ping numbers like stock market traders as if that's all that really matters in real world riding, it's really not that important. What is vastly more relevant is maximum torque and the shape of its delivery curve, because torque equals acceleration, and that's what counts in real-world performance riding. That, and weight, because the fewer pounds there are to get moving, the faster your bike will pick up speed. And on the Diavel, which carries a Euro 16,990 price tag in Italy ($22,872), scaling in at 462 pounds (almost seven pounds less but $4000 more for the Dia vel Carbon, complete with carbon-fiber bodywork and forged Marchesini wheels), while producing 127.5Nm of torque from the 1198cc desmo V-twin motor results in a torque-to-weight ratio of 1.65:1. Compare that to the 115Nm/642 pound equivalent-capacity and only slightly more expensive V-Rod Muscle Har-ley/s 2.54:1, or the more torquey but also 500cc bigger and especially hugely heavier and 40 percent more costly 166.8Nm/638-pound Yamaha V-Max's 1.74:1, and you can understand how Ducati claims the Diavel will accelerate from zero to 62 mph in

2.6 seconds. That's faster than Ducati's 1198R Superbike, making it almost for sure the fastest accelerating volume production motorcycle in the world today.

And I soon found when trying to emulate that time off any set of traffic lights along Spain's sunny southern Costa del Sol coastline at Ducati's press launch, that the Diavel's light-action oil-bath clutch delivers a smooth takeoff. Throw in that stretched wheelbase and even 50/50 weight bias that stop the front wheel lifting as the wide, specially-developed 240/45-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso rear tire grips and drives on everyday asphalt, and you leave high-performance supercars trailing in your wake, let alone anything with half their number of wheels.

But don't get the idea the Diavel is strictly a straight-line package. While most American pow-ercruisers that are fitted with the design statement of a fat rear tire and raked-out steering geometry are reluctant to change direction anytime soon (and if you do insist on cranking them over in a turn, they suddenly fall on their side into the apex as you reach the shoulder of the flat-profile rear rubber), this is, after all, a Ducati. So that means it not only picks up speed fast, but it also handles well in corners - if not with the panache of an 1198, certainly with an élan that's unmatched by anything else in the cruiser category.

And although Ducati executives will try to convince you this isn't a cruiser, that's only because it has realms of performance far removed from anything yet made for that class of motorcycle.

"The Diavel is a true original, not a copy of anything else, and it especially remains an authentic Ducati, which incorporates our core performance values," says project leader Giulio Malagoli.

Starting with a clean computer screen three years ago, Bar-tholomeus Janssen Groesbeek (better known as Bart, the Dutch creator of the current Monster family, and Ducati's senior in-house designer who joined them in 2002 from Yamaha's creative division GK Design, which of course created the V-Max) has produced a unique set of muscular styling in keeping with the cruiser theme, that's been refined by company engineers into an impressively capable handling package.

In spite of the low seat height, this is not a feet-forward motorcycle - the riding position is more Monster than Hog, though the one-piece taper-section handlebar is 25mm higher and the same amount closer to the rider than on the current Monster, and the footpegs are positioned relatively high, and mid-mounted right under the rider. Not high enough to

I'm convinced that no other motorcycle would have got me up or down the side of the mountain so fast, and with so much satisfaction.

2011 Ducati Diavel

avoid dragging your toe-sliders on the deck as you crank the Diavel around a 75mph corner, with that fat rear Pirelli triple-compound construction giving great grip as you hustle it along the highway that local Spanish streetracers call El Camino del Cielo - the road to the sky.

I've waited 12 years since this fabulous switchback stretch of tarmac was built to link Marbella on the coast with Ronda in the hills flanking it, climbing from sea level to more than 320 feet in elevation in just 30 miles via a series of sweeping curves interspersed with the occasional hairpin, to ride a bike like the Diavel along it - and after doing so I'm convinced that no other motorcycle would have got me up or down the side of the mountain so fast, and with so much satisfaction.

That's because the Diavel employs the same revamped version of Ducati's liquid-cooled 1198cc Testastretta Evoluzione eight-valve Superbike motor as fitted to the best-selling Multistrada introduced a year ago, with service intervals extended to 15,000 miles, but retuned for that extra 127.5Nm of torque peaking at 8000 rpm. And it now delivers an extra 12 horsepower, thanks to a revised airbox and exhaust system, with 162 hp on tap at 9500 rpm.

This version, fitted with a heavier flywheel, has had its compression lowered from 12.7:1 to 11.5:1

compared to the 1198 Superbike, and its valve overlap reduced to just 11 degrees from 41 degrees in order to smooth the power delivery and especially to improve low-down performance.

The Diavel version also has restyled engine cases and belt covers in keeping with the bike's distinctive looks, while its all-new cooling system has twin side-mounted radiators flanking the airbox, with ducting to feed and extract the air. The elliptical Miku-ni throttle bodies have the single injector per cylinder repositioned south of the butterfly, and that distinctive two-into-one-into-two catalytic exhaust with its curvaceous big-bore 58mm-diameter tubone headers ending in twin aluminum

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The 1198cc Testastretta engine is the LED running lights are set horizon-same as the one in the Multistrada. tally across the headlight.

The 1198cc Testastretta engine is the LED running lights are set horizon-same as the one in the Multistrada. tally across the headlight.

The Diavel uses a cast-aluminum single-side swingarm.

A trellis frame houses the big twin.

The Diavel uses a cast-aluminum single-side swingarm.

A trellis frame houses the big twin.

mufflers behind the rider's right foot, carries twin lambda probe oxygen sensors for ideal fuelling, as well as a power-valve to optimize the power, and especially torque delivery.

As on the Multistrada, the des-mo V-twin's versatility has been expanded further via a comparable array of electronic aids, with eight-position DTC/Ducati Traction Control, and a choice of three different electronic riding modes, vs. the Multistrada's four: Sport, delivering the full 162 hp, but with a sharper response to the ride-by-wire throttle map, and a level three default position for the DTC (which you're free to override anytime, with level eight giving most intervention, and level one the least); Touring, again with 162 hp but a smoother, more progressive delivery and level four DTC; and Urban, with just

100 hp available and level five DTC.

This is all monitored via the lower of the two separate digital instrument displays on the Diavel, a color TFT/thin film transistor display on the fuel tank/airbox shroud - which Ducati claims is the first time TFT has been used on a production motorcycle. It shows riding mode, gear selected, trip meters, ambient temp, battery voltage and a trip computer that includes DTE, although there's no fuel gauge, just a low fuel warning light. The more conventional LCD display - mounted above the upper fork yoke and surmounted by a row of warning lights - shows speed, revs, DTC intervention, time, water temp, etc.

Unlike on the Multistrada, whose Sport engine map is generally too aggressive for the kind of use that kind of bike enjoys,

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the equivalent on the Diavel is ideally tailored for helping the bike live up to its name, with a crisp but controllable pickup and authoritative acceleration all the way through the powerband - although even in Sport mode you're unlikely to ever encounter the ride-by-wire throttle's soft-action 10,500 rpm rev-limiter. That's because you soon realize that the hot tip to making motion with the Diavel is to ride the torque curve, working the smooth-action six-speed gearbox to stay within the V-twin engine's 4000-8000 rpm happy zone as you crank what is an unexpectedly agile package from side to side around third and fourth gear turns, short-shifting through the gears to the background sound of the twin-cylinder tenor that's the tubone exhaust.

Thanks to the revised airbox and meaty pipes combo, this is the best-sounding Ducati in the firm's current line-up - make that anybody's twin-cylinder lineup - both under wide-open acceleration and especially on the overrun, where you also notice Malagoli's men have left in just enough engine braking still dialed in to the slipper clutch to help the fabulous Brembo brake package slow the bike from speed.

The brakes are worthy of a Superbike, with twin 320mm floating front discs gripped by Monobloc radial calipers but with the added reassurance of ABS as standard front and rear. That means that even if you also use the large 265mm rear disc with twin-pot caliper very hard, as is

2011 Ducati Diavel

customary among the cruiser cult, you're not going to lock anything up. Add in that long wheel-base and the low seat, and the result is great stability even when stopping the Diavel from upwards of 75 mph into a downhill hairpin en route down to the coast again from Ronda. This sets new standards in stopping for a real-world streetbike.

The Diavel is also a new benchmark for cruiser-class handling, and that's in spite of steering geometry that's rangier than on anything yet to leave the Bologna assembly lines. With that long wheelbase and a 28-degree rake to the meaty, fully adjustable, 50mm Marzocchi forks (which feature 120mm of wheel travel, with copious amounts of trail added), you'd expect the Diavel to be a real handful in tight corners along city streets or mountain roads - but it isn't. Instead, even riding it as I did later that day up another much slower mountain road, full of second-gear hairpins, demonstrated this is a bike you won't have to muscle around to get it to steer. Ditto for when Urban mode is selected for a bit of chilled-out boulevarding...

It is indeed a kind of custom-class Superbike.

But the devil is in the detail on the Diavel, and not only in terms of the literally awesome performance package it delivers, but also the optimum fit and finish of the whole bike, including its numerous design touches that prospective owners will relish. Like the clever fold-out passenger footpegs and retractable grab handle behind the seat, which except when used don't spoil The Look. Or the seamless cover that pulls off the passenger seat to expose it; or the brushed aluminum radiator shrouds, cast aluminum mirrors (which don't vibrate and are very effective), steel fuel tank, etc.

Ducati is justly proud that what you see is what you get in terms of materials, and there are almost no plastic parts. Or the LED running lights set horizontally across the single Porsche-esque headlamp, matched by the incredibly bright LED turn signals and tail-lights that are practically invisible when not illuminated. Or the so-distinctive single-sided aluminum license-plate mount with integrated LED that doubles as a rear fender, while matching the cast aluminum single-sided swingarm it's mounted to. Or the trademark trellis frame, the cast aluminium clutch and brake fluid reservoirs, the keyless Harley-type security system - the list goes on and on.

Ducati has made sure that what for them is very much a flagship model in a new segment for the company, while showcasing the latest technology, is tailored to entice the older, more affluent customers in the premium cruiser sector, without at the same time straying too far away from its traditional sportbike clientele.

It's a difficult trick to pull off, but after riding the Diavel nobody will be able to say Ducati didn't give it their best shot. And Ducati dealers absolutely need to ensure they have a Diavel test bike available to get the message across. This is a motorcycle that's completely unlike anything that's been made before, and you have to try it to believe it. CN

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