Fol­low in the tyre tracks of leg­ends

Du­cati coun­try has more to of­fer than just a mu­seum

MCN - - CONTENTS -

‘To un­der­stand Du­catis you need to ride the roads that in­spired them’

‘We rode on tall and dig­ni­fied amid the chaos’

You don’t have to own a Du­cati to ap­pre­ci­ate how they put their bikes to­gether, and a tour around the fac­tory in Bologna in north­ern Italy is very spe­cial; an ex­pe­ri­ence drip­ping with rac­ing and en­gi­neer­ing his­tory. But even bet­ter is a ride on the sur­round­ing roads where these won­der­ful ma­chines have for decades been put through their paces by the fac­tory’s test pilots.

This is why a fac­tory visit com­bined with a tour of the area is a bucket list must. To un­der­stand Du­cati you need to stick your head in the mu­seum and all that but also to taste the roads that in­spired the 900SS, the 916 and the Mul­tistrada. Ideally you also need to build in the time to visit nearby Mugello, the race­track that shapes all the fast Du­catis, both road and race, and en­joy the food and wine that fu­els the peo­ple who cre­ate them. This, you see, is Italy’s bik­ing heartland, and al­though life for me is al­ways rush­ing around I re­alised that to ab­sorb the essence of the area it was es­sen­tial to slow down a bit and build plenty of time (three days min­i­mum) into my visit.

On day one, my wife and I flew in to Bologna and took a guided tour around the Du­cati fac­tory, then lost our­selves in the ex­quis­ite Du­cati Mu­seum. Once done I col­lected a rental Mul­tistrada 1260 S be­fore head­ing to ex­plore the me­di­ae­val city of Bologna.

With all the Bologna must-do’s ticked off, day two was clear for the main pri­or­ity on my list: to ride through Tus­cany to Mugello on those leg­endary Du­cati test roads. We headed out of the hus­tle and bus­tle of Bologna, and af­ter a few miles turned onto the SP65 into the lush green and per­fumed hills of the Emilia-Ro­magna prov­ince. The 65’s smooth and rhyth­mic sweep­ers were a per­fect way for us to ac­quaint our­selves with the Mul­tistrada. When we reached Pianoro Vec­chio the roads be­gan to wind through ev­er­more stun­ning coun­try­side, tak­ing us across the Emilia/Tus­cany bor­der, be­fore rush­ing through wood­land and then coil­ing ever tighter. Sud­denly there were bikes ev­ery­where, like we’d rid­den into a se­cret, hilld­welling com­mu­nity of two-wheel nut­ters where the tighter the bends, the faster they go.

The lo­cals are ridicu­lously quick. It felt as if I was tak­ing my wife for a sight­see­ing lap of the Isle of Man TT cir­cuit be­fore dis­cov­er­ing I’d wan­dered out on track half way through the Se­nior TT, with the likes of McGuinness, Dun­lop and Hick­man pil­ing past, knees on the ground, black lines be­ing drawn on the tar­mac by their rear tyres, and leav­ing me with the feel­ing I was go­ing back­wards.

We rode on, tall and dig­ni­fied on the Strada amid the chaos, to the Ter­razza Panoram­ica in Loiano, where many of those crazy

riders had pulled in to share their ex­pe­ri­ences, mainly by means of ges­tic­u­la­tion, a very pop­u­lar lan­guage in Italy.

From there the road snakes through the coun­try­side with such in­ten­sity it be­came in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous why Du­catis have al­ways han­dled. I al­most begged for a bor­ing straight in or­der to take a breath. With ev­ery pass­ing cor­ner the Strada felt more like an ex­ten­sion of my body, do­ing ev­ery­thing I asked of it while main­tain­ing the smooth flu­id­ity of a bike very much at home; im­pres­sive when you think we were two-up and fully laden with paniers and top­box.

Passo della Rati­cosa is a very pop­u­lar stop for bik­ers, who fill ev­ery inch of the car park to the Chalet Rati­cosa restau­rant, and was the per­fect place to sam­ple the culi­nary de­lights of the re­gion while ogling some of the most ex­otic bikes I have ever seen in one place (while their own­ers pa­rade around dressed as if they have just left a race­track).

The next ten miles to the Strada Statale del Passo del Giogo were the most in­tense I have rid­den in years. Ten miles may not sound far but with so many cor­ners it still took close to an hour to ride along the SP58, SP117 and SP503, be­fore, con­cen­tra­tion flag­ging, we stopped for an­other cof­fee.

The fi­nal five-mile part of the ride dropped us down out of the Mugello hills. Af­ter a quick selfie at the track gate, we could hear bikes thrash­ing round, I felt a wave of sad­ness that such an in­cred­i­ble ride was al­most over. Then I re­mem­bered we had to do it all again on day three, on the way back to Bologna. And we went off happy in search of an­other amaz­ing restau­rant.

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