Whatever you do this summer, make sure you have a go on a Ducati Diavel. Just do it. If you don't like the Diavel's styling, ride it anyway. If you're only into superbikes and you think that it's criminal for Ducati to make anything other than a 1198, ride the Diavel anyway. I can't imagine that it could fail to put a grin on your face. Riding this bike made me feel the way that watching On Any Sunday does - anyone who doesn't ride motorcycles is seriously missing out.
I picked up the Diavel from Ducati Coventry, which stores and fettles all of Ducati's press bikes. Coventry itself isn't the best place for testing a bike but it's not far from the Leicestershire roads around Mallory Park and they certainly are. We've got a Diavel Carbon Black which as its name suggests is clad in rather a lot of carbon. Too much, for my taste, but it does come with astoundingly gorgeous black/machined aluminium wheels. I'd go for the Carbon Red and have the best of both worlds.
You sit low on the Diavel, feet easily touching the ground. The centre of gravity is set low, too, so shorter riders are going to feel very comfortable with this bike. The view from the seat is pretty wacky. This Diavel is fitted with the optional screen that's about the size of an ashtray but which apparently greatly reduces wind blast to the chest. Even with this little screen it looks like a large chunk of the front of the bike has fallen off. After the handlebars there's nothing and aft of them a vast expanse of fuel tank. The Diavel has keyless ignition, you simply put the fob in a pocket, slide the red switch on the right-hand bar to bring the system live and then hit the starter button.
As soon as the 1198cc Testastretta engine starts you know that you're in for some fun. The exhaust system is fitted with a servoed flap that opens up at high revs to let more noise out. Even at tick-over the V-Twin sounds brilliant. And with 160bhp at 9,500rpm it's got the grunt to go with the bark.
There are two instrument displays. An LED display on the headstock that displays rpm and engine temperature and a multicoloured and easy to read one on the tank that displays fuel consumption and the different riding modes available, which as on the Multistrada are chosen using the indicator cancel button. You've a choice between Touring, Urban and Sport modes. Don't bother with Urban because it cuts the power to 98bhp. With Touring you get the full 160 but with a gentler delivery than the Sport setting. In either Sport or Touring you have at your disposal acceleration that is going to give a Veyron a bit of a shock. Long wheelbase, low centre of gravity and a massive 240 section Pirelli Diablo rear tyre give the Diavel the potential to knock off 0-62mph in an astonishing 2.6sec.
Actually, I was wrong. Even the Coventry ring road is fun on this bike. There's brutal power as soon as you open the throttle and it doesn't ever tail away. Whatever gear, even with only a couple of thousand rpm on the clock, the Diavel is punched forward by a massive tsunami of torque. The brakes are incredible, too, also helped by the length of wheelbase and CofG.
I stop for a sandwich at Mallory Park's café and sit up on the bank to watch riders on a bike track day. You could ruffle a few feathers out there with the Diavel. If you've ridden a V-Max you'll know that there's a limit to how much fun you can have with ferocious performance. A bike needs to be able to go around corners for you to truly enjoy it and the Ducati Diavel loves them. Because of the fat tyre and long wheelbase you wind up with some serious lean angles when you're scratching along country lanes but because the Diavel has such amazing levels of traction it's very confidence inspiring. You can feel the Pirelli begin to spin coming out of slow corners even on a dry road, but there's never a feeling that the bike might suddenly try to swap ends.
Do we call the Diavel a cruiser? I can't really attach that moniker to a bike that handles this well and has such arm stretching performance. Streetfighter? Sort of, it can certainly punch its weight in any bout. The fun level and the way that it makes you want to ride everywhere flat out puts it more into the Triumph Speed Triple bracket. The Diavel is what I was really hoping a Buell was going to be. The eclectic Yank bike was good fun in the same Speedtrip way, but it didn't have an engine that could come close to the Ducati's. The Testastretta motor is probable the best engine that Ducati has ever made. Also the Diavel is beautifully made. There's some gorgeous detailing on it, like the graceful swan's neck shaped rear footrests. There are loads of accessories that you can buy for the Diavel. Different exhausts for example, though the stock pipes could not really be bettered. The Carbon Black costs £15,495 and the Red another £400 on top of that. The entry-level Diavel costs £12,995, though I doubt many buyers will be able to resist adding a few extras.
The Ducati Diavel is one of the most exciting and fun bikes I've ever ridden. Ever. It is the perfect bike for the superbike owner, probably around my age, who feels that he'd probably done the R1, Gixxer, 'Blade thing but doesn't want to lose out on thrills and performance that serious horsepower provides. The beauty of the Diavel is that it's as fun at 50mph as it is at 90mph. But don't take my word for it, because the only way that you'll really see what the fuss is all about is to ride a Diavel yourself.