I’m sure you know the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” But did you know there was a literal truth to it? In ancient times, the surrounding towns and villages around Rome would have roads that led to the capital, but not to other towns, thereby limiting their capabilities to assemble together for a coup. [See, you learn things here at CMG. – Ed.]
Of course, the symbolic meaning of the saying is that there are many ways to achieve the same result. But Ducati has put a twist on the old saying: its dual-sport adventure tourer series, the Multistrada, translates from Italian to “many streets,” and when it comes to the 950S version, there are many different destinations to be had on this versatile bike.
The base 950, with its MSRP of $16,495, is an excellent place to start, but the additions and improvements to the 950S transforms it into possibly one of the best all-around motorcycles available, with an MSRP of $20,245.
The heart of any bike is the engine, and this 950-cc L-twin is full of both capability and character. Its greatest strength is usable torque, where 80 per cent of its maximum 71 lbs.-ft. is available from 3,500 rpm all the way up to 9,500 rpm, and you certainly appreciate it. It pumps out 113 horsepower – far less than the 158 hp of its big brother, the Multistrada 1260, but that’s no disappointment. That twin is mated to a six-speed gearbox with a quickshifter.
What’s new with the 950S is the addition of Ducati’s Skyhook active suspension. Both front and rear are electronically adjustable for both damping and preload by the push of a few buttons on the fly. Dual front 320-mm calipers are clamped with radial-mounted Brembo calipers, and it all rides on spoked wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires, 19-inch on the front, 17-inch rear.
Like the Multistrada 1260, the 950S is equipped with an electronic ride system that incorporates a myriad of adjustable settings. Of course, you can choose between Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro; each changes the engine mapping, suspension (front and rear independently), ABS, traction control, and even the quickshifter.
The thing is, the rider can also change the settings in each mode to best suit their own style. It’s quick, easy, and clear – and most of all, these changes make a real difference in the ride and handling. If you’re at the track, fine-tune engine response and suspension yourself. A leisurely tour? Soften the suspension and mute the engine response. Fancy letting the rear end kick out on a dirt road? Well, you get the idea. And a welcome added feature is that the bike will stay in whatever mode you choose even after you shut it off. All these settings are displayed in a bright, colour TFT display. Cruise control is also standard.
How is the ride?
Worried about the lower horsepower over the 1260? Don’t be. On the highway, in the city or on curvy country roads, I never once wanted for more power. Acceleration can be smooth and silky or squeeze-your-knees thrilling, and its torque is felt in any gear at almost any speed with just about no vibration. It’s an exciting bike to bring up to speed without being terrifying. And I hate to admit, but that quick shifter is better at changing gears than I am with the clutch; after a while, I grudgingly let it do all the work.
At 204 kilograms dry, it feels heavy at a standstill, but on the road it sheds that bulk and becomes more flickable. It’s also a tall bike, with a seat height of 840 mm, and the riding position is upright with enough room to stretch your leg out a bit. The handlebars are wide like a motocross, in fact, maybe an inch too much so, but long hauls on the highway are so comfortable, you might forget to stop for fuel. The seat is well contoured and just soft enough, while the manually adjustable windshield and bodywork do a good job of protecting you from the wind, though I still felt a bit of helmet buffeting.
And no matter what kind of roads or riding encountered, the suspension will keep everything in control and comfortable. Most of my riding was in Touring mode, which soaked up every blister on the highway yet was still firm enough for good control on curvy country roads. The Enduro mode also softens up the traction control, and you can have some fun on dirt roads, though it’s not really meant for any hard off-roading.
Is it worth it?
The Ducati Multistrada 950S makes a compelling argument to be the only bike you’ll ever need: it’s powerful, adaptable and comfortable for the long haul. And that’s good, because with that MSRP of $20,245, many riders won’t have enough money left over for anything else. All those electronic and suspension goodies that comes with the S model add a hefty $3,750 onto an already premium motorcycle, and that’s before adding luggage or other options.
The thing is, it’s still worth it. In fact, I’d take this over its big brother. Regardless, if you do decide on this Multistrada 950S, you’ll want to take its Italian name literally and take every road you can.