Putting The 999 Through Her Gears
Selling your only four-wheeled transportation in upstate New York for a 2005 Ducati 999? It makes sense to the moto-obsessed - at least until winter hits!
It's a fact of life that we human beings like to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and there is no shortage of cliches that only further illustrate this fact: Birds of a feather stick together, misery loves company, my friends down at the bar and so on. I'm no exception to this rule and often spend my time surrounded by individuals every bit as moto obsessed and irresponsible as yours truly. And why not? It's always refreshing to know that there's someone else out there in no position to judge. So you could imagine my reaction when my buddy Lucas called a few weeks ago to tell me that he had sold his Subaru WRX (his former pride and joy and only source of daily transportation when last I checked) on account of a 2005 Ducati 999 that managed to seduce him as only a Ducati can.
"What happened to your DR650?" I asked.
"Still have that too," Lucas replied.
"Well congratulations my friend."
"For proving that if they ever come up with a name for my condition, I won't go down as the only recorded case in medical history."
We laughed and before the headers could fully cool down on his new Duc, I was on the scene for the full walk-around. Indeed Lucas had found himself a beautiful specimen with low miles on the clock and not a single scratch to be found anywhere on its lush red exterior. The prior owner, it turns out, was more of a collector than a rider and purchased the 999 for its status-symbol prowess over its sheer performance potential. As such the bike spent a majority of its post assembly-line life in a heated garage rather than at a racetrack. All the better for Lucas I say.
Keeping up with a Ducati 999 on the backroads with a dual-sport DR650 isn't an easy task. Just ask our rambling man.
After a brief but medically thorough examination (the likes of which could have made even a Ducati blush were it not for its naturally red demeanor) the true test would begin on the backroads just four miles outside of town. Since I am forming a bit of a policy on the practice of test riding someone else's repli-racer on its inaugural break in with a new steward, I cordially declined my friend's offer to "put her through the gears" as he so eloquently put it. Thankfully the engineers at Ducati saved us from any additional awkward moments that so often come from the pressure of riding passenger on such a bike by not including such amenities as, say, a seat or second set of foot pegs for example. Not that I'm complaining either, aside from the fact that two up touring contradicts the purpose-driven profile of the bike (you don't see too many Ferrari's with back seats for this same reason), there's something morally askew about the sight of two males bent up like pretzels while straddling an exotic piece of Italian race machinery.
Naturally I offered to ride in tow as the chase vehicle on my buddy's trusty Suzuki DR650. I thought ahead enough to bring my helmet cam and figured Lucas might enjoy watching the footage of his debut jaunt later from the comfort of his computer desk. Of course, my first mistake was imagining that I could keep the Duc within the camera's limited forward range on board a machine with a 349cc disadvantage, one less cylinder, a lack of a radiator, and handling that was quite clearly designed for an entirely different purpose. With tall-skinny dual-sport Dunlops beneath me, I had to enter the twisties pretty darn straight, elbows out, knees tucked in, flick the back end, then rely on the big single's linear power to pull me on out. Lucas however had quite a different strategy that went something like this: Knee hanging way out, weight on the front tire, lean impossibly over with complete trust in those sticky street tires, then simply roll the throttle on and ooze out of the apex... And then out of sight.
It's hard to keep up with a bike and rider that can take the turns like this out on the open road. Not that our helmet cam-equipped rambling man didn't try.
In effort to keep track of my target, I wobbled and drifted, tried to take the inside then nearly went so wide that I was collecting roadside vegetation with the side view mirrors. There's a reason you don't see too many DR650s on the starting line of the MotoGP I concluded when Lucas appeared on the horizon a mere dot not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence.
When the test ride came to a very anticlimactic finish just a few moments before a perfectly calm evening in early June, I dismounted the big dual-sport and dashed to my car in effort to review the footage that I had captured. Turns out the camera filmed it very much like I remembered it with the new Ducati quickly roaring from sight and me doing my best to earn a place on America's Funniest Home Videos. Sure the footage was utterly useless to Lucas but I learned that I swear a lot when I ride.
When asked what he planned to do when winter came, Lucas did exactly what I would have in the situation: He shrugged and said he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it. For now summer's just beginning and he plans to spend the lion's share of it crouched down behind a pair of clip-ons with the purr of nearly 1000ccs of finely tuned Italian racing heritage filling his ears.
I don't know about you, but all of this sounds perfectly logical to me. Maybe that's why I was the first person he called.