Friday, 31 August 2012

8 gears, 14,000 rpm, just 20 horses - Ducati 125

I've just finished translating from the Italian a fascinating interview with Franco Farné that will be in the almost finished Issue Five, and it's amazing to read of some of the projects he and Taglioni worked on, in vain. This four cylinder 125 was built to compete with the Hondas but it didn't. It was packed off to Russia, broken up, and turned up in Estonia (motor) and frame (Yugoslavia) many years later.Nice pics by Phil Aynsley, see more here

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Italian Car and Bike Day, Kent - this Sunday 2nd September - we'll be there

Slightly against my better judgement considering it pissed down with rain for a lot of the day last year
I've decided to go and do my stall and promote the mag again at the Italian Car and Bike Day, Honington, Kent - this Sunday 2nd September, from 9am onwards. All profits are for the Kent Air Ambulance so I reckon that's as good a reason as any to get my arse out of bed at 6am, and it's a bonus if I sell any mags and chat to some interesting like-minded people. PLus I haven't really been oput and about this year so a day out will be good. In past years the show has been great and worth the effort - the forecast is dry too!

I think I'll bring down my old Guzzi Stornello Scrambler and Gilera 150 to decorate the stall with, the S3's just too heavy nowadays. Come down if you're in the area and say hello - sadly Issue Five won't be printed up yet but I'll have all other back issues with me.

All details, times, directions here:

Photos from past events here:

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Taking care of business Italian style

I still sometimes can't understand how some Italians do (or don't do) business. It makes you wonder how sometimes stuff like new Ferraris, Moto Guzzis, Gaggia coffee machines, Ducatis or any type of pasta actually gets made and exported. I'm pretty experienced in buying stuff in and out of Italy, and speak the language fluently. I've lived there so know how it works, most of the time, but even I'm taken aback occasionally.

I recently saw a Guzzi Lodola of little value and of need of restoration on an Italian website for sale, and was interested in possibly buying it. The photo (above) was dark and of crap quality. I emailed and asked if politely if it would be possible to see more photos of the bike in question as the single photo was dark and of poor quality. The email conversation went like this:

Me: "Hello, I am interested in the bike for sale. Do you please have any more photos of the bike you could send me?

Him: "The photo I have put up is of a bike identical to the one I'm selling. You can come and see it if you're interested."

Me: "Thanks but I'm in the UK, though I do have friends and relatives in Italy to sort things out in case I buy the bike (me trying to be reassuring). Do you have some photos of the actual bike you are selling?"

Him: "There's that photo and that's all. The bike I'm selling is all covered up to protect it. It takes time to do all that, and so then if you don't buy the bike, I'll have wasted a lot of time. The bike is identical to the one in the photo".

Me: "Fine, thanks, forget it."

Him: "If you want to see it you can send one of your relatives to Bologna to see it."

I didn't reply, but was wondering to myself -  if I send someone to Bologna to view the bike, would he not have to open it up all the same? And does he really think that someone will buy a bike based on looking at a murky photo of a similar bike?

Unbelievable logic...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Not just Italians

Though my own real passion is for Italian bikes, I do of course like plenty of other types of motorcycles too, and am lucky enough to ride a varied selection for my day job.

This is the oldest motorcycle I've ever swung a leg over - a 1912 Triumph 3.5hp 'free wheel' 500cc model. I had the pleasure of riding it recently and am presently writing up the words. What an experience - you have to re-think everything you knew about riding bikes, though of course the principle is the same. Just learning the levers is a test for the mind.

How about foot-operated advance and retard, no gears, decorative brake, primitive foot clutch on the right that allows you to keep the motor running if you stop, and the requirement to quickly find the ability to find a sweet running spot for the motor with air and fuel levers?

Fantastic. Thanks again Dorian...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

You'll take my life but I'll take yours too

I've been listening to a lot of Iron Maiden recently on YouTube - I don't know why because I didn't really like them back in '82/'83 because I was into punk, and it was uncool to like 'metal'.  These two are classics though...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Maybe Italian motorcycle electrics ARE shit..

My friend Adam came over last Friday to stay over for a few beers as my family have been in Italy and it's a rare occassion for us to both be able to meet with no commitmenets for a few hours. He turned up moaning about how he'd broken down again on his crappy Guzzi Le Mans, and this time it had been serious, with smoke and small flames consuming some of his wiring. Of course I just laughed (well, you do at your fellow bike-riding mates don't you?), though having been in the same situation myself (flaming wiring loom), knew that it's a bit worrying especially with a big fuel tank waiting to blow.

The beers (Vale Wychert - a fine ale) were consumed in the evening, but next morning we had to sort out his bike so he could get home again. The wiring from the start switch (which also includes a kill switch) had completely welded themselves together. Why? Isn't it odd that after more than 30 years of existence, this wiring just said 'fuck it, I'm going to burn', and it did. Adam had a spare at home, but he had to get home first, so we cleaned, bodged and did a neat little wiring job to plug the switchgear in. Sadly, at he last moment, the two wires going into the switch block decided they too wanted to self-destruct, and they just came out. And could we find how they went back in? No. We tried for an hour, the two of us, with all the tools necessary available to us, but we failed. Gave up. The little, stupid, simple, Italian lego-bright switch defeated us. It sat there laughing at us in all its colour and glory.
So he couldn't start the bike from the switch. Instead we rigged up an insulated wire, cable tied it to his mirror, and off he went. Our plans to go out for a ride together were spoiled as we'd spent all morning trying to fix his bike instead. 

Come to think of it, every time I see him we end up fixing (or not as it seems) HIS bike...

Whenever non-Italian bike owning people, and people who haven't owned older Guzzis in particular, have wheeled out the old cliche' "yeah, Italian electrics are crap", I've always been a little defensive and and counter-replied, "no, the components are good, it's just the wiring between them that doesn't work". But after seeing this type of meltdown like this more than a few times now, maybe I'm more of an opinion that Italian electrics really are shit. Or maybe it's just us that we're shit mechanics?