Ducati Hottie Pontificates on the Diavel
by DeLacey Melehes
Photo: Ducati USA
Every day I wake up, look in the mirror, and say to myself “It’s not a bad gig, this being a girl thing.” We get to wear frilly and sweet smelling stuff, we get to wear dresses; which unless you’ve had the displeasure of sweating down in jeans 105 degree heat, you will know wearing a dress is a delight. We rarely, if ever have to buy drinks. Plus we get to go around with these lovely bits wobbling under our shirts.
In spite of my inherent and very obvious femininity, I am a motorcycle rider. I grew my cutting teeth on the backs of late 60’s and early 70’s era Triumph Cubs, Tigers, and Bonnevilles. High school saw me railing the forests behind our home on every shade of dirt bike, three and four wheeler. My adult life has had me on monster multi sport bikes so big and so tall my feet would not come close to touching the ground when I came to a stop, I have flat-tracked, I have hours on a road course sweating and shaking with adrenaline on the tarmac. There are very few things with two wheels that intimidate me. I ride like a fiend on fire.
While reading the earliest reports of the Ducati Diavel, I thought that’s cute. it’s an Italian word for Devil and when I lived in that area of Italy the locals would call me Diavela- she-devil, so I thought this machine and I would instantly have a rapport. That I would want to pinch it’s pretty Ducati cheeks and toodle around town on it for an hour or two.
Not so. When I came to view this savage in the flesh I was instantly taken aback. Snub-nosed, flat-assed, low slung: you could launch salvos of mortars from those twin stacked and sawed off pipes. Odd front rake reflected in the angled headlight assemblage. That rear Pirelli, wide and unwieldy, looked like it belonged on something coming out of a custom chopper garage. The gigantic swingarm just looks heavy. I wanted to cry, spit, keen and tear my hair. I am a loyal and rabid Ducatisti, how could they do this to me? I recoiled with horror, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the styling, and this is a girl who ran a Ducati 999; wildly considered an aesthetic failure coming from the Ducati design team for years. Yes the trellis frame was obvious, but that seemed less of a hallmark, and more of a concession to me, an obsessed rider of Ducati.
Is it a cruiser? Is it a sportbike? Is it a naked street fighter? My mind searched for an answer so I could make sense of this seemingly bizarre machine. The answer isn’t obvious from first glance. All you have to know is this: it has a ginormous 1200 cc motor cranking out 162 flawless Italian thoroughbred horses. Ducati has been reticent about labeling their latest offering in any motorcycle sub strata, preferring rather to say they are introducing it as its own class, it can’t be labeled, and baby, they’re right. There is literally nothing like it on the road. Leave it to the design team at Ducati. People are talking, and talking loud. It’s unusual appearance brings a lot of attention to the brand, and like the 999, I expect this machine will take its place in the pantheon of cult brand worshippers. People aren’t whispering about this bike, they’re screaming. I walked around it, took a few pictures and went home, still thinking about it.
And I was still thinking about it three days later when the owner of the Ducati shop in North Austin personally invited me to my own “however long you want” test drive of the Diavel who shocked me on the showroom floor. “Let me see if I can drum up some leathers.” I said stalling. “ Oh no honey, we have them here for you.” So now I’m obligated.
I’m one of those riders who always feels a little nervous when pulling up to a group. So there they were, the entire dealership team standing outside next to the freshly washed Diavel buffed up for display and my approval. Thanks guys. I clicked the helmet shut, and slung my leg over. Oddly enough at 5’6 I could touch the ground with both feet. The ergonomics are neutral, my feet are in an entirely sane angle from my knees, I am upright and my back is relaxed, my arms square. So far so good. This is a welcome change for a girl used to riding with her knees around her ears and her chest on the tank. I fumbled around a bit for the ignition, toed up the kickstand and…promptly killed it right there in front of everyone.
After a round of yells from the boys and a few minutes of blood running to my face in the form of a blush under my helmet, I loped it into first, the Diavel roared to life, and rocketed me across the parking lot. All those years of skiing came in handy because I literally had to grip the tank with my thighs for dear life. Onto the open freeway we go, the Diavel singing under the throttle, hit second, powerband revs effortlessly I feel that wide tire whirring behind me, third…big smile, fourth…here we go…fifth…I’m at 105 like it’s nothing, no shimmy, no whine, the bike still has a lot to give, sixth and we’re flying. More than I can explore on a public interstate in the middle of the day. That Testastretta 11 desmodromic signature L-twin four valve engine mill roaring like a three eyed tiger beneath me.
I take it into our famed hills, hairpin corners, and quick stops. It’s flickable, unbelievably light, even as a 155 pound girl, I don’t have to push or muscle it around. That fat Pirelli? A blessing on the hairpins, so easily does it roll, I take it into a deep lean, countersteering, pushing that handlebar deep to the side. The Diavel dips into a blistering arc, if I just dropped my knee I would be dragging it on this behemoth right here in downtown Austin. I would never expect that from a bike like this. It’s light, about 500 pounds with fuel and oil which brings it close to the 650 cc vintage bike I currently ride and hundreds of pounds lighter than its competitors if there are any at this point. Can you say weight to power ratio? With little me in the pilot’s seat, this thing is nothing short of a rocket on two wheels.
The powerband is broad, forgiving. Dare I say sporty and smooth. It does not lurch, it does not jar. There is no delay in the power delivery. It comes preprogrammed with three mapping modes engaged by tapping the turn signal toggle: Urban, sport and touring and each dovetail nicely with the predictable amount of preprogrammed traction control. Keep mine on sport please, and when I twist the throttle I will be gripping with my thighs thank you. The acceleration is vicious. Lesser riders could easily find themselves flat on their backs if they give it too much twist. I round a tight bend into a gaggle of high school kids darting across the road. I lean on the brakes. Hard. The monoblock four-piston Brembo brakes clasp as gracefully as a preacher’s hands at prayer time. The tires grip on smoldering pavement gracefully Crisis averted.
Those cannon shooter pipes? Delivering that Kathleen Turner as Jessica Rabbit if Jessica Rabbit were Italian, smoked Capri cigarettes and drank jet fuel. A nice low rumble not obscured by a raking and clanking dry clutch but a nice, wet slipper clutch making gear changes effortless and sexy and an old fashioned chain drive, just how I like ‘em. Gauges are clear and legible and make sense, and the styling? Let’s just say when I stopped for directions back to the freeway the eyes were popping out of heads. I would like to flatter myself and say it was me, but I’m painfully aware it wasn’t.
But after four unfettered, devilish, felonious hours astride this borrowed bike the time came when I had to return him to his rightful owner. I walked around him one last time, saw the same angles, the same snub nose, the same odd rake, drew my hand across the tank, caressed its curious headlight and yet everything had changed. I had fallen in love. At just shy of $20,000 it will be years before this lover will be mine. But believe me people, it’s worth the wait.