Ducatis have always been quite an eyeful, much like something you might see sunbathing on the Italian Riviera.
So when the company brings out a motorcycle that fills one’s vision like a healthy country lass —the kind you might chance upon at an all-you-can-eat steak and ribs diner—it’s understandable that loyalists and fans feel betrayed.
The big, beefy Diavel drew criticism when Ducati unveiled it to the world last year at various motor shows—it strayed from Ducati’s characteristic sleek design lines, it looked ponderous to ride, and it seemed like a pariah when it came to purpose—tourer or sports bike, it didn’t really position itself snugly into any category.
Racehorse: The Diavel.
But I tell you this—swing a leg over the saddle and you will find deliverance from the design-line melodrama and fuss over purpose. In fact you’d want it instantly positioned on your porch!
With the Diavel, Ducati wanted to bring to its customers something similar to a good-natured racehorse. One that you could hitch to the market cart or use to gallop on to the next town during the week and yet have it thrash the competition at the local weekend derby.
For this they needed to design a bike nimble and gentle enough for urban use, yet self-assured and stable on the highway, and downright mean on a racetrack.
In fact, the mandate to the designers was “three bikes in one”. The Diavel plays each avatar to perfection via three riding modes to control the very potent and capable Ducati Testastretta 11°—the 1,200cc twin cylinder engine that is the heart of the Diavel.
This is possible because the Diavel features “Ride-by-Wire”. Meaning, the twistgrip throttle has no cable running from it to the throttle body butterflies (valves) to regulate airflow intake and, in turn, engine power. Instead, when you turn the twistgrip, it delivers an electronic signal to a control unit, which in turn operates the butterflies electronically. The control unit delivers a throttle response in accordance with the riding mode.
The display is neat and precise.
In the “Urban” mode, it delivers just 100bhp in a smooth progressive manner and is a kind of soft setting, ideal for city use.
I found the Diavel very traffic-friendly in this mode. The smart use of aluminium and geometrical configuration of the chassis has resulted in high tensile strength, with the Diavel tipping the scales at just 207kg. It goes about rush hour with a low growl, easily weaving through traffic with perfect balance even at crawling speeds.
On the highway, that growl turns to a definite, menacing roar that makes drivers peek into their rear-view mirrors with alarmed alacrity as you approach.
Set the riding-mode to “Touring” and you now have 162bhp of pure thrill with smooth and urgent power delivery. I remember giving the grip a slight twist and the big Duke surged ahead with a sense of purpose which soon had me giggling with glee. The seating position is ideal for touring because you are neither bent over like a crouching cat, as you would be on a sports bike, nor are you sitting upright as you would on a cruiser. On the Diavel you simply fit in perfectly between the foot-pegs and the handgrips and enjoy this exhilarating bike as it rushes ahead with massive torque accelerating almost till the rev limit (the limit of revolutions an engine can do per minute). Then, you flick up a gear and it relentlessly thrusts ahead with even more enthusiasm.
The digital speedometer goes to 180 kmph like a millisecond counter—in a blur of digits. Even after that the speed keeps climbing past 200 kmph, almost like the seconds in a digital watch. It’s a delight around corners and personally I was astounded at the speed and angle at which I went around the bends.
The exhaust burble excites even before you start riding.
The ABS (anti-lock braking system) inspired enough confidence in me to do triple-digit speeds in single-digit seconds, but under hard braking over rough surfaces the front fork does transmit some jarring thuds.
In the “Sports” mode the power delivery is hard-edged, adrenalin-charged, and like a swift kick in the rear. It’s a very similar (if somewhat scary) taste of what it would be like to ride a pure racing Ducati.
At Rs25,10,445 (approximately) the Diavel is one of the most expensive Ducatis you can buy in India. The company (www.ducati.co.in) has dealerships in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore; and its Chandigarh dealership will open in mid-June.
Rishad Saam Mehta writes about driving holidays.
Photographs by Rishad Saam Mehta
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