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Ducati Diavel is devilish fun

March 24, 2011 |  3:01 am

Ducati calls its first-ever muscle bike the Diavel, or devil. A better name might be the Guidata, or wizard, considering its near-magic handling.

There are a lot of things about the Diavel that defy its spec sheet, most notably its long, 62.6-inch wheelbase and fat, 240 millimeter rear tire, the latter of which was designed by Pirelli specifically for the Diavel.

Contoured like a cone, instead of an upside-down bowl like most fat-tired cruisers, Pirelli's Diablo Rosso II helps the bike effortlessly lean into turns at low and high speeds and is largely responsible for making this muscle bike as responsive and flickable as a sport bike.

The engine also helps. The Diavel is powered with the same retuned 1198.4 cc superbike engine as its critic's darling, the Multistrada adventure bike, introduced last year. The Testastretta 11-degree L-twin reduces the overlap from a Ducati sport bike's 41 degrees when the intake and exhaust valves are open to smooth the power delivery while increasing fuel economy and reducing emissions.

And it uses the same ride-by-wire technology as the Multistrada, allowing riders to choose between different ride modes. On the Diavel, those modes are urban, sport and touring, which toggle the horsepower between 100 and 162 and also default to preset traction control settings. Ducati Traction Control and anti-lock brakes are standard on the bike. Both can be turned off.

Torque is an impressive 94 pound-feet, with excellent low-end grunt that doesn't let up even at midrange rpms.

It's all classic Ducati, in terms of performance. But the Diavel also breaks new ground. It's the first Ducati to use low-energy, extra-bright LEDs for its turn signals and tail lights -- a great feature to improve visibility since this bike moves so quickly it's likely to take asleep-at-the-wheel drivers by surprise. It's the first Ducati to use a keyless, push-button start, which I liked except that the clearance for my finger was a bit tight between the button and the digital display mounted just above it.

It's also the first Ducati that doesn't really look like a Ducati. Sure, there's the trellis frame. There's also an exceptionally chubby tank area, the front end of which is sandwiched with V-max-style air scoops and twin radiators. The Diavel's looks take some getting used to.

When Ducati unveiled its latest at the Milan bike show last fall, I was a skeptic. Was Ducati really chasing Harley-Davidson? Now that I've ridden the bike for a long weekend, I'd say Ducati isn't chasing anything but its own racing legacy, which it's tapped to make a first-rate performance cruiser. 

2011 Ducati Diavel

Base price: $16,995

Price as tested: $19,995 (Diablo Carbon)

Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, electronically fuel-injected, Testastretta 11-degree, 1198.4 cc L-twin, 6-speed

Maximum horsepower: 162 at 9,500 rpm

Maximum torque: 94 pound-feet at 8,000 rpm

Wheelbase: 62.6 inches

Seat height: 30.3 inches

Dry weight: 456 pounds

Fuel economy: About 35 mpg

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: 2011 Ducati Diavel. Credit: Ducati North America