- Published: Tuesday, 27 December 2016 15:25
The Multistrada sports tourer becomes more approachable, less expensive - and much more desirable
Story by: Deyna 'Multicracker' Chia
Photos: Ducati SpA
Fuerteventura, Tenerife, -
While it seems like Ducati has been doing sportsbikes and sporty nakeds since forever, it’s also been making its versatile sports tourer for more than a decade already.
2003 marked the entry of Bologna’s least-traditional model ever, the Multistrada. This model was intended to be a do-it-all street bike, like the Yamaha TDM 850, but looked a million light years and possibly another dimension away from Yamaha’s parallel-twin UJM-styled machine. That’s because it was designed by Pierre Terblanche, who helmed the brand’s move away from the 916-era. And while not everyone loved the 999 litrebike, nor the Multistrada, it was a gutsy move and one that allowed Ducati much more lateral expansion as a brand, rather than flogging Tamburini’s timeless design like an undead zombie.
The first Multistrada looked like a robot on wheels, rode like a motard, and hit the markets in the 1,000cc guise, and later in the smaller engined 620cc in 2005 and a 1,100cc update in 2007.
The Multistrada's design was ahead of its time, and the market embraced the bike sparingly. Fast forward to 2010, Ducati unveiled the successor, which looks like the Multi as we now know it, packing a 1200cc engine derived from the 1198 Superbike. Since then, the model’s been updated constantly, the latest tweaks being the more flexible, easy-to-use DVT (Desmodromic Valve Timing) engine. Ducati also added Multistrada 1200 Enduro (hereafter Enduro), a hardcore offroad version capable of taking jumps (yes, 250kg, flying in the air) and taking on the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.
Fortunately, conditions in Fuerteventura were fortunately far from frigid, registering 28-degrees mid-afternoon, the day of the test. We were treated to a 200km ride around the island of Tenerife, (which is approximately twice the size of Singapore), snaking through the national roads and up into the hills, with elevations of around 400-metres.
To the untrained eye, the Multistrada 950 looks identical to the 1200. It also benefits from a few goodies lifted from the Enduro, including the double sided swingarm (also allowing the spoked wheels from the Enduro), exhaust end-can (rest of exhaust is all new, in conjuction with the all new air-intake for the 950), sub-frame (for load bearing), high-pressure die-cast alloy footpegs and forged levers, mirrors and 265mm rear disc and brake caliper.
The 950 has new switches (more positive in action), with a similar looking dashboard as the 1200, with fewer details, but thankfully retaining the fuel level and gear indicator.
The engine is lifted from the Hypermotard 939 and tuned for Multistrada duties 113bhp and 96Nm of torque, with more than 80 percent of max torque available from 3500-9500rpm, which Ducati says is ideal power delivery for smooth and flowing riding style.
To enhance its off-road abilities, the front wheel is now upsized from 17-inches to 19-inches, as seen on many adventure sports bikes, whilst the rear remains 17-inches. The 950 is delivered with Pirelli Scorpion Trail II dual-purpose tyres, but can fit Pirelli Scorpion Rally offroad tyres. The Kayaba forks and Sachs rear shock are identical to the Multistrada 1200 (non-S), both fully-adjustable and pack an adventure-esque 170mm of travel. Rake is at 25.2 degrees and trail at 105.7mm, both ensuring smooth direction changes, suitable for new and returning riders.
Dual Brembo M4.32 calipers grip 320mm discs up front. The 950 also features the Ducati Safety Pack (Bosch 9.1MP ABS (3 levels adjustable) and Ducati Traction Control (8 levels adjustable). Like the other current models, the 950 carries the same 4-bikes-in-1 concept, allowing users to choose between four modes - Touring, Sport, Urban, and Enduro - plus an extra custom preset. Each mode changes engine horsepower, traction control and ABS settings to suit, with Urban and Enduro limiting output to 75bhp. The 950 also makes do with the LCD backlit display as opposed to the full-colour TFT unit found on the Multistrada 1200 S.
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Consequently from carrying many parts from the big brother 1200, the 950 weighs in at 204kg dry, just 6kg lighter than the 1200, with a ready-to-ride weight of 227kg. Standard seat height is 840mm, with the option of being lowered or raised by 20mm with an optional, variable seat. Even at 840mm (seat height for the 1200 and Enduro are 845 and 870mm respectively), the sculptured seat (narrow-ish girth) made standing over easy, both feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Pillion space is more than adequate, and equipped with full sized grab rails.
Ducati emphasised the 950’s USPs of versatility and accessibility, suggesting that potential customers would use the bike for daily commute as well as long range (and possibly two-up) touring, something that we’d agree with. Ergonomics are the same as the 1200, and was spot on both seated or standing, with a sporty cant forward as expected of a Ducati, and accordingly the knee angle was slightly more acute than preferred, but not uncomfortably so.
A 19-inch front wheel usual implies a step down in handling, but the agility of the 950 was nippy in an almost startling way. In fact, compared with the 1200, the Multistrada 950 felt even quicker to turn.
With the fully-adjustable suspension in Ducati’s comfort presets, the fork dive under hard brakes was significant, with slight vagueness from the front end whilst cruising along the fast sweepers at triple digit speeds. The pliant suspension did well to smooth out imperfections in the road, whilst borderline averting a floaty-feel. Other journalists had the fork preload and compression control increased for improved dynamics, and appeared happy with the improved ride.
Powered by the 937cc ‘Testastretta 11°’ engine, the 950 drives forward healthily, but with minimal vibration it’s surely more approachable than intimidating, making easy work of cruising at 140kh/h, sitting at approximately 6,000rpm in sixth gear, with a top speed of 220km/h achievable, at least according to some of the other riders on the test.
It’s good that the 950 sports the same two-step adjustable windscreen as the 1200, I preferred riding with the screen in low position, with the high position reducing wind-blast only very slightly. Others found the high position to be effective, though.
A section of our route took us through narrow two-car-wide mountain roads. The tarmac was grippy and dry. The roads were missing guard rails, and only but a few were brave enough to put the Ducati Safety Pack to the test. Riding with Sports and Touring mode, the intervention by traction control wasn’t apparent, though the tail did slide one instance over sand.
There are four corresponding accessory packs which match the riding modes, incidentally - Sport, Enduro, Touring and Urban. They can all be added on, simultaneously, should Sir choose. These include top box and panniers (plastic or metal), Termignoni sports exhaust end-can and engine crash bars. The white bike shown here has the Touring setup, while the red bike above shows the Enduro bashplate and Sport exhausts.
For the thinking (aka mature) motorcycle owners amongst us, you will be heartened to hear that the 950 will be priced about 20 percent cheaper than the 1200, requiring oil changes only at 15,000km, and Desmo service at 30,000km, all in line with Ducati’s long service intervals and better ownership experience.
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Ducati has met its design brief of making the Multistrada 950 both versatile and accessible. We could see clearly how owners could (and would) commute with the 950, tour (both single and two-up) and take the bike off-road. Except for the non-radial front brake master cylinder, the 950 exuded typical Ducati quality.
In fact, the 950 reminded us of the Honda Fireblade – balanced, with handling not overwhelmed by the engine or vice versa. Our informal motorcycle journalist pow-wow threw up the idea that this could be best Multistrada ever, because it was approachable and unintimidating. This latter point is one of contention, in places like Singapore. The 950 might be lacking that “bite” and “fear-factor” that Ducati usually appends its bikes with, and the market here usually craves.
Ducati says the 950 isn’t really positioned to compete against the likes of the Triumph Tiger 800 or BMW F800GS/ GSA. But we think it could easily make up for that by finding popularity as a ‘baby Enduro’ model - slap on the optional bash plate and spoked wheels, plus mixed tyres and hand guards, and you have a adventure style tourer that’s easy-to-ride, not as expensive or intimidating as a 1200, yet still every bit a modern Italian.
Ducati Multistrada 950
Engine type 937cc, 8V, L-twin
Bore X Stroke 94 x 67.5mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 113bhp at 9,000rpm
Max torque 96.2Nm at 7,750rpm
0 to 100km/h Not stated
Top speed Not stated
Dry Weight 204kg
Seat Height 840mm
Price $36,000 (estimated)
Story by: Deyna 'Multicracker' Chia
Photos: Ducati SpA