- Published: Thursday, 05 October 2017 21:32
Ducati’s Multistrada 950 makes the case of usefulness through basic competence
Italian bikes aren’t for everyone, or so the subtext goes. But of the Italian bike makers, Ducati has made the biggest steps towards the mainstream in recent times. It’s extended service intervals, and expanded its model range to include even more approachable bikes like the entry-level 400cc Scrambler and a less extreme sportsbike, the Supersport.
Ducati’s Multistrada sport tourer has been around since 2003, and recently it’s gotten a higher dose of adventure genes in the form of the Multistrada Enduro, a competitor to BMW’s ruff-n-tuff R 1200 GS Adventure, the latest version of which has recently launched in Singapore.
The whole idea of an adventure bike is to have a motorcycle that can do a bit of everything, from commuting, to fast touring, to off-road jaunts. They’re like multi-tools - larger and bulkier than dedicated tools, but with a trade-off in versatility.
The Ducati Multistrada 950 is the entry-level model to the range, with the more powerful,1,198cc 160hp Multistrada, Multistrada S and Multistrada Enduro models above it. The 950 aims lower, competing with bikes like the BMW F 800 GS and Triumph Tiger 800, although it’s slightly more expensive, larger in capacity, and more powerful than those bikes.
Being the lesser model, the 950 misses out on some of the hi-tech goodies the other Multis have - like the standard Multistrada 1200, it lacks the active suspension, TFT colour screen and LED lights on the Multistrada 1200 S model.
Compared to the standard Multi, Bosch’s inertial measuring unit (IMU) is gone, so the bike lacks anti-wheelie control (not that it needs it), and it receives less expensive Kayaba 48mm forks (compared to Sachs units on the 1200), while retaining a Sachs monoshock, though the suspension is still fully adjustable. The brakes discs are the same 320mm dual front discs, but the 950 makes do with less expensive Brembo radial M4.32 four-pot calipers, compared to Brembo M504s.
But what’s interesting about the 950 is that this cost-cutting doesn’t impinge on the riding, and in fact the 950 actually has the same narrower seat design, dual-sided swingarm (stronger, and less expensive to make than a single-sided one), exhaust design and 19-inch front wheel seen on the most expensive Multistrada, the Enduro.
Ironically, that makes the 950 very easy to mount, since the narrow seat allows for ease of flat-footing, unlike tip-toe on the Multistrada 1200’s standard seat, and would surely endure calf torture on the Enduro with its towering 870mm and top-heavy weight.
READ MORE: A 950 still too big for you? Ducati has the 400cc Scrambler, and now BMW has the 313cc G 310 R.
Customisation packs are available too. To be especially fashionable, the Enduro Pack adds extra lights, crash bars, a bash plate, radiator guards and off-road footpegs.
The 950’s seating position is classic Multistrada, where you sit very upright, with knees relaxed and arms splayed more than shoulder width apart on the wide, gentle-rise handlebars. Like many modern bikes, the cable-operated clutch is feather light, while the ride-by-wire throttle light and easy to manage.
Four riding modes are on-board, and you select it all via handlebar joystick and the monochrome LCD panel - Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro. Each gives varying levels of throttle response, traction control (TC) and ABS. Sport gives less TC, less ABS and shuts off rear-wheel lift prevention for instance, while Urban cuts power to 75hp and maxes out all the safety nannies.
It’s best to leave it in Sport, since the 937cc V-twin engine, as seen on the Supersport and Hypermotard 939, is tractable, unthreatening and delivers enough smooth power good enough for almost any situation.
The Testastretta 11° engine, with its generous valve overlap interval, trades top-end power for all-round tractability. While you can’t be inline-four-lazy with gear selection still, it bogs but never stalls, is forgiving in its delivery and not overly buzzy too. Below 3,000rpm, it easily builds torque for traffic light getaways, and feels docile, almost nowhere near as powerful as the 113hp figure suggests.
Crank on the throttle - in any mode other than Sport you need a lot of throttle-grip rotation - and the bike surges forward, delivering a healthy mid-range hit that builds nicely. Above 5,000rpm things start to get a little vibey, but it tapers off rather than increases with speed. High-speed Malaysian cruising is doable in the 950, thanks to its tall adjustable screen, though it’ll be a bit more effort-ful, since it doesn’t have quite the effortless punch of its 1200 brother.
Reading the spec list might make you think the 950 is less capable overall, but in real-life usage it hardly ever feels it. The suspension feels well setup and is still fully-adjustable, and we rode the test bike’s straight from the showroom without having the urge to change it.
The ride quality is very good, the long-travel forks dealing easily with the huge ‘urban enduro’ course that compromises roads near MRT build sites these days. The 950 is also impressively agile and stable, dipping into apexes gently, the wide bars needing a tiny nudge to put it where you want. There’s a little vagueness, probably from the 19-inch front wheel, but it’s totally expected of an adventure-style bike.
The case to be made for multi-tools is that you never know when you’re going to need them - but complexity adds cost, weight and limits overall usefulness. The idea here is that while multitools are appealing, they need to get the basics right or be useless.
The Multistrada 950 is good exactly for that reason. It may be Ducati’s least expensive, least powerful and most straightforward Multistrada, but given how it handles the basics of motorcycling well, it probably provides maximum utility for least cost.
Ducati Multistrada 950
Engine type 937c, 8V, L-twin
Bore X Stroke 94.0 x 67.5mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 113hp at 9,000rpm
Max torque 96.2Nm at 7,750rpm
0 to 100km/h Not stated
Top speed Not stated
Wet Weight 195kg
Seat Height 840mm
Price $44,500 with COE
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Verdict Less expensive, user friendly, fun to ride - the 'least' Multistrada is also one of the best