It’s not often one receives an opportunity to fly halfway around the globe to ride luxury bikes in the equally luxurious California sunshine. Fortunately for me, recent events migrated from dream scenario to real life scenario when Ducati invited 44teeth to the XDiavel international press launch in San Diego.
Let’s get straight down to the nitty gritty – I’m not a traditional fan of cruiser motorcycles. There has always been something about the perception and semi-closed group community of cruisers which bothered me. I didn’t see the appeal in dangling from ape hangers while my tassels oscillate in the breeze. I didn’t like the lack of cornering ability, or the lack of speed, technology, acceleration and liveliness, which I love about motorcycles. I didn’t like to cruise… unless it’s in a gay bar.
This bike has changed everything.
Firstly, it looks like sexual chocolate. The XDiavel S is so deliciously tempting and exciting to look at, it had me at hello. The very first shots had already kickstarted the mental metamorphoses of challenging my preconceptions. That is always a good thing: not just regarding bikes but when something has the ability to break down one’s historic walls of bloody mindedness and glimpse the light on other side. All be it only a slither, the erosion of belligerence has begun.
What I’m saying with all of this wordsmith bullshit is that the XDiavel challenged me, and won.
Let’s get on it. The riding position is intriguingly comfortable actually, even for a lank master such as myself. The forward-slung pegs are my first taste of an alien seating position, where for the first 20 minutes I had to verbally remind myself that the pegs were in front of me. I would often just hang out in no mans’ land before the clever side of my brain eventually won the fight. The seat is like a welcoming leather pouch to nestle one’s buttocks deep inside, everything about it invites you to stay put and not bother with any of the botty sliding antics of more athletic track machines. I like it, in a sort of ‘here you are, now stay still and enjoy it.’
My arms stretch out in front of me to the mid-high bars, of which there are three style options: low, medium and high. From there, one’s eye can’t help but be drawn to more design deliciousness. The switchgear is lifted from the Multistrada, which is a great improvement over older designs and a nod towards future Ducati design direction. The backlit switches are some of the nicest I’ve seen on any bike and, in the case of the XDiavel, the traditional white light has been upgraded to a sumptuously naughty Red Light District glow. This just adds a beautiful touch of class, which this bike is all about.
Moving away from the pretty buttons, the cockpit is clear, excellently designed and spacious with only limited intrusions from dashboard necessities. It almost forces you to focus on the ride ahead and not get too caught up in technicalities.
The technology on this bike is fully loaded. Even for a modern sportsbike, it’s top drawer in terms of options: rider modes, traction control, ABS, LED lighting, cruise control, all abetted by Bosch’s Inertial Measurement Unit… it even has a bloody launch control function. And this is why I like this bike. It’s like Ducati have looked at the past and said, ‘how do we make this better,’ as opposed to the plethora of manufacturers wanting to go retro. It’s refreshingly forward thinking and utterly distinctive.
With the first sniff of throttle application you understand what this bike is built around: an absolute stonker of an engine with Ducati’s DVT trickery. I was not expecting the turn of pace and torque this thing has from down at 5,000rpm in the rev range. It beasts off into the sunset with tractable aggression and a rich yet intelligent soundtrack for company (even with Euro4 restrictions), and it’s a far cry from the smokey belches of air cooled history. The torque peaks at 5k and stays there until 7k – a perfect rev range to devour canyons and twisties. It’s certainly not just a straight-line hero.
The X’s suspension is firm but only aids its handling, and the road surfaces around San Diego weren’t exactly premium. Given its looks, it also steers deceptively fast and needs little encouragement or muscle: hustling the lengthy chassis in and out of corners was a touch tentative at first but I soon got to grips with the traction and quirky sensations of the mahoosive 240-section rear tyre, and I was soon starting to push on. Pulling away and slow speed faffery was initially sketchy, feeling like it would drop away, although you soon learn to trust these quirks and that gargantuan tyre.
It’s got this gorgeous mix of torque-infested corner exit and engine braking-controlled corner entry to stable mid-corner speed. It certainly does not feel like a cruiser any more. Why would it when there’s 150bhp to play with and weighs 100kg less than some of the competition, not to mention all the aids it boasts. It rips about with comfort and sophistication returning a decent fuel economy in the process for the green minded and mangy walleted among us. After a 150-mile ride, which was fairly spirited, I still had 1/4 of a tank left which is not to be sniffed at from the 19ltr tank.
This bike is absolutely about style, that’s from Ducati’s own mouth. However, it’s almost a shame they have gone down that route as it’s way more than that – it’s a brilliant bike. Sure, not everyone is re-enacting T2 Judgement Day, and after a while I got some mild back ache coupled with a little leg strain from holding my knees to the tank, and I’m sure its’ not that fun in the monotone rain of London. But despite that, it’s a gorgeous looking 150bhp torque monster with launch control and a 170-mile tank range. What’s not to like? Ducati have delivered a masterclass with this and I cannot see anyone else knocking this ‘sports’ cruiser off the top spot for a long while, except Ducati themselves.
Engine: The highlight has to be the 1262cc DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) motor that’s been heavily doctored from the Multistrada, and the small fact it’s now belt-driven – VERY unlike Ducati. At 5,000rpm, the DVT motor produces its maximum torque of 128Nm and goes onto produce a claimed 156bhp. The longer stroke motor has a higher compression ratio among other refinements. Another sexual soupçon we like is the hidden coolant hoses, as the water pump is now inside the cases.
Chassis: According to Ducati, the XDiavel has 60 ergonomic configurations via four different peg positions (sporty to full-mince cruiser), five seating options and three handlebar positions. The X features a similar overall chassis to the previous Diavel, with super-sharp geometry numbers at the front to offset the 240-section rear wheel and long wheelbase. 50mm Marzocchis sort the front, while a Sachs shock supports the botty. Brembo M50s adorn the S model.
Electronics: As with the ‘old’ Diavel, there are three riding modes: Sport, Touring and Urban. Electronic highlights on both X models include a Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit and Ducati Power Launch – aka, launch control that’s easily activated via one button on the switchgear.
Jizz Rating: 8/10