Thursday, 29 April 2010

Tea and cakes with scarecrows

Our first Tea and Cakes of the year is this Saturday 1st May, from 2pm 'til 5ish - I know the forecast's dodgy, but it'd be great to see at least a couple of folk; email if you can make it, or see details of the great rides here

Urchfont Scarecrow Festival 2 miles up the road's also well worth at visit - here - or you could leave bored other halves there, or at Devizes Farmers' Market 5 miles away

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Stafford Show in rude health - but is Moto Guzzi dead?

Everyone raves about the Stafford show and now I understand why; my lips are cracked from talking too much, and my feet still ache from standing around all day. Busy doesn't begin to cover it - I saw the stand and the way to the toilets, and hardly anything else. Thank you to everyone who dropped by - and if you missed me I'll move heaven and earth to be at the Ace Cafe's Italian Day this Sunday 2 May.

But our Italian visitors brought sad news from the shores of Lake Como - Piaggio have shut the Moto Guzzi factory at Mandello del Lario, and started to empty the museum. The good news is the museum's back up and running, and Piaggio say the factory's only shut for refurbishment.

The good news stops there. Our Italian friends say this is just a smokescreen to move Guzzi production from the factory they've been built at since the firm was established in 1920, and wriggle out of paying redundancy cash.

This is our heritage. Paintings, sculpture, buildings - they all get instant kudos and often legal protection to save them for future generations. When the petrol runs out the first century of mass transport will finally be appreciated. The green lobby may point at magnificent follies like the Guzzi V8 (pictured in the Guzzi museum) but this was built with the cash from thousands of Guzzilinos and such that gave us ordinary folk the freedom to venture beyond our own villages. And when future historians try to understand this, in the same way previous eras are researched by examining old buildings and artefacts, what will we say?

Oh, we got rid of it all. Couldn't screw enough money out of it.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Congratulations to Team Benzina supporter and contributor Rob Dixon - a 1st and 2nd place in round one of the Classic Italian Endurance race, teamed with Piero Laverda who reckons the success made him fell 20 years younger. Rob's been a Laverda nut since the age of 16 and savagely pruned his collection of Laverda's to fund the season ahead; We can only imagine what it feels like to be asked to race alongside Mr. Laverda in Italy. Rob's a top guy and runs the very useful website He'll be writing about his experience in Classic Bike. We have to make do with him telling us what the V6 racer goes like in issue 2 of Benzina

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

If Ducati made bicycles, they'd be Bianchis (hang on, they are actually)and in a way bicycles are the ultimate distillation of personal transport. Also beautiful, right down to the tiniest detail - especially if it's made by Campagnolo.

This sort of thinking has rubbed off on my son, so when he announced he wanted a roadbike for his 13th he insisted it was a Bianchi. But we've got a limited budget, and even with him chipping in his hard earnt savings a Bianchi roadie looked a million years away. But if you want to keep them lean, the exercise regime has to keep them keen.

So cunning use of Google advanced search unearthed this beauty for under £300. Less than 4 years old, the current equivalent’s over £600 - if anyone’s got one in stock. Only problem was it was in Brixton. Even a country boy like me knows that's not the posh end of London town.

But a 200 mile round trip in the Fiat 500 (yes, it fitted; well, just)took less than 4 gallons of fuel and 5 hours including dealing with a very friendly vendor (thanks Viadas)and a father/son bonding session in Heston's Popham Little Chef. What a perfect day. And the boy's so chuffed he's keeping the bike in his bedroom. Mind you, his mum's not home yet...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Stafford - and the Teas and Cakes

First - a huge thank you to everyone who's made issue 1 of Benzina a success - hugely appreciated (and a massive relief). I'll be at the Stafford show this weekend (Sandylands Hall, opposite Ducati Owners Club) so come and say hello.
And then Saturday 1 May our first Teas and Cakes of 2010, 2pm on - details on the teas and cakes pagepage - come and ridicule the Paso, help get the Darmah's horn working, or just tuck into Joanna's baking. Click on the picture for a taste of what you can expect.
STOP PRESS - issue 2 ready early June - words and pictures nearly done, then the drag of design and proofing for the home run; there's Laverda V6 riding impressions plus their Formula 500 racers at the TT. Sticking with the Isle of Man, the story of Tony Rutter's partnership with Ducati and the development of the TT2 that led to the F1 roadbike. A smattering of Benelli Sei (did you know Joey Dunlop raced one?), a goodly dollop of Ducati Silverstone and a slice of MV750 Sport are some of the tasty roadbikes on offer, plus riding with Dustbin fairings, Guzzi V8s, and touring Europe on a Le Mans in 1976. Phew. I'd better get on with

Friday, 16 April 2010

Il Paso arrivo

It's here - my latest Ducati, and an ideal daily ride; the Ducati 906 Paso. The ministrations of Moto Marianna fettled it to perfection (although I needed a sit down when I saw the bill) and the new tail light went on in (several) minutes (see blog passim). The Darmah Queen decided her horn wouldn't work, so The Paso nicked her MOT slot and sailed through - with me standing next to the missing chain guard, ahem. Hopefully Andy at Mdina will find me one before one pops up on eBay, and I think I can source the correct decals. Tempted to have the lower bodywork done in 750 gunmetal rather than the 906 white though.

Chain and sprockets nearly new, as are the tricky (and expensive) to find tyres. And hopefully I've discovered a way round the replacement tyre conundrum, although the trick doesn't work on the 750. More anon, but if you need to know email me via  the Benzina website

Monday, 12 April 2010

Purists look away now

There are two schools of thought on bike restorations - make them shiny (far shinier tha the factory ever did) and bask in the admiration and prizes of your peers; or (my prefered option) do what you damn well please (bearing in mind I'm a chap - chappesses do not mean "do what you damn well please" when they say it; they mean "you know what I want you to do. Be warned. And do't ask me why I know this)

Anyway, Peter Korens GTS860 is the perfect example of what Benzina loves. More at Made in Italy Motorcycles

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Here's to an emotional reunion...our local track demon Tommy Bridewell showed superstar qualities in BSB last year, riding his late brother's Suzuki complete with the #46 plate our much-missed Ollie always ran.

This year Tommy's got an ex Shakey Byrne Fireblade and in the very first round of 2010's British Superbikes showed the doubters what Benzina already knew - boy, can he ride.

In race 1 he was looking good for a podium when disaster struck as he slid out at Graham Hill Bend; looking to make amends in race two, another fantastic start gifted fourth place which he used to chase down the leaders. But fighting to maintain his position he clashed with Michael Laverty, crashing out at Druids Corner and out of the race too.

Yes, DNFs are always a disappointment, but as Wayne Rainey said: It's easier for a fast rider to learn not to crash than for a slow rider to learn how to ride fast. Come on Tommy, we know you can do it...

I've know the Bridewells forever - Dad Marcus and me would chat as his Dad filled my Dad's car with petrol (hey - village garages with petrol pumps - those were the days). Marcus and his Dad were useful grass track racers, so Tommy's got real provenance. If you see him, cheer him on.

Details of the series here

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Happy Easter!

(and thanks to Tony for the pic)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

April fool

So the new Ducati Paso's on the way - bought cheap from a dealer who thought a minor workshop bump would cost pennies to fix, but learnt the hard way that manufacturer's just don't stock spares for bikes more than 5 minutes old...

Minor bump broke the rear light lens - a huge affair on the Paso that covers the rear indicators too. But you can't get them anymore - they used to be supplied as a complete unit (lenses, backplate, casting and fittings for back lights and indicators) but no more. Sometimes NOS appears on eBay, but even if you can wait they make as much as £200. Not what a dealer with stock to shift wants to hear...

So one cheeky offer later, and the Paso will soon be my daily ride. Just needs a fettle and the new lens (above) found overnight by the ever helpful Andy Jones of Mdina (see our "Good Guys" page) for under £50. Excellent.

Just need to sort the bloody weather out now...