Gray skies and sporadic rain made for an auspicious beginning to the day as I pulled into the Cycle World Ten Best Riding Experience to test ride the Ducati Diavel. The rain flecked Diavels where all lined up and ready for the mornings test riders. Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to cooperate. Not a problem. Ducati had graciously setup a canopied waiting room complete with tables, chairs, TV monitors playing MotoGP and to top it off the Ducati Umbrella Girls serving espresso and biscotti.
The name Diavel, as you might have surmised, is Italian for devil. The story goes that when the original design sketches were reviewed someone at the meeting said it looked “sharp as the devil” and the name stuck. This Italian take on a cruiser is certainly a looker. Pure Italian styling and performance that could only come from a company with a race pedigree like Ducati. The 1198cc twin produced 132.8 hp at 9320 rpm and 81.5ft.-lbs or torque at 7225 rpm in sport mode (no restrictions from the fuel mapping) as tested by CW editor Don Canet, who was in attendance at the event. Ducati built-in three fuel maps for the Diavel: Urban, Touring and Sport. In Urban mode the bike is limited to 100hp and the DTC (Ducati Traction Control) is set to 5, the highest intervention. In Touring all claimed 165hp are available and the DTC is set to 3. In Sport mode you’ll also get all 165 ponies but with the least intrusion from the DTC at a setting of 1. A number of other features that are becoming standard on newer bikes are also included in the Diavel: Key-less ignition, color LCD screen with readouts for speed, rpm, coolant temp, clock, riding mode, odometer, fuel consumption, average speed, etc. Most of the information displayed is controlled by a paddle on the back side of the left grip. Unique to the Diavel however is the control for the riding modes. Changing riding modes is done through the turn signal cancel button. Push and hold the cancel button for three seconds to enter the menu to change maps, then press it again to select the map desired, then hold down for three seconds to select the mode. This proved pretty interesting during the test ride as I could tell when someone was changing riding modes because their turn signals would start going a little crazy. It took a little getting used to but after about 15 min most people had it figured out.
As the rain let up and the sun peaked out the ten of us in the first riding group were treated to a brief orientation of the bike and a run through of its features and capabilities. After a few instructions we all geared up, picked out our bikes and got ready to ride. Being one of the taller riders there I was directed to a Carbon Fiber version that was fitted with Ducati’s aftermarket touring seat. There are four versions of the Diavel available: the standard Diavel, Diavel AMG, Diavel Carbon, and the Diavel Cromo. These are pretty much the same bike dressed up differently. As I slipped into the seat my first impressions where positive. The touring seat, made with memory foam, was plush and a delight. Other manufactures should take note, this is how a bike seat should always feel. Reach to the wide handle bars was good and felt like it would allow for appropriate leverage to turn the bike. The peg location, seat, and bars created a comfortable upright seating position made more so by having my feet in line with my bottom end. If I drew a line from my shoulder, to my hips, to my feet it would have been straight.
Our ride took a little over an hour which I feel was just enough time to get comfortable with the Diavel. Power delivery, even in Urban mode, was pretty abrupt and took a steady throttle hand to control. Once I got used to it though I was grinning under my helmet for most of the ride. There’s a sweet spot in the rpms around 4500 – 5000 and once there it’s a smooth and predictable ride. The Diavel did not seem to enjoy being below this rpm range once I left second gear but was more than willing to climb all the way to the 10,000 rpm limit. I pretty much rode in third gear averaging between 55 – 65 mph @ 5,000 rpm. As I rode through the country side I contemplated what function this bike would best serve if I where to own one. It’s lack of storage or really any option for storage or wind/weather protection meant that long distance touring was pretty much out of the question. For daily commuting and around town the fairly abrupt power surge from twisting the throttle and it’s dislike for being in lower gears or at lower rpms would make it difficult to enjoy. Where I see this bike really shining is on weekends and short trips. The bike would be more than comfortable enough to get me to good roads and powerful enough to allow me to enjoy them once I got there. Did I mention the 41 degree lean angle clearance?
At the end of the ride we all dismounted and gathered for more espresso and to chat about the ride. I heard many other riders echo my assessment of the bike. There where a lot of smiles and laughing. It really can’t be helped after a romp on this bike. Ducati and Cycle World Magazine had given us all a little taste of what it is like for professional test riders. From the star treatment in the tent to the technical briefing to the ride and all that this event entailed. It is an opportunity that I’m looking for again.
Compared to other European motorcycle manufacturers attempts to create a new cruiser (BMW R1200C, Moto Guzzi California, Triumph Rocket, Ducati’s Indiana) I think Ducati has finally broken the trend of ugly bikes with poor performance that have been the legacy of that category. The Diavel is a blast to ride, handles well, has loads of power, and it looks pretty sexy too. Will it sell well in the States with our preconditioned ideas of what a cruiser is? I hope so. Especially if it inspires other manufacturers to push the envelope regarding what a bike is and what it isn’t. Ducati has stated, in no uncertain terms, with the Diavel that a cruiser can be powerful, good looking, and modern. Let’s just hope they will also be able to claim that it is a success.
Note: all photos taken and edited by the author using an IPhone and the Camera+ app.