First ride: 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 S

MARBELLA, Spain—The original Diavel launched at EICMA in 2010. It was intended to blend elements of sport bike, naked and cruiser into a single entity. A lot has changed since 2010, but that essential concept has not.

Inspired by muscle cars, comic books and high-tech, the Diavel 1260 is styled around the revised trellis frame to be bold and beefy up front, tapering off with a sharp and sleek profile to the rear, accentuated by the large 240mm rear tire.

Part sportbike, part naked bike, part cruiser – does the new Diavel fill all the roles as it should?

The tank is comprised of three kinds of sheet metal, narrowed where it meets to the seat. Both pilot and pillion seating areas have been updated for added comfort. The rider no longer feels like their special bits are squished into the tank and the passenger now gets a slick hideaway grab rail.

The radiator side covers are incorporated into the “light blade” self-cancelling turn signals that not only make for a distinctive visual, but also make the bike more visible. The bike gets full LED lighting for headlights and tail lights, too. The rest of the world gets daytime running lights only on the S model, but Canada gets them for both trim levels.

That engine

The new Diavel 1260 feels like a vastly different beast from its 1,198 cc predecessor for many reasons. Familiar to those who have ridden the XDiavel or Multistrada 1260, the second-generation Diavel features a 1,262 cc Testastretta Desmodromic Valve Timing, or DVT, engine. (DVT means there’s a valve timing adjuster that’s applied on the ends of each of the two camshafts, which allows for the independent operation of both intake and exhaust valves to optimize power delivery from low revs to red line.)

Maximum power is rated as 159 hp at 9,500 rpm elsewhere in the world, but software lowers it to 157 hp at 9,250 rpm in North America to comply with government sound restrictions. Torque is rated at 95 ft-lbs at 7,500 rpm. Power now comes on earlier and is sustained longer in a wider powerband. The water pump has been moved from the side to between the cylinder heads for aesthetic reasons, but also likely so you won’t bang your left shin against it during more aggressive riding.

That fat rear tire really defines the Diavel. Hey – where’s the swingarm? And where are the pipes?

What’s else is new?

The 1260 also gets a new cast single-sided swing arm, new sub-frame and a new suspension setup with increased travel. Oil changes are now extended to every 15,000 kilometres, while service to the DVT system is stretched to every 30,000 kms. This is thanks to changing the valve seat material, improving combustion efficiency and lowering the running temperature of the engine.

“We’ve tripled the distance requirements for the maintenance schedule,” says Ducati North America CEO Jason Chinnock, “Not only does that inspire confidence in the mind of the consumer, but it also improves the ownership experience.”

And there’s more!

The upgraded S version gets Ducati’s Quick Shift Evo (both up and down) as standard equipment to allow clutchless shifting. The system is smooth and effective at removing my slow clutch hand reflexes from the equation. It can also be shut off (or just don’t use it) if you prefer to shift the old fashioned way.

There’s a whole lot of engine packed into that frame. Horsepower is pretty much the same as before, but now it’s more useable.

The Diavel 1260 gets a 50mm front fork and rear monoshock with preload and rebound adjustability, while the 1260 S model gets an Ohlins 48 mm fully adjustable front fork and rear monoshock. It also gets larger M50 Brembo brake calipers squeezing 320 mm discs, and an upgraded seat with a Diavel badge.

The multimedia system is optional on the 1260 and standard equipment on the 1260 S. Both models are available in Sandstone Grey but the “Thrilling Black and Dark Stealth” with a red frame colour combination is exclusive to the S. The Diavel features 14-spoke wheels while the S gets 10-spoke wheels with a machined surface.

The Diavel has a distinctive look from the front, too.

Enough already – how does it ride?

I only had the opportunity to ride the Diavel 1260 S version (outfitted in Sandstone Grey), so can only speak to its riding characteristics. Both have a seat height of 780mm (30.7-inches).

I rode away from the hotel here in Marbella in tight formation with a group of riders, but that didn’t last long. On-ramps were non-existent, so merging onto the highway in morning rush hour traffic immediately separated the group, forcing riders to lane split and weave through traffic to reassemble. While drivers in Spain are famously aggressive, they are also impressively competent. Better yet, they acknowledge motorcycles and some even moved over in the lane to provide additional room to pass.

Our Dustin does his best not to throw the new Diavel S into the ditch on this warm, dry Spanish road. Looking good!

Getting on the throttle to catch up with the group cracked the rear tire loose for a moment before grabbing and sending the 244 kg (538 lb) bike on its way in short order. Introduction of power via the final chain drive is brisk but predictably smooth and seemingly unrelenting via a full Ride-by-Wire system.

Exiting the congested highway, we began to climb gradually into the mountains. The 17-inch rear rim is wrapped in a 240 mm Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tire made exclusively for the Diavel. The moment I made my first wide turn I noticed a vast improvement in handling: the previous model’s front tire had no issue rolling over on its side but the rear did, creating a strange discrepancy between fore and aft. The new chassis combines well with the new tires, allowing the bike a 41-degree lean angle and making it an easier motorcycle to ride.

On the road

I spent most of the ride focused on not colliding head-on with oncoming vehicles or riding off the many steep cliffs we encountered along the route. There are three different Ride modes – Touring, Sport and Urban – and unlike some other bikes I’ve ridden, the various modes can be felt and do actually change the motorcycle’s personality.

Touring mode offers a smoother and more predictable application of power, while the Sport setting is more responsive, aggressive even. Urban mode is more civilized as one would imagine. In addition to adjusting the engine mapping and throttle response, ABS, the intervention of traction control and wheelie settings are also pre-programmed. Each option can also be chosen ad-hoc to create your own individual scenario.

This is what Dustin calls “scraping the pegs”.

The 3.5-inch TFT display offers four different display modes: Default, Track, Full and City. The multimedia system also features Bluetooth capability, allowing the rider to see and manage incoming calls or texts along with music details. A variety of visual display options can also be selected to prioritize information.

All CEOs of motorcycle manufacturers’ say they ride, but I’ve never actually seen proof. Jason Chinnock actually does. He spent the day aboard a Diavel, exploring the countryside and carving canyon roads with us. Afterwards he was only too happy to hang around and chat about the ride, enthusiastically showing off the Diavel’s many new features. For instance, if you change tires, do a swap to a stickier rubber for a track day or change final drive gearing, an electronic tire calibration monitor extrapolates data points such as size, shape and diameter. Performing this calibration uses these data points to adjust tachometer and speedometer, but also electronically optimize the level of ABS and traction control intervention. Pretty cool stuff.

Tackling the twisties

Given that the day’s 200-km ride included blind corners, steep and sustained elevation changes, switchbacks, hairpins and high speed banks at every camber imaginable, my speed varied and constant inputs were required. It was inevitable that I’d end up mid-corner in too high or too low a gear, but it didn’t seem to matter. Not enough time to drop enough cogs before getting deep into a turn? The 1260 S carried on through unfazed without bogging down. Accidently drop too many gears before leaning it over into a bend? Before the back tire could spin a full rotation, the host of techno-nannies intervened on my behalf. The Ducati Traction Control (DTC) system has eight levels, with 1 being the lowest and 8 maximizing grip on low traction surfaces such as wet asphalt.

The Brembo brakes and six-axis Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit constantly monitor and detect bike speed and lean angle, offering three levels of mediation. The first level will allow rear wheel drifts, the second ensures consistency between the front and rear wheels, while the third is calibrated to be the most stable and conservative, intervening when necessary.

And now, Ducati’s own rider shows us how it’s done.

I didn’t attempt to experience the eight-level Wheelie Control (DWC) system that is incorporated into each riding mode, or which can be set separately. Maybe it’s because I’m an upstanding member of society, or perhaps I just didn’t want to flub it and dump one of Ducati’s brand new motorcycles in heavy traffic. Regardless, the system adjusts torque and power in correlation to the level chosen to make you look like a hero. A hero to those who appreciate wheelies. I am not one of those people.

The Ducati Power Launch system (DPL) monitors pitch angle and traction, allowing the rider to maximize acceleration. Once the system is armed and intervention level set, the rider squeezes the clutch in, cracks the throttle wide open, then slowly releases the clutch. Three launches are allowed by the system in a sequence to save clutch wear. If you try to outsmart the system by shutting the bike off and turning it back on, the system reactivates once engine temperature is within an allowable range.

There’s no stopping this guy. He passed Dustin an hour ago.

All of the above can also be accessed, customized, loaded or reset to default settings through the Ducati Link smart phone app. The app also provides maintenance updates and lets riders record and share performance and routes within the Ducatisti community, if that’s your thing.

In the previous model, it felt as though you didn’t have a choice in seating position –  you merely fell into a pocket and anything else felt uncomfortable. Not so with the 1260 S, which offers options. Handlebar and peg placement, combined with the new seat geometry, mean that modifying seating position and adjusting various modes will change the experience altogether.

“Where is that guy? Why can’t I see his brake light yet?”

The Diavel 1260’s exhaust is a two-into-one system featuring a chamber-type body. The sound emanating from the twin tail pipes is muscular but muffled in stock form. Tone at idle is deep but subdued. Wind it up and the engine comes alive, gurgling and crackling when you blip the throttle and downshift. “What separates the Diavel 1260 from its closest competitors,” says Chinnock, “is that…the soul of the Ducati is the engine, and while we have refined it to deliver the best experience for the street we’ve not compromised the performance nor engineered out the soul.”

Is it worth it?

A selection of Sport, Urban and Touring accessories are available at launch which are mostly visual in nature, in addition to the soft-sided saddle bags offered on the previous model.

“I’ll just stay on this road and maybe I’ll catch up with the others if they’ve all stopped for ice cream…”

Dealers will start to see models mid-April. Canadian pricing for the Diavel 1260 starts at $25,295, with the S model coming in at $26,395. Chinook says he expects roughly 65 percent of Diavel buyers in Canada to opt for the S model trim, with the upgraded suspension and seat, bigger brakes, and standard multimedia system and clutchless shifting.

The marketplace is now bursting with naked bikes from every manufacturer, offering consumers a plethora of options. All told, the second-generation Diavel 1260 S is a much more responsive, refined, versatile and forgiving motorcycle. It remains true to the original concept and its predecessor, but makes great advancements to ensure it remains a compelling offer within a competitive segment.

“Ice cream? I spit in your ice cream!”

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