2011 Ducati Diavel Comparison

Justin Dawes | June 20, 2011

Ducati’s Diavel has a bit of an identity problem. Is it a performance cruiser or a streetfighter? Is it a standard or a sportbike? The short answer is it’s all of these things. The wide rear tire and blinged-out wheels are straight from the cruiser playbook, but the Brembo brakes and Testastretta engine scream sportbike. So why did we decide to add the Duc’ to this contest? When our Managing Editor, Bart Madson was informed that this motorcycle was intended to attract former Ducati sportbike owners that have moved on to power and performance cruisers, we knew it had to make an appearance in this test. Giving Ducatisti an Italian option was a big part of the Diavel puzzle. The Harley V-rod and Suzuki M109R were specifically mentioned as targets – two of the key motorcycles in this comparison. That was all the justification we needed to see how this Italian “hyper cruiser” stacked up against the five true-blue performance cruisers.

Swing a leg over the Diavel and the 30.1 inch seat height actually feels lower as you sit deep inside the chassis. The reach to the handlebars is slightly forward and relaxed over the long gas tank which keeps your body fairly upright. Bringing your feet up to the mid-ship foot pegs gives your legs more of a standard bend instead of a stretched out layout like the others.

2011 Ducati Diavel  2011 Ducati Diavel
You sit deep inside the chassis on the Duacti Diavel thanks to its low seat height of 30.1 Inches. The sound that springs forth from
the dual megaphone exhaust on the Diavel is music to any Ducatisti’s ears.

After bringing the Diavel to life by pressing a button atop the information center on the dash, thumbing the starter brings forth a sweet Ducati rumble from the dual megaphone exhaust pipes. This gives us a hint of what’s in store. The sound level emanating from the beautifully styled exhaust system is just right. Decibels measured at idle and mid-rpm reached 99db and 105db respectively.

2011 Ducati Diavel
2011 Ducati Diavel
Turning off the ABS on the high-tech Diavel dash was more difficult than it should have been.

With the sport mode selected, the full brunt of the Testastretta engine is on tap and ready for abuse. Twisting the throttle to the stop rockets the Diavel forward at warp speed while the front tire skips across the pavement. You have to be quick on the draw with your left foot as the rev-limiter comes up quick and it is abrupt when you bang into it. Wheelies are possible in the first two gears and even third with the help of a bump in the road which is much more sportbike than cruiser.

The power can be dialed down and the traction control increased by switching to the touring or urban modes, both of which are available on the fly, but all of our testers preferred the Full Monty. We also fiddled with turning off the ABS, and felt that the process for getting to the menu was way too complicated to warrant losing the advantages of the ABS.

“Ducati needs to outsource someone from Playstation to help them with the menu system,” exclaimed Brian Steeves. “Dawes and I are computer proficient-nerds, but the Diavel simply miffed us every time we wanted to make an adjustment beyond switching riding modes.”

On the MotoUSA dyno the Diavel pumped-out 136.9 horses and 81.81 lb-ft of torque, decimating the competition in the horsepower ratings and fitting right in the middle in torque. That’s nearly 20hp more than the drag specialist Night Rod Special. Out on the Chuckawalla Valley Raceway airstrip the trouncing continued with a blast down the quarter in 11.1 seconds at 128.36 miles-per-hour and a 0-60 time of 3.26 seconds. In our just-for-fun 0-100-0 test the Ducati was 2.5 seconds quicker in accomplishing the task than the honest cruiser class-winning M109R. All that power comes with

2011 Ducati Diavel
2011 Ducati Diavel
The Diavel destroyed its competition in the accderation testing as expected and also left everything in the dust up on the mountain roads.

respectable fuel economy too as the cruiser-hybrid burned fuel at 34.2 mpg average, giving it a range of 181 miles with its 5.3 gallon tank, which is 17-miles short of the best in the test Triumph.

With its upright seating position, pounding out the miles on the Ducati is worlds ahead of the other bikes as there is less pressure put on the tailbone. Once the road begins to bend the more compact leg positioning gives more control and cornering clearance, allowing you to take full advantage of the Diavel’s excellent handling. Even with the 240mm Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rear tire, the Ducati drops into corners unlike any other machine in this comparison. Handling is neutral and balanced at speed and the grip from the front and rear is impressive. The three-way adjustable Marzocchi fork and Sachs monoshock are firm enough for blasting the corners with stability and confidence, yet not too stiff for the bumpy stretches in between.

“Its handling was stellar, and the riding position was comfortable without feeling too boring and upright,” commented test rider, Joey Agustin. “It’s a sportbike and cruiser all in one machine.”

Dragging the 521-pound Diavel down from speed is accomplished with authority and precision thanks to the 320mm front rotors clamped by 4-piston monoblock Brembos. In the rear a 265mm disc works with a 2-piston Brembo caliper. The ABS system works seamlessly, and most of the crew kept it turned on. With the ABS on the Ducati took 123 feet to brake from 60mph, which to our surprise was not the best in the test. That’s two feet further than the 766-pound Suzuki. Steeves felt the ABS was the culprit for the longer distance, but we really didn’t want to spend a half-hour fiddling with the Ducati menu to turn it off, especially as BuuS cooked in his leathers.

2011 Ducati Diavel  2011 Ducati Diavel
The Ducati Diavel is truly in a class of it’s own. Part Cruiser, part sportbike, 100% awesome. We hope that other manufacturers will follow Ducati’s lead and create a whole new breed of “hyper cruisers.”

The Ducati’s six-speed transmission was the best on the block for our testers, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. After having just spent time on the 1198, I was expecting to encounter the same shifting woes that we experienced in the Superbike Smackdown VIII street test. Happily this was not the case as the shifting was precise and solid.

The Diavel might be described as the “Ducati Cruiser,” however it is obvious that it’s in a whole other realm in terms of performance and handling than any other cruiser. Ducati has managed to bring some attributes that are important to cruiser riders such as comfort and looks, while still remaining true to its sportbike heritage. With what we feel is a winning combination, it should be able to pull some sales away from the performance cruiser segment. I’ll jump up on my soapbox and say that the Diavel may not be the perfect cruiser, streetfighter or sportbike, but it might just be the most perfect motorcycle ever built. Please hold your rotten tomatoes until you experience it for yourself. 

Justin Dawes

Digital Media Producer | Articles | Raised on two wheels in the deserts of Nevada, “JDawg” has been part of the industry for well over two decades. Equal parts writer, photographer, and rider, he is a jack of all trades and even a master of some.