Biker Dude (2010)
I sold the V50 and the Ballabio first. The V50 because 850T did everything better, and the Ballabio, despite being a better motorcycle than the 850T, lacked it’s character. There is a very active club in the US called the Moto Guzzi National Owner’s Club, MGNOC, and they have been having annual drive in rallies in various locations for over 25 years now. They also have a monthly newsletter, so I joined up for my year of the Moto Guzzi. The yearly rally was to be held in LA in June, at Leo Carillo State Park in Malibu. How could I resist? It’s about 400 miles from home, and would give me a chance to ride highway 1 down through Big Sur on the California Coast, an epic ride that I have never done. Before I sold the V50 I pirated from it the German made hard luggage it came with. Minor modification fitted it to the 850, and I found a way to get enough stuff strapped to the bike to make the trip. Most of it was camping gear, but I managed a mandolin as well.
While 400 miles could easily be done as a one day ride, I decided to make it two days as there is a campground halfway called Kirk Creek that I had a wonderful night at a few years ago, and thought to relive it. So I set out on June 21 for the June 22 start of the 3 day event, and got to Carmel, the jump off point for the Coast Highway, and learned that the road was closed due to forest fires on the route. Spending the night in Carmel, and hoping for an open highway come morning proved to be in vain, so I detoured and used Highway 101. So close! The fires turned out to be a major event in California history, and the roads remained closed for much longer than my trip lasted, so it was 101 both ways.
The 850T made the trip beautifully, but it was not at that point the bike closest to my heart. But it would have seemed inappropriate to ride a Ducati to the MGNOC event. The previous winter I had picked up my first Ducati after a 30 year hiatus from the brand. It was done a my wife’s suggestion, though she denies this, of course.
The way I remember it, My wife and daughter and I were sitting on the couch about to watch our regular evening video when my wife commented that I ought to get a smaller motorcycle. Hmmm, said I. Yes, she said, the one you are riding looks too big for you, said she, adding that several times lately she and my daughter had noticed a certain motorcycle that looked just right to them. “And do you remember what kind it was?”, she asked my daughter, who replied; “Yes Mom, it was a Ducati”. That’s it, my wife made me do it!
The modern Ducati is marketed as a no holds barred sport bike, and I have been frankly intimidated by them. A sure ticket to an earlier death for an old guy with marginal reflexes. But not all Ducatis are the same program, and in addition to pure sport bikes there are retro sport bikes which are slower, though still faster than virtually any car, and there are touring bikes, so called, which are capable of carrying luggage and a passenger, and allow a riding posture which, while tilted forward somewhat, is not quite a full racing crouch.
The ST2 is such a bike. That’s Sport Touring, 2 valves per cylinder. There are also ST3 and ST4 models which are much the same bike but with more sophisticated engines, and the ST2 was earlier in history, though there is overlap. My first ST2 was yellow, and had 54,000 miles on the clock, quite a few for a motorcycle made in 1998. But it ran perfectly and had full maintenance records and included a set of hard luggage fitted and color matched to the bike. I knew I would buy it 100 yards into the test ride. Ducatis are well known for their unique sound track, being ¼ of a V8 as they are, but the integration of the entire riding experience is what was unavoidably obvious to me; so seductive!
After the MGNOC rally I kept both the 850T and the ST2 in the garage for the rest of the summer. Keeping the Guzzi was mostly nostalia, 95% of my riding was on the Ducati. The high mileage worried me though the local Ducati dealer’s chief mechanic assured me that if such a bike was trouble free to 50k, they generally made it to 90k with out major issues. In my ongoing perusal of CraigsList I have never seen a Ducati with higher miles that mine, so I have to take this bold assertion with a grain of salt. So I kept an eye out for a low miles ST2 with crash damage from which I might extract an engine. And then one morning, there it is!