I feel like one of the chosen few, I was lucky enough to benefit from a very good friend’s kindness the other weekend. Almost brand new, only just run in and with the Termignoni’s fitted, he rang me up and offered me the keys.
I alluded to some gentle Schadenfrude in the ZX-10R review I wrote recently and this mischievous remark was aimed at this man, because when I first called round to salivate over the blood red machine, it was away at the menders. Apparently the onboard computer had said ‘No‘, when he was preparing to go to work one morning soon after taking delivery.
Ho ho thought I, the usual achingly gorgeous Italian machine let down by a ‘character’ temperament that has been the bane of most people‘s Ducati ownership at one time or another. I feel guilty now, it was a little callous, because the second time I called round (this time to liberate the bike for the weekend) there was no hint of reticence from the bike.
The multi functional digital, MotoGP derived clocks, gave access to more info than I could concentrate or to be honest even want when hurtling through the leafy lanes of Kent and Sussex.
The most important thing he said was ‘if it rains you might want to dial the traction control in‘, which is accessible by a rocker switch on the left switchgear. Mode selected and then he showed me how to adjust the TC, up or down. He had it set on one, and having followed him home with the Nine gasping for more breath just to keep him in sight, I thought that this level of performance looked perfectly acceptable to me so it could stay set at one.
He did point out that because the ‘Y shaped’ Magnesium alloy Marchesini’s were shod with what can only be described as barely cut slicks. (Standard rubber for this machine were Pirelli Diablo Super Corsas, and they were smooth as well as having no visible chicken strips on them - already) it might get a bit hairy, I was convinced that I would be tiptoeing around conscious of the fact that this was a privately owned machine with a value of £24K, so valued the tip.
He just grinned and clapped me on the back. He knew me better than I know myself.
It was obvious to him that after a few miles of getting comfortable I would be riding it to close to the edge of my ability and enjoy every moment of it. That’s why he offered me the ride. A truly selfless act of generosity. I guess if I had really thought about it logically I should have come up with the same conclusion. He’s a biker, he’s worked his bollox off for years to get himself in the position to own a bike of this ilk, I’m a biker and we’re friends that was it. There was no sign of fear or concern in his demeanour, it was genuine altruism, a very rare thing to find these days.
The sound of the bike as I thumbed the starter was truly the equivalent of a dawn barrage by a battery of big guns before the armoured assault in any war. I could I swear feel the concussions of the contained explosions through the soles of my feet as the sound echoed around the drive, bouncing of wall, hedge and garage door, the Sound of the Dry clutch spinning was almost as invasive as the exhaust note, the clutch was open, you could see the anodised red pressure plate through the vents in the carbon clutch cover and make out a smear of white which was the Ducati Corse Performance branding. He had to put his children to bed so he bid me good evening and waved goodbye grinning.
I was expecting a hideous crouched posture akin to a gorilla on a BMX bike but other than having to high kick over the beautifully sculpted rear end of the solo seat (finished in revealed carbon fibre, deep red and sharp white paint separated by gold pin striping) it was comfortable.
My size tens shuffled to find the lissom foot controls, clutch in, (change of clutch note, Stiff clutch action despite the Brembo hydraulic master cylinder and lever assembly), - I was off.
The Clutch was pretty much in or out with little room for slipping the clutch that you might do on a four cylinder bike. The sledgehammer thudding of the engine pushed me into the evening, The Sussex Downs starting to take on the first glow of evening light.
The sound bounced off the walls of the small village, I grinned to myself as I blipped rather more than necessary, (It just had to be done). A few miles further down the line slowly getting the motor up to temperature and allowing time for heat to permeate the tyres and I was into late commuter traffic. I figured that I should get the feel of the bike on a straight wide road before I started thinking about pushing. I had a meeting with the local MCC when I got home but I had an hour and a half to get there, usual journey time was only 45 minutes so, easy does it and then the long way home via my favourite stretch of road about twenty miles away.
Suffice to say I got a few looks as I surged smoothly (but if its not a contradiction) - lumpily, through the traffic glorifying in the sheer bubble of noise, the assault and battery, the forge of Vulcan!
It was noticeably narrow especially at the rear of the fuel tank, at first it felt a bit odd not having to splay ones legs so much, but it was immediately comfortable and there was plenty of grip still afforded to the knees when called into play. The reach to the foot controls and clip ons were very good, my wrists ached a little at first but I think that was because they were used to a different bike, they just needed to adjust, it wasn’t painful, just different.
One thing that I did notice which seemed odd at first was whilst braking normally (increasing gentle pressure), the brake lever seemed to oscillate slightly under my grip, it took me a a few minutes to suss it, it was a new bike, the discs wouldn’t be warped. It was the vibration of the engine causing my grip to shake ever so slightly as I decelerated and trailed a little too much throttle, it may be a big twin with a shit load of torque, but trying to pull away or increase speed in a high gear after reasonably rapid decceleration did induce a judder. (Don’t get me wrong I know when to change gear and when not, but the sheer brutishness off the power delivery almost negated the torque on offer which I tried to ride, it was smoother just knocking down a gear rather than using the torque) - I guess it’s just technique, the best I could admit to in V-twin ownership was a TLR Suzuki, which is a far cry from the Duke.
The next morning I had arranged to thrapp out to Dymchurch in Kent to visit a friend and to show him the bike. I actually got up at 8am on a Saturday, (very important day). I wondered if my close mate with a KTM950 Supermotard fancied a ride. He answered The phone promptly and was well up for it, having heard that I had a very special bike. (His was no slouch, and was equipped with light weight wheels and Akrapovic mufflers, and in an ideal world, thus far this was exactly the bike I wanted). A chap called Alan was coming along on his bright orange 2007 Kawasaki Z1000.
We were going to stop at a café just outside Brenzett in order for Steve to munch some pig, egg and beans. The Rye Road was clogged, so we effectively had to just growl along. I could tell the Duke was just bursting to stretch its legs, the whole vibe of the bike is of power and perrformance, it hammered through the clogged roads until Steve took advantage of a half mile stretch of straight road, His KTM took off and with a deft look over my shoulder, (The mirrors are perfectly fitting to the overall aerodynamics of the front end, but only the outside sliver of mirror edge reflected anything worth seeing, the rest was blocked by my leather arm. Its forgivable, this is primarily a race bike, so a quick glance should be expected and de rigueur any way),I just built the revs momentarily in fifth and twisted the throttle, Steve came and went in a moment of thunderous acceleration and increased noise like I imagine an air bomb exploding and I was braking for Pill Box corner. I braked too early, the front Brake set up more than efficiently reined in the sudden momentum with a gentle sussurration of applied brakes’ I trailed the throttle to the corner and then applied a sniff of drive to push me through, the bike returning to its steady beat.
The Marsh road to Brenzett is a twisty number and Steve pushed the KTM round them no doubt with a big grin on his face, (he travels this route to work every day). I’m not sure where Alan on the Zed was, Steve wasn’t slowing so naturally I shadowed him, eventually relaxing into the straight that brought us to the main Folkestone Road. Alan soon caught up so onto the café just down the road, for brekkie a fag, bike banter and machine appreciation.Steve helped me shoot a bit of video and then I was off to Dymchurch whilst him and Alan headed for Ashford.
There’s a few small villages on the way and the Duke caused several shoulders to turn, backward glances and an absolute classic gawp from some nipper holding his dad’s hand. By this time I had covered about 120 miles (a tank of juice), the only discomfort that immediately occurred to me was the back of the knees (which we all know there is no proper name for) which were getting hot, bathing in the halo of heat produced by the Duke’s steady trickling through the streets, shaking windows and attracting attention. I felt like a million dollars.
I did my best to wilt Tim’s new hanging baskets with the fiery stench and temperature of the Termi’s, but he came out the door before I could manoeuvre the bike into the optimum parking spot. This Duke even feels safe on the side stand, other Dukes I’ve ridden in the past have had decidedly dodgy numbers on board. A usual hearty welcome from Tim, weeding out the acerbic bits for the wit and charm that is his nature. He was in good spirits and going Kayaking later so I glugged a cup of tea and turned round to go home, looking forward to the ride. A fresh tank of gas and back into it. The Duke was very taut at low speed, you could feel most of the surface that passed under it, but it didn’t matter, this is an exotic race derived focussed motorcycle from Italy.
I couldn’t really see the dash clearly, the default view set was a sectored square of slim digital readouts, speed was the most important, just a few nths extra here and there on the throttle resulted in the 1098 clearing its throat expecting more fuel to burn, there was a lot of traffic about.
I finally blip frightened some woefully dawdling drivers out of the way and headed back to Rye through the twisties that Steve had expertly negotiated on the way out, you\'ve really got to keep the Duke revving to an extent and then blip it down a gear to push it through a corner.
I unconsciously traiked round a couple and the bike felt like it was running wide and about to fall over, must remember to keep the power constant for optimum effect, different technique to a Jap multi!
The Corsas gripped faultlessly. It was a lovely hot day and I had neither the ability or enough open road to test them (alas), didn’t notice wrist ache any more, knees were getting hotter though, exacerbated by a sprawling stream of scooters teeming out of Camber and heading for Hastings.
There were hundreds and hundreds of them. Now I was on a bike that could smear them all instantly but they were on two wheels and thoroughly enjoying their wheels in the same way as I was, so I tried to nip past pockets of them as quickly and carefully as possible. A few of them may have had their eyebrows blasted off their face by the murderous barrage of sound they may have suddenly encounterd, and quite a few almost jumped (it was not intentional- chortle) as I blipped down a gear behind them, a few of them wobbled at my sudden appearance, but they kept station and the sheer amount of them was good to see, there were a lot of restored classics amongst them and quite aptly the majority of them were of Italian birth.
I didn’t have a chance to really test the slipper clutch, but The owner reckons you can bang it down two or three gears under rapid deccelleration and the bike doesn’t skip or throw a fit, I know this is what they are built for and should have given it a go I suppose but I was happy with my ride, I had witnessed the hype, carefully examined the components, the swing arm, The fat diameter thin wallled frame tubes, the huge hollow spindles supporting the Marchesini’s, the quality of carbon fibre on offer, the neat little Italian tricolour between the narrow of the eyes of the headlights, the Swedishly efficient and purposeful Ohlins equipment.
Oh to be a track day God with one of these to use.
It’s a lot of money, it’s almost three standard ZX-10R’s, but there is a certain \'je ne sais quoi\' (but in Italian natch) about owning a bike like this especially a Ducati. You know it’s only really value for money when you pore over the bike without realising it, you find yourself unconsciously running a tentative hand along its lines, when you bask in the thunderburst of its voice and velocity, its thunderbolt of sheer power, Then realise this is the basis of World Superbikes you see the like of Bayliss Riding, it’s very special, rare to see but hard to miss when you do. It is a supermodel amongst the common folk of the ordinary mainstream.
The last real shock and awe tactic was just prior to a nights drinking with another buddy who isn’t into bikes, but appreciates a piece of machinery when he sees it, he‘s more of an F1 fan. I unpadlocked it from the garage and wheeled it out and started her up, Gavin’s face was one of surprise not really believing that a motorcycle could be worth so much and the power it had, he took a video clip of the bike ticking over and as he came in closer to the rear end I blipped the throttle (it’s addictive behaviour with this bike). Over a sherbet later he replayed the clip, it sounded like the phone had exploded.
Thanx Nick this ones filed in the top drawer of motorcycling memories. Sorry about the large amount of dead fly meat over it.
Doby Trutcenden - UKBike.com