Biker Boy: Ride like the devil with Ducati's new cruiser
It performs like a sports bike while exuding the charm of a modern-day cruiser
For a long time, the term sport cruiser or power cruiser was an oxymoron.
After all, cruisers were hardly sporty or powerful due to their long wheelbase and obvious bulk. Until the arrival of the Ducati Diavel in 2011.
And the new Diavel 1260S Biker Boy tested on a 220km ride recently in southern Spain continues the trend.
It performs like a sports bike while exuding the charm of a modern-day cruiser.
Visually, the 1,262cc Ducati is over the top.
It is beefy - from the fat 240mm-wide rear tyre to its bulbous 17-litre fuel tank with air-intake shrouds. But it has faster sleekness as well - from the small tail section, "light blade" turn signals to a compact muffler, which now leaves its 17-inch rear wheel beautifully exposed.
Ducati's project manager Eugenio Gherardi will tell you "this bike is not a facelift, but a brand new bike" as 90 per cent of the parts on the 1260 or its pricier sibling, the 1260S, are new.
To make the fully fuelled 244kg Ducati perform better, the chain-driven model gets a new chassis, rims, engine layout and single-sided swingarm, as well as a front-facing radiator for cooling efficiency.
While massive-looking, the ride-by-wire Ducati impresses with its agility and robust power delivery on winding hills near scenic Ronda and El Burgo. Bends are tackled with a tug on its tall handlebars or with a stab to its mid-position footrests.
The new dimensions - 27-deg rake angle, 120mm trail and 1,600mm wheelbase - make the Diavel more receptive to quick steering inputs while maintaining straight-line stability.
You will instantly forget you are on a cruiser.
Mr Gherardi says: "The ergonomics (of the Diavel 1260) is a synthesis of a sport naked and a cruiser, adding confidence and providing an active experience when riding the bike."
Confidence is derived from feeling connected to the 1260S, given its compact cockpit and contoured seat that keeps the rider "planted" during hard acceleration.
The 1260S' comprehensive electronics package - Bosch Cornering ABS Evo, Ducati Traction Control Evo, Ducati Wheelie Control Evo and Ducati Power Launch - displays prominently on a thin-film transistor 3.5-inch screen and keeps the rider safe while daring him to ride harder.
Like the 1260S' bold design, it is excessive.
When the heavens opened up on the big devil (Diavel is Italian for devil) during the ride, the electronic features became added insurance even when their intervention was subtle or unnoticed.
Despite last-minute gear changes on the up/down Ducati quickshifter, there were no rear wheel lock-ups as grip levels on the bicompound Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres stayed high.
Braking performance from the Brembo M50 monobloc radial front calipers was instant and of "superbike" quality. Top-shelf adjustable Ohlins suspension provided a plush ride, allowing the 1260S to stay committed to chosen cornering lines despite the occasional bumps.
However, false neutrals did appear during half-hearted gear changes.
At higher speeds and without a windshield, the wind blast can be quite punishing on the 1260S.
The full power surge - all 159bhp and 129Nm of torque - is most aggressive and responsive in Sport mode. On tight mountain roads or stop-go traffic in town, the more mellow Urban or Touring modes sufficed.
Its noticeable torque increase in the low- and mid-rpm ranges helps with acceleration without the need to downshift.
The price for the higher-spec 1260S is $69,000 - about $10,000 more than the base model 1260 - inclusive of certificate of entitlement and a year's road tax. The 1260 range is expected to arrive here in the middle of this month.
DUCATI DIAVEL 1260S
Price: $69,000 with one year road tax and COE
Engine: 1,262cc liquid-cooled, dual spark, 4-valve twin-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain drive
Power: 159bhp at 9,500rpm
Torque: 129Nm at 7,500rpm
0-100kmh: Under 3 seconds (tested)
Top speed: Over 200kmh (estimated)
Fuel consumption: 5.4 litres/100km
Agent: Ducati Singapore