Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Teas and cakes kicks off

Well, the weather forecast looks OK, so let's go for it even if it's short notice. This Saturday we'll kick-off the season's Teas and Cakes meetings, and also give you an excuse to get a bike off SORN, because six months tax from Friday means being road ready until October.

If you've not been here before we've some great local rides (link below) to these “tea and cakes” meetings. They take place on the first Saturday of most months, April to September, so join us from two-ish ‘till teatime as we throw open our gardens and garage. Just email back saying how many in your party and we’ll get back confirming exactly how to find us.

Definitely here will be the Ducati 900SS, Darmah plus the Gilera racer featured on the blog, There'll also be a Benelli Sei and an MV Agusta 350 Sport, plus whatever you care to bring. Ah, and the Paso

Ducati and the art of racing

Blimey - someone who listens to criticism and does something about it. Tim Maccabee (MD - Ducati UK) has just announced some meaty improvements to the Ducati Days, The Art of Corse. You can get in from just £15, plus under 16s go free. This gets the chance to watch wannabe Troys go mad under the tutorage of California race schools, a very special display of classic Dukes, kiddies entertainment and more. Prices go from there, right up to full access and said race school sessions on the MotoGP track over the weekend. We'll be there for sure, though I think my 1980 900SS might struggle in the fast group. Still, it's essentially the bike SMBH lapped the IOM on at well over 100mph, so maybe. Just won't be lending it to Sammy Miller, as Bob did for the TT parade lap (below)


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Kiera Knightly and her Ducati

Full version of Kiera Knightly and her Ducati 750 Sport is out now - see it here

Surprisingly inspirational

These were fast, fun and surprisingly good - details of an inspirational resto here

Thursday, 24 March 2011

More Spa treatment

This is what passes for progress with the bike that Team Guzzi Nerd have entered in the Classic Spa 4 hour race come July - a fabulous event detailed in Benzina #3 (funny but true - another rag was miffed they missed this story: I haven't told them their journo was in the bar while I was freezing trackside)

As long as it doesn't rain (and it does at Spa - a lot) this might just be the best bike event in the world. There's also possibly the best biking B&B nearby, so get the holiday booked now

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Scooter Scoop

More pix from Paul at Vespamore Photography this time his real passion; 35mm film photos of Vespas - worth looking at to see the atmosphere created by using film rather than digital. Go on, have a crafty peek even if you think you're not a scooter fan: as admitted to in Benzina #4 I'm starting to find them strangely attractive...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Chasing bikes

Paul at Vespamore Photography was riding back into London Epsom Down's way, when he was passed by a guy going the other way, looking very cool with Davida helmet etc on a beautiful Ducati, which turned out to be this Darmah. Looping round a roundabout he hared after the guy in the hope of catching him to take a couple of shots on his film camera. After a few slightly reckless overtaking manoeuvres and a couple of miles in traffic pulled him over to take these shots. Lovely; thanks Paul for proof that Spring has sprung.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Sunday brunch

Anyone in the south might like to know about Sammy Miller's bash this Sunday - famous writer, racer and all round good guy Alan Cathcart (accompanied by fellow scribe Mick Woolett)will open Sammy's new extension at 10am. There's space in there for another 100 bikes, plus the cafe will be on hand to cook you a fry up or a bacon roll. See you there...

Friday, 18 March 2011

Renaissance Man

During the you couldn't claim to be a real man unless you could do it all - none of the one trick ponies modern culture adores would get a look in. If you couldn't save a damsel in distress before breakfast, invent something useful mid morning before producing a great work of art over supper you were a loser. A friend made a good point when discussing the all-round brilliance of Nuvolari in Benzina #4 - can you compare those who could ride different bikes (and cars) in different disciplines to today's specialists?

Yes, said Ivar - if they can excel in different disciplines: Dr Costa was his example (he's a bit more than just the Clinica Mobile) and maybe Troy Bayliss's pro-standard cycling puts him up there too.

But for me the guy in modern times who stands out is Leo Tartarini - knowing this, Benzina contributor and friend Cedric Janodet sent me a copy of the excellent French magazine Cafe Racer which had a great piece on him: winner of the first Motogiro, head of Italjet, and a stylist who had three bikes in the Art of the Motorcycle exhibition. There's a CV for a modern Renaissance man, if ever I heard one.

(You can also get Cafe Racer from the excellent Magazine Man )

Monday, 14 March 2011

Ducati win at Daytona - 1977 and all that

In scenes reminiscent of Cook Neilson's original 1977 win for Ducati at Daytona, privateer Jason DiSalvo and took the new Ducati 848EVO to victory in this years Daytona 200 - the bike’s first pro road race. In fact, Daytona saw seven 848 entered, the most Ducatis on the 200 grid in over ten years.

“It’s a magical thing and I’m excited to fight for the championship as the season goes on," said DiSalvo.

DiSalvo’s victory has him rubbing shoulders with past Ducati riders like Jimmy Adamo, Doug Polen and Cook. That's something to tell the grandchildren.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Keira Knightly gets her Ducati out

Keira Knightly gets her Ducati-out-teaser here

Buy this book...ah, too late

Every now and then you pick up a book that you have to finish asap - it's that good. Last one for me was Mat Oxley's Stealing Speed but I've just finished Mark Gardiner's Riding Man and I think it might be even better. On the face of it, the book's just a go-ride-the-TT mid-life crisis by a guy who's done well enough in life to justify little sympathy from those of us with less opportunity and more responsibilities. But Mark's style is immediate, close up and personal - he is also a man with a huge sense of place and history; for instance, racing a Honda 600 because Honda can trace their roots back through the TT and European orthodoxy, inspired by Mondial especially. The other Japanese manufacturers owe their success to stolen two-stroke secrets, ironically the story Mat's book covers.

As a Canadian Mark also acknowledges countryman Mike Duff's place in history (Mike is still the most successful North American to race at the TT) plus a whole raft of Isle of Man folklaw and back story. By the end of this thoughtful, perfect book you'll feel you not only know Mark and his entourage, but also a little more about yourself. For a little know paperback to achieve so much is remarkable. I don't think you'd even have to know much about bikes to enjoy it, but as a lifelong biker it really got me thinking about my relationship with riding. My wife's horrified at the state of my copy because it went everywhere with me to make sure I never missed a chance to read it. Guess I'd better buy the DVD now...

So maybe it's no surprise to find the books sold out - but try to track down a copy, or persuade Mark to reprint or Kindle-up via his website

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Racing Rhinos

The Morini mopeds were nearly all called Corsarino, and featured this young lad playing at pirate - some models were even called Pirates in the US. Corsarino means "little corsair", a corsair being a more dashing and old fashioned word for pirate. But if it had been spaced out as "Corsa Rino" that would have been "Racing Rhino" a fine name for a moped...

It's odd that manufacturers hate cosy and friendly names for bike these days: Honda virtually built an empire on the phrase " you meet the nicest people on a Honda",. Today we get "Strike/Rage/Grrr I'm-a-killer-on-the-loose" type names, with styling to match. Plus an industry unable to understand why it can't attract new blood to the fold. Wonder why?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Retirement Planning

Couple of Ducati fans have said the Diavel at least let's them finish their riding days on a Ducati. But maybe I've been reading Sideburn too much. because what I'd rather have is a flat-tracked Darmah. The only real issue I have with these wonderful bikes is that they're so damned heavy, so deal with that and you've got the perfect (I think) bevel-twin for your old age,

Just need to get my spannering skills up several levels above my feeble Photoshop skills...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Red Square

Last night 38,000 people squeezed into Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore in Ducati's pre-season party and send-off for Ducati MotoGP riders, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Looks like fun, and I can imagine the love in the factory - when I was last there all people could talk of was raising the cash to bring Vale to Ducati.

But is it a case of be careful what you wish for? Friends in high places say Ducati have really raided the piggy bank to get Rossi and the Diavel onto the starting blocks, and both need to fly if Ducati are to make it through these treacherous times. Now I might not have an MBA, but to me that's one hell of a roll of the dice: if the Rossi/Burgess magic wand does it's usual trick, will people really credit Ducati? Or in two years time when Rossi heads to retirement/Ferrari/tax exile will it all be a spent wad?

The Diavel's a more interesting gamble - the rave reception talks of pinching Harley riders, but I think not: I know loads of Harley riders and they like the lifestyle/club aspect at least as much as the bike itself. that's a tough gig for Ducati dealers to compete with. HD riders also like the fact that maintenance involves an oil change and nothing else - the typical £600-£800 biannual Ducati 8-valve belt service is not going to go down well with this crowd.

Me, I'd have stuck with Stoner and maybe built on the Monster. I'd also go down the Harley/Ferrari route of making the dealer experience more club like and the slowly-slowly attempt of relieving the fan base of money via branded goods (have you seen the Fezza store opposite Hamley's? That's the real toy shop). I know the marginal cost of manufacturing makes endless iterations of one or two motorcycles look attractive, but ultimately (I think) it devalues what's being achieved. Reminds me of Guzzis recent decision to double the number of dealers in order to double the sales: guys, go look up marginal propensity to spend in the economic textbooks. Ah, too late - the Chinese are buying Guzzi. Sad but true..

Hopefully I'm wrong and the MBA's are right. But even if I'm right, Ducati fans know that the factory always works the real magic just as the rest of the world thinks it's going bust.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Bikes for sale

Don't normally do this, but these bikes are special. First is a rather lovely Motobi 250, imported from Italy where it had been part of a large Motobi/Benelli collection. It was fully restored to enter Moto Giro 2006. It won the second day's Taglioni class, but hardly ridden lately so up for sale at £2,500. Email through the website if you're interested, and I'll put you in touch.

The Mondial (pushrod) 175 also ran in the 2006 Giro (and the 2002) and was a star on our Race Retro stand. The owner's also got a stroker Mondi that he trials, so this needs a new home. Lovely patina, and as you can see lives indoors. £2,500 seems very fair given the OHC version's £6k plus. Again, email and I'll do the intros.

Finally my lovely 450 Desmo (as seen on pp75 & 78 of Benzina #3) is with John Fallon at a reasonable £8,500 (ahem): started life as a 450 MkIII and had a desmo 450R/T slung in (so you get a decompressor) as well as all the Desmo bodywork. I love it, but it's my giro bike and I feel I need to move into the Vintage class. Torn to see it go, but I'm a believer that if you don't ride them, they have to go. Plus my poor right knee (one op down, surgeon wants another go) means rear sets and meaty kick starts are a thing of the past. That means I should really sell the 900SS, but even Dr Girlie Nice-Smile knows that's taking logic too far...

More of the same - not

Feedback on the last blog made me realise It's not just me, it's the editors (actually it's the so-called "creatives" - now there's an oxymoron) who lack the courage to embrace originality. These are two of my fave Bike covers from the 1970s: Wild Bill Haylock (Bill, where are you in our hour of need?) tested the Goldwing and lost the mag a year's worth of Honda advertising in the process. Can you imagine any writer being prepared to climb off the fence to that extent today?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Urban(e) Bikers

I know I've grumbled about this before, but why are mainstream bike mags' photos so predictable? If it isn't "Look at me, I'm a racer I am", it's cosy garage and contented owner with mug of char. There's a place for these pics, but surely not every third page?

So I love these photos by vespamore-uk.blogspot - really gritty urban pics of urbane anonymous bikers. If Banksy did motorcycle photography this'd be right up his street.

The other thing I like about vespamore is that he uses film. Benzina's period pics are all printed on photographic paper from negatives before being scanned - it give a period feel that digital just can't capture. There's (I think) a wonderful pics of a Morini 350 by Vespamore in Benzina #4 that looks as if it was taken in the Seventies, despite the bike clearly having seen better days. Real people riding bikes they love every day, and not a trailer (let alone a van) in sight. Folk like this are (almost) as great a hero to me as old time racers like Read and Ago. This year I'm sworn to use less SORN

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

V8 worth the wait

Everything's back to normal, and I've just about recovered from Raceretro: the Guzzi V8 was fab, and sounded more like a V8 than the replica I saw at Spa last year. Owner Giuseppe Todero (son of one of Carcano's original design team) was cheerful and chatty, and although the bike sounded incredible Ago's MV-3 was even better. The first of 8 bikes Giacomo has commissioned the Castiglioni's MV Agusta factory to build, there will be some for sale - but think £200,000-plus if you'd like one. Here's some more pictures
Ago was also very helpful with research for Benzina #5, as was Phil Read. But although they clearly respect each other, there's still serious rivalry. Despite Ready's more impressive back catalogue (to me, anyway) it was Ago who drew the crowds - I felt sorry for the guys who followed him onto the stage: huge crowd evaporate as Ago leaves, as if a DJ had put a duff record on
And a big thanks to those who helped - Stuart at North Leicester Motorcycles, Matt and his Mondial (for sale? Ask me) and Bob Dixon who at the last minute brought his Laverda 500-based racer as well as the 100 Giro bike: he only went and won the post 1970 concours...