Ducati Diavel 1260 S review 2019 launch road test

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

Whenever I review a motorcycle, I consider its potential market – is it intended for a sports-biker, someone who wants a naked street bike, or maybe a laid-back cruiser rider? The Diavel though, since its unveiling in 2010, was never quite so simple. Why? Because it’s been designed to appeal to each of those niches. And the new for 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 makes life even harder….

 

The red-framed paint scheme is only available on the S model

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 price

There are two versions of the new Diavel available – the 1260 and the 1260 S; both are extremely highly specified, but the S (the version we rode on the launch) has the most premium parts…

 

Diavel 1260

Diavel 1260S

Forks

50mm fully-adjustable Marzocchi

48mm fully adjustable Öhlins

Shock

Marzocchi, preload and rebound adjustable

Öhlins, fully adjustable

Front brake

Brembo M4.32 monobloc calipers & PR18/19 radial master cylinder

Brembo M50 monobloc calipers & PR16/19 radial master cylinder

 

 

 

Quick-shifter

Optional

Standard

Headlight

Full LED

Full LED with daytime running light

Wheels

Cast alloy

Cast and machined alloy

Seat

Standard

Premium with Diavel badge

Ducati multimedia system

Optional

Standard

Colours

Standstone Grey

Standstone Grey or Thrilling black/Dark stealth with red frame

Price

£16,795

£19,985

 

It’s an expensive bike, but it’s also a premium-quality bike. Details like the elegant steel tank, the brushed aluminium side panels and the cast pull-out pillion grab rail – not to mention the stunning single-sided swing-arm – all go towards making this machine something truly special.

 

Power and torque

Compare the specs to those given for the previous machine and power and torque appear to have dropped. However, Ducati’s Diavel Product Manager, Stefano Tarabusi, told me that the way Ducati now declares its performance figures has changed, meaning that previous claimed figures were measured in such a way that gave higher numbers. Comparing like for like, Ducati says that, at 157bhp @ 9,500rpm, the 1260 makes 7bhp more peak power than the outgoing model, 250rpm later in the rev range.

Peak torque is also said to be up – by 4.4lb-ft – 500rpm earlier, at 95lb-ft @ 7,500rpm.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

Power and torque are both up, but it’s the impressive low-end torque that really makes the difference

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

What really matters with those performance figures is how they’re delivered; thanks to DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing), power is stronger right through the revs (bar a slight dip at around 8,500rpm), as is torque. But below 7,500rpm, the torque curve really is significantly higher, which on the road means that from around 2,500rpm the Diavel just pulls and pulls. And it doesn’t stop pulling until you bounce off the rev limiter just before 10,000rpm.

DVT works by constantly adjusting the inlet and exhaust valve timing throughout the rev range – putting it simply, the cams are rotated through an oil-filled actuator; the amount of oil inside determines the offset of the cam relative to the belt-driven gear. A small overlap in the time the inlet and exhaust valves are open optimises the torque for low revs while keeping the massive V-twin engine as smooth as possible. But as the revs build, the overlap increases, allowing more torque to be made as the engine naturally runs more smoothly due to its faster firing rate. Before DVT, big engine Ducatis were generally tuned either for smooth low-down torque, or peak high-rev performance. One or the other. Not both.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

The DVT system uses oil to move the central section relative to the outer

 

DVT is actually a surprisingly simple mechanical solution to an extremely complex challenge, and unlike some other variable timing systems, you really aren’t aware of it working. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t make the valve adjustments (carried out every 18,500miles) any more complicated.

Desmodromic valves are a Ducati system that eliminates valve springs in favour of an arm to lift the valve, and another to push it back down. It takes a little more skill in adjusting, but it’s proven very reliable.

The S model we rode on the launch comes with an up and down quick-shifter as standard. At first, on the bike I rode (which had covered 600miles), I found it less smooth than I expected, but over the day I got used to it, and found that – as long as you’re positive with your changes – it’s pretty seamless. Expecting a big twin to change as smoothly as a racey inline four is a bit much, but the clunk into gear and the false neutral I found on my first clutchless downshift took me by surprise. However, under load, on dry, fast roads, it’s a pleasure.

 

 

The roads were neither dry nor fast during the first hour or so of our test ride – heavy rain and greasy tarmac on the way to Ronda from Marbella meant I rode slowly and nervously. And that’s not easy on the new Diavel 1260…

The engine has three preset riding modes – Sport (full power and the most direct throttle response), Touring (full power and a smoother response), and Urban (100bhp). Even in the lowest mode though, riding the very edge of the throttle between on and off makes for a really jerky ride. It’s not much of a surprise on a 1,262cc V-twin, but it’s more noticeable than on some other similarly engined machines. When the pace picks up, it’s not an issue, but in heavy traffic or on tricky surfaces it’s hard work.

For most people on most rides, Touring will be the mode of choice, but if you really want to enjoy everything this Ducati has, go for Sport. Either way, this thing wants to spin the back wheel – it’s easy in first gear, and in second it won’t take much to light it up. But don’t let that intimidate you – the traction control is seamless and unobtrusive; while it’s not something I usually try to do, when I did get a little more over-enthusiastic with the throttle, I could feel and hear the rear wheel lose grip, but never once felt like things could go wrong. And a split second later, when everything was brought back under control, it was done without that sudden cutting of power that some less refined systems can deliver.

Everything you do on the Diavel is accompanied by a gorgeous exhaust note – forget the idea of Euro 4 strangling noise levels… this thing barks appropriately. It’s not offensive, but it’s the perfect communication of the machine’s intention.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

The buttons are backlit, though not the text

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 economy

Ducati says the Diavel will return 52mpg, which given the 17 litre fuel tank would see 192 miles before running dry. I’m far from the most efficient rider, and given the very stop-start and fast nature of a launch, it’s not that surprising that I only got 37mpg (a range of 137 miles).

To be fair to Ducati, at the end of the launch I also had a look at another journalist’s bike, which showed an impressive 48mpg – 178 miles to empty (and they were not dawdling). Realistically, expect to ride about 150-160 miles before looking for fuel; not bad, given the performance.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Besides the choppy throttle take up, the new Diavel 1260’s smooth and easy – if blindingly powerful – all the way through the revs, so it’s not a hard bike to ride. It also doesn’t want to lift the front wheel like the similarly performing Yamaha MT-10. With a 1600mm wheelbase (10mm more than the previous model), it’s a full 200mm longer than the Yamaha; it’s more of a drag bike, hence the eagerness to spin and reluctance to wheelie.

The rake has been reduced by one degree, and trail by 10mm, so while longer than the outgoing Diavel, it handles incredibly well – despite the massive 240mm rear Diablo Rosso III developed specially by Pirelli (which holds heat and grips very well, even in cold, wet conditions). It’s not flickably fast turning like a sports-bike, but it still changes direction very quickly and easily; this thing does not handle like a cruiser.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

Occasionally I was mildly aware of the big rear tyre, the bike just feeling fractionally awkward as I dropped it in, but it’s always extremely confidence-inspiring and wickedly enjoyable. It’ll roll into a corner, hold its line perfectly, then drive ridiculously fast out of it.

The engine is a stressed member of the tubular steel trellis frame and cast sub-frame, while the swing-arm is an all-new, huge cast single-sided unit. The shock now sits along the top of the swing-arm, moving from its previous position underneath; that’s to make room for the exhaust, which now runs entirely under the bike, with the collector hidden well away, and just a short pair of pipes exiting on the right. There is of course a race Termignoni system available as an option – with no catalytic converter it’ll be lighter, and loud as hell.

At 244kg ready to ride, the 1260 is 5kg heavier than the old Diavel. You’re aware of the weight, but it’s a low bike, so easily manageable, even when turning it around in the road, thanks to the pretty good turning circle.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

The optional luggage replaces the retracting rear grab rail

 

An optional set of semi-hard textile panniers are available as an option – these come with a short backrest that incorporates the usually vertical pair of LED stop/tail lights into one horizontal one (thanks to the brackets bolting in their place), which also of course eliminates the neat pull-out grab rail that’s usually tucked under the seat. The maximum payload is 440kg, giving a pretty good carrying capacity of 196kg, including rider and pillion. For my wife and I, that would mean we could carry up to 54kg of luggage.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 Brakes

The S model has high-spec Brembo M50 monobloc calipers up front, with a PR16/19 radial master cylinder, while the standard model has M4.32 monobloc calipers and a PR18/19 radial master cylinder. Fancy sounding titles, but both are high spec four-piston calipers machined from a single casting, with a master cylinder that has its force applied directly to the piston by the lever, rather than obliquely, like on a standard master cylinder.

On the S, the brakes are strong, without any aggressive initial bite – if anything, I was surprised how much travel there was before the anchors really came on hard, but it means no sudden diving under normal braking. I’d wager that the standard bike’s brakes feel very similar.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

Cornering ABS come on both machines – something I really think should be embraced. Motorcycle ABS doesn’t work by letting off the brakes as the traction is lost – it works by reducing pressure when the system decides it’s just about to happen. That’s why there are good and not so good systems out there. Cornering ABS allows you to brake as hard as possible with the front, as the technology will take into account the changing rolling radius of the tyres as you lean; you can come to a complete standstill without washing the front out if the need arises. It takes some reprogramming of your mind though – most riders will still run wide in a corner, fearing a front-end tuck.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

The collector is tucked under the swing-arm for a short-looking exhaust

 

Comfort over distance and touring

The Diavel is said to be a ‘medium range tourer’. While the seat’s big for both the rider and pillion, the grab rail that neatly slides out of the tail is low and set back, so is more of a handy (and legislation meeting) bonus. If you intend to take a pillion a lot, the optional back rest will likely be worth having.

I get an achy bum pretty quickly, and did find a couple of points during the 140mile ride at which I wanted to shuffle around on the Diavel, but the wide seat does accommodate most bum-cheeks well. Nobody else on the launch seemed to have any discomfort.

If you want to climb all over the bike like it’s a sports machine, that big wide seat makes it harder to shuffle over the side, but it is low, at 780mm. Despite being wide, I could get my 32” inside legs down easily, which really inspires confidence.

 

This is the standard Diavel 1260 compared to the 2018 model – look at the way the exhaust downpipes are now tucked under the engine

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

Both the standard and the S models are very highly specified:

  • Cornering ABS
  • Cornering Traction Control
  • Wheelie Control
  • Anti rear-wheel lift
  • Launch control
  • Self-cancelling indicators (linked to Inertial Measurement Unit)
  • Cruise control
  • Keyless ignition
  • Backlit handlebar switchgear (only the surround of the buttons – the lettering isn’t backlit)
  • 3.5” TFT dash with three display options that also reverses out in the dark

 

The S model also gets the following:

  • Up and down quick-shifter (optional on the standard bike)
  • Ducati multimedia system to see texts and calls from your phone, as well as what music you’re playing to your own intercom (optional on the standard bike)
  • Daytime running light in distinctive upside-down horseshoe style

 

Impressively, the electronics really are unobtrusive – at no point do you feel you’re being mollycoddled. Coupled with the fact that high-end solid-state control systems are proving extremely reliable, why would you not want the safety-net of the best traction control and ABS?

All of the rider aids can be adjusted, generally from one to eight, for maximum intervention. Traction control can be disabled, but the ABS can’t. However, level one of the ABS only works on the front – the rear can be locked and cornering ABS is disabled, as is the rear lift mitigation. None of the three standard rider modes use level one as it’s said to be ‘for professional riders’.

You’ll also find some storage space under the seat – just enough for a small disc lock, and you’ll also find a DIN power socket. There’s more space under there than in many other bikes now.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

The X-Diavel has feet-forward controls

 

How is it different to the X-Diavel

With the same engine (but a slightly higher price), it’d be easy to get confused between the two motorcycles, especially as the X-DIavel only makes fractionally less power and torque. But they are different bikes – the X has feet-forward controls that transform it into a much more laid-back style of machine to ride. Just with a ludicrously powerful engine.

The Diavel is the sportier bike.

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 verdict

The Diavel 1260 is a compromise. If you want a true cruiser, this thing is just too aggressive; it’s not stressful, but it’s not a relaxing, kicked-back ride.

If you want a naked street bike, this is heavier and less nimble than, say, the lunatic Yamaha MT-10.

And if you want a sports-bike, this just isn’t quite agile enough. It’ll embarrass pretty much anything out there, but if you want to take to the track on a V4 Panigale, this will leave you wanting.

My dream garage has a Harley Forty-Eight, an MT-10 and a Panigale. The Diavel 1260 can’t replace all of them, but what it can do is give you a taste of everything in one bike. It’s not quite all things to all riders, but it’s damned close.

It’s a unique machine, and it’s undeniably epic to ride. I think my dream garage needs an extra space…

 

Three things I loved about the 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260…

• Fantastic power delivery

• Spinning the back wheel

• Awesome sound

 

Three things I didn't like…

• Snatchy throttle at very low revs

• Probably going to be hungry for rear tyres

• I can’t afford it

 

Ducati Diavel 1260 S review | 2019 launch road test

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 [1260 S] spec

New price

£16,795 [£19,985]

Capacity

1,262cc

Bore x Stroke

106x71.5mm

Engine layout

90° V-twin (also known as L-twin)

Engine details

Four valves per cylinder, dual spark, liquid-cooled with Desmodromic variable valve timing.

Power

157bhp (117kW) @ 9,500rpm

Torque

95lb-ft (129Nm) @ 7,500rpm

Top speed

n/a

Transmission

6 speed, chain final

Average fuel consumption

52mpg (claimed), 37-48mpg (tested)

Tank size

17 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

192 miles (claimed) 137-178 miles (tested)

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

Cornering ABS, cornering traction control, wheelie control, launch control, anti-rear wheel lift, riding modes

Frame

Tubular steel trellis with cast aluminium subframe

Front suspension

50mm Marzocchi [48mm Öhlins]

Front suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Rear suspension

Marzocchi monoshock [Öhlins monoshock]

Rear suspension adjustment

Adjustable for rebound and preload [fully adjustable]

Front brake

2x320mm disc, Brembo M4.32 monoblock. Cornering ABS [Brembo M50 monoblock]

Rear brake

265mm disc, Brembo two-piston sliding caliper. Cornering ABS

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III

Rear tyre

240/45 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III

Rake/Trail

27°/120mm

Dimensions

n/a

Wheelbase

1,600mm

Ground clearance

n/a

Seat height

780mm

Kerb weight

244kg

Warranty

unlimited miles / two years

Website

www.ducati.com/gb

 

To insure this bike, click here

 

2019 Ducati Diavel 1260 review

Full review including interview with Stefano Tarabusi, Diavel Product Manager.

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