Can the Multistrada 950 prove to be a better mount than its 1,200 cc big brother?
Story by Alan Cathcart
Photos by: Milagro
After Pierre Terblanche conceived the Multistrada for Ducati back in 2003 as an innovative blend of supermoto, street enduro and sport-tourer powered by an air-cooled 1000DS desmodue engine, it was followed two years later by a 620 cc junior version that was more accessible and quite a bit less expensive.
But after Ducati completely revamped the model in 2010 as a supersport adventure-tourer by launching the Multistrada 1200 powered by the 1,198 cc liquid-cooled Testastretta 11° eight-valve engine, it’s failed until now to produce the junior-sized version that seemed to be such an obvious addition to its range. That became especially moot after it debuted an engine one year ago that was seemingly destined to power such a bike: the 937 cc version of the Testastretta 11° engine launched in the 2016 Hypermotard 939. Well, better late than never, Ducati has now produced the new Multistrada 950, and after a 230 km day spent caning it over Fuerteventura’s excellent traffic-free Canary Island roads infused with volcanic lava for super grip, and offering a great variety of riding – from fast highway cruising to carving corners climbing the side of an extinct volcano – all I can say is that I reckon it was worth waiting for.
950 vs. 1200
Okay, you say, but 260 cc isn’t such a big deal: this is barely a three-quarter scale downsize from the all-bells-and-whistles 1200 Multi. Well, yes. But believe me when I tell you that Ducati’s new 950 model comes across as a very different bike from its bigger, older brother, and it could indeed be quite a bit more appealing to those who don’t want to have to worry about surfing the multitude of electronic programs or cope with the extra hit of performance included in the bigger 160 hp engine’s package.
The smaller Multi is a real-world moto totale that you can use for the daily commute, to take your wife shopping, to ride on a Sunday morning run and still keep up with the sport bikes, or to fit luggage and go touring two up – a bike to be generally enjoyed for its sheer usability, that sees sporting prowess married with everyday convenience. And that’s quite apart from the Multistrada 950’s price saving, too. At $15,295 for the red version and $15,495 for the Star White Silk finish, the new 950 is over $4,000 less expensive than the more potent 1200 base model. Service intervals have been reduced to 15,000 km, with valve clearance inspection every 30,000 km.
This junior Multistrada employs the same engine as in the current Hypermotard, but with new cylinder heads with revised porting that deliver a 12.6:1 compression ratio; reduced 53 mm throttle bodies; and a Bosch ECU with revamped fuelling in each of the four riding modes delivered by the ride-by-wire digital throttle. Of these, Sport and Touring entail the engine’s full 113 hp output produced at 9,000 rpm, the same as the Hypermotard, but each with a different degree of urgency, whereas Urban (aka Rain) and Enduro each peak at 75 hp. Switching between modes is easily done on the go via redesigned controls on the left handlebar, and each mode also has different default settings for the three-stage Bosch 9.1 ABS and switchable eight-level DTS traction control programs. These are part of the DSP (Ducati Safety Pack), included as standard, but are the sum total of the Multistrada 950’s electronic control systems; plus, without Bosch’s IMU (inertial measurement unit), there isn’t the high-end cornering ABS that’s offered on the 1200, nor is the traction control lean-angle sensitive. But the revised engine tune produces a wider spread of torque, peaking at 71 ft-lb at 7,750 rpm, with 80 percent of that figure available between 3,500 and 9,500 rpm. So torquey is this engine that you can accelerate wide open in top gear from 3,000 rpm without any transmission snatch. This is an extremely flexible friend of a desmo sport bike – and one that sounds pretty nice, too, with a punchy-sounding L-twin echo from that flat-sided silencer.
Flat Torque Curve
Indeed, there’s an accessible and enjoyable delivery of both torque and power, with clean, syrupy pickup from a closed throttle without any jerkiness or over-aggressive fuelling, even in Sport mode. The ultra-flat torque curve means you needn’t use the six-speed gearbox too assiduously, because you’re always in the right gear with such plentiful grunt at your disposal. That’s a pity, in a way, since the Multistrada 950’s gearchange is absolutely stellar, with both bikes I rode happy for me not to bother with using the clutch from second gear upward – or downward. The lever for the cable-operated clutch isn’t adjustable, though the front brake lever is, and the twin 320 mm front discs with four-piston Brembo monobloc radial calipers combine with the large 265 mm rear disc sourced from the 1200 Enduro and its twin-piston caliper to stop a bike…