Friday, 30 September 2011

Ducati get Lucky (with the 750F1)

It really seemed the 750F1 would be the last ever Ducati, and if you think Ducati's should be penned by Fabio Taglioni it actually is. Yet despite telling everyone who grumbles they missed the bevel-boat to buy one, most ignored the advice on the basis a similar riding experience comes with a mid-nineties 750SS costing a quarter of the money. Well, too late...a mid nineties 750SS is now a tenth or less of the price of a nice F1 - and prime examples like the Santa Monica or Montjuich can fetch over £20k.

The start of the line was the TT2, exactly 30 years ago. The most (and most easily) faked Ducati ever, the TT2 was built in tiny numbers and even the people who built and raced them often disagree about provenance. Yet still people buy the same old books and pass off what they read as gospel. And as for the internet...(ahem). Anyway, the full story's covered in issues 2 and 5 of Benzina

After the Castiglionis rebooted Ducati they set about rebuilding the brand with racing. Enter one Marco Lucchinelli with a much-modded F1 and next thing you know Carlos Checca's won the World Superbike Championship for Ducati yet again(fingers crossed). If you fancy page one of this history book you'll need to persuade Ducati to part with Lucky's racer - it's in their museum, presented as an equal to the Hailwood and Smarty bevel twins, and rightly so. But for £15,000 John Fallon at Made in Italy will sell you this replica. I saw it at Goodwood a few years back and it's convincing both up close and on track. Probably twice what you might pay for a standard F1 privately, but less than it would cost to build and you'd still be unlikely to get an invite from Lord March to ride up Goodwood House's drive

Thursday, 29 September 2011

MV Agusta 750

More genius from the lenses of Phil Aynsley - the lesser known sibling to the MV Agusta 750 Sport. Only 50 of these GTs were built, selling at triple the price of a Honda CB750 which limited its appeal somewhat. Photographed in the Hunter Valley, NSW. 2010. Phil's photography features regularly in Benzina and to see his stuff printed on quality paper is a real treat: Phil, you're a star. And I think Disco Volante still have a few copies of his Ducati tribute

Strangely attractive

Spotted in a supermarket carpark - strangely attractive variation on the usual matt black Honda CX500. Although ridiculed for their weight, styling and initial reliability problems (knock, knock: who's there? CX500 big ends...)the press raved about them in 1978. Even comparison tests against the Italian competition (Laverda Alpino, Guzzi V50 and Morini 500: the late 70s was a 500-fest)found the Honda handled as well as the Latin lovelies if you allowed for its girth, but was a lot faster, better spec'd and a whole lot cheaper. This looked like the beginning of the end for the Italian bike industry, making their current success all the more remarkable.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

(Still) Running out of Road

Remember this? Bike magazine founder and opinionated curse of the trade, Mark Williams' "Running out of Road" column was always the first thing I read in a new issue of Bike. If (like me) you've ever wondered what became of the Laverda lover (he had a Jota and a Chott) you can follow his blog here. But more importantly (see my words passim on supporting local bizniz, as Mark would have said) you can go eat at his latest venture, a fine looking restaurant in rural Wales.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ducati 1199 panigale spy pix

Latest spy shots of the new Ducati Superbike, looking like the bastard love child of an early Triumph Daytona and a Ducati 999. Underslung exhaust's not exactly original, but hey, ho whatever it takes to win in World Superbikes

Nice to see a tubby tester, mind - us larger chaps appreciate a bit of room on a bike and after the success of the Daivel, Ducati have clearly realised the average biker often has an above average waistline...

Ducati launch party

Lucky enough (really lucky enough) to get invited to Ducati UK's launch party for their new Silverstone base. Tail end of man-flu meant I really didn't feel up to much, but boy am I glad I went. Plenty of bikes to take out on track (though watching the - ahem - range of riding abilities on show plus my enfeebled state I left my leathers in the car: I know, I know...) and remarkably only one crash - a famous racer gate crashed a friend who then 848 Dark crashed as thanks: I have never seen anyone's pride so severely beaten up, although the 848 survived surprisingly well.
Then it was back to the shiny new HQ for fizz and nibbles, rubbing shoulders with familiar faces and some worrying wealthy looking people all of whom had heard of Valentino Rossi. A brief ceremony by Gabriele del Torchio, President and CEO of Ducati and Derek Warwick president of the British Racing Drivers' Club (also Silverstone based)and then it was time for the band...and to take my dripping nose home
What was impressive was the sense of confidence - Ducati are the fastest growing 500cc+ brand in the UK and the massive gamble of the Diavel has paid off. Gabriele was promising they'd get Rossi and MotoGP sorted, and Carlos Checca's run in world supers makes you believe they can do it. When I first fell for Ducati it looked like the Japanese would crush them into the history books. And last night, some forty years later, I wondered at how fortunes can change - just click on the bottom pic for more photos

Ducati launch party

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Stafford here we come

I'll be at the Stafford classic bike show 15/16 October (in the main hall, but in a different spot, yet again - come say hi) but definitely without any cash: I've got too many projects and getting older's making me less acquisitive, and more interested in just getting out there. Which projects/family/"summer" weather have conspired against too often. A friend's dad reckons four is the optimum number of bikes to maximise your time riding, and I'm beginning to think he's right...

But if you're in the market this Gilera Saturno was at Stafford in April: green frame (just like a 750SS!?) hints at a military past, but if you want to know more about these undervalued singles you clearly need a copy of Benzina #4

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Thank you, thank you - together we can avoid armageddon

Thank you to everyone who's been in touch with kind words about issue #6 of Benzina: once an issue's in the post I always swear that I've had enough, then the supportive voices chime in and it's on to the next edition. One rod I make for my own back is that I use our local post office: it would be cheaper to have an agency frank them, and it wouldn't take three days for every copy to get stamped and posted on. But to paraphrase JFK, "ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community."

Our nearest High Street (Market Lavington,about a mile away) has a Post Office (obviously) that doubles as a sweet shop and general store - greetings cards cuddle up with radiator keys and dog food - and is run by a Mr and Mrs team. So when school chucks out, or when they need to go to the cash and carry, timescales slip. But hey, ho use it or loose it. Next to them is a newsagent, then a Co-op; not a mini Tesco's note, because the Co-op run a moral-high-ground policy of not competing with local services, so this one doesn't sell papers or magazines. I think of this when staring at the price of their frozen peas: expensive, but produced on Co-op farms in the UK, and buying them means I'm also supporting the newsagent and Post office, as well as the fabulous butchers opposite - Douse's, an old family firm who source all the meat locally, butcher it on site and sell their own faggots, pasties and more. Perfect, and good value. We are lucky to live here.

But what's this to do with, well, anything? Actually, I think it might have something to do with everything. We live in times that were created by a desire to have anything we wanted, and have it now. Not stuff we needed, note: oh, no - stuff we need like food (unless it's in a posh restaurant), looking after the old, safeguarding our country for the next generation, all has to be done as cheaply as possible, if at all. Stuff we want (cars, holidays, electrical goods) we'll pay the earth for (literally) and sod the fact the money's borrowed in the far east to buy far eastern goods. Or we buy from a big retailer, putting the small local shop out of business. Tesco's and Amazon aren't successful because of what they do; they make money because of what we do.

So instead of begging government to do stuff, we could do something ourselves. The current economic Armageddon is a threat because Governments are still being selfish - the French want Germany to bail out Greece because if Greece goes bust it will take French banks with it, which French taxpayers will have to sort out. And if Germany lets the Euro fail and goes back to the Deutschemark, the words greatest exporter by value will loose the ability to sell overseas via an artificially undervalued currency. So Governments will, my Whitehall sources tell me, "kick the can down the road" for as long as they can, at which point us or our kids will pick up the pieces. As classic bikers we're not the sort to wait for the AA without trying to fix things ourselves, and those who say we can't make a difference should dust down the history books and discover that both Israel and South Africa were brought to negotiating tables by ordinary consumers boycotting their goods. This isn't a plea to buy shoddy goods, like those dreadful late seventies "Buy British" campaigns, but a realisation that we're all in this together: researching the Guzzi factory story in Benzina #6 I kept asking Italians why they weren't on Italian bikes. "Too expensive," they would say to a man. Really? Buy buying (say) a Japanese bike did they really save enough cash to live on unemployment benefit? Seems unlikely to me...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Diavel's a winner

Well here's a turn up for the bookies - Ducati's Diavel hasn't just won MCN's bike of the year, it's beaten Ducati's sales forecasts in the teeth of economic gloom few would have predicted when those forecasts were made.

OK, I was initially a sceptic, but seeing the buzz MCN's own Diavel created at the Ace Cafe (when it turned up unannounced to a mate's party) was a slap round the reality chops; it parked next to V-Rod and a neat low-rider but was far and away the most admired bike in the paddock (surely the tarmac in front of the Ace is a paddock rather than a mere car park?). Even as custodian Ian Jubb (one of MCN's photographer's) pulled off his lid a Rossi livered R1 rolled in, rider in matching leathers. Nobody even looked round...
When Ian had to leave, I felt for him as the crowd poured out to hear the Termis light up the night. Luckily the Diavel's clever electrickery meant a fluffed departure was as unlikely as the wheelies it reins in

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Alternative Aga

Just in case Dr Girlie Nice-Smile sees this: THIS IS NOT OUR AGA. And in fairness to the real owner I'm not even going to hint at what's going on, because his other half was out at the time...

The new Ducati 1199 Panigale

Just in from Ducati's PR machine...

Ducati officially announces the naming of its new generation 2012 Superbike as the “Ducati 1199 Panigale” and confirms that the unveiling and first public display will be at the EICMA International Motorcycle Show in Milan 10-13 November.

Having attracted massive, world-wide interest during the machine’s many test phases, the exciting new model is also now officially named in an emotional video released on the Italian manufacturer’s website,, and Ducati Motor Holding’s official Youtube channel. The wait to discover the incredible performance, innovative design and ground-breaking technologies of the new 1199 Panigale will continue for just a few more weeks.
Pronounced “Pan-ee-gah-lee”, the new model breaks with Ducati’s Superbike tradition by adding a name to its 1199cc engine capacity (referred to as eleven-nine-nine), making a significant and warm association to its historic roots in the Borgo Panigale area of Bologna. In an Italian territory known as “Motor Valley” and where high performance and racing runs through the veins of its passionate people, Ducati now underline their pride in being world ambassadors for the “Made in Italy” title by immortalizing their home town in the name of the new Superbike.
Developed as a true sport bike with competition in its DNA, the Ducati 1199 Panigale will first see racing action in the 2012 FIM Superstock Championship and, in accordance with the factory’s development program, make its debut in World Superbike in 2013.
The two-stage introduction enables Ducati additional development for the Superbike version of the 1199 Panigale, appropriate to the more open regulations of the World Superbike category, and in addition help control costs for World Superbike teams who can continue to compete with a 2012 version of the 1198 with technical support from Ducati Engineers.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Pauper's porcini

Funny how Italian peasant food is now some of the most expensive scoff you can buy. Pizza has the highest mark-up of any high street food, "wild" rocket costs more than sausages, and dried mushrooms run from £70 a kilo to however deep your pockets are. Time to get back to your roots.

We've got a great weekly market, and when I can buy a big box of mushrooms for £2 I'm buggered if I'm going to spend a damp morning looking for wild fungi to poison myself with. Top pic is just over half the mushrooms (rest in soup and pies) sliced and laid over the Aga to dry: an airing cupboard would work just as well.
Pic below is 24 hours later: crunchy dried mushrooms ready for a winter of risottos, soups and ragu. At least £40 at retail, but a solitary quid to me. All those Yummy-Mummy's shopping for Jamie's latest recipe must be mad, but then I see "fresh stock" has appeared in the supermarket's chiller cabinet, which means people are throwing away left-overs and then buying someone else's boiled up bones. Recession? Apparently not...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

TT2 to a tee

Del Piano's works TT2 bought in Rome. It will be at Barber's in October forDucstock (details via courtesy Jack Silverman Museum

Friday, 16 September 2011

Slot racing

As the tee shirt says, "I'm not racist - I'll race anyone" but with autumn on the doorstep you might want to think laterally...

A few years ago Dr Girlie Nice-Smile bought me the MotoGP Scalextric set, and I spent happy hours teaching our youngest the need for speed. But the bikes quickly went - frankly they're rubbish and just fly off the track at anything like race-pace. So Junior bought a TVR which was as tail happy as the real thing, and I bought the most beautiful car of all time (tho I rotate my choice with the Alfa 33 Stradale and the original GTA) - the Ferrari 330P4; as good at slotcar racing as it was on the Targa Florio.

When we started Teas and Cakes we put the Scalextric track out, along with table football, but no-one wanted a go: all just seemed grateful to be with like minded riders. But if you do like slot-cars check out the enzosscuderia blog

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Free power

Our photovoltaic panels went on in 6 hours - will (thanks to Government feed in tarrifs -FITs) pay for itself inside eight years, but the FIT payments are guaranteed for 25 years linked to RPI (currently over £1500pa) and then there's all that free electricity. Even if you have to borrow the money it's a must-have. Plus I'm offsetting my motorcycling carbon footprint (ahem)
Panels fit to rails, then DC power goes inside roof via silicon glands
on to an inverter than creates AC electricty to feed to our consumer unit and export surplus back to the grid
Finished job - at 5pm generating almost 2kw - max capacity is 3.99kw. But you can't store it and if there's a power cut we're still stuffed because it needs AC to turn the DC to AC - if UC what I mean...anyway, it's usually dark when we get power cuts. Will moonlight work?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Those were the days

Can't remember where I first saw this but still makes you think those were the days

Monday, 12 September 2011

Davida do the Bunga Bunga?

Now this looks like our sort of place, a new pizzeria named after Silvio Berlusconi's infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties (and for the origins of Bunga Bunga click here - don't worry, it's a BBC site)

But what really caught our eye are the light fittings: are those Davida helmets up there? Genius...I just wish something like this would work in rural Wiltshire

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Benelli Dodici?

Spotted on the Ottonero blog - whether it's a genuine doubled up Benelli Sei or just Photoshop fun, it's something to smile at on this anniversary of a very different sort of twin towers.

I remember 11 September 2001 perfectly - our son (then just two) called the through on seeing the breaking news with "Hey, Thunderbirds is on!" Sadly he was wrong: reading about the "jumpers" in last weeks paper took me several attempt, it was so moving: back in 1978 I stood at the top of one Tower, thinking the view below seemed unreal it was so far away. All gone now, but nothing forgotten.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Dr T on getting your own way

This black and white pic was shamelessly scanned from Classic Bike #1, published back in the early eighties when a certain Mrs T upset enough people to effectively invent nostalgia. Bill Haylock (for me the finest and fastest journalist of all time - Bill, wither are thou now?)already had a 450 Desmo and wrote eloquently about the first Ducati Desmo you could actually buy, the 350 MkIIID; sure, it didn't need the desmo valve gear (big ends are far more likely to limit revs in a big single) but Taglioni was desperate to get desmo valve gear into production, and what Dr T wanted he generally got.

There's a fabulous photoshoot of a redden and restored "Twin filler" (as these bikes are colloquially know) in Benzina issue 6 (out next week) plus an insight into a previously unseen replacement from 1975: no, not the Utah/Rolah (tho they feature too) but an earlier prototype. It seems Dr T really did do just as he pleased at Ducati, even if much of it never finished up in the showrooms. And more of Gilles Desmeurs 350D (below) by clicking here

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

New for old

We're about to get a new range of tee shirts in, so the old designs have to go to make room. Sad to see these go because we spent a fortune on details like the tags and embroidered "3" (as in Hemmingway's "There are only three sports..." that an online sales platform couldn't make the most of. Anyway the new tees will just have prints on the front and should be with me for Stafford in October...I hope

But in the meantime all tees, sweats and polos are BUY ONE GET ONE FREE- no guarantees what design the freebie will be but it will be the same size and type of garment as your purchase. However if you put any preferences in the Paypal message box we'll do our best to meet them

Monday, 5 September 2011

Issue 6 on the way

The CD's on the way to the printers, with the huge PDF that is Benzina #6 all done and dusted (I hope): our feeble broadband speed means there is no way to upload these files online. Subscribers' copies should go out around September 2oth, then it's all up to the postal authorities (god help us all...)

Really pleased with this issue: first up is Elizabeth Rabb's Ducati project - very Bob Carlos Clarke, and worth the cover price alone. Elizabeth also tells how she did it and what inspires the best bike photographer on the planet. Then there's what happens next at Guzzi: the recriminations, plans and dreams lined up for the factory's 90th anniversary. That's followed by Guzzi's Paris Dakar racer, then insights into ownership of the Laverda and Morini big trailies: big, clever and very dirty.

Next up is a prize-winning Ducati 350 Desmo twin-filler snapped by a fashion photographer, plus details of the restoration, and a comparison with the Ducati 350 singles that never made the showrooms. So we tell you about the MV350 twin you should buy, ideally dressed up as Ago's four.

More? Of course...extracts from a 50s race fan's photo album, including Geoff Duke pitching his Gilera 500/4 against Liverpudlians on Brit singles. Or how about racing Benelli Seis at the TT, with highlights from a man who did. And how to buy a 1976 900SS from a Frenchman who'll only send low-res photos: unbelievably, the story has a happy ending.

We wrap up with Laverda's forgotten spaceframed triples and Lambretta's shaft-driven four stroke 250 V twin: yes, just like a little Guzzi. All on lovely paper, feeling more like a book than the tat they pass off elsewhere as quality magazines. Buy it, and a copy for a friend, and get a free warm-fuzzy feeling. Then enjoy

And thanks to all who help, contribute and buy: we love you all. Right, onto issue 7...

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Thanks to all who came to our final teas and cakes - 17 Morinis, plus Guzzis and even some J@p stuff. No Ducatis - "It's September, they're all on SORN" claimed some (Morini riding) wag. Best news of all is that Morini are back off the ropes, with fresh money, a new two year lease on the old factory and a stand at the Milan show.

Thanks to all who support these events - if you want more buy Benzina, and if you don't you're a dirty freeloader. And a very special thanks to subscribers Dave and Robyn, who easily won the furthest travelled visitor: they came from Hawaii - yes, that Hawaii...
See more photos by clicking here

Buy this bike!

On eBay right now this perfect Laverda 100 Corse, pictured with Giuliano Maoggi on the Giro. It's current owner is too modest to say on the listing, but he wrote about these race winning tiddlers in Benzina #1 and is a regular contributor to both Benzina and Classic Bike. If you're a Laverda fan with an itch to do the Giro or Milano Taranto there is no better bike to own.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Morinis, tea and cakes

This fine Morini, owned by Neil P and snapped on film at Tring* station by Vespamore Photography should be at our final Teas and Cakes tomorrow, Saturday 3 September. Should be around 30 bikes, half of them Morinis. Just hope the weather behaves...

*strange but true: I was expelled from a convent in Tring, aged 7. Catholics, eh?