By now if you can fog a mirror, you’ve heard all about the Ducati Diavel. According to the company it is the ‘New Shape of Power and Style’. Whatever it is, it is a radical departure from every model before it. So is the Diavel the next runaway success or has, as the kids like to say, Ducati jumped the shark? Read on and find out.
It didn’t start well. On my way to pick up the Diavel from NPR Ducati I found myself cruising in the fast lane in my car with the cruise control on. A Harley entered the freeway from the on-ramp and commenced accelerating (or the closest equivalent it could manage). The rider crossed 3 lanes before depositing his bike directly in front of me and slowed down. If I hadn’t hit the brakes aggressively I would have rammed him. Trust me, I did think twice. His bike was barking out potato, potato, potato through its slash cut ‘silencers’ and I’m sure the rider thought he looked cool with his polished German helmet and all. You and I both know he was a dick.
And this is the very concern isn’t it, the source of the antipathy towards the Ducati Diavel felt by many Ducatisti. Quite frankly, the Diavel looks about almost as far from a Ducati sportbike, as..well a Harley. The concern is that no matter what Ducati says, a wheelbase longer than even an old bevel and a 240mm rear tire (with an 8 inch rim for goodness sake) just can’t, for the love of physics, still be what Ducati says the brand stands for. Authentic, Italian, Performance. Can it?
Even for someone who has little interest in the performance cruiser class, the Diavel has nailed it with the styling. It looks better in the flesh, oozing style and flair and losing the awkwardness of the front cowling that is evident in 2 dimensions. The forged Marchesini wheels are, themselves, a work of art and reason alone to stump for the pricier Carbon models which also include smatterings of carbon fiber and a diamond like coating Marzocchi forks.
When you sit on the bike, the seat strikes you as very low as indeed it is. The Diavel feels very light to lift from the side stand which belies its visual heft. This is mostly down to good balance and weight distribution since although the bike is up to 200lbs lighter than its notional competitors it is still a heavy bike (a Monster 1100EVO is 83lbs or 38kg lighter). You can feel this more when you push the bike forward or backwards (especially up an incline).
Push the power button with the keyless fob safely in your jacket pocket and watch the high resolution display dazzle you with bright colors and swooshes. Settle now. A thumb of the starter causes the testastretta 11º to bark into life. My bike has the full termi system fitted which sounds good but what is even more noticeable is how quiet the engine itself is. In large part this is due to the wet clutch so the signature clacka, clacka, clacka, ring ding ding rattle rattle is gone but so is almost any other engine noise. This is impressive as it of course allows for maximum exhaust symphony for your listening pleasure whilst still meeting noise regulations.
With the electronics set to Sport mode, the full 162 horses are available for corralling, so I snick it into first enjoying the light clutch effort and move off. The first thing I have to do is turn 90º left at a walking pace to get onto the road. For my sins, I’ve ridden cruisers before. If you have too, you know what happens next. On a cruiser the steering geometry is such that the handlebars just want to flop onto full lock at very lows speeds.
You get none of this with the Diavel. It feels just like any other motorbike as you pull away. Open the throttle a little and the bike simply bursts forward, almost pulling the handlebars out of your hands if you’re not watching. A few miles later we’re cruising in 6th at 60mph and all is well with the world. How grunty is the engine? Well at 60mph and about 3,500rpm on the hard to read at a glance digital tach I snap the throttle open while looking straight ahead. In the time it takes to glance down to check the speed it is already showing 66mph! The engine just builds and builds, never hitting a particularly place where it takes off but by 6,000rpm you are seriously hauling with plenty more to come. Nice, but you don’t want to know about roll-ons do you? So I pull to a stop.
Okay, First gear, a few revs, a little slip of the clutch as the throttle hits the stop and we cannon forward. The bark of the big twin becomes a bellow as the front end comes up smoothly and without drama. At the top of the rev range I snatch second and the front end lowers, floating now, the tire just 6 inches or so off the ground. The engine revs so fast that before I know it the engine stutters into the cut-out and I snick into third.
All of a sudden I am Carlos Checa barreling down the straight. It sure feels and sounds like it, the barrage of sound and wind, combined with the unceasing tug on my arms is putting me into that zone of controlled violence that is the essence of a powerful motorcycle. Uh-oh. A corner looms ahead. Here is the beginning of the real test. Can the dream stay alive? Am I going to have an Authentic, Italian Performance experience?
The throttle rolls smoothly shut as I squeeze the brakes and feel the monobloc Brembos bite hard but more progressively than on the Superbike models. We are slowing fast, the bike taking a lot of rear brake nicely since the long wheelbase minimizes pitching and the rear can do a reasonable amount of the big job at hand. No wonder Ducati says the bike stops faster than a 1198. I am still Checa.
The corner is a 2nd gear 90º left hander. I snick down through the gears, smoothly blipping the throttle but feeling a little silly as I steal a glance downwards to check what gear I’m in as I’ve lost count. I am going to take Ducati at their word. I counter steer right as I start to ease off the brakes and the Diavel smoothly rotates on its roll axis pointing in nicely, feeling confident and composed. I have cognitive dissonance as It feels so wrong to feel this right. Unbelievable!
Then. I feel it. It is very subtle but that big back tire is a long way behind and I feel it roll in just a fraction after the front steering input. Even Ducati engineers can’t totally defy physics after all but they give it a good go. I’m not quite Carlos Checa anymore but I’m nowhere near Maxime Berger either. It feels like it is, a good handling bike with a long wheelbase and a fat, but well profiled rear tire.
That rear tire is the dominating factor in riding this bike. The Diavel likes to enter a turn a little slower than you might on a sportbike and then immediately begin to dial in the torque before the apex. This settles the bike and you feel the grip from the rear tire as you slingshot out the other side like a an elastic band snapping back into place. This isn’t the fastest way to ride on a track but it is by far the fastest, safest way to ride on the road and the Diavel thrives on it. Ridden like this and your sportbike buddies are going to see you stick firmly, annoyingly in their mirrors (on second thoughts they mustn’t be riding Ducatis if they can see you in their mirrors!). You want to get your toes on the pegs too otherwise you’ll be dragging your boots on almost every turn. That long wheelbase means it leans much further over than most bikes you will be used to at any given cornering speed.
Speaking of mirrors, they are excellent and they are the only thing you can see in your peripheral vision as you ride. That isn’t all good since you have to move your head down a lot to actually see how fast you are going. And going fast you will be if you keep the throttle open for long. So the Diavel is a fast bike, very fast from a standing start but don’t get too carried away with the hype. A 1198 is both considerably lighter and more powerful. A Superbike is all rear end squat and front end lift and steering wiggle. The Diavel manages to feel fast without being flustered.
No, the thing about the Diavel is how effortless it is and that is due to the long wheelbase combined with the stump pulling mid-range. The two work against in other in terms of sensation. The torque trying to yank your arms out of your sockets whilst the stable chassis says ‘Hey Relax, I’ve got everything taken care of’.
So let’s ease off the pace a little. Switch into urban mode where the power is restricted to 100bhp and just like that you now have the same performance at your disposal as a Harley Davidson V-Rod (in this mode the two bikes have a similar power to weight ratio allowing for a 200lb rider with gear). The Diavel has a similar series of switchable maps available to change on the fly as the Multistrada 1200.
Ducati News Today seems to be the only ones who don’t care much for them. The Urban mode doesn’t seem to offer any more torque down low (as if you’d need any) but feels like an extra inch of free-play has been added to the throttle cable. Likewise the Touring setting, which has a softer but still full complement of 162 ponies, but delivered in a more insipid way. If it were ours, we’d stick it in Sport and leave it there.
At this reduced pace the seat is bothering me now. At 6’3″ maybe I’m too tall because it feels like my knees are too high for comfort and dare I say it would be more comfortable if the pegs were a little further forward. I know. I’ll wash my mouth out with soap. I would have to investigate the optional touring seat. Another thing about the riding position is that you are locked into one place. I like to move around a bit but you can’t really go forward or back and just have to sit in one position. While we are on gripes, there is no wind protection so you’d want to hit the gym to get that core into shape if you don’t want aching shoulders on every ride. Ducati offer an optional flyscreen which we’d buy. On a positive note, the engine injects a lot more smoothly down low than some recent models. Apparently the heavier flywheel has a lot to do with this. The bike does ride very nicely since the extra mass make it easier for the suspension to soak up the bumps.
It is impossible not to have a huge smile on your face as you blast around on this bike. Whether you have simply tired of the Superbike crouch but don’t want to relinquish the performance, want something a little different from usual offerings or just like the brash styling the Diavel offers a unique experience. Far from not being a real Ducati, the Diavel ends up being, ironically, the epitome of the Ducati brand essence. There is literally nothing else like it. The Diavel does indeed offer Authentic, Italian, Performance.
- You worship at the torque temple
- You like to embarrass sportbikes in the mountains
- The racer crouch isn’t your thing anymore
You want to keep looking if:
- You want to do a lot of two-up or touring rides (Hint: Ducati Multistrada 1200)
- You worship razor sharp handling. If a Superbike is too extreme get a Streetfighter instead (The Diavel is amazing but ye cannae change the laws of physics)
The Ducati Diavel in a Tweet: If this style of bike appeals to you, don’t bother test riding anything else. It really is head and shoulders above the pseudo competition.
Some of our Facebook followers asked some questions ahead of the review. You can do the same thing ahead of our next review by ‘Liking’ our Ducati News Today Facebook page. The answers are below.
Sean Kelly – I didn’t get to try the bike with a passenger. It didn’t look awful but hardly the best out there either. If two-up is important take your pillion with you for the test ride.
Mario Martinovic – I’m 190cm and found it a little uncomfortable because the seat height was too low. Ducati offer a touring comfort seat which is 40mm higher. It would be worth trying.
Eko Wijayanto – The Diavel isn’t a wheelie king because of the long wheelbase. From my ride it was easy to lift the front in first but it wouldn’t go very high without coaxing. And that was in Sport mode.
Nene Calderon – The rear brake is awesome! The long wheelbase puts more weight on the rear so the rear brake gets more work. I turned the ABS off and there was plenty of power to lock the rear if you wanted!
NPR Ducati supplied the Diavel, fuel and Brett to show me which way the local roads went!.