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First Ride: Ducati Multistrada 950
Ducati is well versed in producing smaller versions of its big 1200cc bikes and when you consider examples like the Panigale 959 and the Monster 797, you’d say that the company was pretty good at it too. That’s because as downsized as these models may be from their bigger capacity counterparts, they’re definitely forces to be reckoned with in their respective segments. Now the company has followed suit with the Multistrada 950, you guessed it, in an attempt to make it more accessible to the lot of us.
The Multistrada 950 is around 7kg lighter than the older, bigger-hearted motorcycle but retains the same big, bold and imposing stance as its 1200cc sibling. You still have to really stretch while swinging a leg over this motorcycle. Although in appearance the pair may be strikingly similar, in function, they are very different. Simply put, there’s a lot more than just a simple engine transplant on this one.
The Multi 950 borrows its 937cc L-twin powermill from the Hypermotard, so you have a healthy 111bhp of power on tap and 96.2Nm of torque to toy with. Nope, no Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) tech here. So, you can’t expect the motor to be as polished as the DVT 1200’s and it isn’t. Vibes kick in around the 5000rpm mark. But these vibrations aren’t intrusive enough for you to dislike this motorcycle. The engine doesn't particularly fancy running in low revs and things are pretty drab below 3500rpm. Beyond that mark, things feel a lot liviler and the bike is ready to shoot off towards the horizon like its tail is on fire. No, propulsion isn't as ferocious as on its bigger counterpart, but it’s sure to keep even the most experienced hands entertained while managing to not be overly intimidating for newbies to this capacity of motorcycle. Like the 1200cc Multi, the 950 is a complete hoot to ride. The Multi 950 offers four pre-set ride modes (that adjust ABS and DTC along with throttle response): Urban, Touring, Sport, and Enduro. Switching from one mode to the next and customising the ride settings may take longer than it should with the new layout of buttons. Engage Touring and Urban and you are treated to a nice-and-easy throttle response, while in Sport mode, the bike feels a lot more eager at the twist of your wrist. Enduro mode shifts the ABS and TC settings to their least intrusive so as to give you full control of wheelspin rather than have the electronics play spoil-sport. The different ride modes definitely do a lot to highlight this bike’s character.
The Multistrada 950 shares the same tubular steel trellis frame as the Multistrada 1200S, and has the same ground clearance as the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. That’s down to the bigger front wheel compared to the regular 1200’s (19-inch wheel to the 1200s 17-incher), coupled with a shallower rake and slightly longer wheelbase. This means the 950 isn’t as easy to manoeuvre at slow speeds as its bigger sibling. This was especially apparent while executing tight U-turns, and the slower handling also made its presence felt while cornering at speed.
The Multi 950’s tall stance could have been cumbersome, but in the city, the bike didn’t prove to be a real handful to manoeuvre around. The light clutch helps matters immensely here too. However, it’s out on the open roads leading out of town, where the Multi 950 really comes into its own. It’s just built to munch on the miles. Cruising at 100kph with the motor humming at 4000rpm in top cog was effortless with the Ducati requiring little wrist movement to blast past slower moving traffic. The brakes offer a good progressive bite with the twin 265mm discs up front working well in tandem with the ABS unit (which is standard). While the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II treads compliment the bike’s overall dynamics well, it’s best you stay on paved surfaces to really enjoy what this motorcycle has to offer. If you have more of an inclination to off-roading, we suggest you opt for the Multistrada Enduro.
Like on the bigger 1200, the rider triangle on this 950 is very generous. There’s room aplenty to stretch your legs, and not feel cramped. The reach to the wide handlebars is a reasonable distance and even the width of the bars provided good leverage for steering over long stints in the saddle.
The Multi 950 misses out on cornering ABS as well as the electronically adjustable suspension as the bigger Ducati. Both the 48mm USD fork up front and the Sachs monoshock unit at the rear are fully adjustable, and require any preload adjustment to be made by hand. In stock setting, the suspension is more on the soft side and remains pliant over most surfaces with some amount of front-end dive on hard braking. But it doesn’t really feel that out of sync.
The Ducati Multistrada 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 definitely has the right idea with this bike.
Price: 11.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Specs: 937cc, L-twin, liquid-cooled, 111bhp, 96.2Nm, 6M, 229kg, tank: 20 litres
Verdict: The Multistrada 950 shares all the best qualities of the bigger 1200, but with less intimidating power and a more affordable price tag