“So, ah. How do you like ah cruising in Bolognese sauce?” says Ducati’s Marketing Director to me as we sit down for a coffee having tackled the amazingly twisty and sun-drenched Ronda road in Spain.
And that's the thing, the Diavel is hard to pigeonhole. Before talking to the team behind the bike, on looks alone I thought it was a cruiser with a good engine. Even though it shares a lot of parts you’d find on a superbike, it’s not a superbike. And, it’s just too different to be lumped into the naked category. So, why am I bothered about squeezing this bike into a niche? Well because that’s what we do when we judge anything; a new bike comes along and it’s judged on whether it’s better than the bikes that came before it.
The trouble with the Diavel is that it doesn’t have any real rivals but that’s not to say that it can’t be judged, it’s just harder to judge it. We’ve entered an era where the technology available has made bikes like the Diavel possible. Although it has the silhouette of a cruiser, it smashes the cruiser mould due to it using a 160bhp engine from the 1198 superbike, with a few changes. It has fully adjustable suspension, front and rear, meaning it’s as well sprung as the sportiest nakeds and the brakes from the 1198SP mean that no corner has been cut on the path to performance and that this isn’t just a flashy all-show and no go offering.
The real ace up the Diavel’s sleeve is its handling. A massive 240-section rear tyre and a long wheelbase are not the ideal ingredients if you want a bike to handle, but – and I’m not sure how – the Diavel doesn’t suffer one bit. As we headed down the Ronda road, the local biker’s haunt, superbikes were everywhere. And more than a few of them must have been surprised as a whinge of journalists (collective noun) breezed past on slightly strange looking cruisers. You couldn’t do that on a Street Rod. What really stood out to me was that throughout the whole day, I didn’t think about the bike’s handling once. It went exactly where I wanted it to, not once did I feel like I was running wide, or that I could do with more ground clearance. There are no footboards gouging the tarmac here, no concerns about getting home with half of your exhaust chamfered off. It doesn’t just handle well for a cruiser; it handles well for a sportsbike.
And yet, while it’ll hustle with the best of them, it also cruises like a cruiser should. The massive 1198-derived Testastretta engine sounds like a Chinook at tickover but is as gentle as a paper plane if you want it to be. Knock it into top gear and anything between 30 and 130mph is just a few moments away. If you want to sit back, relax and soak it all in, then its wide bars and low seat make the ride an effortless experience.
But you try and stick to top gear and soak it in. It’s virtually impossible. The red mist is available on tap and flows the most when you see a sportsbike a few corners ahead. Whilst the Diavel has more than enough stomp to wheelie from slow speeds, once you get the motor wound up, you can get the power down with a total lack of finesse and the 240-section Pirelli Diablo Rosso II will cope, thrusting the Diavel forwards, with no danger of the front lifting or the rear wheel breaking traction. Most of the time. When the rear Pirelli can’t cope, Ducati’s Traction Control steps in and gently corrects your over enthusiastic demands, keeping the rear wheel in line and most bikes struggling to keep up.