice: you’re always protected from everything – cold, snow, rain – as it’s just like a shield, finished with neoprene reinforcements that keep the elements out. Water slides straight off, so the jacket and the trousers are always dry, even when we put them on the morning after.
We put our special tyres on only once we have arrived in the Swedish capital. Although the conditions are somewhat unfavourable, the bikes respond to perfection: stable and always with maximum control, thanks to the unexpected addition of a saddlebag tilt system.
In the late afternoon, we arrive at the shores of the North Sea, and from Rostock port, we set sail in the direction of Sweden.
Day 3 • Ice and studded tyres
Today’s aim is ambitious: leave Trelleborg, a town located on the southern most point of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and cover the 645 kilometres that separate us from Stockholm. However, the weather conditions prove to be dangerously unstable, quickly changing from snow to ice to sun. We have to constantly pull over to catch our breath (and light our votive candles to pray for safety as we risk our lives riding on these sheets of ice).
We decide to stop in a service area to consider our options: the conditions are dangerous and we don’t want to risk it. Before we even manage to put our feet onto the ground, our legs go flying. The asphalt is like an ice rink.
We decide to attach the emergency studs to our tyres, with the hope of improving their grip on the icy roads, and we set off again. Suddenly the sun comes out: the asphalt clears up, the studs begin to heat up, and the rubber is in danger of overheating and pushing the studs out. We slow down, but then almost suddenly, the snow comes back to keep us company again. It’s a bit like in Formula 1 when the asphalt, as it’s drying, destroys the wet tyres, but then the rain starts falling and it’s all under control again – now as the snow starts to fall again underneath our studded tyres, we’re back on track! The DTC system, which gives you 8 different levels of traction control, is perfect: it means you always have optimal control in all types of conditions, from dry and cold, to wet and even snowy, whether you’re using standard tyres or even snow or studded tyres.
Exhausted, we continue in a northerly direction along minor roads for another hundred kilometres. Fortunately, a friend, who is also a motorcyclist himself (thank goodness for solidarity amongst bikers!), who lives in Kumla, not far from where we are now, offered to host us if we ever needed help. Taking advantage of this opportunity, we head to his, and, warming our bones with a good meal and a beer, we recharge our batteries before continuing our journey to the North the following day.
Day 4 • The Desmo Center and an unexpected call
As soon as we’re up, we get back on the road and shortly reach the Stockholm Desmo Center, where special tyres that had been sent across from Italy a few days before are waiting for us, alongside a warm welcome party (that we particularly appreciate, given the –15°C temperatures).
With our studded tyres now on (special thick studs, different to the emergency studs that we put in during yesterday’s leg), the bike feels notably different, and, even with the anti-puncture fluid, it remains extremely agile and precise. However, we use the afternoon to get some rest. Amongst the various calls from family and friends in Italy, we receive one from Davide Bozzalla, a photographer and friend of ours from Turin, who offers to join us to document our adventure. We of course accept.
Day 5 • Not far from half way
Our target for today is to ride around 750 kilometres north along the Gulf of Bothnia, which separates Sweden from Finland, and reach the city of Skellefteå,
The road is icy, but our Best Grip studs, our Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres and the bike’s traction control system keep us riding safely even in these adverse conditions: something that can’t be said unfortunately for the crumpled vehicles that we pass at regular intervals along the side of the road. However, not even the soaring feeling of being on-board the V4 can stifle the fear we feel when we pass the enormous timber trucks that look more like monstrous war machines than lorries. Tired but happy, we finally arrive at our hotel.
Day 6 • A spectacular display of lights
Like every other day, our alarm goes off at dawn (dawn Italian time, to be exact: here, at the 64th parallel north, it’s still pitch black). However it’s another chance to admire the work of those who designed and developed the Multistrada V4, because the front headlight literally makes it seem like daylight, and with the help of the additional headlights and the cornering function, there’s never anything unexpected, not even when travelling in night-time hours. We enter the remote wilderness of Lapland, heading towards Villa Björklund, located near the town of Arjeplog. The remaining 250 kilometres that separate us from our destination take us through an enchanting snowy scene, covered by a blanket of pure white, only broken by the red of our Ducati bikes. We slowly take in the unique landscapes that surround us, and in the evening we are rewarded with a jaw-dropping display of Northern Lights. Like every night, our bikes sleep outside: tonight the mercury drops to -31°C. We shiver just thinking of them; who knows if they’ll get us back on the road again tomorrow…
Day 7 • We’ve done it!
At the first push of the ignition button, our V4 engines immediately come to life, despite the freezing temperatures during the night – incredible! Thanks to the practical on-board computer, we are able to monitor all settings, including tyre pressure, which we can then keep under control at all times with the use of the studs. Before the end of the morning we reach the Arctic Circle, marked by a sign on the side of the road: latitude 66°33’! We push on to the border with Norway, which is now impossible to pass through, due to Covid-19 restrictions. We weave our way through all the roads we can, relying on the bike’s adaptive Skyhook suspension, an innovative approach to the bike’s dynamics that results in a setup that’s always controlled, so with reduced pitching when travelling with a full tank, and with suspension that reacts to the uneven ground, making it feel as if you’re sitting on a cushion of air, enabling you to travel endless kilometres even on bumpy terrain without getting tired. By changing the Riding Mode (Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro), not only do you change the setup and the electronic processes of the suspension, but you also modify the engine maps (fuel and power) and all the electronic controls the bike is equipped with.
At the end of the day, thanks to the equipment provided to us by Ferrino (sleeping bags for temperatures as low as -45°C, self-inflating air mattresses to keep us insulated from the cold, and a tent with an inner thermal layer), we are able to fully appreciate the nature that surrounds us as we set up camp in a truly magical setting.
Day 8 • Photos, videos and… some down time
We pack up our tent and decide to go back towards Arjeplog, where we get a room in the same place we stayed two nights ago.
Day 9 • Getting up at dawn has never been so exciting
We’re up and ready to go at 5.30 am on the dot. We head straight to the Colmis Proving Ground, a set of tracks located on a frozen lake that we have all to ourselves for the day. We spend the day “playing” with our Multistrada V4 bikes on the icy surface, having the time of our lives whilst gaining first-hand experience of just how effective these controls are, giving us perfect command of the vehicle even in completely unique conditions like these.
Day 10 • Back to Stockholm
We head back towards the South – it’s time to begin the long descent home. The Northern Lights, the reindeer hidden amongst the trees, and the track on the frozen lake are already a beautiful memory: the road that will take us back to Italy is extremely long. The confidence that we now have in our Multistrada V4 bikes is incredible. We therefore decide to ride for 910 kilometres without stopping and try to get back to Stockholm by the evening. The weather is on our side, the roads are good, and we feel truly satisfied: after a day’s travelling, our spirits are sky high. Travelling is always enjoyable, but on days like this, you can’t beat it. It must be said though that without the protection of the windshield and the riding assistance systems, we would have felt the tiredness a lot more. The hours fly by smoothly without any glitches, apart from one violent snowstorm, that fortunately only catches us when we are nearing our destination.
Day 11-12 • Time to reflect …Italy
We hastily cover the last 2,200 km along Germany’s high-speed motorways. Our heads are filled with memories, and our excitement helps to make the last two days of riding less arduous.
We’re home, safe and sound. And it’s time to reflect on our journey, with our feet warm and cosy in front of the fire and our memories of the past few days fresh in our minds. We left with the idea of making it to the arctic North, of surviving an extreme adventure, but we now realise that we didn’t just survive; we lived and breathed a real, intense experience.
Our bikes, tyres and clothing were not just the perfect travel companions, but they radically changed what we believed to be true, namely the hell we thought we’d have to endure to survive the cold. But actually, thanks to each and every individual who played their own part in designing the electronics, the materials and the technology, our minds were much clearer of any fear and worry than we expected, enabling us to enjoy the roads and landscapes to a far greater extent. Then there’s the human aspect to it, as when you spend all day on a motorbike in average temperatures of -15°C, it’s always going to be tough, and the feelings stay with you: we still feel the biting air, the cold rushing beneath the wheels of our bikes, we still feel the smile spread across our faces underneath our helmets as we rode across the frozen track, our wide eyes as they took in the enormous timber trucks, and the sensation of the studs as they bit down into the snow, we can still hear the gentle breath of the reindeer in Sweden and the “gallop” of the horsepowers of the Multistrada V4 as it sped along the German motorways. And so for us, it’s certainly not goodbye to the Multistrada V4, but just arrivederci – see you for the next challenge.
A journey of 7400 km, mostly on snowy and icy roads
29 gennaio Bologna – Ingolstad km 630
30 gennaio Ingolstad – Rostock km 720
31 gennaio Trelleborg – Kumla km 630
1 febbraio Kumla – Stoccolma km 250
2 febbraio Stoccolma – Skelleftea km 1.050
3 febbraio Skelleftea – Ajerplog km 280
4 febbraio Ajerplog – Circolo Polare Artico- Ajerplog km 260
5 febbraio Ajerplog – Colmis – Ajerplog km 180
6 febbraio Ajerplog – Colmis – Ajerplog km 150
7 febbraio Ajerplog – Stoccolma km 1.100
8 febbraio Stoccolma – Kumla km 250
9 febbraio Kumla – Trelleborg km 550
10 febbraio Rostock – Ingolstad km 720
11 febbraio Ingolstad – Bologna km 630
Always below zero
We always traveled below the 0 ° base between -10 ° -15 °, the minimum temperature we travelled at was -22 ° and the night at the Arctic Circle we got to -31 °.
Alessandro Broglia, 35, and Alessandro Mollo, 35, are the protagonists of this journey. Both from Turin, enduro riders, they share a passion for adventure but if Briglia is used to taking long motorbike trips, for Mollo, an experienced mountaineer and motorcyclist, it was the first adventure on two wheels.