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Coast-to-Coast on a Ducati Diavel

So, about a month ago, Ducati offered me its Diavel model to ride, hoping we'd do a story on in the print version of _Motorcycle Cruise_r. Knowing how you folks feel about Ducatis, I turned them down. It turns out they made the same offer to editor Cherney. Except in his version, they offered one to ride home from Daytona. That made me pipe up to Tim Collins, the current PR dude at Ducati North America, "I'd totally ride a Diavel to Daytona..." and so it began.

There were a number of things that I'd assumed, most of which were wrong. I thought there might be a way to equip it with enough luggage for a two week trip (nope). I also thought I'd get to have it a week in advance to iron out the bugs (also, nope).

This is going to be something a little different for me (and for you). Since we get angry protests whenever a red bike that starts with the letter "D" shows up on the pages of Cruiser, we're going sequester this one on The Cloud. That said, it seems we all share a love for grand adventure, which this definitely is. Unfortunately, due to time constraints (and other things) this trip will mostly be by Interstate. As distasteful as that is (at least for me), a backroads trip to Florida from Los Angeles would simply be prohibitively long, and with the budget blown on getting there, what about Bike Week?

So I'll see how many of these updates I can manage between actually riding the bike and taking pictures. At this sitting, I'm a day into it, in Prescott, Arizona. My plan was to be in Santa Fe by now, but after spending yesterday morning running around doing last minute stuff (like splicing together an extended wiring harness for my Venture Heated Gear), I didn't get to leave L.A. until almost noon. Getting my camera bag onto the bike securely proved to be a chore, necessitating three stops in the first 100 miles to rearrange the bungees. Once I found the sweet spot, though, it stuck. And I can't say enough good stuff about the Ducati Tailbag kit. The mounting for it is so solid that having the 20-pound camera bag on top of the tailbag was no problem once I aligned it right.

The tank bag is big and useful, but blocks the view to the lower display, which has important stuff on it like mileage and the tripmeter. I'm mystified why Ducati didn't include a range guesstimator along with all the other readouts the bike has. The tiny Sport Windscreen looks like a punchline, but actually does a decent job of keeping the wind off of my chest.

The bike itself is a blend of good and bad for the task at hand. As I discussed in the original review (2011 Ducati Diavel | First Ride), the traction control/engine management software changes the character of the engine at the push of a button. Touring mode is full horsepower (163 claimed at the crank), but with a mellow power delivery, feeding in power gradually, but still quickly. It's like a damper for the motor, mimicking a heavier flywheel like most cruisers have. It's what I use most of the time. Sport is for hooligans who don't have a 50-pound weight on the passenger seat, with very snappy delivery, instantly transferring any input to the throttle to the engine. It takes more concentration, and is basically less fun at moderate speeds. Urban cuts the power by a third and kicks in the traction control at the first sign of any badness.

But don't be under the misconception that Touring mode is slow. I tried rolling at 85-ish across the desert, but the bike was really just happier at 90. I had to keep glancing down at the speedo because, A) it doesn't feel like 90, and B) if you accidentally lean on the throttle a little, you're soon going over 100. Unlike on other cruisers, the bike near- instantaneously accelerates to pass even in top gear. In fact, don't even bother downshifting at anything above 60. Just think "I want to go faster now" and you'll wonder what the dot in your rearview is.

Complaints? Well, frankly comfort is an issue. The Touring Seat I got upgraded to is just about good enough for a tank of gas (100-150 miles). I found the best position for me is feet on the back pegs, leaning on the tank bag... like on a sport bike. Imagine that.

Tomorrow, I'll hit Jerome and Sedona, taking the fun way back to I-40 via SR-89A. Santa Fe is waiting a day. And that day calls for snow. Guess I'll get to test out the traction control.