|Test-riding the 2012 Ducati Diavel Chromo in mixed company...|
If you’re a rider who enjoys playing pendulum at the end of gravity’s tug, the wide world of fast and competent machines provides endless options, all of which have their merits and demerits. The Diavel exists in a category of its own making, a fact much discussed in the press, and by every rider who first encounters one. Reaction 1; ‘What is that?’ Reaction 2; ‘It must handle like a camel.’ Reaction 3; ‘I love it/ I hate it.’ No sense being coy, the Diavel is a rare Statement in a motorcycle industry cowed by fear into same-sameness. Before we say anything further, let us praise the decision-makers at Ducati for their bold move, and for succeeding, as the Diavel is clearly a sales success. But my job here is to discuss its success – or not – on the road.
Ride prep is simple; stick the electronic key in your pocket, flip the 'kill' switch and press the wake-up button, which starts a video onscreen (you were expecting needles on gauges?) of laser-cutting a Diavel logo, a moment of Badass to remind you, rider, of what’s to come. The screen then allows you’re in one of 3 modes; Urban, Touring, or Sport, computerized miracles to save your ass when things go sideways, or let you fly tetherless like an angry hunting animal. Simply put, the 3 modes are a balance of traction control, anti-lock braking, and horsepower. My esteemed handler from Elite Motors recommended starting in Urban, with least power/most help, and exploring more power/less controls when I felt comfortable. Before we'd even left the parking lot, 5 other monkeys tried out the Diavel’s saddle and poked the controls and my bike had been upgraded from Urban to Sport without my knowledge, and no, I didn’t check before we set out. Mea culpa. Result; one lurid rear-wheel slide as I gunned it while banked over, coming out of the first roundabout, and one wheelie on hitting the first decent straightaway. I realized soon enough this was el Diablo puro, and took it easy on the throttle on that first 15 mile ride.
Let’s talk about that power. With plenty of MotoGP experience, wringing giant hp out of v-twins is Ducati’s forte, no surprise there, but it’s the character of that power which constitutes the ride experience. The Diavel’s power is everywhere, in massive abundance, from 1800 rpm upward to its 9500rpm/164hp redline. Handfuls of Fast are available to you,instantly. Generally, this was a joy, although in the really tight stuff, the 50kmh corners following a footpeg-scraping Commando, moderating such awesome urge requires a light touch, extreme moderation, and finesse, even in the ‘softer’ modes of Urban andTouring. Throttle response on the Diavel is sharp, and at these moments, the true character of the beast is revealed. The Diavel is a tiger. Forget this fact at your peril; don't pussy-foot with this machine if you want to ride fast in tight spaces, it requires a tiger-tamer’s muscles, focus, and Will. In short, a skilled rider will get the best of it, a less-skilled rider will scare himself silly, launched toward parts of the road he hadn’t intended. Pay attention, be the boss, master the beast. You’ll be rewarded with all sorts of adrenalin juices, satisfying growly noises from the engine, and rapid arrival at your destination, probably alone…unless there’s another Diavel with you.
|Armchair comfort in casual riding situations...(Kristina Fender photo)|