How it began: The birth of an infatuation - my intro to the trials and tribulations of Ducati ownership
This is a slightly modified version of a story I sent to the Ducati International Owners Club (DIOC) the winter after I bought my first Ducati. For a shorter version of what I thought about my 907, click here to see the Owner's Survey I sent to the DIOC.
I saw a Ducati Paso (a blue one) up close for the first time in the fall of 1988, at the Daytona Race of Champions. I had mixed reactions to it; I liked the idea that a bike that color and style existed, but it wasn't for me. However, during the race weekend, I became very intrigued with Ducati's F1. Having gotten an engineering degree that spring, I was planning on buying a bike when I found a job, most likely a used VFR. The F1s I saw at the track changed all that. By the time we left, the Honda was my second choice.
Jump ahead about a year. I've become infatuated with Ducatis, but still haven't found a job. One fall day I decided to take a drive to a bike dealer just to waste some time, and found they had a red 750 Paso in stock. The image of the blue one has stuck around in the back of my mind, and for whatever reason I've changed my opinion on it. I decide then and there that I'll own a Ducati sometime soon. I'd buy one now, but my bicycle mechanic's pay just isn't going to do it. I stepped the job search up a notch or two.
Spring of '90: I've read everything I can find on the F1 and Paso, and have decided on a Paso. As luck would have it, the shop I had visited before is taking one in on trade. Add to that a guy who stopped by work on his F1. (I'm sure he revved it up as he left just to drive me nuts.) Forget waiting for a new job, I put money down on the Paso. Everything's arranged. I'm doing it! But wait, problems abound, the deal falls through. Life sucks. No real job, no Ducati; I went to college for this?
September of '90 and I've finally stumbled onto a job. I look at a 906 but am tempted by tales of an all new Paso. The week of Thanksgiving I step up to the plate and put a deposit down on a 907ie, sight unseen. I had just committed more money than ever before on a bike I had never even seen in the flesh, let alone ridden, on the basis of what the dealer has told me and a crappy faxed picture to show what it's going to look like. What the heck, you're only young once, right? I'm living in Indiana now, the shop I bought the bike from is in Minnesota, and there are a few delays before I finally make the trek to get the bike, six months after putting down the deposit.
On the day I'm supposed to pick it up, I call to make sure it's ready. I'm told that the salesman I was dealing with is out to lunch, and they have no 907's in stock. Excuse me? Then the guy adds that they do have two in back, but they're sold. Twenty long minutes later a second phone call confirms one of them is mine. It's raining and cold outside, but I've waited long enough. "Borrowing" my dad's raincoat (hey, it was red and fit over my leather jacket), I'm off to pick it up.
Sitting in the dealership doing the paperwork, I can't really believe it's finally happening. Then, back to the shop for an introduction to my first motorcycle. When the garage door opens, I look out and wonder about the rationale behind a rookie (well, I had taken an MSF course, also in the rain) heading out in the rain on a brand new Ducati. But there I was, helmet on, engine running, pointed towards the door. It had taken two years, but I finally owned a Ducati. Click into first, and I'm off.
The bike seems bigger than I had remembered and I'm a little thrown by not seeing anything turn when I move the bars, but I've avoided any seriously embarrassing miscues. The rain's not coming down too hard, I'm almost home. Half a block from my destination I cross an intersection and the front end hits a hole which is hidden underwater. Nothing major, just a jolt to get my attention. As much as I wanted to, I didn't ride it much more that day due to the weather.
It was nicer out the next morning, so off I went. Heading down a side street, I happened to see a friend I hadn't met up with in a few years. I turned into his driveway and then in a moment of colossal brain fade, committed a big mistake while attempting to do a U-turn. A mistake I had been warned about in the MSF class. Thinking I was getting too close to his car, I stopped with the bike leaned over. I knew it was the wrong thing to do the instant the bike stopped rolling and, against my best efforts, promptly fell onto it's left side. (Can I blame it on the sidestand when I don't feel like owning up to it?) I'll never forget the sound it made when it hit the asphalt, or how it looked laying there. I felt stupid right away; the pain from my bruised palm took longer to register. My friend, who was probably thinking "Who is this Bozo?", was quite sympathetic. We righted the bike and surveyed the damage. I was surprised it was so minimal. The mirror's fairing took the worst of it, but the turn signal lens was unharmed. The clutch lever was a little tweaked, and there were a couple small scratches on the main fairing's bolt-on air collector and on the pipe. Someone up there must have sympathy for klutzes on Italian bikes; the tank was untouched. My friend tried to make me feel better by telling me the story of when he dropped his new BMW on his dad's freshly painted Jaguar, but it didn't do much for my state of mind. I rode home, put the Duc in the garage, and went back to bed.
The next day I taped up the mirror's fairing with red duct tape (Duck tape?) which matched the color much better then could be expected. I tried to convince myself, unsuccessfully, that the tape made it look like a race bike. If nothing else, it now had that "lived in" look. Most people didn't seem to notice the damage, but even so, I didn't feel any better. Then, later that day I was showing it to my mom and I noticed something on the front wheel. The pothole excursion had left a slight ding in the rim. Now I was really bummed. The tire had lost no air, and I never noticed it while riding, but it was definitely there. My first few days of Ducati ownership were not turning out like I had imagined they would.
As the weather got warmer I noticed a miss while running at low RPM and a steady throttle. Depression led to frustration as I got what I thought was the run-around (the original dealer's "no, it doesn't come with European chip, but we'd be happy to SELL you one." Oh really, so every other dealer, and a Cagiva rep himself, is lying to me?) It eventually turned out to be an easy fix, but then I had to wait a couple weeks to get a leaking gas tank fixed. Though the problems I had seem minor now, at one point I was considering selling it. I finally decided to settle down, quit whining, and ride the dang thing. It's amazing how much better things seem after an early morning ride down some winding, hilly roads. Now if I could just scrape up the money for a Corbin seat and some Ferracci tidbits. (As if I need them. I may no longer be the slowest Ducati rider on Earth, but I'd be lucky to have broken out of the bottom ten...)
As the riding season nears, I'm finishing up repairing the scars of my past mistakes. All except for the air collector, that is. A small reminder might be helpful, and besides, I'm a little superstitious about scratch-free bikes. I only hope things start out better this year than last.