Sunday, 3 May 2015

Geoff Duke OBE; four lasting legacies

So RIP Geoff Duke. While others will speak more eloquently than me of his racing success, it's his inspiration to others that I most admire. In the words of Bruce Springsteen - not a bad touchstone to live your life by - champions come on go. But here are four lasting legacies.

1 - he taught the Italians that motorcycles need to handle as well as be powerful.

We take this for granted, and even that Italian motorcycles are often faster point-to-point than more powerful rivals. But when Geoff Duke arrived at Gilera he found a motorcycle that prized straight line speed at the expense of all else. Using the skill sets he'd absorbed from Rex McCandless at Norton, Duke soon tamed the wayward big four into a motorcycle that could beat all-comers on the straights and even catch them in the corners.

2 - he inspired Massimo Tamburini

As a young man Massimo Tamburini had his hair cut in Rimini by a motorcycle racing fan who had pictures all over the wall of Duke racing the big Gilera. He would explain to Massimo how Duke had taught the Gilera racing team the importance of balance in motorcycle design, ideas that came through loud and clear when Massimo founded Bimota . Anyone who's ridden - or even seen - a Bimota or Ducati 916 can appreciate these virtues learned from Duke - albeit via an Italian barber.

3 - he invented racing leathers.

Before Geoff Duke, race wear was pretty much a Belstaff Trialmaster two-piece waxed cotton affair - and these were the days before they were Hipster must-haves. Duke had his tailor - yes, he had a tailor! - run up the first set of one piece leathers, and when everyone else realised how much more speed and protection they offered, almost overnight Duke's innovation became ubiquitous
4 - he founded Duke video.

In a world of four TV channels, motorcycle racing on the box was limited to the British Grand Prix and some scrambling on ITV's World of Sport. With Duke video suddenly we could watch motorcycle racing and history any time we wanted. Even in today's multi-platform media there's still a place for a Duke DVD in every motorcyclist's treasure chest. After all, as Bruce Springsteen puts it - 57 channels and nothin' on.

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