Get ready for launch!

Emma hopes the Du­cati Xdi­avel’s launch con­trol will help her beat an ex­pert rider off the line and turn her into a drag queen

Motorcycle News (UK) - - MCN Garage -

Spi­ders? No prob­lem. Heights? Easy. One hun­dred miles per hour-plus knee­down cor­ners? Not even a flicker of heart rate in­crease. Launch­ing a big bike from a stand­ing start, how­ever, leaves me a trem­bling mess. Just the thought of all that dor­mant power wait­ing to be un­leashed, the me­chan­i­cal ten­sion, the tightrope bal­ance of throt­tle and clutch, and the worry of be­ing spat off side­ways in an em­bar­rassed heap.

Fir­ing a bike off the line turns my nor­mally dar­ing dis­po­si­tion into cack­handed cow­ard­li­ness.

So it was with knock­ing knees that I de­cided to test the Xdi­avel S’s launch con­trol func­tion to see if it could help me – a launch-a-pho­bic – over­come my fear and im­prove my per­for­mance.

And if it could do both those things, could it put me on a par with an ex­pert rider like MCN’S per­for­mance tester Bruce Dunn, who has 0- 60mph tested ev­ery new mo­tor­cy­cle of the last 25 years? I had high hopes for the sys­tem and was look­ing for­ward to an af­ter­noon of brain- out, fear-free, su­per- quick launches.

The the­ory is sim­ple. Du­cati’s Power Launch (DPL) sys­tem fit­ted to the S-model Xdi­avel man­ages the out­put from that 1262cc V-twin so all you need to do is pin the throt­tle right to the stop and let the clutch out. Of­fer­ing three lev­els of as­sis­tance de­pend­ing on your rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the DPL then con­trols the amount of wheel­spin and wheelie to en­sure you get the safest, quick­est and most en­joy­able get­away. Easy.

Time to get un­der starters or­ders. With a GPS dat­a­log­ger strapped to the Xdi­avel, both Bruce and I will do six launches, three unas­sisted and then three us­ing the Xdi­avel’s DPL sys­tem, then we’ll record our best 0- 60mph time. Lay­ing the gaunt­let down first, Bruce rolls the Xdi­avel up to our Brunt­ingth­orpe start­ing line and then launches the bike to­wards the hori­zon. In­stead of pulling away smoothly, the bike jumps and lurches be­fore fi­nally get­ting into its stride. He re­turns red-faced, with a 3.42s 0- 60mph to show for his trou­bles, and de­mands that the bike’s trac­tion and wheelie con­trol be turned off; the level of in­tru­sion is pre­vent­ing him from get­ting a clean get­away. His next two runs are a vast im­prove­ment and he man­ages a best time of 2.99s.

Now it’s my turn, also with launch con­trol switched off. I know ex­actly what I need to do: se­lect first gear, hold the revs just be­low peak torque, which on the Xdi­avel is at 5000rpm, then re­lease the clutch as smoothly and as quickly as pos­si­ble, but I still sit there mo­tion­less, star­ing at the hori­zon. Let’s get this over and done with – three, two, one – clutch out and wind the throt­tle on. The big Du­cati is ut­terly planted and much smoother than I ex­pected, but I wuss out by hold­ing on to the clutch for too long and post a fairly mis­er­able 3.84s.

Gee’d up for my next at­tempt I fo­cus all my at­ten­tion on re­leas­ing the clutch lever al­most in­stantly; the Xdi­avel’s rear tyre scrab­bles for grip and the front floats above the Brunt­ingth­orpe con­crete. I’m con­cen­trat­ing hard for those ini­tial split sec­onds, so don’t get the chance to sit back and en­joy the ride, even though my data re­veals a 3.10s 0- 60mph, which isn’t too bad at all. I’ve ac­tu­ally sur­prised my­self. If that’s what I can do au na­turel, imag­ine what I’ll be ca­pa­ble of with the help of Du­cati’s clever Power Launch sys­tem.

On a high, I set about ac­ti­vat­ing the func­tion. First I have to turn the trac­tion con­trol back on, then press­ing the ded­i­cated but­ton on the right-hand switchgear takes me to the launch menu, which in­forms me I’ve got three launches avail­able. Feel­ing em­pow­ered by my unas­sisted launches, I se­lect Level One for ex­pert rid­ers, which al­lows both wheel­ies and wheel­spin. The dash tells me to pull in the clutch, en­gage first gear and open full throt­tle. I obey its com­mand and the Xdi­avel bounces off the rev lim­iter while the dash flashes red and tells me that it’s ready to launch. It feels to­tally wrong hear­ing the revs scream­ing with all the dash lights strob­ing red at me, but I smoothly but swiftly re­lease the clutch and the Xdi­avel floats away with the per­fect-feel­ing mix of drive, wheelie and trac­tion. It feels bril­liant.

“Slower,” states Bruce some­what un­sur­prised. What? How could it be slower, it felt bril­liant. “Try it again.”

With the Xdi­avel in­form­ing me that I now only had two launches avail­able, I re­peated the pro­cess but con­cen­trated on re­leas­ing the clutch as quick as pos­si­ble. Yet an­other per­fect-feel­ing launch fol­lowed. “Bet­ter, but still slower than with­out the DPL,” said Bruce, “let me try.”

With the last re­main­ing launch, Bruce tried his hand with the sys­tem, and posted a time even slower than mine. The DPL sys­tem fit­ted to the Xdi­avel is bril­liant fun and def­i­nitely makes starts feel ef­fort­less. But if you’re plan­ning a day on the drag strip, the fastest way off the line is dis­abling trac­tion con­trol and us­ing good old-fash­ioned rider skill.

‘The Xdi­avel floats away with the per­fect-feel­ing mix of drive and trac­tion’

Bruce at­taches dat­a­log­ger with Du­cati Corse duct tape, nat­u­rally

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