Red Dot award-winning design

Ducati Diavel 1260S Review: A Muscle Bike Goes to Crossfit


June 20, 2019 Cars : Motorcycles By Photo by M. Neundorf & C. Merey
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Since its debut in 2011, the Diavel has always been a bit of an odd duck (homonym pun intended). Its design immediately polarized onlookers, as it defied typical Ducati conventions; it didn’t quite fit into any existing mold. A mishmash of motorcycle styles, Ducati’s modern take on the muscle bike is often pigeonholed into the cruiser category. But this is no cruiser; a combination of elements from Ducati’s superbike heritage and the extensive naked bike know-how underpin the Diavel’s brutish aesthetics ensure that’s clear.

For 2019, the Diavel drawing board was wiped clean and the bike redrawn with an emphasis on improved handling and performance. This latest iteration, the Diavel 1260, has already collected a prestigious Red Dot Award for its design. But to find out whether function follows form, whether it’s all show and no go or not, I took the flagship version — the 1260S — out for an extended spin.

The Good: The 1262-cc, Testastretta DVT L-Twin hanging from that bright red ribcage is an absolutely spectacular engine. With 157 horsepower and 95 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Diavel 1260S accelerates as if motivated by shoves from a malevolent god. Not only is it quick, but the Diavel 1260S is nimble, too; when the road begins to kink, the Diavel 1260S sniffs out apexes better than it has any business doing. Chassis tweaks as well as a revised rake mean the almost-10-inch-wide rear tire and 63-inch long wheelbase seem to shrink as soon as lean angle is introduced.

Who It’s For: The cost of entry puts the Diavel 1260S firmly in premium motorcycling territory, so riders seeking an iconic brand with meticulous fit and finish are a key demographic. It’s made for mature riders who don’t want to sacrifice handling and performance but are looking for something a touch more comfy than a true sportbike. I could also see seasoned riders looking for a unique arrow to add to their quiver flocking to the Diavel 1260S.

Watch Out For: The ride-by-wire throttle can be snatchy in both Sport and Touring modes. In slow-moving traffic, the throttle behaved more like a switch than a regulator, making the Diavel 1260 lurch. A quick change over to Urban mode smoothed things out noticeably, but doing this also cuts the heavenly motor’s output to 100 horsepower.

Alternatives: There really aren’t many motorcycles on the market that offer what the Diavel 1260S delivers. That being said, the Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 ($21,349+) and Fat Bob ($18,849+) definitely play in the same sandbox. Both are down on overall horsepower, but the Milwaukee Eight motor has gobs of torque (107 pound-feet). The Triumph Rocket III ($15,700+), despite being a little long in the tooth and weighty on the scale, could also end up on a cross-shopper’s list. It offers similar horsepower (148 hp) and an insane amount of twist (163 lb-ft) for much less investment.

Review: Walking around the 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260S for the first time can be a touch imposing. This is a big, brawny beast of a thing. Massively wide intake plenums flank a sculpted, flowing fuel tank that tapers towards a scalloped seat, which hovers above a rear tire that’s absurdly wide for a motorcycle with sporting intent. Cloaked in flat black, the new Diavel looks damned evil. It’s menacing enough to makes you wonder whether those Red Dot judges voted for it out of fear of being thumped by the bike itself.

Thumbing the keyless ignition, the starter sounds a touch lazy, almost industrial. Once fired, though, the bark from the big L-Twin reveals that the whirring cog’s lethargy was probably just trepidation at poking a sleeping grizzly;  this is an angry mill, befitting of the bike it calls home.

From behind the bars, the first thing you see is a compact 3.5-inch TFT dash that’s well-placed and easy to read in all but direct sunlight. The controls within thumb’s reach on the left let the rider cycle between the information displayed below the digital tach, activate the cruise control and toggle between three preset rider modes. Sport is the least intrusive, and has been preselected for me, so I leave things as is.

On the right of the instrument cluster, there’s a tiny button atop the housing with the letters “DPL” below it; a dab of press reveals it activates the Ducati Power Launch option this Diavel is equipped with. Following instructions, I pull in the clutch, select first gear and prod that grizzly.

The bike takes off with incredible fury but very little drama, as the ECU manages the amount of fuel that can be doled out to achieve the quickest possible launch. My left foot clicks the quickshifter as soon as the revs crest 9,500 over and over again, and almost instantly, I’m in “surrender your license” land.

Bringing the five-hundred-plus pounder back down to acceptable levels of speed takes barely a finger’s pull on the lever for the M4.32 monobloc Brembos. The engine braking alone off-throttle is almost enough to manage the Diavel in anything short of track duty or emergency stops, but those binders work extremely well and provide decent feedback when ushered into duty.

I stab the quickshifter down a couple of clicks — the auto-blipped downshifts are crisp but smooth — and lean the Diavel onto an empty on-ramp. Pitching into the corner, I’m surprised by just how easy the Diavel tips in. Other bikes with rear tires that rival this one in size take serious effort to persuade away from 90-degree angles, but the 1260S feels extremely planted throughout the business of cornering. The seat, although quite form-fitted, allows for plenty of lateral movement, and the scalloped tank readily accepts a thigh; one could probably get a knee down if one wanted.

Amongst commuters on the freeway, I shift my position rearward into the cup of the seat and find a relaxed position to cruise. With a windshield mounted up and a bag strapped to the back, I could easily see myself ditching town for a long weekend run on the Diavel. The Ohlins suspension works wonders at smoothing out the pock-marked roads of Toronto, while also providing a planted and predictable bike under spirited riding. If the Diavel is on your radar, I would definitely spring for the “S” model for the suspension alone.

But you do get quite a bit more than just top-shelf suspension when you check that box. The quickshifter, which allows for clutchless upshifts, is simply addictive. Whether you find yourself plugging along in Urban mode around the city or attacking corners on empty, winding routes the speed, the efficiency and smoothness of swapping cogs sans clutch is revelatory. I’ve used other, similar systems in the past and found them amazing on the track but lackluster and jerky in real-life scenarios, but Ducati has successfully ironed out all the kinks. Cruise control also comes standard on the S model, and provides a welcome relief on longer runs.

But both Diavels miss the mark when it comes to heated grips. This was a surprise, as this feature is de rigueur on premium motorcycles nowadays; its absence feels like one of the Diavel’s only true missteps.

Verdict: The Ducati Diavel 1260S does so much more than raise eyebrows when parked. It’s comfortable enough to handle extended touring trips, nimble enough to hang with supersports in the twisty bits and isn’t fazed by the confines of city life. The new Diavel 1260S is a unique motorcycle that offers a visceral, athletic riding experience — one that, quite simply, needs to be sampled to be understood.

Designer Andrea Ferraresi and his team have taken some of the best bits from their world of superbikes, nakeds and cruisers to deliver a ride that never ceases to surprise with its competence or performance. Provided the design that earned it that Red Dot Award appeals to you, it’s a winner.

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260S Key Specs

Powertrain: 1,262cc, liquid-cooled, Testastretta DVT, L-Twin
Horsepower: 157
Torque: 95 pound-feet
Weight: 538 pounds
Fuel Economy: 43.5 mpg

Ducati provided this product for review.

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