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.