Ducati XDiavel Review: First Ride

Ducati xDiavel Review | Words: Syed Shiraz | PhotographyHimanshu Sharma

The Ducati XDiavel is a street legal DRAG BIKE. That’s it. That’s the Ducati XDiavel review for you in one line. You still have questions? Okay, that’s normal, and a perennial human trait. Otherwise we wouldn’t have reached where we have. Sir Issac would be happy. And I am happy too, because if it weren’t for our collective quest to know more, people like me would be out of work. So, I shall elucidate. That’s what a review is all about, right? But before I do that, let’s not forget that buying a big motorcycle in India is quite different than in the west. I am not talking about our government’s insane duty structure or the even worse licensing system in our country; I am referring to the reasons behind big bike purchases. Though it has been almost a decade that superbikes first made their official entry in our country (Yamaha started it all with their YZF-R1 in December 2007), it seems like it would take a decade more for us to be on a par with our western counterparts when it comes to the rationale behind buying the big ones.

As of now, apart from a Daytona here or a Ninja 1000 there, the majority of big bike purchases are still made more due to their flash value and less because of their core capabilities. For example, riders abroad would identify their ‘need’ (touring, daily use, track, etc.) first and then the personal preference would come into the picture. So if someone’s daily commute involves riding on fast motorways, they would try to get the bike with the highest cubes possible for stress-free high speed riding. Something like a Bandit 1250 / Ninja 1000 or even a Hayabusa / ZX-14 R would be perfect. Of course, even something like a 650 might work here, but that is where the preference, or ‘heart’, part comes into play justifying the cheque for the bigger bike. Similarly, if the majority of your riding involves B-roads, and exiting corners on one wheel is a priority, then nakeds like the GSX-S1000, Speed Triple, Monster 821, and even the supernakeds like the KTM 1290 R would make sense, despite something like the Duke 390 promising all the fun that you would ever need on such roads.

But that’s not the case in India. Like I mentioned earlier, there are users who are fully aware of their needs but they still comprise the minority of the big bike buying populace. The majority still consists of posers who buy them to brag about the tech specs, zero-to-hundred times, and top speed with their friends after a ten-minute ride to the nearest CCD or McDonald’s, and, of course, to click a thousand pictures (watermarked, no less!) on “Sunday morning rides with me pals”. As such, it is an outright win for the XDiavel in India, especially this, the S variant that we rode.

It has the flash value equivalent to that of a gold-wrapped Bugatti Veyron, while the brand name itself makes you feel superior in your group which most probably has ‘run-of-the-mill’ inline threes and fours. Daddies’ rich kids may stop reading any further and ‘drive’ down to the Ducati showroom to pick up their latest self-esteem-enhancing product. Those of you who are interested in the bike for what it CAN do as a MOTORCYCLE, please read on, and excuse me for the lengthy prologue.

Ducati may call it a cruiser, but don’t let them fool you; it ain’t one. Yes, they still have not been able to make a cruiser, so If you ride a Harley-Davidson, and are still reading this, I would request you as well to please stop – this is not for you. But, if your H-D is a V-Rod or a Night Rod, I won’t ask you to leave the room. Not yet. See, at the outset the XDiavel has cruiser written all over it. They have got the overall form spot on – the relaxed front rake (30 degrees), raised handlebar, teardrop tank, low seat, front pegs near the front axle, belt drive (Ducati’s first), exposed engine, fat rear tyre, and every other element of the bike’s design shouts CRUISER! However, despite a wheelbase of 1615 mm, which might have made the XDiavel Ducati’s longest motorcycle yet, you’ll notice that this motorcycle happens to be the shortest (and therefore the most manageable) muscle cruiser in the world, when compared with the H-Ds and the likes.

And it just spits on their faces when it comes to weight control. All cruisers in this segment, and even other cruisers around the XDiavel’s price range, weigh around 300 kilos or more. Heck, the heaviest of them have now breached the four-quintal mark! The Diavel? Two hundred and twenty kilograms! And that’s the dry weight. Let me put that into perspective – the smallest Harley-Davidson in India, the Street 750, weighs 223 kilograms dry! And the Rocket III? Three hundred and thirty four kilos, sir! Yes, that’s again the dry weight I am referring to.

I should have read that BEFORE going to collect the XDiavel as, despite extensively riding some of the biggest cruisers in the world, I have no shame in admitting that I was a smidgen intimidated upon seeing this one in person for the first time. It looks smaller in pictures but it is a BIG motorcycle fellas.

And it is outrageously beautiful! In fact, if being gorgeous was a crime someday, this one would get a life sentence without any trial. I guess it would plead guilty too. She knows she is pretty and she makes no bones about it. And she has the loveliest feet in the world!

Even those who do not have a feet fetish would agree that the rear alloy of the XDiavel has to be the most beautiful wheel ever fitted on a production motorcycle. Forget the rest of the bike; that rim alone would compel Tyrese Gibson to ride this one in the next Fast and Furious flick!

So after leching on it for a while, I wiped off my drool, and called the Ducati official to let him know that I have arrived. After completing the paperwork (where you sign on several sheets,.mortgaging your kidneys, heart, liver, and your soul too, until you return the bike in one piece) the gent gave me the customary brief on its features, where he also mentioned that other than the tyres and brakes (and a large chunk of its name), the XDiavel shares nothing with the Diavel, and that it’s a completely new motorcycle.

I swung a leg over, straightened the bike, and immediately felt the 15 kg difference in weight as compared to the Diavel (and I just talked about the X being the lightest! Imagine riding something that weighs a 100 kilos more!). Thumbing the starter button also told me that the 1262 cc Testastretta DVT engine is a shade quieter than the Diavel’s 1198 cc motor. The X is indeed a different bike, I tell myself. But the electronics suite is, of course, the same. Actually, it is even better in this Ducati as it includes cornering ABS (supposed to save your behind by preventing wheel-lock during braking while leaned over – I didn’t test it for obvious reasons) by Bosch, and launch control (didn’t I tell you it’s a drag bike?), which I shouldn’t have tested for obvious reasons, but I did. But more on that a little later. The rest of the safety net is the same that essentially comprises three pre-set ride modes, and you may customise them too. You may read about them in my first ride review of the Diavel, or on the company’s website or in my review of the updated Diavel.

As usual, I chose the mode with the least power (Urban), and maximum electronic intervention. In this mode, the 156 hp engine is restrained to allow just 100 horses to gallop out of the stable and that too on a tight leash. However, the bike’s response felt better than the Diavel’s in the same mode! Generally, whenever I am testing a bike that has monstrous power, I always start in the coward mode, but feel restless to switch to full power within the first ten to fifteen minutes in the saddle. But that wasn’t the case this time. The bike felt quite eager, which should be due to the fact that this one’s 128.9 Nm of torque comes in way early at 5000 rpm, as compared to the Diavel’s 130.5 Nm which peaks at 8000 rpm.

I said ‘should be’ because due to the limited amount of time I got with the bike, I, honestly, could not determine if it felt more responsive because of its better spread of torque or because of its awkward, feet-forward-arms-stretched-out, seating position. I’ll give the benefit of doubt to the bike because, the reason notwithstanding, the bike feels responsive and that’s what matters. That said, twisting the throttle enthusiastically below 3000 rpm makes the bike cough and lurch. Be smooth with your inputs, and the lady shall oblige without any hesitation.

But I still got to tell you about that peculiar riding position. See, that kind of posture means that any and every sharp forward movement of the bike will feel amplified because there is not even an ounce of body weight resting on your feet, and the only thing you do to cope up is that you hold the handlebar tightly and lean forward a little, leading to a very unnatural riding position, that’s neither cruiser nor muscle-bike nor anything else!

At first I thought that it’s due to my short frame, but even our six-footer photographer, Himanshu, said the same thing. Still, I feel that prospective owners of all shapes and sizes would be able to find the perfect riding position for themselves as, to begin with, the XDiavel’s foot controls’ reach is adjustable for three positions, and you can even opt for the ‘normal’, mid-mounted ones from Ducati (that would be the only extra I would add if I was able to buy this motorcycle, after what I learnt from touring 1500 km on the Scout Sixty). Then there are three handlebar options including the standard, which provides the middle reach among the three. And finally, there are four seat options (excluding the standard non-adjustable saddle) which means that someone even shorter than I am, or even taller than Himanshu, would be able to ride this Ducati easily. Provided they are not new to bikes.

Because, this motorcycle, like the Diavel, is devastatingly quick! I could not do our usual acceleration runs but this thing felt more savage in Sport mode than the already brutal Diavel! A motorcycle this quick can never be called a cruiser! And then there’s launch control or DPL (Ducati Power Launch) in Ducati speak. Ideally, it should only be used on a dragstrip. Or on a Sunday morning at 5. On a closed road. But there is no dragstrip in or around the NCR, and closed roads are, well, closed, and since I had to return the bike on a Saturday afternoon, a Sunday morning run was not an option either. But I had to test the launch control feature. I had to try, at least. And I did.

Activating DPL by pressing an inconspicuous button, adjacent to the base of the right mirror stem, gives you three options: 1) Die now, 2) Die a little later, and 3) You might die. Of course, it does not say that, but the implied meaning is the same. How else would you interpret the instructions below on a bike that has a superbike engine?

You get to these instructions upon choosing the first option from the list. This time I straightaway chose the first one due to the paucity of time as I was on my way to return the bike. So as you can see in the picture above, it asks you to give it full throttle and release the clutch gradually. Problem is, it doesn’t mention the last part until you start releasing the clutch! Naturally, I could open the throttle only by about 50-60 per cent, because life is a gift you know, but still released the clutch a little abruptly. It half-screamed, half-hopped, and the result was a half-scared, half-joyed me. I backed off but the attempt was enough to give me a good idea of the immense fun that can be unlocked by pressing this almost-secret button. With a little practice, this feature will make it a cinch to launch the XDiavel on a dragstrip and it should kill everything in the power cruiser segment from the Triumph Rocket III to the Yamaha V-Max. I reckon this Ducati to fluster even the Busa / ZX-14R in quarter mile drags.

But the XDiavel is not just about straight line ferocity. Like all red Italians, this Ducati also handles exceptionally well. So much so that the XDiavel might just be the best handling cruiser in the world! Okay, I hear you say, “but it’s not a cruiser you said!” Well, I would still say it is not a cruiser, but the bike’s manufacturer says so. Last time around, with the Diavel, it was us guys, the media, who’d said that. Not Ducati. This time, the manufacturer itself says that it’s a cruiser. Anyway, whether you consider it a cruiser or not, I leave that up to you. In either case, the gospel truth remains that this motorcycle’s handling is sublime.

Compare it with a Harley Davidson of similar weight (if you can find one, that is) or even with the Busa/14R, the XDiavel trumps all in the ease-of-handling-in-city-traffic department. Most big bikes over 1,000 cc require a lot of effort to change lines, but not the XDiavel! It seems like it completely forgot that it has a lazy rake, a long wheelbase, and that it is not supposed to give real time feedback from the front end, but it does! All it remembers is that it is a Ducati, and it’s the bloodline that makes it behave like how a ‘long and low sportbike’ should. It’s only at less than 4-5 km/h that it realises that Ducati have given it a body of a cruiser. It gets all confused then and demands you to keep both your feet down and start pedaling like OCC’s Paul Sr. does while bringing one of his creations on a flat stage. Thankfully, the clutch pull is not heavy and the six-speeder is a slick unit.

At all other times, it does not feel at all like a cruiser, making darting in and out of gaps a doddle. Of course, that explosive power helps too, but all that power would be a waste if your bike’s handling is as good as a Lincoln Town Car’s in a slalom course.

It feels light, which has to be applauded because Ducati were able to achieve this kind of lightness in a motorcycle, which, despite being the lightest in its class, is not really a featherweight by any stretch of imagination. You are still hauling more than two hundred kilos. But don’t, even for a moment, let that make you think that it would feel fidgety at speed. No sir! Be it in corners or on straights, the XDiavel always feels glued to the road. In fact, those Pirellis stick to the road more than a teen sticks to porn.

There is enough grip at all times that allow you to come out unscathed even after engaging in some confident stupidity. And on occasions where you feel that your meeting with the Almighty is imminent, the stonking M50 monoblocs disrupt it abruptly, much to the Grim Reaper’s chagrin. Those brakes are the best in business, and I must mention here that the base XDiavel gets the M32s – very good again, but definitely not windpipe choking like the M50s.

XDiavel review pic

The suspension is also one area where where the X again laughs on the cruiser brigade. First of all, I don’t think there’s any other cruiser that employs 50 mm front forks – even the heavyweight Rocket III relies on 43 mm units! Secondly, like on sportbikes, the suspension is fully adjustable. Okay, the front forks can be played with fully while even the rear shock offers preload and rebound adjustment. Compare that with the Rocket III which gets non-adjustable front suspension and only preload adjustment on the rear two shocks (which is something that even the Hero Splendor gets) and you realise that the XDiavel is in a league of its own.

But the ride quality is quite stiff on factory setting. Like I said earlier, I didn’t get the time to adjust anything on the bike but I firmly (no pun intended) believe that you would be able to fine-tune the suspension as per your liking because, unlike most cruisers, you have the option to do so here. I remember adjusting the Scrambler’s rear shock and it made a world of a difference in the ride quality. So there is no reason for you to not get a plusher experience on the XDiavel.

Anything else? Well, yes. Lights all around are LEDs; the headlamp is bright, and the S variant comes with DRLs as well. The S also gets Bluetooth connectivity, and no, it does not allow you to take calls yet like the Bluetooth systems in automobiles; it just flashes the number of the incoming call/text on the display. I tested it, and it works. So no more stopping to ‘check’ who’s calling.

Ducati’s website says it will also show you the music you are listening to, which I did not test as unless you are a complete buffoon, you would not be listening to music while riding. I agree that the Ducatis don’t sound melodious like the inline threes and fours, but please go drive a car instead if riding a motorcycle without listening to music is a boring activity for you.

XDiavel Review – Verdict

What else? Nothing, because it’s verdict time. But do you really need one now after a three-thousand-word review? Okay, it’s my job so I’ll give it to you. The XDiavel is a superbike in the garb of a cruiser that will make you the cynosure of all posers while still earning you the respect of performance freaks. I can’t think of any other bike that can do both at this level.

I’d still recommend you take a long test ride before making up your mind though; it might be too overwhelming for some.

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The Ducati XDiavel is a street legal DRAG BIKE. Period!Ducati XDiavel Review: First Ride