My feet haven’t missed a bike’s foot pegs in a very, very long time. And yet, rolling out on a warm San Diego morning, the XDiavel’s prove elusive — at least at first. They just aren’t where I expect them to be, even after an extensive briefing. That is, they’re not where they should be… on a Ducati. Unlike its “X”-less predecessor, Ducati’s new XDiavel is a forward-controlled commitment by Bologna to take the fight to the largest and most lucrative market in American motorcycling. This is Ducati’s first bonafide cruiser — at least in concept.
Typified by large, soft, V-Twin-powered — well, Harleys — the cruiser market remains the most successful niche in the industry. It’s a sector definitely owned by the bar and shield. Despite the fact that they are failing to attract new riders, Harley Davidson still controls almost half of all motorcycle sales in America, and Ducati (among others) wants a piece of that apple pie.
Unlike Harley’s offerings — and those gaining ground from Indian and Victory — Ducati hasn’t ever made an Italian Easy Rider. That brand of American rebellion never reached Europe’s boot-shaped country, and Bologna doesn’t do “me-too.” Instead, the XDiavel is an Italian interpretation of the cruiser concept, seen strictly through the eyes of the Ducatisti. Sure, the big V-Twin, belt-drive, long rake, forward controls and wide rear tire are present and accounted for, but that’s where any similarities end. The XDiavel’s styling isn’t typical of the genre: it doesn’t hang its hat on a 75-year-old design. Instead, it’s futuristic, hypertrophic and undoubtedly polarizing for any traditional feet-forward guys who might be cross-shopping. But if you can come to grips with its looks, the ride is rewarding.
Engine: 1,262cc L-Twin
Torque: 95 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 545 pounds
Everything enthusiasts find lacking in Harley Davidson’s bikes — a lack of power, uninspiring handling, squishy brakes and spongy suspension — this Duc delivers in spades. The 1262cc Testastretta engine is an absolute marvel. Blip the throttle at a standstill and you can feel violence brewing below. Based off of the 1198 DVT (Desmodromic Valve Timing) mill found in the Multistrada, this L-Twin features a longer stroke to produce a fat and unending dollop of creamy torque, while still churning out a staggering 156 horsepower. Peak grunt is 95 lb/ft delivered at 5,000 rpm, but anywhere from 4k to redline (10,000RPM) the XDiavel pulls like a freight train being force-fed nitromethane. Rolling on the throttle out of corners is addictive, as is blasting down a straightaway. If you pin it at peak — and you will, many times — the front tire will rise and the roar will get louder. Just be sure to hold on tight, because your legs, splayed out in front of you in this cruiser configuration, do nothing to lock you in place.
After only a few short miles, that beautiful engine will coax you to try stupid things. (Like winding it out to triple-digit speeds in third gear with a right-hander fast approaching, for instance. I trail braked into that turn, and didn’t carry the speed necessary to exploit the 40-degree lean angle the XDiavel touts.) But it doesn’t matter: go faster next time. The Brembo M50 braking system (on the XDiavel S model) is more than capable of reigning in you and 545 pounds of road-hungry bike; I never felt any fade and brake modulation was sublime. After stringing together a few more curves, dipping lower and lower, I was amazed at how crisply this “cruiser” attacked apexes. Things change — only slightly — on the standard trim model. While still Brembo branded, the standard model’s braking system is the M32 unit and the lever-pull up front felt vague in comparison. In those first few switchbacks, pulling, waiting for the binders to bite before lean-in, I had visions of planted pegs (and riding eternal, shiny and black), but the Sachs (rear) and Marzocchi (front) suspension kept the 240-series rear tire planted confidently. As a rule of physics, bikes with these ergonomics shouldn’t corner like this — or so I thought. The XDiavel is a cruiser in concept and foot positioning only; it actually seems happiest when given the super sport treatment. I pity any buyers who plan to ride this thing like it’s in a parade.
But that’s where my issues with the XDiavel lie. Despite its Panigale-inspired competencies, the XDiavel is not the bike those footpegs would lead you to believe it is. Ride it like a cruiser, chugging around town with your left hand dangling off the bars and the bike won’t be happy. There is mechanical discordance below 4000 rpm. The driveline chatters and lugs, no doubt desperate for its torque fix, and sends vibration right into the small of your back (or mine at least). The only solution is to downshift, or go faster. For sportbike riders, this is nothing new but, the denim vest crowd tends to move at a more relaxed pace, lounging happiest low in the rev range. They’ll find the rear suspension is a bit firm, which, given the seating position, can be problematic. At posted speeds on less than brand new asphalt, in sixth gear for hours on end, comfort would be an elusive mistress.
To properly enjoy the bike, you’d have to reevaluate your definition of “cruiser” and ride the beast like you stole it every time you fired it up. Conversely, you could order your XDiavel with a set of optional mid-controls, locating them where the original Diavel’s lived. You’d stay locked in during spirited rides, could easily lift yourself to cover bumpy terrain and you’d never misplace your feet rolling off the line. The XDiavel is an incredible machine that is quintessentially Ducati — a muscle bike that needs to flex — but it’s a cruiser in concept only.