Testastretta engine from Ducati’s superbike to go along with its collection of techno gadgetry including keyless ignition, traction control, and variable engine maps. The bikes blur the lines of traditional design aesthetic, one a hulking street monster while the other’s a superbike in cruiser clothing. But they share a larger-than-life riding experience in common, breeding a combination of fear and adrenaline by feeling like they’ll rip arms out of sockets if you’re careless at the throttle. Riding bikes like these foster a fleeting sense of immortality.
We could envision Hercules riding a Triumph Rocket III. Like Hercules, its muscular stance makes it stand out in a crowd. Tall in the saddle, wide at the tank, with stump-pulling power, if Hercules had the Rocket III at his disposal, maybe he doesn’t have to reroute rivers to clean the Augean stables. It could have made rounding up the Mares of Diomedes that much quicker and made many of the 12 labors much easier. On the other hand, Mercury would ride a Ducati Diavel. Lightning quick, it could bridge the gap between the earth and underworld with a twist of the throttle.
With the soul-stirring power of the L-Twin at his disposal, the Diavel could help Mercury carry Morpheus’ dreams from the valley of Somnus to sleeping humans faster than ever before.
For this test, we hoped to compare touring versions of high-powered cruisers. Ducati administered the “Strada” treatment to the Diavel this year. Triumph, meanwhile, introduced its Rocket III Touring model in 2008, making changes to the frame, suspension, seat, tank, and wheels of the stock Rocket III with longer stints in the saddle in mind. So the original plan was to put the 2013 Ducati Diavel Strada up against the 2013 Triumph Rocket III Touring. But as fate would have it, no Rocket III Touring model was available at the time of testing, so we had to settle for the next best thing, a Rocket III Roadster outfitted with tall windshield and leather saddlebags from the Triumph Accessories catalog.
The Triumph Rocket III Touring is quite a bit different from the Roadster. It gets a removable windshield, passenger backrest/luggage rack combo, fog lights, engine guards, hard detachable locking bags and a gel passenger seat. Its riding position is a touch different thanks to a large dual seat, swept back handlebars, and forward-set floorboards. Its punch is still provided by a massive Inline Three-Cylinder engine, albeit in a slightly more touring-oriented state of tune. Most notably are the different tires on the back as the Roadster wears a 240mm-wide rear while the Touring version’s backside has been trimmed down to 180mm.
Touring treatment on the 2013 Ducati Diavel Strada includes small saddlebags, a broader touring windshield, and a new shape to the seat aimed at positioning riders farther from the tank. The Strada handlebars have been pulled back a couple inches and raised 15mm compared to the standard Diavel. The Strada gets heated grips, too. Passenger accommodations see the addition of grab rails, a backrest, and fixed pillion footpegs. The rest of the bike bears Ducati’s signature Diavel bloodline, red trellis frame and rip-snortin’ engine with big aluminum air intakes streaking down its sides.
Our test will talk about the basic performance characteristics of both bikes, but will focus on their abilities as touring mounts as well. Do the addition of bags and a windscreen alone constitute a legitimate tourer? That’s what we aimed to find out. So we started testing the duo with runs on our wonderful local roads, over ribbons of snaking asphalt in Hellgate Canyon leading to one-lane back roads. We put them through the grind of the daily commute before they were prepped and loaded for the run from southern Oregon to Sturgis for the 73rd annual rally with guest riders Zach Parham of J&P Cycles and our own head honcho Don Becklin aboard them. Could there be any better way to test a touring motorcycle than stuffing its saddlebags and heading for the Black Hills? We didn’t think so either.