Test Ride: 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950

The 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 is somewhat of a walk-back for Ducati. The big, bold, and distinctly styled Multistrada’s most recent iteration before this was best-described as “over the top”.

A commanding and confidence-inspiring riding position contributes to the Ducati’s long-distance comfort level and solid handling.

The Multistrada 1200 had things like a six-axis inertia measurement unit akin to that found in the Yamaha R1 superbike – so it had lean-sensitive ABS. There was also electronically adjustable suspension, 160 hp and a few other trick bits. It was insanely equipped, insanely capable and frankly way too much bike for most people’s needs.

Ducati listened to consumers, and has delivered a smaller, cheaper, and pared-back version of its adventure-tourer. The single-sided swingarm is replaced by a double-arm unit, and the clutch is now a cable clutch.

The result is a good one. Things are simpler, less extreme and cheaper, down to $15,955 from the $20,195 of the 1200.

There’s a brilliant 937 cc, 11-degree V-twin engine with 113 hp peaking at 9,000 rpm. And then there’s the 71 lb-ft of torque spread through a broad rev range. This surging engine is more than enough to make highway speeds feel pedestrian, and to shuttle the Multistrada into whichever space the rider so desires with a minimum of fuss. That’s the same engine, incidentally, used previously in the Hyperstrada.

Then, there’s the elegantly simple adjustable windshield that does an amazing job of dispelling wind buffeting and makes for a calmer, quieter journey at highway speeds.

And just in case you think Ducati has entirely abandoned all their tricky electronic wizardry, the large dashboard drills deep down into a detailed menu, including four customizable riding modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro.

Those allow you to adjust the engine tune (in two stages), the ABS (in three stages), and the Ducati Traction Control system (in eight stages). Both the ABS and DTC can be turned off entirely, because skids. There’s a steep learning curve to the system but it uses the existing switch block buttons and new ones to good effect.

You can even perform riding mode changes while at speed (though you have to roll off momentarily for your change to take hold).

The Multistrada is a tall bike; the 840 mm high seat challenged my Hobbit-esque inseam when mounting and dismounting. But the pegs are well matched to its height and having the seat mounted on plastic/rubber blocks to insulate one’s rump against vibration helps with comfort levels.

A commanding and confidence-inspiring riding position contributes to the Ducati’s long-distance comfort level and solid handling.

Because the 950 shares its frame, and controls with the 1200 there is only a 5 kg difference between the two with the 950 coming in at 227 kg.

The 950 carries a lot of that weight up high, with the reward being generous ground clearance.

Hustling the Multistrada into corners is far more rewarding than expected, and I found myself hunting for turns in order to extract maximum enjoyment from each of my rides. Here in Canada, corners can be a long way apart, so you need a bike that doesn’t kill your back on the way to the next one. The Multi is that bike.

Ducati’s take on the adventure bike has always been happier on the pavement than on the soft roads and it’s not really any different here. Despite a 19-inch front wheel the Multi doesn’t feel confident on dirt, and I found it awkward to get a good purchase on the pegs for peg steering. They feel like they’re tucked back under the seat, inwards towards the centre of the bike longitudinally, in a way that is thoroughly comfortable on the road but less optimal off-road.

In addition, the suspension that handles potholes and highway imperfections with aplomb is noticeably harsher on sharper off-road obstacles and divots. Can you take the Multi off-road with success? Absolutely, but it’s far happier on the tarmac. Those looking for a more dirt-focused adventure bike should look to BMW’s GS series, the Honda Africa Twin or the KTM adventure bikes.

Long-distance travelers will be keen to hear about range, and with my over-eager right wrist I saw 6.2 L/100 km from the ’Strada. Given a 20 L tank and the fact highway cruising will be better for the economy readout than my test ride week was it’s reasonable to expect 360–400 km from the tank. 

The question is, can your butt last that distance? On a Multistrada on pavement? I'd bet yes.

2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
Engine Displacement: 937 cc
Engine Cylinders: V-Twin
Peak Horsepower: 113 hp @ 9,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 71 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: N/A
Cargo Space: N/A
articles_PricingType 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
Base Price $15,995
A/C Tax N/A
Destination Fee N/A
Price as Tested $15,995
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.3
6 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
8 Practicality
6 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value