Thursday, 26 June 2014

New old stock: our new Monster M900, and a reissued Monster Bible

The arrival of this early 1994 900 Monster at Benzina Towers coincided with the release of an updated Monster Bible by Ian Falloon, courtesy of Kim at  Veloce publishing. Perfect. After years of running Desmoquattro Monsters the visceral, pared back, thrill of the original model is refreshing - and for me the looks haven't dated a day. Our 17 year old lad loved the 900 the instant he spotted it, despite usually being completely nonplussed by my obsession with Italian motorcycles. He was blown away to discover that it's 20 years old: even older than his big sister; that's, like, really ancient.

Despite being one of the first UK bikes the frame number of this Monster is surprisingly high (though unsurprisingly I'm not posting it online): Ian's book points out that production was delayed because of problems sourcing components, without mentioning that this was because there was no money to pay for them. It seems that bikes were built up and stored without brakes and fuel tanks and, when the Castiglioni’s finally found the money to pay for them, the last bikes that were put into storage became the first to be completed - so frame number one might even have left the factory well after frame number 2000. Having said that the first 1500 or so all dissappeared into the Italian market; as ever with Ducati history, The Truth Is Out There. Just bloody difficult to nail down.

Maybe Ian doesn't want to recall this stuff because he has such a good relationship with the factory. After all, we all know how upset Italians can get if you doubt their finances/parentage/manhood and pretty much everything else. Otherwise the book has plenty of useful information and even stuff I didn't know - such as the Monster's frame being all new: based on the 888, but not identical as usually assumed. The only obvious omission is production numbers, which are listed in Ian's  standard catalogue of Ducati motorcycles. But who can blame him and the publishers for wanting to sell us two books rather than one?
As usual with Ian's books, this one's a must have. The Monster is the bike that made Ducati and, having sold over 250,000 of the things, the Monster is the best selling Italian bike of all time. Honda have only just passed the 100,000th milestone with the Fireblades that was launched at around the same time as the Monster. Given that the average age of a Fireblade buyer is now 47, there seems little chance of it ever getting close to the Monster's production run.
The book includes the new Monster 1200, although inevitably Ian missed out on the latest Monster 821. The latter is a bargain stonker, and now the entry level Monster given that the Scrambler's going to take over the role of the 696. As Pierre Terblanche pointed out in his interview in Benzina 13, there isn't a sportsbike in the top 100 selling motorcycles in Italy any more: the Monster was the start of that sea change, not just in Ducati's fortunes, but the entire nature of the motorcycle market

£35 25x20.7cm • 176 pages • 197 colour pictures

ISBN: 978-1-84584616-9

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Moto Guzzi Airone Sport and Moto Morini Corsarino for sale

Ah, the Benzina motorcycle collection, familiar to old teas-and-cakes visitors. Two already gone and now two more for sale -and reduced, because there's a Ducati single for sale I don't want to miss

 So my Moto Guzzi Airone and Moto Morini Corsarino (above - and lots more photos below)  both have to go to fund more Ducatis. Here’s the bare facts but if you want more info email - viewing welcomed: I'm central Wiltshire, 5 miles south of Devizes and 10 miles north of the A303 Stonehenge junction

 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport. 1949 (have factory dating certificate) so no road fund licence or MoT to pay for (although I did have it MoT’d as a safety check – expired August 2013). Older restoration with Akront alloy rims and modern carb. Lovely thing and a joy to bumble along on a summer’s day. Any inspection welcome, offers around £6500 which is a lot less than I paid two years ago

 Moto Morini Corsarino. No paperwork beyond sales receipt and dating certificate from North Leicester Motorcycles – says 1979 so that it can be registered as a moped; probably built earlier but without pedals it then is a small motorcycle which might matter for entry to certain events. Runs very nicely, and very original – just exhaust and stand are alterations. Looking for the £995, which is also a lot less than it owes me: needs new swing arm bearings and probably steering head too. Star of Morini Club Calendar but our kids aren’t interested so ought to go to a home where it will be appreciated.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ducati Scrambler launches 18 July - and is Federico Minoli on his way back to Ducati?

Is Federico Minoli on his way back to Ducati? Because the new Scrambler has his fingerprints all over it. He always understood Ducati needed an affordable, youthful entry level model starting with –as he put it – the gift of the Monster when he took charge of Ducati, and pushing through Pierre Terblanche’s Hypermotard against the wishes of others. Minoli realised that Ducati couldn’t just be driven by racing and fine engineering; there had to be something for other fans of the brand. And the Scrambler ticks all those boxes

 Ducati also say the Scrambler will be launched at World Ducati Week (18-20 July - that's a week?) with a beach party on the Friday evening.  It will also be promoted using Ducati factory staff – another Minoli legacy, from his insistence that everyone in the factory learnt to ride and were passionate about Ducati rather than seeing their employment as just a job. Yes, this could just be a flywheel effect, although to see it still spinning seven years after Minoli was squeezed out seems unlikely. But there’s one final aspect to the Scrambler launch that is pure Minoli – the surf board and beach thing. Federico was an early admirer of Deus ex Machina – who mix surf and custom bike culture so successfully – and it was Minoli who was behind Deus’s flagship Milan store.
With the Scrambler Ducati are on course to challenge Harley-Davidson as the default non-biker’s bike of choice. I never dreamt that years ago, as folk ridiculed us Ducatisti for putting up with dreadful paint and laughable electrics – never mind failing big ends – that it would come to this. While  every other manufacturer seems lost in a wilderness of plagiarism and declining sales, Ducati have never looked stronger. And along with all the very special people who made Ducati’s history, Minoli made Ducati profitable and secured its future. The man’s a bona fide legend and it would be great to see him back on the board.

Everyone who’s seen the Scrambler loves it. Some are even saying it could cost as little as 7500 Euro, so maybe under £7k in the UK. I’ll have an orange one please.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tee shirts found - Ducati at Daytona in 1977

A reader asked if I'd any of the relaunch tee shirts left dug out the old tees andafter much diggng realised I've a few, only got the original version (below)  in 2XL in grey or white (obviously had no fat readers!), and XL in white plus M in grey. £15 plus £3 UK post, £5 Europe, £8 rest of the world. Paypal me at if you'd like one
But it made me realise I've still got these must-haves if you're a Ducati fan - a tribute to Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling, inspired by the greatest bike writers of them all. As ever, Cook puts it best: "When my dear friend and Old Blue co-conspirator Phil Schilling designed tee shirts for our 1976 racing season, the diesel engine was prominently featured. First time I saw one in the cotton, I asked Phil why. His response: "That's the only part of Ducati that's making any money." "Unfortunately, the originals are in vanishingly short supply. My personal one was sold in a charity auction a couple of years ago for $1100." Naturally we've shipped a bunch to Cook and hopefully he can make good use of them. Paypal me as above or you can get your's here: bargain price of £15 plus shipping as above


Monday, 9 June 2014

New Ducati Scrambler confirmed

Teaser images from the video Ducati have just posted giving clues to the look of the new Scrambler's look. Well, it's no retro - very close to the original Monster, and cast rather than wire wheels. Ducati really seem to want to shy away from a true retro bike, and those hoping for a new Sport Classic will be disappointed. Ducati say official launch this Autumn but given that dealers have already ridden the bike, the smart money must be on an unveiling at the Ducati World weekend in July

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Belt and Bevel photo gallery - cameras to Cucciolos, bevels to belts

Pat Slinn suggested I looked at this Australian site and I'm amazed I've missed it up til now. Fixers and fettlers of all things Ducati from the Diesel and SIATA motors, Cucciolos and the Desmoquattros. Fantastic galleries including the stuff that the Ducati brothers were involved in before the Italin government cuckolded them and pursued motorcycle manufacture. You can see more at Belt and Bevel's galleries right here

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Good news travels fast - Ducati Panigale wins design award

The Ducati 1199 Panigale has won the Compasso d'Oro design award, the first time a motorcycle has been presented with Italy's most important design award. Awarded every three years by the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale the prize is intended to celebrate the quality of Italian design. It means that the  Panigale becomes part of the “Compasso d'Oro Collection”, recognised by Ministry of Cultural Heritage & Activities as “of exceptional artistic and historical interest”
Now, pretty and clever as the Panigale is, don't you wonder where these people have been all these years? But then past winners have included a bean bag and any number of light fittings. So where were the judges when the 916 was launched? And, chatting to Ducati UK's MD last week, we think the clever money should be looking at the 999. Once everyone's forgotten the kicking the bully boys in the press gave it, and just looks at it again with an open mind -and considers its record in World Superbikes - it will be recognised as the beautiful, brilliant all round superbike it always was.


Isle of Man equals TT mixed feeling

Really enjoying ITV4's TT coverage, and was in a positive frame of mind after reading the always excellent Gary Inman's piece on the history, future and much improved safety record of the Island in an online post for Cycle World. Michael Dunlop's efforts especially have been sensational. If you just want good news please read no further. This is a bit cathartic for me, and maybe thought provoking for you

As I've posted before I've stayed away from the TT, simply because I've been to race meetings where people died and hated it. So going to one so far from home where a fatality seemed inevitable was never going to be for me - but I went to the Classic TT last year (and am booked to go again in August) and wondered if I'd been missing out. When I learned Karl Harris had died I feel I'm not. I hope he loved the TT and that that is some small consolation to his loved ones.

The most thoughtful reaction I've read is - as usual by -  Bikewriter/Mark Gardiner (who has raced at the TT). I have watched the IoM's "young guns" recruitment project - like the TT - with very mixed feelings. I briefly met Karl when I was supporting Ollie Bridewell in BSB, who met a tragic end in wet practice at Mallory in 2007. I found out about Karl at almost the same time that I discovered another friend - Ducati historian Marc Poels - had been killed riding his Ducati in France. I guess all three were doing what they loved but never thought they'd pay the price. And nor did I. Knee jerk reactions are never good, and mine is to sell my bikes. Give it a week, and then who knows?