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2011 Ducati Diavel: MD First Ride

I thought about a pact with the Diavel. “I tell you where to go, and you take me as quickly as possible while scaring everyone near us, because they can’t believe you are is quick and nimble as you are”. Okay, maybe this is getting a bit corny, but we’re talking about a bike that gives you strange thoughts when you ride it, because looking at the huge rear tire and raked- out front end, you are expecting a totally different experience.

When you look at the Diavel, it intimidates you. At a distance, it looks low and menacing, but as you approach the bike, sit on it and ride it for the first time, these feelings change completely. After you roll just a few yards, it feels smooth and quiet, and then you attack the first set of corners. The strangest sensations follow, as the look of the bike tells you this is a cruiser, of sorts, but it slices corners like very few motorcycles can.

What is Ducati’s secret recipe? In designing the Diavel, Ducati wanted the look and power of a pure muscle bike, but the handling of a nimble naked. That look of that raked- out front end  and huge rear tire tell you this was an impossible goal, but you are wrong.

Most press launches start with a presentation by the manufacturer’s staff, telling you about the wonderful model you are about to ride, and describing its virtues and the sensations you will feel when you are aboard the machine. This press intro was different. The Ducati representatives were almost coy, simply inviting us to ride the bike and “see what you think”.

We’ve already discussed the technical specifications of the Diavel, but briefly the bike is built around a trellis frame bolted to an aluminum subframe and powered by an 1198cc Testastretta engine making a claimed 162 hp.

Three engine modes can be selected, including an Urban mode with 100 hp and ultra-smooth power delivery at low RPM, a Touring mode with 162 hp and a Sport mode with the same 162 hp, but a sharper throttle response. Each of these modes also adjusts traction control, which you can further adjust to your own desires. The miracle of electronics.

A huge, 50mm Marzochi front fork, which is fully adjustable, resides at a lengthy rake, contributing to a 1590 mm wheelbase that suggests truck – like handling.

Brembo calipers grab 320 mm front discs, and are driven by a radial pump. Superbike stuff, and with ABS developed by Bosch. The front wheel is a standard, sport bike size. The Diavel “Carbon” model  differs up front with a Marchesini forged wheel and a fork with anti-friction treatment.

In back, the aluminum swingarm is big enough to hold a monster 240 section rear tire, and is suspended by a Sachs, adjustable shock with remote preload adjustment. This latter feature is welcome on a bike like the Diavel that lends itself to two-up riding.

Comparing the ergonomics to a Monster, the seat is far lower, and the pegs are significantly lower and roughly 4 inches forward. The wide handlebars are comfortable to grab, as they are both much higher and further back.

If you think these ergonomics suggest an overweight muscle bike that can do nothing more than travel in a straight line, you are forgetting a couple of things. The Diavel  is extremely light compared to other muscle bikes, and it has more than just the racing DNA of Ducati.

The bike is comfortable to sit on, and easy to raise from the side stand. After starting the bike we are pleased to see a display similar to that found on the Streetfighter, as well as a tank mounted color display with MPG information, among others. As soon as we start riding, the bike feels like a typical naked, rather than a cumbersome cruiser. The extremely light claimed weight ( 455 pounds) is immediately believable.

Stretching the bikes legs on the highway for the first time, we see that it responds smoothly and with little vibration from low RPM, and it is packing the huge power typical of the Testastretta. Changing lanes is relatively easy, but we’re looking forward to a stretch of smooth, curvy asphalt we are familiar with.

When we arrive there, I follow a group led by one of the Ducati development riders, Stefano, who gradually raises the pace until we are accelerating and braking like we are aboard the Multistrada, Ducati’s superb all-purpose machine.

We start to scape the pegs, but the lean angles we are achieving are well beyond those permitted by a typical cruiser.That huge rear tire almost disappears. It transitions easily from side to side, and does not try to stand up the bike in corners. Braking hard in the corners is also surprising, because the Diavel has a very low center of gravity to go with that long wheelbase, so there is very little dive.

The same is true when you accelerate. A long low machine has very little squat. This also seems to provide extra traction, both front and rear. Combined with the surprising handling of the Diavel, the bike creates huge confidence in the rider.

Our group roars past a 600 supersport along this twisty road, and I have to wonder whether that rider is in a state of shock. “UFOs?”…” what just happened?”

Those wide handlebars certainly help turning the bike into the corners, and so we head to an even tighter venue, with rough asphalt. Here, I am simply amazed at how quickly we can travel. We select touring mode for a slightly smoother throttle response and more aggressive traction control to deal with some of the road debris and dirt we encounter. The bumpy undulating road tells us the suspension is quite stiff, but we never lose our sense of control and the bike just impresses me.

Simply put, this is not a muscle bike. It is a bike without a category. It can accelerate in a straight line like the muscle bikes, but works equally well in the city or on your favorite back road. You can do all of this in comfort, even with a passenger.

We arrive back at the hotel and see the Ducati staff waiting with broad smiles on their faces. Before talking with them, I glance back at the Diavel and find it hard to believe that the evil looking machine rode the way it did moments before. The Ducati representatives ask us for our thoughts, but the look in their eyes tells you they already know the answer. Dare we say this is one of the most enjoyable bikes we have ever ridden.  Not a cruiser, not a naked, not a sportbike. Just a Ducati. That is all you need to know.

 Motorcycle Daily attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

73 Comments

  1. MikeD says:

    Yes, i would HIT THAT. After all, i find the 680lbs(wet) New VMAX that many don’t like atractive as well(but im used to 550lbs+ bikes by now…look down). Looks like it would make a heck of a drag bike. Timing Belts and Desmo, ah ? Not cool with that but hey, can’t have it all, can i ?

    It can’t be worse than a 1982 SUZUKI GS1100G, LMAO.

  2. John says:

    I wouldn’t kick one out of the garage.

  3. Ed Chambers says:

    I thought this thing was fugly the first time I saw it and I still do.It wouldn’t have made it any slower or worse handling to put a normal round headlight on it and a bunch less plastic.Who cares if it’s fast comfortable and handles good plenty of bikes can do that and not look hideous.

  4. Kent says:

    Makes me happy that there’s a bike out there that makes my V-Strom look *really* good.
    Great bike – but I can’t get over the looks.

    I’m also tall, so short bikes don’t do it for me. If I had the cast, it would go towards a MultiStrada, not this.

    Buy if I was looking for a bike in this category – I’d be all over it.

    • Marc says:

      LOL I am not sure if it makes my KLR650 “really” good looking but it does make it look better. I am not sure anything can make the KLR really good looking but I am glad the manufactures are trying. For the price of the KLR ($550) I can live with ugly.

    • Zombo says:

      Exactly what I was thinking ! It’s big , it’s ugly ,it’s unreliable , it’s way too expensive , but at least it is a Ducati and will be about a third of it’s ridiculous price 5-7 years from now !

  5. GaryF says:

    At first I was put off by the looks of the thing. But people who ride it universally fall in love with it. I am very intrigued. I’ll bet it would sound awesome with some minor exhaust system tweaking. Probably would suck the headlights clean off a Harley.

  6. Zuki says:

    Love it. Personal luxury/musclebike. Beautiful wheels… I like the standard ones better than the ‘Carbon’ version wheels.

  7. Norm G. says:

    “what if they mated”… LOL classic conan skit.

  8. Tom Barber says:

    This bike is an obvious attempt to cross a cruiser with a cafe racer. Of course it is not the first bike to try and do this, but as far as I am concerned these bikes all look ridiculous, and this one lowers the bar to a new level. I am reminded of the skits that Conan used to do, “What if they made it”, where they showed pictures of two different celebrities and then combined them into a single picture that always looked ridiculous.

  9. Tom Shields says:

    Gawd, that thing is fugly.

  10. Slob says:

    Visually, I think it looks good in black, but does not have the same dramatic look that the original Yamaha VMax had back in ’85. However, if I had to choose between the Diavel, the new VMax, the Rocket III and the VRod, I’d go for the Diavel for looks and performance.

  11. nottabrandwhore says:

    Having seen this bike and sat on it in person, the bike is MUCH more than the photos present. Very rideable position in the saddle, very balanced. yes the styling is somewhat controversial…what, you want the same old shtick everyone else makes with Ducati on the label? I like that every brand has something in their gene pool every once in a while that isnt like everyone else even if it ends up on two wheels like the others. Ducati may be a small slice of motorcycling pleasure but it IS a pleasure to ride them if one suits your needs (wish they still offered a sport tourer instead of the Multi) All you Ducati haters can wiz off, one thing they are not is posers…the riders? well thats up to you now isnt it?

  12. Moonbandito says:

    Will there be a ‘batwing’ handlebar fairing and some top loading saddlebags for this too?

    • Dave says:

      I bet you’ll be able to find a sissy bar and a springer front end in the Ducati accessory catalog! A pair of fringed assless chaps and a too-small leather vest festooned with badges for the rider, and two foot long leather tassles at the bar ends and all will be complete.

      I bet it won’t be long before we see Diavels doing parade duty all dressed up in Shriner’s regalia.

  13. jimbo says:

    From reading only, this appears to be a superlative machine throughout. I like the styling: modern, fresh, but maintaining some classic muscle/cruiser themes such as mass, power, solidity, etc.

    Some previous cruisers caught my eye, but after sitting on them and experiencing the physical sensation of mass equaling thrice myself, I immediately dismiss the entire gestalt, regardless of the look.

    Weight and size are related. Indeed, cruisers have far longer wheelbase than average for all bikes (the longer the wheelbase the less rear wheel lift and the shorter the the braking distance…in spite of their weight, IIRC, the bike with the shortest braking distance is always a cruiser/muscle bike). The cruiser weight penalty seemed unavoidable because style-oriented bikes have longer wheelbase.

    Now the open-class, true superbike powered Diavel, with 62.6″ (1590mm/25.4) wheelbase and a measely 455 lbs. USA and Japanese designers should hang their heads in shame having fallen so far behind this small Italian company. Italy’s design excellence eclipses them all, by a huge margin.

    I can’t wait to test ride this bike. Not liking the name.

  14. Honker says:

    So, Ducati finally made a Vmax,
    Bad riding position, big power, but they improved on the handling a bit.
    Italians copying the Japanese trying to out Harley Harley.

    • Tim says:

      “Trying” to out Harley Harley? You mean make a bike that actually goes, handles and stops the way a motorcycle ought to? And without having to throw an entire catalog of “improvements” at it after the sale to make it perform the way it should have from the factory? Is that what it means to out Harley Harley? If so, pretty much EVERY other manufacturer has mastered that feat.

    • jimbo says:

      In one corner:
      Ducati quotes 463 lb dry for the Diavel, http://www.ducati.com/bikes/diavel/diavel/tech_spec.do, add estimated 60 lbs (35 lbs for 4.5g fuel) for 523 lbs estimated curb weight, 62.6″ wheelbase, release mid 2011.

      In the other corner:
      Yamaha quotes 683 lb cur weight http://www.starmotorcycles.com/star/products/modelspecs/23/0/specs.aspx, 66.9″ wheelbase, released late 2009.

      The longer the wheelbase the greater the lean angle for same velocity. By my math the V-Max must overcome a 31% weight penalty and 7% greater wheelbase to equal the Diavel’s handling. The numbers suggest huge handling superiority for the Diavel.

    • Allen says:

      If you think this is anything like a Vmax you have yet to understand what this bike is all about. It is 200 pounds lighter than a Vmax and in my opinion much better looking. It breaks new ground and can run with the sport bikes as well as cruise with the cruisers yet is neither of those. There is simply no comparison with Harley, they sell to people who for whatever reason like Harleys and will probably continue to do so.

  15. Eman says:

    I’m sick of hearing about ducati. not one percent of the bikes on the road are ducatis but 90% of the motorcycle magazines rave about them every month. I’m to the point of cancelling all my subscriptions because of it. I’ve heard enough about ducaties for the next 10 years.

    • MGNorge says:

      Part of that may be that there are very few “new” bikes on the market during the downturn and Ducati is not well known (yet?) for making these kinds of bikes. A relatively small manufacturer setting out into previously uncharted waters for them.

  16. Dave says:

    While I will acknowledge all reviews I’ve read of the riding dynamics of this bike have been quite positive, the Diavel is, in my opinion, one of the most oddly proportioned and unattractive motorcycles I’ve ever seen. It’s draped in all manner of plastic shrouds, vents, and screens, in a uncohesive mix of textures and colors and so bulbous in the midsection, and yet it tapers down to nothing just behind the seat. I understand the intent was to give it the impression of having a big muscular chest or something, but it ends up coming off like a plastic covered mechanical bull on wheels.

  17. Pep says:

    I am getting back into the motorcycle scene but I kept my longtime bikes covered and garaged, (zx600c and zx11) I am deciding between the VFR1200f or the Diavel. Funny the VFR also has its naysayers but this time it is among the VFR purists and posts are exactly like the posts by the Ducati purists in other sites.

    I like the bike, it looks more like a do it all comfortable standard but with a lot of style, power and handling. I hope the waiting list is not long. I hope the prices are not jacked up. For me, the Diavel, especially the seating position, reminds me of the cb700s Nighthawk from the 80′s. A do it all bike.
    I think the license plate mount is cool! Definitely unique.

  18. jimbo says:

    Typical: the Japanese (V-Max, every V-twin cruiser previously released from Japan) and the USA (H-D air/oil or liquid cooled, Victory/Polaris) give us 750+ wet weight (average) ill handling pigs (sorry for the redundancy, but they deserve it) and not one truly original design in the bunch. Not one cruiser from these two countries has anything even remotely resembling balanced overall performance. Hell, a $4k 250cc bike would fly by one of these porkers on highly technical mountain passes. Ugh and more ugh. No original thought, no daring, no nothing but chrome and “dazzle”.

    Leave it Italy (and hopefully soon, cross your fingers, BMW in the form of the 2008 Lo-Rider show bike) to make a balanced (yes, of course it’s uber costly) bike that goes like stink in any venue and has superb muscle/cruiser style.

  19. Stinky says:

    Well they did it again. This is another bike I’d love to ride but doubt I’ll ever own one. It would seem that Ducati is slicing their share of the market into pretty thin slices.
    This market hasn’t done very well for Harley, maybe because they worried about the style conscious instead of the bikers. The ones who are like old fashion matrons, always worried about what someone is gonna say about their shoes, purses or hemline and hoping noone notices they’ve never been to the gym. Same ones who worry about the look of the pipes, tailights,scoops instead of where they could go on it.

    • Allen says:

      They are not salami-slicing a share of the market, they are one of very few motorcycle manufacturers to expand their sales in the past few years, Triumph being another. They are finding new market segments, isn’t that a good thing??

  20. Philip says:

    I saw the bike in Valencia Spain last fall and thought it looked attractive. It just looks like a very well made quality motorcycle. There is certainly alot going on with engine and pipes everywhere and big tire in the back. Riding position felt comfortable. Price is my problem but with the weak dollar what should I expect? Anyone remember that Victory Vision 800 concept? I have to say the bike reminds me of that to some degree.

  21. Wilson R says:

    Don’t know why Ducati couldn’t have made it look tough rather the comical. What’s up with bike manufacturers these days? There are very few bikes being produced these days that catch my eye. I dunno. Maybe I’m just getting old.

    • Trojanhorse says:

      Try to remember that styling is subjective…your idea of “tough” is likely my idea of “hackneyed.” It always amazes me when people complain that a bike isn’t produced specifically to their tastes…

      • Mickey says:

        This is true, and since none of us have ridden the bike and can attest to handling, braking or power, all we can comment on is how the styling appears to us, whether it pleases us or doesn’t, what we would change or not change, or wish the manufacturer had done differently. We don’t expect that our comments will be identical to everyone elses or there would be no need for comments other than the reporters.This forum gives us a podium on which to describe our feeling/emotions about the products we see featured.

        So if one guy says it’s ugly..that’s their opinion, if the next guy says it’s beautiful, that’s their opinion. read them, think about what they said, and either agree or dissagree, and state what you think, but it makes no sense to complain about how someone else expresses their opinion, it’s only one (theirs) opinion

        • Marc says:

          I agree and that is why my first comment only addressed the styling. Being a Ducati I imaging it will be a fun bike to ride and there is bike for everyone out there. If this bike gets new riders into biking then it’s all good.

      • Wilson R says:

        Your easily amazed.

  22. mark says:

    I have to agree with several of the poster. I think it looks ugly in the photos, but I reserve final judgment until I see it in person. I also think it would probably look better in black.

    All that said, you don’t see most of the bike when you’re riding it….and the ride sounds pretty damn good.

  23. MGNorge says:

    If I had unlimited $$$ for bikes and a large enough garage to hold them all this could be in it, at least for awhile. But considering the dollars here and the mission(s) I might ask it to perform it might fall short if it were the only arrow in my quiver. It’s power output aside, at my age there are much more practical bikes for my wants and needs at a lot less dough.

  24. Mickey says:

    I agree with mechelaar, at least in the pictures, the front half looks fine and it appeals to me even though I am over 60, however once you get behind the seat, it looks horrible, as if they didn’t know what to do with it back there. The rear half looks to me like it’s designed for the head banging, wheelie popping stunta/gansta crowd. Now I have NEVER complained about the lic plate holder on ANY bike before and leave mine as the way they came from the factory (I think undertails look silly) however I am about to break my own rule. The lic plate holder looks stupid on this bike. A real “after thought” looking piece.”Hey Luigi, where dey gonna mounta da licenca plate?”
    “Oh crap Marco, I dunno, hey letsa do dis”. What were they thinking? Probably the best they could come up with considering there is nothing back there to bolt anything to.

    Other than the goofy looking rear end, I’d love to throw my leg over one of those devils and take it for a brisk ride. Too bad the nearest Ducati dealer is over 200 miles away.

  25. sliphorn says:

    Lose the gigantic rear tire and I’d be okay with it.

  26. Travman says:

    Ducati please stop putting dissected headlights on your naked bikes. It makes me think of the Cylons from the first Battlestar Galactica.

  27. Jim H. says:

    Any new motorcycle released in todays climate is great! There is the problem of it looking like a goofy sci-fi egg pod, and the fact that only posers and psuedo-motorcyclist will own one, that makes it not so great. Ugh!

  28. Harry says:

    I wanna ride I wanna ride I wanna ride.

  29. Jerrylee says:

    it doesn’t look like a bike I’d like. However I am glad Ducati DNA runs strong and it appears to be more than what it appears to be. I’ll wait to see one in person. It may look better in reality than in pictures. Nice to have new options during these difficult economic times.

  30. Steven says:

    This is exactly the bike I’ve been waiting for! I wasn’t sure what I thought of the appearance with just the pictures I saw online. Then again, I’m way more about function than having the prettiest bike out there. So, if the bike handles and performs well, I just don’t care a lot if other people think it’s ugly! But, once I saw it at the International Motorcycle Show in Cleveland, there was no doubt that Ducati built a great bike. To me, this thing is beautiful in-person! At 5’7″, I’m completely flat footed and the seat seemed pretty comfortable to me. Considering how well this bike handles, the price (non-carbon version) isn’t unreasonbly high, the engine has great performance, and the maintenance schedule is in line with most other bikes, I really hope I can get one of these in my garage!!!

  31. kpaul says:

    Looks like a bike in comic strip. That said I would like mine in all black please.

  32. DaytonaJames says:

    I don’t know how old any of you posters are but I’m surprised by the comments. Ugly? Subjective I guess. Eye of the beholder stuff but I submit that anything that is radically new always takes a while to catch on from a style perspective. It’s not always so black and white as ‘love it or hate it’. The engineering is obviously there when people have difficulty finding the superlatives to describe it. I believe the style will begin to appeal to many of you naysayers once you see it give a dragrace lesson or two to unsuspecting V-Rods and other poser bikes. John, I’d like to see you in my showroom please… Italian slop? You need to ride a Duc buddy.

    • kpaul says:

      Reminds me of the time on Pinks when a V-Rod lost to a very used old UJM. You make a great point DaytonaJames. V-Rod is pretty but this Ducati is big and quick like a NFL linebacker. :)

  33. MarkF says:

    Ugly! It’s either a scary 1/4 mile demon or a poser but not both.

  34. falcodoug says:

    Alittle of this, a little of that, it’s still a silly looking bike. That said I would love to test ride one.

  35. ABQ says:

    people say ‘beware!’
    but I don’t care
    the words are just
    rules and regulations to me,

    I walk in a room, you know I look so proud
    I’m movin’ in this here atmosphere, well, anything’s allowed
    and I go to this here party and I just get bored
    until I look out the window, see a sweet young thing
    humpin’ on the parking meter, leanin’ on the parking meter
    oh, she looks so good, oh, she looks so fine
    and I got this crazy feeling and then I’m gonna ah-ah make her mine

  36. ilikefood says:

    It’s good to see that it performs well, but it just looks so damn awful. It’s easily the ugliest bike Ducati have ever produced – and some of the Terblanche monstrosities are hard to beat! It doesn’t look too bad in pictures, but I saw one in real life at a bike show and it looks really huge, fat, and ungainly. Like a fat 50-year-old American tourist wearing khaki shorts and a fanny pack. The view from the seat, when you look down at that huge tank, is particularly horrible.

    What’s going on with Ducati? They used to make so such sexy bikes. Now they give us the Diavel, the new Monsters, and the new Multistrada…

  37. Tim says:

    Sounds like someone finally produced a V Rod that actually works.

  38. mechelaar says:

    I think it is a good looking bike until it gets to the seat. The rear end looks like Ducati just ran out of patience. It’s like they said, “you know what, it’s time for a drink, screw the rest. let’s slap some lights here and here and call it good.”

    Other than that, I’d like to ride one.

  39. The architect says:

    Manufacturers take note, this is how you design a new bike!

  40. Marc says:

    Let me be the first to say it’s Ugly and who would have thought the company that brought us the very sexy 916 would produce this!

  41. John says:

    Ducati is Italian slop…..Harley Iron baby…..