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The Thing about a Ducati


Flair. It can all be summed up with one word. That is one thing that’s synonymous with Italian engineering, design and innovation. And that reflects clearly in their vehicles. Be it Lamborghini, Ferrari, Ducati and so forth. Italian engineers always ensure that the profit margins come second and the value of the product comes first.
I honestly admit I was more of a Japanese inline-4 or the British 3 cylinder screamer fan when it came to bikes. I personally own two bikes, one a single cylinder small-ish bike and the other the best quarter liter bike in the world. Both come from a Japanese manufacturer – Kawasaki. The quality of my small bike, the Caliber, has always made me fall in love with it over and over again. The punch and the sound from the parallel twin on my Ninja captivates my imagination every time I ride it. But Kawasaki is different. Along with Yamaha, Kawasaki happens to be one of the only two Japanese motorcycle makers that come with the flair and character we just spoke of. It is pronounced and it’s right in front of you from the moment you sit on the bike. These machines will have character. They’ll not be perfect, but they’ll grow with you. They’ll change. No two will be the same (I’m yet to come across another Ninja250 stock that sounds exactly like mine). Take Hondas, for example and their vehicles will bore you out of your mind. Honda will always come up with vehicles that are too ‘proper’. Too consumer centric. The company is driven by consumers. And when they claim they can come up with something that performs, you can bet that it will, but in a boring, characterless, vanilla way. The CBR250R is an in-your-face example. It’s not a CBR. It doesn’t come from that lineage. For one, it’s a single. It borrows it’s looks from the already boring looking VFR. And yet it’s called a CBR. The acronyms might make some sense, as might be pointed out by some Honda owners, but do technicalities matter here? The bike doesn’t have character, it’s ugly to look at and it’s entirely mass-centric. If we were to have a place where vehicles needed to have character to be driven, the CBR250R would have an engine seizure (it does in real life too, by the way).
Anyway, we’re swaying here. Until recently, I didn’t like Ducatis just for one reason. The sound. Somehow, the bikes sounded too dry, too metallic. It lacked the hum of an inline 4. It didn’t have Triumph’s 3 cylinder scream either. That bothered me. So much that I chose not to aim to own one despite how gorgeous these machines can be.
But there’s a point up to which you can tolerate how good looking something is. So, inevitably, I got drawn into reading more about the company and why they were like the way they were. Mind you, I had already heard amazing things about the Multistrada and the Panigale had only recently been unveiled. It was too much to resist for me. So, invariably, my perception of Ducati began to change. I was awed by their legacy. Their dedication to innovation and character – even when faced with bankruptcy. Ducati’s sole dedication to charisma makes their bikes what every motorcycle lover wants – a machine with soul.
Everything about the company demands respect. The company’s history of over 80 years, for example, has seen turnarounds that are nothing short of inspirational. From making radios to making motorcycles. One doesn’t get to hear things like that often. And given that a company, a congreggation of people have gone through those very turnarounds over time is proof that the people have developed a legacy. A DNA.
Ducati was bombed to ashes during World War 2 because it was forced to manufacture military equipment. Then onwards, the company turned around and turned a struggle to survive into the legacy of motorcycles. The world saw the tiny Cucciolo – what would otherwise look like a bicycle but had a tiny engine. It didn’t take long after that for the company to produce motorcycles that transformed how they are perceived now. Ducati unleashed the 916 and things changed for the first time. Ever since then, each Ducati has set new standards of quality, performance, looks and passion. Something that gets exemplified with their new Panigale.
For me, my opinion of Ducati changed on an early morning Sunday ride. I was cruising on the highway towards Kolar when I encountered a group of Ducati riders. There were two Ducati monsters and it was the third bike that swept me off my feet; the 848 Evo. These bikes sneaked up on me from behind, overtook me one by one. One of the Monsters passed me by. The grunt and the rear profile was unmistakable. The L-twin was growling and the pass was effortless for the larger bike. The same thing with the second Monster – and mind you, the two Monsters themselves sounded different – even on such a short encounter. When the third bike passed me, I was already in love. I heard the L-twin on the 848 and it was absolute music. It was what every man wants. It was the sound of a real engine. You could hear and feel things move and perform inside it. As if the sound wasn’t enough, the looks came down on me with full fury. The bike was grey. And the stock underseat silver exhausts shone like the back of a rocket with sheer music emanating from them. The tail-lights glowed in the orange early morning sunshine. And the way the bike moved on the shining tarmac, casting a shadow, flying, was something that could put the best symphonies to shame. It was engineering’s victory over art. It was solid proof of the fact that it was possible to engineer art. It was the god of bikes – as if she had decended to show the world how she looked like.
There I was. Smitten. Racing on the tarmac at 140 km/h staring at the 848 fly into the horizon. One fly over and I lost sight of the bike. My brief encounter with the beauty had left me floored. It took me a solid corner to recover back to reality.
When a man wants a machine, it’s either because of two extremes. Of extreme need or for extreme pleasure. I’m privileged enough to belong to the latter breed of men. I want a bike I can change with. I want a bike I can write poetry with. And there can be nothing like owning a bike which is poetry, a song, in itself. These things, however vague, are still unmistakable if you happen to be passionate enough.
Yes, it’s impractical, but who cares? When the heart belongs to Bologna, that’s the thing about a Ducati.

Fall in love.

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17 thoughts on “The Thing about a Ducati

  1. You write extremely well Ashesh! I wish you get a Ducati soon – such wonders you will start writing then 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sakshi. This is just a start. And thanks again, I’m waiting for the first time a Ducati rolls into my garage. With bated breath!

      1. It will do you good Ashesh. Travel, Adventure and Photography peppered with solitude can help anyone with fine sensibilities to attain salvation! Good luck.

  2. Beautiful man..!! Beautiful..Seems both of us share the passion of Motorcycles. i believe you are a Xbhp member, im too, krish2778 is the handle.
    Wonderful write up, it oozes with passion. Wishing you would own one ducati soon.

    Well about the CBR part, i think it was plain marketting strategy about the CBR tag, the CBR tag suits the 150 more for its revvy nature and track oriented character.
    But i love the 250 CBR for its touring ability , its just superb. !

    Cheers
    Ride Safe & Keep writing
    Krishna

    1. Thanks Krishna! I hope you get your dream bike sometime soon too. About the CBR, we’re all entitled to our opinions, aren’t we. For me, Hondas will always fail to appeal unless they come up with something sensational. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, sadly.
      As a biker, I never look at a bike from the angle of practicality. For me, bikes are art and art isn’t meant to suit a certain purpose. Art is free expression. If a bike happens to be practical, well and good. But if a bike is meant to be practical, it fails to appeal to me. That means somewhere, it’s character has been compromised upon and things are put together to please someone. Hondas, especially the CBR250R, suffer from that very ailment.

      1. Indeed, that’s what i mentioned, the CBR tag doesn’t suit the 250, if was a mere marketing gimmick.
        Surely i do agree, passion trumps practicality any day.
        If i had the means to own an Italian beauty , heck i wouldn’t hesitate a moment. Practicality goes out the window.
        Honda’s are too clinical, too merciful, too forgiving. That’s what might make it ‘boring’, you have to learn to have fun with it i guess, its different about the other bikes, don’t you agree ?

        Cheers Mate
        Ride Safe
        Krishna

      2. Well said. I’m much in the same boat. Waiting for things to get affordable and justifiably priced in India or the other way around.
        And I agree 200% about the Hondas. There’s nothing human about their machines – they’re just too clinical, as you said. I don’t know, however, how one can learn to have fun on one, though. Maybe one might want to enjoy the other aspects of biking more – traveling, photography etc. But I don’t see how someone can establish a relationship with the bike unless there’s at least something ‘human’ about it. Something in it that’s alive.

      3. Well we humans are of the diverse kind..what suits one doesnt even come close to others, have heard and seen people swearing about honda’s well, i usppose that shouldnt bother us..we all have our very own dream machines..i too like to have a connection with the ride, which requires an equal effort from the rider…the bond is made then and enjoyment is paramount.!!

      4. And what brings me to ask: which bike do you ride now? You sound like a passionate biker. Going through your profile on xBHP as we speak.

      5. Im riding Pulsar 220F, carb version…completed about 48k on it…still as healthy as a horse.!! :-)…

      6. Ah, nice! How old is the bike? The first few lots of Pulsars were really nice. At 48k kms, I’m quite sure your bike belongs to one of those?

      7. Mine is 2 years old. Got it may 2010.
        Yeah, seems i got a good bike, and moreover i take care of her like a jem..So she treats me likewise..! 😉

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