Test ride: 2019 Ducati XDiavel

What do you need to know about the $23,395 Ducati XDiavel? Just this: It’s the hairiest-chested bike I’ve ridden in years, it looks like a million bucks, its transmission is awful, and I was stopped by a cop within two minutes of leaving on it from Ducati’s garage. That pretty much covers it. Next!

Oh – you want details?

See all the specs for the 2019 Ducati XDiavel here

The Ducati XDiavel is all business. There’s no doubt this is a cruiser with muscle.

Well, it’s got a hairy chest because it’s the muscle cruiser version of the Diavel 1260. Both bikes now share the same Testastretta DVT 1262 cc L-twin engine, making 154 hp and 95 lbs.-ft. of torque in the X (slightly more in the Diavel 1260). That’s a lot when you’re seated properly with mid-mounted pegs, like on the Diavel, but it seems waaaay more when your legs are propped up on the forward pegs of the XDiavel like a ventriloquist’s dummy. You’re leaving those lights and going into that corner boots-first, clinging to the wide bars for dear life.

There’s traction control and wheelie control and launch control and cornering ABS and three selectable and adjustable Ride modes, and they’re all welcome when you crank that throttle. Which you’ll do a lot, because that’s why you chose this bike.

There are few sensations better than the XDiavel kicking you up the backside as you twist the throttle through a corner. This bike handles very well indeed, as comfortable leaned at 40 degrees as when upright. It gives the same sensation you’d expect from sliding down a skeleton course at the Winter Olympics, feet-first and wide-eyed. If Jon Montgomery’s taking time off from The Amazing Race Canada to read this, please confirm.

Mark tries to look cool as he cruises past the camera, feet first all the way.

The thing is, with most normal bikes when you crack the throttle, the power then surges you forward, pushing on your butt as you hunker down into the bars, squinting into the wind. The feet-forward position of the XDiavel changes that dynamic completely. You feel the surge in your arms and your gut, not evenly through your body. And because the XDiavel is so much more powerful than pretty much any other muscle cruiser, it becomes addictive.

It sounds good, too. Those side-shooting pipes make a lovely crackle right from start-up. You never forget the strength of this bike. It’s like going out for the evening with a professional wrestler, or a body-builder, muscles always rippling underneath the broad shirt. The trouble is that, like such hulks know all too well, there are always challengers wanting to prove themselves. More often than not, because the power is so addictive, the challenger is you.

No outside hoses, no cooling fins – just metal mechanicals filling every spare space there is.

Quite the looker

It definitely looks the body-builder part. The XDiavel is a more naked version of the Diavel 1260, with a slightly lower seat and slightly longer wheelbase. The footpegs can be adjusted to three different settings to accommodate different lengths of inseam. I was surprised to find them quite comfortable. Under that tank and seat, there’s nothing but mechanicals and metal with no space for add-ons – internal passages for the coolant mean there are no hoses on the outside.

The rear tire has an incredibly fat 240 profile, which is wider than the tires on my mother-in-law’s Honda Civic, and runs from a belt drive, not a chain. The rear wheel seems to hang off the end of the Ducati like a hillclimb bike, adding to its visual size, with all its support and brakes on the left side. From the right side, it just sits there behind the pipes, clean and huge.

Of course, there’s not a lot hanging over that rear tire. The passenger seat is one of the smallest I’ve seen his side of a p-pad, and my wife resolutely refused to sit on it. Can’t say as I blame her. A replacement seat is available and so is a small backrest, but the average North American is still never going to fit back there.

You don’t need a key in your hand to start the XDiavel. Like many current Ducatis, it senses the fob in your pocket. Just flip the cover off the start button, push with your thumb, and everything powers up. The indicator switch, however – again like many current Ducatis – is light and electronic, and it’s not obvious that it’s been activated, or even switched off. The TFT instrument screen is clear but fairly small, and when the sun shines on it, it becomes difficult to read.

About that transmission

So then, with the big twin idling menacingly beneath you, you pull in the clutch, lift your left foot and snick down on the gear shifter. Or more likely, stomp down on the gear shifter. The transmission drops into first with all the noise and grace of a Massey-Ferguson-powered ditch digger. Ease off the clutch and move ahead with a little throttle and then, because you need to pause at the lights, snick up on the shifter for Neutral. Except you’ll never find Neutral. You’ll clunk between first and second and back to first until you give up and just hold in the clutch in gear.

This is not a bike for sidling forward, anyway – you’ll want to melt down that rear tire every chance you get. Just as well, considering the transmission really doesn’t like to be below 4,000 rpm. Maximum torque kicks in at 5,000 rpm and maximum power at a much higher 9,500 rpm, but below the magic four grand and you’ll be snatching and coughing against the tarmac. Even worse, drop below 3,000 rpm and the XDiavel will chug like a freight train clunking its carriages together. It’s not a good transmission.

Get the revs up to 5,000 and more, however, and everything is immediately forgiven. I found myself taking the XDiavel for rides in the country for the sheer pleasure of the experience. I cruised in fourth gear, not fifth or sixth, to keep the revs comfortable. Yes, I cracked the throttle and never tired of it; no, I didn’t look at the scenery or smell the stupid roses.

If I owned this bike, I’d buy a beanie helmet and a pair of wrap-around shades, and I’d wear extra woolly sweaters to pump up my torso. I might even resort to the old navy trick of sewing some hair into the inside top of my T-shirt, so people would think I have a chest to match the bike, like Sean Connery or Chuck Norris.

Mark’s still trying to look cool, and ignoring the stupid roses along the way.

Is it worth it?

The price tag of $23,395 is high, but Ducati says it sells just as many of the aesthetically tricked-out XDiavel S at $26,995, so the buyers are apparently there. It’s less money, too, than the $25,295 of the Diavel 1260. Compared to more expensive competition like the lower powered (but torquier) Harley-Davidson FXDR or the less sophisticated Yamaha V-Max, the XDiavel is a bike with its own niche: a beauty to behold and a riot to ride.

If you’re smart, you’ll go for the Diavel 1260 with its better ergonomics, though Ducati claims there are dozens of different configurations for the XDiavel if you want to combine those adjustable pegs with different bars or a different seat from the factory. You’ll always look better on the XDiavel, too.

This is what happens when you trust your GPS to find a bridge…

Oh, and that cop? He just pulled in behind when I stopped to move my phone from my pants to an inside jacket pocket. He wanted a better look and eyed the bike up and down as Manny Pacquiao might do in the ring with Floyd Mayweather. “That’s quite the machine,” he said, and grinned. “I hope you’re not going to take it out of third gear until you’re out of town.”

Third gear? I can do that, especially since I want to keep my licence. Just don’t ask me to put it into neutral.

See all the specs for the 2019 Ducati XDiavel here


  1. It would be interesting to see a head-to-head between this machine and Yamaha’s VMAX, arguably the last two real power cruisers since the demise of H-D’s V-Rod.

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