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  • March 16, 2011
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Brian J. Nelson
  • 75 Comments

MD Second Ride: Ducati Diavel

There are some consumer products, like electric ukeleles and motorized ice-cream cones that make you wonder, “who’s that for?” The motorcycle world’s version of this is the power cruiser. In fact, with the underwhelming success of bikes like the Victory V92SC, Harley-Davidson Street Rod or Yamaha Road Star Warrior (all bikes I like, by the way, so save the hate-mail), we haven’t heard much from the OEMs in the way of sport-oriented cruisers. Oh, sure, there’s the Star VMAX and the Suzuki B-King, but not exactly bikes you see parked in front of every Gold’s Gym, are they? A power cruiser appeals to a rider who wants the comfort and “look-at-me” styling of a cruiser with the performance and handling of his favorite sportbike. Either there aren’t a lot of those guys out there, or—more likely—there just wasn’t a bike that truly fit the bill.

That’s because most of the “power cruisers” I’ve tested are fun to ride—how can you not have a good time with good suspension and brakes mixed with a torquey, soulful motor—but can’t fully mask their secret identity. Maybe Drew Carey could finish a marathon, but he’d be really sweaty at the end of it, and he’d probably be hours behind those skinny Kenyans at the front. I was still waiting for an OEM to build a bike able to haul ass like a sportbike but still provide that hard-to-define cruiser zeitgeist. I thought I’d wait forever, because to do that, you’d have to find a way to lop 200 pounds off your basic cruiser design.

Leave it to a company that hasn’t built a cruiser in a generation to do just that. You’ve read our tech brief on the Diavel, and you’ve seen our first ride report on it as well, so you know the basics; long wheelbase, the new Testastretta 11° motor, sportbike-spec brakes and suspension, and a 456-pound dry weight. The numbers sounded great, the overseas ride reports were glowing (but most first ride reports are  glowing, reminiscent of a president’s first 100 days), but was this a good motorcycle? Or just another corporate oddity that would fade away in a few model years? I had a last-minute opportunity to ride the new bike in the Malibu mountains just west of Los Angeles, and I jumped on it so I could find out for myself. The first thing you notice about the Diavel is that it really does feel like a cruiser when you’re seated on it. The seat is scooped-out and low, one of few Ducatis 5’6” me can comfortably get both feet down on the ground with (a lower and higher seat are both options). The bars come right back to your hands, and the footpegs are fairly forward-set. Not quite chopper-like, but definitely not sportbike. A low-to-the-ground dualsport is what it most reminded me of. The seat did slant me downwards, which became uncomfortable after a few hours of riding. And then you lift it off the sidestand and you feel how light and easy it is to handle, and you know you’re not on a regular cruiser.

Firing it up confirms that. Fueling is right on, and the exhaust note is great, like a recording of an unmuffled V-8 Chevy played at low volume (another journalist thought that maybe the different engine modes produced different exhaust notes, but I couldn’t confirm this). But pulling away from the curb and rocketing around city streets in the “urban” mode (limited to 100 horsepower) lets you know this is a sensational engine for cruiser use. Any gear, any time—you can chug-chug-chug along in fourth gear at 20 mph, if that’s what you’re into, or you can howl along at nine grand. Figure out how to put it on the “sport” or “touring” mode,  but make sure you brought clean underwear with you, as rolling on throttle when you have 162 hp pulling 500 pounds of bike will make you giggle and feel real fear at the same time, even with the traction control and ABS along as a security blanket. Sure, the 1198 is 80-odd pounds lighter, but the Diavel has a bigger rear sprocket (a 43 tooth compared to a 37), which makes it feel as quick, maybe quicker.

Luckily, the rest of the bike is up to the demands of the 11°. The frame is stiff. The 50mm Marzocchi fork is fully adjustable, as is the hydraulic-preload-and-linkage-equipped rear shock. The rear tire, though stylishly phat, doesn’t really hamper handling that much, although you know it’s there—and that goes double for that stretched wheelbase. Thanks to the big fat handlebar and sensible (for a cruiser) geometry, the Diavel can get around corners at least as well as any other bike its size. It reminded me of Kawasaki’s much-missed ZRX1200R.

So there you are, carving up your favorite mountain road. In front of you is that metal tank cover (the 4.75-gallon tank itself is roto-molded plastic, and Ducati tells me it has special mounts to help it cope with the expansion and distortion that results from America’s ethanol-rich fuels) reminiscent of the hood off a big old muscle car. You can’t see much else of the bike from the saddle (a good thing, according to the Diavel’s many critics—and the looks do need to grow on you), just the bar and the little instrument pod. The TFT display under that requires a glance down to really view. The rider display contains lots of information (except, strangely, fuel remaining, although there is a low-fuel warning light). Wind protection is not bad, great for a naked cruiser like this, and there’s an accessory windscreen available. You can go any pace you  like, really; press it hard and you will blow past sportbikers, or you can just leave it in fourth gear and enjoy the scenery.

Sound like a good touring bike? I think so too. How about a commuter? With 15,000-mile service intervals, it may even be practical. Trackday tool? For the right lunatic, maybe.

So who will buy this bike? Sportbike owners who refuse to shuffle off to the mainstream cruiser farm. Comfortable, easy to ride (but it’s not a beginner-friendly bike), attention-getting and unique, the Diavel is one of the most interesting—and entertaining rides I’ve experienced in many years. Who’s it for? Anybody who wants to ride a cool motorcycle. I’m guessing maybe even you.

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

75 Comments

  1. Jim says:

    I just picked up a red carbon Diavel yesterday….if I could ride it 24/7 I would. I have owned a 750ss, 900FE, 996, Bimota DB2FE, 907i.e., and now this. This is by far the best of all of the listed bikes in one. It is light headed quick, easy to ride, and just a ton of fun! All you Duc haters beware…if you spend some time with this thing you will get off a believer! The urban mode is great for riding with the cruiser crowd and in town, touring mode is great for all around riding, sport mode is a hoot! The exhaust note is louder than normal with a stock exhaust. It has a great burble when downshifting to a stop. I’ll take this over a sport bike any day of the week. If you ride on the track take the 1198….on the street, in the real world, the Diavel is unbeatable. It can be ridden like a sport bike…..All Day Long! Really, it can!

  2. fritious says:

    Had one on loan today for the span of a long lunch break. Once I broke free of my urban confines, I ripped it for an hour straight. Quite frankly I was just blown away – the most fun I’ve had on a bike for a while. I ride 14k a year so you get the idea.

    See one in person before you judge as well as ride one if you get the chance. Not normally my cup of tea, but I get it.

    Good on Ducati.

  3. gsx1400 says:

    I test rode on of these today, my god it blew me away, i currently own a gsx1400 and have been on GSXR’s (600,750,1000’s) before that for 10 years, and maaaaaan, this is the absolute perfect bike for me.

    I have been hard pressed to find a bike i want til now, Cruisers are too heavy and no good for commuting in city traffic and the sports bikes i used to ride are too uncomfortable. Hence buying the 1400.

    Then i see the Diavel, looks amazing, sounds even better (sounds unreal from the riders seat :) goes, steers and stops like a Ducati sporstbike (a bit more stable than 999), light and flickable, but supremely comfortable for my 6′ frame.

    Maybe not for everybody visually, but i think Ducati have a winner here, my local dealer has a waiting list of 3 months for it, so its proving popular, and with my deposit down, i cant wait for mine.

    So there u are, the market they are aiming at is me, the guy too old for sportsbikes, too young for cruisers, and too sensible for a hypermotard!

    Honestly, before u hate this bike, go for a test ride, u might be surprised.

  4. Desmo says:

    Having just ridden one believe me I couldn’t care less what it looks like, let alone anyone else! In a word its amazing. I’ve never had so much fun on a motorbike in 30 years of riding. Just try it and see what I mean, if you don’t come back with a huge grin on your face then I suggest you should hang up your leathers.

  5. Mike T says:

    I am glad they made it. Its beautiful but thats allways subjective since I own a B King and less the factory pipes, its beautiful as well. No one should ever bitch about a manufacturer’s choice in what to build. Variety is the spice of life and all that. Someone will love and be very proud to own it no matter what every one else thinks. This one gives me evil thoughts about a new addition to the household even if I could buy a decent car for that ammount.

  6. james says:

    i’m really taken with this bike, not sure i’m up for buying one but how cool that they made it? I hope to see some on the road soon, and used ones cheaper when i’m too old to fit on the monster.

  7. Slin says:

    Too much plastic for a nake bike; should have made the engine more visible. I think the original V-Max has the best look of this type.

  8. VT says:

    It looks like an Italian derivative of the B-King. I think calling it a cruiser is a bit of a stretch. There are no accessories for touring on this thing so that ride across the country to get to Sturgis is certainly out of the question at this point. I honestly cannot think of anything this bike will do that can’t be done (probably better) by other bikes currently on the market… in other words… I’m not seeing the niche that Ducati is trying to fill.

    I have a cruiser… an old ’03 Kaw Vulcan 1500 Classic and I also own a Gen1 Yamaha FZ1. Both bikes are tour worthy and I “AM” a member of the IBA so I’m not just doing lip service. I know of which I speak.

  9. Wilson R says:

    Ducati created a new class of motorcycle when they introduced the Diavel. It’s called the UFE (not to be confused with the UJM) UFE = UGLY, FAST & EXPENSIVE. It’s surely in a class of it’s own!

  10. Steve says:

    Funny you say that Mike…. I like Ducati’s & wouldn’t mind owning one if I could afford to own multiple bikes…. but I can’t. I’ve been riding for a lot of years & have had a bunch of very different bikes from a 1974 Kawasaki 250 2 stroke Enduro, BMW R1150, RT 1150, Honda CBR 600F4, Honda Shadow Aero, Indian Chief (Gilroy version), 2 90’s version Triumphs & a couple of Harleys. I liked every one of these bikes & would have loved to have been able to keep them all.
    So I find it odd that you make the statement that “The worst Ducati is better than the best HD”…. yet you say you dislike the Diavel. Do you or have you ever owned a Ducati? & what Ducati model do you consider the best & worst based on your own personal experience? What kind of research did you do & what data do you have from personal experience riding multiple Ducati’s & Harley’s to make this claim?
    Let me take this a little further… do you even own a bike or do you just post stupid statements here hoping to get a reaction from a minority like yourself who seem to resent anyone that doesn’t ride the bike you like or wish you owned? Got-a-be one of these because I’m damn sure it ain’t because you are a seasoned rider with 10’s of 1000’s of miles under your belt because if you were, you wouldn’t be saying stupid things like that.
    We can see the “real” Mikey even when you’re hiding behind your keyboard & screen.

  11. Mike says:

    It’s not my cup-o-tea but…

    The worst Ducati is better than the best HD. Ain’t no denying it.

  12. zonarosso says:

    Please everyone hate Ducati’s again. I’m waiting for them to go out of style again so they get cheaper. Used to you kinda had to know how to work on them to ride them.A point of pride I guess. Would love to have a diavel.Can’t wait to test ride one. It’d fit nicely with the other ‘standard’ ducatis in my garage

  13. Philip says:

    I wonder if this bike would be more popular if it was a “Euro only” release? Thanks for the second review. I really want to hear about the Monster Evo or CB1000r soon! I’m ready to buy a naked bike.

  14. Jay Mack says:

    I quit Motorcyclist magazine because of their incessent doting on Ducati. I am prepared to do the smae with Motorcycle Daily. Why do we ‘MD Second Ride: Ducati Diavel’ a Ducati which I cannot afford, cannot buy because I cannot locate a dealership within 75 miles in any direction despite living in a major metropolitan area, cannot maintain conveniently, is impractical and does not appeal to me, when there is not yet a ‘FIrst Ride: Suzuki GSX1250FA, which I might actually be intetested in??

    Ducati is way, way over-written about. I am so, so sick of Ducati!

    • Lovin Thabike says:

      Sorry to hear you don’t have a local Duc dealer, Jay. I do, so this review suits me just fine. Not sure I need one of these beside my Monster, but maybe as a replacement in a couple of years…

      Maybe the webmins can create a Ducati checkbox at the top of the site that guys like Jay can uncheck. Then, if he accidentally clicks on a Ducati link it can pop up some kind of error message instead of the actual article.

    • Gary says:

      Not gettin’ any, aye Jay?

    • Davis says:

      “Why do we ‘MD Second Ride: Ducati Diavel’ a Ducati which I cannot afford, cannot buy because I cannot locate a dealership within 75 miles in any direction despite living in a major metropolitan area, cannot maintain conveniently, is impractical and does not appeal to me, when there is not yet a ‘FIrst Ride: Suzuki GSX1250FA, which I might actually be intetested in??”

      Geez, maybe because someone else might be interested in hearing about the Ducati?

  15. Auphliam says:

    I don’t know, the thing looks wicked sexy to me. Couple that with the fact that it’s ‘world class’ powerful…and it handles too…I honestly don’t understand why there’s so much bitchin about it.

  16. jimbo says:

    From images only: me like front and front quarter views better than rear quarter, where the air intake scoops (are they real or silicone?) indeed look bulky. Definitely worth a trip to Salt Lake City to see (and maybe ride?) in person (lunch with the wife at Red Iguana to justify the drive).

  17. Wilson R says:

    This bike is ugly, expensive to purchase, quick, expensive to service, fast, expensive to insure, bulky…yada, yada, yada. A bike for those that need to be noticed. And at that it will be successful.

  18. Mark says:

    From a company that mostly makes stunningly beautiful motorcycles, this one will take some getting use to.
    It really looks like it was built to be the ‘bat cycle’ in the next Batman movie.

    It is a bold move by Ducati. It is a huge cost for a smaller company to bring a radically different model from what they have offered in the past.

    Being the ‘demo junkie’ I am, I will deffinitely want to give this one a try.

  19. AndrewF says:

    I’m waiting for reports whether it is possible and advisable to replace that stupid huge tire with something more appropriate for a motorcycle. I understand they made the bike handle regardless, but I can’t help handling could be further improved. It might look better as well – I’m not into that ‘look at me, I’ve got a BIG WHEEL’ style

  20. Donnie says:

    While I was not fond of the looks at first, they’re starting to grow on me now. It’s only a matter of time before I finally give in and go for one…if only there were provisions for a passenger.

    • Gabe says:

      It has a very functional passenger seat, footrests and grabhandle, all cleverly designed to stow away when they are not needed.

    • Mick says:

      Pillion seat is covered
      Fold out pillion pegs, above silencers

    • Donnie says:

      Never mind, I was watching a ride report on the Diavel. Ducati, amazingly enough, found a way to make the bike look like a solo cruiser while cleverly hiding away the passenger-carrying capability of the bike. Very nice.

  21. Tom says:

    It’s not ugly. That’s my thorough analysis regarding the aesthetics, harmony and balance of this new motorcycle, and comparing it to the countless motorcycle designs dating back to the 1902. Not ugly.

    • Wilson R says:

      Keep repeating that like a mantra – “it’s not ugly, it’s not ugly, it’s not ugly….and soon you’ll actually believe it!

      • Tom says:

        actually I like it. A bit different. Normally I like to see a lot of daylight through the side of a bike. Poke an arrow from one side to the other without touching anything. Can’t do that on this one, the way one can on, say, an old BSA. But a nice tough looking cruiser.

    • Ozzie says:

      She may be ugly, but she sure can cook.

  22. jimbo says:

    Marin Sunday Morning Ride…Tam Junction, Mill Valley to Stinson Beach: no…Stinson Beach to Pt. Reyes (Tomales Bay): yes. Diavel owner manual advises against partaking in the “cigarette break” at Stinson Beach lookout.

  23. Marc says:

    Still Ugly, but is it B-king ugly? Need to see it in person to decide..

  24. ryan says:

    I rode this bike a few weeks ago and its amazing!0-60 2.6 seconds..Just blip the throttle at 25 m.p.h. and the front tire starts hitting the sky..The suspension was a lil stiff in the rear if u wear glasses and hit some good bumps u might want to wear contacts..I would of liked a lil more revs maybe another 1000 rpm as i hit the limiter a few times to many..All in all this things rocks..V-rods have no chance against this bike in quality,power or handling..

    • Norm G. says:

      ironic, that the trellis on this bike is prolly working better (for the moment) than the C/F GP11.

  25. DaytonaJames says:

    I don’t know about the guy who buys a bike for the ‘Look at Me’ factor… I’m not sure what you’re all about. For the guy who appreciates bikes for their function and not how many tire biters glance your direction when you go by, ride this bike… it looks a lot better once you’ve ridden it.

  26. eddie says:

    it’s ugly

  27. KC says:

    Great, informative-while-entertaining review, Gabe (as always).

  28. Matt says:

    If Ducati wants to make a cruiser-cool bike with full-on sporting capabilities, why don’t they just dust off the ol’ Monster 695? Mount the Testastretta in there if you like, make the ergos all-day comfortable, and there you go.

    The M695 looked mean as all hell. The Diavel’s just carrying too much meat on its bones to look good cruiser-naked.

  29. NFerr says:

    This thing is not a cruiser. Despite what they call it.

  30. Tim says:

    It’s a very interesting bike to say the least, but I think it’s designed to compete with the 2009 & up Yamaha V-Max (which I happen to own)… I can honestly say that i’d NEVER give up my Max for this. I bought the Max beacuse it’s exactly what I wanted & there’s just not alot of people in this niche market for odd looking & over powered bikes. LOL!!!

  31. Gary says:

    I would pay good money to see the look on the face of a lifelong Harley rider after a test ride.

    • Stinky says:

      They’d come back saying it needs forward controls and higher bars and a $1000 seat. The lack of vibration would throw they cycles off.

    • Stinky says:

      Oh and they’d call it fugly

    • Scorpio says:

      This bike isn’t on the radar of any lifelong Harley riders, unless their dealer just pissed them off for the last time! Likewise the Beemerphiles, unless they hanker for what the R1200C should’ve been! I agree that it’s about as much a “cruiser” as the B-King, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting a test ride…

      • Gary says:

        Wouldn’t be too sure. Dealers are packed full of used and new Harleys; no one is buying. The motor company is hurting.

        • Steve says:

          HD dealers ain’t hurting here & neither is the company stock.

          I really like Ducati’s but not this version… I’m not into fat rear tires… that’s a fad from American Chopper. no thanks!

  32. Vrooom says:

    It would be interesting to see this thing in a shootout with the 1198. I’m really skeptical it could hang with it in the handling department despite the claims about blowing the sport bikers away. Touring with a 4.75 gallon tank doesn’t sound very realistic either. I would love to see them come out with an ST with this motor though, I’d be putting a deposit down. My ST4s is my favorite bike in the garage (non dualsport anyway).

    • Gary says:

      I am skeptical of that, too. On the other hand, I have no desire for an 1198 as a daily driver. To me, the Diavel is much more practical than a hardcore sportbike … and probably more fun.

  33. Yamalude says:

    Like any new machine, I bet this one look’s better in person than in pictures. I believe that looks really are a minor thing if the devil delivers a great riding experiance.

    Does Ducati allow test rides? If they do, sign me up!

  34. Zedrider says:

    “It reminded me of Kawasaki’s much-missed ZRX1200R.”

    Are you reading this Kawasaki? Bring back the Zed! Bring back the Zed! Bring back the Zed!

  35. Tom Shields says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again:

    Fugly!

    • Donkeymansteve says:

      I’ll second that.

      • Norm G. says:

        it’s gotta whole H.R. Giger thing goin’ on…

        • TimC says:

          Ha, good point. Now, do you mean this is a good thing or a bad thing? Either way, I’m LOL over here – I KNEW there was SOMETHING about it!!!

          • Norm G. says:

            honestly, i’m not sure how i mean it…!? LOL it could go either way. i guess it depends on whether or not one is touching down on LV-426…!? :)

  36. Norm G. says:

    daddy like a test ride. if it performs anything like a rocket-3, but with less weight, i’m all over it. now you wouldn’t think it by looking at it…? but a TR3 actually handles pretty damn good (i swear). a greater paradox in motorcycling there is not. this coming from a biker who’s chosen slant is knee-dragging and sport-riding. LOL admittedly, i do prefer the traditional styling of the triumph vs. the “diablo” here or yam’s VMX, but to each his own.

  37. Kjazz says:

    Doesn’t the “look at me” part of the equation wear off relatively fast? Then what are you left with when owning one of these….? Maybe that’s why they are not runaway success stories. People project their ownership experience and discover in a couple of months they’ll own a motorcycle that receives a lot of comments but is always a second tier bike when it comes to the actual “riding” part of the equation. Whatever.

  38. mrsdoubtfire says:

    Does anybody know what the max carry capacity is? 2 up would be 400lbs. for me. The Diavel has the length for this but the second rider would have their head in the clouds. I have always thought it was peculia, eccentric, bizarre to see the second rider on a sportbike with the driver crunched down and the passenger way way up there. Looks aside this must play havoc on the handling yet they go screaming by at 110mph. That 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX I had could do it all. Anyway I really like the Diavel really like the Diavel .

  39. Don says:

    Over the last 20 years I’ve owned three 900ss, a 748 and a S2R1000, but I just don’t get thus bike. Looks more like a steam locomotive to me, but maybe that’s the point. I’m going to call it the Drivel, as in silly nonsense. Guess I’m just an old fart now.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Over the last 20 years I’ve owned three 900ss, a 748 and a S2R1000, but I just don’t get thus bike”

      it’s diversification/expansion for diversification/expansion’s sake. it’s no different than what an investor would DEMAND from their portfolio…? as anybody has heard me say (ad-nauseum), motorcycling is a niche business. how much more “niche” then is it when your stock and trade is limited to narrow focus street bikes…? (ie. no MX, no minis, no ATV, no watercraft, no snowmobiles, no scooters, no robots, no pianos, etc.) in stark contrast to the japanese big-4, ducati obviously can’t enjoy stabilising profits from any vehicle they don’t make…? while i also cringed at first, i at least understand the end game. as you may have heard the rumor…? they are now contemplating a scooter.

  40. Mickey says:

    I’d still like to ride one for an hour

  41. Wilson R says:

    I guess I’m getting used to it. I cannot afford it, tho. :(

  42. Joel says:

    It looks like Ducati’s version of Suzuki’s M109. Both are aimed at the sport cruiser market, and both with attitude. Those with the cash will go for the italian cool of the Duke, the rest will buy the M109.

  43. Brian says:

    I believe the Romans built a chariot just like that just before the fall of their empire…