Ducati Diavel Review: Words: Syed Shiraz | Photos: Sourabh Katikar & Syed Shiraz

I now realize that discussing the topic of arranged marriage versus love marriage, with one of my elder cousins, might have played an important part, subconsciously, in the way I started to look at things, all things, since then. He’d said, “…in an arranged marriage, that ‘spark’ is missing.” This was a decade ago, and since he is still happily married, I believe his words didn’t lack merit. But again, I have always been a non-conformist to begin with, so I think the big brother’s advice didn’t really change my perspective; he merely cemented it further.

Now, while only the luckiest souls may get to experience the aforementioned spark in the matters of heart, riding a motorcycle might bring about a similar level of emotional contentment for some. More so, if it happens to be a motorcycle like this one – the Ducati Diavel. I first met this wild woman a couple of years ago, but, like all intense encounters, my tryst with this enigmatic creature was very brief. I was obliged to still pen down my thoughts on it, which, to be honest, wasn’t difficult as, like most unfulfilled desires that inevitably make one a poet, talking about my date with this Italian came naturally. But, ever since then, I had been longing to meet her once more. Maybe, I wanted to find out whether that immediate and exhilarating connect of the first time could transform into a meaningful companionship. In other words, I simply wanted to explore whether one can actually live with such a bonkers machine for long.

So I had been hounding the good chaps at Ducati to arrange the Diavel for me in Delhi but, for some reason or the other, the Delhi media bike remained elusive. However, since patience, as someone said, is bitter but its fruit sweet, I eventually got the opportunity to spend some real quality time with the updated (2015 onwards) Diavel recently, immediately after concluding my Scout Sixty ride. And to give credit where it’s due, I must tell you that it took less than five minutes for Ducati India this time around to arrange the Diavel for me in Mumbai! Some manufacturers can learn from them… And it was not just the facilitation of the motorcycle that was nice and quick; the young manager at the Ducati showroom went to great lengths at giving me a proper orientation of the Diavel. It’s small things like these which tell me how the prospective customers would be treated.

And that briefing is necessary too. Because otherwise one wouldn’t know while parking the bike that even its steering lock is completely electronic! You turn the handle to the left; slide the ignition switch all the way down; hold it there for a few seconds until the display shows ‘locked’, and et voila, the bike is locked! If ‘Keyless’ was a guy here, he would be someone who really takes his name seriously. Anyway, you still got to have the electronic key-fob on your person at all times, but you won’t have to take it out every now and then, save for opening the fuel-tank cap or the seat.

I guess Ducati would have made even these functions electronic but they perhaps thought the idea of Ejection Seat to be redundant on the Diavel because whacking the throttle open in Sport mode would anyway be more than enough to break up with the girlfriend in style. And if she throws the bike key-fob in the river you still will be able to ride back home on your Diavel by entering its four-digit pin code (preset by you), provided you ain’t suffering from amnesia and/or you never disclosed the pin to your girlfriend during the golden days of your relationship

But I have already talked about such features and more in the previous review. Therefore, I will not get into it again, and, as always, I would also consciously try to avoid giving you information from the ‘brochure’, as much as possible. Go check the company’s website for those details as this review will only try to answer just one question, which is: How does it FEEL to LIVE with the Diavel?

Overwhelming. There, that’s the answer for you in one word. And it all starts with the way this motorcycle looks. See, this Ducati looks like nothing else on the planet, which means that it gets just too much attention on our roads. Over the years, in my profession, I have become almost immune to people gawking, but I had never had a teenager on her Honda Activa requesting me to stop so that she could take pictures of the motorcycle. Until recently, that is. Well, that’s the price you pay for exclusivity. And yes, I did oblige. I was anyway trundling along in Pune traffic.

Talking about the design and presence, I have said this earlier and will say it again – this bike looks intimidating from all darn angles! But that’s something only the other road users need to deal – low slung cars will keep their pretty bonnets at a safe distance from that rear tyre, which seems to be taken off a road roller, while smaller bikes will move out of the way lest being sucked into those gaping air-ducts.

But you are safe, at the moment, as as once in the saddle you’ll find that the Diavel has possibly the friendliest riding position of all bikes. All controls are within easy reach of your extremities and that allows for a commanding riding position at all times. Plus, that new seat has to be the most comfortable perch I have mounted yet – the shape, padding, and texture feels just perfect. Also, its low height ensures that even someone as short as me feels one with this motorcycle.

I don’t know why the entire global automotive media, including us, had declared the Diavel a ‘cruiser’ when it was launched, but let me burst that bubble – it ain’t one. And that’s a good thing. Of course, the wheelbase and rake/trail numbers don’t lie; the Diavel is certainly a long bike (the wheelbase is 100 mm longer than the ‘Busa’s) and the steering geometry is relaxed indeed, but this Ducati blows all conventional categorisation criteria to smithereens. How? By virtue of feel, gentlemen, the FEEL. The Diavel feels anything but a cruiser. First of all, the riding position is more street-fighter than cruiser, so, unlike the latter, the Diavel does not constantly remind you that you do, in fact, have a tailbone.

Secondly, name one cruiser that would allow you to accomplish a U-turn on our roads with both feet on the pegs? Don’t think too much; the answer is – none. You might have observed that yours truly have had the pleasure of riding some of the best cruisers of this world, and I can tell you that they are not really ‘motorcycles’ per se. They are trains. And trains do not like U-turns. The Diavel, on the other hand, is unperturbed. In fact, the bike is so well-balanced that you start to realise you aren’t putting your feet down at all in crawling situations. You take your foot off a peg only when the bike is completely stationary. This was also highlighted by the aforementioned manager at the Ducati showroom – he took the bike off its stand and held it straight by just grabbing the fuel-filler cap’s one-inch keyhole-cover with two fingers!

So, yes, as compared to most big bikes, the Diavel is much easier to ride in city traffic. The clip below should tell you more:

It also ticks the two most important boxes when it comes to riding in rush hour – clutch pull (should be light), and engine temperature (should not roast your legs). The Diavel would not give you carpal tunnel, and it would be a lot more thoughtful of your legs in Indian summers as compared to most other big bikes. This is definitely one hyper motorcycle that you can ride to work daily without getting jitters that are normally associated with riding any big bike in traffic. You would (ideally) choose the Urban mode that caps the power at 100 hp and sets all safety electronics to DEFCON 1. Unless you are a complete buffoon, you can’t crash the bike in this setting. I used this mode while entering Mumbai as it was raining. Otherwise, it’s the mental Sport mode all the way for me! Yes, there is a Touring mode in between that gives you access to all the 162 horses of the Diavel but the electronics, though much less intrusive than in the Urban mode, still ensure that it’s a relatively calmer experience overall.

I had already told you in the previous story that ‘Diavel’ does NOT mean ‘devil’. But, if it did mean that, this motorcycle, in Sport mode, would have been an absolute personification of it. Because the devil kills, right? The Diavel will too, in Sport mode, if you do not treat it with the respect it deserves. See, if it was not for the electronic aids, riding this bike in Sport mode would not have been any less challenging than participating in a rodeo. If you didn’t know already, many cowboys do get killed in rodeos. So, even if you think of yourself as The Super Stud, please respect this motorcycle or, I repeat, it WILL kill you.

The rider aids are still active in Sport, of course, but they are least intrusive in this mode. So while the deployment of electronic nannies in the other two modes is directly proportional to the rise of stupid in you, in Sport they behave like those Indian parents who have disavowed you, but unexpectedly (or expectedly?) come to bail you out before you hit the ground, face first. Problem is, in our conditions, that would be too late. You will get into some serious trouble much before the safety net saves your skin. Especially if you are someone who’s getting this motorcycle from daddy dearest on their 18th birthday (if not earlier). So stick to Urban and Touring if you are inexperienced.

Let me also tell you that the Diavel’s acceleration is the most intense I have experienced yet! The unrelenting pull is almost vicious – it saps your energy faster than a drag car burns its fuel in a quarter-mile, but it is so addictive that you just want to keep playing ball. Despite the electronics, a full-throttle launch will always yield two results – a wheelie or a burnout (yes, even with THAT tyre!). Or both. Mad ones would love it! They won’t be able to thank Ducati enough for not allowing the electronics to contaminate the absolute raw riding experience this one provides! I want my motorcycles to have an instantaneous throttle response, which, I believe, is really essential to be able to get out of a probable sticky situation in a jiffy. The Diavel is a willing accomplice in such antics as there is not even a millisecond lag in its throttle response in Sport mode. Again, that same trigger-happy nature can get you in trouble as quickly as it gets you out of it, so exercise extreme caution. I tried a 0-100 km/h run and though I might have wasted a full whole second in my fearful launch, the Diavel still clocked a bloody impressive time. See the clip below:

You may also want to check how it makes progress in top gear from 100 km/h to over 200 km/h. Here it is then:

The motorcycle is super stable at all speeds while still not being adamant in changing directions. No other motorcycle, with an engine capacity of more than a liter, comes to my mind that can be chucked about with such reckless abandon as this one. The following clip should act as a testimonial:

The handling stays sublime at all times and it’s only in the tightest of hairpin turns that you are reminded of its long wheelbase. Even then, it feels so taut a unit that I again begin to wonder that why on earth was it ever called a cruiser!

The brakes are superbike-spec as well. In fact, this is the third Ducati (the Scrambler and the Monster being the other two) I have tested and I can safely say that this company equips its bikes with the best brakes in the business, period. Trust her to stop you well in time to avoid things from getting out of hand… Oh, the ride quality is brilliant and the suspension is anyway fully adjustable to suit individual tastes and riding styles. Just so you know, I didn’t alter the factory settings. Why? I just told you that the stock tune worked perfectly for me.

Now, if you have read all or most of our big bike reviews, you would have noticed that one of my pet peeves happens to the inadequate headlamps in most of these bikes. I have strongly condemned the otherwise best-in-class bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and the Triumph Daytona 675 for sporting poor headlights. The Indian Chiefs are the best here, and though I would leave the second spot vacant for when a machine comes along with illumination that justifies that position, the Diavel with its new all-LED setup fills the third slot while the Scrambler comes fourth in the brightness stakes.

Here’s one more short clip for you:

Wait, did I tell you about Diavel’s drinking habits? The range indicator always shows 300 km on a full tank, which translates into 17.64 km/l. I got 15.29 km/l overall which is nothing short of terrific for a 162 hp machine, considering I rode like a maniac (thinking I’d miss my flight back to Delhi) while coming back from Pune.

Also Read: Ducati Monster 821 Review India – on a Different Level!

And that brings me to the end of this review where I reflect upon the original question, which was: whether you can live with this supermodel? See, in the beginning of this review I had called the Diavel a wild lady, and over the course of reliving my time with her I can conclude that she definitely IS wild, but well-mannered also. Her pedigree is second to none and she has been brought up well. This girl is someone who would not only be a killer on the ramp, but would win all the talent rounds of the pageant as well. She is that partner who will not only make all men extremely envious of you, but would also take care of you even when sometimes you do not behave yourself. She is all that and more than what you can ever dream of.

The more pertinent question is: are YOU worth her?

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  • Zeru

    As always, nice review 🙂

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Thanks Zeru! 🙂