These are two stilted mid-sized tourers that cater to different folk, both of which housing strong pros. So, which one would suit you better?
Story: Zal Cursetji
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Ah, the Ducati Multistrada 950 S, Bolognian “brutiful” beauty at its best and in red too. Meant to ferry you across the span of the country whilst taking on the curviest stretches on offer. Slapped bang opposite is the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro whose distance in character is longer than even its name. This Brit caters to the “adventure” part of the segment, 21-inch front wheel and all. Yes, an odd comparison then; however, with both sharing a very similar price tag, which one would be the better choice?
Starting with the Ducati Multistrada 950 S, smallest of the “Multi” family, the argument of design is useless here, as that is a perception-based topic and then you have an Italian. In short, the Ducati is an image of art, sculpted, with each curve being brought about by artisans. Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, you get the point. Curves, cuts, angular lines are all present but in a very cultured manner, flowing smoothly without obnoxious accents here and there. Quintessential Ducati. Keeping in tune with its design prowess, the Multistrada is a mighty fine machine to ride too. This is delivered in the usual Ducati fashion, sharp through the twisties, an engine built for performance, looks to kill, and enough tech to fascinate Elon Musk.
If tarmac is the choice of surface and performance on one’s mind, then the Ducati is the hands down winner. Power delivery with the L-twin Italian is brash yet very manageable. Sporting a 937-cc L-twin motor that makes 113 horses and 94 Nm of torque mated to a six-speed gearbox and fitted with an up and down quick-shifter, Ducati Quick Shift (DQS). The shifter does work quite well, but in heavy traffic I found myself, at times, reverting to the clutch for a smoother change. Braking is carried out by two 320-mm Brembo units up front and a 265-mm disc at the rear. There is ample bite with these units and, along with Bosch’s cornering ABS, the motorcycle screams for the twisties.
Now, this engine may not have the insanity of its larger 1,260-cc sibling or V4 cousin, it still is a lively legionnaire, catering to the tarmac, long stretches of it, and being capable of fun when needed too. Carving through the ghats is second nature with the motorcycle feeling very light-footed and intuitive in this surrounding. You have 48-mm fully adjustable electronic Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo (DSS) forks at the front and a fully electronic DSS unit at the rear, which can be set up via the handlebar controls. The ergos play a huge role here. Even with its tall 840-mm seat height, the 950 S felt like a stilted streetfighter, with a more natural seating position than the Triumph. Handlebars aren’t too wide, thus adding to the sportier feel, and more comfortable to reach.
Light off-roading is possible, too, with the Ducati being able to handle the rough stuff to an extent. With that 19-inch alloy front wheel wrapped in tarmac-friendly Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres, the Italian does complain when the trail gets a bit rocky but is fairly capable in the lighter side of off-roading. What you need in the harsher road situation is a 21-inch front wheel for starters found on the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro. Yes, the Rally Pro is more capable off road than the Ducati, but that was a given. I mean, it is called the “Rally Pro”.
The Tiger series of Triumph is quite a large family, with this, the Tiger 900 Rally Pro, being the most “adventure-centric” of the lot. Design-wise, the Triumph looks rugged, a little more bare, no sweet lines here but a more industrial appeal. But looks are perception-based and I prefer the Tiger. You get a 21-inch front spoked wheel wrapped in Bridgestone Battlax Adventure tyre, 850-mm seat height, wide handlebars, foot-pegs that are on the comfort-oriented side, which also allows better support when standing, and, of course, that 888-cc in-line three-cylinder, liquid-cooled Triumph motor. The power delivery of 95 horses and 87 Nm of grunt is ushered in via a linear surge which is friendlier for the new rider to the segment. However, the new motor isn’t as smooth as its predecessor seen in the Tiger 800 and does have a louder wheeze, not much to grumble about, though.
In the saddle, the motorcycle feels stable with its 45-mm Showa front forks eating up rocks, bumps, and ditches strewn along the path with ease. At the rear, we find a Showa unit with manual adjustments for pre-load, compression, and rebound damping, which does offer a plush ride in its mid-position where we had it. That plush feeling continued on the tarmac as well, compared to the Multistrada. The Tiger can indeed handle the twisties well, though not aggressively. A large front wheel isn’t apt for such behaviour, nor are the more forward-set touring-oriented foot-pegs. Braking is carried out by dual-calliper Brembo Stylema units, 320-mm disc up front and a single-piston sliding calliper at the rear also fitted with cornering ABS. These work brilliantly well, offering good bite for slowing down this 201-kg machine. The ergonomics with the Triumph do not have that natural riding position as the Multistrada possesses when in the saddle, although this does convert into a more agreeable set-up when one rides standing up. Understandable. What we have then is an adventure tourer for the more comfort-oriented soul that does intend to spend part of their journey off the beaten track.
Which brings us down to the tech-savviness of two-wheelers today: features and electronics. Safe to say that both these beasts have been stocked up to the brim with rider aids, safety aids, and a whole heap of settings to confuse a mathematician. Attempting to play around with the set-up, will have one find that the Ducati and Triumph have a gazillion different tweeks between the two. Adjustable suspension (electronic on the Multi), throttle responses, traction-control levels, ABS configuration, and more are present in both, allowing new owners to customize their bike to their needs. These settings can be changed for the most part via the handlebar controls which are fairly user-friendly on both machines. Not as smooth as the rotating toggle seen in the BMW GSs, but no complaints with either of the systems here.
The TFT dash, though, well, both are attractive, very visible even in direct sunlight and conveys a load of information. Here I prefer the Ducati, as the layout chosen by Triumph seems to be a bit confusing. But only a bit. Honestly, though tech is an important aspect of modern motorcycles, the number of features here does seem to be an overkill for the regular soul. Either way, it is present and does work quite well if you do plan to mingle with the settings.
What we have then are two motorcycles that cater to two different individuals per se. The Ducati Multistrada 950 S, yours for Rs 15.49-lakh (ex-showroom), is a more road-biased fun machine that will happily take you on the long journey while making you smile with each bend. The Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro, priced at Rs 15.50 lakh (ex-showroom), caters to the calmer highway jaunt and your best friend when the road ends. Both of which are quite good and do play their trump cards well. However, there is a stone in the shoe here; Ducati only have one Multistrada variant with this engine, while Triumph have a few more with the Rally Pro being the most expensive. The Triumph Tiger 900 comes in the standard Rally and GT variants along with the Rally Pro, both of which are lighter on the wallet and might sway a potential buyer. There is another worry for the Multistrada 950 S and Tiger 900 Rally Pro, too, as for fifty big ones more, you could have the Honda Africa Twin and that is a whole new argument. Interesting.