All horses need to be retired; motorcycles are no different. In 2008, I was fortunate enough to procure a Monster 696+, and that purchase began a seven season journey of learning how to ride a motorcycle properly and safely on the streets of Toronto. Most of my experiences affected who I became as a person, and as I became more aware of my surroundings, more mindful of my body and more present in the moment I became a better person. Yes, I dropped the bike three times in parking lots (no damage, fortunately, to anything other than my pride). I may have spent more than a few thousand dollars on replacement parts, but part of the Ducati experience is to replace cheap plastic with exotic carbon fibre and aluminum billet. In that time I also learned how to change my own oil, swap spark plugs, and even replace broken parts as complicated as a throttle assembly. I failed with one Rizoma handlebar install, which was an $80 loss, and removing a nail from my rear tire was not a high moment for me. Still, in the seven years with the Monster I rode a total of 21000km in everything from sunshine, thunderstorms and a wee bit of snow in December. When people asked me about my experience, I only had positive thoughts to share about the Ducati. Yes, it was expensive to repair. Yes, it was a pain to haul it 50km to the one dealer near the city I lived in. Yes, I felt cool as I rode it through the city to and from work, and it always put a smile on my face. But then came the 2000 miles to Nashville…
On the highway, my beloved Monster was a pig. American interstates roll at about 80 miles per hour, and the 696 engine barely dealt with high speeds. Adding to the engine, the bike was also pretty light to deal with transport trucks tossing me around, and the ergonomics are not suited for the 400 miles a day we rode. The motorcycle made the journey, but she was a little tired and worn afterwards. It would cost $1000 to do the next maintenance of the timing belts, and ever since the stator went last year I have been a little stressed that it was going to happen again for no good reason. Still, I had put a lot of cash into the bike in the past 12 months and felt really stupid wanting to trade it in for a bigger machine. Tough decisions.
While riding through the USA, I noticed that the only machine on the roads was the Harley-Davidson. Big, heavy and with service centers in almost every town, looking into a hog as the bike to replace my pig, seemed reasonable. The Fat Boy Lo looked cool, but had enough maneuverability to navigate through the city. I have always loved the myth of Harleys, and maybe at age 42 this would be a more intelligent choice for me. Positive: these bikes are based on proven, old-style, technology and are fairly simple to understand for maintenance. Problem: they are antiquated and felt a little bit like a giant pick-up truck for a little man like me. Regardless, I had settle on either a Softail Deluxe or a Fat Boy Lo for the 2016 season. I would suck up the loss on the Ducati and hope for the best after their Test Our Metal Test Ride event on October 4th.
But then I had a random thought…what about the Ducati Diavel? It was one of the only other bikes that would fit my inseam, and I remembered liking how it felt a few years back while I was waiting for a service on the Monster to finish. I also recalled that they were far from cheap, but as I looked at HD’s line-up, I realized that for anything beyond a Sportster I would be looking at $20,000 plus-plus. The new Diavel looked less clunky on the website. The price seemed comparable to my other options. I would not have to abandon my PitBull stand or my Ducati leathers for more traditional black leathers. The little things add up, after all.
With an inquiry email to GP Bikes about the possibility of meeting with a salesperson, I was greeted with an unexpected option: test ride a used Diavel Carbon currently in stock on Saturday morning. If I can offer one piece of advice to anyone considering taking a test ride on a Diavel, then it would be to be prepared to buy one. The Diavel felt familiar, but much different. It felt like an old girlfriend who you have not seen for a long time; she has aged gracefully, is stronger, and more refined than the thin teen who drove you crazy. Two words: powerful elegance. I was hooked. I was doomed with the addition of a $1500 Ducati accessory credit and a somewhat reasonable trade-in for the Monster. I felt she would be sold to a rider who would at least appreciate her for what she was, and they would at least do the proper service on the timing belts before selling it. Again, there was nothing inherently wrong with the Monster, other than I needed a different machine because I had changed as a rider and as a person since I began riding.
After wrangling the hoops of financing, pricing and returning a few extra, unused parts I had bought for my Nashville ride [brake pads], I found myself the owner of a new 2015 Ducati Diavel Dark Stealth. The ride home would be off-highway and in Urban mode to make sure I learned where all of the controls were and that the tires lost a bit of their slickness from the factory. The next Sunday afternoon found M. and I riding through Caledon’s Fall scenery to Orangeville, Ontario. It was the type of ride I would never have done on the Monster, especially with another rider in the pillion position. So far there have only been a few confusion-ridden moments, such as the fact that finding neutral was impossible for the first 100 km. Reading online commentary led me to figure out that the clutch plates need space, heat and oil to break them in; I have learned how to find the elusive neutral about 80% of the time easily now. With more time, I expect the percentages to rise. I should also mention that the Ducati Performance alarm system I bought did not come with an instruction manual, so it took me two hours to find one at Pro Italia. I also need for figure out how to reset my PIN code tonight for emergencies. I hope that is not a disaster.
Motorcycles should be about the freedom they offer their rider. Keeping a machine static as a symbol of status is useless and a waste of what a motorcycle is meant to be: a horse to travel on out beyond our hum-drum lives. Buying the Diavel was a giant decision for me, but looking at her sit in the driveway or seeing myself on it in the reflection of a storefront window leads me to conclude that I made the right choice. I am a different, darker rider than I was seven years ago and I hope to explore much further on the Diavel in the seven years ahead. In the city I feel more in control and visible, and in the country I feel stable, comfortable and ready for acceleration to the next stop on the road. After watching Steve Earle perform at Massey Hall on Sunday I am reminded of his devil’s words in the song “The Tennessee Kid”:
“Hey, hey, hey…The balance comes due some day. “