First Ride: 2015 Ducati Diavel Carbon

Breathtaking performance, but still not a cruiser

When the Diavel debuted in November 2010 at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, most industry insiders shook their heads at Ducati's insistence that this was a "cruiser." The fact that it had a tail section instead of a rear fender and packed a retuned version of the 1,198.4 cc Testastretta superbike engine didn't help matters any. In fact, most wags thought it would be a flop, like the first cruiser-styled bike produced by Ducati -- the short-lived Indiana (circa 1986–1990).

The 650cc Ducati Indiana

Courtesy of Motorcyclist magazine

But with 20,000 units sold in three years worldwide, the Diavel has become something of a high note on the Italian firm's sales charts, if not an absolute smash hit. No surprise then, that Ducati sought to continue the winning streak by pursuing the type of upscale demographic that covets status and social oriented activities - like motorcycling. The company wanted keep the same basic sleek lines from the last machine, yet add refinement and flair, and the new Diavel manages to achieve both goals quite well, while continuing to play both sides of the aisle: it isn't really a cruiser and despite the overall lines, isn't quite a sport bike. In fact, Ducati itself has changed its marketing materials to read: "Don't Call Me A Cruiser."
Um, so... which is it, guys?

The higher-spec, accessorized Diavel Carbon

The 2015 Diavel is not an entirely new design, but it gets more than just nips and tucks. The lateral radiators are beefier now, and are partially covered by bigger air scoops which add to its broad “shoulders,” (as well as capturing more air). In the middle of it all is the new 11 degree Testastretta engine, flanked by an all new exhaust pipe that’s now shortened and slash-cut, to better expose that beautiful 9-spoke rear wheel (on the Carbon model). And yes, the massive 240 section rear tire is still a big focal point.

Changes have also made their way onto the seat, which gets a new wider and longer shape, with horizontally-ribbed upholstery. The pillion part is still relatively small, but passengers will at least appreciate the pegs that fold down from the sub-frame, as well as a grab –rail that’s deployed from under the seat. A rear cover that fits over the pillion is easily removed when the time comes for two-up riding.

The 1198 Testastretta DS motor may be the star of the show, but it isn’t exactly new; you’ll find it in other Ducati models, including the Monster 1200 and the Multistrada. Breathing through elliptical Ride-by-Wire throttle bodies, the new Testastretta tweaks fuel injector positioning and adds a higher compression ratio for enhanced combustion efficiency. Ducati’s engine management systems make the fierce 1198 Superbike power plant more user-friendly by slightly lessening horsepower and enhancing mid-range and smoothness. The claimed 162 peak horsepower of the previous version remains, but Ducati says the torque peak has been moved slightly lower and broadened, thus boosting the bottom end for more real-world rideability. As before, the Diavel has three customizable riding modes: Sport, Touring and Urban, each of which can be selected to moderate power for conditions. Sport serves up the unrestricted, 162 hp full monty, while Touring softens that a touch, and Urban cuts max power by 40 percent, doling out a more relaxed ride at a ‘mere’ 100hp.

But the best part was that Ducati staged our press ride in, get this -- Monte Carlo. Yep, I sure as heck wasn't going to say no to that invite. The whole experience was a little surreal (and the local beer wasn't all that great), but the roads were awesome, and I learned that the Ducati brand is revered in this part of the world, much like Harley is in ours. Everywhere we went, people would spin around when they heard the bark of the 90-degree twin; cell phones would come out, ready to snap a photo or a quick video. The outskirts of Monte Carlo boast a wealth of curvy roads – which, I’m here to tell you, the Diavel ate up effortlessly. The wide, tapered handlebar arrangement felt completely comfortable, with a neutral position that left me well-connected to the bike. In these conditions, Urban Mode proved just right for dialing back the power and letting the 240 section rear tire dig into the hairpins snaking up the Maritime Alps.

The Diavel’s ignition is actuated by an electronic key which pings the motorcycle once you’re within about 7 feet. Push the key-on switch and the engine can then be started, though most of us agreed that it's a tight squeeze for gloved fingers to reach the ‘on’ button.

Throttle up and feel the power come on, smoothly, backed by a sweet growl from the rorty L-twin. As far as delivery goes, the new Diavel really does feel slightly more balanced, bringing more accessible power down low where most of us live, yet delivering a more refined character than the last version. I barely took it out of third gear for much of the day. For me to say the throttle is a bit abrupt would be nitpicking of the highest order, and probably more a function of yours truly not being used to such immediate response and lighter flywheel (most cruisers have a heavier acceleration by comparison). The meaty midrange is unassailable, especially when overtaking someone on the open road, and shifting is predictable with perfect gear ranges for the powerband. In the mountains, we found ourselves short-shifting without complaint, and then revving it out for short freeway stints, all with supreme smoothness.

The ribbed twin-level seat put me at a riding position that, even for shorter-than-average yours truly, was pretty laid-back, with the saddle’s wider bucket and longer shape allowing good lateral movement. It accommodated my 5 foot 7 inch frame as well as the nearly 6-feet tall Zack Courts from Motorcyclist just fine, with no complaints from either of us over the 100+ mile day ride.

For a fairly long bike, the Diavel is extremely confident at low speeds – running it on the side of its tires reveals both its stability as well as generous cornering clearance. A 240 section rear tire might be big rubber anchor on other bikes (ahem, Victory and Harley), but Diavel designers found a way to make it handle obediently. Get into a U-turn situation however, and you’re got to contend with a limited turning radius -- tight maneuvers require multiple moves and that rear tire makes its heft felt a bit in parking lots. In all riding situations and conditions, the Diavel likes to be spun up and to go fast, yet it acts perfectly stable at any speed (even past 90). There's a slight sensation of tip-in once you initiate a turn, but once you set your line, well -- don't sweat it.

Suspension is pretty well-sorted too, with plenty of travel both front and rear to soak up pavement imperfections, The fully adjustable front fork is a boon. We encountered some pretty pock-marked stretches of road out in the hilly countryside, and while there was some wiggle after encountering the sharp edged stuff, the bike remained remarkably composed. Even better is the rear suspension adjustability -- a simple turn of the exposed dial rear of the footpeg gets it done, so there's no excuse not to get it right (settings are on the stiff side right out of the box, so don't be afraid to crank 'em down).

Under your thumbs are easy-to-use switches and buttons (once you figure out what's what, anyway). While the indicator cancel button doubles as a scroll-and-select for Riding Mode changes, switches above and below serve to navigate the high-resolution display control panel. The key is to get familiar with the menus and modes before hitting the open road.
The outstanding braking performance of this bike shouldn't come as any surprise. I used the powerful front 4-piston Brembo Monobloc twin calipers and 320mm discs to great effect while traversing the mountain roads back down to the beach, riding the single 265mm disc and 2-piston caliper to stabilize the rear. The latest Ducati Bosch-Brembo ABS system comes as original equipment on both versions.

I had to keep telling myself, "don't call it a cruiser, don't call it a cruiser"…but damn, this bike sure is fun to ride. So as the fast boys from Motorcyclist and Cycle World blasted by me on their way to endless second gear wheelies, I was perfectly content to, um, cruuuuuise up the narrow goat paths that spiderweb these mountains rising up from the Mediterranean. There was really no need to wring 100 mph out of the bike, since a guaranteed 20mph speed limit would be lurking just around the next corner in the next village. I can see the day a guy on a new Diavel pull up next to a Harley Night Rod at the local roadhouse. Two bikes, both icons in their respective countries, both close to the same price, both coveted by the masses (for different reasons) and both going for a cruise. Sure, one will easily win the red-light GP races, but so what? We're not in any hurry.

For the performance-oriented cruising rider, the Diavel is hard to beat. For someone who only occasionally wanders into high-speed and technical situations, it might be too much of a good thing. And if you travel with passengers, or any amount of real luggage, only short jaunts will do (though the Strada version adds cargo capability). You're either gonna swoon over the Diavel's style or dismiss it as a Transformer bike. But what's not debatable is its performance; by any objective measure, the Diavel is stone-cold awesome. Calling it a cruiser is a stretch (Which is what we said when we rode the first version of bike back in 2011 -- see the review here

In other words, it's no Indiana.

Specifications 2015 Ducati Diavel / Diavel Carbon

Base Price: $17,995 / $20,995

Colors: Dark Stealth / Star White and Matt Carbon; Red and Matt Carbon

Warranty: 24 months, unlimited miles

[Engine]

Type: liquid-cooled 90° L-twin

Displacement, bore x stroke: 1198.4 cc, 106 x 67.9 mm

Valve train: Desmodromically actuated, 4 valves per cylinder

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Fuel system: EFI, ride-by-wire throttle

Transmission: 6-speed; wet mutliplate clutch

Final drive: chain

[Chassis]

Frame: Tubular steel trellis

Overall length: 88 in.

Wheelbase: 62.6 in.

Wet weight: 527 lbs.

Seat height: 30.3 in.

Rake/trail: 28 ° / 6.7 in.

Wheels: 14-spoke light alloy / Marchesini forged 9-spoke

Front tire: 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II

Rear tire: 240/45 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II

Front brake: 320mm dual discs, 4-piston Brembo calipers, w/ABS

Rear brake: 265mm disc, 2-piston caliper w/ABS

Front suspension: 50mm fully adjustable Marzocchi inverted fork; 4.7 in travel

Rear suspension: fully-adjustable Sachs monoshock; 4.7 in. travel

Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons

[Instruments]

LCD speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge; TFT display with dual trip meters, fuel consumption and

range to empty; gear indicator, riding modes, DTC and ABS, air temp, scheduled maintenance.

On the web: Ducatiusa.com

The 2015 Diavel presents a wealth of data, both with a handlebar-mounted display as well as the tank-mounted TFT icons.

Beefier air scoops cover the laterally-mounted radiators (and gulp more oxygen for combustion)

The base model Diavel comes in a black color option only

A. Cherney

See all those squiggles? The mountains surrounding Monte Carlo pack a wealth of narrow little paths, most of which open to scenic vistas

Andrew Cherney

The local beer ain't all that, though (ask that guy in the background)

A.Cherney

Pack of Ducatis roaming the streets of Monaco. The locals loved it.