Honda Valkyrie vs. Ducati Diavel Carbon - COMPARISON TEST

Two very different takes on the American power-cruiser motorcycle theme

Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda Valkyrie on-road action

Group action shot #2

Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen

Like the cheeseburger, the classic cruiser motorcycle is a product of American pop culture. But, as with anything, variation from the original is what makes life interesting. These two very different takes on the power-cruiser theme are a perfect example.

How would Italy make a cheeseburger? Well, if they're Ducati, they'd grind in a little Bologna, first of all... And then to really put their stamp on it, the Italians would probably go arrabiata and add some pepper flakes. In fact, we know they'd do this because we've loved the spicy Diavel since our first ride, going so far as to award it the Best Cruiser in 2011–'12.

While the Japanese can be adventuresome with their spice (think wasabi), their Far Eastern cheeseburger would be richly beefy in the Kobe tradition, relying on the natural fats and flavors to deliver a flat-six Honda Valkyrie patty that was so meaty it would nearly be a caricature of Americana.

Despite origins on opposite sides of the globe, these two machines have more in common than you might think. Yes, their engines (six versus twin) and final drives (shaft versus chain) are decidedly different, but both bikes aim squarely at a very similar target.

Ducati Diavel Carbon static side view

Ducati Diavel Carbon static shot #1

Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
UPS DOWNS
Sportbike-engine performance, laid-back riding position Styling is a love/hate affair
Do-it-all chassis: carves corners, blasts boulevards, eats interstates Tall saddle height compared to power-cruiser competition
Passenger accommodations are an afterthought

Biggest commonality is in riding position—both companies ordered from the American menu in that respect. Each machine features a handlebar that allows the upper torso to just lean into the wind. Mid-ship footpeg locations provide comfortable bends to the knees, the Honda's pegs sit a bit more forward, the Ducati's slightly more rearward. Comfortable, well-shaped seats are good for at least a tank of gas and, depending on your tolerance, quite a bit more. Despite no upper fairings or windscreens, the bikes both provided a reasonable degree of wind protection from their respective headlights and dashes. Low saddle heights that put you "in" the bikes are partly to thank for this: The Valk's 28.8 is 1.2 inches closer to the street than the Diavel's.

Sliding into those saddles makes the abundant width of these machines imme­diately clear. Each has side-mounted radiators for their liquid-cooled engines, which combine with large fuel tank/airbox covers for huge “shoulders.” But the Honda Valkyrie carries that width further by the very nature of that horizontally opposed 1,832cc flat six. Then again, every­thing about the Honda is large, all the way down to its 67.0-inch wheelbase and huge tiller handlebar. The Ducati Diavel Carbon is narrower aft of its muscular tank thanks to its V-twin, which works in concert with its slimmer seat and tailsection to make the Italian bike feel quite a bit smaller.

Well, the Ducati's 498-pound dry weight doesn't hurt either because with the Honda's girth comes weight—lots of it. On our scales, the Valkyrie weighed 716 pounds (sans fuel), which is a lot but doesn't seem like that much when compared to its shared-platform stablemates, the 900-pound Gold Wing and 840-pound F6B.

Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda Valkyrie static group view
Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen

Amazingly, the Valkyrie carries its weight in a manner that defies the numbers. A low center of gravity, light steering, and a stable chassis make the Honda very easy to maneuver once in motion (though you won’t get this sensation pushing it around your garage!). As you might expect, the Honda feels like a “lightweight” Gold Wing, but its longer wheelbase, increased rake (29.9 degrees versus 29.15 degrees), trail (4.5 inches versus 4.3 inches), and 19-inch front wheel (versus 18 inches on the Gold Wing) make it a bit less agile. But it is damn stable and has dead-neutral steering.

Naturally, the lighter Diavel feels far sportier, and while the 28-degree rake, 5.1-inch trail, and 17-inch front wheel help the bike snap into bends, the super-fat 240mm rear tire slows the process down and makes the steering heavy and not neutral, requiring much inside bar pressure to keep it on line. It’s clearly a case of “cruiser” aesthetics winning out over vehicle dynamics. But the Diavel sports better cornering clearance, and its suspension offers far superior performance when the road gets twisty and bumpy, with only a slight penalty to overall comfort compared to the plush Valkyrie. Even with its wonky steering feel, the handling edge clearly goes to the Ducati.

The same can be said about braking. Yes, the Honda’s brakes do a good job of stopping the Valkyrie, but our bike didn’t come with the optional ABS (only available on the black bike for an additional $1,000), and these binders simply don’t hold a candle to the amazing feel and power of the Diavel’s superbike-derived Brembos.

Honda Valkyrie static 3/4 view

Honda Valkyrie static shot.

Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
UPS DOWNS
Engine is sewing-machine smooth with stump-pulling grunt Wallows a bit on fast, winding roads
Carries its weight with aplomb when in motion Feels big because it is big
Unflappable stability ABS a $1,000 option but only with black paint

Gobs of torque define these engines, yet their characteristics are very different. On the yin side, you have the ultra-smooth flat-six Honda. It’s as serene as anything on the road but delivers a wallop of low-end grunt whenever your wrist beckons. You can light up the rear tire in the bottom two gears with a quick flick of the throttle, and the pass-cars-now roll-on performance in top gear is phenomenal. The six’s torque curve feels almost electric in its delivery, with seemingly equal twist available from almost anywhere in the rev range. We measured peak torque of 112 pound-feet at 3,920 rpm on our Dynojet dyno.

If raw, unbridled performance in a quasi-cruiserish package sounds interesting to you, we can assure you that the Ducati delivers its hairy yang on many levels. As in the Multistrada, the Diavel runs a previous-generation superbike-derived 1,198cc Testastretta engine with its power characteristics massaged by using a torque-enhancing 11 degrees of valve-timing overlap. This, together with other changes, helped create one of the most versatile and capable engines on the market. Bottom-end response and torque (81 pound-feet peak) are excellent, and yet quick-revving power continues to build all the way through the rpm range. We measured 131 hp at 9,020 rpm.

Upgrades to the 2015 engine (in particular, a one-point bump in the compression ratio to 12.5:1) moved peak torque and power to a lower, user-friendlier zone. Exiting tight hairpin corners in second gear, all it takes is a quick dip of the clutch lever to loft the front wheel into a huge wheelie. Not many cruisers are this playful. At the same time, the engine exhibits characteristically smooth 90-degree V-twin behavior. It’s nothing like the Valkyrie in terms of refinement, but it’s loaded with personality.

Ducati Diavel Carbon tunnel cruising action

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Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen

There is also a lot of tunability, thanks to customizable riding modes and traction control. For sure, the Diavel is fully capable of unleashing pent-up rage in Sport mode, but you can dial it back when you just want to cruise. Switch to Urban mode for softer throttle response and reduced peak power, or go to Touring for full power with mellower delivery.

The Valkyrie is pretty straightforward by comparison: no traction control, ride modes, or other bells and whistles—just you, your wrist, and the Valk’s pair of 40mm throttle bodies control output.

The American cheeseburger, that one from Wisconsin, obviously owns the cruiser market. It’s predictable, satisfying, and good. But if you’re in the mood for something quite a bit different, these two machines will provide a similar kind of riding satisfaction but with dramatically differing recipes.

For pure comfort and sublime refinement, with an emphasis on smoothness, the Valkyrie rules. Gold Wing lineage and one of the greatest engines ever to spin a rear tire simply cannot be ignored. But the Diavel, admittedly more expensive, particularly in the Carbon form here, is more our flavor. It offers a far broader performance envelope, more features, even standard ABS. It’s a better-rounded motorcycle, capable of tackling any type of riding that fits your mood from mellow to maniacal.

SPECIFICATIONS Ducati Diavel Carbon Honda Valkyrie
PRICE $20,995 $17,999
DRY WEIGHT 498 lb. 716 lb.
WHEELBASE 62.1 in. 67.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 30.0 in. 28.8 in.
FUEL MILEAGE 41 mpg 36 mpg
0-60 MPH 2.6 sec. 3.4 sec.
1/4 MILE 10.39 sec. @ 130.12 mph 11.92 sec. @ 111.56 mph
HORSEPOWER 131.3 hp @ 9020 rpm 101.7 hp @ 5330 rpm
TORQUE 81.4 lb.-ft. @ 7890 rpm 111.7 lb.-ft. @ 3920 rpm
TOP SPEED 150 mph 125 mph
Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda Valkyrie group action

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Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda Valkyrie cityscape view

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Ducati Diavel Carbon and Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon static 3/4 view

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Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon static cityscape view

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Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon on-road action

Ducati Diavel Carbon action shot #1

Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon cityscape action

Ducati Diavel Carbon action shot #2

Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon night riding action

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Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon night on-road action

Ducati Diavel Carbon action shot #4

Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Ducati Diavel Carbon turning on-road action

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Ducati Diavel CarbonJeff Allen
Honda Valkyrie on-road action

Honda Valkyrie action shot #1

Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Honda Valkyrie cityscape action

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Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Honda Valkyrie night riding action

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Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Honda Valkyrie night ride action

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Honda ValkyrieJeff Allen
Honda Valkyrie studio overhead view

Honda Valkyrie studio overhead shot.

Honda ValkyrieCourtesy of Honda
Ducati Diavel studio overhead view

Ducati Diavel studio overhead shot.

Ducati DiavelCourtesy of Ducati