Ducati Announces the 899 Panigale for 2014

New bike. New Engine.

Ducati announced their new 899 Panigale to me by sending me a cryptic email with a picture of the bike and no information, except a link to their web site’s Panigale section. That turned out out to be a tediously-navigated, JavaScript-heavy web site where there was information. Sadly, they dribble it out one sentence at a time as you navigate from frame to frame. Yes, JavaScript is the future, but there’s no need to get carried away. Anyway, rather than make you navigate through their beautiful, picture-heavy, yet drearily tedious web site, I’ll just pass the information to you.

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Best of the year

Cycle World once again picks the 10 best bikes for the year. They’re unveiling the results day by day.  It was no surprise that yesterday’s pick for top standard was the new, improved Kawasaki Z1000, which, by all accounts, is a fantastic motorcycle. The brand new Triumph Tiger 800XC, was a bit of a surprise as the best Dual-Sport, though.  I think that may change when the new wears off the Trumpet.

Similarly, today has a surprise, too.  The shocker is not that the Ducati Multistrada wins the best open streetbike award. It may be one of the best all-round motorcycles ever produced by anyone.  Personally, it’s the best motorcycle I’ve ever ridden.  The unexpected win for today is that the Ducati Diavel–a bike that has only been available in the US for several weeks–has been selected as the best cruiser of the year.

While I’ve seen it, I haven’t gotten to ride it yet, but I don’t think it’s a “cruiser”.  It’s definitely something, but, aside from seating position and fat rear tire, it’s not what comes to mind when I think of a cruiser.

But congrats to Ducati.  These two bikes account for a hefty share of the 61% sales increase Ducati has achieved in the US over the last quarter.

A New “Corse” version of the Multistrada? No.

The motorcycling press got into a bit a of a tizzy today, heralding the arrival of a new version of the Multistrada, the “Corse” package, for the 2012 model year.

As it happens, however, that model already exists as the “Pike’s Peak” edition. Ducati was just using “Corse” as a fallback name in case they couldn’t acquire the rights to use the “Pike’s Peak” name. Nothing to see here. Sorry.

Another Diavel ride report

Motorcycle Daily has weighed in with their first impression of the Ducati Diavel. Unlike some other reviews, they seem impressed by the handling–even at low speeds.

But perhaps the best impress in comes from one of the article’s commenters, who quips that it looks like somebody finally made a V-Rod that works.

The Diavel’s Big Rear Tire

A few days ago I noted that the big 240-section rear tire on the new Ducati Diavel seemed like it would make handling a bit less fun.  But lots of reviews from European writers say it’s fine. New Diavel ride reviews are in from Motorcycle USA and Motorcycle.com, and both of them bring the subject up in somewhat different terms.

Motorcycle USA’s Bart Madson writes:

[T]he Diavel is probably the best-handling fat rear we’ve ever sampled.

But that’s somewhat damning praise, as there are inherent issues with the rear. Some in our journalistic riding troupe vocalized zero flaws, but we noted a hinky sensation on low-speed maneuvers. Sharp hairpins exhibited a flopping sensation when pitching over. Quick transitions, more noticeable at lower speeds as well, also delivered an awkward feel. The 240mm rear didn’t have us bitching and moaning as a deal breaker by any means. It just left us wondering what that Diavel could been had it been delivered with a more conventional tire choice.

Motorcycle.Com’s Pete Brissette echoes the sentiment, somewhat more technically:

The big rear tire works for me as part of the Diavel’s styling; however, the rear tire’s low-speed handling performance doesn’t work quite so well for my tastes.

Initial turn-in response is neutral; transitioning from upright to three-fourths lean is a fairly smooth, linear-feeling process. But it’s the last little bit of lean you might initiate to complete the turn that results in a “falling in” sensation, as though the tire’s profile is more triangulated than it appears.

As I rolled into the throttle to power out of the apex of a turn, the bike would sometimes exhibit a front-end “push” – like the rear of the bike was chasing the front – depending on the radius of a turn and camber of the road.

This is not to say the Diavel’s handling isn’t light-years better than just about any cruiser you can name, but it’s not as good as any other Ducati you can name either.

Ultimately a 62.2″ wheelbase, and 240 rear tire are what they are, and the effect on handling is ultimately insurmountable. Geometry and physics are pretty unforgiving taskmasters. On the other hand, though, handling that isn’t quite up to snuff in Ducati terms probably equals vastly superior handling in, say, V-Max terms.

Actually, remove the word “probably” from the previous sentence.

First Ride: 2011 Ducati Diavel

The first ride reports are trickling in from the Ducati’s press launch for the Diavel in Marbella, Spain.  Visordown’s ride review tells me exactly what I wanted to know about the Diavel.  My main concern in looking at the specs of the Diavel was the handling.  It’s a bike with a long wheelbase, and a big, honkin’ 240-section rear tire.  That just screams “slow turn-in!” to me.  But, according to Visordown, Ducati has somehow done something special that those specs don’t capture.

The real ace up the Diavel’s sleeve is its handling. A massive 240-section rear tyre and a long wheelbase are not the ideal ingredients if you want a bike to handle, but – and I’m not sure how – the Diavel doesn’t suffer one bit…What really stood out to me was that throughout the whole day, I didn’t think about the bike’s handling once. It went exactly where I wanted it to, not once did I feel like I was running wide, or that I could do with more ground clearance. There are no footboards gouging the tarmac here, no concerns about getting home with half of your exhaust chamfered off. It doesn’t just handle well for a cruiser, it handles well for a sportsbike…When the rear Pirelli can’t cope, Ducati’s Traction Control steps in and gently corrects your over enthusiastic demands, keeping the rear wheel in line and most bikes struggling to keep up.

That…interests me.

Sadly, there are no Diavel’s available yet on this side of the pond, but my crystal ball tells me that sometime in the near future, I’ll be begging Balz Ringli at Moto Forza for a Diavel test ride.

Ducati Diavel Press Launch

The world motorcycling press is gathering in Marbella, Spain for the unveiling of the 2011 Ducati Diavel.  Already, reports are filtering in, including from Motorcyclist Magazine, who give us their first look and test ride reports.

What’s interesting to note from this report is how serious the Ducati guys were about building a cruiser-style bike that didn’t sacrifice performance.  Ducati officials relate it to the commitment they had to creating the the new Multistrada 1200S, making it a bike with serious, Ducati performance.  Based on my experience with the new Multistrada, they certainly did that.  So, how’d they fare with the Diavel?

Well, Motorcyclist seems to like it.

Overall, the Diavel is surprisingly easy to ride fast, aided by Superbike-spec Brembo radial-mount brakes, a firm, 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, a perfectly controlled Sachs shock and generous cornering clearance allowing a claimed 40-degree lean angle. Slicing and dicing through downtown L.A. traffic on a busy Friday morning, it felt much more like a broad-shouldered Monster than a V-Max or any other so-called “sport cruiser” that has come before.

It looks better, too. The level of fit and finish is the finest we’ve seen on any Ducati-maybe on any bike…It’s an impressive machine that attracts attention even from non-riders who don’t know a Ducati from a Dodge. That’s the one trait it does share with a custom chopper: Everyone notices this bike.

Sadly, I haven’t has a chance to ride the Diavel yet, so, for now, I’ll take their word for it. What I do have are lots of lovely pictures, shown in the gallery below. That should satisfy any Diavel jones you might be feeling.

2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO

2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO

Ducati announced the updated Monster today, known as the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO.

For the first time, the Monster breaks the 3-digit horsepower wall, with the Desmodue engine putting out 100HP at 7,500RPM, and 76 ft-lbs of torque at 6,000 RPM. It puts that upgraded power to the rear wheel through a 6-speed transmission hooked up to a chain drive. That’s a pretty decent power output for a bike that only weighs 373 lbs (dry).

With the extra power comes some extra safety, too, with the Monster coming equipped with Ducati Traction control and a Brembo/Bosch ABS braking system.

Ducati has also redesigned the seat and moved the handlebars up, in order to increase rider comfort.

At least, as comfortable as a naked standard can be, anyway.

More info is available at Ducati’s web site.

2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black

Via A&R, it seems that Ducati has been listening to prospective owners about what they’d like to see in the new Diavel.  As a result, Ducati has moved towards the Dark Custom movement with a new model of the Diavel called the Carbon Black.

2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black
2011 Ducati Diavel Diamond Black

Instead of bright paint and chrome, Ducati has gone to matte colors and black anodized metal. Additionally, they’ve dropped the white color from the line-up completely, in favor of this new black model.

To my eye, it’s certainly more attractive.

2011 Ducati Diavel

One day ahead of tomorrow’s EICMA SHow opening in Milan, Ducati has unveiled the new Diavel–formerly known as the Project 0803 motorcycle.  I’ve written about it a bit over the past few months as spy shots and finally an official photo was leaked, but now we can officially see the Diavel in all its glory.

We can also officially see the specs now, too.  Ducati has closely held them, but now that we can see them, they look pretty good.

There are some notable points to be mentioned.  First, while the Diavel uses the same 11° Testastretta engine that the Multistrada 1200S uses, power output has been upped to 162HP, while torque has been raised to 94 ft-lbs, compared to the Multi’s 87.5 ft-lbs. At the same time, while no lightweight, the Diavel is only 35 lbs heavier than the Multistrada, weighing in at 463lbs dry.

All things considered, the Diavel should be a screaming street machine. It might not have the same raw, straight-line power of the Yamaha Star V-Max, but I’d be willing to bet the Diavel will eat its lunch in the twisties, with its advertised 41° lean angle. And, who knows, maybe on a straight-line, the comparison isn’t that far off, either. After all, despite the V-Max’s 197HP and 123 ft-lbs of torque, it also weighs 685 lbs. It’d need all that extra horsepower just to keep up with the Diavel.

I’d suspect that with two riders of equivalent capability, the one on the V-Max would be watching the Diavel’s tail lights.  Until they disappeared ahead of him, anyway. I do know that’s a comparison I’d like to see.

Like the Multi, the Diavel also boasts the the three-mode output/suspension settings, allowing the rider to choose the restrained 100HP output of the Urban mode, the full power, but less aggressive throttle response and softer suspension of the Touring mode, and the full-on power and stiff suspension of the Sport mode.

And I can tell you, from personal experience, that the three settings really do transform the feel and operation of the bike.  And when you hit sport mode…watch out!

The drawback to the Diavel, from a US sales point of view, is that Americans seem to hate naked standards. This might be a bike that sells like hotcakes in Europe, though.

There’s also one more question about the Diavel that needs to be answered. What’ll it cost?