Bryn Davies returns to the land of his fathers on the Multistrada 950 S
As little kids and enthusiastic parents point to the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of the shining white light of the International Space Station, astronauts look down pointing at the piercingly bright headlights of the Ducati Multistrada 950 S. I know, I mentioned this in my last piece about the bike, but I just need to touch on it again.
In theory, bright headlights are desirable. Not only do they make it easier to see the road and potential obstacles at night, but they give you a more commanding presence to other traffic. The headlights on the 950 do both exceptionally well, especially with the superb cornering LEDs, but they’re a bit too bright. Any ride after dark is characterised by the flashing lights of oncoming drivers, which I tell you is both dazzling and annoying in equal measure while you’re riding.
As the clocks went forward and I found myself riding in the dark less and less, this of course wasn’t such an issue. But, if you’re commuting in winter and it’s dark as you leave work, it gets old quickly.
Headlights doth make a bike though, so how have I got on with the rest of the machine? Well, just before this lockdown malarkey, I joined the ABR team on a trip to the land of my fathers to re-ride the excellent Bridgestone Wales Coast to Coast route. All-in, we covered around 400 miles on roads from motorways to green lanes and everything in between.
The 950 S was a pleasure to ride on all occasions. Motorway miles were effortless thanks to the cruise control and well-placed screen, A and B roads were rollercoasters on which the bike delighted with its thrilling performance and nimble handling, and the easy green lanes were enjoyable when tackled at a slow, careful pace.
The ride also gave me the chance to experience the true benefit of the electronic rider aids that the 950 S has.
The bike comes with the Ducati Safety Pack, providing lean-sensitive ABS and traction control that’s managed by a Bosch IMU. The purpose of this is to keep you upright when conditions would otherwise have you hitting the deck, as I discovered.
On the ride home, a distracted car driver pulled across my lane as I was travelling at 50mph. I instinctively swerved sharply around him and grabbed a fistful of brake. I fully expected to be coming off the bike, but the wizard that controls the electronics had other ideas. Lights on the dash flashed and it was the first time I’ve felt rider aids kicking in when I really needed them. I’ve no doubt that they kept me upright and safe in that terrifying moment. Top marks to Ducati for that.
While I thanked the bike for looking after me, I couldn’t help but be aware of a growing discomfort. I was about 250 miles into the ride and my body began to ache. This is where I discovered that, for me at 6’2, the 950 S is just that little bit smaller than I would usually like. The knee bend led to joints seizing up, while the seating position led to an achy back and shoulders.
This was in contrast to my experience on the Multistrada 1260 Enduro, which I would stand by as being the most comfortable adventure bike I’ve ridden.
I cast my mind back to when Ducati unveiled the first edition of the 950 in 2017, when the manufacturer explained that the 950 is its offering to riders looking for versatility and accessibility. That all sounded like marketing bumf at the time, but now I can see what was meant by that.
I’m more than happy wrestling a big bike like the 1260 around and would gladly take the extra weight for the increased power and comfort. But not everyone is the same. Indeed, ABR bike tester Julian will quite happily proclaim that, for him, the 950 is the better of the two bikes.
This is the accessibility that Ducati was talking about. The 950 does indeed open the Multistrada range to those who want something a bit more manageable than the 1260. Something that’s easier to wheel in and out of the garage while also being a few grand cheaper. If that’s you then you’ll absolutely love the bike.
After four months of riding the 950 I discovered that it’s a bloody excellent mid-weight adventure bike. It oozes the class and style that you’d expect a Ducati to. It feels premium and well-built and, in terms of performance, it’ll have you grinning through your visor from the moment you press the ignition and hear the bike roaring to life.
But, would I choose it over the 1260? Personally, no. For someone of my height, the 1260 (especially the 1260 Enduro), just offers that little bit more room to stretch out on and is more comfortable over long distances. I also love the extra grunt and presence of the bigger machines, not to mention the extra pillion room.
With this in mind, just before this issue went to print, the 950 S was returned to Ducati in exchange for the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour, Ducati’s top-spec, premium touring edition of the Multi. I’ll tell you more about this beauty of a bike in the next issue of ABR, after I’ve had chance to put it through its paces.
Specs at a Glance
937cc Testastretta, L-Twin, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder