2014 Ducati Diavel: FIRST RIDE

Alan Cathcart | April 22, 2014

Ducati’s introduction of the Diavel powercruiser back in 2011 represented a visit to the Dark Side in the eyes of many dedicated ducatisti, who professed to scorn the Italian manufacturer’s attempt (as they saw it) to cash in on the global cruiser cult. That was until they rode it – at which point they realized that this is a completely new take on real world road riding – a combination of Superbike performance and custom cool that’s totally irrational, and gloriously addictive.

Hence the Diavel’s undoubted commercial success, with 20,000 sold so far since production began three years ago of a premium priced model that now costs $17,995 for the standard version and $20,995 for the blinged-out Carbon variant. But unlike with any other recent new Ducati model (like the Hypermotard or the now discontinued Streetfighter), sales of Ducati’s dark-side desmo didn’t just boom initially, then fall away, but have instead flatlined annually as more converts to the cause switched to this devil in disguise, that’s essentially two bikes in one.

It looks like a cruiser, complete with the fat rear tire, and a muscular yet relaxed riding stance delivered by the pulled-back handlebar and mid-mounted footpegs positioned right beneath the rider, which are relatively high but further forward than on other Ducatis. But it has the performance of a Superbike, with electrifying acceleration complemented by improbably agile handling, all delivered to the sound of thunder emanating from the desmo V-twin engine’s in-your-face exhaust system. Together this has resulted in one of the most successful examples of original thought on two wheels in the modern era, but whose original version nevertheless had a few rough edges that Ducati has now addressed in the subtly revamped 2014 version of the model. Call it the Diavel EVO – for it’s the devil of a makeover.

Actually, applying the word ‘subtle’ to any aspect of the Diavel’s character might at first seem misplaced, but it soon became evident riding the results of their handiwork at Ducati’s sun-kissed press launch in the south of France – through the Alpes-Maritimes mountain range inland from Monaco, then following the Mediterranean coast through seaside traffic back to the tax shelter home of the rich and famous – that the Diavel development team led by Giulio Malagoli has indeed produced a rounded-off version of the original bike that’s quite simply even more enjoyable to ride than its predecessor.

Ducati has achieved this via a series of detail improvements to the Diavel’s Testastretta 11-degree DS motor without detracting in any way from the bike’s visceral appeal and intoxicating performance. So it still has the mind-blowing acceleration and improbably adept handling of the previous bike, but this totally unique hyper-powercruiser that for 2014 comes with refreshed styling is now much cleaner running at low revs, making it easier to ride at slower speeds – as so many of its customers who use this as a social networking tool will relish.

“We realized we needed to make the Diavel a better low-speed cruiser, without sacrificing any of the thrilling high-performance qualities of the previous model,” says Giulio Malagoli, whose last hands-on project this is after leading the R&D teams creating successive versions of the Monster – as well as the Diavel and Streetfighter – for the past 14 years, and who in February this year was rewarded for his success in doing so by being promoted to become the company’s director of product marketing. “We needed to make it more enjoyable and smoother to ride at part-throttle and at low speeds, so as to make it more practical for everyday use – whether to ride to work, as we know some customers do, or for leisure use. At the same time, we wanted to improve the styling to produce a more modern, more muscular and more striking appearance. So we redesigned the whole front part of the bike, as well as at the same time making those dynamic improvements.”

To read more of our 2014 Ducati Diavel first ride in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here

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