Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Bargain Benellis and Sunday rideouts

This is a brand new, unregistered, Benelli Tornado. Under six grand to you, sir. It's even in the historic green and silver. For sale with Moto Corsa, who are well know to Guzzi fans and can also supply new MV Agustas.

Better still, they're trailing Sunday opening just two doors up from 3X Motorcycles: this at last gives me somewhere to ride on a Sunday morning. Years ago 3X used to open Sundays, with a burger van in the car park. Perfect excuse to leave the family to Sunday morning drifting, while I had a quick 100 mile ride on empty roads punctuated by Ducati drooling and a bacon roll. Back home to help get lunch, and the kids don't even realise you've been gone.
Well, maybe Moto Coras can be the new Sunday rideout. There's an excellent foodstop on the A338 just south of Salisbury, and Moto Corsa's stock is as eclectic as it is fascinating. As well as new Benellis, MVs and Guzzis, there was an original Guzzi Cali and Eldorado, a Laverda Atlas (a what?), and this old Guzzi racer. Ah, I remember when white exhausts were the future...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Ducati V8...oh yes!

This is Ducati's prototype V8, snapped by the world's most famous Ducati photographer, Phil Aynsley.

I've a call in to Livio Lodi at the Ducati museum but he's on holiday (like the rest of Italy): in the meantime we think it was built for an O.S.C.A. (a Maseratti offshoot: Stirling Moss loves them; just watch him race one here) and was intended for F1 when 1500cc was the capacity limit.

A two valve air cooled V8 competitive in F1? Well, if you know better, get in touch. And you really should buy Phil's astonishing book before it sells out; amazing how out-of-print Ducati stuff seems to rise in value...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Ding dong

This fantastic image is Katrien aboard a Zagato-Guzzi cafe racer, the stars of many a Davida ad. It was taken by Ben Part who has a way of capturing light I love. How does he do this? I went on a photography course and learnt that despite the evil march of digital cameras some people have just got it, and I'm not one of them.

I also love the fact this picture is sexy but not sexist: Katrien looks like she can ride, and can probably ride faster than most. This is a tougher trick to pull than you'd think, and something looked at (in lovely hi-res) in Benzina #2. Unable to resist more of the same, Ben's kindly agreed to contribute to Benzina #3, although that won't be out till October. If you can't wait, have a look at Sideburn which he publishes with writing star Gary Inman. Issue 6 just out, and worth buying just to see Ben's creativity let loose

(And does anyone else remember Leslie Phillip's in the Carry on Doctor? That's where the expresion "ding dong" comes from, made by Phillips with feeling every time a pretty girl walked by. How times have changed...)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Toys vs. Pram

No surprise, but Ducati are officially out out of World Supers, citing costs & competitors' "prototypes" (Aprilia's gear cam drive?) Good news is Ducati call this an "interuption." Hopefully they'll be back with the Desmosedici...

There's tasty

Spotted on John Fallon's website - a super rare Santamonica. John has an uncanny knack of sourcing rare bikes, and they don't get rarer than this: just 204 Santamonica's were built, supposedly for Japan only which was Ducati's biggest market back in the mid eighties. Named after the Autodromo Santamonica (where Lucchinelli won a Formula 1 round on a 750F1 racer), this was the end of the line for Taglioni designed Ducatis, as detailed in Benzina #2. If you think a Ducati should be a straightforward vee twin designed by Dr T, this was the last Ducati ever built.

So how mush is it? I didn't ask: I can resist anything except temptation. But I'll wager that whatever it costs, in five years it'll will be worth much more. Pension plan? It's Santamonica vs. Santander...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Agent Orange

Team Benzina contributor Rob Dixon with be pulling on his Laverda Corse race kit this weekend for a four hour endurance race at Rijeka in Croatia.

Sharing the riding will be Hermann Ansorge and Piero Laverda himself. The pics are Rob and Piero in the last race at Magione. Rob's had an intense six months building the latest racer which culminates with its debut as the teams ‘A’ bike in Rijeka: no pressure then...

Hopefully Rob will do a piece for Benzina magazine on the development of the new racer. Rob promises it’s quite interesting: well he thinks it is...

In the meantime good luck to our Agents Orange, and if you need advice on Laverdas, Rob's website is a regular treasure trove

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Happy Birthday Cook Neilson

If you've not sent a card, you've missed Cook Neilson's birthday, and if you're a Ducati fan a card is the least Cook deserves. Back in the mid seventies he was editor of Cycle magazine and wrote "Racer Road," a series on race prepping the Ducati 750SS that became know as the California Hot Rod/Old Blue. This culminated in winning the 1977 Daytona 200, still the only time a Ducati has seen the top step of the podium in a Daytona Superbike race.

When Benzina #1 was still just an idea, Vicki Smith of ducati.net casually mentioned she knew Cook and my jaw dropped. Cycle had cost double what UK magazines did, and as a college kid I had to make tough decisions about the mags I bought: in the end there was an overarching rule - if there was a Ducati in it, I'd buy it. If it was a Racer Road I'd rob Peter and Paul. So I asked Vicki if she might approach Cook to write something for Benzina

Vicki promised to forward a few questions, with the caveat that there were no guarantees. Cook's a legend, so I guessed I'd get stonewalled, but hoped for a couple of hundred words. When Cook submitted the piece I was blown away. That 2,000+ words of perfect prose arrived without a single typo inside a few days was wildest dream stuff.

And the best bit in what a nice guy Cook is. He pays for his own copies of Benzina, and tells other people to do likewise. I've been lucky enough via Benzina to get in touch with quite a few of my past heroes and...well, I can see how they got difficult jobs done in the face of adversity. But Cook's just a great guy, and if Benzina had just published his story that would be enough for me. So happy birthday, Mr Neilson: you deserve it

(and apologies to Motorcycle Classics for the spoof bottom pic)

Monday, 23 August 2010

Pay to advertise

Probably breaks a ton of copyright laws, but this period ad appeared in Benzina #1 as a freebie ad for Ducati, and as unashamed nostalgia for anyone who can remember it from first time round. Look closely and you'll see the studio shot has the Desmo's spark plug lead disconnected: nascent health and safety or forgetful photographer? Who knows.

Any way, this is on hardwearing vinyl, ideal for the garage or even outside. Depending on where you are it's about £25 posted - email enquiries@teambenzina.co.uk if you're interested

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Aprilia's new world record

No-one's made a fuss about it, but Aprilia overtook MV Agusta as the winningest manufacturer in MotoGP last weekend when Nico Terol won the 125 race at the Czech GP.

Aprilia now has 276 wins in the MotoGP, one more than MV Agusta. That's 133 race wins in the 125 class, 143 in the 250 class, 36 World Championships, and 18 manufacturer championships.

Aprilia started racing in MotoGP in 1985, when it debuted in the 250 class. It took two years to find its first win, with Loris Reggiani in 1987.

The first 125 World Championship came in 1992, and in 1994 Biaggi took the 250 title.

But Aprilia's wins go beyond MotoGP. 43 championships include 7 off-road, plus perhaps the 2010 World Superbike silverware - Max Biaggi has 9 wins so far in the title chase, giving Aprilia the lead in both individual and manufacturer standings.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

French Genius

Motorway services define countries, if only because that's what you see when you need to get somewhere fast. Michael Palin can witter on about taking the slow road all he likes, but he doesn't have to be home on Monday. So big miles means motorways, and flats down the centreline of your tyres.

In the UK service areas start with warnings that you'll be fined if you loiter too long, and entreaties to buy expensive coffee in paper cups. But you need to rush anyway, because if you leave your bike too long it'll have been pinched. Ah, the entrepreneurial spirit of the new age.

But in France they have these lockable bike cages: no need to unload luggage or carry giant locks, just pop the bike and your kit into the Box Moto, and go take a shower. Yes, really - a decent, clean shower, that's free to use. Then enjoy food that tastes of something other than 'fridge, while taking in a view that's not essence of shopping mall. Finish with proper coffee in a proper cup, and continue on your way. Perfect.

But in case you thing I've come over all Francophile, remember this: 100,000 Frenchmen with their hands in the air is what France calls an army...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Shelling out

This lovely MV Agusta 125 should have been at our last tea and cakes, but broke down on the way. A duff condenser was suspected, but no - spark, fuel and everything else was present and correct. Ho, hum, and home here we come.

Next day the impoverished owner stuck the contents of the MV's recently filled fuel tank into his Triumph Adventurer and set off. After exactly the same distance the MV had managed between filling up and failing, this Trumpet was blown. White spark plugs were the only clue that something was wrong.

But the weirdest thing? Fresh (different) fuel and flushing was all it took to get both bikes running. The culprit seems to have been a famous petrol brand's premium product, but in these litigious times You Can Be Sure Of...me keeping the details to myself.

Dull but useful

If I had a pound for every time someone asked where this mirror on my 450 Desmo came from I'd have enough to buy another one. Anodised alloy, folds back for filtering, really great wide-angle vision. Goes on either bar (main pic is outside the Ducati factory, so I'd switched it over for riding in Italy) and looks as trick as a mirror can. Originally bought for the Giro (if you can ride through Italian cities without mirrors you're braver - and probably deader - than me) by the end of the week I was so impressed I bought one for the 900SS as well. £40 with the `bar adapter is top dollar, but cheaper than landing on a fast lane BMW. Made by CRG, I bought mine online from Faster by Design

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Can you tell what it is yet?

This was passed on to me by a valued US subscriber - hardly anyone seems to know what it is (sadly I guessed right)

The CZ tee and Suzuki tape are red herrings - it's a JSD250. John Surtees (yes, that one) built these in the early '60s using the famous Reynolds 531 cycle tubing and Earles forks ; the engine's a "Hailwood" Ducati 250 Desmo twin cam parallel twin. Seems funny to think of someone making a frame to improve a Ducati's handling these days, but 50 years ago things were very different in Bologna.

The story goes (and Ducati's own conflicting webpages have been taken down) Stan Hailwood got Taglioni to design Mike a 250 based on the 125 Desmo twin (featured in Benzina #3)- and while he was at it, Dr T built Ken Kavanagh a 350, which also finished up in the Hailwood's garage.

But, although powerful enough the 250 especially was just too heavy and, Mike said, "handled like a 5-bar gate." Underdeveloped and unreliable, Hailwood hardly used the bikes. In 1961 they were sold to John Surtees, who built the "John Surtees Ducati" for brother Norman (and others) to race.

These's more love for Ducati's racing twins here

Monday, 16 August 2010

Ducati's inspiration?

This is Omobono Tenni racing a Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica at the 1948 TT. He's in the lead and setting the fastest lap of the race, but mechanical problems meant he finished ninth. Tenni was nicknamed the Black Devil, one story says because after a TT crash he remounted and finished covered in dirt. He'd already used the Bicilindrica ("two cylinder") 500 to win the Milano Taranto, twice as detailed in Benzina #1, where you can see this photo in glorious high resolution. I was lucky enough to see a real Bicilindrica paraded by Sammy Miller at his Italian day, and he thinks the bike was Fabio Taglioni's inspiration for the bevel twins. And why not? Taglioni admitted being influenced by Guzzi's horizontal racing singles when he created the 750SS, admiring the way the design ensured plenty of cooling air and a low centre of gravity. Carlo Guzzi created the Bicilindrica by doubling up two 250 singles, and maybe if Taglioni had admitted to admiring the Bicilindrica rather than Guzzi's singles (when his 750 bevel was effectively two 350 singles) he might have been accused of plagiarism rather than genius.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Game on

It's official - Rossi has signed a two year deal to race with Ducati - am I pleased? I'll sleep on it...

Our Motorbike (we wish)

rocket water

wooden moon on the roof

signs of night &

the red motorbike's

bleeding muscle

fleshed stalk dripping

and overgrowing our evening

it too

a sign of darkness

a leek's fat body

the red motorbike

our night fire

ravishment of chrome


our red motorbike glazed

with henna and betel it squirts

salmon  juice between the dark

of our thighs it sprouts

and shouts at the bar

it wears a portion of

evening in its eye

it sloughs off sleep like

the bushes drop resin &


our rags dip purring in

even redder roar

our muscles softly skip sweet

sweat flickers we polish

carefully &

assiduously our eyes are perched

on steel antennae surely there is

nothing redder than our motorbike


we will live on it

our red tent

dig our claws into

its heart cherries meat it

shouts out

spittle rip

the juice instructs

the eyes

in the language of iron

the red night squats

pressed against our motorbike

we ride hunting little girls

in the wooden sky

by Elfriede Jelinek
Translated by Michael Hofmann

Saturday, 14 August 2010


You absolutely must own this - a new DVD, pretty much a labour of love by the firm's curator Livio Lodi - "Ducati - the story." Just watch a clip here and then order via your nearest Ducati dealer. Unbelievably they're only available to special offer, and not cheap at £29.95, but then hardly anyone seems to understand customer relationships anymore. But that might be a view formed by the book I'm reading at the minute

Friday, 13 August 2010

Punk v Rock

Recently read Tony Parson's "Stories we could tell" - usual thing on holiday, read everything worth reading so dip into whatever's lying around - and if you liked the punk era, maybe it's for you. But it got me thinking that the bike crowds I was mixing with at the time (one in Wiltshire, one in Cardiff) never really got punk. We went to see Buzzcocks live, but after hearing "Ever fallen in love..." played badly 37 times we left think the support act was better; clever lyrics, catchy hooks and people who could actually play. They were called Squeeze , and I seem to remember went on to great things. But the people we really liked, and who came out of nowhere, were AC-DC. And anyone who can make you rave to a song about having sex with a 19 stone fugly clearly knew a thing or two about what makes great music. Bon Scott, rest in peace

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Big Bang Theory

Oops - this is the back tyre on my 1975 Bianchi racer. The front tyre matches. Bought recently on eBay.it, it was to be a little light nostalgia, and a reminder of how far bicycles have come. Ridden up and down our lane all (eventually)seemed OK, and although the original tyres looked, well, 35 years old I liked the period touch. So I thought I'd give it a go at Chippenham Wheelers Tuesday evening Castle Coombe track session. I soon realised the tyres needed a bit more pressure, and duly stuck 80psi in each. Riding onto the track I thought the back wheel was loose, but it was a large tyre blister pushing against the frame. Two surprisingly large bangs got me some attention, and made me grateful I wasn't being followed by a large truck at the time...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Making millions the MV way

Here we go again - the Castiglioni's have bought MV Agusta back from Harley Davidson. And the really big news is the company will be headed by Massimo Bordi, who developed the Ducati 8 valvers and did much to make Ducati the world force it is today. Story goes HD took a single Euro for a firm they paid over $100 million for, and then spent another $70 mill plus paying off debts and fast tracking development. This will run and run - will the Castiglionis trouser profits rather than pay suppliers and provide spares back up? Will Bordi be treated as badly as Tamburini? These are just some of the allegations I'll never make publicly, and will leave others to answer for in Italian courtrooms...including the wicked slurs posted here

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Carry on Campy

If the blog on old Campy mag alloy wheels got you thinking about building a real Hailwood Replica, you need these Marvic Campagnolo reps in your life. Porn on a spindle, and thanks to good TB friend Andrew Gray for finding them. His Guzzi racer blog is well worth a look too

Monday, 9 August 2010


Some might think it's heresy, but judging by the reaction to the Ducati 175 story in Benzina #2 ("Prize winning restoration ravished on the Giro") plenty of you guys like the racer look better than judge pleasing authenticity.

My current obsession is this Bianchi Tonale prep'd for classic racing. Still a 175 (the factory racers could be over 200cc) although it looks bigger and uglier than that in track trim. There's more - including a Laverda 500, Gilera 150 and my old H**!* 400/4 with Yoshi everything here

Saturday, 7 August 2010

August tea and cakes

Thanks to all who came, especially Jack and his Jota (promises his "new" 3C next month) and the Davids - one with a lovely 250 Ducati, one with his recently acquired T3 Cali. Beauties one and all. More pics here

There's lovely

This lovely Ducati 50 is the latest buy for good TB friend and Australian Distributor Paul Stoker. Used as a daily ride in Milan until the previous owner sold it, Paul is a serial Ducati restorer but is finally wondering if the NOS, perfectly primped and pimped look is the future.

My view is that show winning formula is the past, if only the judges would wake up and inhale the espresso. My formal training is as a conservation surveyor, and in a past life I looked over old buildings telling people what needed fixing, and how to do so sensitively and within the law. This is the reason I don't get shiny bikes - I want patina, and the reason I love my 900SS is it's one of the few that still has the paintjob it got in Bologna. The car world is just about getting the idea - I mean, (to pick an extreme) if you had Hailwood or Smarty's racers would you want the scuffs that they put there, or would you want it all as new? And if you want it as new, do you mean like Ducati made them (fly in the fibreglass and all) or how you wish they'd made them?

All very personal, and in the end it's not my bike, but the considered view with antiquities (and legal position with Listed Buildings in the UK) is that the wear and tear tells a story -this 50 was used, and that's hard won Milanese grubbiness telling a fifty year tale. I'd do as little as poss to make it clean and tidy, scrub back any rust with Solvol and put silicone on plastics to stop further hardening. And enjoy it.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Lost in France

The family holiday this year returned to a rented old village home that belongs to friends of the family. Just the right air of gentle decay and French brownness to feel authentic, and we've stayed there many times before so we know the butchers, the bakers and give-it-stick makers - being on the road means plenty of passing bikes to admire.

Except not this time - we've not really stayed in France for a decade, and at first I wondered where all the bikes had gone. Even on Bastille day, where the roads are rammed and the car park's a queue, just a handful of Japanese middleweights appeared piloted by the usual grey haired suspects. Sure, there's the pre-licence kids on fabulously tricked up `peds, but just like the UK the teenagers are in hatchbacks with whale tails and drainpipe exhausts. The end of an era, and I fear the end of motorcycling as we know it.

Having studied the Brit bike industry at college way back when (a business so badly managed it was used to teach us how not to do it) I can't help thinking, "here we go again." Manufacturers are flogging the big and profitable stuff to middle-aged wannabes, and hoping someone else (the Chinese?) will grow the next decade's customers. But the reality is the Max Power generation want Saxos to play their iPods in, and see their idols in the pages of Hello! stepping out of chrome wheeled cruisers. Suddenly I realise I'm not interested in modern bikes because nobody else is. And that includes the people who make them.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Garelli 350 at Teas and Cakes?

The handsome fellow in the photo is Ettore Girardi on the Garelli 350 he used to win the first ever "Milano Taranto" (it ended at Napoli back then) in 1919. He managed the 500 odd miles of rough and ready roads at a heady 24mph average. More on the race in Benzina issue 1 and more on the bike in issue 3, out October. But much sooner than October - this Saturday 7th August, in fact, is our tea and cakes meet. Free tea, free cakes, and a chance to flick through hot-off-the presses Benzina #2. It might be too far for you, but heck you might be holidaying just down the road. More at Teas and Cakes and if you might come, please email - helps make sure we've enough cakes and offer directions to newbies; some say we're hard to find, but even I manage it most days.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Laddie in red

So it's definite - Rossi must be going to Ducati, because Ducati have just issued the following press release - "Regarding the recent allegations attributed to Gabriele Del Torchio - Ducati CEO and President, Ducati states that no agreement has been reached with the riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden for the future Moto GP season, although our interest in these riders remains."

When confronted with the fact my mum's moped seemed to be getting 15mpg, did I admit I'd been out most night's on it, aged 15? Or blub to an apoplectic policeman that yes, I had been cracking on and it's a shame he didn't have time to clock me? Denial is everything, and often works. But not, I suspect, this time.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Remembering Campagnolo

This is the Campagnolo mag-alloy wheel of an early Darmah, just like (well...) the ones on Hailwood's 1978 TT winner. By the time Ducati got their own "replica" in the showroom they'd chickened out of fitting mag alloys, after collapsing Speedline wheels destroyed a number of later Darmahs and 900SS. Despite the blame being taken by the nature of mag-alloy, Campagnolo's Darmah wheels never gave any trouble that we've heard about. So maybe it was the sharp edges of the Speedlines - after all, Campagnolo were awarded the "Design and Application Award" by the International Magnesium Association in 1975. In the end Darmah riders just got used to Hailwood Rep owners offering cash and a swop of their FPS aluminium alloy wheels for Campagnolos, in the pursuit of a bike more like Mike's.

Campag (as motorcyclists call them; the more sexually assured cycling set go for Campy) were true innovators - founder Tullio Campagnolo invented the QR wheel and Derailleur gears, and in motorcycling they designed conical hydraulic brakes and more. But it wasn't to be, and they settled down to make the best bicycle groupsets money can buy

Monday, 2 August 2010

Faking it

This rather fabulous 750SS has just been restored by a serial Ducati nut to showroom fresh shinyness, and is a thing of rare beauty. A roundcase SS makes top dollar now, chasing down Vincent and Brough prices, and why not? They've a fabulous heritage, and depending on who you believe only between 200 and 400 were ever made.

Sadly this makes them attractive to fakers. We know of at least two 750SS that are probably silicone rather than flesh, and so have made someone a lot of money. Which is why the owner of this one gathered together the sort of paper trail that left not a trace of doubt in his mind before parting with hard earned. Sadly this is the way of the world, from the Turin shroud on. Italy is full of "collectors" with wonderful workshops capable of top draw restorations or convincing fakes, depending on the people involved. And the Italian's charming if fatal habit of telling people what they want to hear doesn't help.

So what to do? Either know your stuff, know who to ask, or know who to trust. The Good Guys links on our site might help, and I'm usually happy to get involved (OK, be nosy) but in the end it's caveat emptor. Buy a bike because you like it, and at a price you can afford. After all, the hit you'll take if you buy a fake's probably no worse than if you prang it. And if you're buying it to hide away, well - hopefully you're the proud owner of that 750SS with GT internals...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Desmodromics and Harley Davidson

This experimental Harley engine was supposed to make it into the 1970 XLHCR as “an answer to Ducati’s V-twin” according HD’s chief conservator, Dr. Martin Rosenblum. Maybe they were onto something, because as the legendary Cook Neilson told us in Benzina #1 all Ducatis are, "are XLCHs that don't vibrate, don't blow up, start, go fast, handle and stop". Frankly the design was already dated in prototype form and the project was binned, for Harley to do what they always do - put style over substance. The result was the cafe racer XLCR, a mean and moody looker, but no match for a Le Mans or 900SS. It bombed.

But that needn't have been the American way - in 1914 the US Condor motorcycle company built a successful board racer with a 1000cc V twin engine that used overhead desmodromic valve gear 40 years before Taglioni tried it at Mondial, again as per Benzina #1. More on that Mondial soon