2020 Moto Italiane Ovest – Sunday October 18, Ascot, Perth WA
‘Japan makes some great bikes — but they don’t connect to your soul like an Italian bike’
This West Australian motorcycle enthusiast is looking forward to next month’s Moto Italiane Ovest as much as anyone — but he already has access to an impressive Italian motorcycle show every day of the year, right there in his own garage in suburban Perth.
John is a relative newcomer to motorcycling in general and Italian biking in particular — but he’s wasted no time in bringing together a very tasty collection of some of Italy’s finest two-wheeled creations.
His 1974 Ducati GT750, 1996 Ducati 916 SP3, 2016 MV Agusta F3 800 Reparto Corse and 2016 Ducati Monster 1200R present a wonderful mix of Italy’s old and new classics.
“I did ride scooters in my younger days — Vespas and Lambrettas — but it wasn’t until my wife bought herself a Vespa six or seven years ago that I rediscovered how much fun it was to ride a bike,” John says.
“And it’s not just fun. I honestly believe bikes are good for your mental health.
“I had a couple of Japanese bikes at first, which were great, but then I took a Ducati Monster for a ride. I was hooked, instantly.”
John, a public servant with the West Australian Government, says his own Italian heritage is “a big deal” to him but his love for Italian bikes comes from the machinery, not his genes.
“Japan makes some great bikes, as do America and Britain, but they don’t connect to your soul like an Italian bike,” he says.
“They make you feel alive. The noise, the smell, the looks, the idiosyncrasies — owning and riding an Italian bike really is a special feeling.”
John plans to take two of his bikes to the Moto Italiane Ovest, “probably the GT and the 916,” he says, and he encourages other owners of Italian bikes to take part in the event.
“You don’t have to be a member of a club; just ride an Italian motorcycle.”
John is an active member and a Ride Captain of the Ducati Owners’ Club of WA, which organises the Moto Italiane Ovest, and he sings its praises.
“They’re a great bunch of people and really welcomed me into the fold when I joined,” he says.
“We have regular rides and other events, and there’s a real sense of community.”
Entries for the Moto Italiane Ovest will be accepted on event day (Sunday October 18), either at Garvey Park in Ascot or prior to 9:30am at Corse Motorcycles in Guildford.
We took a close-up look at John’s fabulous fleet of four Latin lovelies, and here’s what we found:
The 750 GT
Ducati produced it’s first motorcycle engine in 1946. It was a 48cc single-cylinder four stroke, and you could buy one and bolt it onto your pushbike. But for most of us, the first real Ducati was the 1971 750 GT, featuring the company’s first twin and the birth of a moto mechanical legacy that continues today.
John’s GT is from 1974, a year in which (not unusually) Ducati had some big problems with the supply of parts. As a result, the bikes that rolled out the door came with varying suspension, switchgear mufflers, rims and — well, whatever fell to hand, that was the bit you used. (John’s features switchgear you would expect to see on the later 860.)
The crankcases are still sealed, so it’s likely the bottom end has never been opened up, and the seat has been left untouched. The tank and guards have seen a fresh coat of paint in recent years, the engine’s top end has been refurbished, and there’s fresh chrome on the Conti exhausts.
Other than that, it’s apparently unmolested.
“The engine is very smooth,” John says. “People expect it to vibrate and shake like later models, but it doesn’t. It’s great to ride — although the brakes aren’t too good. It runs a drum brake on the back wheel and a single disc up front. Lots of owners added a second disc; you can do that quite easily as the mounting bolts are already there on the bottom of the right fork leg.”
The bike also boasts (?) a right-side gear change and left-side rear brake, just to keep you on your toes, and the gear shift pattern is one-up, four-down.
“It’s not as bad as I expected,” John says. “You just need to concentrate!”
The 750 GT ceased official production in 1974, making John’s one of the last made. According to Ducati guru Ian Falloon (he’s been writing books about Ducatis since, like, forever), there were 41 GTs built from spare parts in 1978 — right here in Australia.
The 916 SP3
When non-motorbike people think about Italy, they mostly think about style and fashion and passion. When Ducati unveiled the 916 in 1994, the motorbike world and the non-motorbike world collided. Fashion editors described it as the most beautiful motorcycle ever made, while bike-nuts sat back and watched it win the 1994 world superbike crown, and the 1995, and the 1996 and, after a stumble, the 1998.
Many folks will tell you the Ducati 916 is the finest motorcycle ever made, and even a base model is now collectable and rising in value every year.
But this bike of John’s is even more special. It’s an SP3, which means it was the third year (that’s the 3) of the Superbike iteration of the 916. The SP3 wasn’t officially available as a road bike in Australia — it was considered a race bike — but a handful achieved Australian Compliance and wear a rare-as-can-be Thoroughbred Motorcycle Imports compliance plate. John’s is one of those bikes.
The MV Agusta F3 Reparto Corse
MV Agusta dominated the world’s race tracks for nearly two decades, winning the world Grand Prix Rider Championships and Constructor Championships every single year from 1958 through 1974. In 1958, ’59 and ’60 MV not only won the 500cc title, it also won the 125, 250, and 350 titles. But despite the race track success, by 1980 the company had gone belly-up.
Italian brothers Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni (of Cagiva fame) bought the MV corpse in 1991 and, in 1997, reincarnated it with the race-bike soul of old — light weight, high-performance, high-spec, made-in-Italy sports bikes. The early efforts were gorgeous four-cylinders (I had a passionate fling with an ’07 Brutale 910R; read the story here) and then, in 2012, came the first triple; a 675cc boasting bulk tech-trickery including titanium valves and adjustable traction control and 126hp at an eye-watering 14,400rpm.
The triple has since evolved into an 800, and John’s bike is the limited Reparto Corse (Racing Department) version. It looks like a race bike — lithe and purposeful. And small.
“I’m not a tall guy,” John says “and this bike fits me like a glove.
“The Ducati Owner’s Club had a track day at Barbagallo Raceway a few weeks ago, and I took the MV. It was just fantastic. The perfect bike, in its element.”
The Monster 1200R
When Ducati first conceived the Monster line in the early 1990s, the brief was to create an affordable town bike that was unmistakably a Ducati but easy to ride and definitely not a sports bike. A Marlon Brando bike; cool and more than a bit rebel.
The first model came in 1993. It was a 900 with enough power to be entertaining and a style and vibe that was basically a city cruiser. The crowd loved it, and the Monster family has gone on to be one of Ducati’s true sales success stories.
John’s Monster 1200R is probably the most monstrous of the Monsters. It’s motor is basically the same as that found in the ballsy Ducati Diavel muscle bike, which means it’s shoved along by 160 Italian horses. That’s twice as many as the original 900, and more than enough for any human being. Unlike the budget-based original, the big R comes with top shelf kit like forged wheels and Ohlins suspension, pushing it ever closer to sports bike manners and specifications, albeit with more user-friendly ergonomics.
“It’s my daily ride,” John says. “If I want to head down south, or if it’s raining, this is the bike I take.
“It’s fantastic to ride. The motor has huge torque, as you’d expect, but it also handles remarkably well. You can really throw it around, which is a bit of a surprise for such a big bike.”
The 2020 Moto Italiane Ovest
There’ll be no shortage of exotic Italian bikes at the Moto Italiane Ovest in Garvey Park, in the Perth suburb of Ascot, on Sunday 18 October. We can hardly wait.