2017-ducati-multistrada-950-overall-right-side-newTo the delight of fans of smaller motorcycles, Ducati has just introduced the Multistrada 950, an affordable, lighter, less powerful adventure-touring motorcycle meant to capitalize on the Multistrada 1200’s success and America’s emerging thirst for reasonably priced ADV bikes. That’s all great, but even better is that the Ducati is likely to be the first of many new motorcycles in this category.

First, though, the new Duc. Using the Hypermotard’s 937cc Testastretta 11° engine instead of the normal 1198cc powerplant with Ducati’s variable valve timing, the Multi 950 makes due with less power (a claimed 113 hp rather than the 1200’s 160 hp) but posts a lower curb weight of 471 pounds, down 40 from the big brother Multi. (Some of that is from simplifying the content, like changing to an LCD instrument panel from the 1200’s more sophisticated piece, and some is because the DVT variable valve timing setup in the bigger bike is quite heavy.)

Even better? Ducati’s set the 950’s MSRP to a very reasonable $13,995. Multistrada 1200’s start at $20,295.

It’s true that the Multistrada 950 lacks some of the bigger bike’s features, like Skyhook semi-active suspension and variable valve timing. In their place you’ll find fixed timing and manually adjustable suspension that includes a hydraulic preload adjuster for the shock and full damping adjustability at both ends. Suspension travel is a modest 6.7 inches front and rear, same as the 1200. The nonadjustable seat, at 33 inches, is right between the 1200’s high and low settings; there will be accessory high and low seats available, though. The basic chassis geometry and dimensions are shared between the 950 and 1200.

While the 950 carries a 19-inch front (with a 17-inch rear) tire, it’s clearly meant as mainly an on-road machine, though these tire sizes open up the possibility of more aggressive off-road rubber or even 50/50 dual-sport tires.

What Does It All Mean?

First of all, Ducati is among the best in slicing and dicing a category, filling a wide range of price and performance points from a relatively few engines and chassis platforms. Just look at all the Monster models over the years. So the 950 Multistrada is an important acknowledgement that the 1200 is too pricey and too powerful for a certain kind of rider; a bit of economic and accelerative overkill. The 950 aims to fill in from below.

It isn’t alone in the marketplace, either. BMW’s F800GS series has been a popular alternative to the liter-plus machines, and it could be argued that Honda’s Africa Twin largely resides in this “upper-mid” category, especially in terms of power and price. And there have been rumors since last summer that KTM would produce an 800cc-class twin to do battle with the F800GS. Finally, Yamaha has officially tipped its hat that the much-rumored lightweight adventure bike based off the amazing little FZ-07 is more reality the speculation. Revealed in Milan, the T7 is said to be just a “concept” and not necessarily a bike headed for production. Right. Looking ready for Dakar, the T7 takes the FZ-07’s parallel-twin engine and wraps it in a new chassis sporting dirt-ready spoke wheels with unmistakably desert-racer bodywork. It looks light and mean and ready for Baja. We’ll take two.

Questions remain: Will Honda fill in between the new CRF250L Rally and the Africa Twin? Will Kawasaki build a true adventure bike off the Versys 650 platform? And will Suzuki’s updated V-Strom 650 help build momentum in this midsized class? We’ll know soon.

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