Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bikes I'd Like To Ride: Ducati Sport 1000S

There’s a Ducati in my past, a gorgeous Darmah SS that I remember as having the best engine and the worst ergonomics of any bike I ever owned. It came with clip-ons that bent my wrists at an angle the human wrist was not designed to achieve much less sustain, and the rearset footpegs were high enough to leave heel prints on my hip pockets.

The engine was a work of mechanical art, full of whirring gears and fiddly little shims. I wouldn’t have sworn there were springs in the fork, the ride was so harsh, and the rear shocks seemed designed to work only on Jupiter; Earth’s puny gravity couldn’t compress them noticeably, even two-up.

Like any dopey kid with a new, fast motorcycle, I trashed the stock air box and replaced it with a pair of K&Ns. The bike rewarded me for this kindness by refusing to idle smoothly for as long as I owned it.

But oh, when it ran, it ran like the hounds of hell were after it, and bellowed fit to make the small hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And that was with the stock mufflers. With Contis, it was like porn for your ears.

I’ll forever associate that bike with Marin County’s infamous Sunday Morning Ride, on which I nearly met my end when, cresting a blind rise an imprudent speed, I forgot whether the road on the other side went left, right, or straight. I gambled on right, and the Duc and I lived to ride another day.

The Sport 1000S is the closest thing Ducati makes to that old Darmah, and the one that tugs the hardest at my heartstrings. Claimed horsepower is about 30 more than the Darmah put out on its best day, and fuel injection means never having to fuss with a set of sullen Dell’Ortos. There are still those desmodromic valves to fiddle with if you’re so inclined. I’ve done it, and I’m not inclined to do it ever again.

So why would I like to ride a Sport 1000S? Because it reminds me of my Darmah SS. Which reminds me I was younger and dumber once. Which reminds me that being older and smarter isn't such a bad thing.

And just look at it, for crying out loud. How the hell could you call yourself a motorcyclist and not want to ride it?
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