Ducati Diavel 1260S review – is this the most misunderstood bike on sale?
Even if you’re not a fan of motorcycles, you can probably tell a thing or two about how the Ducati Diavel rides just by looking at it.
It’s long, it’s low and my god that rear tyre is wide enough to help roll out fresh Tarmac. It looks like your archetypal cruiser bruiser, with gobs of straight-line power and not-so-much talent when the road twists and turns. Actually, it looks that way to even the most engineering-savvy bike nerd.
In fact, of all the bikes on sale today, the Diavel is probably the one you should judge least by how it looks. Because despite its billing as a power cruiser (which definitely sounds like something you’d find in Soho of an evening), it rides like something else entirely.
Here’s what you need to know about the most misunderstood bike Ducati makes.
You do notice that rear tyre – but not as much as you’d think
In a world where most litre bikes are running around on rear tyres that measure 190mm across, the Diavel thinks it’s absolutely fine to roll around on 240-section rubber. Undoubtedly the big fat rear tyre is there to look cool and keep the bike’s bulky styling in proportion, but it also serves a purpose. It helps you transmit as much of the steroid-laced 1260cc L-twin’s 159hp and 129Nm of torque to the ground as effortlessly as possible. Combine that fat sticky rubber with the Diavel’s long wheelbase, and you have a motorbike that encourages you to twist for full throttle in first gear.
Do so, and you’ll be rewarded with a blur of acceleration that will leave sportsbike riders feathering their clutches out to avoid flipping. Sure, the Diavel has so much power that it still relies on electronic wheelie control to keep the front end down in first, second and third, but the bike’s physical geometry works in your favour to keep the back tyre firing you at the horizon as efficiently as possible.
Clearly, however, there’s a downside to such chunky rubber. But it’s really not as pronounced as you’d think.
You’d think that it’d make the Diavel more reluctant to turn, but that’s just not the case. Punch the wide handlebars and it drops into turns with about 90% as much attitude as a Ducati Monster. It feels as if Ducati’s engineers have found some magic sauce that overcomes the laws of physics.
The riding position doesn’t curtail your enthusiasm
If we go back to the way the Diavel looks, you’d have to concede that its riding position is pure cruiser. Your arms are stretched forward, and your feet are relaxed on low pegs that place them roughly under your bum. The bike’s xDiavel brother takes your feet further forward for even more tassled-jacket posing.
In normal cruiser land, the Diavel’s relaxed footpeg placement would have you scraping the pegs and/or your feet on every corner in the country, but after two weeks of riding the Diavel I never decked it out once. I’m sure that on a track you’d quickly find the limits of its ground clearance, but on a spirited Sunday ride you won’t be left trailing your sportsbike riding mates or getting a bill from the council to repair the grooves in the road left by your footpegs.
It’s not all perfect though. That handlebar position left my elbows aching after a while, simply because I couldn’t really bend my arms to relax them. On most naked bikes you have the extra room to flap your elbows about to loosen them off while holding the bars, but the Diavel stretches you out a bit too much to make this possible. The width of the bars also means that filtering between queues of traffic takes a bit more forethought than on a narrower bike, but I still had a fantastic commute through miles of stuck cars following another Diavel rider, parting the four-wheeled sea like a pair of thundery Moseses.
For this S version, Ducati has festooned the Diavel with bling Ohlins suspension, which not only looks fantastic but does a good job of taking the harsher edges off bumps in the road. It’s still not a bike that exactly floats over the road, but you no longer feel sledgehammer cracks to your coccyx as you flit over cats-eyes when overtaking. It feels slightly remiss that Ducati hasn’t gone all-out with adaptive suspension – so there’s no on-the-fly electronic adjustment for when you just want to bash out those motorway miles. Any adjustment requires the use of sockets and screwdrivers – oddly old-school on a bike that costs a fiver under £20,000.
What do you get for your money?
Yup, you didn’t misread that – the Diavel 1260S will set you back £19,995 ($23,195 in the US). Of course there’s a non-S version from £16,995 ($20,295) which does without the Ohlins suspension, the fancy seat adorned with a metal Diavel plaque, or the slightly clunky up-and-down quickshifter. The latter is an option on the base bike, and definitely helps rip up through the gears quickly without closing the throttle or touching the clutch lever, but on the way back down through the box without using the clutch it feels oddly brutal, as if you’re snapping twigs with your feet rather than slipping oily gears seamlessly together.
The S also gets blingier brakes, with Brembo’s M50 calipers ripped straight from a 1299 Panigale – they slow and stop the bike with utter confidence. Again, that long wheelbase and low centre of gravity means you can really haul on the lever without worrying about the back wheel leaving the ground. Cornering ABS on both models gives you a safety net for those bum-clenching mid-corner ‘tractor in the road’ moments.
Smartphone pairing is also standard on both models, so you can take and reject calls through your bluetooth headset based on the name that pops up on the bike’s screen.
Why shouldn’t I buy one?
Sure, the Diavel bats away nearly all the negative preconceptions you could have about it just through sheer agility and speed, but Ducati’s gone some way to make it an attractive bike to actually own. The much-feared valve clearance service now only needs to happen every 18,000 miles which means you can rumble three-quarters of the way around the Earth before needing to find a decent chunk of change.
The red outlines to the switchgear are a bit too bright at night – and you're still left guessing what's printed on the switches int he dark
Another fear for potential owners seems to be the cost of replacing that fat rear tyre. But a quick look on that there Internet shows that a Diavel-specific Pirelli Diablo Rosso 2 can be had for about £125 – about £50 less than a rear Supercorsa for the average litre sports bike.
The only flaw in the Diavel’s armour that isn’t related to its shape and size is jerky fuelling in Sports mode which makes the bike genuinely tricky to ride smoothly through 30 limits. It’s fine when you’re pressing on and giving it full gas out of bends, but you’ll kangaroo like a learner when it comes to navigating speed bumps and OAPs with baskets full of shopping. A quick flick into touring mode (close the throttle and the mode changes on the fly) and you’re sorted. But it’d be nice to not have the issue in the first place.
So who’s it for?
The Diavel’s so adept in corners given its shape and size that I’m honestly surprised it’s not badged as a Monster. It’s perfect for anyone who’s after a naked bike that can keep up with their sportsbike mates, but also wants something a bit different. I doubt very much it’ll be anyone’s only bike, and you’d definitely want the touring pack’s screen and panniers to make longer trips bearable.
It’s for riders who want something that’s not a sportsbike, but still has looks, noise and pace to turn heads and put a whacking great smile on their faces.
It’s one of those bikes that’ll raise curious eyebrows from your sportsbike-owning mates, but I guarantee they’ll all want one after having a go.