(Top) Riding across The Alps at the controls of a ’11 Honda VFR1200F during the Dainese Italian Legendary Tour. (Bottom) Ripping around the streets of Italy with four-time World Superbike champ Carl Fogarty.
On Thursday we hit the road from Dainese and AGV’s headquarters in Vicenza, Italy heading west in an effort to arrive at the city of Boario Terme by nightfall. I was under the impression that we’d be able to select the motorcycle but instead they were assigned. Fortunately I got a good pick, a ’11 Honda VFR1200F with the optional DCT fully automated transmission. (Read the full review in the 2010 Honda VFR1200F DCT First Ride).
Having not ridden this bike in over a year it took me a minute to figure out how to get rolling forward (instead of clutch and gear shift levers there are buttons and a parking brake) but once I did I quickly recalled why I like this bike so much. During the course of bike riding missions I’m always fiddling with my camera and/or GoPro in order to make the excellent videos that we do. So it’s nice to be able to ride with my left-hand free all-the-time and let the bike worry about the whole shifting gears process. It actually takes a bit of time to remember that there is no clutch or gear shift levers to work through but once you put faith into the machine you’ll find that it works 100% perfectly. Cheers to Honda for being the first to market with this type of innovative system.
Dainese outfitted us with its latest version of its all-weather textile riding gear as well as its Thorax Wave Pro back and chest protector. Having never worn back and/or chest protection on street rides I was a skeptical and didn’t want to wear it but I ended up giving it a shot anyways. It’s a two-piece system that straps together nicely with adjustable tension so you can customize the fit. Although it felt a bit awkward at first after an hour or so of riding I started to really dig the way it felt. It was also nice to know that I had an elevated level of protection in case I did have an accident (knock on wood). The rest of the riding kit including the pant, jacket, boots and gloves all fit properly and as always I’m really impressed by just how well Dainese gear fits my physique.
The pace of our ride started off pretty slow which was a bit of a surprise because usually these big structured industry rides in Europe happen at a more brisk pace as compared to America. After about an hour we pulled up at the Pasubio Memorial. It’s a sanctuary and a tribute to the thousands of people that died here during World War I when Italy and Germany were at war. The bones of many of those bodies are actually inside the walls of the building. Old cannons and other pieces of memorabilia line the hill top and if you looked across the mountain you could actually see bunker locations.
Back on the road we began to finally hit some good twisties. Considering how tight and twisty many of the roads are here speeds are relatively low (around 40-60 mph) but still way fun. So there I am riding around and some maniac on a Ducati Hypermotard comes roaring by me. Not one to want to get passed like that I mash the throttle and catch up to this mystery rider. For the next few kilometers we pass each other back and forth.
We pull up at a stop light and low and behold it’s Carl Fogarty… yes, the four-time World Superbike champ and I’m tearing it up on the streets of Italy! Now that I know it’s him I’m trying to do my best to show off but since I’m at the controls of the VFR I can’t do a whole lot of hooligan tricks (you can only wheelie in first gear, no rolling burnouts, sliding, backing it in, or endos, courtesy the ABS and front/rear linked brake system.) Even still he’s impressed (at least I think) with me doing my short stand up wheelies and hauling ass around corners.
Given the number of riders in this year’s tour (over 50) there are multiple groups of riders. We were specifically instructed not to pass our group leader but considering how slow we were going and the fact that Fogarty just took off I felt compelled to follow so now we’re both hauling down some crazy dangerous narrow backroad dodging shoebox-sized Fiat cars and having a total blast.
In the afternoon we had arrived at Lake Garda Italy’s largest lake. Excellent photo and vantage points are everywhere around the entire perimeter of the lake. The roads here are pretty spectacular too. Nothing too fast but an never ending onslaught of corners that keep things plenty exciting. That’s it for Day 2 stay tuned for our Friday report when we ride through Lake Como with 15-time World Champ, Giacomo Agostini.