Ducati DiavelSince Ducati’s announcement of its entry into the cruiser class – the Diavel – we’ve waited with intrigue and a healthy dose of skepticism to see what their engineers would actually come up with.
At first blush the idea would seem to be at odds with Ducati’s brand credo: high performance at all costs. The stylish Italian brand created a motorcycle with cruiser styling, such as a fat rear tire, stretched wheelbase, feet forward ergonomics and a low seat height. These stylish items undeniably make a bike look good, but are not helpful when it comes to making a bike handle well. But the substantial-looking Diavel is a big surprise all around. Despite its looks, it has a dry weight of a mere 463 lbs (Carbon model 456 lbs). Thanks to a much larger airbox volume and cleverly redesigned exhaust, its Multistrada sourced L-twin motor outputs an arm-wrenching 94 ft. lbs of torque and a cruiser-segment-busting 162 peak horsepower! Clearly the Diavel is a full-blown high-performance machine. Sampling the Duc in sunny Southern Spain recently, I had a chance to shred the twisting A397 through the mountains from Marbella to Ronda, and to my astonishment the Diavel performed impeccably. Clearly by keeping the weight down, Ducati gave the Diavel a good chance at handling well, but the fully adjustable 50mm Marzocchi forks and Sachs rear shock certainly don’t hurt either. A strong partnership with Pirelli tires saw them create a 240/45 rear tire, and this unique profile created a rounder cross-section and therefore an easier to turn machine. The handling of the Diavel is truly excellent, and borders on sportbike levels of precision and turning. Naturally the 62-inch wheelbase (almost 4.5 inches longer than the Streetfighter’s) is long, but the Diavel disguises it well. The rear tire has minimal rear-steering effect, but even with a 28 degree steering rake (again some 2.4 degrees lazier than the Streetfighter’s) the Diavel manages to turn easily and precisely into a committed corner entrance. At slow speeds and modest angles of lean the fat rear tire makes the handling a tiny bit uncertain, but at higher speeds the Diavel crosses from upright to maximum lean angle quickly and precisely; the bike is an absolute joy to ride fast. This is an astonishing accomplishment by Ducati. The mid-mounted footpegs have rubber inserts for comfort and I found the overall rider positioning to feel obvious and natural. It’s possible to scrape the peg-feelers if you’re really getting carried away in the corners, but they only touched down a couple of times and those were at very high speed and extreme angles of lean. So the bike handles competitively with most naked uprights, and will emphatically blow away any cruiser competition through the corners. But in some ways it’s actually the engine’s performance that’s almost shocking. The Diavel will power-wheelie in the first two gears and acceleration from 0-60 is actually quicker than Ducati’s 1198! The secret here of course is the copious arm-wrenching torque output that almost matches the 1198’s 97 ft.lbs. It’s coupled to a longer machine and a tire that can get the power to the ground, but no matter the justification-we’re comparing a cruiser-class motorcycle with a full-on superbike, and the fact that they’re even in the same ballpark is incredibly impressive. The Diavel has Ducati’s full set of electronic aids, including the remote key start system from the Multistrada, and three riding modes (Sport, Touring, and Urban) which progressively reduce power and immediacy of delivery for changing road conditions. The Ducati Traction Control (DTC) has eight levels of interference that are pre-programmed into the riding modes at levels 3, 4 and 5 respectively; those can be changed if the owner prefers different levels of help. ABS comes as standard on the Diavel as well, and the Brembo Monobloc radial calipers bite down on 320mm discs, activated by a radial master pump at the handlebar. The brakes are (of course) excellent with plenty of feel. The Diavel also scores high marks on the comfort front. Although it looks like a committed single-seat machine, in reality the rear seat cover unclips quickly and a pull knob under the seat releases a hidden passenger grab-handle out the back. Passenger footpegs are very discreet but unfold for passenger carrying ability. I liked the ideas behind this as the Diavel looks clean and unfussy and yet still retains the ability to carry a passenger in comfort if required. The rider’s seat is considerably lower than the passenger’s and sitting in the scooped, narrow saddle wasn’t brilliantly comfortable for me, but of course this is down to personal taste. If you happen to share my opinion it’s easy to rectify and won’t spoil the bike for you in any way. Leaning forward slightly and reaching over the big, broad, tank towards the shoulder-width handlebars felt incredibly natural and comfortable. The Diavel fit me beautifully and I immediately felt at home on it. Cruisers are all about road presence and the Diavel delivers in spades. It’s a mean, meaty looking machine with a broad face that also manages to look sophisticated and elegant at the same time. Its Ducati DNA certainly shows through, and with a modern, high-tech persona that comes from its LED lights and Italian fashionista image, the Diavel is a head-turner for sure. The machine feels large, but with a curb weight that I assume is around 516lbs (adding the typical 60 lbs. to Ducati’s claimed 456 lbs. dry weight of the Carbon model) there’s simply no heft to it at all whether you’re moving slowly through traffic or turning the bike at speed. The new Diavel is a remarkable machine, and Ducati have to be applauded for entering such a well-defined category and delivering its own unique take with such aplomb. The bike will shock you with its get-up-and-go and ability to handle a twisty road like a sportbike; and yet it looks like a bad-attitude boulevard cruiser. "Chicks dig Ducatis," as the saying goes. This bike certainly won’t change that.