First Impressions: Ducati Multistrada 950
In approaching the 950 Multistrada I was optimistic; this was slated to be Ducati’s easier to ride, yet off-road capable Multistrada. I wanted this bike to be the high-quality smaller version of the 1200—showing me the premium details I had experienced from riding the bigger Multistradas—but many brands fall short when they attempt a “little sister” model of their flagship bike....
Ducati introduced the 950 Multistrada to their fast growing and “Multi”-faceted line of motorcycles for 2017 on Fuerteventura Island off the coast of Morocco. The 950 slides into its place as a more manageable bike than its big sister (the 1200cc Multistrada Enduro); and is a bit more grown up and adventurized than the super-moto styled stable mate that shares its engine with—the 939 Hypermotard.
The 950 is what I would call an adventure-sport touring motorcycle that can wear many hats, and with its four ride modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro) it seems to have the personalities in place to do so. The variety and delivery on this bike make it more approachable than its bigger sisters, setting you up to enjoy gravel and dirt roads as is, while giving you smile through pavement twisties.
The 950 comes in as a “mid-level” $13,995 (red)/$14,195 (white) adventure motorcycle. I can guess what you are thinking, “mid-level” means compromise, right? Not for this brand, and that’s why I was so optimistic looking forward to my first ride last week in the Canary Islands. The 950 sits at the top of the class with 113 hp and 71.6 ft.-lbs. of torque. This bike boasts an eight level adjustable traction control with three throttle input profile delivery options programmable (and memorized—meaning no reprogramming upon starting your bike as many other brands have you do) independently within the four rider modes. The 950 has a peerless software package to back up its hardware. My only complaint is that this bike lacks cruise control; seemingly an easy ask when the software package is so high-end. While I would never let cruise control determine whether or not I was going to purchase a motorcycle, it’s just annoying.
The finish on the 950’s (937cc in actual displacement) engine cases and covers are top notch; even the frame plugs have an attention to detail that you cannot find on any of the competition. On top of all the extra attention to detail, you’ll also experience class leading maintenance intervals: 9k miles for oil changes and 18k miles for valve adjustments, which in most cases puts the rider at two trips to the service department for valve adjustments to everyone else’s three. To go along with that surprised face you may be sporting right now, it should also be noted that the transmission in the 950 performed flawlessly during the brand’s launch event through all the twisties on the volcanic island, and it’s one of the most positive engagement and slick transmissions I’ve seen.
As a package the motor and transmission work together better than expected, but what does that mean? In true Ducati fashion, they’ve somehow managed to squeeze an emotional feeling between the throttle, clutch, transmission and engine. Maybe it’s the massive howl from the intake, or finally someone’s figured out how to program magic into a ride-by-wire system, but whatever it is, it feels fantastic to ride.
Carving turns is something Ducati has had dialed in with for a while. The new 950 is no exception. There’s a noticeable amount of stability built into the frame geometry that comes from a slight increase in the rake and model-specific trail on the front end. Suspension has clearly been sorted out for on-road performance. Adjusting suspension for more off-road performance, or to your liking, is done manually, but once again the 950 hasn’t been told it’s a mid-level bike and comes with fully adjustable suspension front and rear for preload (remote on the rear), compression, and rebound dampening. A few adjustments to both the front and rear of the bike and just a couple clicks on the front end made a big difference in handling—a nice touch as some bikes seem to be hopelessly unaffected no matter how much adjustment you dial in.
To go with the off-road friendly 6.7 inch “medium long” travel suspension, Ducati has included cast 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels. Sliding the rear axle through the shell-cast double-sided swing arm the 950 makes it ready for more dirt action than a single-sided swing arm would indicate. The front end has more rake than the other 1200 Multis for increased stability, adding to the 950’s approachable and unintimidating riding experience. I want to highlight here that the 950 shares the frame and swing arm of the 1200 Multistrada Enduro; hence; all the comparisons to it. This leads to interesting discoveries, such as: The spoked wheels found on the 1200 Enduro will bolt right up to the 950 ($2,269 for the set seems a little expensive but you’ll end up with two sets of rims at the end of the deal), and they look fantastic all while increasing off road friendliness.
Ducati clearly stated in the press launch itinerary: “There will be NO off-road riding during this launch.” So, I managed to sneak off for about five minutes in a small section of dirt and rocks with Pirelli’s Scorpion Trail II street tires and Ducati’s hard bags on the bike. The 950 feels much better in the dirt with the help of the 19-inch front rim over the standard 1200’s 17. The suspension also feels tuned for more off-road duty than the standard 1200, that could be a byproduct of the less street-oriented nature of this bike or just overall rider comfort built into the suspension; either way it’s welcomed here at ADVMoto. The engine lays down the power smooth and predictably with on/off throttle response a non-issue. The big help for the average rider who wants to take this bike off the beaten path is going to be the reduction in size and weight of the gas tank and lower seat than on the 1200 Enduro.
Even swinging a leg over the 33.1-inch non-adjustable seat height feels confidence inspiring and planted for the average rider, with +/-.787-inch optional seats available for the not so average sized riders out there. To complement the low seat height the 950 weighs in at 500.4 lbs., ready to ride with 90% of its fuel capacity. For comparison that’s .394 inches lower than the optional low seat height on the 1200 Multi-Enduro and 59.6 pounds lighter.
Brake components are one of the first things to be sacrificed to cut the costs on a motorcycle. Astonishingly the 950 Multistrada comes with the same 320mm rotor and radially mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers up front and 265mm rotor and Brembo caliper out back as the top-tier 1200 Multi-Enduro. Couple those with the Bosch 9.1mp ABS system and all of a sudden track days become a livable fantasy—on a bike that can also handle gravel and dirt roads. Some people may find that the brake dive coupled with a strong initial bite is a bit excessive. The obvious tradeoff for that is the exceptional on road braking that only Ducati brings to the table in this level of trim and cost.
Adventure motorcycles are getting very good these days with computer-based modeling, design, and stringent manufacturing tolerances. When choosing a new bike, you can’t just say “I want the best adventure bike.” You should ask yourself: “What am I going to need this motorcycle to do for me?” As an adventure-sport touring motorcycle the 950 Multistrada may answer that question if you’re honest with yourself in not needing the full size (and weight) adventure bike. My optimism here was well founded; the Ducati delivers a premium product worthy of the Ducati name while scaling down on size, weight, horsepower and cost. The top quality 950 Multistrada will be available early spring 2017 in dealerships. Check out Ducati.com for overviews, specs and options; and be sure to look out for my more in depth review of the 950 Multistrada from ADVMoto coming soon.