Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 9th March 2019

Think of a mid-size adventure touring motorcycle and the Ducati Multistrada 950 probably isn’t the first bike to spring to mind. The success of its bigger capacity, higher-specced sibling always gave the 950 the image of being a lesser machine in most respects, even though it has always been an eminently capable motorbike.

For 2019 the Italian company has gone all out to make the 950S a proper long-legged touring bike, thanks to top-spec, adjustable electronic suspension from Sachs, IMU controlled ABS and multiple riding modes with a TFT display – just like the bigger and more expensive Multistrada 1260.

The transformation doesn’t stop there, as the previously slim and slightly gaunt bodywork has been ditched, in favour of a fairing and headlight arrangement that is indistinguishable from the bigger bike, even up close.

For those who shun electronic gizmos on their bikes, the standard 950 gets the same muscular make over but does away riding modes, electronic suspension and funky TFT dash. At £11,755, it is £1600 cheaper than the S model tested here.

Technical overhaul

Ducati Multistrada 950S

The changes to the 950S become apparent as soon as you sit in the newly shaped and well-padded saddle. The 5” TFT dash, standard fare on any ‘premium’ motorcycle worth its salt in 2019, welcomes you on board with what I’d describe as the perfect dash layout. All the info needed is clearly provided, with settings and menus that are sensibly laid out and easy to alter.

The showpiece of the bike is the fancy suspension. Sachs has been building and developing the Skyhook active suspension system for some time now and I find it one of the best electronic systems out there. The IMU and sensors that cover the bike are constantly monitoring data, altering the front and rear pre-load and damping to suit the road conditions. To say the system is almost underwhelming in its efficiency is actually a compliment – because for the most part you simply don’t feel it working at all. It is only when you jump back on a standard 950 and ride the same road that you realise almost all the bouncy rebound you can get is removed, with the bike’s brain seeming to read the road like the needle of a record player.

Working hand in hand with the suspension is the Bosch built IMU, with its cornering ABS system. Coupled with good quality Brembo M4 callipers, 320mm front discs and radial master cylinders that wouldn’t look out of place on a track bike – the whole system oozes quality. The brakes give bags of feedback at the lever, have more than enough bite to haul the 200kg+ bike up from motorway speeds and have the added safety net of cornering ABS that allows you to slow down right into the heart of even the tightest hairpins.

In many ways, the Multistrada 950S is actually a more enjoyable machine to hammer out on a B-road than the bigger 1260S, allowing you to build a flowing rhythm as you knit one apex to the other. The slightly slimmer section rear tyre has helped no end too, with its rounder profile making the bike feel more like a Hypermotard in the turns and less like a Diavel!

The only time I missed the bigger bike’s grunt was on the 40km of motorway at the end of our ride on the press launch Ducati had laid on. Yes, the 950 will cruise at 75mph (and probably a lot more too, officer) but it starts to feel a bit thrashy and overstretched, and this would no doubt be exaggerated if you were two-up with luggage.

Riding modes

Ducati Multistrada 950S riding modes

For most of the press launch I was riding using Sport mode, to make the most of the bike’s 114bhp, and the 937cc, eight-valve engine didn’t disappoint. Granted, I was using every one of the 114 horses available from time to time, but I’d have gone no quicker if I’d have been riding a 1200cc sports tourer. The fact that I was using all the bike had to offer also meant I was so much more engaged in the ride and aware of where the engine was in the rev-range. The motor is punchy enough too and has a very broad spread of torque, 71lb-ft peak torque at 7,750rpm but almost all of that seems to be available from about 3,000 rpm. This makes it as easy to trickle through a town centre as it is firing out of switchback hairpins.

While the engine isn’t as wide-eyed and grin inducing as the 1260, it is much less intimidating, while still retaining all the Desmo feel and character you need to have as part of any Ducati riding experience. The clutch is light as a feather and makes the gearbox a pleasure to use, with the assisted slipper smoothing out as many ham-fisted down shifts as I could throw at it. But it is a Ducati, which means trying to find neutral at a standstill will see you faffing around at the lights and probably missing the point when they turn green – best to flick it into neutral as you roll to a halt!

Riding modes

Sport mode gives you the full 113hp with a direct throttle response. A low traction control setting, and low ABS setting are also selected with no rear wheel lift-up prevention, while Touring mode delivers the same 113hp but now with a progressive throttle response for a smooth operation. Traction control is set higher as is ABS, maximising both braking stability and wheel lift-up prevention.

Urban provides just 75bhp, with progressive throttle mapping. Traction control is set to an even higher intervention level than before as is the ABS, maximising braking stability and wheel lift-up prevention. Finally Enduro mode is also set at 75bhp, but with ABS and wheelie control turned down for better control on the dirt.

Comfort

Ducati Multistrada 950S

To say the ride around Valencia on the press launch was long is an understatement. Ducati’s confidence in the Multistrada’s comfort meant that we spent seven hours in the saddle, to be precise. Luckily the Multistrada is an extremely pleasant office, with neutral upper body ergonomics and only slightly cramped peg layout for those of a taller disposition. The pillion seat is wide and flat, with well placed and easy to reach grab handles too.

The adjustable screen is a doddle to move while riding, although even on its highest setting I found a third of my helmet was sat in the turbulent air which would make earplugs a necessity over long distances – as they should always be in any case.

Ducati Multistrada 950 and 950S prices

MTS 950

MTS950S Red

MTS 950S Grey

MTS 950S TP Red

MTS 950S TP Grey

MTS 950S SW Red

MTS 950S SW Grey

£11,755

£13,355

£13,555

£14,383

£14,583

£13,905

£14,105

TP/Touring pack | SW/Spoked wheels

Verdict

Electronic suspension and IMUs aren’t a regular feature on bikes of this capacity, unless you fancy shelling out £20k for an MV Agusta Tourismo Veloce that is. And I have a feeling the rest of the class will be following the Bologna factory’s lead to stay in the game.

For me the, the 950S, with the touring pack and spoked wheels is the one to go for – the benefits offered by the whizz-bag suspension and braking system will outweigh the increase in price for many. The spoked wheels look awesome and with many customers buying on a PCP, the difference is only likely to be a few quid a month.

The latest upgrades to the Multistrada 950S have completely elevated it in the mid-size touring/adventure bike sector. For a bike that wasn’t on many people’s list of bikes to choose for a long-legged, sub-thousand cc tourer; I’d have to say it is probably now one of the best on the market.