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...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ducati 900GTS Love-In

Spotted these rather wonderful pics by Shelly Mosman of an cafed-up 900GTS. If you've seen issue 9 of Benzina you'll know I've a huge soft spot for these under-rated gems. The most reliable bevel-twin by far, and with valve springs that can be adjusted in 20-30 minutes rather than taking the afternoon desmo heads need, if you have the skills. Sure that means (combined with the 32mm carbs) you lose 15mph, but if you're riding 35 year old bikes for the 130mph top end, maybe you've missed the point.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

New Multistrada needed asap

Ducati has given a preview of its 2013 Multistrada with a second generation Testastretta 11° engine and optional (and fabulously named) Skyhook Suspension - a semi-active suspension system. I'm off to Monza and Pesaro next month, and this looks just the ticket. Monza's nearly 900 miles from me, but Major Tom-Tom reckons that's 14 hours of riding, never mind fuel and food stops. Looks more like a challenge than a timetable if you're armed with the world's fastest armchair. Press launch is Bilbao this weekend, so with a bit of luck Ducati UK will have a new Multistrada back here by the time I need to leave. "Hello? Is that Ducati UK? I like the look of the Pike's Peak Multistrada and wonder if..."

Click. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Friday, 14 September 2012

Moto Guzzi win Gold at the Olympics

Checking over the last piece of La Cicciolina, the tale of riding a Moto Guzzi Lodola in the Dolomites, for Benzina #10 (out within a month, promise) I came across something I've not heard before - "In Mandello they still speak of the Moto Guzzi factory rowing eight who went to England in 1948 as the Italian national eight and won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games."
Whoa - I knew Guzzi had an active rowing club (one of the upsides of building motorcycles on the edge of a lake) but winning Gold at the Olympics? A few prods at Mr Google turned up a blog worshiping at the altar of the London 2012 Olympic rowing events and this photo taken at London 2012: Giuseppe Moioli and Franco Faggi of the 1948 Olympic Champion Coxless-Four. They were young workers at the Guzzi motorcycle factory near Lake Como and in the aftermath of World War II, these two men with their team-mates and coach went on to dominate international rowing for nearly a decade. Even though they went unrecognized by most at Eton-Dorney during the Olympics this year, they are still gods in Italy and another reminder of how extraordinarily difficult it has always been to become an Olympian.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ducati club meet a Wareham Quay

Lovely weather, dreadful traffic, but still great fun. Click on the pic for the full album, with everything from this 250 Daytona (Diana in some markets) to a Panigale.
Ducatis at Wareham Quay

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Poole ride out this Saturday

There's a ride out from Wareham quay, near Poole, this Saturday 8 September with the Ducati Owners' Club - although all Italian motorcycles are welcome, big and small, old and new. All things being equal I'll pull the 900SS out to ride down (seen above in Italy - yes, on the wrong side of the road). Meet about 11.15am - post code BH20 4ND should get satnavers there. Hopefully a good enough mix of bikes to allow a test of a 1950s MV Agusta 125 vs Ducati Panigale for the next issue of Benzina although which you'd prefer depends on your views on acceleration vs. fuel consumption. But bags I ride the Panigale...

This is tomorrow calling

Now this is more like it - a cool bike that could be bargain transport and great to ride. Judging from the comments and emails folk do care about attracting new blood into motorcycling and maybe even having an extra bike themselves that's cheap and easy transport - a two wheel Fiat 500 if you will. This 600cc Honda single based-bike was built in the US for actress Kara Thrace (below) and dubbed KT600 (see what they did there? Clearly they'd run out of originality by the time they got to the name). Trumpet Sprint back end, Kwak ZX6 front. Easy. Done.

The style would work with a much smaller engine, but for most of us a 400-600cc single looks perfect. And it wouldn't be intimidating - moving a lady-friend's Suzy 650 four, I couldn't believe how heavy it was. Certainly didn't feel like a starter bike, or even fun away from fast open roads. Which isn't exactly where you want newbies, wondering if 130mph+ is actually what they got into biking for.

So this is (I think) tomorrow calling*, and I hope the manufacturers are listening. (*title nicked from one of Mr Ferry's finest moments - vid is below...)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Legendary inspiration

Benzina contributor Cedric Janodet sent the tastily upgraded Moto Guzzi V7 Sport  pic, spotted at Spa Bikers' Classic. Below is gentleman racer, Mike Hailwood, who helped Guzzi with development of the original. Well, he rode it and declared it was he best handling big-bike he'd ever ridden. This from a man who threw the rear shocks from his works Honda over a hedge so they couldn't be refitted. Legend. And you'd need to be to get away with those trousers...

Monday, 3 September 2012

Bell Curves and Red Bull

A mutual friend told me about a conversation with a very well known UK motorcycle magazine editor, in which the doom and gloom of publishing prompted him to comment "Motorcycling was a 20th Century pursuit: interest followed a bell curve and we're now well into decline. " This negative thinking might explain why, for the first time, Bike magazine has fewer pages than Classic Bike.

Now, I accept I know 10% of Bugger All, but this is the same negative thinking that the Sports Physiologists at Team GB cycling love to sow in other teams; for instance, the French claiming the British track cyclists' advantage was "special wheels" (that were actually bought by Team GB from a French manufacturer) to the Australian riders happy to come last in the road race by refusing to help the peleton because "It would gift Mark Cavendish Gold." In other words, once you think you're beaten, you are.

By the late 1970s both Gerald Davison (of Honda) and Mark Williams (latterly of Bike, and now writing for Benzina) were warning that the motorcycle industry was sowing the seeds of its own demise by focusing on fast road bikes and little else. Sixteen page spreads of how this year's Fireblade/Ninja/Gixxer is measurably faster than last year's model might fascinate sportsbike fans and self-obsessed journos but, little-by-little, everyone else gets bored. Ditto endless "How to" features which are only fine if your audience has a garage. Something most UK homes lack, by the way. Ditto space for a big shed.

Personally, I think the cause of motorcycling and magazines are far from lost. Sure, folk love their i-pad/phone/whatever, but some use it to watch incredible BMX stunter Danny MacAskill , (below) now sponsored by Red Bull. Ah, Red Bull - now there's a company that understands the future. The only motorcycling action our lad likes to watch on TV is Red Bull X-fighters(above), the dirt bike face-offs that are decided on who can pull off the most outrageous stunts. Ironically, this freestyle showing-off grew out of the AMA banning celebration stunts at the end of races. Yes, the old guard wanted things to stay the same, and the youngsters wanted to move with the times. Sound familiar?

Kids love speed, and most love BMX: so getting them off a pushbike and onto a motorcycle should be easy. But most of all, by necessity, kids love cheap. Funny thing is motorcycling painted itself into the performance corner from the late sixties on, when it realised cheap cars were stealing their bread and butter customers. As motorcyclists (like other consumers) became wealthier an entire industry followed them upmarket, first into performance and latterly with the Adventure Bike thing. A growing economy allowed the industry to forget new blood (as opposed to born-agains) because a few hiccups aside for a certain generation things just continued getting better. But that generation is on the way out, with some owners' club magazines having as many obituaries as small ads.

So maybe now we need cheap, trendy and above all fun wheels that tap into what Red Bull's marketers at least can see: that sexy, edgy and affordable are the future. How to apply that to growing motorcycling? How would I know? I'm a middle aged biker, stuck in my ways at the cosy end of life. Just like most of the folk in the business of motorcycling, whether it's selling bikes or magazines. Maybe that - rather than "bell curves" - is the problem.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Thank you and goodnight

The final Teas and Cakes of 2012 saw bright sunshine and twenty-odd bikes on the drive. All but one of the visitors were on Italian motorcycles ranging from a near-new MV Agusta Brutale and a Benelli Tre, back to a 1950s Guzzi Falcone. But no - not one - Ducatis. "All on sorn, with owners talking about what they're worth" said a Guzzi-riding wag. More to the point some of the crowd had a Ductai at home but chose top ride something "more interesting". Hmmm. Back in the 1970s interesting people chose to ride Ducatis, and maybe now Ducati's a big-shot global brand interesting people choose to ride something else. Who knows...

Anyway, back to the preparation of  Benzina issues 10, out late September. Yes, late again: sorry