Mt. Shasta shoots above the Northern California landscape. Dormant now, the stratovolcano in the Pacific Ring of Fire rages to life every 700 years or so.
Like the earthen rumblings that spawn a volcano, the cadence of the Testastretta engine drumming to life on the 2012 Ducati Diavel Carbon is deep and visceral. With little traffic and loads of twisties, the Shasta area is a rider’s paradise, so we challenged the mountain onboard the carbon fiber version of the Ducati Diavel, its CF treatment shaving off a claimed 11 pounds from stock.
Showing restraint on the Diavel is the most difficult part of our climb up the Siskiyou Mtn. Summit, the highest point on I-5. Even though we’ve softened power delivery to the 162 hp low setting in Touring mode, the potent 1198cc engine has a superbike pedigree and wants to stretch its legs faster than a second gear, 55 mph climb.
Dropping out of the Siskiyous, we get the first unobstructed view of the mountain, its peak the stuff of legend and home to Skell, the Spirit of the Above-World, according to the Klamath tribe. Its shape is classic, triangular sides and jagged peaks. Little about the Diavel is classic, the 240mm rear one of the only cruiserish traits. Single-sided swingarms, a small, suspended tail section, traction control and multiple rider modes are not typical cruiser fare.
The statue of a miner and his trusty donkey stand at the entrance to Yreka, the first town on I-5 south of the Oregon border. The California Gold Rush first brought settlers here, the old town rising up from mining shanties. We break at the Yreka Rail Station, an idle Yreka Western passenger car a grey ghost of past glory. The Ducati Diavel we are riding pulls like a freight train from down low and keeps delivering with a healthy top end, too. More than once it has lifted the front wheel inches off the ground while shifting into second and even third gear. It is a beast of a motorcycle waiting to be unleashed.
Our journey continues through the tiny hamlets of Shasta City and Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir, “Home to the Best Water on Earth,” used to be an important hub in its role as a Southern Pacific railroad yard and where extra steam locomotives were added to trains heading north over the mountain passes. More seat time allows us to explore the touring potential of the Diavel Carbon.
Its tank holds 4.5 gallons but the low fuel light comes on early so we set a mark of 120-miles between stops. The body of the bike, with its dual air scoops and a seat situated down and in helps shelter riders. The riding position is upright with a slight forward lean, placing little pressure on the wrists as a rider’s arms sit out just below chest level. Mid-set controls have my knees bent almost parallel to the ground. At 80 mph, buffeting sets in so often I lean forward and tuck into the tank. This also helps shift pressure points. The stock seat doesn’t look it, but the scooped-out design puts pressure on the bottom of a rider’s glutes, so it’s bearable for long stints. You’re also stopping about every other hour for gas stops, which helps riders from getting fatigued as well.
Exploring the roads outside of Railroad Park, we marvel at the feat of engineering Ducati accomplished. A bike with a 240mm rear tire shouldn’t handle this good, but it does. The bike likes life on the edge of its tires and tracks straight and true. With its combination of ABS, traction control, and variable riding modes, the motorcycle instills loads of confidence in its operator. And what other cruiser can you go from 0-60 mph on in less than three seconds?
With the granite spires of Castle Crags catching slanting rays behind us, we head back north on I-5 before the sun disappears West beneath the mountains. Deer and even bear have been known to stray on the road in this stretch and we don’t want to run into either. And while we love to hear the Diavel’s engine as it revs through the powerband, there’s another symphony to be enjoyed when it settles into rhythmic repetition. Soon we’re bidding adieu to the Yreka dragon as we roll back up the Siskiyous, but not before carving up a few more sweepers on our way home aboard this wonderful piece of Italian engineering.