Thursday, 27 December 2012

Laverda V6 soundtrack - Thor's own chainsaw

Various clips of the Laverda V6 in action with thanks to laverdafreunde Lovely

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Great new resource (blog is too mean a word) by href
="">Benzina subscriber Buzz - the 8mm movies of Cook and Phil racing in the Seventies are particularly fine - more at href="">Ducatista

Friday, 21 December 2012

Department of Hen's teeth

So rare that most reference books don't mention it: a twin filler 450 Desmo, built in 1969. Some had a decompressor and some didn't and along with the 350 (there's a love-fest in Benzina#6) the twin filler fuel tank quickly became a single filler. Ducati don't even have records of this era, but only a few hundred of the 350s were made, and far less 450s. They make a roundcase 750SS look common, and the fact the fakers have left them alone tells how rare they are.

Yet you can own one - £16,000 from Made in Italy Motorcycles. With the far more commonplace Tartarini-styled yellow-peril 450 Desmo making £10k, (799 built) that almost looks reasonable

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mike Hailwood post TT at Mallory Park

Thanks to Peter Tunas for this; must be the 1978 post-TT: as Pat Slinn (who ws part of the team) says "Before the race the Ducati was a long wheel based out of date slow machine, then Mike proceeded to give a lesson to all the so called fast men in how to race a motor cycle!"

Thursday, 13 December 2012

And finally some good news! Italian bikes keep selling

Press release from Ducati tells of largely good news - market share is up although perhaps tellingly they keep quiet on numbers, except for the Panigale: 7,500 sold since launch. To put that in perspective the original 851 sold barely 500 in its first full year of production, and both the 916 and Monster took two years to sell 7,500 when launched. But then, there were infamously problems getting suppliers to hand over unpaid for components back in the days when folk worried Ducati would go bust at any minute

Moto Guzzi have also done well with the revised V7, some model sales up 13%. Hopefully the new California will bring the world's oldest motorcycle factory (in continuous production since 1921) back to the prominence it deserves

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas-is-a-coming part 2

Or how about this? The 1970s legend brought to life by Minichamps Paul’s Model Art, the masters of motorcycle modelling. 1:12 scale, around 7” long, and highly collectable including a fine presentation box. Bargain price of £63.50 is over 30% below RRP including UK P&P only: please email for overseas postage costs - Click here for more info

Christmas is a-coming

Sorting out the attic I came across some of our gloves that I'd thought had sold out. A few left, made for us by fourth generation glove makers who also supplied Barry Sheene (see page 86 of Benzina #6) and the UK's armed forces - in fact the black and tan officers' glove are identical to those seen on military parade grounds. Supersoft leather not only makes them comfy and warm, but remarkably sensitive; perfect around gloves for the discerning signore. The driving gloves are even nicer, and actually make great cycling mitts if you can bring yourself to chop off the fingertips, but not really up to motocycle use, although that doesn't seem to trouble the young lady above. Make a great present for the man who has (nearly) everything; I mean the gloves, not the young lady...Discover more by clicking here.

As would a bundle of Benzina one to four; we actually had more of these printed than later editions (#7 is all but gone, and #10 isn't far behind); so as a special offer all four of 1 to 4 posted to a UK address are just £25, or for a bit more we will of course post to the US/rest of the world or Europe. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Healey Ariel square four; part of an Italian job

Just back from a meeting at the UK's National Motorcycle Museum ; what meeting? Well, hopefully Benzina will be back bigger and better in 2013. The museum? Hmmm: lots of bikes, some very nice but little thought given to presentation, and the word "patina" doesn't seem to be part of the curator's lexicon. But it is great to have a national motorcycle museum, so mustn't grumble.

This is what caught my eye - the Healey; an updated Ariel Square four offered in the 1970s from the ashes of the great British bike industry (deceased). Brainchild of Tim Healey (and his brother, if memory serves) it was tested by the press under the banner "1000cc for £1000" - by this point a z900 was over £1500, and a Laverda Jota another grand. And there's the connection. When the Slater brothers invented the Jota they arranged for the tweaked 3Cs they were based on to arrive in the UK without exhausts - along with Tim, the Slaters developed a new 3into 2 pipe that Tim Healey made and the Slaters fitted. Full story's in issue 3 of Benzina

Monday, 3 December 2012

Moto Guzzi wind tunnel + Le Mans II

This is the Guzzi wind tunnel complete with Le Mans II and various V-twins at the factory test track back in the 70s. Groovy baby. Story goes that the Guzzi wind tunnel (like many) was only used at night because it used so much power the grid couldn't supply enough electricty if there were other significant demands. Bzzz, click. Spare Luigi a few lira for the meter...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

California sunshine in the UK

Corsa Italiana had one of the new Guzzi California's on show today - this is Benzina subscriber Dave Brown trying it for size. He has a lovely 1970s T3 Cali and we'll try and set up a Jimmy Saville style test (as in now/then, now/then) in the Spring. In the meantime even cynical old testers are coming back from the launch in Cannes highly impressed with the big Guzzi. Building on the success of the V7 and Griso, it finally looks like Guzzi are back from the brink, and doing what they do best. Hopefully the new 1400cc engine can find its way into a Griso.

In the meantime an original "loop-frame" California is below; these were styled in Italy, and painted black and white for export to US police departments. Demand was such that Guzzi offered a "Police Model" for general sale, soon dubbed California. The new Cali really was designed in California, which tells you who Piaggio (Guzzi's owner) are expecting (hoping?) to buy it.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Paris in the Spring

Oh to be in Paris in the Spring; well, 6th and 7th of February - that's when these Garellis are on show, ready for some Bonham's hammer action. Unsurprisingly they take the chance to namecheck Nuvolari. Tazio Nuvolari is one of my candidates for GOAT; greatest of all time. Unbeatable at Bianchi and Alfa Romeo,the story's in issue 4 of  Benzina. But before then he raced the most dominant motorcycle of its era - the split single Garelli 350 two-stroke. When Carlo Guzzi sat down to design his first motorcycle, he knew the Garelli was the bike he had to beat. More in Issue 3.  Estimates on the oldest bikes (excluding premiums) is €7,000-12,000 for the c.1925 split twin and €6,000-8,000 for the c.1935 twin piston single. Anyway - to the blurb. Quite fancy the De Havilland

The entire Garelli Grand Prix Collection is offered at No Reserve at the Bonhams sale at the Grand Palais in Paris

A second collection for the 6th to 7th February sale features some 55 machines from the early Vintage era to the modern day

Two single-owner collections will headline the motorcycle section of the Bonhams sale at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, in early February 2013.
The Garelli Grand Prix Collection comprises some two-dozen historic racing motorcycles from the celebrated Italian manufacturer, many from the factory's 1980s heyday, and a selection from its pre-war days. All the machines, which were housed by their current owner in a private chapel, will be sold at no reserve.

Highlights include the 1963 Garelli 50cc Monza world-record-breaker (estimate €50,000 - €70,000); the ex-Eugenio Lazzarini 1983 50cc racer that helped Garelli to the manufacturers' World Championship that year (estimate €12,000 - €17,000); and a 1987 example of the 125cc twin that won six riders' World Championships and four manufacturers' titles during the 1980s (estimate €7,000 - €12,000).

Also forming part of the collection are two important non-Garelli racing motorcycles: the ex-Fred Merkel Honda RC30 ridden by the American World Superbike champion during the 1989/90 season (estimate €20,000 - €30,000), and the 1989 Yamaha TZ250W used by French star Jean-François Baldé during his final season of Grand Prix racing (estimate €3,500 - €5,500).

Garelli Motorcycles was founded in 1919. Many famous Italian racers – including Ernesto Gnesa, Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi – began their racing careers on Garelli bikes, and in the early 1980s the factory dominated the 125 class in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, winning six consecutive world championships between 1982 and 1987.

Lining up alongside the Garellis is an important French private collection assembled by garage-owning enthusiast owner, the late Claude Lesellier. The eclectic mix of some 55 machines includes French, British, German and American motorcycles dating from the early Vintage era to the modern day.

Highlights include:

1935 Magnat Debon 750cc VMA v-twin (estimate €8,000 - €12,000)

1950 Terrot 500cc RGST (estimate €4,500 - €6,500)

1945 Terrot 350cc JSS (estimate €3,000 - €4,000)

1929 Rhonyx 500cc GX (estimate €6,000 - €10,000)

1930 Dollar 500cc S3 (estimate €5,000 - €6,000)

1927 Automoto 500cc AL11 Supersport (estimate €10,000 - €15,000)

c.1921 Magnat Debon 250cc (estimate €6,500 - €8,500)

1918 Harley-Davidson Model 18F Combination (estimate €16,000 - €20,000)

1916 Indian 1,000cc Powerplus (estimate €20,000 - €25,000)

1930 Stylson 350cc RH (estimate €4,000 - €5,000)

1931 Arbinet 350cc BSSC (estimate €5,000 - €7,000)

Following the spectacular success of its 2011 sale at the historic automotive venue, Bonhams is delighted to be returning to the Grand Palais in Paris in 2013, where the Motor Car, Motorcycle and Automobilia departments will combine with the 20th Century Decorative Arts department to conduct a series of sales.

Among other lots already consigned for the auctions is the 1929 American Moth Corporation De Havilland 60GMW Gipsy Moth biplane that featured in the 1985 Oscar-winning film 'Out of Africa' (starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford), and the ex-works Bugatti Type 54 that raced at Monza on 6th September 1931 in the hands of Achille Varzi (estimate €2.5 million - €3.5 million).

Highlights among the objets d'art on offer include:

- Raoul Larche, a Gilt-Bronze Figural Lamp modelled as the actress Loie Fuller, c.1920 (estimate €50,000 - €75,000)

- Jean Dunand, a Dinanderie vase from the first year of production, 1913 (estimate €12,000 - €17,000)

- Demetre Chiparus 'Dourga'. A large size chryselephantine model, c.1925 (estimate €15,000 - €22,000)

Final entries for the auction are being accepted. For further information call +33 1 42 61 10 11 or .

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Lost and found - the original Gilera factory

In Arcore I dropped in at a motorcycle shop, enjoying the fact that in Italy they're still that - a shop with a mix of motorcycles, from classic to nearly new: little of the corporate nonsense I grumbled of in issue 10 of  Benzina. Having not been organised enough to have a note of the old Gilera factory's address I asked the staff if anything remained of their hometown's famous motorcycle factory. They had no idea, and nor did anyone else I asked. Oh well, guess it's been knocked down.

So I asked Jan Leek, who seems to know everything about the Italian motorcycle industry and quite a bit more besides: no wonder his articles were required reading in Motorcycle International in the 1980s: Frankly should be working for Google. Not only was Jan more organised than me, when he turned up at the old factory a decade ago he had all his questions ready, and old photos to prompt memories and make comparisons valid.

Guess what? It's still a factory of sorts, and the old Gilera family villa's next door. But nobody he asked realised the fabulous history they were part of; Remember, this wasn't just any old motorcycle factory, this was one of the biggest in the world and built bikes like the 500/4 that Geoff Duke wrested with (above) on his way to world championships. How quickly we forget...

And here's the current Google streetview of the factory - the old family villa is off to the right, behind the trees

View Larger Map

Sunday, 25 November 2012

New (nuovo) Guzzi California

This from Kev Ash;and to think I was invited, but family obligations made it a no-no...

The new California 1400 really needs to work for Moto Guzzi. The company's grown by more than 50 per cent in the last two years, but that's from such a low base it wasn't going to be sustainable for much longer, and with the Piaggio Group feeding a £34 million investment into Guzzi, a major turnaround is demanded: the California 1400 is intended to be a key element of that.

There's no lack of effort in the latest bike to wear the California name, 42 years after the first. Aside from the bottom half of the engine it's an all new machine. The unmistakable air-cooled V-twin has grown in capacity thanks to larger pistons, saving the need for any significant changes to and within the crankcases, which are from the existing 1200 'big block' engine. The crank is almost the same too, aside from having its balance changed to suit, but this is where the new Cali has broken with a Guzzi tradition as its engine is rubber mounted.

Although the motor can move on its mountings, three ball-jointed rods at different angles connecting the engine to the frame control exactly how it does this so there are no issues with the output shaft misaligning with the final drive. It's a similar system to Buell's Uniplanar mounting. What this also means is a break with the Guzzi method of using the engine as a stressed chassis component, something the Mandello factory has done for very many years, which in turn means there's added weight, as the frame now needs to deal with all of the forces which previously were handled in part by the engine.

The alternatives would have been either putting up with the inevitable increased vibration from the bigger pistons, or adding a balance shaft, which would have meant an expensive redesign of the crankcase and internals. As it is, the California 1400 still compares reasonably well with other cruisers at 322kg (710lb) wet, being more than 23kg (50lb) lighter than a Harley Road King.

The motor is also distinctive for its single throttle body, sited centrally and feeding both cylinders through long intake tracts which help to move the torque peak down to very low revs. The maximum is 88lb.ft (12.1kgm, 114Nm) at just 2,750rpm, and this decreases only gently towards the 95bhp (96PS, 71kW) power peak at 6,500rpm. In theory at least this also increases legroom by moving the throttle body away from the back of each cylinder, but we'll come to that.

There's something almost Bauhaus about the California's styling, which combines abrupt edges and steady curves with clean, uncluttered detailing, those fuel tank cutouts to emphasise the size of the engine and a long, low attitude that has huge street presence and great visual appeal. It's a looker, no question, backed up by the kind of neat detailing that Guzzi is so good at. The clocks are very Fiat 500 with a central LCD circular info panel sitting within the analogue rev counter, but the rear LED lights which slash down the mudguard have a slightly different radius to the mudguard itself, so they don't fit flush, which is irritating.

The ride is still very much Guzzi California. BMW might have switched to a wet multiplate, counter-rotating clutch for its new GS but Guzzi has stayed faithful to the big, single plate dry version, which means a heavy flywheel and that characteristic kick to the right when you blip the throttle. I wouldn't want it any other way. Release the span-adjustable lever and the bike leaps forward, then once you're rolling responds to the throttle with a big kick, even at sub 2,000rpm rev levels. It keeps pulling hard up to the power peak, after which it starts to feel flat, but there's an additional trait now which is the smoothness. The rubber mounting has isolated the vibration with almost uncanny efficiency, so only the smallest trace of buzzing comes through to the rider, and you only notice that if you're looking for it. But still at idle the bike shudders and the bars shake side to side, so there's no loss of character for this.

As a touring bike, which the California is at its heart, the power characteristics are ideal, with big thrust at impossibly low revs then plenty to really get it going when you want to get a move on. It's smooth and thanks to the overdrive top gear, very relaxed too at cruising speeds.

There's a question mark still over the fuel economy. Guzzi claims the best specific fuel consumption of any of its models, but the onboard computer reading told me around town that I was achieving just 30mpg (13.5km/l, 7.4l/100km, 25.0mpg US), and at higher speeds on more open roads only 38mpg (10.6km/l, 9.4l/100km, 31.6mpg US), which results in a range to empty of just 170 miles, not good enough for this kind of bike. On the French Riviera presentation it wasn't possible to gauge this accurately so it could have been that conditions were conspiring against the California in this respect - this will have to wait until further testing in the UK. I'm a bit concerned though.

No concerns about the handling, which lives up to the California's reputation as one of the finest cornering cruisers. With the 1400 the key trait is the lightness and response, as this big bike flicks and turns and changes direction like something 45kg (100lb) lighter. I was reminded of the Triumph Trophy, another bike which handles like something well below its weight, as the California 1400 doesn't just deal with a twisty road, it makes it a real pleasure. The steering is completely neutral too, aside from a small hint of drop-in at very low speeds, so even with steep uphill hairpin bends you can just heel the bike over and let it go around on your behalf.

There's even traction control if things get slippery, which you notice if you set out to find it, but most typical riders will rarely remember it's there. The three engine maps are used more, in particular it's worth making the small effort to switch to Pioggia (wet) for town riding generally as the throttle response can be too sudden, especially for a passenger, in the other two modes, Turismo and Veloce. And how refreshing for a manufacturer not to default to English for this kind of thing - this is an Italian bike after all, it doesn't take much to learn the different names for the engine maps, and its much more in keeping with the bike's heritage.

If the range question is still waiting to be answered, there are no concerns over the comfort, which is exceptionally good, the seat is a good place to be all day and the riding position generally is spacious, with plenty of room for the passenger too. A shame though that the screen is not adjustable, that's quite an oversight when so many other bikes' are. For me at 6'3" (1.92m) the height was about right most of the time, so shorter riders might find they're looking through the top when they'd rather be peering over it, in which case they'll need to specify a shorter version from the accessory catalogue, a rather slow and costly alternative to the on-board adjustability the bike ought to have.

The screen is very similar to the old California's, which means you still get a helmet-vibrating turbulence from around 75mph (120kph) upwards, which seems to be typical of these kinds of screens. The solution seems to be chill, go slower... Another potential annoyance is the heated grips switch, which will still be there on the left switch pod even if you didn't order the grips themselves, as a reminder of your tightfistedness.

It might just be that in the summer months there's too much heat coming back onto your legs from those big cylinders. It was cool when I was riding, only 13°C (55°F) or so for much of the time, so the warmth I was getting was welcome, but even then in traffic it started to hint at becoming too warm. In a hot summer I think this might become an issue.]

For all the bike's quirks, and generally they are small or trivial, this is a convincing bearer of the California name. It's a delight to ride, with a fabulous sound to support its laid back, muscular motor, it's comfortable and it handles beautifully. The panniers are a good size, the equipment levels are high, it looks good and at 6,000 miles (10,000km) the service intervals are reasonable too. The fuel range might spoil things, but the jury's still out on that, otherwise it's a thoroughly seductive motorcycle.

Model tested: Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring
UK price: £15,770
Available: December 2012
Engine: 90 degree V-twin, air cooled, ohc 4v, 1380cc
Power: 95bhp (96PS, 71kW) @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 88lb.ft (12.1kgm, 114Nm) @ 2,750rpm

Economy: 38mpg (10.6km/l, 9.4l/100km, 31.6mpg US (on test)

Tank/Range: 4.5 gallon (20.5 litres, 5.4 gallons US) / 170 miles (270km)

Transmission: Six gears, dry single-plate clutch, shaft final drive

Frame: steel tube

Seat height: 29.1in (740mm)

Wheelbase: 66.3in (1685mm)

Rake/trail: 32° / 6.1in (155mm)

Weight: 710lb (322kg) wet, full tank

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bernhard Gobmeier new General Manager of Ducati Corse

Borgo Panigale (Bologna), 20 November 2012 – Ducati announces the appointment of Bernhard Gobmeier as the new General Manager of Ducati Corse. Utilising his significant experience in the world of motorsport, including more recently his role as Superbike Director with BMW, the position will draw upon the 53-year-old German’s extensive managerial experience ready to enter the new phase of development for Ducati’s racing activities and to achieve the targets set during the recent acquisition by the Audi Group.

Mr. Gobmeier will report directly to the CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, Gabriele Del Torchio, and count upon the experience and professional support of Filippo Preziosi.
ngineer Filippo Preziosi, the current General Manager of Ducati Corse, will now assume the position of Director of Research & Development for Ducati Motor Holding and report directly to Claudio Domenicali, General Manager of Ducati Motor Holding. The prestigious and strategic company role will enable 44-year-old Preziosi to apply the valuable experience of his 18 years in Ducati, 12 of which in Ducati Corse, to the development of new product.

Paolo Ciabatti (55) has been appointed the new Ducati MotoGP Project Director. The Italian now returns to the Borgo Panigale headquarters in Bologna to take advantage of his extensive experience in the world of motorcycle competition, which has included coordinating the World Superbike Championship as General Director.

After two seasons in the position, Engineer Ernesto Marinelli (39), is confirmed to continue as Ducati Superbike Project Director, with the activities of both Marinelli and Ciabatti coordinated by Mr. Gobmeier.

All appointments will commence from January 2013.

“With these new appointments and the 2013 riders announced in MotoGP and World Superbike, we are well prepared to move forward into the new racing season,” said the CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, Gabriele Del Torchio. “We are confident that with this new organisation and focused strategy, we will achieve our targets and continue with the fundamentally important transfer of ‘know-how’ from racing into production, an element that characterises every Ducati motorcycle.”

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Well the reaction to me saying "No more" has been remarkable; problem seems to be I was undercharging, especially given more copies go to the US and Down Under than the UK - postage overseas is five-fold what it is inland, so pro-rata a rise in the cover price wouldn't make copies much more expensive than they currently are outside the UK. Biggest mistake was listening to the people who said "drop the price and you'll sell four times as many copies". Guess what? The same people came back for more, but those who didn't share our passion for Latin motorcycles still weren't interested...

So I might (next year, when the book is finished) do three issues a year at 120 pages (currently 88) in the issue 9 and 10 format but at double the cover price; dramatically reduces the work in mailing/stock-keeping/publishing but keeps the same volume of stories. Still very much an idea in progress...

Friday, 9 November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

better to have loved and lost

After much heart-searching, I have decided that benzina #10 will be the final issue, for now at least.

The reasons for the decision are many: subscription numbers don't really add up, and huge increases in postal costs haven't helped with attempts at making even a modest profit. But mainly it's the time it steals from family, book writing (which does pay) and actually riding. I spent most of a week in Italy chasing stories by racking up miles in a rental car on the Autostrada, when I'd rather have been riding along the coast roads. That was when I started wondering about the future, because producing the magazine feels less and less about riding and getting scoops, and more about chasing (admittedly unpaid!) contributors, checking grammar and dealing with the logistics of production and distribution. In essence I wasn't looking forward to sitting down at the computer to get issue 11 rolling. Without enthusiasm there cannot be the sort of magazine people would want to buy or contribute to, so I'd rather go out on a high - which I hope issue 10 was.

So thank you for your support and hopefully you've enjoyed the ride. Highlights for me have been talking to heroes like Cook Neilson, Pat Slinn, Keith Martin and Giancarlo Morbidelli, and access to places like the Guzzi factory. And the very kind support from subscribers especially; very much appreciated.

And please tell people that back issues are still available - who knows, if they sell out perhaps benzina will return

best wishes


Subscriptions will be refunded pro-rata over the next 7-10 days; sorry, it takes forever in Paypal if the payment's made over 60 days ago. And there doesn't seem to be a way with Paypal to refund payments made by credit cards, so it will have to be by cheque, as with those who have paid by cheque or cash. Any concerns, please get in touch

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A genuine TT2; whatever next?

Here's one to stir things up at the local Ducati owners' club: what constitutes a genuine TT2? One of the 40-odd built at the factory? But what about the bikes Tony Brancato was licensed to build and sell as TT2s with the factory's blessing? Or a Pantah 600 in a genuine Verlicchi TT2 frame (meaning the monoshock frame - Verlicchi made the standard Pantah frames as well.) The waters run deep, and there's more in issues 2 and 5 of Benzina

The problem is that even the factory's own works TT2s were built in a corner of the Borgo Panigale premises, starting with a 600 Pantah engine taken from the production line. Did anyone write down the engine numbers? Have a wild guess. Frame numbers? The people who know keep that to themselves to foil the fakers. The truth is that it is very, very easy to fake a TT2 which might be why Cagiva Alazzurras (which shared the later 650 Pantah engine) have all but disappeared.

The one in the pics is genuine however, and probably the best documented and most traceable TT2 in existence. It was used by Massimo Broccoli for a debut win at Misano on 29 March 1981 and went on to scoop the 1981 Junior Italian TT F2 Championship. It is therefore the one and only TT2 with fully documented racing history. As a 1981 bike it might be only one of half a dozen built that year. Featured in the Ducati Official Racing History book, and having spent much of its life in the factory museum you are looking at The Real Thing. Price is 60,000 Euros (c£50k) which is a lot for a TT2 given what they have been making, but then you know you've got one of the most important Ducatis ever built. The bike is hidden away in Italy, but is for sale via Made in Italy Motorcycles. Go on...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Lovely pre-war Bianchi for sale

This lovely Bianchi 175 is for sale on eBay right now, helpfully listed with "reserve price quite high": I'd also caution that this is the seller I bought my disastrous Guzzi 125 project from. Let's just say many eBay sellers won't leave feedback for a buyer until the buyer has left feedback; odd really, given all a buyer has to do is pay and maybe collect, and only then will any problems become apparent. So beware 100% seller feedbacks.

But that doesn't stop me wanting a pre-war Bianchi. Ideally an ex Tazio Nuvolari Freccia Celeste as featured in Benzina issue #4

Friday, 26 October 2012

Benelli 350 and Dave Roper on the Isle of Man

I've always had huge affection for Benelli, and given someone paid £74,000 at Bonham's Stafford gig for a 1958/59 250 single (one of three or four built -bottom pic), clearly I'm not alone. Lord knows what that makes the lovely 1939 supercharged 250 four-cylinder racer worth (below) seen in the Morbidelli museum but as a Pesaro boy, it's not surprising that Giancarlo Morbidelli also loves Benelli. He's even got a room (more a small conference hall, really...centre pic) dedicated to Dorino Serafina, his Benelli 175 and all the trophies he won (below). So it was good to be pointed to this brilliant clip by Bill Snelling (aka foTTofinders) of Dave Roper riding a works Benelli 350/4 around the Isle of Man.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Italy by Multistrada

Family commitments, our rubbish summer and trying to get benzina relaunched in a bigger format has meant riding fewer miles this year than ever before, but I've just had a week in Italy with a Multistrada so mustn't grumble. Renting from Francesco, a Ducati dealer who also manages Motorrent motorcycle hire in Rimini, was surprisingly relaxed and hassle free. An out of season special offer (look under "our supplies" on the website, or just ask) made the fly/ride option much cheaper than riding down, especially as Rimini is 3 or 4 days each way. It also gave me a chance to find out if all the fuss about the Multistrada is justified.

First impressions? Silly seat height, and I'm six foot with a 32" inside leg. Keyless ignition drives you mad. Filling up means fumbling in your pocket for a key, rather than just moving the key from the ignition to the tank cap. Ditto getting camera kit from the top box. Mainly though I was reminded of the guy who's wife dropped him at the airport and only realised hubbie still had the car key when she stopped for fuel. Confession; Dr Girlie Nice-Smile had to run and retrieve the car keys from me after dropping me at the airport.

But quibbles aside, my-oh-my, is the Multi flippin' fast. Francesco had said he'd leave it in Sport mode "Because you will want the full 150bhp at your wrist." Err, no... Nosing into the Rimini rush hour and narrow mountain roads beyond, I felt I'd acclimatise in the nice-and-easy touring mode. But after meeting up with the rest of the group for lunch, most of whom were on Fireblades or GSX-R1000s, I tried Sport mode for an overtake. Good grief, as Charlie Brown would say. High bars meant an unintended wheelie and equally surprised compatriots looking for a lower gear to keep up. It is truly astonishing to have clip-on-and-rear-set power delivered via a touring riding position. Would have happily traded some top-end power for to loose the typical Ducati twin snatchiness at low-rpm, which remains even in low power Urban mode. Funnily enough, a reader has discovered a cure for this that doesn't involve the usual need to spend a grand on Termis, rechipping and other guff. More anon. But in essence the Multistrada 1200 is a great bike, especially on the Rimini to Pesaro Panoramica road (above): but better than the old air-cooled version Sir Al rides in Puglia for the current issue of Benzina? Hmmm... If you're miles are many and usually two-up with luggage, perhaps. I'd rather have the lower weight and much lower running costs and purchase price of the old bike.

Monday, 22 October 2012

These fuelish thing

Really wanted these pics for the latest issue of Benzina- the piece on old fuel stations in issue 10. This is our village high street, which seems to have had two sets of petrol pumps serving a minor backwater. The top photo clearly shows Shell Mex pumps overhung by a thatched roof and right by the road, which rather begs the question of where the petrol was stored: in the cottage's front room? Anyway, they are part of Market Lavington's museum collection curated by a retired Physic's teacher with a passion for the area. As the name suggests, Market Lavington once was a thriving market town with some important buildings, and its powers extended over a sizeable patch; West Lavington (to the west; see what they did there?) has Dauntsey's School which is almost 500 years old and our village is Easteron: a ton was a clearing, and we're to the east of the Lavingtons. Actually we're up in Easterton Sands, with an exceptionally sandy soil. Life was much simpler back then. More at the Market Lavington museum website

The bottom image is the old blacksmith; as cars, and more importantly bicycles, replaced horses the business of shoeing horses gave way to fixing bikes and cars. But sadly the fun didn't last, and our villages are really dormitories for commuters these days. Out on Ted's walk (part local event, part fund raiser for Alzheimer's Research UK) I was struck that only Ted had a local accent - and even he will admit it's hardly broad and bears no comparison to the impenetrable burrs I remember from my childhood. It is, as an Italian friend said to me when I was at Monza last week, part of an "even-ing out" of the world. Cultures, products and even petrol stations are just becoming a homogenous melting pot, where local character and quirkiness is seen as an obstacle to mobility and user friendliness. And that seems a shame.

Friday, 19 October 2012


Like all publishers, we love our advertisers; but we also like ads that bring something to the look of the magazine and value for the readers. Mdina Italia should be well know to Ducati twin owners - what they can't find (or direct you to) probably doesn't exist. I bought my immaculate 906 Paso for a song because Ducati would only sell the tail light as a complete unit, for which they wanted north of £200. Mdina found a new lens for under £40. And Howard at Widecase wrote the buyers' guide to (guess what) Ducati's widecase singles in issue 10 of Benzina so knows what he's doing. Rates for adverts are below, and we can also help with design for a modest fee.

Inside page £195, half page (top) £100, quarter page £60, fifth page strip (above) £50, back cover £295

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Conspiracy theory

This is publishing legend Mark Williams showing alarm at my usual reading material, snapped at last April's Stafford show - the sixth consecutive time I've had a stand at the biannual event. But we won't be there this time... and therein lies a tale. Morton's usually chase for exhibitors to book as early as possible, and have always said they won't sell a stand until a previous incumbent confirms they won't be returning. This means that good pitches really are dead men's shoes, complicated by the fact the April and October shows are booked separately. So I've spent ages waiting for waverers to eventually give up stands and crept steadily into better spots in the main hall. So what happened this time? My stand got sold from under me. Deep breath, and book another. But before confirming the B&B accommodation I checked back. Oops, despite taking debit card details and all the usual guff, they'd "forgotten" to book my second booking, and then I get the "Sorry sir but the show's now sold out" routine after umpteen unreturned calls and emails. Muddy anchors... but maybe they just don't like the competitionBenzina represents to their own magazines in these difficult times. Who knows? there are certainly some paranoid souls in today's publishing world, and I might be about to join them.

No matter, the Magazine Man is in the main hall (far end from the Bonham's auction) and has issue 10 ready and waiting. Still, I'll miss talking nonsense to like-minded souls and will instead sit at home scheming revenge. And, as they say in Italy, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Laverda Eagle flies in.

A reader queried a claim in Benzina #9 that the Laverda American Eagle failed to take off in the USA. "Evel Knieval had a short deal with American Eagle" he points out, "and they 'FLEW'!" Yes, very good. Also proves Evel was completely bananas, and a bonkers hero from a bonkers era.

And then there's a grumble on the drive, and a reader staying at the nearby Great Bustard rally rolls in on the only American Eagle I've ever seen. Syncronicity or what? Lovely thing, and to my mind proof that the Laverda 750 is one of the most under-rated and usable motorcycles out there, even though they are a tad heavy and big drum brakes can be grabby. Owner James of OTB Design reckons the engine weighs more than his Jota's, not helped by a crank that weighs 19kg on its own. And that's why they don't vibrate as much as a Brit 750.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Morbidelli Museo: best museum in the world?

None of our group has ever seen Barbers, but Sig Morbidelli showed a group of us around his eponymous and rather fabulous Morbidelli museum last week. Most had ridden from the UK for a season finale-fling organised by Neil (on the left above, with a bike made for grandson Morbidelli) and Ann of Ardenne and Eifel Adventures. Having visited most of the top museums (Sammy Miller, Ducati, Moto Guzzi) we agreed this was the finest place any of us have visted and the highlight of our holiday. An absolute must-see destination; especially if he lets you sit on the V8 (never mind my sweaty expression, those Ducati branded jeans show a lack of gratitude...)
Right, issue 10 of Benzina has just turned up - will get in the post over the next 48 hours.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Issue 10, Monza and a Ducati 750SS

Issue 10 of Benzina is at the printers, but won't get here till I've left for Monza; so sorry (as Nick Clegg would say) but that means it won't get posted out till the 16th October.

Italy is a week-long story chasing fest - Monza and Benelli are definitely on the list, as is time with a Ducati 1200S Multistrada. Much of the rest is still down to Italian promises being kept. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime a reminder that subscribers can advertise Italian motorcycles free on the main website - here's the latest listing, and there's more info (including specialist dealers) if you click here
 Ducati 750SS 1997, one of the last carb models hence must be approaching classic status. Superb original condition - even have the pillion seat cover. 8400miles, over half of these miles have been in my ownership as it had been pampered by previous owners; in 2011 I took it on a fabulous week long ride to Gros Glockner (Austria), calling in on Italian and Swiss ski resorts on the return home - classic vee-twins were just made fore roads like those! Warwickshire, call Matt on 07909 914345 £1600.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pikes Peak Multistrada, Panigale 1199RS and more

New 2013 Ducatis... do like the anniversay Monsters - 20 years since the original M900? Scary. Spiritual bonkers succesor might be the Pikes Peak Multistrada: video of the reason for the name below, with the Ducati press release

Ducati present 1199RS13 Superbike and start to reveal 2013 models at Cologne’s Intermot show
Ducati has started to reveal its 2013 range at the Intermot International Motorcycle Show in Cologne, Germany, displaying new colours in the Diavel and Superbike families and, as the famous naked icon now celebrates 20 years of production, special Anniversary versions of the Monster 696, 796 and 1100EVO. The recently released 2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 also made its first-ever public appearance, as did the brand new 1199 Panigale RS13, which is now ready to make its debut in the World Superbike series next year. Company CEO, Gabriele Del Torchio, and General Manager, Claudio Domenicali addressed the world’s motorcycle press during a special conference held on the Italian manufacturer’s stand at the massive biennial event.
“Ducati has entered a new era,” said Gabriele Del Torchio, CEO of Ducati. “Being part of such a prominent and significant group as Volkswagen makes us look to the future with confidence and optimism and we are very happy to be here at Intermot with so many new products to present. Despite today’s severely shrinking market, Ducati continues to show positive growth, and since 2007 has consistently increased its market share and further strengthened its financial position. 2011 was a record year in the history of Ducati and we expect to continue our growth in 2012. Our 2013 motorcycles, such as the new Multistrada 1200, demonstrate the consistency of our development strategies and today I am especially proud to present our new Monster Anniversary, a celebration of the glorious history of this iconic model in the Ducati family.”

“Twenty years have passed since the presentation of our first Ducati Monster, right here at Intermot,” said Claudio Domenicali, General Manager of Ducati Motor Holding, during the press conference. “This model redefined the parameters of the naked segment and our new Monster Anniversary is dressed in the original livery of that very first version and applied to the whole range of latest-generation Monsters. In addition to the Monster Anniversary, we have brought a number of interesting new products to Cologne. Our new Multistrada 1200 is an evolution of the 4-bikes-in-1 concept and now becomes even more versatile with the introduction of the revolutionary Ducati Skyhook Suspension system. The model also presents a new and improved Testastretta 11° DS engine, with enhanced power delivery and smoother operation, and a re-styled front-end with new LED lighting. We are also presenting brand new colour schemes for the Diavel and the Superbike 848 and 1199 Panigale and Ducatisti here in Cologne have the first chance to see the RS13 version of the 1199 Panigale, now available for teams to prepare their fight for the 2013 Superbike World Championship.”

First introduced in Cologne in 1992, the Monster family now reaches a milestone 20 years of production and Ducati celebrates the iconic naked with special 20th Anniversary editions of its latest 696, 796 and 1100EVO models. Standing proudly alongside the exclusive Monster Diesel, this bold range of lifestyle motorcycles are dressed in special liveries, revised colour finishes and character-forming features.

The innovative Ducati Diavel, which has become one of Ducati’s most desired models, rolls into 2013 with an exciting line-up that sees the flagship Diavel Carbon now exclusively in carbon red and the standard Diavel in three stunning new colour versions. The Diavel Dark in matte black with black-finished components and two “street-sport” schemes that introduce metallic blue or Ducati red with stylish white stripes, white wheels and special defining features.

The 2013 Ducati Superbike family introduces arctic white versions of the exciting 1199 Panigale and 1199 Panigale S alongside the signature Ducati red, while the 1199 Panigale S Tricolore continues proudly as the flagship of the family. The highly successful 848EVO is available in the traditional colours of Ducati red* and dark stealth*, while the exclusive 848EVO Corse Special Edition, with a new-for-2013, lightweight, aluminium fuel tank, gets dressed in the stunning new Ducati Corse Test Team livery of matte black and matte grey.

The 2013 Ducati Multistrada family has its first public showing at Intermot and presents an innovative and technically advanced evolution of an already successful range. Restyled aesthetics, a brand new Granturismo model and the new Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) system, which provides confidence-inspiring, intelligent electronics, are just a few of the many enhancements that continue the Multistrada's excellent reputation.

Ducati’s highly anticipated 1199 Panigale RS13 also breaks cover for the first time at Intermot. The spectacular Ducati Corse prepared machine previews the full race version of the company’s top-of-the range sportbike model, now ready and available for teams to prepare for competition in the 2013 World Superbike series.

Intermot will be open to the public from 3-7 October and Ducati’s impressive 2013 models, accessories and apparel can be viewed on stand A-042/C-055 in Hall 8 of Cologne’s exhibition complex.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Benzina Issue 10 on the way

Issue 10 of Benzina will be out on or before 15 October and features a Guzzi Dondolino, the Moriniday in the Po valley and the new Rebello, Lino Tonti's Linto 500, Ducati's 500GP plus Sports Motorcycles entry in the 1982 Suzuka 8 hour - featuring Steve Wynne in very short shorts. Then there's a 1960s replica MV Agusta racer with a 750F4 engine, riding in Puglia and the Dolomites, plus much more including regulars like Ian Gowanloch's Happy Farm, Mark William's Running Out of Road, and a buyers' guide to Ducati widecase singles. Plus the cover bike, enjoyed by a Dachshund called Dr. T...