2014 Ducati Diavel First Ride Review: Unlike Any Other

Date posted on October 17, 2020
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A true Italian steed with a superbike-based engine in a custom cruiser design. In 2011, Ducati was on a high and it seemed that they could do no wrong. Two years earlier in 2009 they released the hit 1198 superbike with its new Testastretta engine with throttle by wire and then a year later, in 2010, they successfully revamped the Multistrada adventure bike with a detuned version of the 1198cc liquid-cooled engine from the superbike and its first electronically adjustable suspension. The engine was christened the Testastretta 11° for its 11° valve overlap that was reduced from 41° for the superbike for more user-friendly power delivery.

For 2011, Ducati wanted a bike that would mainly appeal to male and female US riders aged 50 and over that were typically attracted to Harley cruisers. This demographic is apparently one of the biggest segments in the market that can actually afford but not necessarily able to ride a super sport Ducati. Clearly they need a cruiser, but a cruiser unlike any other.

The Diavel is unlike the earlier Ducati cruiser called the Indiana which was last produced more than two decades ago. While the Indiana was born to be a boulevard cruiser and looked the part, the new Diavel is clearly designed for a more visceral experience for the rider both in appearance and performance. It’s a performance or power cruiser with a capital P. It is definitely a bike worthy of the true Ducati name.

Design-wise, the Diavel broke new grounds for the Italian brand when it was unveiled with its long wheelbase, low seat height, bigger brake, and fat rear tire which became one of its defining features in its three years of existence. The aggressive overall stance is combined with advanced features like the single sided swing arm, twin exhausts, radial brakes and Ducati’s trademark trellis frame.

The superbike-derived Testastretta engine is impressive. By changing the valve overlap from 41° to 11°, Ducati was able to make the power delivery more user-friendly while improving fuel economy yet still maintains brutal levels of power and torque. In fact, due to its longer header pipe the Diavel, at 162hp, actually produces more power compared to the Multistrada’s 150 hp.

To give a more sporty performance compared to the ordinary cruisers, the Diavel was given Ducati’s trademark steel trellis frame and die-cast aluminum sub frame just like their superbikes. It also has a single sided swing arm like the 1198 superbike. However, the Diavel is equipped with an ultra wide 240/45 R17 Diablo Rosso II rear tire specially developed by Pirelli for the Diavel. Reason is for both strong style statement and cornering performance. The Diavel’s most “un-Ducati” feature is its riding position. The ergonomics is very upright as a result of the low seat height and the higher and wider handlebars. Most, if not all riders, will find it easy to ride the bike even with its massive size and apparent heavy weight. The average rider, including the older ones, will find the Diavel the least challenging to ride among all of the bikes in Ducati’s stable.

To further lessen the stress or increase the fun in riding, the Diavel features eight levels of traction control (Ducati Traction Control) and three riding modes (Urban, Touring and Sport) that can be selected by the rider. Each riding mode has a predetermined level of traction control from the factory that the rider can also customize to their own settings. In both the Sport and Touring mode, the Diavel will give its maximum output of 162hp but the Touring mode will deliver it in a smoother manner. The Urban mode limits power to “only” 100 hp. Each mode can easily be selected via a selector on the handlebars which navigate a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen mounted on the fuel tank.

The bike can be started easily by just pushing a switch on a handlebar. This hands-free ignition system requires that you only carry the key fob in your pocket while riding. Once on the move, you will be surprised at how light and manageable the Diavel is at any speed – from bumper-to-bumper traffic crawl to triple digit dashes. The clutch is a little heavy but is more controllable and smoother than that of the older Ducatis. The engine riding modes and ride-by-wire throttle are awesome to experience unlike any other bikes that you have ridden in the last ten years. The electronics in the Diavel really makes it easy and enjoyable for the rider to harness its massive power and torque in a safe manner.

Inexperienced riders will find the low seat height, light steering and the Urban riding mode confidence-inspiring while the rush of acceleration in Sport mode and corner carving agility and grip so nearly matching a sport bike will give expert riders a big smile when they are in the mood. The riding position is ideal for all day riding while still adaptable to aggressive riding. However, the Diavel does not like the heavy stop-and-go traffic situations in our tropical climate as the engine temp will quickly rise despite its massive radiators. While it is possible to commute on it on a cool day, the Diavel is best to be cruised around all day or ridden hard on the straight or on the twisties.

The Diavel’s styling attracts the right kind of attention – sophisticated and stylish, not old and excessive. It’s still distinctly Italian-looking with its red trellis frame and carbon details.

Moreover, it’s a hero-maker type of bike as it can make any rider look like he has above average riding skills when on board this mean-looking machine because despite its macho power cruiser aesthetics, it is actually one sweet easy ride. Truly it is unlike any other cruiser on the planet.

– Al Camba

This was published in Maximum TORQUE 2014 Issue Number 2

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