Monday, 29 August 2011

Life's a beach

Just back from family hols with the in-laws, who live right on the (subsiding) cliff tops of Sidmouth in Devon. This being God's waiting room, bikes on the seafront are rare but every now and then something special turns up, like this lovely Laverda RGA Sprint just like the one in Benzina #5

Naturally a crowd had gathered, eagerly discussing the value of the "Jota" before them - "Fifteen grand, I reckon" opined Expert #1, only to be trumped by Expert #2: "Nah, more like £18,000" he bluffed.

When I offered the truth (It's not a Jota, and you can buy these fabulous bikes for surprisingly modest sums) everyone wandered off. Something I said? Or was it just that none of these "Experts" owned a bike, and only see classics in terms of cash and bragging rights. Seems the sickness that's been in the classic car world for years has moved into bikes, which is a shame. At least these guys weren't bikers, just "Experts" (as in "Ex" being a has-been, and "Spurt" a drip under pressure).

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mach 1 TT lap

This is Keith Martin on his way to winning the 1974 TT 500 proddie race. It's a Kawasaki Mach 1 triple, probably the worst handling bike ever to win on the Isle of Man. Mods? Tank, seat and fairing - that's it. Not tuned by Stan Stevens, as some claim; the engine was bog standard
How do I know this? I spent a very pleasant evening with Keith, talking mainly about his races on a Benelli Sei in 1975. Only a man who won on a Kawasaki triple would think a Six would be twice as good. Full story in Benzina #6, which is now finished bar proof-reading. And printing, obviously. Should be with subscribers late September

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Claudio Castiglioni RIP

Founder of Cagiva, and single handed reviver of much of the Italian motorcycle industry, Claudio Castiglioni passed away in Varese this morning after a brief illness. In recent months Castiglioni handed over control to his British-educated son Giovanni

Castiglioni was viewed both as a saviour and an incredibly cunning businessman. His most recent triumph came just last year, when Harley-Davidson paid him €20 million to take MV Agusta off their hands just two years after he’d sold it to them for €70 million. The deal made possible the new MV Agusta F3. When the lightest, most sophisticated supersport motorcycle ever goes on sale later this year, it’ll be a fine tribute to one of the most important men in motorcycling. Without him there would be no Ducati or MV, no 916, no Monster and no Eddie Lawson winning the Hungarian GP in 1992 on a Cagiva 500

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ducati for Sale (told you)

Front page of the Sunday Times business section - Ducati could be floated in Hong Kong next year with a market value of £875million($1.4billion) which fits with blog passim on the Diavel

Ducati's private equity owner, Milan-based Investindustrial (with links to Silvio Berlusconi according to our spies) has discussed a share offering with banks but given the current market turmoil won't decide whether to proceed in early 2012.

Hong Kong has become the financial centre of choice for luxury brands seeking a public listing, with fashion house Prada, cosmetics group L'Occitane, and luggage maker Samsonite all launching initial public offerings there in the past 18 months.

Investindustrial has restored Ducati to profitability since taking it over in 2008. Bikes like the Diavel and the link with Rossi must surely have been part of this plan to tap into the Asian markets and the new world order

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Parilla F3

A happy day snapping yesterday, admiring John Crooke's perfect Parilla F3. Art and design student daughter took these pics, and despite having little interest in bikes was totally besotted with the F3. This despite a bight red 175 Sport living alongside the F3, and John's workshop's waiting list including a Fireblade and R1. Seem's like the girl's inherited my excellent taste.

John's most famous for tuning Parilla go-carts, and only found out they'd made bikes when he heard the 175s were for sale. Unloved and shoved to the back of a garage, he's turned them into prize winners. Sadly Benzina #6 is almost full, so they'll just be a double spread of the F3, and then we'll revisit the full story in a later issue.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Now this is a photoshoot - the legendary photographer Phil Aynsley capturing legendary designer Franco Farne on legendary bikes. There are also shots of Benjamin Grau, winner of the 1978 Mugello 1000km as seen in Benzina #4. Legends is a very overused word these days. But not today.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Little but large

Bill Little Motorcycles' annual event is this Saturday 13th August includes autojumble, club stands and ride-ins. Show off your classic, enjoy live music in the evening, plus BBQ and a licensed bar. Bill's son Matt is a contributor to Benzina, having ridden Mondials on the Giro and long distance trails, and Bills an indefatigable biker - a foot injury led to a Guzzi outfit rather than a car.

Admission's free for British bike riders. Hmmm...a Vincent sticker on the 900SS should get me in once folk on the gate have had a few beers


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Rhodes bike

Currently on its way from the Greek island of Rhodes to Disco Volante - an early sandcast 750 engine found in a shed. Front cylinder's missing, but DV have a replacement. Bubble wrap covers an original and very tidy 1980 900SS tank. If you need a(nother) winter project give Disco Volante a call

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Original and best

A pair of Ducati 175s arrived at Saturday's Teas and Cakes ridden by a brace of Mikes. They were ridden separately for much of the almost 200 mile round trip, but still had enough power to keep up with modern traffic on all but the A303. Proof you can ride them, rather than hide them.

My fave was the wonderfully patinated unrestored bike (top, and on the left in the bottom pic): proof that restoration is justified a lot less often than Magpie collectors insist on, and making the bike a fantastic reference point for anything that does justify restoration. Even the original dealer "sticker" is still riveted to the front number plate. Just perfect: and in fairness the second 175, it was restored to ensure it finished the 200r Motogiro, which it did in style. A big thanks to Mikes 1 and 2 for bringing them along.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The great age of film

More genius from the Olympus OM10 and Zuiko lens of Vespamore Photography. I saved for ages to buy an OM10, then like a fool P/X'd it for a Canon Auto (that broke) and then went digital. Heartening to see more prints are now made from film than digital: like vinyl, film carries far more info that digital formats. The past might just be the future...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tea and cakes special

Teas and Cakes as usual this Saturday 6 August - all welcome, email for directions - plus we'll be at the Churchill Arms (2 miles up the road) for the bikers meet about 7:30 tomorrow (Wednesday 3 August)

Then the final T&C of the year on 3 September will have something very special - the Morini riders' club are awarding best bike trophies. The idea is to try and get as many Morinis as possible in one place, and they also like the fact it's not too hilly round our way for those with ancient 175s. There'll be awards for various classes (including best non-Morini and biggest group ride in) as well as tea and cakes for all. See you then...

Monday, 1 August 2011

When the money runs out is Ducati's Diavel the answer?

Well the US has a fudged it's way out of a corner (borrowing another $2.4 trillion, promising to do something about debt levels within a decade) and unemployed Neapolitans are burning their uncollected rubbish rather than wait for the polititians to sort out their woes. It feels so much like the seventies I'm starting to crave Angel Delight and Vesta curries: where will it all end?

In a bad place, I suspect. Those baby boomers who were taxpayers and worker bees way back when are now pensioners and NHS bed-blockers: yes, they paid their taxes but that money's all spent, a huge and growing burden with a (particularly Italian) shrinking birth rate. With inflation outstripping GDP the problem's getting worse by the hour. At least the US can borrow at low interest rates - the Italian Government's having to pay nearly 6% if it can find a willing lender: that's the reason Moto Morini had to close it's doors - a short term funding crisis couldn't be tided over by the Government. If that had happened in the 1970s Guzzi, Ducati and Benelli would have disappeared. As would most of the car industry...

So what of the future? Reading up for a piece on the Guzzi factory in Benzina #6, I wadded through Paiggio's statement to shareholders. Piaggio own Aprillia, Guzzi, Gilera...even the Laverda name I suspect. Already they build their scooters in China, so where do they think the future of biking is?

Scarily but hardly unsurprisingly it precises as "Europe's shot, there's some mileage in big bikes in the US. But South America and Asia? Oh, yes please. That's the future". So they opened an R+D department in China. And Harley's shares went up when their CEO said "We might need to go water-cooled in our old markets, but the iconic air-cooled engines will still sell in emerging markets"

And do those emerging markets crave sportsbikes? No. They want a luxury brand, like Ducati, hopefully like Guzzi, and definitely like Harley-D. So maybe Ducati got it spot on with the Diavel, because although you might not like it, the truth might be it was never aimed at Europeans.