Story by Uwe Wachtendorf. Photos by RHM.
It takes a big pair of palle to mass-produce a motorcycle like the Diavel. Easily one of the most ostentatious motorcycles Ducati has ever built, the company’s hyperbole claims that the exotic motorcycle was conceived when its designers asked “what if?” and they began work on their dream machine, a lower and longer incarnation of Ducati’s mainstay sportbikes. One look at the Diavel will cause you to question whether that idyllic dream wasn’t really an opium-induced nightmare. Even those within Ducati’s ranks were initially shocked by the machine. When the prototype of the Diavel was revealed for the first time to a group of Ducati engineers, one apparently blurted out in Bolognese, “Ignurànt comm’ al diavel!” The subtitles, had they been available, would have read, “Evil, just like the devil!”
It would be easy to understate the importance of the Diavel to Ducati. When you consider the long history of radical designs that have suffered an inglorious death on the showroom floor, it’s possible to appreciate the monumental risk Ducati took with this unorthodox machine. One Ducati employee admitted to me that the Diavel was actually a Hail Mary pass; had the bike not sold in numbers, there was a chance that it could have broken the company financially. Fortunately for Ducati, the Diavel has become a success, and incredibly – according to my source – it’s actually the second best–selling model in their range.
First impressions of the Diavel are monopolized by its extroverted design, clearly intended to turn heads. Having parked the Ducati ona busy Toronto street, I stood back and observed pedestrian reaction to its imposing bulk. A surprising number of people stopped dead in their tracks, some stood slack-jawed as they tried to make sense of the bizarre-looking lump with a rear tire big enough to eat their young. Of course, any fool could see that it was a motorcycle, but this thing was unabashedly unlike anything they were familiar with.
The Diavel’s unmistakable profile is defined by its dominating stance, which Ducati describes as “confidence that borders on superiority.” I think it’s purely demonic. Two large lateral radiators and aluminum air-intake scoops mounted on each side of the fuel tank add brawn to the bike’s shoulders. Its physique then tapers down through the engine to its belly pan, which is more than just an aesthetic accoutrement; used to conceal an oil cooler along with the bike’s battery and some of its electrical components, you don’t want to ever risk bouncing it off a curb.
The fat handlebar, which tapers down at the grips, is a bit of a reach. That’s great if you’re tall or have freakishly long arms, but alternate pilot Roger Parsons, who is barely tall enough to reach the peanut butter on the top shelf, looked like he was bending over a pool table when riding the Diavel. The handlebar is fitted with Ducati’s most minimalistic switchgear. A combination starter and kill switch uses what Ducati calls a “weapons-like trigger catch” that slides down to cover the starter button as it activates the kill switch. The turn signal cancel button also performs double duty as a scroll and select switch to change the bike’s riding modes, as switches above and below it are used to navigate the TFT display on the fuel tank.
The Diavel’s instrumentation is another attention grabber. The upper LCD provides mission-critical information such as speed, rpm, and coolant temperature. The lower, full-colour Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display embedded into the fuel tank displays the bike’s current riding mode and traction control settings, a gear indicator, and readings from the fuel mileage computer. Providing the bike is stationary, the TFT also acts as the interface for an options menu that allows you to customize numerous settings.
Another electronic convenience is the Diavel’s key fob, which enables the bike to be started without actually using a key. The fob does house a traditional flip-key, but it’s used to unlock the seat and fuel-tank cap. The bike also features an electronic steering lock, which is actuated by turning the handlebar to full lock and pressing the ignition-off button.
The rider’s seat is wide and relatively comfortable; at 770 mm (30.3 in.), the Diavel has one of the lowest seat heights in Ducati’s range, and it did cause my long legs to feel a little cramped during long rides. Far more interesting than the rider’s accommodations is the pillion perch, which on the Carbon model is concealed by a svelte, easily removable cover. With the shroud removed, passenger seating literally unfolds from the machine; slender footpegs swing elegantly down from the rear sub-frame as a retractable grab bar slides out from underneath the seat.
At the heart of the Diavel is the Testastretta 11°, a variant of the Testastretta Evoluzione engine used in the Ducati 1198. The superbike engine was tuned to combine rideability with performance by revising its intake and exhaust ports and modifying its radical cam timing. Reduced from 41 degrees to 11, the Testastretta 11° has a milder valve overlap angle to create a more practical torque curve during lower rpm operation. If you’re wondering about overlap angle, it’s a measurement of the crankshaft’s rotation, during which both the intake and exhaust valves are open.
Typical of a Ducati, the powerful 1198 cc L-twin engine cranks so slowly during starting that I was convinced the battery was practically dead. Equally familiar was the sound that greeted me when it erupted into life. The tenor of a whirring valve train mixed nicely with the bass of its massive 58 mm headers and 2-1-2 exhaust. Give it some gas, and a Diavel rider will swear that he’s being chased by a pride of ravenous lions . . .
2011 Ducati Diavel Carbon Spec Chart
|MODEL||2011 Ducati Diavel Carbon|
|List Price||$21,395 (Red and Matt Carbon)|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve, 90-degree L-twin|
|Power (claimed)||119kW (162 hp) at 9500 rpm|
|Torque (claimed)||127.5 N-m (94 ft-lb) at 8000 rpm|
|Bore and Stroke||106 x 67.9 mm|
|Fuel Delivery||Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection with Mikuni elliptical throttle bodies|
|Final Drive Type||Chain|
|Front Suspension||50 mm inverted Marzocchi fork, DLC coated, with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping|
|Rear Suspension||Sachs linked monoshock with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping|
|Wheel Travel||120 mm (4.7 in.) front; 120 mm (4.7 in.) rear|
|Brakes||Front: Two 320 mm semi-floating discs with radially mounted, Monobloc Brembo four-piston calipersRear: One 265 mm disc with two-piston caliper|
|Wheelbase||1590 mm (62.6 in.)|
|Rake and Trail||28 degrees/130 mm|
|Tires||120/70-17 front; 240/45-17 rear|
|Weight||207 kg (456 lb.)|
|Seat Height||770 mm (30.3 in.)|
|Fuel Capacity||17 L|
|Fuel Economy (observed)||5.58 L/100 km (50.6 mpg)|
|Fuel Range (estimated)||305 km|