Harley-Davidson V-ROD Muscle (VRSC-F) and 2013 Ducati Diavel Dark Stealth
My first comments would be to stop comparing these bikes. They are about as similar as a rock song from the eighties to an upbeat classical movement. Instead of reading reviews on the bikes, simply go test ride them to have an understanding of the difference. If it does not become immediately apparent to you which style of riding is right for you, then please, read on.
The major difference between the two bikes is about 50 years in technological advancements, maybe longer. The V-Rod is a big deal in the cruiser world, and was far more advanced that the standard Harley engine, yet hasn’t been advanced beyond it’s introduction model. Ducati seems to be constantly fine-tuning their machines while Harley sticks with what is working to sell motorcycles.
The V is gorgeous, and still retains the best design lines I think I've ever seen in a production motorcycle. However, I have never had a moment where I found myself missing the actual ride. Not even one. She is ridiculously heavy and very wide at the seat. The ergonomics are horrible with the clamshell riding position (as set up stock, risers help as do the optional mids offered in some models). It becomes tiresome on the body after a few hours in the saddle, in particular in the right shoulder if you’re taller, and the hips if you’re shorter. The Diavel has a better riding position, but is cramped in the leg area. The ride itself is far more stiff to make for an unpleasant bike for long rides. I’ve done the 1,000 miles in a day Iron Butt ride on my Muscle, and have laid down a few multi-day rides of 3 to 400 miles each on the Diavel. Neither are what I’d call “comfortable”, yet I’d take the Diavel over the V-Rod for any ride.
Mechanically I've had some fairly serious issues with both bikes, and they were both rather dangerous. I found HD's service departments to be very friendly and helpful to me (I've been very lucky with my dealer relationships), while the Ducati dealerships were a definite challenge, but once I established a history they have given me the best service I've ever experienced.
I’ve put both bikes through the harsh 115 degree desert heat and the subfreezing temperatures of the Rocky Mountains, from the long highway stretches to the tight twisty canyons, and agonizingly slow parade rides to flat-out-spanking-the-boys fast. I can say that I could feel the Harley’s outter limits and when she wasn’t digging the weather conditions, and definitely have tapped out her performance. Outside of disliking slow speeds/low RPM’s (such as parade rides), the Diavel always acted like she was happy to be out riding, could continue to do so all day, and has always had more to give than I had the balls to do, regardless of what conditions I put her in. It is a much more flexible engine, which was a shocking discovery for me as I anticipated the Ducati to be more persnickety.
Neither the V nor the or Diavel are 2-up bikes. There's enough of a backseat to give someone a lift, but it is unrealistic to head out for an all day ride with a passenger and think they'll be comfortable. I host long-distance riding events and have had 2-up’s on V-Rods and can say a happy passenger after 200 miles is rare, let alone after 800.
Yes, the stock sound of the Diavel is horribly bad but it should be noted the stock sound on the V-Rod is rather like a sewing machine as well. I had V&H slip-ons for the Muscle which brought about the notes far more aggressively, especially upon deceleration. I've put the full Termi exhaust system on the Diavel, and it's by far a superior, more sophisticated sound, which also rounds out that low-end lag. However, it should be noted that the Ducati will never like the low RPM’s that the Harley’s can tolerate so well. They’re simply two different engine designs and need to be ridden as such - in two entirely different manners.
The V-Rod is a long, slow puller while the Diavel is instant gratification. The V is heavy in turns, and although I could carve canyons with the best of them on it, I can drop a V-MAX in the canyons on the Ducati. The Harley will reach the limit of performance about where most cruisers are maxing out their comfortability, which is when the Diavel is just getting started. Low-end the Harley is much better at the slow and low RPM rides as set up stock than the Diavel is, but the Ducati is a much, much easier bike to handle under 25 mph due to its weight and size. Without modifications for the Ducati’s low-end lag, working the clutch and throttle will be a constant demand to keep those RPM’s in the range that the bike likes.
Cruiser riders will want to take note on a few particulars to this different class of bike in the Diavel. One is the ridiculous improvement of brakes. The Harley brakes are a long, slow effort to reduce speed. The Diavel is designed to STOP. Caution should be given to those first few fistfuls of front brake action. Also, the same goes with the throttle, and it’s suggested to test ride the bike in TOUR mode first, then try SPORT due to this reason. False neutrals are a real thing, and can make a cruiser believe there is something seriously wrong with the Diavel’s transmission. Most likely, there is not (except for some rare warranty issues that happened in early models). The Diavel will be difficult to get into neutral as it breaks in. An additional note on the transmission is that, surprisingly, the Ducati wants very firm, sure shifts where the Harley can tolerate a softer touch. Tires wear out much faster on the Ducati and with seemingly no warning. Minimal after-market products currently exist for the Ducati, and dealerships (service centers) can be few and far between. The nearest one to me is a 4 hour trip. One way.
The biggest difference between these two bikes is what is experienced when you ride them. The V-Rod is all about moving a heavy weight, which is massive comparatively, and there is a serious commitment to taking her to speed. 140 mph is completely different on that bike than it is on the Diavel. Completely different. The V-Rod engine basically enjoys about 80/85, would smoothly do 90-110, but you became aware of every mile-per-hour increase over 125, and it demands 110% of your focus at 140 (the most I ever did and have been told that maxed out her potential, which is pretty fast for a stock Harley).
The Diavel, on the other hand, is most happy at 95 to 110 with a minimal noticeable difference in engine delivery as it shoots up to 140 in an easy-breezy, I’m-going-to-jail-because-this-is-just-way-too-much-fun kind of way. The other note is the 41 degree lean-angle of the Diavel over the 32 degrees of the V-Rod, which is a stunning difference once experienced. The light-weight Diavel makes it incredibly nimble in corners while dropping a knee/hip is a very easy skill to acquire. Not so much on the Harley.
But perhaps the biggest difference between the two bikes is contained in the history of the manufactures themselves, as it runs through the basic DNA of these machines. There simply is no getting around the cruiser feel V which is relaxed, beautiful and heavy and slow. There is no getting around the sport history contained in the Diavel with it’s performance abilities and the stiff suspension with the touchy throttle and the balking at any low RPM's. They are simply two different worlds to ride.
In my humble opinion, although the V-Rod will always remain a favorite street bike in my heart, with the best design lines on the market, the Diavel simply delivers the performance boasts claimed by Harley-Davidson. The performance between the two just can't be compared, and it's rather annoying to hear the market lump the bikes into the same category. I like the claim of Ducati with their newest model the XDiavel, calling it a 'technocruiser' better than the term 'power cruiser', but it's still difficult for me to think 'cruiser' when I'm on the Ducati. It's just not the cruiser experience. It is superior technology in a bike that is somewhat like a cruiser. Sort of...if you use your imagination.
If you have a passenger who enjoys being on the back, the V-Rod offers a better experience, but it’s still uncomfortable. If you want to carry luggage, surprisingly I found the smaller passenger seat of the Diavel to be easier to load a few weeks of gear onto due to where the bungee attachments are located. The Diavel does come with some options of luggage systems, however I found the bungee option to work better for my purposes. The V-Rod is also quite easy to load using this system. Gas tanks are about the same size, however the Diavel will get far better mileage, even when playing pro-racer. The Ducati has a chain, which can really bother some riders. Both sport huge rooster tails in the rain, and both will drench you due to their limited fender areas. I found them both to do well in the wind, which surprised me on the lighter Ducati, which just might pull ahead into the lead on this one. The Diavel is far more electronically sophisticated, but still allows a rider like me to ride it as though it had none of those benefits. I personally detest fumbling with gadgets and like to simply start my bike and ride all day, ever day, for weeks at a time. I’ve found the cost of ownership between the two to be surprisingly similar.
If anyone would like more details, I’ve got ‘em. Both in terms of the riding experience, and in terms of the mechanical issues.
As far as the question I am constantly asked of “which bike is better”, my response would be to ask you which discomfort do you prefer; a body-aching clam-shell riding position, or a body-beating stiff, rough ride?
There is your answer.
Original Post Date: 5/4/2016
Samantha Bonsack owns a motorcycle riding events company, Just NUT-UP, LLC, hosts the NUT-UP OR SHUT-UP Moab to Monument Valley & Beyond *RIDING* Rally, and the NUT-UP Iron Butt 1,000 miles in a day ride. She is a Motor Maid patched member, has been voted into office of a local MC, organizes two riding groups and is an Iron Butt SaddleSore rider. More information about her various motorcycle events can be found at NUTUPRally.com, by email at IwannaRide@JustNutUp.com or by calling (334) BIKE-NUT.