We like big butts, and we cannot lie. Thankfully, Ducati does, too. Here’s our 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review.
Ducati’s introduction of the aptly named Diavel power cruiser back in 2011 represented an unexpected visit to the dark side for many dedicated Ducatisti, who at first sight scorned what they saw as the famed Italian sportbike manufacturer’s attempt to cash in on the rampant global cruiser cult.
But that was before they rode it, at which point it became evident that, in living up to its name (the Italian word for devil, Diavolo, mutates to Diavel in the distinctive dialect of Bologna, Ducati’s home town), this was one of the most successful examples of two-wheeled original thought to hit the marketplace this century.
It was a completely new take on riding, a blend of superbike performance and custom cool that was totally irrational, and gloriously addictive. And thanks to the introduction of the updated 2019 remake of the model, it still is.
Photography by Milagro, Marco Zamponi
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review | Dancing with the Devil
The Diavel’s enjoyed undoubted commercial success, with 70,000 examples sold so far since production began eight years ago. But unlike with some other new Ducati models, sales of this dark-side desmo didn’t boom initially, only to fall away in succeeding years, but have instead flat-lined year after year as more converts to the cause switched to this bike.
For the Diavel, 1260 S, on which I spent a glorious early summer day scooting around the Apennine Mountains south of Bologna along such legendary roads as the Raticosa and Futa Passes, is the very devil of a performance cruiser.
Indeed, more than ever, it’s a devil in disguise that’s essentially two bikes in one. It looks like a power cruiser, replete with macho muscularity thanks to its revised uber-butch Superhero styling which designer Giovanni Antonacci says was indeed inspired by Marvel Comics characters. It still retains the fat 240/45 ZR17 Diablo Rosso III rear tire specially made for the Diavel by Pirelli, mounted on an eight-inch rim, and the imposing, yet relaxed riding stance delivered by the pulled-back handlebar and mid-mounted footrests positioned right beneath the rider—so, further forward than on other Ducatis.
But it also has the performance of a superbike, with electrifying acceleration complimented by improbably agile handling, despite that huge rear tire, all delivered to the sound of thunder emanating from its mighty V-twin engine’s exhaust system, now rerouted to end in a pair of stubby cans exiting race-spec style beneath your right foot.
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review | Going to the Gym
So, the result of what indeed amounts to a major redesign is a significant improvement to the Diavel 1260’s ride-ability and handling, without detracting in any way from the bike’s visceral appeal and intoxicating performance. It still has the same mind-blowing acceleration and improbably adept handling of the previous bike, but this totally unique hyper-power cruiser now has yet more responsive handling and easier steering. It now also runs more cleanly at low revs, making it easier to ride at slower speeds, especially in Urban mode—as so many of its customers who use this as a social networking tool will relish. Moreover, it now has a super-flat torque curve in any of the three different riding modes delivered via the RBW throttle.
The Diavel’s light-action oil-bath slipper clutch delivers the same smooth takeoff as before, but now the low-rpm fueling has been improved, there’s no longer a snatchy pickup from a closed throttle in Urban mode, which is now very usable outside town if you just want to chill out and go with the flow on the Diavel 1260 in a less stressful way.
Indeed, there’s no trace of the transmission snatch the first generation/Gen 1 Diavel had between the 1500 rpm off-idle pull away from rest, and the 4000 rpm mark when the engine really starts to motor strongly. Use the power-shifter to keep it revving in the 5000-6000 rpm happy zone, and you’ll be rewarded with muscular acceleration and constant thrills, with no need to rev the Diavel 1260 motor anywhere near its 10,500 rpm limiter.
There’s now an even flatter torque curve low down, and the new Diavel is cleaner and more fluid in the way it gains revs so that it’s happier running in a line of traffic at part-throttle at low rpm than the original bike was, and not just in Urban mode, either.
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review | Be Nice, Not Sensible
Touring mode is preferable practically anywhere in normal use, though there’s undoubted extra zip if you select Sport mode, in which case the Diavel 1260 is still better behaved than before at slow speeds, but asks you to hang on very tight indeed when you gas it up hard off a stoplight, or simply give a healthy twist of the wrist exiting a slower turn. Then there’s a crisp but controllable response which will make you glad you had Ducati’s very effective eight-stage TC/traction control available as the specially-developed fat rear Pirelli digs into the asphalt, and the Ducati rockets forward in a way one of the company’s V-twin Superbikes would have a hard time matching.
This is fun factor 45—a guaranteed smile bike that’s both more civilized than before, but arguably even faster, too, aided by that stretched wheelbase and balanced weight bias, which combine to counter the front wheel lifting as you leave high-performance supercars trailing in your wake, let alone anything else with half their number of wheels. This is a power cruiser with attitude.
However, if you try to gas it wide open anywhere below 4000 rpm in Touring or Sport modes, you’ll encounter what thanks to the fueling verges on being transmission snatch on full throttle, which only partially smooths out on part-throttle. Urban mode is notably smoother and more forgiving at lower revs, but in the other two modes the Diavel motor starts to smooth out above four grand, and at 4500 rpm it does so completely and starts to pick up revs really strongly. This encourages you to use that sweet-action two-way clutchless power shifter to keep the engine revving by using one gear lower than you might otherwise do, for maximum effect. But it pays to switch pretty seamlessly between Urban and the other modes, depending on riding conditions—and on whether you feel ready for a little excitement, or just want to chill out and cruise. The new Diavel 1260 is happy to cooperate whatever your choice.
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review | Steer in, Power out
The original Diavel understeered quite noticeably under power, pushing the front end in a way that asked you to use that wide handlebar to correct matters and pull it back on line without backing off the throttle. The culprit was probably that fat rear tire, but the 1260’s revised steering geometry and weight distribution has fixed that completely—in fact, the new Diavel does the opposite! If you motor through a tight turn on part throttle, it’ll understeer slightly just like before when hard on the gas—but since it now does this at low speed, this isn’t too much of an issue. But if you use that one gear lower and drive through the bend under power, it totally resolves the understeer and makes the Diavel hold its line tightly. Job done!
But as anyone who’d ever ridden one will tell you, the Diavel has never been strictly a straight-line package that’s reluctant to change direction anytime soon like most other power cruisers fitted with raked-out steering geometry and a massive rear tire, which then if you insist on cranking them over in a turn, suddenly fall on their side into the apex as you reach the shoulder of the flat-profile rear rubber.
This is still a Ducati, after all, so not only does it pick up speed fast, but despite steering geometry that’s still rangier than on anything else ever to leave the Bologna factory’s assembly lines, it’s improbably agile and easy handling. You’d expect the Diavel to be a real handful in tight corners along city streets or mountain roads—but it isn’t. Instead, this is a bike you don’t have to fight to get it to steer. Turn-in is especially great. The Diavel just tips easily and controllably into the apex of a turn with relatively minimal effort required, and holds a line well both at speed and going slowly, as the well dialed-in suspension shrugs off any bumps. This unlikely combination of polar opposites is what makes this still such an enticing motorcycle to ride, made even better by the new model’s improvements to the power delivery.
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Review | The Devil’s Detail
As on previous versions of this uber-distinctive model, the devil is in the detail on the Diavel, and not only in terms of the literally excellent performance package it delivers but also the premium fit and finish of the whole bike, including its numerous design touches which prospective owners will relish.
Such as the two-level dashboard with a TFT screen with different display styles depending on the riding mode selected, mounted below the handlebar clamp with a separate warning light module above it. Like the dedicated switchgear with red-backlit keys. Or the front and rear full-LED units on the S version with the headlight automatically shifting from its daytime configuration to the night-time one via a dashboard-mounted sensor. The upside-down horseshoe shape for the DRL running light, making the Diavel instantly recognizable even in broad daylight, is another feature of note.
As is the clever fold-out passenger footrests and retractable grab handle aka ‘wing’ behind the seat. Then there’s Brembo’s integral brake and clutch master-cylinders custom-designed for the Diavel complete with milled reservoir tops; the weapon-like trigger-catch that slides down to cover the starter button when activating the kill-switch; the keyless electronic security system actuated by a remote sender you keep in your pocket, which communicates with the bike within a distance of two meters—and which also, after parking up, allows you to actuate an electronic lock on the steering simply by applying full steering lock, and pressing the ignition-off button a second time.
The list goes on and on, for one way that Ducati has considerably exceeded its own expectations in sales volume of the Diavel—leading it to invest in this revamped 1260 version—was that it made sure from the beginning that while showcasing the latest in performance technology, the Diavel is also tailored to entice older, more affluent customers in the premium cruiser sector, without at the same time straying too far away from its traditional sportbike clientele.
Indeed, the fact that this new version of what’s arguably Ducati’s most unique model, which nobody else has ever quite succeeded in replicating, is so much easier to ride and ultimately more accessible without any sacrifice in performance, has almost certainly removed the need for Ducati management to consider developing a Diavel 950, as they did so spectacularly successfully with the Multistrada 950. This is a motorcycle with the same wicked-is-wonderful aura as before, but which no longer inspires any latent fear on the part of potential customers that they’re good enough riders to control it. It’s a friendly devil of a bike. Nobody else could have done this, and nobody probably ever will. It’s a true Ducati.CN
2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S Specifications
||Ducati Testastretta DVT with Desmodromic Variable Timing, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder, Dual Spark, liquid-cooled
|Bore x stroke:
||106 x 71.5mm
||157 hp @ 9250 rpm
||95 lb-ft @7500 rpm
||Tubular steel trellis
||Fully adjustable Öhlins 48mm inverted fork
||Fully adjustable Öhlins shock
||2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc M50 4-piston calipers, radial pump with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
||265mm disc, 2-piston floating caliper, with Bosch Cornering, ABS standard
||Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 III 120/70 x 17 in.
||Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 240/45 x 17 in.
|Weight (curb, claimed):
||Total Black; Sandstone Grey