2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S Review:
Personalized ADV Motorcycle
As Ducati works to expand its public persona to include motorcycles for travel, rather than strictly performance and style, the Italian purveyors of good taste have expanded the Multistrada line by one with the new 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S.
Rather than a complete remaking of the Multistrada 950, the S reflects a serious upgrade of suspension and electronic components. We traveled to Valencia, Spain to test the latest elite Multistrada motorcycle.1. The 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S is all about personalization. More than any of the new features, the most important feature to the owner is the ability to customize the motorcycle to the use, conditions, and rider’s taste. Ducati makes this easy with an easy-to-master menu system that allows for quick, productive changes despite there being over 400 possible combinations of settings. Further, if you prefer making changes with your smartphone, there is a Ducati Link app that gives you that option, including the ability to store multiple custom settings.
2. There are four basic ride modes—Sport, Touring, Urban, Enduro—with the real magic being the ability to fine-tune the ride within each mode. After selecting what sort of riding you will be doing, you can then adjust the power delivery, suspension settings (front and rear independently), traction control, ABS intrusion, and quickshifter. While less experienced riders will be satisfied with the four modes and their recommended settings, the Multistrada 950 S has much more to offer and makes it easy to take advantage of its capabilities for ride-enhancing personalization.3. Instead of vague numbers for suspension, power, traction control, and ABS settings, Ducati goes with intuitive text- and graphics-based descriptions. When faced with a shock with a choice of 27 clicks for rebound damping, most riders will throw up their hands and leave the settings alone in fear of ruining the ride. Ducati makes it easy for everyone with non-confusing terms that we all understand. For instance, as you adjust the suspension, you have five choices ranging from Hardest to Softest. If the effect of that is lost on you, there’s also a pointer on a graphic that moves between Comfort and Performance. Even a brand-new rider can make smart adjustments.
4. An advantage of the variety of descriptions is that it helps the rider understand how the changes interact. As you dig into each preset riding mode, you have three choices of power modes—High, Medium, and Low. As you scroll through them, you will see another readout change between Full Power/Limited Power and Smooth/Dynamic. While this will be obvious to experienced motorcyclists, a new rider will find these descriptions invaluable.5. These changes have a real-world impact on the way the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S behaves, so you are instantly rewarded for taking the time to access the menu. Rather than nearly imperceptible incremental adjustments, the Multistrada makes changes that you can feel immediately.
6. The three power modes change the personality of the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S, with all modes being usable. On some open-class ADV motorcycles, the most aggressive power setting makes the engine response unruly and only for highly committed riders. Displacing just 937cc, the Testastretta 11° powerplant is still quite agreeable when used in the High mode, while providing invigorating performance. Still, if you are just enjoying the scenery of the Serra Calderona mountain range, the less-demanding Touring mode (Full Power/Smooth) is the way to go. In-town or in inclement weather, Urban (Reduced Power/Smooth) is just a few left-thumb clicks away.
7. The Testastretta 11° powerplant is about usable torque rather than sheer horsepower. With at least 80 percent of the maximum 71 ft/lbs of torque available from 3500 to 9500 rpm, you will find yourself shifting less and enjoying the ride more. The maximum 113 horsepower comes at 9000 rpm, just 1250 rpm higher than the torque peak. By any standard, this is a sweetheart of a motor for sport touring, and you can make it even better by activating the right mode for the job.8. A quickshifter is standard, though it needs some fine-tuning. In the higher gears, the quickshifter, up and down, is perfect. However, in the lower gears, the action is not nearly so smooth. Shifting between first and second in either direction is problematic. I hit neutral a couple of times going down from second to first gear, and it got my attention. Upshifts between first and second were usually clunky, and one time I found neutral upshifting. Using the clutch in the lower gears solves the problem, but Ducati needs to fix this.
9. The semi-active Ducati suspension works in perfect concert with the power modes. It is a matter of keeping in mind your mission and how to accomplish it. Again text and graphic explanations make this an easy job, and they effectively reflect how the motorcycle will run.
10. Should you decide it’s time to treat the Multistrada 950 S like a sport bike, the suspension can be stiffened up to your demands. In the Sport ride mode you still have room to go with the Hardest setting (of five) rather than the Harder preset, if you’re going to push things. You want the suspension to reflect your intensity level, regardless of the power delivery, and the customization scheme makes this easy. Even in Hardest, the suspension isn’t overly stiff, though you will get jolted on rougher roads.11. If you are in the Touring mood, and mode, the semi-active suspension is ready to please you. Medium and Softer work quite well when sightseeing is your desire. The Multistrada 950 S’s semi-active suspension never wallows in turns, even when set to soft. However, it will feel squishy if pushed. That’s beside the point, as all that tells you is that you picked the wrong setting for your mindset.
12. The ABS and traction control systems are also adjustable, though to less visceral impact. The traction control has three primary settings—Off-Road, Road, Wet—and sticking with the description works well. For the tinker, there are more precise subsettings. The Bosch Cornering ABS is also simple. You pick between Off-Road/Road and Safe-Stable/Performance. Actuation of the Cornering ABS is nicely transparent. I was happy with Road and Safe-Stable. The brakes are serious—radial master cylinder and 320mm front discs—yet not demanding, and with a soft initial bite.
13. Additional traction control is provided by an assist-and-slip hydraulically actuated clutch. That means less effort is required at the clutch lever, though it’s still far from light. The slip function allows for more aggressive downshifts, which is a good fit with the quickshifter. The clutch and brake levers are adjustable without tools, though not easily.14. As long as you haven’t done something intentionally strange with the various electronic modes, the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S is a wonderfully neutral handler. Whether you are going hard through the canyons, checking out the scenery at a nice clip, or working your way down the highway, the 950 S does what you tell it without being finicky or trying to extract retribution for any error. The nearly 63-inch wheelbase settles things down, as does the moderate 25 degrees of rake. This results in a motorcycle that does not fatigue the rider when trying to go through the 5.3-gallon fuel tank non-stop.
15. The pavement performance of the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires is flawless. One might expect some vague handling from a 19-inch front ADV-style tire, yet that wasn’t an issue. Not to belabor the point, but setting up the suspension to your taste makes an impact on the turning and feel of the front end that can give you that extra touch of confidence. We didn’t have a chance to hit the dirt on our test, though these are very street-oriented tires, despite the name.
16. Speaking of the wheels, although some of the photos show the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S in cast wheels, they will only be available with wire-spoke wheels in the US. As we were testing in Spain, the Multistrada 950 S sans Touring Pack that we rode had cast wheels, and that shows up in the photos.17. The 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S has fine manners with the Touring Pack installed. The $1400 Touring Pack includes side panniers, a center stand, and heated grips. Fortunately, the extra weight of the centerstand and lightly loaded panniers didn’t upset the handling at all. Spring-preload is also electronically adjustable, should the bags be loaded, or if a passenger is added.
18. Wind protection is good, and the windshield is two-position and manually adjustable. When tooling down the highway at 200 km/h (that’s legal in Spain, right?), it is nice to have the windshield in the up position. Though it’s possible to adjust the windshield height while riding, it is a better idea to do it at a stop—it only takes a few seconds. We prefer electronic screen adjustment—heck, everything else on the 950 S is electronic, including the highly intuitive new cruise control.19. There are Sport Pack, Enduro Pack, and Urban Pack options. The Enduro pack gets you a protective steel skeleton, sump guard, extra lighting, and steel pegs. The Sport Pack offers a Termignoni muffler, additional LED lighting, and a billet-aluminum water-pump cover. Getting the Urban Pack adds a 48-liter top case, a tank pocket bag, and USB charging system for your portable devices.
20. The Multistrada 950 S feels like a large machine when first getting aboard, though that perception melts away quickly. The Multistrada 950 S is not petite. The seat height is above 33 inches, it weighs over 500 pounds with the fuel tank filled, the bars are wide, and the tank looks huge between your knees. Given all that, after a couple of hours in the comfortable saddle, the 950 S feels just right. The only hitch is that the motorcycle feels wide when standing on the pegs.21. The rubber footpeg-inserts allow another level of personalization. For me, with the spacers in the pegs, the foot brake pedal was difficult to operate and the shift lever was at a slightly odd angle. Pull the half-inch or so inserts out, and the positioning of the foot controls felt just right. Of course, that’s not going to be true for all riders, and that is what personalization is about. Pulling out the rubber inserts means more vibration through the pegs, though you are only going to notice that when seriously revving the L-twin.
22. The new 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S is a tour de force of personalized touring. With the ability to quickly tailor the motorcycle to your needs, the Multistrada 950 S ingratiates itself quite nicely. There is quite a lot to be said for a 950 sport-touring ADV motorcycle over a 1260, especially if you are riding solo and not crossing continents. Ducati has taken the excellent Multistrada 950 and turned it into a nearly flawless motorcycle just by adding an “S”.
- Helmet: Arai XD4
- Communications: Sena 10C
- Jacket: Alpinestars Valparaiso 2 Drystar
- Back protection: Alpinestars Nucleon KR-Celli
- Pants: Alpinestars Bryce Gore-Tex
- Gloves: Alpinestars Andes Touring Outdry
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech T
2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S Specs
- Type: Testastretta 11° L-twin
- Displacement: 937cc
- Bore x stroke: 94 x 67.5mm
- Compression ratio: 12.6:1
- Maximum power: 113 horsepower @ 9000 rpm
- Maximum torque: 71 ft/lbs @ 7750 rpm
- Fuel delivery: Bosch EFI w/ two 53mm throttle bodies
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ quickshifter
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated assist-and-slip
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Tubular steel trellis
- Front suspension; travel: Fully electronically adjusted semi-active 48mm fork; 6.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully electronically adjusted semi-active shock; 6.7 inches
- Wheels: Tubeless wire-spoke aluminum alloy
- Front wheel: 3.0 x 19
- Rear wheel: 4.5 x 17
- Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II
- Front tire: 120/70 x 19
- Rear tire: 170/60 x 17
- Front brake: 320mm discs w/ radially mounted semi-floating Brembo monoblock
- 4-piston calipers w/ radial master cylinder
- Rear brake: 265mm disc w/ floating Brembo 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Bosch Cornering ABS
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 62.8 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 4.2 inches
- Seat height: 33.1 inches (+0.8 and -0.8 available)
- Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 43 mpg
- Curb weight: 518 pounds
2019 DUCATI MULTISTRADA 950 S COLORS/PRICES
- Ducati Red: $16,995 MSRP
- Glossy Grey: $17,195 MSRP
- Touring accessory package: $1400
2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S Photo Gallery