Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Scooters: thought I hated them, now not so sure. I rode a hand-change antique years ago, and the twitchy mini-wheeled madness mixed with a lack of substance between my knees (I'm talking scooter-riding here) scared me. Stir in Quadrophenia (watched because - bizarrely- the support film was a Kenny Robert's documentary) and I'd made my mind up.

But the years do weird things, especially when you don't knock round with a bunch of Brit-riding proto-greasers anymore. Audrey Hepburn in Roman holiday, the fun sports moped riders have, and the scooters on the giro have made me wonder if I was wrong. Then I see the fun the modern-Mods were having at Goodwood (versus bored looking Rockers who clearly were the original Ace Cafe crowd) and I think I might have missed a trick.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Radio Ga-Ga

Before the Second World war Ducati were world leaders in electronics, as this beautiful pearwood radio proves. Being Italian, Ducati radios had to be as stylish as they were effective, and some of their stuff was (of course) world beating.

Sadly this made Ducati a target for allied bombers, and when peace returned to Bologna there wasn't much of a factory left. The allies also prohibited the manufacture of high-tech stuff (including aeroplanes, which is why Agusta and Aermacchi turned to motorcycle manufacture) so although Ducati continued to make everything from razors to cameras under the Ducati Electronica banner, they also created Ducati Mecchanica to build engines. They got to be rather good at it...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Made in Italy NCRs

This drop-dead beauty was sitting in pride of place when I dropped by Made in Italy Motorcycles and no wonder - John and Neil built it. Not cheap at £18k, but you could chop £2k off that by going without the dry clutch, and then it starts to look like something very special at close to Multistrada money. And we all know what will be worth more in a couple of years...
The bike's (of course) a replica of the NCR F1 racer, as raced by Hailwood in 1978. The F1's were really built for endurance racing (with some success), and way back then NCR were effectively Ducati Corse, and based in the Ducati factory: unbelievable now, but back in the late seventies and almost up until the Cagiva takeover, nobody at Ducati saw the value of racing, so were happy to let NCR do the racing and bask in any reflected glory. NCR also built Tony Rutter's TT winners, as featured in Benzina #2.

NCR was born in 1967 in Borgo Panigale, almost next door to the Ducati factory on the outskirts of Bologna. Giorgio Nepoti, Rino Caracchi and Rizzi, the three founders, gave their surnames' initials to created a state-of the-art race shop tweaking and racing Ducatis. When Rizzi left the R came to stand for racing, and although the business still tunes and races Ducati. Giorgio died along with his wife in a car crash in 2006, but Rino's still very much building bikes - including a perfect 125 Ducati for the Motogiro

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Glorious Goodwood

Home again after the Goodwood Revival - it was rammed, and you have to walk miles to take everything in. But before complaining about aching feet and stiff muscles, I thought about all the ladies in seamed stockings and heels. Made me feel much better...

And just as I was thinking there's not much for an Italian bike nut, I got to shake hands with Alan Cathcart after his 6th place in the first Sheene memorial race aboard a Gilera Saturno. Pics of that, some lovely Alfas, John Surtees MV Agusta and more here

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A new view

Absolutely fan-bloody-tastic new perspective of one day in June 1978 by TB member Ray Stephens. Can you guess what happened next?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Once in a lifetime

Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Milano- Taranto recreation as featured in Benzina #1, and they're doing something very special.

Not only will they follow the original route as closely as possible (hey, Autostradas happen), for 2011 only they'll admit any bike up to 500cc and registered 1925 to 1965 into the prestigious Storica class. Not got an eligible bike? Then try the sport class for absolutely any 1966 to 1986 bike. Ten classes in each mean mopeds and scooters are as welcome as big Guzzis and Laverdas.

Read more courtesy of Google translate here, or try the original Italian here.

Dates are 3 to 9 July for a 1900km journey of a lifetime. We're 90% certain we can do this, with a truck taking bikes to Milan and collecting in Taranto. Flights are do-able, and there are group discounts. I'm also pretty certain you'll be riding with some famous names, as well as making friends that will last a lifetime. If you're up for it, email me - greg@teambenzina.co.uk


That money talks, I'll not deny,

I heard it once: It said,


(by Richard Armour - pic dgsport SPRL)

Personally,I spent all my money on fast women, faster motorcycles, and fine wine. The rest I just wasted...

Sunday, 12 September 2010


More genius from Tony Brancato (no, he's not online - you need to phone 01865 891203 or catch the "Classic Gaskets" stand at shows like Stafford): this collection of bits packs in a tankbag or rucksack and tightens exhaust collets, adjusts your chain - or whatever you like. Tony makes them up to order (metric only) so that your classic is permanently Giro-ready, regardless of whether you ride with Dream Engine or Club Terni...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

MV Agusta 175 for sale, stand not included

Spotted at an autojumble: £800, stand not included...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A Harley that handles

Here's a rare treasure - a Harley Davidson 250RR roadracer. Any good? Good enough to win the world championship three years on the trot back in the seventies, as recorded in Benzina #2.

Built by the old Aermacchi crew, the bike's a water cooled development of the Aermacchi Pasolini died racing, and hailed from Varese rather than Milwaukee. Researching the project I quickly realised no-one at Harley knew or cared about this gem, except for John Warr of the legendary Kings Road dealership - he's even ridden one. Maybe the blind spot at HD explains why they bought and sold the Varese factory twice: these days it makes MV Agustas for the Castiglione clan

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Summer Holidays

"The English winter - ending in July, to recommence in August” according to Byron, and I know what he means. It also means July gets rammed with biking events, and you need to bagsie family diary dates for the choicest events early. 2011 starts here...

The Spa Bikers Classic is pencilled in for the weekend of 1/2/3 July, and I'm really hoping Team Guzzi Nerd will be there, and let me stand round their pit dropping spanners and making coffee. The next week is the Milano Taranto - a tougher, less fluffy-pillow event than the Motogiro, but some of us are thinking it's time for a change and maybe giving it a go. 2011's the 25th anniversary of the recreation, and the organisers are putting a lot of effort into recreating the original route. - most Giro bikes are eligible (it's only the Ducati 175s that aren't)but you can also enter stuff like Gilera Saturnos, hand change Harleys and Nortons - Giuliano Maoggi raced a 350 single in 1950.

It's 400 miles from home to Spa, and 480 more to Milan. Hmmm, stand on the podium at midnight after we win the 4 hour, clear up, celebrate, and to bed by daybreak. Sleep Sunday, drive overnight to Milan ready for the Milano Taranto's traditional midnight start. It's a plan...

(And if you need to know more, both the original and recreation of the Milano Taranto were covered in Benzina #1 )

Monday, 6 September 2010

Coffee time

Love this - my favourite coffee Lavazza (especially the hard-to-get Oro) apparently sponsoring one of my favourite bikes - a Laverda Jota: excellent. Spotted by TB member (thanks Dave) at the Morini riders' club Tutto Gas trackday at Cadwell. More random "sponsorship" deals coming soon...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Zoë & the Art of Motorcycle Illustration

Chatting to a friend who's a gifted (as in Royal Academy) artist, we decided the real beauty of machines is in the detail. Sure, your head is turned by the voluptuous curves of fuel tanks and fairings, but the thing that keeps you looking (specially on classic Italian motorcycles) is the castings: the close fining of a Laverda triple, the brazed clip-ons of a 50s' racer, and best of all (for me) Ducati engine castings from the Taglioni era.

If you think the same, here's a change from the usual tackiness masquerading as motorcycle art. The work of Zoë Kean, they'll mark you out and a rider of style and keep non-biking visitors guessing about your taste in abstract art. Good value too - £60 unframed for an original charcoal drawing, or you can commission something unique. Get that Christmas list started now...

Saturday, 4 September 2010


What do Laverda, Velocette, Moto Guzzi, Triumph and Ducati all have in common?

All turned up at today's tea and cakes: thanks for coming one and all. Joanna excelled herself with raspberry muffins and strawberry scones, as well as the usual chocolate cakes.

Next chance (in fact last chance for 2010) will be Saturday 2 October - see you then...

Friday, 3 September 2010


Mike Hailwood's usually cited as a hero for his riding, but this is him in 1973 performing one of the greatest acts of heroism in all of motorsport. During the South African Grand Prix, Dave Charlton crashed taking out Hailwood and Clay Regazzoni. Inside the fireball Mike triggered his fire extinguisher, but Regazzoni lay unconscious and trapped.

Hailwood tried to save Regazzoni but had to run when his own clothing caught fire. Marshals doused the flames but as they tried to drag a still unconscious Regazzoni clear, the car reignited. Mike dived back in to pull Regazzoni out. Back in the pits a taciturn Hailwood simply told his girlfriend they were leaving, and she finally discovered Mike’s heroism via the next morning’s papers. He was awarded the George Medal for his actions, the second highest award for civilian bravery granted in the UK. "Hailwood" read the citation, "totally ignored his own safety and the intensity of the flames." See the full vid here

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Being Giuliano

This is perhaps the definitive Motogiro d'Italia picture, of Giuliano Maoggi and his Ducati 125. In 1955 he won the 125 class of the Milano Taranto for Ducati at their first attempt, and the following year won the giro outright, his 125 being more than a match for other manufactures 175s. If he were a less modest man, Giuliano could tell you he saved Ducati and he’d have a point. I'm lucky enough to have met him, and can report that he’s a charming and very fit octogenarian with a wicked laugh and a twinkle in his eye, still riding the modern Motogiro more quickly than most.

His trademark helmet was designed to let Ducati mechanics spot their riders early, the blue and white rings identifying a 125 rider. Team mates on 100cc bikes used red instead of blue, corporate branding limited to Ducati’s then trademark “D”.

So when I decided I needed a pudding basin helmet there was only one design for me. The lovely people at Davida made it real, and it's just arrived. Not road legal, but nor is most of what happens on the Giro...

More on helmet art and the lovely ladies of Davida advertising, as well as Giuliano's Giro exploits, in Benzina #3. Out late October, you can make sure you get a copy by subscribing here

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Two for one offers, free tea and cakes: generous or what?

Clearing the way for new ranges, some of our tee shirts now come with a free polo shirt: same deal with the jacket and sweatshirts. Buy one, get someone's Christmas present free (how about the pink crush sweatshirt for the lady in your life?): details here or phone with plastic at the ready: 01380 812176. The diecasts are also at clearance prices, so that I can focus on the magazine. When they're gone, they're gone

And if buy-one-get-one-free is too pricey, we can even do free - our (almost) legendary tea and cakes is this Saturday 2-4pm(ish), maybe followed by a ride out to the Ducati rally at Charmouth (guest of honour one P. Smart Esq.): email if you fancy the run down