by Shawn Downey
Shut the hell up and leave me alone. Stop leaving flowers on my doorstep and remove all mints from my pillow. No matter how many times you let me thrash your mangy-ass Ducati, I am not going to write about you nor your childish exploits. Read the title to my column, Cro-Magnon man…sound out the big words. “This Old Bike.” Get it? As in retro bikes, old school, pre-fuel injection, when men were men and carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by clutch cables that did not employ namby pamby hydraulics.
The only thing retro about you is your jokes. And stop handing me that Mike Hailwood debuted a 1978 Ducati on his comeback tour and won at the Isle Of Man TT. Who cares? All the tee-shirts and aprons depict him on a 1967 six cylinder Honda, you rabid motorcycling monkey.
888, 851, 916, blah, blah, blah. Whatever happened to the sensible numbers like 125, 250, and 750? I’ll tell you what happened Duckman. Back in the 1940s when Marcello and Adriano Ducati were pumping out military equipment to aide the Fascists in squelching the Free World, one of their lawyers began to ponder the notion that Mussolini might not become the world’s supreme pasta-inhaling-chianti-belching demigod. If they lost the war perhaps the Italians might be in need of some sort of economical transportation.
Noting that all mechanical development was outlawed during the wartime efforts, the corporate lawyer, Aldo Farninelli, did what all trustworthy counselors do–he cheated, lied, and deceived all of the corporate officers. He made a pact with an outside firm and began development of Ducati’s initial foray into the motorcycle world–a nasty little 60 cc affectionately entitled Cucciolo or Little Puppy. As is customary, they then changed the names to 55M and 65TL. Of course that stands for 55 Manicotti Noodles and 65 Tons of Lasagna.
Regarding your incessant blithering about the Desmodromic valves…before you foam yourself into a frenzy proclaiming the ingenuity of the concept, let’s give credit where credit is due. Old Mr. Fabio may have incorporated the concept into Ducati motors (which, by the way, stole the motorcycle back from the lawyer) but he did not originate the design. Germany, Italy’s mentor in world domination and new ideas, was responsible for the ground breaking technology. Desmodromic valve actuation was developed by our sauerkraut eating friends during Formula One racing. Were it not for the object of Janis Joplin’s affection (Mercedes Benz), you would not be enjoying 15,000 rpm potential before floating a valve.
The mid-1950s came and went, Richie Cunningham got married and Joanie stayed ugly, and the desmodromic design was still not incorporated into bikes available to the public. Fast forward to the 1960s Mr. Short Attention Span Theater, and you see the development of a 250 cc sport bike modeled directly from the production version used to obtain multiple wins in the 250 and 500 class. Yeah, it was fast, quarter miles in 16.5 seconds and a top speed of 104 m.p.h. So what do you a call a demon such as this? What else? Diana Mark 3 Super Sport.
Finally in 1969 the desmodromic valves were incorporated into a road-going machine. Faster than most 650 cc machines, Americans never accepted the bike as a true 500 cc machine. The lack of acceptance (in conjunction with very, very, poor development decisions influenced by the American importer) resulted in Ducati once again being commandeered by the Italian government. But why stop there? Let’s see if the distributors and the governmental management team can work together and snuff Ducati. What if the distributors and management throw caution and cash to the wind and insist that Americans love two strokes? (Of course Americans hate two strokes because bigger is always better so why would you have two strokes if you could have four?) John, since you are stuck in the 1980s, let me see if I can paraphrase in Bon Jovi speak: BLAM! A shot to the heart, and you’re to blame, hey fascist regime–you’re giving Ducati a bad name.
Concurrently, Ducati decided that even though the public was screaming for high performance singles during the gasoline crisis, they were going to ax the singles and incorporate the disastrous parallel twins. But why stop there? Let’s form an alliance with the Spanish company Mototrans and allow them to build substandard 250’s under the Ducati name? Yeah, and then let’s alienate our British distributor to the point of canceling his entire order from the Bologna factory and opting for the mechanically challenged Spanish model? Yeah, and then let’s tempt a dissatisfied customer into purchasing a full page advertisement in a motorcycle publication declaring the motorcycle junk. Then, let’s not attempt to placate him and watch as he gathers hundreds of enthusiasts in front of the motorcycle shop from which he purchased the bike and dismantles the substandard motorcycle in front of the Free Press. Yeah, and maybe, if we are real lucky, the entire fiasco will be known as the “24 Horrors” for generations to come. Cool.
So, Daffy, let this be a well-heeded reminder before your next rant. Your bad-ass dog is nothing more than a “little puppy” raised by three parents: The Italian Fascist Regime, Cagiva, and now the American Financial Institution. Don’t make me swat you with a newspaper as a reminder.
Shawn K. Downey