The Ducati Diavel captured my attention when I first learned about it in 2010. It was Ducati’s first attempt at something resembling a cruiser since 1990 and riders and the media were all buzzing about just how exactly to classify this sexy Italian animal. I was a muscle cruiser guy, currently riding a V-Rod, and I secretly fell for the Diavel’s style and attitude. She was a girl I’ve kept an eye on ever since. Here’s a picture of me on a Diavel from 2012, how happy does this goofball look?
Nine years later, we had a weekend together. There was a spark there. I ran my hands over almost every part of her, but by the end of it, I was happy to return her to her real home. Here’s what happened when I finally got some one on one time with my dream girl bike.
“Sounds good, I’ll see you at 11:00 AM, thanks again.” I hung up the phone. It seems I would be picking up a Ducati Diavel with a dead battery and a little neglect, who’s owner, we’ll call him Ned, had just bought a house and was going to be moving in a few days. Ned had left the bike sitting for a year, because life, work, a woman, and real estate have a way of eating up a man’s time. Ned asked me to give the bike some love: drain the old gas out of the tank, drain the old oil, and see if the battery was salvageable. I thought little of it, but I learned a few things that weekend.
I spun that throttle hard. That’s when she roared out the most beautiful sound a 90-degree L-twin motor has ever produced (…) we blasted forward, a cocktail of motion that was two parts danger, one part control. You don’t feel like the Diavel is taking off with a mind of her own, you feel like she can read yours and does exactly what you want.
LESSON 1: THE BATTERY – Life’s too short not to do your research
The first lesson I learned was on not being too humble to seek help. Where do you think the battery is on a Ducati Diavel? An overconfident, or maybe just overzealous motorcyclist might start by removing the seat. If you do that, you’ll find some plastic, some electric doo-dads, some wires, and no battery. The ambitious rider’s next bet would be to try looking under some side covers, or maybe even under the gas tank.
I didn’t waste any time looking for the battery. Instead I went straight to a quick Google search and found a video by Sean at SRK Cycles. The battery is behind the front tire, way down low, AKA the last place I would have looked. Sean made the video to show people because he himself had just wasted a bunch of time looking in all the wrong places.
At first the battery seemed like it wouldn’t take a charge, but I left it alone and after about two hours, it had gone from about 9.8 volts up to just about 11.1 volts. I smiled at her, “Hang in there, beautiful.” I unplugged the trickle charger to double-check the voltage. 11.05 volts. 10.96 volts. 10.9 volts. Her battery couldn’t hold the charge.
I ordered up a new battery, patiently waited while it charged, swapped it in, and watched her roar to life. All good, with no time wasted.
LESSON 2: THE FUEL TANK – Sometimes you don’t know what’s going, and that’s ok
The fuel tank turned out to be a bit of a mystery. The digital fuel gage and a surprisingly bright yellow light that kept flashing at me annoyingly warned that the gas tank was nearly empty. Opening the gas tank and taking a look inside seemed to confirm that, but I had limited visibility.
I called Ned and let him know I didn’t think we needed to remove and drain his gas tank as it seems the Diavel was running on fumes anyway. “Are you sure there isn’t more down there that you can’t see?” I wasn’t, but I explained the situation. I also let Ned know he had a fuel sensor error, which he didn’t remember having a year ago on his last ride. “But all the lights light up when you first start it. I think it’s ok.” he explained. I decided not to worry about it, drop a hose into the tank, and tried to siphon out what was left of the old gas, then I poured in a couple litres of clean new fuel.
I rode the Diavel to the gas station (more on that later). Her fuel sensor light warning was still on. I poured eight more litres of 91 octane in. The fuel sensor warning was still on. Not good. To make it worse, the digital fuel gage was still showing that the fuel was low. I turned the bike off and looked in the tank again. It was definitely very, very full.
I was in full-blown Sherlock Holmes mode. I had to get answers to my questions.
- Is this something common? Turns out, yes, very!
- Was a recall ever issued? Unfortunately, nope!
- Is there info out there on how to replace the sensor? Actually, yes!
- Should I try to fix it? … Hmm…
That’s when I thought about all of the things that I don’t know.
- How long has this been happening?
- What’s availability of this part anyway?
- What happens if I replace the part and the warning doesn’t go away?
- Is this sensor error the cause of a problem, or the result of another one?
- What else could I discover along the way?
- Do I have the time and space for this right now?
Then I remembered the two things I do know about owning an Italian motorcycle, after having an Aprilia Shiver 750.
- Italian motorcycle electronics are finicky as hell (I had 3 sensors go on my Aprilia Shiver in the one year I owned the bike).
- Italian motorcycle electronics must only to be worked on by people who know Italian motorcycle electronics (the rest of us mere mortals will spend 14 hours replacing a camshaft sensor three different ways and still not having a functioning speedometer).
That’s when I decided I wouldn’t even offer to fix this for Ned. It would have been extremely satisfying to give Ned back a perfect bike. He may have even paid handsomely for me to fix it for him. But then I thought about the ways it could go badly. Some jobs are better left to a dealer. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going on, and that’s ok. The milk ain’t always worth the squeeze.
LESSON 3: THE OIL – Sometimes doing the job “right” means doing less
Ned seemed on the fence about changing the oil. The oil and filter were changed just before the bike sat parked for a year, and he didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a motorcycle he planned on selling in the spring.
Doing an oil change on a Ducati Diavel is a little bit more complicated than on most other naked bikes. Instead of spinning off an oil filter, you have to unscrew a cover to get to the filter. When you put the cover in place, Ducati recommends using their own grease-like anti-seize, but that also means you need to carefully remove and clean it off while the oil drains.
The sweet spot for Ned was having the oil drained and replaced, but leaving the old, virtually unused filter in, to cut down the labour time and the cost of parts.
Since that saved me some time, I used it to give the bike a quick wipe down because she was filthy. The Diavel looked even more stunning than before. She didn’t say it out loud, but I knew she appreciated the extra time and attention she was getting.
Ned was happy, she was happy, and I was happy. Sometimes less is more.
LESSON 4: THE RIDE – Sometimes your dream girl isn’t as good as your real girl
The Diavel’s ride-by-wire throttle let’s you set the bike into one of three pre-programmed ride modes: Sport, Touring, or Urban. I made a mental note that even in Touring mode, when I let out the clutch, the Diavel felt ready to pounce forward.
Scanning down the road ahead I saw no cars, so I spun that throttle hard. That’s when she roared out the most beautiful sound a 90-degree L-twin motor has ever produced. The seat held me in place as we blasted forward, a cocktail of motion that was two parts danger, one part control. You don’t feel like the Diavel is taking off with a mind of her own, you feel like she can read yours and does exactly what you want.
Maybe it was because of how powerful yet smooth her braking is, or maybe she just really could read my mind. I don’t know, but riding the Diavel’s spooky-fast acceleration always came with a feeling of complete serenity at the same time.
That is, until you want to try your inner-city maneuverability. That’s when the Diavel reminds you that despite a short wheelbase for her muscle cruiser class, she’s on a 240mm rear tire. In her defense, the temperatures were hovering just above freezing, so I knew the bike wouldn’t be able to make the most of her Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires, and I rode her accordingly.
I loved the ergonomics of the Diavel, the performance, the braking, the looks, and even how she purred and roared through stock pipes! Not being able to really test the handling was a let down. I don’t know how she’ll do in the spring and summer, but riding her around on cold roads I found her to be more particular about her lines than I hoped.
I secretly wished she had a 180 rear tire fitted instead… kind of like my Night Rod does. Man, I kinda miss my V-Rod right now. She’s a great bike too. And I like the way she handles way better.
CONCLUSION: SOMETHING PERSONAL – Here’s the truth
Eight months ago, I left the nine-to-five world to see if I could make it on my own. Before making the jump I was thinking about selling my V-Rod (a Night Rod model, with mid-controls), spending a bit more money, and getting a used Diavel. After I became my own boss, I decided to ditch that plan, if only for a while. At first I felt bad that I was throwing away the opportunity to buy one of these while I was still young, able-bodied, and making some cash. After this weekend, I think I may have curbed my oneitis for her a little.
The Ducati Diavel is a beautiful machine. You can take it out and just ride it, or you can adjust about a dozen different settings to really make it a motorcycle that’s customized and tailored not just to your measurements, but also to your riding style.
There’s a lot in there that’s oh so typical Ducati, like that trellis frame and styling, Ducati performance, tons of sensors and electrical stuff. There’s a lot to love. She’s got a lot going on. But that includes a bad fuel sensor that needs fixing, and an unnecessarily wide rear.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s beautiful, strong, and hella-smart. My heart will probably sink for a second as I watch Ned ride away with her. But then I’ll look at my V-Rod, with no flashing red flags, and she won’t need any work, because she’s already done up just the way I like her. And she’ll feel like home. Sometimes the muscle cruiser you have is better than the muscle cruiser you want. Sometimes less sensors and gizmos are better than more. Sometimes you can save a lot of time, money, and aggravation by sticking with what you know. The Diavel is a good bike, but a bike that feels like home is good-er.
COMMENTS: What do you think of the Diavel? Too over-the-top or just right?
Do you like more story-telling type of articles? Let me know!
PS: Here’s my baby.