My date with the Diavel

I think Mr. Editor Siler must have been feeling some guilt and worry, not unlike a WWI squadron commander ordering one of his pilots off to do battle with The Hun, thinking "How can I send a kid up in a crate like that?" I was about to saddle up and ride a Diavel, Ducati's new muscle-bike-power-cruiser-thingie, into deepest darkest sportbike territory, the canyon roads above California's Pacific Coast Highway, when he pinged me on the iPhone: "Watch that beach ball in corners..." Said sphere is the Ducati Diavel's cartoonishly wide 240mm Pirelli Diablo Rosso II, the subject of more than a little derision on these very web pages. The fact that Ducati chose the hills above Malibu as venue for the Diavel's U.S. press ride should have been a tip-off. Thanks for the concern, Wes, but no need to worry.

Let me set the scene: Mulholland Drive, sunny day, fresh tarmac, light traffic, long fast sweepers – oh, and up ahead some distance running interference a friendly CHP motor officer. A group of us, maybe 10, are freight-training, nose-to-tail, cranked over at an indicated 85 per. No wobbles, no weaves, no decked footpegs throwing sparks; in fact, no drama whatsoever. Romp into the throttle as the straightaway opens up and the digi speedo flashes 100 just like that, thanks to 1198cc worth of V-Twin packing a healthy 162 crankshaft hp. The Ducati Diavel (say it with me, "Dee-ah-vul," Bolognese slang for Devil) is not your typical power-cruiser.

Whatever magic allows something with this wide a rear meat to handle this well starts with good engineering. Pirelli was in on the Diavel's development from the beginning, coming up with a dedicated design for the bike. It's a bit of a hybrid – hard compound in the middle, softer on the sides, rounded sportbike profile but with taller sidewalls for comfort. Pirelli suggests up to 6000 miles before it will need replacing, then bring in your rim and $245. As always, your mileage may vary...especially if a BMW copbike is sweeping the road ahead.

Credit, too, please to the Diavel's underpinnings, starting with a purpose-built frame consisting of a steel-trellis upper and aluminum lower, to which attach a 50mm Marzocchi fork and a godawful-stout single-sided swingarm controlled from beneath by a Sachs monoshock that mounts near-horizontal. Springing/damping front and rear is on the sporting side of firm but not uncomfortably so – plus both ends are fully adjustable. Travel at each end is 4.7 inches. Wheelbase at a long 62.6 inches also calms handling.

So sorry, detractors, but despite a stylishly wide rear tire that may offend your sensibilities, the Diavel is no doubt a Ducati. Bigger question? Is it in any way, shape or form a cruiser? More on that after my second date with the Diavel.

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