2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S: Diavel at the Crossroads

Text: Jeff Buchanan • Photography: Ducati

When Ducati introduced the Diavel (the name translates to “Devil”) in 2010, the Italian manufacturer broke new ground, entering the somewhat unlikely realm of cruisers. The Diavel was an impressive audition in a world where one manufacturer has enjoyed a virtual stranglehold for some time. The Ducati’s persona and performance helped contribute to the evolution of a new category: the “power cruiser.” The manufacturer continues its commitment to, and faith in, the Diavel, evolving its stature with subtle implications of taking on America and, in equal measure, seducing a cadre of motorcyclists who may not have ever considered putting a Ducati in their garage.

NEW STYLING AND DESIGN ELEMENTS 

The 2019 Diavel—which Ducati refers to as the “second generation”—retains its predecessor’s aesthetics, enhancing the forward-flung design cues of bodywork that render a feel of muscle and movement. The Diavel’s profile is intended to mimic the contours of a sprinter crouched in the blocks, ready to bolt at the sound of the starter’s gun. New radiator side covers incorporate vertical “light blade” technology for turn signals, granting the Diavel high visibility. The reworked Ducati trellis frame, which consists of hefty, large-diameter steel tubes, now works in concert with the engine as a stressed member. The new exhaust system routes discretely to allow the Testastretta engine to take center stage. A two-material seat with a “Diavel” badge adds a stylish touch. 

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE 

In the realm of the “power cruiser,” V-twins reign supreme. However, saddled with a liquid-cooled Testastretta DVT 1262cc L-twin (that’s 77 cubic inches in cruiser speak), the Diavel enjoys a vastly different powerplant protagonist than its peers. The engine has four valves per cylinder, with dual spark and desmodromic variable cam timing, which continuously adjusts both intake and exhaust cams independently, affecting valve length for optimum flow and improving throttle response and performance. The system provides relatively smooth low rpm operation, with seamless transformation into more aggressive and responsive valve openings when the throttle is rolled on. The end result is a healthy 157 hp at 9,250 rpm, producing 129 Nm/95.1 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm. In an affront to the cruiser mandate of the exhaust system taking precedence, the Diavel’s stainless steel header pipes snake down almost invisibly through the bike, coming together into a two-into-one configuration and ending in a compact dual exhaust. The bulk of the muffler (always a design flow disruptor) is contained underneath, near the rear wheel, where it doesn’t impose on the design flow. Side-mounted radiators have been replaced by a single center-mounted unit. 

Six-speed transmission with straight-cut gears delivers seamless shifts, assisted by a slipper clutch that virtually eliminates any rear wheel hop, even under aggressive downshifts. The S model enjoys a nicety in the form of the Ducati Quick Shift, which allows clutchless upshifts and downshifts. The system works flawlessly, granting the big Diavel a sportbikelike character when livening things up in the twists and turns, where the gearbox is likely to get a workout. Final drive is chain. 

The Diavel has an expanding group of electronic riding aides aside from just the ride and power modes (Sport, Touring, Urban). A six-axis Bosch Cornering ABS system distributes influence between front and rear brakes as it calibrates lean angle, while traction and wheelie control add a further degree of safety. With shades of MotoGP, the Diavel has adjustable launch control, which allows full throttle starts by monitoring pitch angle and controlling throttle aperture on clutch release to allow for a quick—yet safe—start. For cruising, the Diavel is equipped with cruise control. 

Ducati is making an effort to quash the somewhat unfounded assumption that the desmodromic engines require a great deal of maintenance. To assuage that perception, the service intervals have been extended, with oil service now recommended at 15,000 km/9,000 miles and valve timing adjustment extended to 30,000 km/18,000 miles. This has been achieved by the use of special materials for valve seats that improve combustion efficiency while reducing operating temperature. 

FRAME, SUSPENSION, WHEELS, AND BRAKES 

The new steel tubular trellis frame has been dramatically shortened and works with the Testastretta engine as a load-bearing element, attached at the cylinder heads. Forged aluminum plates attach the die-cast aluminum single-sided swingarm to the engine at the rear. The cast rear frame section bolts to the top of the engine. The Diavel has a 63-inch wheelbase with a rake of 27 degrees and trail of 4.7 inches. To round off the essential dimensions, seat height is 30.7 inches and wet weight is 538 lbs. 

The S model employs Öhlins suspension units, with fully adjustable 48mm front forks and a rear mono-shock in laid-down mount. Continuing the lineage of top-tier components, the Diavel enjoys Brembo brake units, with M50 monobloc calipers mated to dual 320mm semifloating discs, to give the Diavel a beefy, all-business look up front. A single 265mm disc and two-piston Brembo floating caliper handles the back end. New 17-inch light alloy cast wheels sport a 10-spoke design, machine-finished to a distinctive appearance. The Diavel’s signature massive 240mm rear tire sits on an 8-inch wide rim. 

HANDLING AND RIDABILITY 

The Diavel possesses an impressive mix of cruiser and sportbike with regard to its ergonomics. The mid-mount footpegs, low seat, and relatively tall handlebar positioning provide a semicomfortable cruiser seating while offering an aggressive, upright stance to tackle challenging riding situations. 

On the test ride, a 30-km rip on the main freeway in Marbella, Spain, confirmed the Diavel’s merit as a comfortable cruiser. The big 1260 V-twin offers versatility in terms of high gear/low revs motoring, or stepped up, spirited riding, competing easily with the Spanish commuters who tend to regard posted speed limits as more of a “suggestion” than law. The sound and feel of the 1260 Testastretta engine gives one the impression of a ’70s muscle car, with a stirring rumble and throatiness. 

Detouring off the freeway, leaving the city behind and heading into the mountains of southern Spain offered an engaging, high-speed series of sweepers that wound their way to the mountaintop city of Ronda. The route provided a decent test bed for the Diavel’s sportiness, and the bike traversed the racetracklike left-hand and right-hand sweepers with surprising agility. Despite the massive footprint of the rear tire, the Diavel doesn’t need a lot of coaxing into corners, exhibiting effortless, intuitive turn-in with a planted feel and stable manners in turns. The Diavel responds to a variety of riding styles; whether it be aggressive trail-braking and a flick at apex to get it turned, or rounding out corners, the bike is pleasantly at home. A carryover from Ducati’s sportbikes is the Diavel’s forgiving nature when getting into a corner a little too hot: The powerful brake components do their job superlatively without any tendency to want to stand the bike up. 

As the road to Ronda transitioned to tighter, more technical sections, the Diavel demonstrated equal aplomb and, despite its long wheelbase, revealed surprising nimbleness, with an especially impressive ability at directional changes. Plenty of ground clearance has been engineered into the Diavel, allowing for serious lean angle without concern of anything touching down. The real strong suit of the Diavel is the sheer drive of the 1260, which feels as though the throttle is wired directly to the massive footprint of the 240mm rear tire. These are the attributes that have earned the bike status as a power cruiser. 

The Diavel is graced with a number of nice touches, including full LED lighting system, backlit handlebar controls, and a hide-away passenger grab bar that cleverly retracts into the widened seat to maintain the sleek lines. The 3.5-inch TFT dash screen packs a great deal of pertinent information into a small piece of real estate, providing easy visibility day or night. The multimedia system is Ducati Link App ready, allowing riders to record their routes and performance to share with others in the Diavel community. 

THE BOTTOM LINE 

The 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S is a pleasant mix of genres: a naked upright with large cruiser presence that possesses uncanny sportiness and alluring curb appeal. Perhaps most impressive is that the Diavel tears down the predispositions about cruisers—a category often ruled by “older enthusiasts”—appealing to a wide spectrum of riders and riding preferences. An optional Touring Pack consists of semirigid expandable panniers, a slightly taller windscreen, heated grips, and a passenger backrest. However, for the Diavel to be a true American cruiser/tourer, it would benefit from hard sidebags tastefully integrated into the bike’s gorgeous bodywork. The ergonomics of the Diavel provide a combination of sportiness with a relatively comfortable cruiser attitude. However, the forward lean/bent back positioning may cause lower back stress over a long day in the saddle. 

Naturally, being a Ducati, the Diavel is blessed with the company’s illustrious DNA, gifting the Diavel with an enthralling combination of technical sophistication and raw muscle, resulting in a refined and unique offering in the big displacement power cruiser category. The 1260 S is available in Sandstone Grey and Total Black (with red frame). All said, as the Diavel continues to gain ground in the cruiser segment—earning increased acceptability—it is certain to garner increasing numbers of Diavelisti.