2017 Ducati 950 Multistrada - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

With Ducati’s downsized adventure road bike, less turns out to be a little more (satisfying)

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 on-road action
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

The connection between right wrist and forward motion is the most powerful ingredient in motorcycling. A good bike is one that responds to our desire to move through time and space, and the key is our connection with the engine and the power it produces. But how much power is enough? Twenty years ago, even 100 horsepower was considered strong, and while speed limits haven’t changed, power has grown at an astonishing rate.

Is more power always better? Or is there a point of diminishing returns, where a bike becomes so fast that it requires not only electronic governance, but also too much self-restraint to ride on the road?

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 static side view
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

I had plenty of time to think about these questions between my snowy home in Colorado and arriving in the Canary Islands to try the 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950. I was curious if less might be more, if losing 250cc might make a goldilocks bike that would be more fun to ride than its bigger stablemate. Fast, but useable.

The 950 Multistrada is an interesting exercise. The 937cc engine is similar to the one in the Hypermotard and Supersport, and the frame is identical to the other Multistradas. To achieve the $13,995 asking price, there are a few concessions: No IMU for lean-sensitive ABS or semi-active suspension, although it does have traction control and standard ABS; a double sided swingarm and Sachs rear shock; and a cable clutch. The suspension is fully adjustable at both ends but not electronically controlled. None of these concessions are the least bit problematic in use. In fact, the simplicity is welcome when compared to the bewildering number of features on other models. The 950’s claimed weight is about 450 lb. without fuel, or about 10 lb. less than the 1200.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 engine details
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

The handling is intuitive, turn-is is easy, yet the chassis is stable and stays on your chosen cornering line.

First impression? I really enjoyed the bike on my day in the Spanish sun. Our route included a little bit of everything, from divided highway to super tight and twisty backroads. The weather was perfect, the pace was spirited, and the traffic minimal—a perfect day to be out on a motorcycle, and maybe especially this one.

The 90-degree V-twin Desmo engine is smooth and revs freely, and it pulls without hesitation from 3000 rpm. Fueling is excellent. Claimed output is 113 horsepower (and 70-plus pound-feet of torque, with 80 percent of peak available from 3500-9500 rpm) is plenty to pull out of any corner or make any pass. It is highly satisfying but not intimidating. The brakes are strong but easy to control. The handling is intuitive, turn-is is easy, yet the chassis is stable and stays on your chosen cornering line. The riding position is comfortable, and air management from the manually adjustable windscreen is good, although there is some buffeting in the presence of side wind.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 swingarm details
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

The suspension uses progressive springs both front and rear, which creates a supple feel for small bumps that firms up when bigger obstacles are encountered. I found the Kayaba fork in particular to be a little soft at the top of its travel, so that even small brake inputs could create a pitching motion as the fork compresses quickly. Adding a few clicks of damping helped, but did not eliminate this issue. Furthermore, on less than perfect pavement (which should be home for a bike like this), the front end gave uncertain feedback on several occasions. In fairness to the bike, I did not personally check preload nor tire pressure, and it only happened when I was pushing pretty hard.

Aside from this, very little stands out to complain about. The bike is comfortable—taller riders might want more seat to peg distance, and Ducati will offer a taller seat (and a shorter one as well- 32.3 to 33.9 inches). The controls are intuitive, the engine makes nice sounds, and it carries 5.3 gallons of fuel.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 on a winding road
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

Ducati claims a level of dirt-road capability, and while I am sure that is justified to a point, this would not be my choice for an off-road bike. I made a few passes around a dirt parking lot and the traction control did what traction control does, and the suspension was fine, but the road bias is obvious. The 19-inch front wheel will be helpful off pavement compared to the 17-inch wheel on the 1200 S, but I think someone with aspirations of much dirt would be better served by other machines.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 static side view
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

There will be four different accessory packages available, which an owner can choose to buy none or all of. The Touring one has bags and a centerstand, the Sport one has a Termignoni exhaust and some flashy parts, there is an Off-Road one with a skidplate and crash bars, and an Urban one with with topbox and clip-on tankbag. I played with the side bags and they are exactly what you expect—easy to put on and take off, but not overly spacious nor likely to survive much off-road abuse. I like that they are all options, so you can get what you want and not what you don’t.

For someone who is looking for a bike to ride to work during the week, and for sport on the weekend, with some two up and touring rides sprinkled in, this would be a great choice. If there’s a dirt road connecting two twisty paved ones, no problem.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 on-road action
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati

That’s how 90 percent of adventure bikes are used, and this one is better at the job than most.

As for my larger question of diminishing returns, this bike made the point to me that less can be more. For years, the industry has focused on bigger and faster engines, and the idea that price and equipment should go up with engine size. That made sense when the fastest bikes were barely fast enough, but going forward I hope the equation will change. To me, the 950 Multistrada is more appealing to ride than the 1200, because I can use it harder within the constraints of the real world.

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2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
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2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
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2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
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2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950Courtesy of Ducati