YEARS OF DU­CATI

AN­NIVER­SARY SPE­CIAL Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

My vi­sor is push­ing hard against my face. The pres­sure on my skull from the wind­blast is im­mense. My eyes are bulging in their sock­ets, and the pain is com­pelling me to back off. But I won’t.

As the Xdi­avel’s speedo creeps past an in­di­cated 160mph I’m find­ing it hard to keep my boots on the feet-for­ward chopper-es­que foot­pegs. My thigh mus­cles are on fire as I strain to keep my legs to­gether. All the while, the wind is slowly edg­ing me back off the stylish Du­cati seat un­til I’m perched pre­car­i­ously on the com­i­cally small pil­lion pad. The only thing stop­ping me from slid­ing off the seat and in­tro­duc­ing my prized pos­ses­sions to the rapidly spin­ning 240-sec­tion rear Pirelli is my grip on the bars – and that’s start­ing to loosen.

In 15 years of speed test­ing some of the fastest bikes ever built, the new Xdi­avel is phys­i­cally the hard­est to hang on to. Yes I’ve rid­den quicker bikes, like Kawasaki’s H2R last year at a recorded 204mph, but the mighty Kawasaki had a fair­ing and a more com­pli­ant rid­ing po­si­tion. Any­thing above 140mph on the Du­cati is pure tor­ture. The Xdi­avel should come with a free ‘build­ing arm strength’ train­ing DVD – be­cause you’re go­ing to need one.

Get­ting the Du­cati off the line isn’t much eas­ier, and it’s just as phys­i­cal. There’s three-stage launch con­trol, which makes the ini­tial get­away less in­tim­i­dat­ing, but it’s still a bat­tle to keep your feet on the pegs whilst chang­ing gear quickly. The wind­blast treats the soles of your shoes as air brakes, and wants wrap them around your head rather than leave them up front.

The clever elec­tron­ics are al­ways work­ing over­time down the quar­ter­mile strip, pre­vent­ing wheel-spin and try­ing to keep the front wheel on the ground. We tried a few con­ven­tional runs, do­ing fully man­ual launches with the trac­tion con­trol set to its low­est set­ting, and that’s what gave us the best re­sult of 11.34s @ 126.93mph, but no mat­ter which method we used, or how phys­i­cally bru­tal we were, the Du­cati couldn’t match the mighty VMAX on the strip. Maybe size does mat­ter.

By com­par­i­son, the Yamaha is a dod­dle to get off the line, it just sits on its haunches, and the shaft drive pro­pels you for­ward like it’s con­nected to a rail in the tar­mac. It will hap­pily spin its rear tyre in the first three gears – there’s no trac­tion or launch con­trol here – so you have to bal­ance the power de­liv­ery with your throt­tle hand. But once the rear has found trac­tion it will pro­pel its huge weight over a quar­ter mile in an im­pres­sive 10.73 sec­onds at 134mph. In­ter­est­ingly, the Yamaha is re­stricted and won’t rev past 8000rpm in top gear, which lim­its the top speed to less than 140mph. There’s no doubt it’s got the mumbo to de­liver more, and the rid­ing po­si­tion means that you’re not try­ing to grip the hori­zon like you are on the Xdi­avel.

Over the years I’ve seen a few VMAXS, both old and new, tear­ing up drag strips, and I can see why. The big Yam is still the king of the strip, but it’s not all about power and speed. Al­though we may not like to ad­mit it; looks, im­age and that wow fac­tor are just as, if not more, im­por­tant. And the Du­cati wins this cat­e­gory hands down.

There’s no deny­ing the Yamaha looks mean, but it also looks dated and cum­ber­some. It’s at­trac­tively grotesque, if that’s not an oxy­moron too far. The Du­cati looks sub­lime in the flesh. Yes it’s brutish rather than beau­ti­ful, but it wears its ag­gres­sion like a well-toned Bond vil­lain in a tailored suit, rather than a bomber­jack­eted door­man look­ing for a fight. Go un­der the skin, and the Xdi­avel’s re­fine­ment con­tin­ues to out-shine the VMAX. The elec­tron­ics pack­age is a world apart from the Yamaha’s stark sim­plic­ity – boast­ing only ABS to help save you from your­self. The VMAX is heavy, too – a whop­ping 63kg heav­ier than the Du­cati. That’s only a cou­ple of kilo­grams shy of car­ry­ing Valentino

‘The Du­cati Xdi­avel should come with a free arm strength

train­ing DVD’

Rossi with you on ev­ery ride as bal­last.

When the VMAX re­turned in 2009 it cost an ob­scene £21,624, but it did set a new bench­mark in both looks and per­for­mance, and had no tan­gi­ble ri­vals. It still has the grunt and the per­for­mance, and the price tag has re­duced by a con­sid­er­able mar­gin – but so has its al­lure.

Just take a look at the new Du­cati Xdi­avel, I’d ar­gue it’s the most at­trac­tive new bike of 2016. Even peo­ple who don’t like cruis­ers think it’s a looker. As our pho­tog­ra­pher put it: “It even makes Chad look cool; I want one”. The Xdi­avel is one of those bikes you can sit back and ad­mire and will never get bored of look­ing at. The wheels are stun­ning, the twin-exit ex­haust, sin­gle sided swingarm, lovely sculpted seat, in­for­ma­tive dash… it’s all mouth­wa­ter­ing. There’s a lot of lovely de­tail, and even by Du­cati’s high stan­dards, it’s one of the most im­pres­sive bikes to exit the Bologna fac­tory.

Its phys­i­cal at­trac­tions are backed by cor­ner­ing ABS, trac­tion con­trol, anti-wheelie, three rider modes, launch con­trol, and cruise con­trol all as stan­dard – not for­get­ting the very clever Des­mod­romic Valve Tim­ing mo­tor. The full-colour dig­i­tal dash changes de­pend­ing on which mode you’ve se­lected, and there’s key­less ig­ni­tion, too. The VMAX gets ABS, and an aux­il­iary tank-mounted in­for­ma­tion panel that’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to see on the move and boasts the sort of screen graph­ics you’d have laughed at on Pac-man when it was re­leased in 1980.

But let’s not put the Yamaha out to pas­ture just yet. It hides its weight well for such a be­he­moth, and swings through cor­ners with pen­du­lous se­cu­rity. The V4 mo­tor is in­sanely smooth, and the fu­elling is damn near per­fect. At just 3000rpm the Yam is mak­ing over 95ftlb of torque, that’s more way more than the Du­cati, and it’s barely tick­ing over. The VMAX still de­serves that bad boy rep­u­ta­tion and will spin its 200-sec­tion rear tyre pretty much at will (some­times yours, some­times its own). It’s not a bike for the faint hearted.

Com­fort isn’t bad ei­ther. In fact, if I were go­ing to take on some se­ri­ous mileage, the VMAX would be my choice of the two bikes here, es­pe­cially if I had a pil­lion. Even Kylie would strug­gle on the back of the Xdi­avel.

In stan­dard trim, the Du­cati was al­ways go­ing to be a bit of a phys­i­cal reach for me as I’m only 5ft 6in, but we can’t ig­nore that there are five dif­fer­ent seat op­tions and three dif­fer­ent han­dle­bar and foot-peg po­si­tions. Per­son­ally I’d fit the sporty foot­peg kit, which brings them fur­ther back, just be­cause the feet-for­ward po­si­tion feels un­nat­u­ral to me. When set­ting off I al­ways ini­tially flapped around for the first few me­ters as my feet failed to find the pegs. They’re great to brace against on the brakes though.

Talk­ing of which, the Yamaha’s six-pot calipers do their best to haul up the big girl, but the Du­cati’s ra­dial Brem­bos are in an­other league. It’s the same with the han­dling; the Du­cati is lighter, more for­giv­ing, eas­ier to turn and will hold its line more ac­cu­rately, whereas the Yamaha has a ten­dency to run wide. But again, none of this makes the Yamaha a bad bike, it’s just Du­cati have moved things on. It’s like com­par­ing an Amer­i­can mus­cle car to a mod­ern Fer­rari.

Let’s not for­get the price tags ei­ther. Yamaha dropped the price of the VMAX from £21,264 to £15,750 a lit­tle over a year ago – not great if you bought one in 2014 – mak­ing the VMAX more tempt­ing than ever. It’s ac­tu­ally £45 cheaper than the stan­dard Xdi­avel, and a fairly hefty £2645 cheaper than the S model. Who would have thought the VMAX is start­ing look fi­nan­cially vi­able?

Yamaha

138.9mph 2.97 5.88 10.73s @ 134mph 7.37s

Xdi­avel (right) takes on the VMAX in a bat­tle for strip su­pe­ri­or­ity

TFT screen shows modes, gear and more Xdi­avel’s belt fi­nal drive is a Du­cati first Rear lights give the Xdi­avel devil horns Tacho and shift light pack drag­ster style Tank-mounted dis­play is im­pos­si­ble to see LED tail lights are just one of Max’s deta

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