Decision made. Buy a motorcycle. But what motorcycle? New or second-hand? Get something smaller until I get back in the groove, then trade up? Or dive straight in, somewhere along the spectrum from utility to insanity?
If you’ve done this, you’ve been here. First, the logical bit: Asked yourself the questions, What will I use it for? What can I afford to spend? What can I afford on running costs? You’ll have scoured the press, read huge numbers of road tests, shorlisted, re-shortlisted, hung around showrooms, analysing to the nth degree exactly what you needed. And then, I hope, ignored it.
That’s the important bit — ignoring the rational analysis. There’s but a single question to ask yourself: Why? Why am I really buying a motorcycle?
That’s the only one you need answer — once that’s sorted, everything else just follows.
So what’s my own answer? Simple: Because I want one. Why? I want to have fun. Do I need one? Emphatically not — I’ve a decent car for lugging myself luggage, partner and friends around Europe and an embarrassing surfeit of fetish-quality bicycles for getting around in a little cloud of environmental smugness, exploring on and falling into the scenery from. OK, so what do I value in a machine? Turns out that, while my personal philosophy includes handling, torque, form, function, compactness and lack of superfluous lumps, my overriding motivation is for a machine that combines these with the maximum dose of style and inspiration.
What does that leave? Springing to mind are Triumph’s T955 and Sprint ST; Honda’s VFR800 or Firestorm; the BMW R1100S, Kawasaki ZX-7 or ZX-9; the Yamaha R1. Several others too, but that’s a good start.
Now for some thinking and trying. Firstly, NOT the R1: Brilliant, but insane (the rider, not the machine). Not the VFR: brilliant but just a touch boring to look at (although I do love V4 engines). The Firestorm likewise. That’s the problem with many of the Japanese machines — their design priorities are a different compromise between the inspiration, form and function that makes a great motorcycle a true object of desire. The Kawasaki’s come close — I’ve always liked them. The BMW is interesting, fun and quirky, but it is a BMW, and I’ve got something with those initials already. Triumph: Now there’s a thought — a couple of thoroughly competent and characterful machines. Seems like a decent shortlist.
If however you’ve read my initial ramblings, you’ll already know exactly where the decision is heading — and it’s to none of the above. Look instead to Italy, specifically to the Borgo Panigale factory in Bologna, where for the last half century, packs of crazed Italians have been throwing together some of the most desirable, focussed, stylish and unreliable motor vehicles ever produced — Ducatis. There goes practicality.
They claim they’ve changed — they’re American owned now and even produce a couple of tourers nowadays (an oxymoron if ever there was). Ignore ’em for the moment and look to what they’ve always done best — purebred sports bikes.
This is of course entirely unfair on the both the Monster range and the excellent ST2 and ST4. This isn’t however about fairness, it’s about why I bought the bike I did. To be fairly unfair (or unfairly fair) however, let it be known that I did very seriously consider the Sports Tourer option, the ST4 — upright, wide bars, comfortable seat, decent fairing. Back to that practicality thing again (or as close as anything Italian ever gets).
So it’s going to be a Ducati. But how? And am I really, really sure about this?