Anyone who has stayed up watching good old-fashioned, pre-Netflix cable television into the quiet wee hours of the morning has likely witnessed the curious barrage of infomercials that inevitably ensue. Offering amazing gadgets that accomplish tasks you likely hadn’t even previously considered, these curious oddities of consumerism solve problems you don’t have with products you never knew you needed. Similarly, had the Strada edition not been created, I’m not sure the idea of embarking on a long distance journey with a Ducati Diavel would have ever crossed anybody’s mind.
Outfitted with additional equipment, Ducati aficionados can now embark on espresso runs further from home with the added comfort of a windscreen, higher bars featuring heated grips and saddle bags for rain gear, but not much else. In broad terms, the Strada is merely a Diavel that has been upgraded from a muscle cruiser to a hot rod Italian sport tourer, possibly creating a new segment altogether. If you want to get an idea of what it would be like to tour long distances on the Diavel, try attaching a tent trailer to a Ferrari and you’ll get the gist.
Prior to its introduction in 2013, those who wanted a bike that allowed spirited touring with personality would generally have the option of a sport tourer, a cruiser outfitted with saddle bags or an adventure machine with hard cases capable of crossing riverbeds and possibly even traversing Toronto potholes. Regardless of which option one decides upon, each solution is an exercise in both issue resolution and compromise.
Outfitted in Race Titanium Matt, styling cues combine form and function in a final product that is both alluring and imposing. The Diavel exhibits such unique personality, charisma, and eccentricity regardless of whether it happens to be static or in motion. Swinging a leg over the idiosyncratic Italian, you come to rest comfortably in a saddle that cradles you and offers intuitive controls that are comfortably within reach. The riding position is neutral and better suited to longer, less aggressive rides thanks to the revised handlebar and footpeg positions that easily accommodated my six-foot frame.
Carefully placing the keyless fob in your pocket and flicking open the kill switch to thumb the starter button awakens the fuel-injected and liquid-cooled 1198cc Testastretta 11° powerplant. Gurgling and shuddering before it enthusiastically roars to life, the exotic L-Twin echoes through the lightweight 2-1-2 aluminum mufflers. Toeing the gear peg into first with a heavy thunk, the clutch engages power briskly, but not necessarily predictably. A smooth, deliberate and linear application of power is imperative with the Strada, otherwise you could find yourself lurching forward over the handlebars or flattening your eyeballs with acceleration akin to being shot out of a cannon. Its imposing demeanor and wicked exhaust note also scared the children in my neighbourhood and upset their mothers, while drawing the envious stares of the fathers.
The aforementioned windscreen is small but surprisingly effective, even at reasonable highway speeds. The Strada also features a more comfortable seat with a pillion, backrest, and grab rails, heated handgrips, two auxiliary power outlets, and soft saddlebags. The claimed 41L side panniers are better suited to a picnic with your passenger rather than storing the necessities of a long haul. The canvas-like fabric and zippers don’t instil confidence that they will stand the test of harsh weather or time. They aren’t lockable either so anytime I left the bike unattended I had to unpack all my camera gear and carry it with me out of fear of it not being there when I returned.
While the heaviest Diavel tips the scales at 245 kg, power is more than ample in any gear and can be adjusted with the new electronic riding mode system that can be changed on the fly giving the rider a choice of Sport, Touring, and Urban settings. Sport mode allows for the full 162 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 94 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm to be at the command of your right hand combined with a reduction in the traction control intervention with the understanding that you are comfortable riding closer to the limit. Touring mode has the same potency but with a smoother torque delivery and medium traction control intervention. Selecting the Urban riding mode instantly drops power to 100 horses and ups the traction control level to higher intervention for safer riding in a hectic riding environment. The difference among riding modes can often feel negligible but switching settings brought about unique personalities well suited for the intended riding environments.
A toggle switch on the left handlebar of the Ducati Diavel Strada allows the rider to scroll through a plethora of information on the LCD display: speed, rpm, time, coolant and exterior temperature, along with warning lights for neutral, turn signals, high-beam, rev-limit, DTC intervention, ABS status, oil pressure, fuel reserve. Additional instrumentation is available on the tank-mounted TFT colour display including gear selection, air temperature, battery voltage, trip metre, fuel reserve trip, average and actual fuel consumption and speed, trip time and scheduled maintenance updates. With all of this welcome – and in some cases extraneous – information available, it was somewhat strange to find the absence of a fuel gauge, the one piece of information that every rider would appreciate. Particularly considering fuel consumption varies greatly depending on mapping selection and riding style.
The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber wrapping 14-spoke Alloy rims measure 120/70 ZR 17 in the front and a massive 240/45 ZR17 in the rear which revealed their handling limitations on the first turn. As a result, smooth cornering required a different technique at different speeds and made the 371 kg (818lb) Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special I rode next handle like a nimble little sports car by comparison.
My second biggest issue with the Strada may be completely insignificant to someone else but the toggle switch that scrolls through the aforementioned information and adjusts drive modes is one and the same as the turn signal and cancel switch, which also happens to be perilously close to the horn button. Over the course of an entire week with the Strada, I still fumbled with scanning through the interface when I was attempting to cancel the turn signal or vice versa, and even inadvertently hit the horn several times.
All of these added accoutrements of course arrive with an additional weight of 6 kg and a cost of $1,500 over the entry-level Diavel Dark, ringing in at a base MSRP of $20,495. Despite two relatively minor personal gripes, I enjoyed my time with the Ducati Diavel Strada. I’m just not entirely sure it necessitated creating an entirely new category. Only time will dictate whether the Diavel Strada can find a big enough audience to bump it into a prime time slot, or it is destined to remain in the obscurity of late night commercial programming.
Intoxicating exhaust note
Comfortable performance touring bike with character in spades
Wide real tire likes to stand up straight
All the information you need except for a fuel gauge