Why the Diavel is the best bike Ducati makes

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We’ve criticized the Diavel’s design. JT Nesbitt, a designer who’s work was referenced during the Ducati’s creation, compared it to David Hasselhoff. But, the question that’s remained unanswered is: how does the Ducati Diavel perform? English journalist Kevin Ash, not known for pulling his punches, just finished riding the bike in Spain. I think he liked it. — Ed.

Numbers rarely tell the whole story, and they certainly don’t with Ducati’s much discussed Diavel. But they’re a good place to start: how about a 0-60mph time of 2.6 seconds, faster than an 1198 and only 0.14 seconds slower than a Bugatti Veyron, which  is something like $1.5million dollars more costly. That’s a lot for the blink of an eye. Or the weight, which at 463lb is 220lb lighter than a VMAX… that’s the hefty passenger you’ve just picked up from MacDonald’s. Okay, not quite fair, the Diavel’s is dry weight, the Yamaha’s wet, but they’d only be even if the Yamaha had a 26 gallon tank. It’s got 4. Ducati says too that the Diavel hauls up in a shorter stopping distance than the Brembo Monobloc-equipped 1198 superbike. The 240mm rear Pirelli (a Diablo on the Diavel, what else, the devils!) helps with that as the bike’s wheelbase at 62.6in is Ducati’s longest ever, and the centre of gravity is the lowest, so rear wheel lift isn’t an issue.

The figures then suggest this is some kind of performance cruiser, if a lot lighter than Vs Rod and Max. The hunched forward, hooded looks say the same, and it’d be job done, category decided, if you didn’t go and spoil things by riding it. That’s when the joyful confusion starts: the apocalyptic soundtrack taps straight into your evil genes but you hardly notice as the acceleration is so immediate and plain violent, the bike feels like it’s charging out from the flames of hell. Low rev thrust is massive, the mid-range cracks your ribs and the top end punches you senseless, yet all is delivered with near-benign controllability and a molten chocolate, bubbling smoothness that adds up to the most compelling motorcycle engine of the decade. Make that the last decade too.

Even that you might still have expected, but not the handling. Long wheelbase, fat tyre etc etc? So why then does this bike corner like a silken sports bike? It’s not sharp agile like a supersport 600, but it is precise, neutral down to walking pace, tactile and stable, and such a sheer, unadulterated joy on our Spanish press launch the entire UK contingent at the end of a long ride turned around and did the whole thing again. I’ve not seen that before.

Negatives? Some, but not many. Bizarrely on a premium machine there’s no fuel gauge, just a warning light, while those raked out forks result in a harsh front end ride quality. The fuel range couldn’t be tested properly but the tank’s 4.5 gallons likely won’t see you past 150 miles, and possibly a lot less, before you’re pushing. And cruiser riders switching allegiance will be intimidated by the horsepower, although pushing the button for 100bhp Urban instead of 160bhp Touring and Sport modes should calm their nerves.

Maybe this is K1300R territory, Aprilia Tuono even… whatever, worry about the category if you like, but don’t lose sight of the fact that this is the most exciting, exhilarating, accomplished motorcycle available in dealer showrooms today.

Read more about the Diavel at Ash on Bikes.

  • ike6116

    So… it’s fast? That’s why it’s cool?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Kev likes fast bikes.

  • seanslides

    I’m sure it’s plenty exciting, exhilarating, or accomplished, but I have this strange feeling that even after riding one, I wouldn’t be able to get past the looks, weight, riding position, or handling. I’m sure all of those things could be fixed, but by the time you got through swapping the rear wheel for a 17×6, installing a shorter swingarm, slicing and dicing away at the bodywork and tank, fitting a seat, rear-sets and bars that put you in a position to do some serious riding, you would’ve built yourself a street fighter. While it’s better, it’s still a watered down, extended wheelbase, more upright naked bike.

    My point is this: While the bike may be good, it caters to a part of the market that doesn’t usually take motorcycling all that seriously. Certainly not enough to ride a 916, or drag their knees around a race track from time to time. When it comes down to it, this is a bike for dudes like Mark McGrath to ride 3 times a year, brag to their friends about, and win the occasional stoplight drag race. If it came from Milwaukee or Japan, it would be a neat footnote in motorcycling, but Ducati has made a name for themselves building hardcore motorcycles for real motorcyclists. Then again, the new Multistrada is pretty much the same deal, and the once minimalist, easy to live with monster now requires 7 different tools to remove the gas tank. I suppose we should have seen this coming…

    • Myles

      ^The above attitude is why more people don’t ride.

      Not everybody rides to drag knees. Roughly 5% of sportbikes sold in the US see track time. Duck isn’t out of touch, you are.

      • seanslides

        I’m not out of touch, I’m making a point about Ducati. Besides, the 95% of of people that buy sportbikes because they look cool, or because it makes them feel fast are more than a little bit out of touch with reality. A sportbike is a tool built for going really fucking fast, and buying one for any reason other than that is just silly. Ducati has built their brand around those types of bikes, and that type of attitude. Depending on how you look at it, the brand can be viewed as silly and out of touch, or it can be seen as the ferrrari of motorcycles, a small factory that builds absolutely hard core bikes for a small exclusive group of ducatisti.

        All four of the japanese brands have bikes that perform on par with Ducati’s 1198, but none have the same kind of demand, or price. They’re more or less cheap, soul-less speed appliances, and for most people (myself included), that’s just fine, but when Ducati decides to play me-too, it’s a sign that they’re moving away from their image as an elite manufacturer of high-end racing motorcycles. If you owned a Ducati superbike, I imagine the feeling would be akin to owning a Ferrari F40 and hearing that Ferrari have purchased Fiat, and will be selling 500′s under the Ferrari name.

        That attitude is why more people don’t ride Ducatis, and the people that do understand that they’re part of a special crowd. If that doesn’t inspire you to purchase a Ducati, go buy a different bike. There’s quite a selection.

        • markbvt

          What it comes down to is that Ducati making a cruiser is akin to Ferrari making a pickup truck.

          • Chris

            Or akin to Ferrari building an all wheel drive hybrid hatchback . . . which they are by the way

            • markbvt

              Disagreed — they’re building a shooting brake, a style of car that is still sporty and not unlike cars Ferrari has built in the past. If Ducati were to build a scrambler, it might seem odd now but would make a certain amount of sense because it has ties to their heritage. A cruiser does not, just as a pickup truck would not for Ferrari.

        • Miles Prower

          In the past decade and a half, Ducati’s #1 bike in terms of sales has been their 600-size Monster. Perhaps you’ve never ridden one? Because if you have, you’d most likely agree that the Monster 600/620/695 is about as tame of a motorcycle as you can get. It’s pretty much the equivalent of a VW Golf.

          In the past 10 years, I’ve owned three Ducatis that I’ve purchased new from my dealer, so I’ve spent enough time in the showroom looking at the bikes and talking to the salespeople to realize that the high-performance Ducatis aren’t the ones that are selling in numbers. Given where Ducati’s sales really lean, I think most of their buyers don’t give a hoot about knee-dragging performance, and I don’t think these buyers think of Ducati as an “elite manufacturer of high-end racing motorcycles.”

          (I still think the Diavel is butt-ugly.)

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

            Agreed, the Monster is a very… lackluster bike for all it’s huffing and puffing.

        • Uncle
        • Myles

          @seanslides – But Ducatis are slow? The L-twin engine configuration is just plain old slower than the inline four or v-four. They’ve always been making compromises in regards to their platform. The 13k cbr1000rr is faster than the 25k 1198s. How is Honda soul-less? Because they were started by an engineer who got pissed off at Mr. Toyota and have gone on to be the biggest engine manufacturer in the world? Because they started with the simplest motorcycles in the world and now build fucking jets and Robots? Because they’re Asian and Asians are boring while Italians are dreamy and cool? This isn’t a romance novel, this is motorcycling.

          How the hell did Ducati get this crazy reputation? By NOT racing in motogp for thirty years? By NOT winning a championship until 2007? By winning two of the AMA Superbike championships in the past 35 years? By “winning” some WSBK championships due to garbage rules set to favor their platform? Come on dude, don’t be a sheep. Ducati is a marketing machine, not a motorcycle shop. They’ve done a great job of piggy-backing on MV’s early racing dominance in GP (we’re Italian too bro!) and done a great job of making people think they’re the Ferrari of Motorcycles. They’ve done a great job at selling a shitload of red t-shirts and a bullshit image. They’ve done a great job at price control and product placement. What they have not done is built they’re brand around bikes that go really fucking fast, because the “soul-less” Japanese have built faster bikes for decades. They are the fucking Under-Armor of motorcycling, they sell an image to make people feel better about themselves.

          • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

            What he said. ^^^^^

            As for the bike, I think it looks bloated and obese, not muscular. I’m actually glad that Ash says it rides well, because maybe the HD riders that buy the bike for the image will be pleasantly surprised when they throw a leg over.

            As ugly as this thing is, is it really any uglier than the entire HD lineup? I think not. Too bad Ducati is 6 years late with this.

          • seanslides

            “They’ve done a great job of piggy-backing on MV’s early racing dominance in GP (we’re Italian too bro!) and done a great job of making people think they’re the Ferrari of Motorcycles. They’ve done a great job at selling a shitload of red t-shirts and a bullshit image. They’ve done a great job at price control and product placement.”

            That’s pretty much what I’m saying. Marketing is just that. What’s bullshit is for Ducati to turn their backs on all the fan-boys that (literally) bought into it and go and build the diavel.

            Outside of Japan Inc’s fan-boys, most people see those bikes as somewhat soul-less and bland. When I bought a new GSXR 2 years ago, it certainly wasn’t because of it’s vaguely transformeresque bodywork and sticker package. The speed difference is negligible between sportbikes in the same class. Don’t believe me? Go watch a race. The magazine tests are pretty much bullshit. Who else is going to be comparing lap times between stock bikes with full lights and street tires?

            Yes, they sell an image to make people feel better about themselves, but that image is a big part about who they are as a company. When they turn their back on it, it doesn’t look so good.

          • http://michael.uhlarik@amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik
            • robotribe

              “What’s bullshit is for Ducati to turn their backs on all the fan-boys that (literally) bought into it and go and build the diavel.”

              You make a sensible point, but to me, the Diavel is nothing more than an attempt to expand their customer base. If they were replacing Super Sports for whatever the hell this Diavel is pigeon-holed into, then I’d understand the offense taken by the Ducati fan boys; but Ducati’s not doing that.

              It’s obvious now the motorcycle customer base is aging, so the Diavel is a natural response to that, both in design concept and marketing as a “premium” model. I don’t perceive that as Ducati making an “about face” to this engineering bloodline based on racing (legit or not) or deceivingly tame Monsters.

  • Sebastian

    I’m 6’3″ and 190lb – I couldn’t fit on a 916 to save myself, so bikes like this might be the answer for me. Small niche admittedly, but unfortunately for people like me the vertically-challenged Italians and Japanese don’t often cater to varieties in body size.
    American influence ftw?

    • seanslides

      Hop on a GSXR 1000, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      • Sebastian

        didn’t cut it – a 2004 zx12 did, but not terribly friendly for long rides

      • Lacubrious

        6’3″ and 195. The Hypermotard 1100 Evo fits sweet. It’s upright, completely impractical and I love it.

        • Kerry

          I’m 6’5″ and I ride a sport1000. Only issue I have is the excessively stiff clutch. If it weren’t for the plastic tank issues with new ducati tanks I would recommend the bike to people. Don’t buy a ducati, it isn’t worth the headaches when ducati doesn’t stand by their own products when they screw up.

  • DoctorNine

    With this kind of bike, the material difference between 460 and 660 pounds isn’t really appreciable. In fact, it may be easier to control a heavier bike at launch, or when getting into some instability at speed. The advantage of light weight comes in transitions, which this frame geometry already murders.

    And this thing is just butt-ugly.

    For this style bike, I’d still rather have the V-Rod.
    So sue me.

  • Ceolwulf

    So … the triumph of engineering over design? Kind of like the 911 then.

    • Ducky

      I think you got the two mixed up. This was clearly “designed” first, then attempts at engineering were thrown in.

      The 911 was just a bad idea (engine behind rear axle) that Porsche kept trying to fix over the more than half century it’s been around.

      • Ceolwulf

        Yes, true, but the end result is a similar principle. A design that’s inherently flawed, made to work better than it has any right to.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    I’d take one.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Can someone get the Diavel engineers to help out the MotoGP program now?

  • Jason

    Still makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit…

  • Ken D

    What? It’s good!? You mean they’ve gone and ruined a perfectly horrible bike?

    • dux

      Lolz. Everyone is confused now. Is it cool to love it cuz everyone here hates it? Argh! I just don’t know how to be hip!

  • David

    I’m liking it more and more. Specially because people don’t like it or don’t “get it.”

    Then again, I like Bangle’s 5 series E60

    • adrenalnjunky

      I’m a closet Bangle-fan too, but I’d rather have a V-rod for this style ride.

      • Cheese302

        the bangle 5 series grew on me quickly, oh and the early models are getting cheap…… I’ll buy one of these one day, looking forward to the ducati demo truck making a stop nearby.

  • 2ndderivative

    Reminds me of performance SUVs: Cayenne Turbo S, Cherokee SRT-8 and such that can hustle well despite the disadvantages of the platform due to copious application of engineering resources. Though I’m not in the market for any of them, I’m kinda glad they exist.

    PS. From Ash’s full review you get the sense that it’s the best bike that anyone makes.

  • todd

    Big power and comfort. i get it… Im 43 LOL

    However, I cringe at the thought of some squidly older guy not realizing the speed potential of this thing and hitting a twisty road and flying right into a coffin

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      Darwinism works faster with 159bhp, am i the only one to see that as an upside?

      • dux

        Cheers to that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

    There would need to be an overwhelming difference in person versus pictures for me to stomach the appearance. Maybe there is.

    • Chris Davis

      There isn’t. Sorry to say it too, because I think there’s a good looking bike trapped beneath that mass of plastic that’s been stretched ridiculously far forward. Less would have been so much more for this bike.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

        Chris, you just crapped on the ounce of charity I had for this bike. Damn you!

  • Philip

    OK, kudos to Ducati for making it work. And I’m slowly accepting that the concept might work. Hell, I might even consider one if they didn’t make it so fugly!

    Don’t those exhausts look exactly like the ones on a HD Nightrod? Come to think of it, the whole Diavel concept smells like one (Nightrod)…

  • stabmaster

    i like the bike now… i like all of ducati’s so called ugly bikes.

  • Denzel

    Its not so bad… Is this exercise in design reach really so different than a new Kawi or B King? It provides a viable alternative to the true evil that is the classic cruiser; the controls aren’t forward; and it’s got the integrity of being unique and not a me too…As for Ducati spoiling its own nest by producing a cruiser.. Other than the halo bikes, Ducati has long since gone the way of the metrosexual stylin scenester… “but that’s just my opinion…and I could be wrong” …

  • Denzel

    It also suggests a Buell from an alternate universe… if someone stepped on the butterfly…

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    What?! The best bike Ducati makes! Why, I… I will…

    Ahhh… I’ll go and read the article now.
    What a headline.
    Hahhaha :P

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Man, I don’t get all the hate on the look of this bike. I mean, everyone here has a hard on for Buells (myself included) and lets be honest, a bunch of the Buells are absolutely butt ugly.

    And the v-rod looks like a girl version of this bike.

    • Robert

      HaHa! Well said! I think this bike looks great in pictures. I personally cant wait to sit on it and see how it feels. I have been debating on this or a Griso 8V.

  • Kerry

    The only reason this is the best bike Ducati makes is because it is the only one not falling apart from Ducati’s failure to do adequate quality control….yet….

    Anybody remember Ducati’s last attempt to make a non-sportbike? The Ducati Indiana? didn’t work out too well for ducati the last time:

    http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/motorcycle-reviews/ducati-indiana.aspx

    • Mike Brooklyn

      Never saw that one before, good reference. Looks like a smaller honda shadow.

  • Devin

    Ducatti nameplate + VRod like looks + low seat height and low weight for the segment = Big sales success in my opinion.

    If I were betting I’d take the over.

    • 2ndderivative

      There was a V-Rod with mid-controls a few years ago. Reviewers loved it. No one bought it. Got discontinued. The Diavel has a niche audience – once that’s satisfied it’ll stop selling.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    I still see a big fat fail. The people who are buying this bike are simply potential Monster purchasers, with too much money. Whereas the Monster is light, simple, fun, easy to ride, and carries no need to “back up” all that power, the Diavel is apparently light, easy to ride…but has 160 hp. I can see the headlines and CL ads now…

    “Street Racing” leads to death of Mr. R___, 50, insurance salesman

    For Sale: 2010 Ducati Diavel, 4,262 miles, some scratching on either side and exhaust. Front forks may be bent, but rides ok. Nice bike! $9,000 o/bo

  • Roman

    It appears to be becoming something of a trend: Ducati makes a pretty ass kicking bike whose biggest drawback is aesthetics. 999/749 (though I’ve always kinda dug it), Multistrada (versions 1 and 2) and now the Diavel.

  • JRl

    My inner fat/bald/45-yr old self keeps yelling “yuuummmm”. Anyone know how to punch him (me?) in the face? haha.

  • Kevin

    I’m 45, and for the first time in my life I am able to contemplate buying a bike like this. Apparently that makes me an unserious asshole with too much money.

    I’ll enjoy the ride while you haters make fun of me.

    • Kurt

      Bravo.

    • Peter88

      Kevin, I’m 51 and right with you. I was so pleased that this bike turned out so awesome. Well done Ducati.

      • http://www.ClevelandCycleWerks.com scottydigital

        I like the bike, but people tell me that I am trukin nutz…

  • Mike Brooklyn

    Sat on it at the Motorcycle show, and i thought that it felt fantastic. The amazingly clean gauges are also great, not intrusive or demanding of attention at all. Still not exactly sure why people are so mad at the brand for this. Being brand centric is too easy, much harder to actually have to think about every product and its quality on a stand alone basis.

  • Shaun

    The guys (mostly guys) who buy this bike will already have several others in that garage. The era of superbikes, whilst not over, is in decline…I say well done Ducati for being realistic and building the Porsche Cayanne of the two wheeled world. This will be a steady and strong seller and underpin Ducati’s long term future.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      The Cayenne is noteworthy for being ugly, expensive, and popular with people that wouldn’t otherwise buy a Porsche. As such, the Porsche faithful tend to hate it. It did save Porsche from bankruptcy, so if Ducati has the same sales success here then that will be good for them.

  • Liquidogged

    Glad it rides nice. Still ugly as sin, but the ride is more important.

    +1 to Myles though on the racing pedigree of Ducati as a marketing tool. Let’s all remember that moto manufacturers exist to sell motorcycles. Ducati does it by selling “fast and sexy” and the big 4 tend to do it by selling “faster than anything else.” Notice how that second one seems to lead to more racing success. It can also lead to a numbers-based maximum HP per dollar design style, which is why I think people often identify Japanese bikes as having less class/soul/style/whatever than Italian bikes. For this I go back to my earlier point: the ride quality is most important, the actual experience of riding. I’m not looking at the bike when I’m on it, and I’d rather be on it than off it. Some people are more concerned with how the bike looks than how it feels to ride it. I tend to call these people “posers”, but there are some bikes ugly enough that I wouldn’t ride them no matter how great they are. The diavel probably fits into that category. It’s just trying way too hard to be hard.

    One last thing on Jap bikes being “soulless” – tell that to the legions of fans of bikes like the Honda CB750, Honda CBR, Suzuki Hayabusa, Suzuki GSXR, Yamaha R1/R6, Kawasaki KLR650, Kawasaki Z1/ZX11/12/14, hell, the Kawasaki Ninja 250 (yes that’s right, the 250 is a huge sales success and people frigging love it.) And that’s to say nothing of the absolutely huge metric cruiser scene – ever heard of a Goldwing? Back to the Diavel: notice how it gets compared to the Vmax alot? Well, gee, who makes that? I’ve been lucky enough to ride many of the bikes I just listed, and I can promise you they’ve got as much soul as anything coming out of Europe.

    • dux

      Uh, oh; a debate about soul. This could be ugly.

  • brutus

    in my opinion, whoever mentioned the cayenne was right. it the end of black and white; pirate and power ranger. from now on more and more gray area… make sense??

  • fasterfaster

    Sure the marketing copy is laughable, but that’s been true of all marketing copy, pretty much forever. I’d rather see companies like Ducati try, even if they fail, then never step out of their comfort zone. Kudos to Ducati for taking a swing, even if the bike isn’t for me.

  • Ed

    It’s amazing how critical people who have never ridden the bike can be. Maybe you should take it for a test ride first, when it becomes available. The Multistrada 1200 is not at all a sportbike and it’s got a lot of good reviews. Ducati doesn’t need to only make sportbikes any more than BMW, Triumph, the Japanese, etc.