Friday, 17 October 2014

DVD of the world tour aboard Ducati 175s by Giorgio Monetti and Leopoldo Tartarini

I was told about this fabulous documentary by an Italian friend. It combines footage of the 1957/58 world tour aboard Ducati 175s by Giorgio Monetti and Leopoldo Tartarini with up to date filming of the pair reliving their experiences on the bikes today. And you thought the Motogiro was tough.  At a bargain 15 Euros (+8.50 euros shipping; say £20 the lot) you can buy the DVD here

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ducati's new Desmodromic Variable Timing

As predicted last week - Ducati's unfortunately named DVT in a refreshed Testastretta with ankle socks for the DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing); official blurb follows - sorry about the odd paragraph spacing...


Ducati presents the first motorcycle engine with variable timing of both the intake and exhaust camshafts.

Named Ducati Testastretta DVT, Desmodromic Variable Timing, Ducati's new Desmodromic engine

is the first in the world with variable timing on both inlet and exhaust camshafts, leading the way for

a whole new generation of such engines. The innovative, new design overcomes an engineering gap in current production motorcycle engines and underlines Ducati's strength in developing ground-breaking
engine and motorcycle technologies.

The variable timing system is able to continuously adjust valve timing, by acting independently on both the

intake and exhaust camshafts. The system optimises engine performance throughout the rev range and in

any operating condition, to guarantee the highest power, smooth delivery, muscular torque at low rpm

and reduced fuel consumption. With full Euro 4 compliance, DVT sets a new standard in the combination

of power, delivery and usability of motorcycle engines.

Ducati Testastretta DVT engine characteristics

Brand-new DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) system

Bore 106 mm, stroke 67.9 mm

Capacity 1,198 cm³

Max power 160 HP at 9,500 rpm

Max torque 136 Nm at 7,500 rpm

Desmodromic distribution

Dual Spark (DS) ignition

Anti-knock sensor

Euro 4 compliant

New generation

By independently adjusting both the timing of the camshaft controlling intake valves and the timing of

the camshaft controlling exhaust valves, the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine optimises high rpm

performance for maximum power, while at medium and low rpm, it ensures smooth operation, fluid power

delivery and high torque. This means that the vehicle's engine will adapt its characteristics according to rpm

values, while always ensuring compliance with exhaust emission standards and keeping fuel consumption


When a new engine is designed, one of the most critical parameters to determine its 'character' is the

amount of intake and exhaust valve overlap. The overlap angle is defined as the interval of crankshaft

rotation, expressed in degrees, during which both the intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time.

This overlap occurs between the end of the exhaust stroke and the start of the intake stroke and is normally

a single value that does not change. However, the Testastretta DVT is not limited by a fixed valve overlap


Instead, the Ducati Testastretta DVT’s overlap angles can change, thanks to the introduction of the DVT

(Desmodromic Variable Timing) system: a valve timing adjuster fitted to the end of each of the two

camshafts per cylinder head. The DVT system consists of an external housing, rigidly connected to the

cam belt pulley, and an internal mechanism which is connected to the camshaft and can independently

rotate inside the housing. This rotation of the internal mechanism, either in advance or in delay with respect

to the housing, is precisely controlled by varying the oil pressure in special chambers of the mechanism.

The oil pressure is adjusted by dedicated valves and the timing of each cam is dynamically controlled by a

sensor located in the cam covers.

Desmo attraction

The Ducati Testastretta DVT engine uses the unique valvetrain that made the Bologna-based Italian

manufacturer a world-famous name. Thanks to this unique system, the intake and exhaust valves are

closed mechanically and with the same level of accuracy as they are opened. The term Desmodromic

derives from the Greek words “desmos=link” and “dromos=stroke, travel”; in mechanical engineering

terms, it refers to mechanisms designed to actuate valves both in the opening direction and in the closing


This system, used in all Ducati models, has also been extremely successful in Ducati Corse World

Superbike and Desmosedici MotoGP motorcycles.

In the development of the DVT, the Desmodromic valvetrain represents a major advantage over a

traditional spring based timing system; the actuation of the valves at low engine speed requires less force,

not having to compress the valve springs, this allowed Ducati to limit the size of each cam phaser with

obvious benefits in terms of lightweight construction and compactness for a perfect engine integration.

Ever-present strong torque

With its 106 mm bore and 67.9 mm stroke for a total capacity of 1,198 cm³, the newborn Ducati

Testastretta DVT engine produces a maximum power of 160 HP at 9,500 rpm, and a torque up to 136 Nm

at 7,500 rpm with a perfectly linear delivery curve. The torque is already 80 Nm at a low-range value of

3,500 rpm, and it remains consistently over 100 Nm between 5,750 and 9,500 rpm.

Despite an increase in power, however, the DVT system has a positive impact on fuel efficiency, with

an average 8% reduction in fuel consumption compared to the previous non-variable configuration.

Ducati's permanent research and development efforts applied to injection systems have repositioned

the fuel injectors to target their spray directly onto the rear of the hot intake valve, instead of the colder

surface of the intake port wall. The resulting enhanced fuel vapourisation improves combustion efficiency

and ensures a smoother delivery.

The Testastretta DVT is equipped with a Dual Spark (DS) system that uses two spark plugs per cylinder

head, providing a twin flame-front that ensures complete combustion across a very short period of time.

Each spark plug is managed independently, to optimise efficiency throughout the rev range and in all

conditions of use. An anti-knock sensor ensures safe engine operation even while using lower octane fuel

or in situations potentially detrimental to combustion efficiency, e.g. at high altitude.

In order to achieve a smoother cycle-to-cycle engine operation, Ducati has used a secondary air system

similar to that developed for extremely high-performance engines. This optimizes combustion without

increasing emissions, by completing the oxidisation of unburned hydrocarbonsto reduce HC and CO levels.

Suitable for any condition

Thanks to all these characteristics, the Ducati Testastretta DVT sets new standards for Ducati twincylinder

power units and introduces new, revolutionary parameters to achieve the best possible balance

among maximum power, smooth delivery, low-rpm torque, low fuel consumption and reduced emissions,

thus standing out as the most technologically advanced Desmodromic twin-cylinder engine on the planet.

The Ducati Testastretta DVT system does not affect the valve clearance adjustment schedule, and in fact

requires major services only at ownership-friendly 30,000 km intervals. This engine can be used in a wide

variety of conditions and locations, while

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Dunlop dynasty film "Road"- see it for free

Huh - I pre order the DVD to find that the film Road is on iPlayer and available for free until Monday 13 October for free (but possibly only in the UK). Narrated by Liam Neeson, it's follows the Dunlops incredible road racing legacy: he can tell you they don't have money. But what they do have are a very particular set of skills, skills they have acquired over a very long career (helps to have seen Taken to get that)
Very much a non-motorcyclists take, focusing on the danger and deaths far more than TT 3D. But still unmissable - you can watch it at

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ducati announce a new (desmo?) variable valve timing system

Ducati have just announced they will unveil "DVT" on October 15th. DVT? Well, I guess it could be that the footpegs are so high on my 916 that they're warning of deep vein thrombosis. But then again the Italian blogs are guessing at Ducati variable (cam) timing. This would be the first real technology transfer from Audi and Ducati, because Audi already have such a system, having learnt from Honda’s VVT (variable valve timing).
 Audi's Valvelift system made its debut in the 2.8-litre direct injection V6 and is expected to be expanded for use in many other members of the 90-degree V6 / V8 family. The Valvelift system itself is a cam-changing type VVT as in the picture above. Compared with Honda's (or Toyota's) system, Audi's looks simpler and so more efficient and easier to squeeze into a motorcycle head. It does the variable lift without using complex intermediate parts such as hydraulic-operated lockable rocker arms, saving space and weight. And presumably makes a desmodromic version possible – because who’d expect Ducati abandon desmodromics?


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Brand new 750SS a possibility as Ducati put bevel spares back into production

Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali dropped a bombshell in an interview with MCN this week - Ducati are going to put spares for their older bikes back into production, something Suzuki have already done. Or might they even build a few roundcase 750SS, and take advantage of that bike's six figure values? It certainly sounds possible, given that Domenicali mentions car manufactures, and Jaguar are currently building lightweight E-Types to order.

"Ducati Classic will be a plan we will work on to help the customers who own older bikes keep them working correctly" said Claudio Domenicali. "You can look at what some of the car companies like Porsche or Aston Martin do in this regard to see what is possible to factory maintain older vehicles. The used value of our older bikes, whether they are 15 or 25, or  even 50 years old, is very good. We want to help the owners of these bikes keep them running on the road and working as they should"

As I'm allowed access to my pension pot next year (thank you George Osbourne) I can feel the urge for a brand new 175 F3 coming on. And a brand new 450 Desmo. Or maybe a new 750 GT and 916. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mike Hailwood's first ride on a Ducati 750 - or is it a 500?

This photo is one of the many excellent images avialble from my favourite historian Ivar de Gier, who trades on eBay with his wife Amy as A.Herl Inc. Ivar's always been 100% right in my experience, but this time it's difficult to be certain. The photo was taken at Silverstone in August 1971, and was a test which explains why Mike's in the leathers he wore at Daytona racing a BSA/Rob North Rocket 3. Phil Read was also present testing the Ducati 500GP, which is what Ivar thinks this bike is. But is Mike really on the 500, or an early 750 as usually claimed in photos of this session? Of course he could have tried both, especially given that the 750 being tested was an early racer based on the 500 rather than the 750 GT which was rather sturdier as it was intended for production and road use. All thoughts gratefully considered. And I'll email Ivar

Friday, 3 October 2014

Ducati Scrambler prices - cheaper than a Monster 696! Plus new photos

Ducati have just released prices for the new Scrambler. They look to be priced to sell by the shedload, undercutting not only the far less powerful Moto Guzzi V7 but even Ducati's own Monster 696.
The Icon in red is £6895 (oddly an extra £100 for the yellow bike) while the Full Throttle, Urban Enduro and Classic are £7995. Presumably they'll be a PCP deal that will make them the most affordable Ducati ever. Delivery starts in January and UK bikes will be built in Bologna. However the bike is also being built at Ducati's new factories in Brazil and Thailand, so who knows what the future holds.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ducati Scrambler launches - official press release and images

Cologne (Germany), 30 September 2014 – At the end of the first day of Intermot 2014 – the International Motorcycle Fair being held in Cologne (Germany) from 30 September to 6 October –Ducati finally unveiled one of the most eagerly awaited new bikes to go on show there; the Ducati Scrambler brand immediately became the focus of media and public attention, and the undisputed star of this key German fair.


Re-proposing the yellow containers that characterised the original, highly creative launch phase, Ducati set up a Ducati Scrambler brand-dedicated space in the exhibition area of its Intermot 2014 stand. This symbolic opening-up of a "new world" at the end of the press-dedicated day involved both public and media in an original presentation that was fully in keeping with the language and style of this exciting new concept.


"This year Intermot is especially meaningful for Ducati”, stated Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, during the press conference. “Ducati continues to grow steadily as it has done for several years now. The last 12 months confirm this positive trend with a growth over 5% compared to the previous ones, a new sales record. I’m also particularly proud to be celebrating, here at Intermot, Ducati’s historic win in the German Superbike Championship where the performance of the 1199 Panigale R has allowed us to take both the Constructors and Riders title - thanks to the prowess of Xavi Fores and Max Neukirchner.”


"Presenting the new Ducati Scrambler brand means for us opening the doors to an entirely new, fascinating, and absolutely contemporary world”, said Cristiano Silei, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ducati Motor Holding, during the unveiling of the new bikes. “We have reinterpreted an iconic motorcycle, part of our history for more than 50 years, in a fully modern way, designing and building the Ducati Scrambler as if we’d never stopped making it. The four bikes of the Ducati Scrambler family represent starting points on a path to personalisation that will make every single Ducati Scrambler a unique, free-spirited bike as individual as the person riding it.”


The waiting is finally over. The Ducati Scrambler is finally out of the yellow container that has so jealously guarded it over the last few months and is now – after the previews granted to employees and Ducatisti at World Ducati Week 2014 - officially ready. This is more than just a new bike: it’s a whole new world, one that expresses itself via a range of options and versions that provide a starting point for satisfying the different needs and wants of individual motorcyclists.


The Ducati Scrambler is a contemporary bike that expresses the pure essence of motorcycling. Tried and tested materials such as the aluminium of the rear swingarm and engine covers and the steel of the teardrop tank and frame are combined with new-generation components such as front and rear LED lighting and LCD instruments.

Wide handlebars and a long seat provide a comfortable, relaxed riding position and, together with the low weight, low centre of gravity and slightly knobby tyres, ensure pure riding fun whatever the situation.


“Post-heritage” design gives a contemporary take on the iconic bike built by Ducati back in the 60s and 70s. This Ducati Scrambler, though, is no retro bike: it is, rather, intended to be just how the legendary Bologna-built motorcycle would be today if Ducati had never stopped building it.


The Icon version, in yellow and red, is joined by three others - Urban Enduro, Full Throttle and Classic - each offering its own style and performance-related interpretation of the Scrambler spirit. The Urban Enduro, with its “Wild Green” paintjob, is for enduro style enthusiasts and ready to switch from city streets to country backroads in an instant. The Full Throttle is for riders enthralled by the flat-track racing world who have a penchant for pushing things to the limit. And the Classic is for devotees to details and a 1970s look who want the uncompromising riding pleasure and comfort of a modern-day bike.


The headlamp, together with the tank, forms a key part of the Ducati Scrambler look. Rounded, classically designed yet extremely modern (i.e. post-heritage) it features a glass parabola and an ultra-modern LED light guide around the rim that acts as a side light.


Seat and tank have been carefully designed to give the Ducati Scrambler appealing proportions. A compact bike, the Ducati Scrambler instils confidence from the very moment you set eyes on it. It’s been sized to make it accessible to all motorcyclists while the long seat maximises comfort and can also accommodate a passenger comfortably.


An oil and air-cooled L-twin two-valve 803 cc engine powers the Ducati Scrambler; it has an 88 mm bore, a 66 mm stroke and has been redesigned to give smooth acceleration throughout the rev range.


Moreover, thanks to a vast range of apparel and bike accessories, to be presented in November, the Ducati Scrambler offers a virtually unlimited range of exclusive personalisation and lifestyle options.


The Ducati Scrambler name has much in common with the verb to scramble - mixing up, blending, letting the imagination run free, sharing with others. The Ducati Scrambler is the two-wheeled alter ego of those who ride it, a cultural movement in and of itself. It’s free-spirited, positive and anti-conformist, open to encounters with other philosophies and styles. Ducati Scrambler isn’t just a bike, it’s a world.


The Ducati Scrambler will be in Ducati Dealerships starting form the end of January 2015 and the first of the four versions to become available will be the Icon.

Monday, 29 September 2014

New Ducati Scrambler: first official images

Ducati Scrambler: first official images under the banner "scrambled people give joy." Egg-sellent...
Sorry about the quality of the second shot - it's a screenshot of video clips at

Monday, 22 September 2014

Ducati's 1973 Pantah preview - 60 degree heads

The latest (September 2014) issue of Classic Bike magazine includes a piece I wrote on the corsa corte (short stroke) 750SS that Taglioni prepared for the 1973 Imola 200.  At least as interesting as the bike is the paperwork that came with it courtesy of John at Made in ItalyMotorcycles. This is a series of internal memos from Franco Farnè to Fabio Taglioni comparing the power of the old heads with an 80 degree included valve angle to the prototype 60 degree items: ultimately the latter gave an extra 8bhp, although only Spaggiari raced with them, Ducati perhaps hoping their favourite son would get the win he was cruelly denied in '72. It wasn't to be, thanks to Jarno Saarinen’s Yamaha taking advantage of a split race that killed his thirsty  'strokers theoretical disadvantage.

But what's intriguing is that the 60 degree heads then disappeared, until surfacing in the new Pantah 500. Bruno kept his bike, but the others dematerialised and the later "NCR" F1 racers (such as the one above, also sold by John) retained the 80 degree head to the end. You have to wonder how much faster Mike Hailwood would have been in 1978 with an extra 8 horsepower - almost 10% more than he actually had


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Morbidelli DVD - the story of fast men and their motorcycles

Finally my Morbidelli DVD has arrived - with English subtitles – and, my-oh-my, was it worth the wait and the meagre £15 it cost (including postage!). The cover’s a bit uninspiring – a sketch of a racer that’s nice enough, but where’s the trademark Morbidelli pale blue? – but you don’t buy DVDs to look at the box.

What you get is an hour-and-a-half of something that feels like the BBC4 Timeshift documentary on old Brit bikes and the Rocker culture but of far more interest to anyone with a love of racing, Italian passion or even just the 1970s. Like the BBC4 series there’s a slightly whacky soundtrack and a lot of talking heads: but unlike the BBC4's talking head’s you’ll have heard of this lot; long interviews with World Champs Mario Lega and Pier Paolo Bianchi, plus  Graziano Rossi and the old man  himself, the incomparable Giancarlo Morbidelli. Many more contributors share tall tales of mechanics laying in front of the grid to delay the start until their rider could join the fray, and other insights into the 1970s Continental Circus. Of course it’s all in Italian with English subtitles, and there sometimes seem to be as many stills as period action – especially of the monocoque 500 we wrote of in Benzina #12 – but that’s the nature of trying to relate a history too many have already forgotten.
 Producer Jeffery Zani has not only tracked down great archive material, but most of all has got people to speak eloquently, and in detail, of Morbidelli’s achievements. Having been lucky enough to meet Snr Morbidelli I find it remarkable this quiet, modest man took on the Japanese and won. He only quit when his son got a drive in F1 racing, and travelled the world to support his boy’s own quest for glory. But even now Giancarlo’s first love is motorcycles, as his wonderful museum and three world championships testify. This is a must-own DVD, and I’d love to see a reference book to partner it.

If you’re still not convinced I’m trying to arrange a screening in the UK next Spring alongside a pop up Benzina live show. But in the meantime, if you’re wondering how to get you biking fix when Winter comes, here’s the answer.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Following in Fabio Taglioni's footsteps

photo courtesy of

End of a wet Bank Holiday Monday at the Classic TT/Manx: with racing cancelled Pat Slinn and I go looking for TT course landmarks. One of which was this well known pic of Dr T watching Dave Chadwick fly past on his Ducati 125GP in 1958. We know the race was held on the Clypse -rather than the Mountain - course, and figured Taglioni and his spanner man wouldn't have moved far from the Grandstand on Glencluthery Road. So off we set...
Initially we struggled, but then realised a 1970s extension over a new garage had led to the gateway Dr T's standing being blocked up with a new driveway created on the other side of the house; those huge hedges didn't help us either, but the chimneys are the giveaway. So here I am proudly standing in Fabio Taglioni's footsteps. The other pic is of the bungalow clearly visible in the original photo but now hidden behind a hedge. Maybe I'm just a feeble old anorak, but Pat had his photo taken in the same spot, so at least that makes two of us

Monday, 11 August 2014

The first Imola 200 and Paul Smart's 1972 win for Ducati

Fantastic video posted by Flant79 of the 1972 Imola 200 won by Paul Smart on the then-new Ducati 750

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Moto Guzzi get their mojo back

After years of being largely ignored by the folk at Moto Guzzi, out of the blue I get press releases and these photos. Even better, it' s telling of the factory's open house weekend with full access to the factory, wind tunnel and museum. As ever with the Italians there's a deliberate cock up - you've got barely five weeks to cajole your loved one into a romantic weekend in Milan, lose her (or him) in the famous shopping arcade, before jumping on a train to Mandello del Lario.

If there's a brand I'd love to work for it's Guzzi. Yes, I'm a dyed in the wool Ducati fan, but where could you take it? It's already hyper successful, and any downturn in sales might result in the hunt for a scapegoat. So if things go well, you risk getting no credit - but if things turn sour...

 Guzzi, on the other hand, are ripe for a Frederico Minoli style turn round. He's start (I'd guess) by losing the dealers who only stock Guzzis because they wanted the Aprilia or Piaggio franchise, build up the dealers who are enthusiasts with their mile crunching existing customers - and then go chase the new wave hipster wannabes. World Ducati weekend was one of Minoli's first innovations and it's great to see Guzzi following suit. And nice to at last have someone prepared to act as a real press officer rather than avoid the little people, even if we did know who your dad is...

Shameless plug of my Moto Guzzi book that you can buy here – and there was a big piece on the Guzzi factory in Benzina issue six

Moto Guzzi's own PR guff follows!








Mandello del Lario, 5 August 2014 – Following last year's resounding success, the Moto Guzzi Open House Weekend returns this September.


From Friday 12 September to Sunday 14 September the famous red door on via Parodi, the historic entrance to the Moto Guzzi factory at Mandello del Lario, will open up for a weekend dedicated to the legendary motorcycle brand that has been continuously manufactured on the banks of Lake Como for 93 years.


For the 2014 Open House, Moto Guzzi has prepared a full schedule of activities which range from guided visits to the engine and vehicle production lines to the opening of the museum, the Moto Guzzi store with its brand merchandise and accessories and, above all, the chance to test ride a wide selection from the Moto Guzzi range.


Riders will be able to test the whole range: the powerful California 1400 (available in Touring and Custom versions), the three interpretations of the best-seller Moto Guzzi V7 (V7 Stone, V7 Special and V7 Racer), the striking dual-purpose Stelvio 1200 and the spirited Moto Guzzi Griso, the naked with a personality all its own.


The Moto Guzzi Mandello plant is a symbolic place in Italian motoring history and one of the most famous in the world. Here, since the year it was founded in 1921, Moto Guzzis have been manufactured without interruption. It is a site with a rich heritage that has accompanied Italian industrial development and the affirmation of the eagle brand on a global level, one of the most beloved brands by riders from all continents. This has been the birthplace of such legendary models as the Falcone, the Galletto, the V7 family, the iconic Le Mans and Imola models all the way to the current, technologically advanced California 1400 models.


Of course Mandello was also the birthplace of the famous and successful racing Moto Guzzis, that were to dominate the most glorious years of motorcycle racing, taking 15 championship titles (8 rider and 7 manufacturer) in the World Motorcycling Championship.






This is an opportunity not to be missed by any motorcycle enthusiast: the opportunity to test the products in the Moto Guzzi range, right here in the place where every Moto Guzzi is born, on the magnificent roads that run along Lake Como.

Test riding will be held on Saturday 13 September and Sunday 14 September from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM with registration opening at 9:30 AM.



From 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM on Friday 12 September and from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday 13 September and Sunday 14 September, the Moto Guzzi Historical Museum will be open to the public. This space contains more than 150 models that have made the history of the Mandello Eagle, an extraordinary path going back to the roots of the Moto Guzzi legend.

Factory bikes, racing bikes, prototypes and engines are accompanied by an exceptional collection of never before seen photographs and documents which narrate the deeds of one of the most noble brands in global motorcycling, capable of producing models which became legends.



This is the area of the plant where the legendary twin cylinder engines, the emblem and heart of Moto Guzzi, are individually assembled by hand. Here a unique engine was born and made history and secured Moto Guzzi’s place in global motorcycling lore.  Today this engine has evolved into the 1400cc unit that equips the new California, the largest V-twin engine ever made in Europe.



Here the Moto Guzzi bikes take shape. Here the finished twin cylinder engine meets the motorcycle that will accompany it for the rest of its life. On the line visitors will be able to follow, step by step, operation by operation, the birth of new Moto Guzzi machines that continue over 90 years of tradition and experience.



First commissioned in the Mandello del Lario plant in 1950, this was the first example of a wind tunnel for aerodynamic motorcycle testing. A singularly fascinating place, today it is the testament to a technological first and a glorious history that only Moto Guzzi possesses.

Monday, 4 August 2014

More Ducati Scrambler weirdness

Plasticine  models? Stop motion videos? Ducati have gone all Tony Hart and Vision On to publicise the new Scrambler, but there is a nice story behind it. Apparently the original Scrambler was launched in 1968 with Ducati employees who were a real life couple hamming it up for (to my mind) Ducati's best ever advertising campaign. The original guy and gal were Franco and Elvira - he was working at Ducati as a test rider and she – "easily as beautiful as any professional model" according to Ducati's blurb – was working in administration.

These lovebirds - though Ducati call them plasticine protagonists - are reimagined as bringing the Scrambler to the present day via a bonkers time travelling storyline that has Franco as a man from 2078 being catapulted back to the Woodstock festival of August 1969, where he meets and falls in love with both Scrambler Ducati and Elvira. They joyously elope on the bike, yet before the two can even kiss the time machine hurls them forwards to the present day, to 2014. Franco and Elvira find themselves directly in front of the fabulous “yellow container” - first visited by Ducati employees and then the enthusiasts who flocked to WDW 2014 - from which they exit astride the new Scrambler Ducati. As I said -bonkers.

You can follow episode 1 here then episode 2 here nad finally episode 3 here

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The 1970s - great for motorcycling, if not for food

Good friend and Benzina contributor Richard Skelton has just self-published a number of eBooks reminiscing on motorcycling in the 1970s: as ever with Richard, these are minutely researched and thoroughly readable even if you’re not hopelessly nostalgic about an era that was a defining moment in so many areas of life. Of my top 100 production motorcycles only a few would be post 1970s: the Ducati 916 and Monster, for sure. And I'd have to allow the Honda RC30, perhaps alongside the oval pistoned NR. Err… perhaps I'd also want the first GSX-R1100 and Katana 1000 as well. Oh, and a Guzzi MGS-01. But that’s it for the last 35 years, peanuts compared to what’s been launched since 1980. I can think of more mopeds from the 70s scorched into my memory banks than modern bikes, and chances are you’re the same: Honda sold 10 million of the original sohc CB750 in 10 years, but have only just sold the 100,000th Fireblade, 20 years after its launch. To put that in perspective, over the same period little old Ducati have sold 250,000 Monsters.

The fabulous summer we’re having in (most of) England is another reason to reminisce about the 1970s. I wonder if this might be current teenagers 1976 memories in years to come, although our generation spent rather more time outdoors than the Facebook and Xbox crowd do. But were the seventies really so much better? In many ways I think so, despite the dire state of our economy back then, often forgotten by the trendy Radio 4, Thatcher hating, pseudo intellectuals none of whom seemed able to grasp Higgs Boson let alone the cruel truth.  

But there was one area of British life that was really dire back then – the food. If you loved Angel Delight and raisins and desiccated coconut with your curry, it was… OK. If not, lumpy mashed potatoes with fatty grey lamb passed muster as a typical school dinner, and through 1976’s heatwave my grandmother thought cold baked beans and lettuce was a reasonable tea time staple. No wonder I soon learnt to cook, even if (along with arriving everywhere on a motorcycle) it was seen as a very strange pastime for a chap back then. A girlfriend once boasted to her dad that I could cook, to which he responded, “What, fairy cakes?” – and in those days “fairy” was a standard homophobic slur that shows how far we’ve come.

First thing I cooked – aged 15 - was spaghetti Bolognese, back in that long hot summer. My best mate at the time (Andy Lee, where art thee? Still in Australia?) had very middle class, Francophile parents. They had duvets, cafettierres and fondue parties. They were the 1970s, with white furniture and fluffy rugs that were a million miles from the museum pieces in my antique dealing parent’s house. Anyroadup (as Mark Williams used to say in 1970s Bike magazine) leaving Andy and me for the day, his mum said “oh, I’ve left lunch in the kitchen” before disappearing to shop in Bath. "Lunch" turned out to be a purple paper packet of super long spaghetti, some mince, an onion and a tin of tomatoes. Of course, there was Elizabeth David’s Italian food on the bookshelf. It would be decades before I realised how great the 1970s were, always chasing on to the future as the young tend to. But it was the summer of 1976 when my love of Italy was stirred by making a passable spaghetti Bolognese and obsessing over another good friend’s Garelli Rekord. Within a few years I knew that Ducati made the finest motorcycles on earth and that ragu Bolognese is never served with spaghetti in Italian homes – and that along with the ingredients we’d been left for lunch there should have been chicken livers, bacon, carrot and celery. And a lot more time – ragu needs a couple of hours to meld on a low heat, ready for another couple of hours spent at lunch itself, along with –as Elizabeth David put it – some “good, rough red wine.” She might have been writing in the 1950s but really it took 20 years for her ideas to pass into my tiny corner of rural Wiltshire, and become a part of a very special decade. So that was the 1970s, that was; mostly great, especially if you loved motorcycles.

You can buy Richard’s book here – his synopsis follows

'Motorcycling in the 1970s. The story of motorcycling's biggest, brightest and best ever decade' Volumes One to Five by Richard Skelton, author of Funky Mopeds.

'Motorcycling in the 1970s' is a series of five books about motorcycling. The books are designed to be read together, but can also be enjoyed separately.

The first volume, 'A Brief History of Motorcycling from 1887 to 1969', is a general history, swiftly told, of motorcycling in Britain from its beginnings at the end of the 19th century up until the dawn of the 1970s (interwoven to an extent with two-wheeled goings on in the USA and elsewhere).

It charts motorcycling’s pioneering years, skips through two world wars, tells of social acceptability in the 1920s, hard times in the 1930s and growing ostracisation and decline in the 1950s and 1960s.

This book attempts to make sense of the two-wheeled world order, and of motorcycling’s place in society and everyday life, and sets the scene for the larger, more detailed volumes which follow.

Volumes two to four are entitled Funky Motorcycling Parts One to Three and together they form a comprehensive, in-depth history of the bikes and motorcycling trends and events in the 1970s.

These three books tell the story of the arrival of the Superbike, the continuing and inexorable rise of the Japanese motorcycle industry and, partly from an insider’s point of view, the wasteful, lingering death of its British equivalent.

They tell of the thrilling and extraordinary sporting machines from Italy and of the bulletproof BMW twins designed in Bavaria. They tell of motorcycling culture and of two-wheeled life and lives.

In the 1970s, motorcycling became a leisure activity in a new and exciting way, there were more motorcyclists than ever before, or since, and dozens of new and ever more fabulous and technologically advanced motorcycles crammed the showrooms every year.

It was the time of Jarno Saarinen and Giacomo Agostini and of Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene. The time of British magazines Motorcycle Sport and Bike, and of Cycle in the USA, the time of Mark Williams, Dave Minton and LJK Setright in his pomp.

These books set out the argument that although the protagonists were largely unaware of it at the time, the 1970s as a whole can now be seen to have been a golden era in the history of the movement, a pivotal decade which represent a high point in the history of motorcycling that is never likely to be matched.

The final book in the series is entitled ‘The Magic of Motorcycling'. It takes a sideways look at the 1970s classic motorcycle scene in the second decade of the 21st century, and explores what it is that makes motorcycling so special to so many people yet an anathema to a great many more.

This is followed by a comprehensive set of appendices listing nostalgic, amusing and sometimes poignant reminders of the life and culture of the 1970s, reminding us of the global goings-on and domestic backdrop underlying the motorcycling scene and, of course, all lesser matters!