Powerful, muscular and unmistakably Ducati, the 2021 Ducati Diavel 1260 is an imposing machine. Originally launched in 2011 after debuting at EICMA the previous year, this year’s Diavel is the third generation of the performance cruiser.
In our opinion, the Ducati Diavel is a devilishly good looking motorcycle. Seemingly modelled on Cerberus, the Diavel angrily lunges forward, brimming with muscle and wrapping its imposing physique around the front-end. But did the bite match the bark of this hound from hell? Let’s find out…
Ducati uses words like ‘maxi-naked’, ‘performance cruiser’ and ‘muscle cruiser’ to define the characteristics of the Diavel. Whatever buzzwords ultimately made the cut, in reality the Diavel is an impressive bike with performance to match.
Powered by Ducati’s Testastretta 1,262cc L-Twin engine, the 2021 Ducati Diavel 1260 puts out an impressive 159 hp (117 kW) at 9500 RPM, and 129 Nm of peak torque at 7500 RPM. I don’t know too many cruisers that rev as hard as the Diavel. Even the Rocket 3 – arguably the Diavel’s closest rival – doesn’t rev as hard, reaching peak power at a much lower 6000 RPM.
But the Diavel is not only defined by its substantial engine. As a company renowned for putting just as much emphasis on form as function, Ducati have again reached into their bag of tricks and managed to design a bike that looks instantly familiar yet nothing like anything else on the market, all at the same time.
The 2021 Ducati Diavel 1260 is a weapon. Always eager and up for a twist of the throttle, it’s a bike that loves to rev and live on the edge. Cerberus is angry and he wants his fricken bone!
When you give the Diavel what it wants, you’re rewarded with incredible acceleration and exceptional handling. Despite its imposing physique, the Diavel feels incredibly light. Sure it takes a little bit of effort to tip in, but once it does, it holds a corner very well and powers out with ease.
I wouldn’t classify the Diavel as a cruiser in any way, shape or form. In my opinion, it’s a sports bike, or in Ducati’s marketing terms, a ‘maxi-naked’. The Diavel isn’t happy below 4000 RPM, and above this rev range you’ll find yourself doing over 70 km/h in third and more than 100 km/h in fourth, meaning it’s just not practical around town.
So what happens when you starve the beast? It’s certainly not a happy chappy. In second, third and to a lesser extent fourth, the Diavel tends to surge, providing an unstable cruising speed between 3000 and 4000 RPM. After discussing this with Ducati’s Technical Team here in Sydney, they confirmed that this is caused by cycling of the exhaust valve and seems to be at that sweet spot where the valve starts to operate by opening and closing. Unfortunately, at this rev range in third it’s bang on the cruising speed of 60 km/h for urban areas. Sure, you can drop it down to second, but then it just sounds like you’re constantly in the wrong gear.
Playing with the rider modes seems to settle this down a little, with ‘Urban’ (unsurprisingly) being the best mode around town. The characteristic is still there, however it’s not as pronounced as it is in ‘Touring’ and ‘Sport’, where the issue gets progressively worse.
It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but based on this characteristic, I wouldn’t buy the Diavel if you’re mostly looking at it as an urban cruiser or weekday commuter.
However, if you’re wanting to do some more spirited riding in comfort and style, then the Diavel is a perfect option. Wickedly fast, incredibly nimble despite its size and geometry, and with a soundtrack that’s pure Ducati – when the roads get faster and the corners tighter, you’ll be grateful you’re riding the Diavel.
I was very impressed with the overall comfort of the Diavel 1260. After spending the best part of a day on the bike blasting through city streets, tight country B roads, a mountain pass and even 150 km of highway, I was left feeling fine at day’s end. Understandably, not quite sports touring fine, but fine nonetheless.
The suspension package is a little on the softer side. The rear, in particular, can be a little bouncy but this is an issue that you’ll predominately notice around town and thankfully not when pushing hard through corners. The fork can dive a little under very heavy and aggressive braking, however this is another minor nitpick on an overall competent suspension set-up.
Both the front and rear brakes are very good, particularly the front, where the dual 320 mm discs and Brembo M4 monobloc calipers provide more than enough bite to bring the Diavel under control. That said, braking is one of only two major gripes I have with the Diavel 1260. The positioning of the rear brake foot lever is borderline ridiculous. For a performance cruiser with mid-mount controls, you don’t expect the lever to be positioned as low as it is. Every time I tried to engage the rear brake, I was concerned that I would snap my Achilles, such is the angle my foot had to adopt. I later found out that there was some air in the brake line that was adding sponginess to the lever, exacerbating the issue. Whilst this obviously didn’t help, and even with the lever adjusted to its maximum height, the lever still needs to be raised a good 25-50 mm to improve comfort.
As with most Ducatis, the clutch has a relatively small friction zone. Given its almost on/off nature, it’s something you need to get used to lest you stall or rev the Christ out of it. It’s a nonissue, just something you need to work with.
The other thing I was really impressed with was the way in which the Diavel dissipates air over and away from the rider. For a naked bike, the air over the rider is exceptionally clean with no buffeting at all. As someone who often rides naked bikes, I’m quite used to being knocked about by the wind. However, the Diavel provided a really comfortable cockpit that made it easy to sit in the saddle for long periods of time.
Ducati seems incapable of designing anything other than gorgeous motorcycles – even the Paso 906 of the early 90s had its good points. Whilst I jokingly mock the marketing buzzwords used to categorise the Diavel, they’re not without substance.
From the front, the Diavel is seriously imposing. The large intake vents and radiator draw a silhouette that could easily be mistaken for a wild animal, brimming with muscle and power. The side profile is no less intimidating, with all its mass thrust forward over the front end, and a floating saddle that seems to curl upwards like the tail of a scorpion. Animal similes aside, this is one hell of an aggressively styled motorcycle.
As you would expect from a muscle cruiser, the colour palette on the Diavel is somewhat muted. Unlike the Diavel 1260 S that’s available in bright Ducati Red and the new Black and Steel colourway, the standard bike is available only in Dark Stealth Black for 2021. But you won’t hear any complaints from me.
The single-sided swingarm is a nice feature and perfectly frames the massive 240/45 ZR17 tyre. The double-barrel end can is also a strong feature, with Ducati doing a good job of hiding that massive muffler under the bike as they fall inline with Euro-5 restrictions.
- Styling – the powerful and aggressive design is stunning
- Incredibly comfortable, even over longer rides
- Even with a stock exhaust, the Testastretta L-Twin sounds brilliant
- Surging between 3000 and 4000 RPM
- Rear brake lever position is way too low and can’t be adjusted further than it needs to be
- Suspension a little on the softer side, with the front-end prone to dive a little
I wanted to love the 2021 Ducati Diavel 1260. Subjectively, it’s my perfect bike. Dark and powerful with brutish good looks and an exhaust note worth lusting over, it’s a bike made for desktop wallpapers.
Objectively, I struggled a little with the Diavel. It’s far too aggressive to be a cruiser, yet too comfortable and substantial to be a sports bike. It’s undoubtedly a weapon of a bike, but sadly it’s a weapon without a fight.
The biggest issue by far with the Diavel is marketing. It’s not a performance cruiser, nor is it a muscle cruiser. In fact let’s just stop calling it a cruiser altogether. If maxi-naked didn’t conjure up images of a feminine hygiene product, this would be a much more fitting term. It’s an aggressive naked bike with oodles of character and plenty of power. And while I might not love it, I can’t help but like it.
2021 Ducati Diavel 1260 Specs/Features:
- Engine displacement: 1262cc
- Power: 159 hp (117 kW) at 9500 RPM
- Torque: 129 Nm at 7500 RPM
- Engine type: Ducati Testastretta DVT 1262, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder, Dual Spark, liquid cooled
- Clutch: slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control
- Gearbox: 6-speed
- Final drive: chain
- Fork: 50 mm adjustable USD fork
- Suspension: monoshock, preload and rebound adjustable, aluminium casted single-sided swingarm
- Front brake: dual 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc 4-piston M4.32 calipers, PR18/19 radial master cylinder
- Rear brake: single 265 mm disc, 2-piston Brembo floating caliper
- Wheels: 17 inch front and rear with Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres as standard
- Weight: 244 kg (wet)
- Fuel tank: 17 litres
- Seat height: 780 mm
- Ride-by-wire throttle
- Cornering ABS, traction and wheelie control as standard
- 3.5″ TFT colour display
- Cruise control, Ducati Power Launch Evo (DPL), backlit handlebar switches and self-cancelling turn indicators
- LED lighting all round
- Riding modes: Urban, Touring and Sport – all fully configurable
- Price as tested: $30,290 AUD (ride away – based on postcode 2000)
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