Thursday, 26 May 2011

Gone riding

Away now till 6th June (would've been longer if the Giro hadn't been cancelled!) so orders might be a bit delayed going out: and sorry, no Teas and Cakes this month. Funnily enough, the family don't want to cater for a bunch of old time bikers...
I'm off to Lake Como to investigate the state of the old Guzzi factory and ride the Circuito del Lario. As per Benzina #4 I'll hire a Guzzi from Agostini (no, the other one: who won the Milano-Taranto) and try to get over another missed Giro. Maybe the dust will have settled when I get back, and the Terni Giro will become the default event. Or maybe it's time to do the TT...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Game over

Don't say I didn't warn you: if you never went on the Motogiro, you've missed your chance. Dream Engine have pulled the plug on their event, and while it looks like the Club Terni will happen, the truck was cancelled and the insurance wranglings are still unresolved: people, be careful out there...

The Terni event existed for years before Ducati money and the international clientele came along, which is what has kept the lawyers so well fed in recent years. I suspect it will drift back to being an Italian event for Italians, and certainly more club based than the welcome-to-allcomers nature of the Dream Engine event. In reality Dream Engine have been hurt by the lack of sponsors following the global meltdown: if you're a local club you can find volunteers to put up arrows and find broken bikes: if you're even semi-commercial all that stuff has to be paid for, and unless you're all fluent in Italian someone bilingual has to be able to liaise if anything goes wrong. And then even my dual-nationality Italian teacher can't tell me what "have you the shims to set my swing arm play to zero end float?" is in Italian...

I wish the Terni people well, but must admit to getting a bit bored with riding down little lanes to circumnavigate cones in a car-park. Too often (but understandably) the route was chosen for the 175s, and although I bought the Sferica Gilera 175, in the end I chickened out of squeezing my 6 foot, 12 stone-and-counting body onto it for 200 mountainous miles a day. My ancient knees won't cope, and anyway I'd rather ride a bigger bike. I'd also like to see more of Italy's automotive history - Monza (before it's gone), the Guzzi factory (ditto) and I've ridden past more historic walled towns than I've actually seen. Dr Girlie Nice-Smile also complains (a rare event in itself) that the WAGs bus spends too much time hanging around for Wives-And-Girlfriends to see their other halves ride by, and not enough time shopping/eating ice cream/admiring the view

So maybe there's another way, a tour (which is all Giro means) that let's the riders enjoy roads that suit the bikes they'd like to ride, and tries to offer the holiday of a lifetime rather than a rush of stopwatches and arcane rules. I might even be prepared to help organise it...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Where'd everybody go?

Ran up to Silverstone yesterday for the Ducati Days Art of Corse and left wondering what you have to do to get a good turnout these days. While people crush and queue to see some pretty mediocre events (just because, I suspect, the going's become a habit) Silverstone felt empty despite a fantastic event.

First thing you notice is the laid back attitude of Silverstone staff, a pleasant change after only previously visiting for big-ticket events. Then you notice a handful of Desmosedicis scattered around the car park in-between the more mundane stuff - like 1198s...then watch those same DS16's howl around the track: the noise is fab, like Brian Blessed gargling with Chianti. I did record some but the camera and computer aren't speaking (yet)

And then the garages: full access to all - hello Jeremy (McWilliams), hello James (Hayden) - plus Matt Roberts, Paul Smart, Maria Costello, and more. Trade stands including Bianchi bicycles (another passion Ducati UK MD Tim Maccabe and I share) and then Tim took Alistair Wager's incredible Supermono out on track: proof he's not just the boss, but a fan like the rest of us. Plus Mick White's fine mini-museum of Ducatis past (special thanks to the owner of the GP125 emailing his offer of the bike via yrs trly) and pro-photographers, Vale's get the idea. If they run the event next year, it's a must do.

I'm off to Lake Como Friday, and then the Giro (so no June teas and cakes, or posting stuff out for a fortnight: sorry I'm not a Blackberry-man and it is just me). Lake Como's a last chance corral type thing: I'm told the Guzzi factory's about to collapse, and despite Piaggo's promise it's just boarded up pending a refit, the fact you can see George Clooney's house from the site makes redevelopment tempting. The end of an era, and proof you can never rest on laurels: which is why it was so good to see Ducati UK pushing ever onward. My pics of the day are here and Ducati's are here

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sliders' Knob

Just delivered Benzina #5 to the local Post Office who'll get them sent out Monday. The chore of bagging and labelling every issue in mitigated by (a) the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing people have paid for every copy mailed out (thank you all) and (b) some of the addresses

The northern european ones are the most improbable, and seem to have too few vowels and too many letters; I'd love to know what a sörbyvägen is, and have concerns about what goes on in Hauptstrasse: but the American ones are the best. Red Dog Road? Fantastic, as is Medicine Hat in Canada. Favourite though has to be Slider's Knob in Tennessee, although I did Google it with some trepidation...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

TT time - so why's the sun shining?

Chatting to Bill Snelling of foTTofinders (for all your TT pictorial needs made me think this fabulous weather's got to break: it's nearly TT time. Although for the last few years it's been the TT that's been sunny, and the Manx the washout. English weather: don't you love it?

But then the Isle of Man has more tales of supernatural forces than anywhere else in the UK: love the pic above by Don Bradley which carries this caption:

Liannan Shee (in blue) is a Manx faerie.

She can be benevolent or malevolent.

Those inspired by her live brilliant though short lives.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Big in Japan

Part of a collection for sale by a Japanese subscriber (yes, we're now Big in Japan)and you can see an uber-cool video of the bikes here although I wouldn't kick start a Mike Hailwood Replica in trainers..

Any interest in the bikes, just email me although I've no idea about shipping...

Hot Spa with Lav

Lap with a Laverda at Spa's 2010 Bikers Classic: best track in the world? Just a shame I can't justify going aagin this year, but the story of last year's heartbreaking and incredible 4 hour race is in Benzina #3

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The other Monza

Just popped up with a buy-it-now price of £2500 on ebay - a nicely titivated Guzzi Monza 500. A year back I'd have said the price was a grand over the top, but these days it looks about right. Where will it all end? Just wish I had the money...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Monza, the slow way round

Couple of Monza Juniors on EBay right now: starting to make money, but cheap as bevels go and a tatty one still has potential. Basically a 160cc version of the late fifties bevel 125, the Monza Junior was Berliner's (US Ducati importer) attempt to steal the Honda CB160's market share. Failed of course, but plenty got built and although some folk will tell you they were the biggest selling Ducati of all time, I've never seen evidence to support that. And with over 200,000 Cucciolos and 40,000+ Monster 600s sold it seems unlikely...

Especially as Berliner refused the last shipment of 1,800 Monza Juniors, most of which finished up in the UK. This makes them more plentiful that the 125 Sport, torquier and far cheaper - a plan emerges, especially when Ducati frame and engine numbers aren't on record anywhere and anyway, the DVLA aren't interested
So if you fancy building a useable Giro bike, or as the inimitable Pip Higham puts it "A replica Gran Sport for the price of a shed rather the paying the price of a house for a real one (above)" look no further. Just be honest when you sell it on...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Down with the kids

This is the TV ad for the Duacti Diavel - and it's dreadful, especially the lazy reference to Merc/AMG (who rumour has it will snap up Ducati if the Diavel/Rossi investments turn sour): worst of all is the soundtrack - pappy white bread for the masses. It doesn't need to be like this....

I'd thought Stock Aitkin & Waterman had killed the music years ago (with their murderous baggy-trousered henchman Cowell keeping it that way) and that the only future was in the past. Luckily my own teenagers bend my ears with the good (new) stuff, like the latest from MCR (below): the kidz r alright - it's us kidults that need to grow some coglione...

Poster Dreams

Ah, those were the days: as seen in Benzina #3 and originally a calendar: has anyone still got the original?

Phil Schilling's genius rewarded - about time too

Phil Schilling has finally made the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in the US, and for most of us the only surprise is it took so long. Phil could write, ride and spanner better than any of today's half-hearted magazine folk, and what he and Cook Neilson achieved has been praised on these pages before - but just to rub salt in current editorila team's advertising-centric wounds they turned Cycle into the best selling bike magazine on earth, simply by writting what people would read. They ignored what advertisers wanted, and treated readers with respect: so they didn't run articles on "How to kickstart a bike" (I'm not joking - that piece is this month's CB.) They also trusted readers to have an attention span - most editors these days are terrified of running anything longer than 1,200 words, and are happier with 7-800. Cycle's editorials would be longer than that. In other words Cycle was written by clever, literate people for clever, literate people. And they sold so many copies the advertisers had to bite their lips and kow-tow to the sometimes less than flattering reviews their products got.
I still cherish my copy of Phil's book, The Motorcycle World and various articles I tore from Cycle way-back-when. If any editor wants to find out how to stem his falling readership and advertising revenue, reading these would be a good place to start. Or the terminally lazy can just try the following editorial from Phil back in 1985, although some of you might need a dictionary: there are long words involved...

Memo To Black Rock, by Phil Schilling
On February 4, 1985, CBS locked the deal. CBS, Inc., bought 12 special-inter­est magazines from Ziff -Davis Publish­ing Company, and William Ziff, Jr., be­came 362.5 million dollars richer in the exchange (cash, thank you). CBS Mag­azine Division, an important chunk in the CBS empire, will profit as well from the experience. Cycle was one of the 12 magazines in the Ziff group, and in cu­bic dollars this high-roller deal was the largest magazine transaction in history.
In setting, atmosphere and altitude, Cycle’s transfer to CBS differed mark­edly from its arrival at Ziff-Davis Pub­lishing Company in 1966. According to legend, William Ziff, Jr., bought Cycle from Floyd Clymer at an Orange Julius stand on Pico Boulevard in one of Los Angeles’s seedier sections. Ziff paid the princely sum of $300,000, and Floyd Clymer, as company legend has it, took the money and ran, laughing his way to the bank. Ziff, events would demon­strate, had a later, richer laugh on Floyd.
Cycle has thus become this small Western outpost bobbing on the Pacific shore, part of a sprawling CBS empire, which is directed from the corporate headquarters in New York known as Black Rock. This Manhattan skyscraper looks like an earth-bound version of the Black Monolith from 2001.
CBS has long owned special-interest magazines, including Cycle World, so Black Rock is hardly a novice in the business. Nor was William Ziff. The Ziff organization believed that quality mag­azines could be written about any sub­ject: radio antennae, baby rattles, door knobs or toxic dump sites. I saw little of William Ziff, though Cycle operated out of New York 13 years ago. Still, Ziff comes easily to memory. One day he shuffled into Cycle’s New York office, with the rumpled ambiance of your fa­vorite college professor: scholarly, articulate, and seemingly a touch dis­tant from this world. I doubt that William Ziff, Jr., ever rode a motorcycle; none­theless, in one sentence he summa­rized Cycle’s editorial charge. ”Rather than a magazine written for motorcy­clists, Cycle should be a magazine writ­ten for readers whose passion is motor­cycles.” That was his legacy to motorcycling. It made Cycle different.
To: Black Rock, New York, New York.
From: Westlake Outpost, California.
To understand Cycle Magazine, for­get the following: a) Motorcyclists are primitives who flunked kindergarten, entertain death-wishes, speak in mono-syllables and think in even simpler terms; b) They react primordially to heat, light, noise and the opposite sex or—more alarming to Middle America—to the same sex; c) Love of motorcy­cling is the motor-badge of the Ameri­can Moron.
At Cycle we fight this junkyard of mis­conceptions constantly, piece by piece. Outside motorcycling, one com­mon reaction is, ”What do you mean, you write for a motorcycle magazine?” This blight of stereotyping is more alarming within the motorcycle industry and its press: Give those dummies some photographs to lip-read; don’t bother with complexities or difficult concepts; simplification and mediocrity are good enough.
If true, Cycle—as a magazine distin­guished by its literacy, honesty and ex­pertise—should have been a stunning failure years ago. We’re still here, and the hallmarks of this magazine remain. The magazine has changed, of course, because its audience has changed, grown up. Today’s audience is made up of the same people as yesterday’s, from the same generation, and the magazine has grown up with its readership.

Cycle has been, and should continue to be, shaped by its audience. Funda­mentally, motorcycling belongs to a particular Internal Combustion Genera­tion that matured in the late 1950s, throughout the 1960s, and into the 1970s. Clearly, not every member of this Internal Combustion Generation became a motorcycle enthusiast, but the bulk of motorcycle enthusiasts be­long to this special generation.
In the beginning, God created motor­cyclists. CBS, the Japanese, and Cycle and Cycle World are powerless to cre­ate more of them. Assuming you reject a divine interpretation of origins, think of motorcyclists as products of mas­sive social forces in play 1955-1975. While motorcyclists aren’t exactly relics of the psychedelic age, they carry the imprint of that era, its attitudes and dis­positions: Do your own thing; never trust anyone over 30; if it feels good, it must be right; be yourself. Motorcycles were and are obvious vehicles for self­ assertion – dangerous, open-air, unor­thodox – and they fit perfectly people intrigued by things mechanical and at­tracted to the unconventional. Motorcy­clists today present themselves as in­dependent, critical, skeptical, tough-minded individuals. They may have a house now, one-point-eight chil­dren, two mortgages, they may have voted for Ronald Reagan, but Walter Cronkite was the last national figure they ever trusted.
Cycle’s editorial franchise has been built on its critical awareness. It’s part of the structure rather than the paint. In order to be taken seriously by readers who are knowledgeable, experienced, skeptical, critical, independent, and tough-minded, the magazine must be critically aware. Motorcyclists still carry a lot of intellectual baggage from the 1960s and 1970s. To them, ”non-criti­cal” translates into ”no credibility.”
Cycle has been a central source of corporate heartburn for motorcycle manufacturers. Indeed, for just causes magazines should be willing to spit into the gnashing teeth of hostile manufac­turers. In large part, motorcycle makers, to their credit, have borne our criticism of their products with public grace and aplomb, and we like to think they under­stand the importance of a credible magazine. But our purpose, however noble, scarcely eases their agony over stories that, for example, detail the in­ternal explosion of a new test bike or expose a chronic problem with a new model. Often manufacturers inquire whether Cycle’s readers care about such ”investigative stories.” The an­swer is yes, emphatically. Another query: Don’t you think the magazine grades products too hard, too thor­oughly, too seriously? Our answer: no, no and no. Readers deserve the best damn magazine the editors can do, month after month. This magazine’s na­tional treasury is readers whose pas­sion is motorcycles. The readers, their passion and our treasury shall be zeal­ously guarded.
Others think we give our readers too much credit. I say this: Tell me what you know and believe about your readers, and I’ll tell you what kind of a magazine you’ll produce.

CYCLE (May 1985)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Boxer beat #2

Benzina #5 includes the incredible story of MV's two-stroke eater - a flat-4 watercooled boxer with fuel injection: this in 1976 - and you might ask why this has remained forgotten for so long. Well, guess what: I'm told it's down to lawyers, and researching the piece I was warned off more than once, so none of this is in print, and I probably dreamt it all...

MV stuck the project away, but were persuaded to sell it to famous collector A, who understandably had a contract that said he'd bought everything, lock stock and barrel
Collector B then leaked details of his bits and piecesof the boxer-4 to the Italian press. Litigation followed. People stopped talking. And engine pieces - maybe even a complete engine - was reluctantly handed over to collector A.
It's probably all nonsense, and if you'd like to know more, I'm afraid I've already forgotten who told me anything: that's the way it is with dreams...
Anyway the nuts and bolts story of the engine (above, in the seventies) and were it is now are in Benzina #5, out in a week or be sure of getting a copy, subscribe by clicking the button on the right

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Issue #5 on the way!

Benzina #5's at the printers, and will ship very soon. If you've not yet ordered a copy here's a taste of what you'll miss...
Impressionable youth vs. Ducati 750GT. Richard Skelton (of Funky Moped fame) didn’t stand a chance Inspiring Taglioni: Moto Guzzi’s fabulous Bicilindrica ridden and rated by the legendary Sammy Miller. Plus reminiscing on racing for Mondial and Ducati at the TT
Riding a Mondial dirt bike 500 miles through an English winter’s night, and Pat Slinn racing Ducati’s Regolarita on the Isle of Man ISD. Yes, thePat Slinn who wrenched for Hailwood and Rutter. We've been through his photo album with a scanner. It's good....
Lost marques that deserve remembering, from Frera to Galloni. And more recent forgotten treasure: MV’s water cooled, fuel injected boxer 500/4 designed to lure Ago back to the Agustas, and rebuilding it today. To complete the Agusta fest, the truth about MV's racing sixes that never were, just because the competition threw in the towel - twice
Refurbishing an old Laverda triple (the future’s bright; the future’s orange) and the Morini Settebello and Rebello: beautiful in any language
Seaplanes to singles - the Aermacchi story: never mind bikes, they could beat Spitfires. And racing Aermacchi's pushrod single that could catch MV's GP bikes. 145mph at the TT
And still no ads, just the highest quality printing in the business. 88 pages of pure class - that's a lot when you flip through every othe magazine and realise almost 40% of the pages are advertising. How do we do it? With love and the hope you'll tell everyone you know to buy a copy: free warm fuzzy feeling when you get a friend to subscribe

Monday, 9 May 2011

Girl+Guzzi: the Crossbow way

Right, all these Crossbow Guzzis with no girl on board is getting weird: hope this makes amends...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Crossbow Guzzis - they give you wings

More from Ian B at rattlingracing.blogspot re: past blogs on the Ducati/MV wings - here they are on another road-going Guzzi. Just what you need on those flighty, wheelie-prone Mandello twins...

And KC (who commented on an earlier post) please email because your inbox in full and isn't recieving!

Photos courtesy ofCrossbow Calendars

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A kind of passion

Fabulous video of the recent Squadra Sutge classic event at Jarma - and very moving: thanks to Pete Falco for pointing me to this. After the shiny-bling at Stafford the patina of classic racers is especially welcome: and don't miss the sidecar racer's name at 3:25 - Luke Silverbollocks. it here

Friday, 6 May 2011

High mileage 916: raced, lent out, not original. Definitely not for sale

This is Ian Smith's 916, ridden by Carl Fogarty for a good few laps of Mallory Park. He then very kindly signed the body work which was auctioned off. The proceeds went to the Rob Vine Fund, which provides medical assistance for Motorsports events on the Isle of Man; good Karma for Ian's Manx 2010 race, the 916 now in silver bodywork and as the stickers show, well used. Despite all this, the 916 has never faltered, largely thanks to the ministrations of the excellent Ducati John.

The original parts went far and wide, the tank to Australia with shipping costing more than the donation for the tank! As Mr Whitham would say, “what a good do”

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Say cheese

Some fruitcake's made a replica of the Wallace and Grommit outfit, tried out by a good friend and writer Mike Lewis for the Daily Torygraph - only odd thing is he didn't mention the elephant in the room - why use a BSA (and leave it badged as such) for the replica when the "real thing" was a Triumph?

The obsession Wallace has with cheese in the films reminded me of an Italian twist - don't know if it's true, but I was told that the success of Camozola was down to the Nazis trying to integrate Italian and French culture under occupation: it's basically a mix of Camembert and Gorgonzola. The German's aren't famous for their cooking (unless you like sausages and cabbage
But German cakes are fab - which reminds me: Teas and Cakes this Saturday, 7th May: I know the Met Office are grumbling it might rain, but we've had none for well over a month. The lawn is very brown...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Stiff little fingers

Stiff little fingers, maybe but 12" double jointed fingers (plus a spare hand) would be more useful. Spent most of the weekend trying to get bikes on the road (when I wasn't conscripted to the Urchfont scarecrow festival) and my god you realise how seventies bikes could be fiddly to work on. To change the Darmah's oil filter needs the front carb loosening, but I hoped taking the float bowl off would do - not a hope. The you need to hold the carb with one hand, use another to put the nut back on, and another...bugger, run out of hands. On the other side the front exhaust really needs to come off, but if you do one zillionth of a turn before changing the spanner's angle you can avoid this...just. And the hose/ziptied funnel means toy can refill the oil with the exhaust in place too. Genius (not).

And finally got the Sei to start - taking off the crash bars I'd inadvertently let the earth strap float off, because it's behind a bolt which goes into a non-captive nut behind the engine: all done by feel, Luigi: no wonder the Italians are reputed to be so good in the sack

Sunday, 1 May 2011

TT3D closer to the edge

TT3D closer to the edge: getting great reviews, even in the mainstream press - easy to see why

Nothing new under the sun

Seeing the wings tried at Estoril (including by Rossi, above) proves there's nothing new under the sun. MV tried these in the seventies (as detailed in Benzina #2) soon followed by Suzuki. It came to nothing, but maybe what goes on inside a rider's head matters far more than aerodynamics...anyway, more on the bike below in Benzina #5, out late May