by Gary Charpentier
Oh, that sound! I’ve missed it so — the basso-profundo rumble through carbon fiber race pipes, the rattle of the dry clutch. I can’t help running her up through the gears, so I can hear that magnificent growl. This bike could get me into a lot of trouble on the street. I can’t keep from twisting that throttle or keep her front wheel on the ground. I can’t keep this silly grin off my face or stop my head from swelling with pride. The looks we get out on the road! Time to buy a larger helmet, I guess.
My Ducati is alive and fully recovered from our turn one fiasco. Actually, she is better than ever. With the help of some knowledgeable friends and a dealership that really values me as a customer (or really likes my money), I now have one of the hottest 900SS Ducatis around.
Yes, I’m happy. Hey, it took 15 long months and a home equity loan to bring my poor bent and broken baby back to life. It took more dedication and sleepless nights than I’ve ever invested in any other endeavor, so I have a right to be happy. It would have been heartbreaking but a whole lot easier just to write her off and buy another bike. The money I’ve spent rehabilitating her would easily have bought a slightly used Honda on which I could have ridden away. Yeah, right. Could I be happy on a Honda?
Her name is “Gogo.” No, I didn’t bestow it on her. She bore that name from the factory, hidden in the last 4 digits of her VIN: 6090. I suppose it sounds vaguely Italian. It is certainly accurate, for she does go. Oh Lordy, does she GO! With her new bodywork and brilliant paint job, she now looks the part as well — a race bike with a license plate.
Do you remember being in love? Infatuated? Obsessed? The object of your desire occupying your every waking thought? Gogo and I were there once, back in 95 when I first took delivery. We are having our second honeymoon now renewing our vows. This time I promise not to take her out on a racetrack with a bunch of young adrenaline junkies on cheap, generic race bikes who think nothing of trying a kamikaze run on you just to go from fifth place to fourth on the last lap. Gogo doesn’t belong out there. She’s my pride and joy and my one and only motorbike. Oh, we’ll have more racetrack adventures, Gogo and I. But our adversaries will be the stopwatch and the track itself. There are several clubs around that sponsor track days. There are also several racing schools we can take together.
I will no longer risk riding 10/l0ths on the street. I don’t have to. I know there are unforeseen hazards waiting for me out there. Things over which I have no control. The same is true, to a lesser extent, on the racetrack, but tracks are designed with crash safety in mind. There are no telephone poles, sheer drop offs, steel I-beam mailbox holders, livestock, or oncoming traffic. The ambulance is only moments away.
Out on the street, call me a Cafe Racer. You will find me on a winding country road riding fast enough to get a thrill, but slow enough to enjoy some of the scenery. I’ll be on my way to some little Mom and Pop cafe where the locals go after church on Sunday, or some rowdy roadhouse where other riders congregate. Coffee houses. Small airstrips (I love airplanes too!). I’ll go anywhere I can ride over a serpentine ribbon of asphalt at the end of which I can enjoy a strong cup of joe, a fine cigar, and a good book. Somewhere I can meet new friends and plan new adventures. Somewhere I can hear that sound. Ah, yes…