2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 First Ride Review

A more accessible Multistrada, but is it accessible enough?

Ducati Multistrada front right action
Steering was slower on the Multistrada 950 compared to the 1200. A 25.2-degree rake and 2-inch-longer wheelbase keep it from feeling as sporty as its bigger brother.Photo: Ducati

The Multistrada 1200 has been a strong seller for Ducati, but the adventure-touring bike's $17,999 base price is out of reach for many. So, Ducati decided to bring the Multistrada 950 to the lineup, using the same chassis, subframe, and swingarm as the 1200 Enduro , paired with the engine of the Hypermotard , SuperSport , and the soon-to-be-discontinued Hyperstrada. Ducati's aim with the 950 was to make a more "accessible" Multistrada. A less extensive and less sophisticated electronics package, an LCD screen instead of a color display, and a manually adjustable fork (shared with the Desert Sled, but with stiffer spring rate), help knock $4,000 off the more expensive 1200's price, putting the 950 within financial reach for more riders.

Ducati Multistrada 950 engine
The Multistrada 950 uses the familiar 937cc engine of the Hypermotard, Hyperstrada (which won’t be available after 2016), and new SuperSport.Photo: Ducati

Firing up the Testastretta powerhouse gives a palpable yet somewhat tame (and familiar) snarl. The 937cc liquid-cooled V-twin pumps out a claimed 113 horsepower and 71 pound-feet of torque. Getting up to speed, vibrations start around 5,000 rpm, proving the 950 isn’t as long legged as its 1200 bigger brother. That doesn’t keep it from delivering plenty of power to get up to highway speeds and pass traffic in a swift manner. Carving through the serpentine bitumen I opted to keep the bike in third gear, and there was plenty of torque to pull through tighter turns.

Ducati Multistrada front action
The Multistrada 950 is meant to be more financially accessible, but size-wise it’s still built for taller riders. While rolling, it’s totally fine, but at a stop and during slow maneuvers, the bike’s height and weight are a challenge for my 5’5” self.Photo: Ducati

Suspension on the Multistrada 950 was set to “comfort” from the factory, meaning the settings were at the soft end of the range. That meant the long-travel suspension did a good job of absorbing imperfections in the tarmac without transmitting much to the seat. (Speaking of which, the saddle was plenty comfortable for an all day ride, without the slightest hint of saddle soreness.) As mentioned before, the front suspension is shared with the new Ducati Desert Sled. Both front and rear suspension are fully (manually) adjustable (compared to the electronically adjustable Skyhook system of the Multi 1200 S), though I didn’t find it necessary to make any adjustments throughout the day. The softer suspension setting led to a noticeable amount of nose dive during an abrupt braking maneuver, but I suspect adjusting compression would have helped, though I’ll admit I was missing Skyhook.

Ducati Multistrada 950 exhaust
The exhaust on the Multistrada 950 is the same as the 1200 except for the black finish.Photo: Ducati

Being only 5-foot-5 with a 30-inch inseam, I found the Multistrada’s seat height intimidating on paper, and challenging in real life. In contrast, my time in the 1200’s saddle (which was in the low setting), made slow speed maneuvers and stops less stressful. Accessory seats are available for the 950 that go as low as 32.3 inches and as high as 33.9 inches, but only stock seats were available for our test ride. I was just able to tippy toe both feet while seated, though I felt more comfortable when sitting off to the side of the seat, which let me place one foot firmly on the ground. Pushing the 500 lbs. (claimed, wet) bike off its sidestand required a fair amount of effort or momentum if it wasn’t parked on level ground. Once we got moving, though, the bike’s size and weight felt comfortable and manageable enough through most riding conditions.

Ducati Multistrada 950 overhead view
Wide handlebars make for excellent leverage to steer this large bike, but the Multistrada 950’s are wider than I found comfortable for all-day riding.Photo: Ducati

The rider triangle is quite generous, same as the Multi 1200; there was plenty of room to stretch my legs, and not feel cramped with too tight a bend in my knees. The reach to the handlebars is a reasonable distance, even with my shorter torso. While the width of the handlebars provided good leverage for steering, the distance from grip to grip was more than I was comfortable with for a whole day’s ride. Like its big brother, the smaller Multi is still built for a rider larger than myself.

Ducati Multistrada 950 front wheel and brakes
Dual 320 mm semi-floating discs, squeezed by Brembo callipers, come with ABS standard on the Multistrada 950. A larger 19-inch front rim helps raise the ground clearance just a touch.Photo: Ducati
Ducati Multistrada right side view
At 33.1 inches, seat height is not adjustable on the Multistrada 950, but accessory seats are available to provide a lower perch at 32.3, or higher at 33.9.Photo: Ducati

Turn-in was slower on the 950 than the 1200, due to a longer wheelbase that matches the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. A larger front wheel and shallower rake also keep the 950 from feeling as sporty as its big brother. This was especially apparent during tight U-turns, but the slower handling also made its presence known while cornering at speed. Presumably a design element to ease existing Multi-owners’ outspoken off-road anxiety, the larger front hoop supposedly raised the ground clearance a touch, but again, at the sacrifice of nimble steering feel. For those with actual off-road intentions, Ducati recommends the Enduro.

Ducati Multistrada 950 dash gauge
The LCD dash on the Multistrada 950 is two-toned, in contrast with the Multistrada 1200’s color dash.Photo: Ducati
Ducati Multistrada 950 right side rear
The Multistrada 950 shares the same frame as the Multistrada 1200, and the same subframe and wheelbase as the Multistrada 1200 Enduro.Photo: Ducati

The Brembo brakes on the Multistrada 950 were a bit soft on initial bite, but grew progressively stronger with more lever pull. Three-setting ABS and an eight-setting TC system make up the Ducati Safety Pack. Additionally, the Multi 950 offers four preset ride modes (which adjust ABS and DTC along with throttle response): Urban, Touring, Sport, and Enduro. Switching from one mode to the next was not the most intuitive process, and took longer than it should. Touring and Urban modes gave a nice easy throttle response, while Sport mode certainly gave a more eager power output at wrist’s twist, without being as jumpy as the Multi 1200. Since our test route didn’t include dirt, I left the Enduro ride mode untouched. The Multistrada 1200 S has the same four ride modes, but has a higher level of sophistication in the electronics: suspension is adjusted with each ride mode, and throttle response is more immediate in Sport Mode because, well, the 1200 makes a lot more power.

Ducati Multistrada front left side
Ducati paired its 1200 frame, Enduro subframe, and Hypermotard engine to create the Multistrada 950. At $13,995, this less sophisticated Multi aims to make the adventure touring bike accessible to more riders.Photo: Ducati

At $13,995 the smaller of Ducati’s adventure touring category is a whopping four grand less than its bigger brother. With new, higher maintenance intervals (9,000 miles between oil changes, and 18,000 miles for valve clearances, same as the Multi 1200), there’s no doubting the great deal of value in the new Multistrada 950. Offered in Ducati Red, or Star White Silk for an additional $200, the new Multistrada will be available in spring of 2017.

Ducati Multistrada 950 shock
The Sachs monoshock unit is fully adjustable, with remote spring preload adjustment.Photo: Ducati

When Ducati touted the Multistrada 950 as a more accessible bike, I wasn't just expecting a more financially feasible motorcycle, but something that would fit smaller riders like myself. Considering how many features are available on the 950, despite being a less sophisticated system than the 1200, the smaller Multi offers a lot of value for the money. Ducati made a step in the right direction, but could go one step further: A truly accessible Multistrada could still utilize the 937cc engine, but what about putting it in a smaller chassis? Shorter measurements from tip to tail, and shave a couple inches off the seat height would make this adventure tourer much more than financially accessible, but physically more approachable for the rider under 5-foot-7. As it stands, the only Ducati adventure bike that's reasonably sized for someone like me is the Scrambler. Other manufacturers are taking their smaller customers more seriously in the ADV and touring category, so why shouldn't Ducati? The 950's engine is tame enough to make a novice touring rider less intimidated than the 1200, while still enjoying a fun engine and comfortable setup. Ducati has the right idea with this bike, they just didn't go far enough. I hope to see that change in the future.

Ducati Multistrada touring pack front left action
Ducati offers four “rider packs” for the Multistrada 950, which are curated accessory packs that echo the ride modes: Touring, Urban, Sport, and Enduro. The pre-installed Touring Pack (seen here) is not available in the US, but DMH offers a touring pack, which includes a center stand and techno-polymer saddlebags for $969 plus $159 for color matched panels. The other accessory packs’ items will be available á la carte in the US market.Photo: Ducati

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
Take the Multistrada 1200 frame, the Enduro subframe, and slap the Hypermotard engine in it to make the Multistrada 950.
RIVALS
[Aprilia Dorsoduro 900][] , [BMW F800GS][] , [Honda Africa Twin][] , [Kawasaki Versys 1000][] , [Suzuki V-Strom 1000][] , [Triumph Tiger 800 XRx][] , [Yamaha Super Tenere][]
TECH
PRICE $13,995
ENGINE 937cc liquid-cooled 90° V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 113.0 hp @ 9,000 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 71.0 lb.-ft. @ 7,750 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 6.7 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 6.7 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo two-piston caliper, 265mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.2°/4.2 in.
WHEELBASE 62.8 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.3 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 500 lb. wet
AVAILABLE January 2017
CONTACT ducati.com
VERDICT
Ducati’s aim of making a more accessible Multistrada with the 950 is a step in the right direction, but the Italian marque could do even more.
Ducati Multistrada 950 left side overhead action
Once leaned in, the Multistrada 950 feels planted in the corners. The adjustable suspension is set to comfort from factory, but that didn’t affect the 950’s ability to tackle corners with confidence.Photo: Ducati