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MEGA BIKE FEATURE: When Ducati Met Indian – X-Diavel & Multistrada vs. Chief Classic & Scout!

It was an audacious plan to begin with. Having tired of waiting around for the official media ride, a bunch of us decided to draw straws and take matters into our own hands. The winner would be responsible for organising a media ride for a small selected bunch of motorheads, and guess who just happened to be one of them? It wasn’t a tough choice really, because there aren’t many around who still review both cars and bikes, so yours truly was pretty much a shoe-in… okay I begged.

What I didn’t know at the time though was exactly what we’d be testing, it was at the descretion of the short-straw drawer, so it was a rather big shock to the system when I realised the ride was going to involve four bikes valued at more than half-a-million ringgit in total. No, really. These weren’t small-potatoes by any stretch of the imagination. Leading the charge in this quartet as far as the numbers game is concerned, was the big Indian Chief Classic, costing a cool RM180,000, followed by the Ducati X Diavel at RM150,000, then the Ducati Multistrada at around RM130,000 and finally the Indian Scout at RM114,000.

The initial plan was a 3 day, 2 night roadtrip to Mersing, JB with a beach-party and BBQ hosted by bikini-clad hotties thrown in, but due to other commitments and the cruel onset of reality, it had to be cut down to just an overnighter. Oh the great plans of mice and men… Now under normal circumstances, a 4-bike test with a 24-hour turn-around time covering over 800kms wouldn’t be something I’d relish, but given the bikes at hand, plus the guys I’d be riding with, there was no way in hell I’d be turning this down. Thus it was time to decide how I would go about this test. 4 bikes, 24 hours… Admittedly, I wouldn’t have enough time in the saddle of each bike for four individual reviews, so I’ve decided to focus on one aspect alone. And the one that made the most sense was, if I were given the choice to keep just one of the 4 bikes, forever, which would it be…? Hmm…. good question.

Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. All four bikes are extremely different in their own right. Each offer a very different riding experience, and each require a different riding style and technique, despite coming from only two camps; Ducati and Indian. Thus it should have come as no surprise to me that I almost ended up in a padi field when I jumped off the big, burly Indian Chief and onto the Multistrada…but it did.

The Indian Chief Classic (above) is a beautiful bike, and hands down the best looking amongst this mismatched quartet of two-wheelers. Acres of chrome adorn what has to be the epitome of what a lazy-criuser should look like. Its riding position is so relaxed and laid-back, it’s one of the few cruisers in recent memory whose outer appearance totally belies the riding experience it provides. It looks big and cumbersome, and it weighs more than half a tonne (573kg), but the only time you actually feel its weight is when you have to back-pedal out of a parking space.

On the move, the big Chief is a joy to ride. Its lazy 1,811cc V-twin provides an amazing amount of low-end torque (161Nm @ 3000rpm), which means the 5th and even the 6th gear are solely for highway cruising. Speaking of which, at legal highway speeds the revs are barely over idle in 6th. It’s also decently manoeuvrable given its size and weight – it’s 2,630mm long by the way – and will easily touch down in corners taken too enthusiastically. Key-less go is also another plus point with the big Chief, just keep the key-fob in your pocket, thumb the massive ‘ON’ switch on the tank, hit the starter and the big twin rumbles to life.

Surprisingly, for an American bike, there’s no need to pull-in the clutch to start it up. It will lurch if accidentally started in gear, which I almost found out the hard way, because someone who shall remain nameless (it was that bugger Faisal Shah, above) left the bike in gear, while it was on the pier (second photo from the top), and the big Chief and I almost went head-first into the sea when I started the bike to bring it off the pier. Thanks dude, I’m just glad I had spare underwear handy…

So remember that padi field I mentioned earlier? Well, having had enough (relative) saddle time with the big Indian, it was time to jump onto one of the Ducati’s, and you know, in hindsight, I should have opted for the X-Diavel first, before jumping directly from the Chief to the Multistrada. Hindsight is always 20:20 isn’t it? The reason being if ever the term ‘intuitive handling’ could be used for a bike, the Multistrada MTS 1200 is it. The spec sheet reads like something that any biker worth his leathers would drool uncontrollably over; L-Twin, 1,198.4cc, Twin-Spark, 4-valves per cylinder, and Variable-Valve Timing. The result is 160bhp & 136Nm of torque in a bike that weighs just over 200kgs.

Any gear, any speed, just wrench that throttle open and hold on for dear life. The L-twin provides instantaneous and brutal acceleration, (hello, padi field) and it’s nothing short of phenomenal just how fast this bike goes. The miles will literally whizz by on this bike, for in addition to oodles of power, it’s also very comfortable and incredibly nimble; almost too light actually. The riding position is very upright, and despite what looks like too narrow a seat, the MTS affords a very comfortable riding position. It’s classified as a Dual-Purpose, but folks, in the right hands this thing will easily keep up with superbikes on the twisties, and of course leave them when the terrain turns to what’s pictured above…

A massive 20-litre tank and a fuel consumption rating of 4.9L/100km means that fill-ups will be few and far between on the MTS, making it an ideal long-distance tourer. Optional panniers and a top-box would ensure that capability, although I’m not sure how the bike would handle extra weight at the back. It may become better actually, because as it is, and as I mentioned earlier, it feels almost too light and too damn quick for its own good.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, and despite coming from the same ‘family’, and utilising the same engine as the Multistrada, the Ducati X-Diavel is a different beast altogether. First-off, it looks like nothing else out there on two-wheels. A massive 240/45 ZR17 spec ‘open’ rear tyre leads the charge in what can only be described as the most audacious styling to come from a bike maker since the Yamaha V-Max. And like that bike, the “Devil” also seems to have room for a rear passenger, but trust me when I say, it’s just for show. The Devil is a solo-rider bike if there ever was one, and that back-rest is to keep the rider from sliding off during hard acceleration.

Despite having different riding ‘modes’ just like the MTS earlier, the Devil is definitely not for beginners. It’s a twitchy bike and demands respect and an experienced hand, especially in corners where the 120/70 ZR17 front tyre tries desperately to keep up with the monumental amount of grip provided by that enormous 240 section rear tyre. Put it this way, you’ll still have 20% more rubber to put down from the rear, when the front is practically on its sidewalls during hard banked cornering. The riding position too takes a bit of getting used to, as you sit upright thanks to the straight-bars, but the footrests are a bit on the high side as can be seen from the photo above. For taller riders, it almost feels perched.

It’s an incredible piece of mechanical and electrical engineering really, all shoehorned into a design package that thumbs its nose at conventional motorbike styling…with a firmly extended middle finger. The X-Diavel is a statement actually, very likely born from a “because we can” school of design thought. It’s not meant for everyone. It’s a love it or hate it proposition, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not a sportsbike, superbike or tourer, and despite being classified as a ‘cruiser’ it doesn’t really look like one either. It would look terrible with any aftermarket embellishments slapped on, and thus it’s best to just leave it exactly the way it is. It looks like something that someone lovingly crafted in his barn over the course of several years, so I’m pegging it as a ‘custom-muscle’ bike, a tag more suited to the Devil than ‘cruiser’ me thinks…

I’ve actually saved the most surprising bike of the quartet for last; the little Indian Scout… that almost sounds like a kid’s bedtime story doesn’t it? Well, this is one bedtime story that I can get used to. From the start, the Scout was the underdog of the group. Not only was it the cheapest bike here, it was also physically the smallest. Pegged squarely against the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the Scout is the smallest and cheapest Indian Motorcycle you can buy, but it’s definitely not low-rent. Possessed of excellent build quality and probably the most comfortable riding position of any bike in this segment, it also has an ace up its wheel arches that can only be noticed when riding. Despite being small, it has an amazingly useable 100bhp and 100Nm of torque from its 1,133cc V-Twin engine.

And because of its dimunitive size, it puts the power down incredibly well. I really wasn’t expecting much from the Scout, I’d actually relegated it a mere back-up bike in case one of the others encountered any problems along the way, but ‘lo and behold, pound-for-pound, and taking into account the stiff competition it faces in this segment, the Scout turned out to be the most impressive bike here. It’s a low-rider too, and somehow, psychologically, it feels more reassuring to ride. It’s even perfectly balanced for cornering and more spirited riding, thanks to meatier 130/90 section front and 150/80 section rear tyres. It also looks the most ‘balanced’ of the lot, exuding a safer more traditional design.

So there you have it folks, four bikes, from two bike makers, offering four very, very different riding experiences. It was the fastest 24-hours I ever experienced, and deep-down I really did wish I had more time in the saddle with all four of these bikes, preferably with those aforementioned bikini-clad models and a BBQ party. Levity aside, I liked and disliked each one in its own way, and while none were perfect, every single one put a smile on my face at some point. But the one that I’d keep is the one that put the biggest smile on my mug, the bike that no one, least of all me, expected to be anything much, but proved itself otherwise…

Not as radical and audacious as the X-Diavel, not as mental as the Multistrada, and not as cumbersome as the big Indian Chief Classic, if it was a choice, I’d keep the little Indian Scout. Yeah, I’d be happy as a clam with this one if given the choice, for sure. – Chris Wee.

Photo Gallery (Photos by Hezeri Samsuri & Aiemax Choomoo)