Mt. Shasta shoots up above the Northern California landscape, its 14,000 foot peak still capped by snow though it’s summer. Sturdy pines creep halfway up its face before the tree-line yields to glacier-carved canyons. The mountain has served as the fodder of lore, from tales of a lost underground civilization called Lemuria to New Age stories of
Mt. Shasta looms in the distance, a 14,179 stratovolcano in Northern California. Sounds like a great place to test the road handling capabilities of the Ducati Diavel Carbon.
“harmonic convergence.” Though it’s dormant now, the stratovolcano in the Pacific Ring of Fire rages to life every 700 years or so, rewriting the history of the landscape.
Like the deep earthen rumblings that spawn a volcano, the cadence of the Testastretta engine on the 2012 Ducati Diavel
Carbon drumming to life is deep and visceral. This thing sounds angry. Very angry. With little traffic and loads of twisties, the Shasta area is perfect for venting some of this anger and to test the bike’s suspension and chassis. With this in mind, we recently challenged the mountain onboard the carbon fiber version of Ducati’s potent power cruiser, its CF treatment shaving off a claimed 11 pounds from stock.
Starting from Motorcycle USA's HQ in southern Oregon, showing restraint on the Diavel is the most difficult part of our climb up the Siskiyou Mountain Summit, at 4310 feet the highest pass on I-5. Even though we’ve softened power delivery a tad to 162 hp Low by setting the bike in Touring mode, the potent 1198cc engine has a superbike pedigree and wants to stretch its legs faster than the second gear, 55 mph climb we’re engaged in.
Dropping out of the Siskiyous, the road on the backside of Mt. Ashland is a bit torn up and bumpy due to winter snow plows. With a 50mm Marzocchi fork up front and a Sachs shock on the back, the Diavel nonetheless stays firmly planted to the road. Before long we get the first unobstructed view of the mountain, its peak the stuff of legend and according to the Klamath tribe, home to Skell, the Spirit of the Above-World. Skell waged battle from Shasta with the Spirit of the Below-World, Llao, the unruly leader of the netherworld tossing hot rocks and lava at Skell from nearby Mt. Mazama, which is now Oregon’s Crater Lake. Shasta’s 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 bronzed statue of a prospector and his trusty mule stand at the entrance to Yreka, the first town on I-5 south of the Oregon border. The shiny, soft metal he seeks is indelibly intertwined with the history of the area as the California Gold Rush first brought settlers here, old town Yreka rising up from mining shanties. We break at the Yreka Rail Station as trains also played an integral role in the expansion and development of the West. A Yreka Western rail car sits idle out front now, a grey ghost of past glory.
Diavel pulls like a locomotive from down low and keeps delivering the goods through its healthy top end, too. Even though the 90-degree L-Twin has a reduced overlap angle and different cam timing than the superbike version of the Testastretta, don’t think for a second that the Diavel offers a subdued ride. More than once it effortlessly lifted the front wheel inches off the ground while shifting into second and even third gear. In Touring Mode. It is a beast of a motorcycle waiting to be unleashed.
Beauty abounds in the Mt. Shasta area, like the granite spires of Castle Crags.
Outside of Yreka, the full breadth of the mountain comes into view as the road flattens out and the speed limit jumps to 70 mph. The road then begins to climb as the Shasta-Trinity forest thickens. Before long, our journey continues through the tiny hamlets of Shasta City and Dunsmuir, an area known for its speed traps and highway patrolmen eager to write speeding motorcyclists tickets. We match the speed of traffic, ticking along at 75 mph in 6th gear at 4500 rpm where we notice a little buzz creeping into the bars. Though the Diavel can click off a 10-second run on the quarter-mile and rocked the MotoUSA dyno to the tune of 136.9 hp @ 9200 rpm and 81.81 lb-ft of torque @ 8000 rpm last year, it’s surprisingly compliant when it settles into the steady rhythm of the open road.
Before long we’re in Dunsmuir, “Home to the Best Water on Earth.” The sleepy town used to be an important hub in its role as a Southern Pacific railroad yard, serving as the point where extra steam locomotives were added to trains heading north to help push them over the mountain passes. At one point, the railroad employed more than half of the town’s adults. While shooting photos of the red trellis framed Ducati in front of a big red Southern Pacific Lines caboose, we ran into local “Big Dave” Keisler, a fellow motorcyclist and Samaritan looking to give small town kids a positive outlet for their energy by holding a yearly soap box derby. The “Dunsmuir Derby Dayz” allow kids to build, own and race their own soap box car. It also gives them a sense of pride from accomplishing a goal. After our conversation, sitting in the local park gives us an opportunity to ponder the touring potential of the Diavel Carbon.
The bike’s tank holds 4.5 gallons but the low fuel light comes on early so we set a mark of 120 miles between stops. Often the display flashed a 37.2 mpg average, which isn’t far from the 36.76 mpg average we logged after almost 1800 total miles in its saddle. The body of the bike is wide and with its dual air scoops and a seat situated down and in, it 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. It definitely feels front biased, with only the rear wheel on a one-sided swinger and a compact tail section trailing the rider. Fortunately, the 240mm chunk of Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
rubber keeps the rear firmly planted beneath you. At 80 mph, buffeting sets in, so often I lean forward and tuck into the tank. This also helps shift pressure points on the lower back and butt as 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 because you cover distance fast and frequently stretching the legs helps riders from getting fatigued as well.
Railroad Park Resort, with railroad cars for hotel rooms, offers one of the most unique lodging experiences around. It's view of the Crags isn't bad, either!
Just off the freeway outside of Dunsmuir is Railroad Park Resort, a unique lodging where travelers get to stay in restored antique railroad cars, including a Caboose Motel. It was started in 1968 by the Murphy family, whose descendants were railroad pioneers. It was the Murphy’s vision to transform rail cars into rooms and to share their love of train nostalgia with the general public. There are also some excellent roads to explore surrounding the park. The more bent-up the pavement gets, the more we marvel at the feat of engineering Ducati accomplished with the Diavel. A bike with a 240mm rear tire shouldn’t handle this good, but it does. It doesn’t transition as lithely as a true sportbike, but you can still toss it side-to-side without much effort and it’s amazingly stable when leaned over. The Diavel likes life on the edge, the edge of its tires that is, as it tracks straight and true. With its combination of ABS, traction control, and variable riding modes, the motorcycle instills loads of confidence in its operator thanks to its ability to be dialed in to a rider’s preferences and abilities. And what other “cruiser” can you go from 0-60 mph on in less than three seconds?
With the granite spires of the nearby Castle Crags catching slanting rays behind us, we head back north on I-5 before the sun disappears beneath the Western 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 even though the Diavel’s Brembo brakes have enough grip to send you over the bars if you grab an overzealous handful. 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 the rhythmic repetition of low rpm in top gear provided by the orchestra of pistons churning and gears working in unison. The Diavel isn’t without its quirks, though. It’s a cold starter and was a tad temperamental on chilly mornings. Occasionally the dash would read that the bike was in second gear when it was instead in Neutral. And often my right foot rested on the heat shield of the exhaust because the seat and foot peg positioning has rider’s locked into one position primarily.
We may have tamed the roads around Mt. Shasta on the 2012 Ducati Diavel Carbon, but in the end, the mountain is still king!
But once the Diavel Carbon is rolling, these sniglets become a moot point. The first time you roll on the throttle and unleash the bike’s prodigious power, you’ll be hooked. “Diavel” is an appropriate name for the motorcycle because it will make you ride like a man possessed! We flogged it 500 miles in one day, riding from Monterey, CA, to Grants Pass, Oregon, and though I thought I’d be sorer than I was the day after due to the fixed riding position, I was fresh and ready to do it all over again the next morning.
Mt. Shasta looms in our side view as we point the Diavel home. We have felt the spirit of the Wild West and the pioneers who settled this area in bronzed statues of prospectors and the ghosts of the railroad industry. And though the Diavel was able to tame the rambling roads of the region, we are but an ant on the face of this monolith and Shasta is still king. Rivers continue to cut ribbons into the mountain, the forests still hide the tunnel to the legendary Lemuria and the secrets of Bigfoot are still safe. Soon we’re bidding adieu to the infamous Yreka dragon who resides on the outskirts of town as we roll north back up the Siskiyous already eyeing the sweepers ahead.