The sin­gle life

Scoop takes out one of Du­cati’s less com­mon sin­gles for a pleas­ant ride: Du­cati’s 35 0 Se­bring.

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CLASSIC RIDE - WORDS: STEV E COOPER PHO­TOS: GARY D CHAP­MAN

There is no dis­pute that the vast ma­jor­ity of CMM’S clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle fans have had it easy ei­ther for most or all of our lives when it comes to two wheeled trans­port. If you’ve grown up on a diet of Ja­panese ma­chin­ery I’d ten­ta­tively stick my neck out and say we’ve been spoilt from the day we first rode a mo­tor­cy­cle. hy you ask? uite sim­ply, if you are a fan of all things ori­en­tal and on two wheels you’ve had one key facet of bike own­er­ship served up to you on sil­ver salver via a spoon of the same ori­gin. Al­most ev­ery Ja­panese ma­chine any of us can think of was de­signed to be a ver­i­ta­ble paragon of virtue. It started, ran and stopped with an al­most unerring pre­dictabil­ity and car­ried on do­ing so un­til it was de­prived of oil, de­nied even ba­sic ser­vic­ing or suf­fered the in­dig­ni­ties of teenage tuners. hat the Ja­panese mo­tor­cy­cle fac­to­ries de­liv­ered was a sea change in terms of ac­ces­si­bil­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and us­abil­ity. If you’re not con­vinced try long term own­er­ship with al­most any non- Ja­panese mo­tor­cy­cle from the 196 0s or ear­lier (BMW s ex­cepted). Col­lec­tively that gamut of ma­chines will req uire sup­pos­edly ar­cane start­ing pro­ce­dures, al­most per­pet­ual main­te­nance and the oc­ca­sional road­side re­build while still spite­fully re­ward­ing their owner with a never end­ing list of ran­dom is­sues. Or so we’re led to be­lieve. Some things in life are worth wait­ing for and in this in­stance it’s my first crack at sam­pling a Du­cati sin­gle. As a lad of the 1970s I’d been al­most brain washed by the press of the day that all Du­catis, and es­pe­cially the sin­gles, were some­how crit­i­cally in­con­sis­tent. A good one was okay but a bad one was sim­ply poi­son… which may have been the case, up to a point. In the late 0s and early 70s the Ital­ian mo­tor in­dus­try was plagued with union- driven strikes, in­con­sis­tent third party sup­plies, elit­ist man­age­ment out of touch with re­al­ity and a level of work force bel­liger­ence that oc­ca­sion­ally de­fied be­lief. Sup­pos­edly de­cent Du­cati sin­gles were rare beasts and yet the truth is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. The raft of Du­cati sin­gles that ran from 195 1974 were in­spired ge­nius and based firmly upon sound me­chan­i­cal prin­ci­ples. nfor­tu­nately the en­gi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the day al­lied to poor in­ter­nal in­vest­ment meant many of the breed were

con­structed un­der com­pro­mis­ing con­di­tions. As one pun­dit put it: Du­cati is ac­tu­ally a shim man­u­fac­turer that has to make mo­tor­cy­cles in or­der to get rid of ex­cess stock.º Harsh and not nec­es­sar­ily fair. Du­cati' s work­force had a pas­sion for the prod­uct and did their best with what was at their dis­posal. When they got it right they re­ally got it right, de­liv­er­ing what many con­sider to be the mo­tor­cy­clist' s mo­tor­cy­cle. All of which bring us to the Du­cati 50 Se­bring in cam­era. f your no­tion of a Bologna sin­gle is arse in the air, back-break­ing clip-ons, bright orange/yel­low and Des­mod­romic valves then sorry to dis­ap­point you. What we' re look­ing at is a so-called cook­ing ver­sion of the genre with a con­ven­tional seat, high-rise pull-back bars, con­ven­tional valve springs and sig­niae cantly less lairy paint job. t might very well run a 197 0 reg­is­tra­tion plate but its lines are most em­phat­i­cally those of the pre­vi­ous decade. There' s more than a touch of the 1960s space age styling to the bike with oddly an­gu­lar mud­guards that of­fer both func­tion and form cover­ing a large area of both tyres. Sim­i­lar lines are car­ried over into the head­light shell. This runs a Veglia speedo which per­versely has zero on the right of its dial and 100 on the left. Why? Be­cause Veglia could! As it' s not a Desmo ver­sion there' s an ex­pec­ta­tion from its de­sign­ers that the ma­chine will be used reg­u­larly, not just for high days and hol­i­days, so prac­ti­cal­ity is the name of the game here. There' s a sub­stan­tial cen­tre-stand that looks like it could with­stand a di­rect ar­tillery hit and one of the coolest and most ef­fec­tive side-stands ever. t' s mounted on the left front en­gine plate and is ac­cessed via an arm that curves up and around the en­gine case when not in use. Step off the bike, tap the plate of the op­er­at­ing arm down and for­ward then lean the bike over; it' s so pre­cise and neat you nd your­self play­ing with it sim­ply for the nov­elty value. Sit­ting next to this les­son in prac­ti­cal er­gonomics is an­other aid to daily use; a de­cent sized pump cuddles up cosily to the frame' s front down tube. A pair of taste­fully pressed steel pan­els sit be­low the seat car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, an artis­tic ash and the Se­bring name which refers to a fa­mous racing re­sult state­side. The left one is a tool box while the right

hand unit is nor­mally an air-box. Our SA im­port Se­bring runs an open Dell Orto so the panel was pre­sum­ably modiae ed by a pre­vi­ous owner. The pië ce de rè sis­tance is the an­gu­lar tank nished in red with gold de­tail­ing, a sil­ver panel and the oblig­a­tory Du­cati ea­gle. The Se­bring may not have been a road le­gal race ma­chine but that didn' t au­to­mat­i­cally mean it was go­ing to look blandº ev­ery Du­cati was spe­cial in the eyes of its man­u­fac­tur­ers. Start­ing large ca­pac­ity four-stroke sin­gles, pre-ja­panese in­volve­ment, has al­ways come with some­thing of a rep­u­ta­tion and here, at least, the Se­bring lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions. There are two fuel taps to turn on rst then the uirky key is turned in the head­lamp. f the bike is cold then you may need to use the choke but if it' s been re­cently run chances are it will just need a tickle. Such ac­tions are not some du­bi­ous or ues­tion­able process but a way of tem­po­rar­ily en­richen­ing the fuel mix­ture. Tucked away on the up­per por­tions of the Dell Orto carb is a small plunger that needs to be pushed down brieø y. This de­presses the oat which in turn raises the fuel level in the oat bowl. Only now can

Start­ing the Se­bring takes time, but with any luck, the bike will fire up and you’ll marvel at the sound. And what a piece of kit that en­gine is. Af­ter a while, I have the con­fi­dence to let the Se­bring off the leash!”

we at­tempt ring up but this req uires yet an­other ar­cane process. The en­gine may only run 8.5:1 com­pres­sion but there' s still a lot of metal to move around with su­fae cient mo­men­tum to get the en­gine to re. Be­low the left-hand grip is a de­com­pres­sor lever which par­tially lifts the ex­haust valve off its seat. Lift the lever up to­wards the grip and gen­tly push the kick-starter down feel­ing with your leg mus­cles when the pis­ton reaches the top of its com­pres­sion stroke. Hav­ing es­tab­lished this vi­tal po­si­tion­ing as­sess­ment, dou­ble check the ig­ni­tion is on, re­lease the de­com­pres­sor, then kick down and through. With any luck and dol­lop of skill the bike will re up, you' ll catch the mo­tor on the throt­tle and all is well. Didn' t men­tion the kick-start is on the left? Oh, sorry! Mas­ter all of this and then marvel at how mo­tor­cy­cles used to sound. The cigar shaped si­lencer proudly an­nounces that one of Bologna' s nest is once again back alive and kick­ing. With that stun­ningly gor­geous en­gine ac­tive it' s time to get a wig­gle on but not un­til ve told my­self nu­mer­ous times that the Se­bring runs a right-foot gear change. Strangely my aged brain copes with this side of things uite well and can even mas­ter down-for-up changes. et what re­ally per­plexes the grey mat­ter is us­ing the left foot for the rear brake. m a big fan of rear brakes for both sta­bil­is­ing a bike and pulling up at junc­tions. Af­ter decades of con­trolled right foot brak­ing it' s al­most im­pos­si­bly hard to get the left foot to op­er­ate with any de­gree of

tact; it' s ei­ther off or hard down: stupid boy! So thank­fully rapidly get com­fort­able and re­liant on the Du­cati' s front an­chor which is a class act in its own right. t may only be a sin­gle lead­ing shoe set up but crikey it' s ef­fec­tive. Graced with a pair of cool­ing vents and a one lone out­let it' s the sort of SLS ar­range­ment that makes you won­der just how ef­fec­tive rst gen­er­a­tion discs ac­tu­ally were. Hav­ing nally grasped the MO of the rear brake have the conae dence to let the Se­bring off its leash. Even though it' s not a Desmo model there is em­phat­i­cally no deny­ing the sport­ing her­itage of the brand in gen­eral and our test bike in par­tic­u­lar. or­get the ur­ban myths that say good han­dling tal­ian bikes have rock hard sus­pen­sion; this 50' s springs may be rm but they' re most cer­tainly not in­tractable. The chas­sis feeds back to the rider in a way Ja­panese ma­chines would only im­i­tate decades later. The bike is pre­cise and sure-footed even on the asphalt abom­i­na­tions that pass for roads these days. Short of pick­ing the wrong apex only crass use of the rear brake (yes, did more than once!) has the bike de­vi­at­ing off the cho­sen line. The rear Marzocchi shocks are rm yet pli­ant and con­trolled while the forks ab­sorb the worst ex­cess of our test route yet still give vi­tal feed­back. or a sup­pos­edly base model it' s unq ues­tion­ably a class act. Which brings us to the en­gine and what a piece of kit it is. Okay yes it' s a sin­gle but not in the guise of big old Bri­tish lop­ing leviathans; nei­ther is on a par with later smaller sin­gles from Small Heath such as the BSA B40. This is a one-pot en­gine that likes, no loves, to be worked hard. With no tacho tted it' s im­pos­si­ble to say what revs we' re run­ning at but su­fae ce to say it rev­els in be­ing spun up and used. Work the over­head cam mo­tor hard and it lets you know when to hook up the next gear. The ve-speed box is as slick as you like and works with an ease and grace that ut­terly be­lies the usual insin­u­a­tions of ve ra­tios and six neu­trals. With­out ues­tion the Du­cati Se­bring is a rider' s ma­chine that ex­cels at be­ing used with gusto. t may not have the looks of a scratcher' s cafè racer but it unq ues­tion­ably has the po­ten­tial to be one. Those high bars and bar­rel hand grips may cry out tourist but the mo­tor and chas­sis are telling an­other story. lti­mately, the Se­bring is a ma­chine de­signed by an engi­neer of out­stand­ing abil­ity and built with pas­sion by a work­force part ar­ti­san part highly skilled crafts­man. The fact it doesn' t carry the sup­pos­edly iconic Des­mod­romic valve gear is, in re­al­ity, of lit­tle con­seq uence. es that leg­endary set-up pre­vents valve oat at high en­gine speeds but surely that' s in­con­seq uen­tial when it comes to a street go­ing 50? f we were talk­ing pro­duc­tion racing ei­ther then or now then, yes, nely con­trolled valves could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween rst or sec­ond place, but we' re not. f you' ve a de­sire to sam­ple the de­lights of a clas­sic tal­ian mo­tor­cy­cle but don' t want to be spend­ing a king' s ran­som then, po­ten­tially, a medium ca­pac­ity Du­cati sin­gle could be the very thing. Easy to live with (once the start­ing pro­ce­dure is mas­tered) fast enough to thrill, ace brakes, top-drawer han­dling and, for once, still within reach for many peo­ple look­ing for a de­cent clas­sic. Look­ing at the price of most Ja­panese 50s now a Du­cati Se­bring 50 for a mere 5500 al­most seems cheap.

Du­cati’s Se­bring 350 is more ‘tran­quilo’ than many ma­chines from the mar­que.

or

im Sc oop and Se­bring in arm ony on th e open road.

1 2 3 Pull- easy- bac k bars int at oing arac ter. 1/ eg lia speedo oes rig t to left! 2/ irm rear Mar­zoc is ive on­fi­denc e. 3/ Start­ing takes som e prac tic e: note left- side rear brake pedal! Our thanks to John Fal­lon and the team at Made in Italy Mo­tor­cy­cles for ac­cess the Se­bring and the cof­fee ma­chine – 01449 612900.

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