Monday, 26 May 2014

The Bike Shed Event mark 3 - the weird and the wonderful

The skinny jean, bearded Shoresditch set were joined by the great and the good over a fabulous weekend. Amazing turn out for the third Bike Shed Event. The first UK appearance of the new Paton was a hell of a coup, and a great Ducati showing. Tim Maccabee (MD of Ducati UK) wore an old "Scrambler" tee shirt to further stoke the rumours that we'll see a new L-twin Scrambler sometime this year. Or just to stop me asking him every five minutes. The art was almost as interesting as the bikes, and helmet art is clearly the Next Big Thing. But I'm still not convinced by all that exhaust tape, or the weird Laverda 750 (with the red frame below), but the setting was fantastic - I was last at the London Docks aboard a ship in 1978, and my oh my, have things moved on

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Another book; but Honda V4s? Yes really...

An Italophile writing a Honda book? But the V4 story fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to have invaluable insights from Cook Neilson - racer and Cycle editor of legend - and Gerald Davison, who ran Honda UK and the NR500 project. Genuine never before told insights. Includes production histories, specifications and over 250 colour illustration, from development of the first Honda V4, the oval piston NR500 and the  VF road models that followed. Also covered the VFR750 and VFR800 (including 2014 update) and VFR1200F; the legend of the RC30 to the opposite extreme of Honda V4-ness the 1990 Pan European/ST1100/1300 and CTX1300 cruiser. And of course  Honda V4s in MotoGP and, finally, owners' experiences and insight from those who worked in the industry.
Out in June, and advance orders will be shipped by the month end.  It’s probably cheaper elsewhere but if you’d like a signed and dedicated copy you can get one at my Big Cartel shop . Thank you!

Italian aeroplanes and motorcycles on show Sunday 18 May - Italian style sunshine included

Tomorrow, Sunday 18 May 2014, MV Agusta and Italian bike specialists Moto Corsa are running at Italian Day with Compton Abbas Airfield from 1030 until 1600. The airfield's near Shaftsbury in Dorset - find it on Google maps by clicking here

Demo bikes include the MV Agusta Brutale Dragster, Rivale, Brutale 675 and F3 675.
Best to book test rides beforehand with Ed on the service desk at Moto Corsa - 01747 811196
or email

there should be plenty of Italian motorcycles ridden in and even the odd Italian aeroplane -
If you are flying in by Italian plane then you can contact the Airfield for free PPR. The food will also have an Italian twist and if the weather forecast's to be believed there'll even be some Italian style sunshine

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Love these - pinched from Tickld

10 Jokes Only Engineers Will Understand.

1. Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

2. To the optimist, the glass is half-full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

3. A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!"
The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such inept golf!"
The priest said, "Here comes the green-keeper. Let's have a word with him."
He said, "Hello George, what's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"
The green-keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."
The group fell silent for a moment.
The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."
The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there's anything he can do for them."
The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"

4. What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?
Mechanical engineers build weapons. Civil engineers build targets.

5. The graduate with a science degree asks, "Why does it work?"
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"
The graduate with an arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

6. Three engineering students were gathered together discussing who must have designed the human body.
One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints."
Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections."
The last one said, "No, actually it had to have been a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?"

7. Knock knock. Who's there? Interrupting coefficient of friction. Interrupting coefficient of fri.... mmmuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu (╬╝)

8. Two engineering students were walking across a university campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"
The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."
The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit you anyway."

9. An engineer was crossing a road one day, when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.
The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you for one week and do ANYTHING you want."
Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.
Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"
The engineer said, "Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."

10. A wife asks her husband, a software engineer...
"Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6!" A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk. The wife asks him, "Why the hell did you buy 6 cartons of milk?" He replied, "They had eggs."

The Good Life at Goodwood

Couple of nice stories from the PR monkeys at Goodwood - the second one on the guy who lost his leg marshalling, is a fine testimony to our love of motorsport: Macmillan also deserve our support.

But first up is a flying Fiat (above), once the fastest car in the world (though it was a long time ago...) that'll run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed - more on both stories below

The Fiat S76, unofficially the fastest car in the world in 1911, will turn a wheel for the first time in over 100 years when it tackles the Goodwood Hillclimb at the Festival of Speed on June 26-29.

Just two S76s were produced by the Italian manufacturer, with the aim of snatching the records for the flying kilometre and flying mile from the ‘Blitzen’ Benzes. The S76 achieved the mile record with Pietro Bordino at the wheel at Saltburn Sands in 1911 and was officially recorded at over 135mph on a kilometre attempt at Ostenede in Belguim, only to be denied the record as it was unable to complete a return run within the specified one hour.

While one car was dismantled by Fiat after the First World War to prevent rival manufacturers obtaining their technical secrets, the other was purchased by Russian aristocrat Boris Soukhanov and eventually made its way to Australia after WW1, where it was modernised and campaigned it as a ‘Fiat Racing Special’.

Bristol-based enthusiast Duncan Pittaway, who will drive the S76 at Goodwood, brought the chassis back to the UK in 2003 and reunited it with the original 28.5-litre, four-cylinder engine from the dismantled car. The machine has spent the past 10 years being restored to original specification with Roach Manufacturing of Southampton helping with the bodywork.
Duncan Pittaway, owner/driver, said: "After restoring a Bugatti T35, I was looking for a new challenge and the S76, which is one of the more maligned cars of its generation, fitted the bill nicely. All of the original S76 components that have survived have been restored, from the chassis and engine down to the suspension, axles, pedals, steering box, etc, with the gearbox, radiator and bodywork being created using the original Fiat drawings. As the last and largest of the huge-engined Edwardian monsters, it should be sensational to see."


Goodwood Motor Circuit will play host to an ambitious World Record attempt this weekend as disabled motor sport Marshal Steve Tarrant bids to go further in 24 hours than anybody else in history – on a Mobility Scooter!

Tarrant, 53, from Poole in Dorset, lost a leg in an accident while marshalling 14 years ago, but has maintained his passion for motor sport by regularly donning his orange overalls at some of the world’s greatest circuits – including Goodwood – in the seasons since then.

In addition to his motor sport exploits, Tarrant was a medal-bearing gamesmaker at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 and was presented with a Big Society Award from Prime Minister David Cameron afterwards.

Attempting to secure a place in history is nothing new for Tarrant. He previously succeeded in breaking the existing 170-mile distance record for the distance covered in 24 hours, only to see his effort unratified for official purposes on a technicality.

This time he is aiming to complete 200 miles of a specially-devised Tarmac circuit at Goodwood while at the same time raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support. His vehicle will be a TGA Breeze S4 GT Mobility Scooter, capable of 10 miles per hour.

Tarrant’s will begin his world record attempt at 1800 on Saturday, 17 May and is scheduled to finish at 1800 on Sunday, 18 May. Spectators are welcome to come along and show their support from 1800-1900 on Saturday and after 0800 on Sunday.

Steve Tarrant said: "It’s fantastic to have such an historic location as Goodwood to make this record attempt. The course I’ll be using is a hard Tarmac surface, which will provide a consistent level of grip throughout the day and night and should put me in good shape to break the record. In theory, 215 miles is the maximum distance possible on a 10mph vehicle, so 200 is quite ambitious. Reliability permitting, however, I’d say I’m in good shape."

Monday, 12 May 2014

World Ducati Week - and a new Monster 821. But what about the Scrambler?


Below is the official word on this year's World Ducati Week. Unofficial word seems to be there'll be an 821 Monster (already spotted, above, looking showroom ready) using the Desmoquattro liquid-cooled motor from the Hypermotard. Which will mean the end of the air-cooled Desmodue range being built in Bologna. Ducati are still building the air-cooled motor in their Thai factory for the Asian market Monster 795, which saves up to 40% import tax and also opens up the Indian market. But if I've understood the rules (and there’s a fair chance I haven't) Ducati would need to have a separate facility to export Thai built bikes back to Europe and the US.
Even so, it seems likely the new entry level Scrambler will have to be built in the far east to be priced competitively with stull such as Thai built Triumph Bonnevilles. The spy shots suggest that the Scrambler won't be ready to announce at WDW, and will have to wait for the Milan show in November. The lights are just a lash up (from a Streetfighter or Hypermotard?) and the mismatched wheels suggest that the Scrambler will have a unique sized front and wire wheels. That suggests the styling will be nicely retro, echoing Pierre Terblanche’s SportClassic range and his renderings (below). But the Scrambler is definitely coming, because Ducati trademarked the name in the US in April 2013.

Warming up for World Ducati Week 2014
  • Eighth edition of Ducati’s international WDW event to run from 18-20 July at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”
  • Ticket pre-sales open for what is expected to be an event record attendance
  • Massive three-day program planned for thousands of Ducatisti from all over the world
  • Misano, Cattolica and Riccione collaboration takes Ducati party to the Romagna Riviera
Borgo Panigale (Bologna), 12 May 2014 – With the eighth edition of World Ducati Week fast approaching, preparations along the Romagna Riviera are in full swing to welcome the thousands of motorcycle fans arriving for the most highly anticipated event of the year - World Ducati Week 2014.
Hosted at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” from 18-20 July, WDW2014 is sure to be an exceptional edition. Full of Ducati “Red Passion”, the event achieved a record attendance of 65,000 Ducatisti in 2012 and now Ducati are working hard to paint the Romagna Riviera “Ducati Red” and break all previous records.
Tickets are now on sale on the dedicated website and will remain available online until 13 July, after which they can be purchased direct at the Misano circuit venue from 17 July.
Two types of tickets offer access for single or all three days of WDW2014, with both tickets sub-categorised into “motorcyclist pass” (rider + motorcycle) and “passenger/visitor pass” (participants without motorcycle). Ticket entrance to the Misano circuit complex provides access to all WDW2014 activities organised by Ducati.
Meanwhile, at the Italian brand's headquarters in Borgo Panigale, Bologna, staff are also preparing to welcome thousands of WDW participants to the Ducati Factory and Museum. From 16-21 July the Factory and Museum will remain open to visitors from 09.30-16:00 (17:30 for the Ducati Museum) without prior need to make a booking. Further information on the guided tours and discounted prices for WDW2014 participants can also be found online at the website.
The highly successful WDW formula presents a packed program across all three days of the event, including the participation of Ducati Team MotoGP riders, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow in addition to factory test rider, Michele Pirro and Team Pramac riders, Andrea Iannone and Yonny Hernandez. The Ducati Superbike Team factory riders will also be present with Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies alongside Niccol├▓ Canepa (Team Althea Racing) and Leandro Mercado and Ondrej Jezek (Barni Racing Team) who, with Fabio Massei and Alex Schacht (EAB Racing Team), participate in the Superstock 1000 Championship aboard 1199 Panigales.
To further highlight the participation of the official Ducati Corse teams and riders at the event, look out for the WDW2014 logo displayed in upcoming races upon the Desmosedici race bikes in MotoGP and the helmets of the factory riders in World Superbike.
As this year represents the 20th anniversary of the iconic 916, a long list of legendary riders will join WDW2014 to celebrate the “Birthday of the Ducati 916”. An exhibition dedicated to the iconic model will retrace the evolution of the Ducati Superbike, starting from the 916 masterpiece and leading to the equally iconic work-of-art, the 1199 Panigale Superleggera which, 20 years later, now establishes itself as the latest benchmark of high-performance production motorcycles.
Celebrating the exhibition will be three-times world champion Troy Bayliss, alongside another star who remains part of the Ducati family as brand ambassador, Spanish rider and 2011 World Superbike Champion, Carlos Checa. The legendary Carl Fogarty, who won a spectacular four Superbike World Championships with Ducati, has also confirmed his attendance and will line-up with riders such as double World Superbike Champion, Doug Polen and highly successful riders such as, Piefrancesco Chili and Giancarlo Falappa. This incredible and fast-growing cast of prestigious Ducati Superbike riders will provide a once-in-a-lifetime gathering to complement the priceless exhibition of Ducati Superbikes.
On Saturday, 19 July, the Ducati World Championship riders will also use the Misano start/finish straight as a "Drag Strip" to battle it out in exciting head-to-head eliminators aboard the brand new Diavel Carbon models. Modified for enhanced performance and ready for the highly competitive riders to enter the exciting shoot-out, the WDW2014 Drag Races are sure to be as popular as previous editions.
While track fans will enjoy the open track sessions and the opportunity to test Ducati's latest models, road-oriented WDW-goers can chose form a selection of WDW Tours organised in collaboration with the Republic of San Marino. The tours, which wind through the surrounding countryside and visit some of Italy’s most characteristic locations, include rides to the charismatic and picturesque Republic of San Marino, an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Between action on track and adventure on the road, WDW2014 will also offer the usual packed program of paddock events. The Ducati University will provide a fascinating look behind the company's latest innovations with presentations by Ducati technicians, test riders and engineers, while the traditional and highly requested Ducati Garage Contest, Historic Area and Pit Walks, with autograph sessions dedicated to the MotoGP and World Superbike riders, are back by popular demand.
With the eighth edition of WDW, Ducati has further strengthened its links with partners, institutions and local authorities with a constructive collaboration between the Municipalities of Misano, Cattolica, Riccione and the Republic of San Marino. This partnership enables the famous Italian motorcycle manufacturer to achieve an absolutely unique event that succeeds in capturing the essence of "Made in Italy".
While WDW2014 officially opens at 09:00 on Friday, 18 July at the World Misano Circuit “Marco Simoncelli, the party on the Riviera will actually be kick-started into life the evening before. With the support of the Municipalities of Misano, Cattolica, Riccione, Thursday, 17 July will become the “Notte Rossa”, where bars, restaurants and local pubs situated along the local coastline will welcome Ducatisti with a series of spontaneous events and special offers. With this community connection, WDW2014 will welcome the massive invasion of “Ducatisti” from all corners of the world, innovatively providing "Notte Rossa" details, times and locations via a dedicated mobile app.
On Saturday night the beach food moves to the racetrack when a group of lifeguards from the three supporting towns create the "Rustida" barbecue along the Misano pit lane. Demonstrating their culinary skills, the group will cook for the thousands of Ducati fans hungry for the summer evening excitement of World Ducati Week.
The Misano World Circuit ‘Marco Simoncelli’ is proud to host the WDW again for 2014. This huge Ducati event adds to their already extraordinary sports season, with the Romagnola circuit being one of only six tracks in the world - and the only one in Italy - to host both World Superbike (22 June) and MotoGP (14 September) races.
Partnerships with important brands such as Main Sponsor, Tudor, are key to ensuring the success of the event. A symbol of sport and prestige, the Swiss sports watch company continues its long collaboration with Ducati, taking the role of Official Timing Partner. 
Another strategic partner of the eighth edition of WDW is Italian communications giant, TIM. Already an Official Sponsor of Ducati in both MotoGP and World Superbike, TIM will support the huge levels of phone and media traffic generated at the event by providing its innovative LTE technology on the 4G network.
Famously associated with Ducati and synonymous with performance exhaust systems, the Italian brand, Termignoni, becomes a Main Sponsor of the event for the first time. Termignoni's legendary exhausts will be in both the "operating area”, where - in collaboration with Ducati Service - WDW-goers will be able have the prestigious exhaust systems fitted to their Ducatis, and the Heritage area with displays, services and consultancy available to everyone.
The WDW2014 event will be further enriched by the fundamentally important support of three other important companies: Pirelli, Bosch and Shell. Pirelli will provide a technical tyre change service as well as a live show featuring "tattooed" tyres, while Bosch will support the Ducati Riding Experience during the event with dedicated courses on ABS and other new safety technologies, additionally presenting “Ride the Way”, an innovative App for all motorcyclists. Shell, who recently renewed its technical partnership with Ducati until 2016, will continue to ensure its commitment by presenting the technological excellence in its range of Shell Advance premium lubricating oils.
Premium car manufacturer, Audi, will also be present in the WDW2014 paddock with a display of its prestigious models, providing the dynamic opportunity of a “four-wheeled” experience around the track for WDW participants. As "Official Car Partner" Audi will also provide a selection of top models from the range to support Ducati staff and management during the organisation of the event.
All World Ducati Week 2014 information as well as details on the continuously evolving programme, ticket purchase and much more is available on the event website. Following the event is also possible via the dedicated Facebook page at or by using #worldducatiweek via @ducatimotor on Twitter or Instagram.


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Biking is dead - long live the Bike Shed

Just been chatting to Dutch about the upcoming Bike Shed Event III and it's going to be a cannot-miss gig (Gig? I'm a bit old to say gig...). Four times more space than last year, with all the extras that make it a full day out rather than just "it's 2pm, so this must be the Guzzi stand". There's even a barber and space for "distinguished ladies & gentlemen in appropriately furnished luxurious surroundings"  - at least I'm not too old for that. There's a bit on whether or not this is the future of biking in Benzina 12, with a counterpoint by Tim Maccabee (Ducati UK MD) in Benzina 13. Hopefully Ducati will have a new Scrambler to customise for a 2015 Bike Shed do.

The Bike Shed Event is far and away the best bike show I've ever been to (and I have been to many) and last year even the car park had more impressive stuff than anything ever seen inside the NEC. But perhaps the biggest praise I can offer is that while teenage daughter and my wife (aka Dr Girlie Nice-Smile, aka the Cake Lady) would never go near a bike show, they'll be at the Bike Shed bash in  the Grade I listed Tobacco Dock, a short walk from Tower Bridge. Supporting our youngest for his AS exams means I couldn't justify the time a stand would need, but if you see a bewildered middle-aged country boy wandering around - that'll be me. Come and say hello.

Held 10-6pm over Saturday and Sunday 24/25 May 2014 (the Bank Holiday weekend), it is a far cry from the typical bike show. No, the latest Hondawowsuzuki won't be there, but the bikes that will be should be fascinating. Plus the venue, food and drink on offer make it feel more like a party than a show. Buy tickets here for £10 and they're valid for both days - the ultimate dirty weekend?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Celebrity Orange - why they love carrots and Laverdas in Holland

Interesting piece on so-called heritage carrots in the cookery section of the Sunday Times, mainly liking the fact they're not bright orange - less likely to clash with your organic hummus at a hipster supper party, apparently. What I didn't know was that the Dutch, alongside obsessing about black tulips while us Brits nicked their empire, are responsible for modern carrots being orange. Apparently they were so obsessed with their national colour that they cross-bred wild carrots until their dull, yellowish hue became bright orange. The rest of us just followed suit.

The love of orange may be the reason that the Dutch love Laverdas, the high point being Cor Dees museum (that I still haven't got round to visiting) but that wasn't the reason Piero kitted his endurance racers out as flying advertisements for Jaffa. The truth was reported in Benzina issue 2, and there's even a piece on what his fabulous Laverda V6 is like to ride in issue 4. Best of all are the fab pics of Piero's V6 in the final issue (unlucky13) of Benzina by Hermann Kopf

Monday, 5 May 2014

Books to buy - Ian Fallon's The Essential Buyer’s Guide Ducati Desmodue Twins and Motorcycle GP Racing in the 1960s by Chris Pereira

Snappy book titles, hey? On the back of interviewing Ian Falloon and reviewing his Bevel Twins… Guide (a must have even at £50) in Benzina #13  Veloce kindly sent me a couple of other books. Should you buy them as well? Maybe… and maybe not.

The first was another of Ian’s books, The Essential Buyer’sGuide Ducati Desmodue Twins. A sparse 20 x 14 cm (c8” x 6”) and just 64 pages long, it’s nevertheless £12.99. Cheap against buying a duff Ducati, but the problem is that many of the pages are taken up with general advice about eBay, registration paperwork, frame numbers (at least Ian avoids the “matching numbers” trap) and engine numbers – below the water pump, apparently. Hmmm: of all the “Desmodue” I’ve owned, only the 906 Paso had a water pump, but all the others still had engine numbers. And people who need reminding to take reading glasses if they need them, and check they’re insured to ride a bike, are probably not the sort of folk you want to meet coming the other way when you’re out riding.

None of this is Ian’s fault – this Veloce buying series follows a format and gives a general overview, as I found out to my cost in the past, buying them online without reading the small print. They’re not really one thing or the other – neither a general buying guide or model specific. The internet’s made the former obsolete, and for the later Ian and Veloce can probably help with a book that’ll only be £10-15 more expensive than this one that just tries to be too many things to too many people. But if there’s a space in your Ian Falloon memorial library go ahead and buy a copy.

Better is the Motorcycle GP Racing in the 1960s by Chris Pereira, with a foreword by the legendary Tommy Robb. Still a slight tome – smaller than A4 and just 176 pages, its big failing is that about half the book is simply a list of results that the internet could provide. Sure, it’s nice to have them – and track layouts - on the bookshelf but I’d rather have read more from the obviously enthusiastic and credible author. It’s also a shame that the pics aren’t given more space to breathe; often there are six to a spread, the designer’s brief seemingly aimed at keeping printing costs down. And, despite the book being black and white throughout with the only colour is the dustcover, it still costs £30. That seems a lot,  especially since it’s comparable to the brilliant photo-fest that is Jan and Hetty Burgers Continental Circus publication, although the latter lacks any meaningful text. So, if you’re a 1960s racing fan, there isn’t really anything comparable to Chris Pereira’s book: I guess that makes it a must have to bikers of a certain age.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Interview with Federico Minoli on Ducati

Wise words from the man who made Ducati profitable, and how European manufacturing can survive. Via Niklaj Stagis and Vimeo; shame they got Federico Minoli's name wrong (Fredrico indeed!)
Interview">">Interview with Frederico Minoli about the Ducati brand
from Nikolaj">">Nikolaj Stagis on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>