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.