I look at the two guys riding new Harley-Davidson baggers to my right as I speed past them, splitting traffic like it were the Red Sea and I, Moses. They look royally pissed. Their faces contorted under their quarter helmets give me the feeling they’re both thinking, “Who is this upstart jackass making us move over?” I just giggle inside my helmet, twist the Ducati XDiavel S’s throttle, unleash the nuclear torrent of torque this bike delivers, and rocket away from the geriatric motorcycling club. God, this bike is a bruiser of a cruiser.
When first introduced to the XDiavel S, I was confused as to why you’d want a cruiser Ducati. The two just don’t seem to be good bed-fellows. Ducati is known for its high-performance race-bred badasses. Bikes not meant for the uninitiated. Bikes meant for riders who enjoy taking wild stallions of machines. A cruiser is for an old man. A rolling couch ensuring the ride is as comfortable as your in-home Laz-E Boy recliner. How do you meld those two very disparate world-views and not end up with a confused end product? How does it not flop?
But after spending the past few weeks with it, I’ve become a believer. A preacher of the Ducati gospel according to XDiavel S. Hallelujah!
The first thing you notice when walking up to the XDiavel S is the very un-Ducati layout. Gone is the upright and hunched seating position of classic Ducati race bikes. The XDiavel S is long and low, and resembles those Harley-Davidsons passed along the highway. Foot pegs, along with clutch and brake, are forward of the 1,262cc longitudinal twin-cylinder engine. Likewise, Ducati’s normal clip-on-style handlebars have been replaced with a set that reaches further toward the rear of the motorcycle. Additionally, the seat is low, comfortable, and ready for long hauls with a passenger. Very un-Ducati.
It’s a wild first take and, again, it reinforces the thought that this motorcycle cannot work. Ducati and cruiser are mutually exclusive. And honestly, for the first couple days, I maintained those thoughts. My brain just couldn’t get over cruiser Ducati. Everything just felt out of place, from the seating position to the handling. Eyes see Ducati, muscles felt cruiser, and neither were cooperating with one another. It took a couple days away from the XDiavel S to come to not just an understanding, but the appreciation this motorcycle so rightly deserved.
Ducati didn’t build a Harley-Davidson-like cruiser. The Italians built a Ducati cruiser. It is it’s own category.
I had left for a trip outside California and rode the XDiavel S to the airport. There it sat for three days, collecting dust and ocean particulates as LAX is just a stone’s throw from the Pacific. After a long couple of sleepless days, when I finally lifted my leg over the Ducati, I wasn’t thinking about anything. Zero thoughts and preconceptions we’re drifting through my head. I was tabula rasa. Halfway home, I found myself grinning and twisting the throttle more ferociously. It was finally coming together. What Ducati built finally made sense.
Ducati didn’t build a Harley-Davidson-like cruiser. The Italians built a Ducati cruiser. It is it’s own category. Let me explain.
Baggers and cruisers are generally for those riders mentioned above. Old guys and ladies who want to still ride, but prioritize comfort over everything. Essentially, they want a mid-1970s Cadillac on blown out shocks. Ducati took the general layout, but added everything important to a Ducati customer. First and foremost, it handles like a Ducati should. Up front is an inverted fork built by Marzocchi. While not totally adjustable, there are a number of preloads ready for riders preferences. Out back, and connected to the lovely looking single-sided swing-arm, is where my only issue resides.
The rear shock is set up far too close to Ducati’s sportier offerings. At highway speeds, hitting a bump sent shockwaves through my spine, which doesn’t need any more punishment thanks to a motorcycle wreck a few years ago. For a traditional Ducati, the rider becomes part of the suspension — arms, chest, and legs absorb impacts. On the XDiavel S … well, your spine becomes part of the suspension. That meant when I hit a larger highway joint, it compressed my spine to the point I got the wind knocked out of me for the briefest of seconds. Not great for a cruiser, but then again, this is a Ducati cruiser and it’s not only meant for highway jaunts, but carving canyons like a pro as well. This leads me to the thought that Ducati should build a more adjustable rear shock and have an option for the highway and one for sportier situations.
What doesn’t need tuning is the thermonuclear crucible of an engine. The 1,262cc engine produces a prodigious 156 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque. And while torque may seem underrated compared to its horsepower, peak torque is ready from nearly 4,000rpm all the way up to 8,000rpm. This engine is all grunt and balls, giving it a sort of split personality. When just puttering around town or through traffic, the torque makes it extremely easy to maneuver. But when things get wilder, twist that throttle and unleash its more manic character. No matter the situation or riding you’re doing, you’ll be happy. That said, when the world gets blurry, it’s more buzzy nature can infect your central nervous system and make you make poor choices. Or better said, its throttle will push you toward the Ducati’s intrinsic hooligan nature.
Back on the highway, traffic slows to a stop. An accident ahead starts pushing cars toward the left lanes and my awareness of what’s happening around me heightens. I push the bug bike forward with urgency, but caution, knowing that an idiot on their cell is likely to jump lanes without signaling. Within a mile, I’m surrounded, but I can see the end of the traffic cluster. As I pass the accident, the X Ambassadors’ The Devil You Know pops into my playlist, I pop the clutch, hop the front end up of the big cruiser — something I didn’t know was possible — and blast off as if I were a Saturn V rocket launching from The Kennedy Center.
Like it’s Ducati siblings, this bike is an addictive drug. Also like it’s siblings, the XDiavel S is pricey.
Ducati has the XDiavel S’s MSRP pegged at $24,295, which by motorcycle standards, is a metric crap ton of cash. There are more comfortable motorcycles that can be had for half the price of a XDiavel S. There are more capable motorcycles. There are faster motorcycles. And there are more traditional cruisers. But for the person that wants the XDiavel S, or wants something unique, there’s no substitute. It’s Ducati’s big bad. A villainous motorcycle that’ll hook you after a few short miles.