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Bruiser cruisers: the name pretty much says it all. These bikes combine the best performance that cruisers offer and wrap it in a package dripping with attitude to spare. For this comparison, we decided to stick with the V-Twin engine configuration. Why? Because the V-Twin is the just about the official engine configuration of cruiserdom – that and the fact that no Yamaha V-Max was available for testing. So, for this test we have the 2018 Ducati XDiavel facing off against the new for 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob. Both of these bikes have eye-catching good looks that exude function as well as style.

2016 Ducati XDiavel S First Ride Review

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 Review – First Ride

V-Twin Power – Two Different Ways

The essential difference between these two power-cruisers is defined by how their two engines produce power. The Ducati looks to the mid-range and top-end for its power, while the Harley puts out tons of torque in the bottom end of its comparatively low-revving engine. Both manufacturers remain true to their roots when it comes to power production.

This dyno graph tells you everything you need to know about how to ride the Harley quickly. You can also see that we weren’t lying when we said the Ducati doesn’t wake up until after 3,500 rpm.

The XDiavel uses the Testastretta DVT 1262cc engine based on the Multistrada 1200 engine and has been massaged for the characteristics that Ducati feels it needs for cruiser duty. The 1262cc displacement is the result of 106.0mm x 71.5mm bore and stroke dimensions (bumped from the Multistrada’s 106.0mm x 67.9mm). The DVT in the name stands for Desmodromic Variable Timing that varies the timing of both the intake and exhaust camshafts independently, allowing the engine to deliver the broadest possible power curve. The goal is to give as much bottom end as possible and then transition into the top-end horsepower that Ducati sporty bikes are known for. The result is a measured torque peak of 83.9 lb-ft at 8,000 rpm, while the horsies max out at 142.6 hp at 9,600 rpm. Cruiser fans will note that the torque peak is a bit high for how cruisers are typically ridden – in fact, this is borne out by the 5,500 rev ceiling of the Fat Bob’s Milwaukee-Eight engine.

So, despite the DVT, XDiavel riders who don’t come from the sporting side of motorcycling will need to learn to spin up the engine to get the most out of it. FNG Associate Editor Brent Jaswinski sums up our opinions by noting, “The engine feels like it’s lugging even at 3500 rpm, but this is a Ducati we’re talking about here – it loves the higher revs.” And he’s right. Although we can’t expect the XDiavel to compete with the Fat Bob’s 600cc displacement advantage and the oodles of torque that comes with it, the Duc more than makes up for it if you spin the engine out, and you quickly learn to appreciate the scooped-back of the saddle for its ability to hold you in place while you snick your way through the closely spaced gears that keep the engine on boil for as long as you’re willing to hold the throttle open.

The XDiavel’s horsepower curve tells the second part of the power delivery story. The Fat Bob dominates until it runs out of revs, then the XDiavel takes over and runs away – literally.

Power delivery isn’t the only way in which the XDiavel differs from the Fat Bob. The Duc’s ride-by-wire throttle means that it also has traction control and ride modes. However, even in the concrete jungle, we never selected the Urban mode, preferring to keep all of the Testastretta’s ponies at our command with the twist of the smoothly transitioning throttle. However, while the TC is a nice feature, it came on in a heavy-handed manner at lower speeds, like encountering sand when pulling away from a stop and briefly cycling into an on/off-throttle hobby-horse response on a couple of occasions.

The Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight 114 uses the fun and effective “bigger hammer” technique for propelling the Fat Bob through the torque curve provided by 1868cc of hydrocarbon-devouring displacement. We’ve loved the M-8 in all its variants since its introduction in the Motor Company’s touring line last year, and the updates for use in the Softail line have only made us more fond of the mill. The 102mm x 114.3mm bore and stroke breathe through four-valve heads while dual counterbalancers quell vibration of the solid-mounted engine. The exhaust note has a hearty depth to it that makes low-speed riding an aural pleasure.

Around town, the Fat Bob’s bottom-end-heavy torque made it the most fun to ride.

Although the clutch pull is fairly stout despite the torque-assist clutch, getting the Fat Bob’s 676 claimed pounds moving is super easy, thanks to the early torque availability. Said Jaswinski, “You can lug the bike at 1500 rpm, and it doesn’t feel like it’s lugging whatsoever, making slow-speed maneuvers easy.” In fact, that heaping helping of torque makes the Harley much more fun to ride around town. At every urban speed we encountered, the Harley chuffed along while at certain speeds the Ducati required the rider to balance the throttle and clutch on occasion. Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note the Milwaukee-Eight’s 60-hp deficit, which became obvious once the roads got twisty and the speeds got higher. ”With such a big motor and a 600cc advantage over the Duc,” said Brent with the understatement of the year, “the horsepower numbers leave a lot to be desired.”

Both bikes exhibited exemplary throttle response in a wide variety of riding situations – well, once the Ducati’s tach climbed above 3,500 rpm. Whether roaring down the freeway or negotiating a series of corners or just moving along in traffic, both bikes took throttle input with the aplomb of well-set-up CV carburetors. No hint of EFI abruptness ruffed their demeanors.

The Testastretta DVT 1262 engine looks massive in the XDiavel’s chassis. Its top-end power matches the looks.

Tilting At Apexes

At the Fat Bob’s introduction a few weeks ago and at the XDiavel’s first ride in 2016, a lot was made of their ability to go around corners. No, these muscle-cruisers aren’t sportbikes, but they can go around corners quickly – and as we noted above, the engines aren’t afraid of acceleration, making point-and-shoot riding of the twisties a hoot. Still, we’re here to compare these two bikes, and when you look at the spec sheets, the Ducati has a clear advantage with its claimed 40° of lean on both sides while the Harley checks in with a claim of 31° to the right and 32° to the left. How much does that really affect real-world performance? Well, the difference is noticeable, but we dragged pegs on both of these bikes. The good news is that they both drag cleanly with the pegs giving plenty of warning before hard parts touch down. However, the lean angle differences don’t feel as great as the spec sheets imply, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to see more clearance from both of them.

In fact, the most noticeable feature differentiating the two bikes when cornering was the way they steered. The XDiavel’s 240mm rear tire required more effort to crank the bike over in a turn, and in some instances it also required a slight countersteering pressure mid-corner to maintain its line. While this isn’t a big deal, it was apparent and required a change in riding style as we switched from bike to bike. “The wide rear tire made the bike feel like it wanted to stand up in slow speed turns and corners around town, however, this feeling disappeared at speed through the canyon twisties,” noted Jaswinski.

The Ducati’s 240mm rear tire stands out visually and, at low speeds, in handling. Once the speeds ramp up and the road gets twisty, the XDiavel handles quite nicely. We’re suckers for single-sided swingarms.

The Harley, despite its narrower handlebar and fat 150mm front tire, steers much lighter than the Ducati. The Fat Bob is easier to turn at all speeds, but it is particularly apparent when changing lines in a high-speed sweeper. The Fat Bob just went where it was told, while the XDiavel required a little more direction.

This likely has something to do with the riding positions of the two bikes. The Ducati’s pegs are higher and further forward than those of the Harley – as are its grips – leading to a slightly clamshell riding position. The Fat Bob with its more relaxed rider triangle puts the pilot in a better position for negotiating big maneuvers like corners and little exercises like the minute adjustments involved in splitting lanes.

When it came to ergonomics, the Fat Bob got the nod from both our testers. “The Harley’s rider ergos are great,” enthused Jaswinski. “The footpegs are somewhere between mid and forward controls, and the handlebars are narrower than the Ducati’s and right where you want them without having to reach. Additionally, despite its name, the Fat Bob feels surprisingly skinny and nimble when dancing through tight traffic. The Ducati’s ergo’s felt a little too far stretched (even by cruiser standards) – both the handlebar and footpegs could have been slightly closer (and I’m 6’1).”

The XDiavel’s pegs and grips require a long reach – even for our six-foot, one-inch associate editor.

When it comes to suspension, the Fat Bob had the plusher of the two rides, though both Brent and I wished it had more suspension adjustability, particularly in the front. Said the FNG, “Suspension was firm, yet supple; however, some adjustability (especially in the front) would be nice as the bike nose-dived a little more than desired under heavy braking and during spirited riding.” Around town, the Harley’s more compliant ride was greatly appreciated when the road got bumpy since the firmer Ducati was downright harsh over square-edged bumps. However, get the XDiavel on a winding road, and the suspension’s sportbike roots move to the fore. In every sporting situation, except over the harshest of bumps, the Ducati maintained better chassis composure, and the fully adjustable suspension means that riders have the ability to tune the suspenders to their preferences.

One area where we expected the Ducati to dominate was the brakes. Instead, we got a surprising parity – even with the Harley’s additional 130 lbs. of curb weight. Although the XDiavel’s Brembos offered better initial bite and the Fat Bob needed a firmer squeeze at the lever, these big boys could be hauled down from speed with surprisingly similar braking intensity. While both have ABS, the XDiavel ups the ante with Cornering ABS provided by a Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which adjusts the ABS unit’s response to chassis orientation and state of change. It’s nice to see cutting-edge safety technology working its way into cruisers.

Even at a standstill, the Fat Bob looks ready to rumble, and it does, finishing much closer to the XDiavel on the scorecard than we initially expected.

Wrapping It Up

When we went into this comparison, we thought that the Ducati, with the higher performance roots of the XDiavel, would handily clean up on the MO Scorecard. This was not the case. The results ended up being more closely matched than we anticipated. While we expected the Testastretta engine to dominate the scorecard the way it did the dyno sheet, an interesting thing happened. In the subjective categories surrounding the engine, the pleasing character of the Milwaukee-Eight garnered it comparable scores.

The two also tied in the Handling category – though this was caused by a difference of opinion between the riders over the Ducati. If you don’t mind giving constant steering input in some situations, you won’t mind the feel of the 240mm tire on the Ducati. What sealed the Harley’s fate was the Suspension and Technology categories where the lack of features cost the Fat Bob points. With those numbers, combined with the objective scoring, the Ducati built an insurmountable lead that couldn’t be topped – even when the Fat Bob cleaned up in the Quality, Cool Factor, and Grin Factor categories.

In the end, the Harley started out at such a deficit in the objective scores that its amiable nature couldn’t drag it out of the scoring hole, and the Ducati XDiavel won by a total score of 88.2% to the Fat Bob’s 86.7%.

Really, though, the true winner is the one that speaks to the rider and how they plan on riding the bike. If you prefer a more compact riding position and like surfing a torque curve, the Fat Bob will probably appeal to you. On the other hand, riders looking for maximum performance in a feet-forward riding position will likely gravitate towards the XDiavel with its top-end rush and flashier technology. With these two choices, now is the time to be in the market for a V-Twin Bruiser Cruiser.

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