Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sono Un Ducatisti!

Ciao amici! Recently, I achieved a personal goal of mine—I acquired a new Ducati motorcycle. I’ve wanted one of these bikes since 2002, when I visited the Ducati factory in Bologna, Italy, and watched the Italian workers assemble them. If you’re not familiar with motorcycling, Ducati is certainly one of THE bikes to own. Why? Well, it is an exotic Italian motorcycle, and certainly more rare than any Japanese-made bike. Also, Ducati’s history is legendary. They are responsible for creating soulful, fast, beautiful bikes, and for infusing the world of motorcycle racing with huge passion and excitement, as only Italians can do.

To be a Ducati owner, or, a “Ducatisti”, is something that many motorcyclists desire. And once you get one, you just instinctually understand why: You are riding not just a motorcycle, but also a piece of history. The bike just exudes Italian timelessness, flair and soul, and you can really feel it as the sounds and movements beneath you defy anything you may have previously experienced. It is breathtakingly fast. It is beautiful to behold. It has an exhaust note that is raw and throaty. Really special. When you’re riding it, you get the distinct feeling that this is a hand built bike, and furthermore, that everything you feel and see in the bike has been slowly and passionately created, honed and fine-tuned, not just on engineering paper, but in garages of yesteryear, by crazy Italians, cigarettes dangling from their bottom lips, trying to figure out how to make the fastest bikes.

The Ducati model I chose is the 2007 Monster S2R 1000 [shown]. It is considered a “naked” bike, meaning, it isn’t wrapped in coverings and panels and fairings like most Japanese supersport bikes. Ducati is credited with inventing the naked bike in the early 1990s, when they dreamed up the original concept. The Monster is a tough motorcycle, often categorized as a “streetfighter”. Yes, that word may be a bit much, but that’s actually the feeling you get when you ride it. You feel as if you could outrun any vehicle on the road, leaving them in the smoke of your rear tire, and actually, you can do just that because of the insanely intense acceleration and top speed capabilities of the bike. And speaking of acceleration, this bike will pull your arms out of their sockets if you twist the throttle enough, and you can expect the front wheel to loft off the ground in doing so. The torque is just stunning. Let’s just say that the good folks in the Borgo Panigale region of Bologna chose the correct name for this motorcycle.

As the model name implies, the S2R 1000 Monster is 1000 cubic centimeters in displacement. It has an air-cooled “L” twin engine--the cylinder heads set 90 degrees apart. Many consider this bike to be the ultimate Ducati, even though the company manufactures more powerful bikes. Why? Because Ducati’s heritage—and what made them famous—is the torque-intensive air-cooled twin engine. So simple, yet so potent. What does “torque” mean? Well, many bikes tend to spin up to their power “sweet spot” comparatively more slowly than others; that is, the power doesn’t really come on until you get closer to the RPM red-line, often at 9,000 or 10,000 RPM (engine Revolutions Per Minute). This means that they tend to be civil at low RPMs. The Monster, on the other hand, reaches its sweet spot at around 6,000 RPM, which means that even at lower RPMs, all the way up to its red-line, the bike has crushing accleration. And that is why Ducati motorcycles are some of the most exciting and awe-inspiring bikes made. Some even say that this particular Ducati, the Monster S2R 1000, is THE best Ducati ever. That’s really saying something, since the company builds bikes upwards of $85,000 in price, such as the Desmosedici RR MotoGP replica bike.

As I alluded to earlier, one of the great things about Ducati is the history and heritage of the company. In my opinion, there are few other motorcycle companies that match Ducati’s glittering history. And that is what makes owning a Ducati that much more special for me. Also, motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike really appreciate the bike too, even if they're not sure what it is. They know that it must be exotic, with such an intriguing, Italian-sounding name and that rosso red paint. Yes, there's no doubt, it attracts a lot of attention, like it or love it. In this last photo [above, right] taken one evening by one of the many paparazzi who follow me around, you can see me strolling to my bike amongst the stunned, gape-mouthed passersby, whom, I must add, I always greet warmly.

So my friends, if you get the chance, visit the Ducati website and take in the glory that is Ducati. There you can see the Monster bikes, as well as all of the other Ducati models. There is also lots about Ducati's worldwide racing efforts, which are quite vast. Finally, in the Heritage section, you can see great old photographs of the earliest Ducatis, as well as photos of the earliest days of motorcycle building and racing, when everything was so new and exciting…and dangerous. Bravo, Ducati! Grazie mille per tutto!

Thank you once again for reading Blogiorno. Ciao, a presto!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Io presento Valentino Rossi!

Hello my dear friends! As you lay awake at night pondering the meaning many things, so...very...many...things, one question you must surely have is this: Who is the best motorcycle racer in the world as we know it? Fortunately, Blogiorno has the answer to this particular question, though few other answers to much of anything else. From a small town in Italy called Urbino, located near the Adriatic coast, comes World Champion Valentino Rossi. Valentino Rossi is an Italian professional motorcycle racer, and he is one of the most successful racers of all time, with 7 Grand Prix World Championships to his name. There is another racer with more than 7...that is the great Giacomo Agostini, also of Italy, who has 15 GP World Championships!

Rossi rides in MotoGP. MotoGP is a worldwide series that takes place on almost every continent in the world, with rounds in China, Turkey, Spain, Australia, Germany, Japan, Italy and several other countries, including the U.S. Simply put, MotoGP is the pinnacle of two-wheeled track racing. Every racer aspires to be in MotoGP.

Thankfully, only an hour and a half north of my villa in San Luis Obispo, California, a round of MotoGP takes place: the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. I have attended this international event twice to watch "The Doctor"--Valentino's nickname--compete. [See photo, right.] What an event. Alas, Valentino has not been able to win in the U.S. yet. Why? Is it a major flaw in his 200+ MPH, 220 horsepower Yamaha M1 motorcycle? No. Is it jet lag? No. Is it Pamela Anderson--who attends, along with many other "stars"--distracting him by shamelessly trying to hurl herself at him from the pits? No. It is the crummy Michelin tires that the Yamaha team is contractually bound to use; they are just not up to the task. THANK YOU FRANCE. Hopefully a U.S. victory will come in the future for Valentino.

So, cara amici, Valentino Rossi is considered to be the greatest motorcycle racer of our modern age. He is not particularly imposing, but when he gets on the bike, no one can touch him, equipment being equal, which it never is. It is said that Valentino races lines like no other racer, and that his heartrate is astonishingly low when he rides, barely breaking 100 beats per minute.

Currently, Valentino lives in London, England, simply because he is mobbed in Italy almost immediately and cannot walk down the street. Such is the love the Italians have for their humble son. But make no mistake about it, though quite humble in demeanor, he is a superstar. On a worldwide scale, he is much better known than any American athlete, with perhaps only Tiger Woods rivaling him. His success has also earned him tremendous riches: According to Sports Illustrated, Rossi is the 7th highest earning sports personality in the world, 2nd outside the United States, earning an estimated $30 million a year, not including endorsements. Mamma mia!

Grazie mille for reading...until next time!