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Why the compact Ducati Multistrada 950 is not to be sniffed at

Despite being less powerful than its sibling, the Ducati Multistrada 950 is better for daily use.

Bigger is not always better. The 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950, although smaller than the Multistrada 1200, is no less exciting to ride.

In fact, after a week with the 937cc “baby” Multistrada, I have come to appreciate it as a dualpurpose motorcycle that has more to offer despite having less on paper.

At first glance, the fuel-injected 950 looks similar to its more powerful sibling. It is tall and comes with a wide handlebar as well as a menacing front fender resembling the beak of an eagle with flared nostrils.

But it has a slightly longer wheelbase and a double-sided swing-arm, unlike the 1200’s beautiful single-sided swingarm.

The view through its manually adjustable windscreen is a commanding one. Space is generous on both rider and pillion seats.

The twin-cylinder staccato, courtesy of optional narrow twin Termignoni pipes, projects a hollow-sounding exhaust note in the lower revs.

Ducati Multistrada 950

PHOTO Ducati

Having ridden both Multistradas, I find the difference between them in horsepower and torque obvious.

The 1200 has more punch with 152bhp at 9,500rpm and 128Nm of torque at 7,500rpm. In comparison, the 950 feels tamer with 113bhp at 9,000rpm and 96Nm at 7,750rpm.

Like its big brother, the 950 has four ride modes – Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro – and is equipped with traction control and anti-lock braking system (ABS). The 1200 has more features though, such as cruise control, lean-sensitive ABS and wheelie control.

Yet, I would argue the smaller bike is the better one, especially for a rider eyeing a daily-use machine.

Being 3kg lighter than the 1200, the liquid-cooled 950 with a wet weight of 229kg feels more manageable when roads tighten up or when grip levels diminish.

For street riding, most bikers would find its broad mid-range useful. Its acceleration is equally smooth – save for two false neutrals during the test spin.

The 950 is a palatable ride that does not threaten to rip off my arms during hard acceleration. The light pull on the cable-actuated clutch lever is also a blessing. Even with gentler road manners, the 950 is capable of accelerating from 0 to 100kmh in under 3.5 seconds.

THE NUMBERS

ENGINE 937cc 8-valve water-cooled L-Twin
POWER 113bhp at 9,000rpm
TORQUE 96Nm at 7,750rpm
0-100KMH Under 3.5 seconds (estimated)
TOP SPEED 210kmh (estimated)

Another reason to love the 950, equipped with a 20-litre fuel tank, is its fuel efficiency. I used 13.3 litres of fuel while riding 230km over a mix of road and off-road sections. On one litre of petrol, the 950 covered 17.3km. Fully fuelled, it is good for 346km, most of which I rode in Sport mode for a livelier throttle response.

In essence, the 950 is a street bike that allows the rider to negotiate corners by leaning with the machine or tipping its handlebars while keeping the body upright.

A quibble: Its protruding clutch cover is a distraction as it often rubs against my right ankle during braking. Nevertheless, the 950’s dual, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc callipers give progressive braking power on dry surfaces.

(RELATED: The new Ducati 959 Panigale can now go faster – but can you handle it?)

Heavier riders may find the adjustable suspension at both ends a little soft, especially on minor offroad jaunts. They would have to stand on the 950’s footpegs to help absorb the bumps.

Finally, to have a blast with the bike, ride fast on wide gravel tracks in Enduro mode. You will not be overwhelmed by any big power surge to the rear wheel and will be able to execute power slides more easily.

Story first appeared on The Straits Times.

HEADER PHOTO Seah Kwang Peng / The Straits Times