Flawed Ducati tourer more a muscle-flexer

PAUL OWEN
Last updated 08:10 15/09/2013
Ducati Diavel Strada.
Fairfax NZ

DUCATI DIAVEL STRADA: Better for passengers and luggage without losing anything in the way of riding prowess.

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Is it a long-distance ride? It's an interesting question, because the end result is flawed as a tourer, but still makes for a more usable and versatile muscle-bike than the basic Diavel.

AT A GLANCE
Engine: 1198cc liquid-cooled fuel-injected 8-valve L-twin; 119kW (162bhp) at 9500rpm, 127.5Nm at 8000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox with chain drive.
Chassis: Steel tube trellis frame with alloy single-sided swingarm; fully-adjustable 48mm inverted front forks and monoshock; 120mm of wheel travel at both ends.
Price: $33,990.
Hot: The Devil's own bike is now a lot more sympathetic towards pillions, luggage, and long-term comfort without losing any of the attributes that made it a great ride.
Not: Panniers could be more capacious and lockable, no windscreen height adjustment; over-fat rear tyre slows initial turn-in when cornering.
Like the new Hyperstrada that resulted from Ducati applying a similar approach to the Hypermotard supermoto, the end result is hard to classify or acknowledge as a total success.

When it comes to any bike bearing ‘strada' in its name inside the 2013 Ducati catalogue, only the Multistrada really enjoys total credibility as a long-haul touring machine.

Like the Hyperstrada, the Diavel Strada is a bridge-builder between two motorcycle genres, this time between the muscle-bike and tourer segments. And just as the Hyperstrada is still more a supermoto than a tourer, the Diavel Strada is still more a muscle-flexer than a continent-crusher.

Both new Ducati models were always destined to turn out this way given the changes made to the original bikes to create these new variants are relatively minor ones.

The new Strada version of the Diavel retains all the don't-mess-with-me visual menace of the original despite a pair of panniers that appear to give it a pair of bat's ears.

The new higher, more pulled-back handlebars, and the more deeply-padded seat also do little to spoil the Rottweiler-like visuals of the Diavel, and while the addition of a high-rise windscreen could have been intrusive, it also integrates with the style of the bike nicely.

A crowning touch is the matt green paint finish of the Strada version of the Diavel, a hue the Ducati appears to have inherited from Moto Guzzi's own muscle-machine, the Griso Special Edition.

Like the Diavel itself, the new Strada variant remains a hard bike to pigeonhole. Is it a cruiser? A streetbike? One half of a Model T hotrod cut down the middle?

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The answer is none of the above, despite some influential motorcycle magazines in the US declaring the Diavel as winner of their Cruiser of the Year awards. It's simply a Ducati with a bit more meat in the rear tyre, and a design theme that could have come from the pen of a psychopath - that's all. As for the Strada version, it's simply an over-tyred Ducati with a screen, higher handlebars, a back-rest for pillions, and a pair of panniers.

And like every Ducati in the showroom from the LAMS-approved Monster 659 up, it is an extremely-enjoyable bike to ride.

If you feel more laid-back when riding the Strada version of the Diavel, that's probably because you are. The new handlebars place the rider's upper body in a more upright position, while the added screen prevents this new positioning from turning said torso into a human windsock at open road speeds. Along with the more couch-like seat padding and factory handlebar heaters that prevent digit freezing on cold days, this makes long-term riding more sustainable.

However the Diavel Strada would be more successful as a tourer if the added moulded textile panniers were capable of holding more stuff, and the windscreen had some form of height-adjustment. Although I wasn't personally disturbed by intrusive windscreen-generated turbulence when riding the Strada at open road speeds, the fixed height of the screen won't suit every rider like it suits me.

While the Strada is a Diavel made more suitable for two-up riding, the panniers don't possess enough capacity to cart the luggage of your significant other on that weekend away as well as your own.

Ducati Diavel StradaNor are they lockable and secure like the Multistrada's hard luggage system, so you have to also make room for a cable lock to guarantee luggage security when parked up.

While luggage isn't as secure as it should be, pillion passengers certainly are. With the Diavel's 1198cc Testastretta L-twin engine capable of generating 162bhp in two of its three throttle modes, the extra back rest, grab-handles, and permanently-mounted pillion footpegs of the Strada version are an absolute godsend. Other Diavels get a token pillion perch, fold-out grab-rails, and some flimsier fold-down pillion pegs, forcing passengers to hold on to the rider grimly on a bike capable of sprinting from rest to 100km/h in less than three seconds.

A further plus of the wider, higher handlebar is the extra leverage that it gives the rider over the bike's steering.

With the over-generous allocation of rear rubber, Diavels possess more steering inertia than other Ducatis, but changing direction on the Strada requires slightly less effort. Once turned in, the bike tracks through the bend faithfully as directed, the fat rear tyre capable of transferring much of the engine's copious power to the road surface.

This is the Diavel's greatest strength. It might have the visuals of a musclebike, but it still handles with all the verve associated with the brand that it bears.

At $33,990, the Strada is a welcome addition to an expanded Diavel range, and is by far the best choice of the four 2013 variants if you have any two-up work in mind.

Ducati Diavel Strada

- © Fairfax NZ News

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