Next week I’ll be packing my bags and heading off to ride what I believe will be one of the defining super bikes of my generation. Without even cocking a leg, us moto scribers are already mentioning it in the same sentence as NR750, HP4, Desmo’ and all of the other super cool shit that you hardly ever see. It could turn out to be a monumental pup, it could have terrible brakes and suspension that only works in a straight line. But that’s what’s so exciting, nobody knows yet. Within ten days, I’ll have answered all the questions about the bike that have been swimming around in my head since I found out I had a place on the launch, as well as all of yours (hopefully). But, what about life pre H2? How do you get your eye in for a bike that you have no real clue as to how fast it’ll feel? I normally like to ride a competitor bike in the run up to a launch. Usually it’s fairly easy to choose something in the right ballpark. Not this time. Kawasaki make stocky bikes, weight isn’t always the critical factor as normally there’s such an abundance of power, that a few kilos here or there doesn’t matter when you’re screaming at the horizon wondering how it got home from work so fast. I thought about a ZX-10R, obviously that’d be a good starting point, but then I thought about it some more. I’m not convinced Kawasaki want me to compare the best production bike they make to the best limited run production bike they make. There’s no point robbing from Peter if he and Paul share a joint bank account, if you see what I mean.
I looked around for something stocky, something with a bit of presence, as well as a pile of power. I also looked out the window. I don’t know about you lot, but where I live it’s still February, it’s still slimy out there and it’s still the kind of weather that laughs at twitchy sports bikes. I needed something ridiculously fast, heavy enough to need some man handling and something that would cope with a bit of slip and slide on the winter roads. I needed a Diavel. Not for top end comparison, that’d be silly. I mean for that instant punch that big power bikes carry round and dish out wherever they see fit.
As if by magic (and a polite phone call to Ducati UK) Batman’s wet weather bike appeared outside my house, Cal Crutchlow’s dad dropped it off, no joke. It looked massive and aped the space that the Monster 1200 it replaced was parked in. I did the launch of the original Diavel in the April 2011 issue of the mag’. I won’t force you to read the entire launch report, but here’s what I wrote as my verdict.
This Ducati could be the ultimate sports bike antihero. If it can save one person from rolling over and accepting their tawdry tasseled cruising fate, then how can it not be a good thing for (sports) bike fans? The profit generated from bikes like this will help pay for the next generation Ducati superbike and the more they’ve got to spend the better it’s going to be for us. Purists of Ducati-as-sportsbike brand will hate the fact that Ducati is building a bike like this in much the same way that BMW traditionalists probably laughed at the idea of a WSB compatible S1000RR. But there is no denying that it’s an incredibly capable bike. Don’t be fooled (as I was) into writing this bike off as a marketing exercise aimed at Harley-Davidson owners. This is a completely different bike to every other cruiser on the market. If ever there was a bike that we thought you needed to test ride to see what we mean, it’s this one.
It’s had a refresh since then, recently in fact (you can watch the video review of that bike by deputy editor Chris Northover at the end of this piece) and I was looking forward to seeing how different this one was to the bonkers original.
I’ve spent the last three days absolutely howling with laughter at how stupid this bike is. I spat a Tweet out saying that only someone that hadn’t ridden one would be so naïve as to call it a cruiser, I was right as well. For once. Outside the Brands Hatch hospitality the thing was mobbed. Inside was the launch of Tommy Hill’s 2015 BSB team, at one point I counted six of his sponsors queuing up like children to have their picture taken on the Diavel. I imagine the H2 will have a similar effect.
On the road (remember what time of the year it is), the Diavel is pretty shocking. Traction looks after this and ABS looks after that, but in between you can get away with loads. I’ve tried all three riding modes, I think Urban in the rain this morning was nearly as impressive as the full power mode was pulling away from Brands yesterday. All that weight is carried low enough to be able to fire yourself away from soggy traffic lights with (so far) untouchable pace. A crack of the throttle in second gear at 22mph instantly adds ten mph to the speedo. I don’t mean there’s a cough and a pause, I mean it just dumps more speed into your lap like a landing rugby ball. It’s fucking brilliant. You may well be reading this thinking that that Kawasaki H2 and the Ducati Diavel have nothing in common, but when you’re trying to get your eye in for a ride on what could be the fastest production bike ever made, I’m struggling to think of a bike that can spar with my senses from 0-100 better than the Diavel. If you don’t believe me, I’ll meet you at the lights on the A3 near Wandsworth on my way home, unless you’re in a police car, I’m going to win.
Words and pics: @Johnatsuperbike