California Hot Rod, Take 2
Behind The Diavel's American-Influenced Design
Words: Aaron frank
Photo: Thomas Maccabelli
You don't have to look hard to find an American drag-racing influence in the Ducati Diavel's design. You can see it in the stance, with a tall, wide rear tire bookended by a skinny, raked-out front. It's echoed in the stubby tail and massive midsection underlined by those huge, sweeping exhaust headers. The Diavel's profile resembles a smoother, sleeker, very modern update of a '60s fuel altered roadster.
American drag racing might seem like a strange place for a Dutch-born designer of Italian motorcycles to seek inspiration, but that's exactly where Diavel creator Bart Janssen-Groesbeek found his muse. "I'm a big fan of American hot-rod culture," he says. "People who say the U.S. doesn't have culture just don't know where to look. The hot-rod scene, Von Dutch, drag racing-that's culture. I like that, and I looked at that a lot to design this bike. The idea was to stay true to our commitment to performance and acceleration, and incorporate drag-racing and custom-bike design."
Paging through the designer's lookbook also suggested a strong custom-chopper influence, with many examples of bikes built by Roland Sands (who consulted with Ducati on this project) and the two Jesses, Rooke and James. There were also photos of production bikes like Harley-Davidson's V-Rod, Confederate's Wraith and the original Yamaha V-Max. In fact, Janssen-Groesbeek created the first Diavel concept drawing by transposing a Ducati 1098 Superbike outline over the outline of an original V-Max.
The resulting shape, with the long, stretched-out wheelbase and low seat height, was exactly the aggressive, lunging silhouette Janssen-Groesbeek desired. Creating a muscular profile around the Ducati Superbike's V-twin engine wasn't easy, however. "Our engine doesn't have the physical presence of, say, a 2-liter S&S twin," the designer says. Side-mounted radiators created the requisite broad-shouldered look, and allowed the motor to be moved further forward to enhance acceleration.
The decision to locate the shock horizontally beneath the bike was another breakthrough, allowing a low seat height without sacrificing rear-suspension travel. The low profile also created a strong diagonal motif running from the rear axle through the frame and up to the steering head. "When you look at Jesse James' bikes, or Roland's bikes-the hardtails, at least-they all have that strong diagonal line in common. I really wanted that here," Janssen-Groesbeek says.
The final product is unmistakably a Ducati, with signature elements like the trellis frame and single-sided swingarm intact, but with an aggressive attitude unlike anything the company has done before. "Everything-the wheelbase, the engine position, that huge rear wheel sitting there-it looks exactly right, badass," Janssen-Groesbeek says. "We knew from the first design mule that it was all there. All we had to do was not mess it up!"