Church of MO: 2011 Ducati Diavel Review

John Burns
by John Burns

The devil made Ducati do it. The power of MO compelled Pete to take it for a ride, ten years ago.

Ducati’s devilish anti-cruiser

Photos by Milagro
It’s only the middle of February 2011, but Ducati may have already given the motoworld the hottest bike of the year – the Diavel.Rumors and spy shots of a fat-tired Ducati with strange styling surfaced in mid-2010. Some motorbike pundits dubbed the mystery bike Mega Monster. In the days just before the start of EICMA 2010, Ducati quit playing coy and unveiled the all-new Diavel.The question then remained: Would this wildly styled, category-defying Ducati possess the supreme handling, potent stopping force and hallmark L-Twin power that for so many years have been the underpinning characteristics of Ducati’s sporting heritage?

In simpler, more colloquial terms, does the Diavel have what it takes? Can it represent, yo?

The short answer is yes – mostly.

The 2011 Ducati Diavel. Will this new Ducati that’s unlike any other Ducati redefine power cruisers, or does its break with convention defy categorization?

Make up of a devil

While the Diavel is a new model, it nevertheless is comprised of many familiar Ducati components, the most prominent of which is its Testastretta 11° engine. This grunty, high-performance 1198.4cc 90-degree Twin (aka L-Twin) is sourced from the current model Multistrada. And with the exception of a new exhaust, it remains largely unchanged as used in the Diavel.

Ducati says the Diavel’s new exhaust is the key to extracting an extra 12 hp and 6.5 ft-lbs from the Testastretta 11 engine.

According to Giulio Malagoli, technical director on the Diavel project, the new Duc’s exhaust system, consisting of equal-length 58mm cross-section exhaust headers and dual stacked shorty megaphone cans, is the primary contributor to a 12 hp and 6.5 ft-lb increase over the Multi’s 150 hp and 87.5 ft-lbs. The Diavel’s airbox is marginally larger than the Mulitstrada’s, but the negligible increase in volume isn’t essential to power gains and is more a matter of technical needs. Additional revisions include different cam timing, as well as reworked intake and exhaust ports.During the Diavel’s tech briefing Ducati displayed a dyno graph overlay with power and torque results for the 1198 superbike, Multistrada and Diavel

While the Diavel’s version of the Testastretta is in a race with the MTS, it handily out-powers the adventure-tourer after the 6500-rpm mark. The Diavel easily out guns the 1198 until around 7000 rpm where it manages to run almost neck-and-neck with the red racer until approximately 9000 rpm, at which point the 1198 stretches its superbike legs.

The Multistrada’s spread of torque is more evenly matched to the Diavel’s, until 6000 rpm at which point the new devil bike opens a large gap on the MTS and never looks back.

Taking the Ducati-supplied dynos at face value, the Diavel mops up against the 1198 in low-end torque production. Diavel twisting force is notably healthier than what the 1198 produces below approximately 7000 rpm. It’s only then that the race-bike-with-lights finally regains its ground (save for a short 500-rpm dip) and soon out-twists the Diavel by 9000 rpm.

Along with a new exhaust for the 1198cc Testastretta in the Diavel, it also gets new case covers. These few changes are what differentiate the Diavel’s engine from the Multistrada’s engine. According to Ducati the shape and lines of the lower chin fairing/oil cooler cover are pure sportbike

What does all of this translate into?

Simply allowing the Testastretta in the Diavel to exhale more efficiently has created a nearly ideal engine: potent low- to mid-range force (right where most riders need it) with the ability to sprint like a sportbike.

A benefit from the design of the Diavel’s slipper-type oil-bath clutch is reduced effort at the clutch lever, as well as virtual elimination of rear tire hop during downshifts.

Despite my best efforts to upset the chassis with rapid-fire downshifts, the clutch would have none of my tire-hop-inducing antics, and instead allowed the engine to wind down smoothly rather than buck like a bronco.

A new, larger water pump impeller moves coolant through the Diavel’s dual lateral radiators. One radiator per side sits below the fully functional brushed aluminum air intakes and behind the narrow, vertically oriented clear-lens LED front indicators. The air intakes partially make up the shape of the Diavel’s prominent upper front half and blend in tastefully with the 4.5-gallon fuel tank’s covers that are crafted from steel rather than plastic.

The Diavel has two radiators: one on either side behind the prominent LED turn signals and below the fully functional air intakes. The double parabola headlight uses a horizontal strip of clear LEDs as a running/positioning light.

New covers for the clutch housing (which includes space for an air gap used to reduce clutch noise), alternator and cam belts round out the changes to the Testastretta in the Diavel.

Risky business, profitable businessBring the Diavel’s big tire into the discussion for a minute and you have to wonder if Ducati is anticipating a shift in the company’s core demographic. Are Duc fans getting older and maybe going the way of the cruiser crowd? Let’s not forget the Diavel’s strong sportbike lines either.

Where do we find the most lucrative and substantial cruiser market in the world, along with what was a robust sportbike market until recent economic climates cooled off both segments?

Right here at home, the U.S. of A.

Ducati North America’s John Canton says that outside of Italy, America is an important, leading market for the company, and that the Diavel will account for roughly three-fourths of projected growth in 2011 for Ducati North America. Yet when I asked if the Diavel is tailored primarily for the States and our cruiser-loving ways, Canton reaffirmed Ducati’s stance that the Diavel is a global bike in terms of its design and intent.

The bold and unconventional style of Diavel’s tail section is proof of Ducati’s willingness to go its own way.

Fair enough. But a safe speculation says that the American cruiser scene had a significant influence on the Diavel, from inception to the commitment to go full steam ahead and build it for a mass market.Still, nothing’s a sure bet all the time, right? In light of Ducati’s bike development process that skips focus group studies and market research, Canton admits that the Diavel is a big gamble for Ducati.

The company has in effect dispatched with the usually sound marketing philosophy that says fit a product to a market, not a market to a product. Ducati has essentially done the inverse, moving ahead with little reassurance of the Diavel’s success.

However, the Diavel isn’t the first bike with which Ducati applies its market-needs-be-damned mentality. Think the Diavel is quirky? Then you’ve too quickly forgotten about the Multistrada, especially the first gen model. Or how about the Hypermotard 1100 and 796?

The Hyper and MTS weren’t mold-breaking in the sense that no market for such bikes existed. The MTS clearly falls under the adventure-touring segment, and the Hypers kind of followed in the BMW Megamoto’s footsteps as a big streetbike loosely modeled on the premise of supermotard machines.

Whether those two Ducs lack wholesale originality matters not, as Ducati attributes a good portion of significant sales growth in 2010 in the face of another year when the industry as a whole was down considerably – at least in the U.S.

There’s no denying the Diavel is unusual, even for Ducati, but the brand from Bologna has gambled before and won big.

Ducati says the new MTS comprises a 14.3% share of the market in its segment.

“It was its first year on the market and the Multistrada became the second world-best-seller,” said Ducati Chief Executive Officer and President Gabriele Del Torchio this January during Ducati’s annual Wroom ski and press event. And according to Canton, Ducati can’t build the Hypermotard 796 fast enough for its domestic market.

Response to the Diavel since its unveiling has been somewhat mixed, with internet forums abuzz with opinions running the gamut. However, Ducati has enjoyed success for some time now courtesy of its willingness to roll the dice on how many bold and brash designs riders and buyers will accept.

If the past and present successes are an indication of future response to the convention-busting Diavel, this new Ducati is poised create a devil of time for other manufacturers.

Despite the devil bike’s departure from traditional Ducati styling, it wouldn’t wear the name Ducati if it didn’t have a steel-tube trellis frame. While the trellis portion is oh-so-familiar looking, it is unique to the Diavel, and is joined to a new cast-aluminum subframe.

A hand-operated dial for adjusting shock preload peeks out from the trellis frame.

A fully adjustable Sachs shock uses a hand-operated dial for remote preload adjustments and connects to a long, cast-aluminum single-sided swingarm via progressive linkage. The horizontally positioned shock resides under the swingarm – a design that allows the Diavel a reasonable seat height of 30.3 inches. Two optional seats, 20mm higher or 20mm lower, are available.Working to smooth out the ride up front is a fully adjustable inverted 50mm Marzocchi fork. A three-point adjuster knob atop each fork leg for tweaking rebound damping is a thoughtful and useful touch. Holding the fork is a minimalist “slash-cut” triple clamp – the lower clamp is cast aluminum while the upper is made from forged aluminum. A rubber-mounted handlebar clamp grips a tapered aluminum handlebar.

A span of 62.6 inches is measured between the 14-spoke cast-aluminum 17-inch wheels. Steering geometry just on the cusp of cruiser territory is far from supersport-y with a 28.0-degree rake (w/24mm offset) and 5.12 inches of trail. For reference, the Monster 796’s rake is 24.0 degrees and the MTS’s is 25.0 degrees

Pirelli Diablo Rosso II dual-compound tires cover those attractive hoops. A standard sportbike size 120/70-17 tire rolls in front, while the 240/45-17 mega bun on the 8-inch-wide rear wheel will make most contemporary custom choppers jealous. More on that 240 in a bit …

The Diavel’s large visual volume leads you to think the bike might weigh a ton, requiring considerable effort to lift of the sidestand.

It is a Ducati after all, so heavy doesn’t usually figure into an equation, and the Diavel keeps with the lightweight tradition, scaling it at 463 dry pounds for the standard model and 456 pounds for the up-spec Diavel Carbon. Impressive figures – even if only dry weights – when contrasted with the claimed curb weight of 452 pounds for a current sportbike like the 2011 GSX-R1000, or the 2011 ZX-10R/ABS with a curb weight 443 pounds.

Holy 240 tire, Batman! The minimalist license plate holder attaches to the left side of the single-sided swingarm and uses a bright but small LED to illuminate the number plate.

Getting a leg over 30-inch saddle is easy work; the sculpted seat snuggly holds a rider in place. You soon learn to view seat’s dished-out shape as an indispensible quality the first time you take a healthy twist of the right grip with the full force of 162 hp at your beck and call.

Flat footing was a cinch for my 30-inch inseam, and although the bar position is slightly forward, the reach didn’t strike me as more aggressive, than, say how a rider is positioned on standard-style bikes like the BMW F800R or Aprilia Shiver 750. Conversely, the Diavel’s footpeg position forward of the seat is less rear set than either of those bikes, and more forward than the pegs on Ducati’s own Monster 696.

Overall, the Diavel’s rider triangle is open and neutral with just a hint of sporting stance, which you’ll appreciate when hustling this wicked-quick cruiser-sportbike-naked-type thing along fast sweepers.

0 – 100 kph in 2.6 seconds!

I hadn’t ridden many powerful motorcycles in a while, prior to saddling up to the devil bike, but there was no mistaking the amount of thrust on tap from the Testastretta as anything other than stemming from superbike heritage.

The long wheelbase, cruiser-ish steering geometry and big rear tire mean instantaneous-feeling hook-up at the rear while the front remains planted when the throttle is slammed open. Ducati says the Diavel is good for 2.6 seconds at 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph), rivaling high-horsepower sportbikes for off-the-line performance.

While the long wheelbase helps reduce unwanted lofting of the front-end, it’s not so long as to prevent a wheelie or 12 if you want ’em. With copious torque on tap the Diavel will, hands down, wheelie with the best of today’s sportbikes.

The Diavel’s long wheelbase (as well as DTC if activated) helps keep the front planted under hard launches, but if you want to wheelie, the Diavel is more than ready!

Get on a Diavel, ride it, and tell me you can resist its effortless wheel-lifting prowess if such antics are your thing. The Diavel’s engine is that potent and that fun.

Low-rpm (below, roughly, 3000 rpm) fueling seemed smoother and more refined than the usually herky-jerky lurch that we’ve noticed on other Ducs, like the Monster 796 for example. The six-speed gearbox also seemed a tad lighter shifting than what we’re used to from some Ducs.


Of the mondo 240mm tire, Malagoli says that a large rear wheel/tire combo was a primary design element set forth when the Diavel concept started to take shape. He spoke of the use of a large rear tire as though it were a nonnegotiable item, along with a powerful engine and comfortable ergos, when Ducati designers and engineers began crafting this new motorcycle some three years ago.

The Bologna-based company sampled existing tires in the 200 to 240mm range – why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to – fitted to 16 and 18-inch wheels. But, says Malagoli, the handling and styling Ducati was looking for came when a 240 was put on the 8-inch-wide, 17-inch diameter wheel the new Duc now uses. Pirelli was tasked with creating a purpose-built tire, and through many months of research arrived at a profile similar to that of MotoGP tires according to Malagoli.

Get the Diavel on the boil and you can rail most bends in the road.

The big rear tire works for me as part of the Diavel’s styling; however, the rear tire’s low-speed handling performance doesn’t work quite so well for my tastes.Initial turn-in response is neutral; transitioning from upright to three-fourths lean is a fairly smooth, linear-feeling process. But it’s the last little bit of lean you might initiate to complete the turn that results in a “falling in” sensation, as though the tire’s profile is more triangulated than it appears.

As I rolled into the throttle to power out of the apex of a turn, the bike would sometimes exhibit a front-end “push” – like the rear of the bike was chasing the front – depending on the radius of a turn and camber of the road.

A fellow journalist and experienced racer had similar experiences and speculated this back-chasing-the-front feeling was the result of the front end’s lighter weight. In contrast to our light front-end theory, Malagoli assured me the Diavel has what is essentially a 50/50 weight bias.

A retractable passenger grab handle hides inconspicuously at the top of the tail section; a spring-loaded release under the seat puts the handle in action. Passenger footpegs fold discretely against the tail when not in use. While the seat seems reasonably sized, in person the pillion portion looks like more diminutive riders will feel cozier back there than larger folks.

Once the bike is moving at a brisk pace, handling is much improved and you’d never guess the Diavel has such a long wheelbase.Steering response is accurate, vagueness from the rear tire melts away and the chassis remains planted throughout the turn. The Diavel’s reassuringly stable handling at speed and generous 41.0-degree lean angle gave me every confidence that if I’d worn leathers I could’ve easily dragged a knee.At the end of the day, it seems that even in the hands of Ducati engineers, a bike with a big tire still suffers some of the ill effects wide rear tires have on a motorcycle’s handling.

It was hard to not draw a few parallels between the Diavel’s low-speed handling quirks with those that many big-tired custom-style cruisers have, specifically, an occasional unwillingness to steer predictably through turns at lower speeds.

Stellar braking performance is the result of dual, four-piston, radial-mount monobloc Brembo calipers putting the squeeze on 320mm rotors. Bosch-Brembo ABS is standard equipment and is managed by a compact new controller that weighs a scant 1.76 lbs.

Heavy braking force applied to the rear resulted in the ABS sending discernable backpressure, or pulsing, through the pedal when ABS activated. Nevertheless, the rear brake stopped the Diavel just fine. The binders up front performed flawlessly, with supreme levels of power and feel. This is some of the best braking performance most average Joes can still afford to buy, and simply what we’ve come to expect of most late-model Ducatis.

Techy as ever

Carried over from the Multistrada is a keyless ignition. A proximity transponder, or “pocket key,” allows the bike to start, with a switchblade-style key to open the fuel tank and saddle. The compact and multi-functional switchgear first seen on the Streetfighter that was then later adapted for use on the Multi is now employed on the Diavel.

Integrated DTC (Ducati Traction Control) and Ride Modes are also part of the Diavel’s technology package. Although there’s no need for the Diavel to have the Multi’s Enduro mode setting, the Diavel, like the MTS, has Sport, Touring and Urban settings.

Sport allows unfettered access to the Diavel’s 162 horsepower, with DTC set to 1. Touring mode retains the same peak power but with a less aggressive, ergo more manageable, power delivery, and a default DTC setting of 3. Urban mode takes a big bite out of the L-Twin’s ferocity, allowing only 100 hp, and DTC set to 5. The TC’s settings range from 1 (least intrusive) to 8 (most intrusive).

Regrettably this image doesn’t show the clear, colorful data in the new TFT display located in front of the fuel cap.

Like on the Multistrada each mode is fully adjustable, allowing a rider to customize each mode as he or she sees fit.

For example, you might want access to all 162 horses in Sport mode, but would prefer a DTC setting higher than 1. Furthermore, a rider can disable DTC and ABS altogether. And the system is “smart” enough to remember the status of ABS when the bike is powered off. Upon start up, the system retains the last known setting (On or Off) rather than going back to a default On setting.

This highly adaptable system’s readouts are now displayed on an all-new TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD located on the fuel tank just ahead of the filler cap. It works independently of the handlebar-mounted monochrome LCD instrument panel that displays speed, rpm, etc. The new TFT display is nothing short of a brilliant move by Ducati, as navigating the colorful GPS-like display is more intuitive than operating the Multistrada’s all-inclusive, colorless one-piece instrument panel.

Along with managing DTC, ride modes and ABS, the TFT also displays gear position, odometer and tripmeters. It’s also light sensitive, meaning it’ll adapt its background color of either white or black based on ambient light.

This new split-level display is so impressive I’m confident we’ll see it, or a variation, sooner than later on other Ducati models.

Is the Diavel better than the devil(s) you know?

While the Diavel doesn’t fit neatly into existing categories of motorcycles, it hasn’t stopped some folks from slotting the Diavel alongside Yamaha’s VMax.

The Star VMax, as you’re probably aware, received its first ground-up overhaul since its 1985 introduction in late 2008. Every bit of that iconic bike went upscale without losing its core styling, and of course, class-dominating power. Yamaha claims 200 hp at the crank, and when we compared the VMax to Triumph’s Rocket III Roadster, the YamaStar managed 167.5 rwhp.

Though the Diavel’s claimed 162 hp at the crank doesn’t come close to VMax territory, the Ducati weighs, um … Hundreds of pounds less!

Although Ducati only lists dry weights, we can speculate, say, an extra 50 lbs for fluids, battery, fuel, etc. Add this to the non-carbon Diavel’s dry weight and we get a standard Diavel scaling in somewhere around 515 pounds. That’s 170 pounds less than the wet weight figure (685) for the VMax.

The standard model Diavel is available in red or black with color-matched trellis frame. The Diavel Carbon comes in black/carbon with black frame and in red/black with red frame.

Nearly 200 friggin’ pounds!

The VMax’s advantage of nearly 40 hp at the crank is nothing to slough off, and it also spins a narrower, 200mm rear tire. But now having experienced the Diavel, I can’t really see the VMax holding a candle to the Diavel except maybe down the dragstrip. But even then, the chain-driven Duc likely will put power down better than the Max’s shaft.

Furthermore, the special-order only Mad Max retails for $19,890. The Diavel Carbon sells for $19,995.

With the Diavel Carbon comes forged Marchesini wheels that Ducati says are 5.5 pounds lighter than the standard model’s wheels – and that’s a crucial savings in unsprung weight. Naturally, the Carbon also wears carbon fiber, with fuel tank panels, front fender and passenger seat cover made from the pricey material. Additionally, fork legs get a diamond-like hardening treatment to reduce stiction.

If you can live without the light stuff, the standard Diavel, with the same horsepower, Brembo brakes, excellent suspension, and comparatively light weight, is a bargain at $16,995. Of course there are heaps of accessories, including lots of carbon, to help personalize the Diavel.

While the new Diavel isn’t a perfect beast in light of its slow-speed handling peccadilloes, the totality of the bike’s performance and collection of high-quality components help to compensate for the handling issue.

Is the two-wheeled world ready for the Diavel? Probably.

With unique styling, and the horsepower to back up its polarizing looks that say, “Hey, look at me!” the Diavel is a devil like no other.

Related Reading
See and hear the Diavel!
2011 Ducati Diavel Review (Almost)
2010 Ducati Multistrada Review
2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster vs. 2010 Star VMax
All Things Ducati on

John Burns
John Burns

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13 of 15 comments
  • Mad4TheCrest Mad4TheCrest on Jun 21, 2021

    I tested one of these during the time I owned my 1198 superbike. (Something to do while my 1198 was being serviced) My impression was that the Diavel accelerated harder and braked harder than the 1198, and I was more confident of my footing at stoplights thanks to the low seat height. But it didn't handle that well. And I didn't like the view from the saddle. (I am shallow that way).

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    • Starmag Starmag on Jun 22, 2021

      Silly me, quoting Wiki. I should know better.

  • Cam Cam on Jun 21, 2021

    I tested one at a demo day as well. The front end kind of disappeared underneath you, but the handling was definitely funky. The rear seemed to always be doing something unusual when compared with other bikes that track easily through bends. Very impressive drivetrain, though - great engine, good quickshifter, brakes were sharp. Probably would be a good drag racer with some tie downs....

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    • Cam Cam on Jun 21, 2021

      It was the Diavel launch - I believe I misremembered the quickshifter part! Good catch.