While the updated Ducati Multistrada 950 S looks largely unchanged, under the skin it sports a sea of change. Ravi Ved spends a few days with it to find out if the changes have made a world of a difference
It’s a fascinating world, the one we live in today. We have mobile phones that are almost as large as tablets, our homes are our new offices, and non-tangible digital coins are the new big thing. The world of motorcycles is no different.
On the one hand you have the likes of the Kawasaki ZX-10R, BMW S 1000 RR, and the Ducati Panigale V4, all of which have a power-to-weight ratio that puts the best of sportscars to shame.
And then you have something like the Ducati Multistrada 950 S – which is almost like a sports tourer in the shape of an ADV. Does that make the updated Multistrada a confused product that fails to make a distinct identity? Hell no! In fact, it is quite the opposite, and here’s why.
Ride and Handling:
Ducati has really pushed the envelope in the handling department for all its new-age bikes. We first experienced it in the Panigale V4 and V2, and the Multistrada 950 S continues with that tradition. A lot of the credit for it goes to the Ducati Skyhook semi-active suspension.
Unlike some motorcycles that require you to struggle with tools to adjust the suspension for preload and damping, in the Multi 950 it is just the push of a couple of buttons on the handle bar. The result is an instant and noticeable change in the way the 950 S behaves.
Although the Multi weighs almost as much as most of its competitors, it tends to look a bit more intimidating due to the large body work, but out on the road it feels surprisingly nimble. It handles like no motorcycle this bulky in theory should. It leans into a corner effortlessly and is predictable, both aspects that make it par excellence.
For a motorcycle that handles this well, the ride quality is quite absorbent too. It isn’t as comfortable as the Triumph Tiger 900, but manages to cushion most small and medium size potholes reasonably well. On our uneven road surfaces, using the hardest setting on the suspension made the ride a bit too busy, even for a sporty riding experience – it is a setting best reserved for track rides.
From the time you first swing your leg on the 950 S, the comfort it has on offer becomes amply evident. And the perception remains unchanged even after spending long hours on the saddle. The bowl-like shape of the seat makes you feel one with the bike and the high and rear-set foot pegs give you a sporty riding posture.
While taller riders may complain that this makes the rider’s triangle a bit tight, I, with my average 5ft 8.5in height found it to be perfectly alright. That being said, movement in the saddle may feel restricted, and it’s something that can cause discomfort especially on a day-long ride.
The Multistrada 950 S gets an 840mm high seat as standard, but Ducati also offers a lower 820mm seat as an option – there’s also a taller 860mm seat for taller riders. Our test bike was been fitted with the standard 840mm high seat.
While that isn’t a very tall, the motorcycle is quite wide in the centre due to which I couldn’t get both my feet firmly on the ground. I could only tip-toe and that made it a bit difficult to push it in and out of parking – especially given how top-heavy it is.
The Multistrada has an adjustable windscreen but despite that it is quite difficult to find the right height. Pulling it up high would bring the edge of the windscreen right in my line of vision, and in the lowest setting it would cause quite a bit of buffeting. While the latter, for me, was the better compromise, at higher speeds I could feel my head quiver due to the harsh winds.
Engine and performance:
The Multistrada 950 S is a fast motorcycle – possibly even the fastest in its class. Whack the throttle open and the engine growls, angrily putting all of its 113bhp to work. There’s enough power and then some for most Indian road conditions. In fact, it feels so adequate and satisfying that you’d even question the existence of a larger ADVs in this country.
With 80% of the 94Nm coming in as low as 3,500rpm and staying strong right up till around the 9,000rpm mark, overtaking is a gentle twist of the wrist away. The throttle response is crisp and the hydraulic clutch makes riding in the city reasonably stress-free.
And then you have the multiple riding modes to choose from as well – Urban, Touring, Sport and Enduro – each of which alter the engine responses and optimise the ABS, traction control, and suspension setting as well.
While the Urban mode mellows down the responses the Sport mode dials everything up to 11. And the beauty of these each of these modes is that they can also be customised as per your preferences. In fact, the customisation options are extremely expansive – Ducati claims that it can be set to 400 different configurations.
Safety and Equipment:
The Multistrada 950 S’ safety net is stronger than any other motorcycle in this class. In addition to the multiple levels of TCS and ABS, the Multi also gets vehicle hold control (VHC), cornering headlights for better visibility and more. The Multistrada 950 S has also been fitted with a cruise control.
The Multi is a textbook example of Italian design. The angry bird front end with the stubby beak and prominent nostrils, the massive 20-litre tank, and the wide tail section come together well to give it a striking stance. Fit, finish and build quality all around is good, and Ducati has hidden most of the wires behind the body panels quite well. Panel gaps in certain areas are inconsistent though.
The 950 S comes with a 5.0-inch colour dash that offers a ton of information. In fact, while getting acquainted with the bike I found it a bit hard to locate information on the fly, but it’s something you come to terms with after a few days. Aside from the information overload, the display itself is neatly laid out with large fonts and the user interface is simple too.
While the Multistrada 950 S has quite a few aces up its sleeve, it isn’t completely devoid of shortcomings. Here are a few things in which the Multi could have been better.
While in this BS6 avatar the 937cc has gotten smoother, it still isn’t as smooth as, say the Tiger 900. There is an innate gruffness of the L-twin motor that doesn’t go unnoticed. You don’t quite feel any vibrations on the handlebar, pegs or the seat at any point, but the engine does feel a bit coarse and it can get a bit irksome when doing long distances.
Additionally, while the six-speed transmission gets the benefit of a bi-directional quickshifter, it isn’t the very smooth in its operation. In fact, the transmission too feels occasionally clunky especially at slow speeds.
This for me has been one of the biggest downsides – the Multi is not happy in the urban jungle and that is one aspect that holds it back from being one motorcycle that can do it all. In slow moving 15-30km/h traffic speeds, you’d constantly find yourself juggling between first and second.
In fact, it throws quite a tantrum even when you try to move up the gears faster, or maintain about 40-45km/h in fourth. And it is due to the taller gearing that it never really feels effortless. Even out on the highway, you cannot simply slot it in sixth and hope for a stress-free ride.
Allow me a moment here to highlight that the Multistrada 950 S isn’t an out-and-out off-road machine like the Tiger 900 Rally. It is a very heavily road-biased ADV, something that is amply evident by several factors.
The tall gearing demands you to rev the bike a bit harder to get more power, and it doesn’t bode well for the Multi while off-roading. Of course, given a skilled set of hands, the Multi too can work wonders off road, but it just doesn’t feel accommodating and forgiving at the hands of an off-road rookie like me. Moreover, the wider front wheel makes it that much more jittery while manoeuvring rough terrain.
Price and Verdict:
At Rs 15.49 lakh, the Multistrada 950 carries quite a heavy price tag, especially when you consider that the Tiger 900 GT starts at Rs 13.70 lakh. And being a CBU the Italian gets taxed higher too, which further widens the price gap.
But in all fairness, the Multistrada does pack better performance, has a more comprehensive electronics suite and a longer list of features. While these aspects make the price a little easier to digest, it still can’t be termed ‘value for money’ by any means.
The 950 S, then, will interest very clear-sighted buyers – those who do not intend to indulge in intense off-road adventures but instead love the grip they find on the tarmac. And if you fall in that category, the Multistrada 950 S promises more smiles per miles than anything else in its class.
- 2021 Ducati Multistrada 950 S
Engine: 937cc / L-twin / Liquid-cooled
Transmission: 6-speed with up/down quickshifter
Power: 111.4bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 94Nm @ 6,750rpm
Price: ₹15.49 lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: An exhaustive electronics suite and superior handling makes the Multi stand out among its peers.
• Nimble handling
• Electronics suite