Yesterday, Reuters reported that VW/Audi has agreed to purchase Ducati from InvestIndustrial—an Italian investment company—for $1.12 billion. Many are speculating that it might be a trophy purchase for VW chairman / Ducati rider Ferdinand Piech, and we’re inclined to agree. Piech has in the past expressed regret over not purchasing Ducati back in 1985, and after watching him build the Veyron and buy Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche, it’s no wonder he wants Ducati too.
Today, as we were researching the purchase (which can be read about here, here, and here), we were sent into rapture by a story we read on our favorite Ducati forum. It’s by a member named JEC, and goes into great detail about what it’s like to be completely smitten with an object you’ve wanted for a decade, the pleasure of aimless rides, and the rewards of using a bike way beyond what it was designed to do. We read his story from start to finish, and it captures the feeling of owning and using an exotic motorcycle as well as any piece of writing we’ve ever come across.
Here’s are a few passages:
When I began riding Ducatis were the pinnacle for me. They weren’t at the top of the game like they are today. They were still the weird choice, the oddball bikes for riders who craved something distinctive and soulful in a sea of dull cookie-cutter mass-produced sportbikes. They were exotic, beautiful, and always different. Among die-hard Japanese sport bikers, they were idiotic machines that were fragile and expensive to maintain. If you wanted one, like I did, you had something wrong with your priorities. Who would pay so much money for an unreliable, high maintenance, slow bike? That’s what I heard time and time again from my compatriots. When I finally did buy the 916 I was ridiculed and put down for my irrational choice. So I stopped hanging around that crowd.
Today the general attitude has changed a lot. Ducati went from being a boutique brand to a small powerhouse that produces world-beating machines that are far more affordable than they were back in the 90s. Brand awareness is far higher than it used to be, and desire for the product has gone up to match. Their latest superbikes can and will go toe-to-toe with the latest four cylinder rockets. They’ve improved quality and reliability immensely, to the point where a Ducati is no longer any more difficult or expensive to run than anything else on the road.
In other words, they got boring.
There is something particular about these early desmoquattros that makes them incredibly endearing. It’s not polish – it’s the exact opposite. They are rough. Raw. Visceral. They feel like a barely contained fury that requires – demands – your full attention at all times. They are not easy bikes to ride. I find most modern sportbikes are point-and-squirt machines. They insulate the rider from the road, doing most of the work for him or her. They handle, accelerate and brake effortlessly. When they bite back, they do it suddenly and violently, usually after you have unwittingly exceeded a certain threshold. The 916 is not like that. It speaks to you and progressively communicates the limits. But you have to work with the bike to get the best out of it.
Most riders probably won’t appreciate this. In fact it can be tiring, if you start to get lazy and stop focussing on the precision of your inputs it tends to punish you with rough response. The handling is slow and stable, which means it is absolutely planted but if you don’t make firm inputs it tends to under steer and run wide. The power band is not as broad as you would expect and you have to keep it on the boil to keep the motor happy – she does not like being lugged in a high gear. The brakes are wooden at the front, nonexistent at the rear, and you need to be firm with the lever to get them to work properly. All of this translates to a rather old-fashioned experience. This is not a modern machine. It requires effort to ride properly, and if you aren’t committed you won’t have fun.
To the uninitiated this all probably sounds like damning stuff. How did such a machine become so legendary? Well, it’s only part of the story. All of those rough qualities are what makes the 916 so entertaining to ride. You feel connected to the machine in a way that is becoming less common in this age of electronic doohickery, with ABS, traction control, and stability programs getting integrated into our ever-faster machines. The 916 is a pure experience, one that isn’t dulled by any assistance. It also give remarkable feedback to the rider, something that is hard to describe and even harder to find in other machines. There is some perfect combination of chassis flex and suspension function that translates the grip and action of the wheels directly to the rider. You just know what the bike is doing at all time. You can feel what is happening under the wheels, with gentle sensations being channelled up into the palms of your hands and the seat of your pants. If I were to summarize the uniqueness of the 916 in one quality, it would be that sensation of feedback. Everything else feels numb in comparison.
Read the rest on ducati.ms