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Video road test: Ducati Diavel

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May 23, 2012

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

Image Gallery (35 images)

We love oddities and mold-breakers here at Gizmag. And in the motorcycle world, we're so used to seeing evolution rather than revolution that we get really excited when a new machine comes along that thinks outside the square. That's why we've been hanging out to throw a leg over Ducati's Diavel - it's the company's first foray into the cruiser market in recent years, and it takes a distinctly Italian approach to the genre. A laid-back musclebike style and enormous back tire make it look like a boulevard cruiser, but when you twist the throttle and unleash 160-plus horsepower through the screaming 1198 superbike engine it houses, you realize this is one right out of the box. Loz Blain and Noel McKeegan get to grips with the Ducati Diavel in the latest of our HD motorcycle review videos.

So here's what we understand a cruiser to be: a big, heavy, comfortable machine, with a gigantic twin-cylinder engine, preferably 1600cc or larger. Raked out forks to deliver stability at the expense of quick turning. Classic shapes to evoke the bad-boy, post Vietnam, Harley-riding outlaw gangs of the 70s, and low-set forward footrests that drag on the ground in the corners. Chrome everywhere, massive open exhausts, and lazy-torquey engines that emphasise foot-pounds over horsepower. Seats that look like saddles, and tanks that look like teardrops. Ornamental front brakes and strong rear ones.

The cruiser market is massive and growing as baby boomers age and look towards iconic shapes and relaxed rides. Ducati clearly wanted in, as part of its efforts to diversify away from its sports-only image in recent years. And here's what it came up with: the Diavel.

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

The Diavel Carbon, our test bike, looks like no cruiser you've ever seen. Its design is muscular and front-heavy, futuristic and foreboding - a far cry from a classic shape. Carbon fibre drips off its tank, front fender and rear seat cover, giving way to brushed metal and black paint finishes throughout. In place of the classic analogue cruiser gauges there's a twin digital dash, half LCD and half TFT screen.

And the differences between the Diavel and the rest of the cruiser class only get wider from there. Lazy engine? I don't think so. It's the high-revving superbike engine from the 1198 sportsbike. In a class where 100 horsepower is an impressive figure, the Diavel makes more than 160. Old-school tech never had a chance on this bike - it sports every one of Ducati's electronic engine management goodies, from fly-by-wire, to traction control, switchable engine maps and a lovely digital menu of options.

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

Even the brakes fly in the face of cruiser conventions; they're race-caliber Brembo monoblocs with ABS, and they combine with the Diavel's relatively high weight and long wheelbase to make this the fastest stopping Ducati ever built.

The riding experience has been described as very confronting for cruiser traditionalists, and that's no big surprise. Our Ducati contact told us that Diavel test rides either sell the bike immediately, or bring people back white-faced and swearing never to touch the brand again.

As primarily a sportsbike guy, I wasn't overly surprised by the acceleration - but it's certainly very fast, and with the front end so heavy, it tends to be the gigantic 240-section rear tyre that breaks traction before the front wheel leaves the ground - assuming you've switched the traction control off.

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

On the gas, you're very glad of the stock seat design, which wedges you up against the tank and gives your butt a backstop as the bike fires forward like a bat out of hell. But on the highway, it's downright diabolical. To get any relief for your poor sweaty bum you've got to stand up or sit on the pillion seat.

The Diavel out-handles any cruiser I've ever ridden by a large margin - ground clearance is quite decent and if you throw your body off the side you can get a decent lean angle going. On the other hand, that massive rear tire tends to talk to you a fair bit mid-corner, pushing back against you so you need to keep continual pressure on the inside bar to get around the corners. The further you lean, the more it pushes back, like a bad pillion.

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

While the Diavel is fun in the twisties, it's not a quick bike compared to a sporty or naked. And it's not a relaxing cruiser either - the engine demands revs and throttle at all times, so it's important to keep your focus, or else you'll run it into a corner too fast to get its bulk around.

The 20120 Ducati Diavel

So you're left with an odd machine full of contradictions. Treat it as a performance bike and you're disappointed - it goes and stops like a champion thoroughbred but slows you down in the turns. Treat it as a cruiser and it demolishes its class in handling, technology and pure nasty power output, but it's hugely uncomfortable on the freeway without the optional touring seat, and it demands that you ride it like a psychopath rather than a cool, laid-back cruiser guy.

In wide, out narrow: Loz takes the 20120 Ducati Diavel through an Alpine corner.

It doesn't belong in either class. The Diavel is like nothing I've ever ridden, alone in a class of its own. Lighter and quicker than a VMAX, racier but slower turning than an MT-01.

And that makes it a significant bike - one that should definitely be on the test ride list for any prospective cruiser buyer, if you think you can handle it.

Oh, and shooting a bike review makes for great still photography opportunities - check out our Diavel photo gallery to see the results.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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11 Comments

I have ridden my brother's Diavel and it has a fundamental problem, at least one cylinder too short. You need to keep it over 3-3500 rpm to have a smooth ride, i.e. it is missing the low rev smooth torque delivery that power cruiser riders like me love. Too bad they do not make a vmax as light as this and with the same handling!

ugosugo
23rd May, 2012 @ 10:49 am PDT

Ducati can get the sports bikes so stunning, yet they have no idea about cruiser style. Better to stick with what you know in my opinion. Then again , they will probably sell a bucket load to the Yanks.......

The comment about lack of bottom end torque says it all.

Spacewalker
23rd May, 2012 @ 06:24 pm PDT

ugosugo - or maybe a weightier flywheel perhaps?

IBuilt
23rd May, 2012 @ 07:11 pm PDT

Yeah, hard to call this one a "cruiser". Just doesn't fit the bill. (A "duck tail" on a cruiser? Just Nope.) Doesn't mean that its a fun ride, tho. Would love to give it a run on the ol' Hwy 16 curvies nearby.

(BTW, do you blokes only review Ducatis? There are other brands out there, ya know... :-)

MzunguMkubwa
24th May, 2012 @ 08:24 am PDT

Well I do like this bike BUT AND I DO MEAN A BIG BUTT I like taking women for rides! Nothing like having a set of twins to keep your back warm! LOL I’m thinking that having the fuel tank lid opening towards the rider is a bit odd and I don’t think getting gas splashed on the instrument panel would make it readable for long.

graywolf
24th May, 2012 @ 09:51 am PDT

Where is my wife supposed to sit when we go for a 100+ mile cruise to get a hamburger? How is that rear fender going to keep the mud from flinging on our backs? Back to the drawing board, boys.

Thomas Roberts
24th May, 2012 @ 10:35 am PDT

About the Ducati Diavel; first off, it's ugly, in a way that won't go over with cruiser fans, and I don't think it has the kind of loping power that's popular in that sort of bike.

Fred Vainas
24th May, 2012 @ 11:57 am PDT

Nice video and I would like to know how you got that shot where the bike appears to bee around the curve all at the same time in many places.

Overall funny writing and useful info.

Cheers

Luke

Bombay / Mobaim - Kokan

Luke Mendes
25th May, 2012 @ 05:02 am PDT

It performs, sure, but make mine a Victory Cross Roads. A bike better suited to the real world, rather than a racebike that wants us to believe it's a cruiser.

Julian Siuksta
25th May, 2012 @ 05:08 pm PDT

Ok.

I can clearly see that this is a negative section of of loving motorcycles and giving comments of them. The author of this article did spend some time and effort on bringing in all the not so good stuff about Diavel.

I have had one for over a year now . I have made trips with it.

With original saddle that is. No problem.

With every bike you have to to get used to the saddle and it takes some time. The author didn't had enough time obviously.

With all respect to the author, he's article sounds like weaning to me.

I love this bike. It suits me well. I'm a big guy but I can feel the sitting position roomy and comfortable. On my trips I never had any problems. Anyway the tank is so small in capacity that you have to stop every 250 km or so.

What annoys me is that some haters got along with this articles negativeness.

Martti S.

Tampere/Finland

eepo
2nd June, 2012 @ 10:33 am PDT

Diavel haters.......to each his/her own. Diavel is a key cash cow for Ducati. Yes it has a superbike engine in a cruiser body. best of both worlds for me. I can cruise leisurely when i want and smoke young show-off squids when i want to. :)

Hilesh Gohil
1st August, 2012 @ 10:23 am PDT
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