Du­cati Mul­tistrada 950

Du­cati’s smallest Mul­tistada the 950 may be, but it de­liv­ers in big hand­fuls…

BIKE (UK) - - SPORTS TOURERS -

YAMAHA, MV AGUSTA, Du­cati. All three bikes are stacked up in front of Mt Snow­don, on a thin strip of tar­mac next to the A498. Big scenery suits th­ese mo­tor­cy­cles. They prom­ise big miles done in com­fort, with tank ca­pac­i­ties to suit. They pro­vide wa­ter­proof hold-alls for pants and Welsh Cakes and there are big screens to keepthe wind off. Or that should keep the wind off. The slice of plas­tic on this hand­some Du­cati is the only one that works. Ride at 80mph on the Yamaha, and you’ll be bat­tered into sub­mis­sion. The ex­pe­ri­ence is sim­i­lar on the MV, un­less you hun­ker next to the dash­board. But the Mul­tistrada does this kind of speed in com­fort. There’s ab­so­lute sta­bil­ity from the chas­sis, too, and a stubby an­gu­lar beak splits the air and bats it over your head. Hugo Wil­son, Bike’s editor, is mad for it. ‘That screen is fan­tas­tic. The fact this sin­gle part works so well goes a long way to mak­ing the Du­cati the best bike here.’ There’s less com­fort at walk­ing pace. Push­ing the Mul­tistrada around the Pen-y-gwyrd Ho­tel car park is dis­con­cert­ing. It feels top-heavy, un­sta­ble and quick to un­bal­ance on un­even ground. Even tak­ing it off its side­stand is stress­ful. The stand sweeps down­wards mean­ing you have to lean the bike over. Pre­car­i­ous? You bet. Ride around at top­pling speed and the top-heavy feel­ing is back. It’s the most dif­fi­cult bike here to U-turn – even com­pared with the MV’S wacky au­to­matic clutch. It feels like a com­bi­na­tion of rid­ing po­si­tion, softly damped sus­pen­sion and the 19-inch front wheel. 170mm of sus­pen­sion travel sets the Multi bounc­ing be­tween a sports­bike and proper ad­ven­ture bikes. Sub-10mph con­trol is ham­pered even more by a bit­ing point that in­ter­jects sharply when the clutch lever is only a cen­time­tre from the han­dle. But above 10mph the Mul­tistrada blos­soms into a proper gent. The sus­pen­sion bal­ances road hold­ing, bump man­age­ment with ac­cu­rate steer­ing. Plus it’s fully-ad­justable. Car­ry­ing a pil­lion? No need to break out the C-span­ner. Like the other two bikes here, the 950 sports a preload ad­juster knob. Fling the red fair­ing along a quiet A5 be­tween Capel Curig and Betws-y-coed and you can’t help but feel in­volved: the deep en­gine bur­bles and glugs, the large 19in front wheel tracks wide lines across bridges and through flat cor­ners. It feels best at th­ese le­gal speeds, where the triples would be beg­ging for 20mph more. Han­dling is calm com­pared with the ham­mer­ing Yamaha, but it’s more pre­cise in the tight bits than the MV. That’s thanks in to the 170-sec­tion rear – 20mm slim­mer than the Turismo. The­o­ret­i­cally, the thin­ner the rear tyre the more pre­cise the steer­ing feels. Hugo nods sagely: ‘That’s a stan­dard Du­cati trick to make their smaller-cc bikes steer beau­ti­fully. They did it on the 750 SS and Sport com­pared with the big 1000. Ex­actly the same chas­sis – even the same wheel rim – but a dif­fer­ent sec­tion. Can you feel it at speed on the Multi? Not so much.’ Above 60mph, the slim rear’s steer­ing ben­e­fit is lost due to the 19-inch front and long-travel sus­pen­sion. It’s slower to lean than the Tracer, and steam-train lethar­gic com­pared with the MV and its counter-ro­tat­ing crank. The Multi’s hap­pi­est on wan­der­ing B-roads, where the wide ’bar gives you con­trol and the long fork and soft seat soak up the bumpy sur­face. It’s also be­hind the oth­ers when you com­pare good­ies. Con­ven­tional twin head­lights blind cars but lack the power and spread of the LED com­pe­ti­tion. There’s no cruise con­trol, and heated grips are a £246 op­tion. Want pan­niers and a side­stand? That’s £705 for the tour­ing pack, plus £120 for coloured pan­nier pan­els. To­tal price: £12,606. The MV is so ex­pen­sive you ex­pect it to ar­rive with ev­ery­thing imag­in­able, but that’s not the same for the Yamaha. This Tracer 900 is the pricey GT ver­sion, but it’s still £500 cheaper than the base Du­cati. Value for money the Mul­tistrada isn’t. The Multi’s the only bike here with­out a quick­shifter, but it’s not a worry. The en­gine’s slight power lag and elas­tic de­liv­ery means clutch­less up­shifts don’t break thrust. Brake hard for a cor­ner, down­shift with­out the clutch, and the gear­box per­forms flaw­lessly. Try the same trick on the Tracer and the quick fu­elling would jolt the rear wheel. And that’s where the Du­cati im­presses most: in the easy-go­ing qual­ity of its core me­chan­ics. There’s the elas­tic en­gine, wide han­dle­bar, sure­footed han­dling and the bril­liant screen. It’s well-suited for long-dis­tance, laid back tour­ing. And it’s hard to imag­ine the other two de­liv­er­ing as well as the Du­cati does.

‘Elas­tic en­gine, wide han­dle­bar, sure­footed han­dling…’

(Above) Un­like 1260, 950’s dou­ble-sided swingarm means you can change tyre with­outre­mov­ing ex­haust (Be­low) Clear to read dash

And the win­ner of the low­est seat height is…

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