Damn, I’ve had a lot of bikes in my life. In order of appearance:
- 1966 Yamaha 180 basket-case (never finished it – can’t remember what became of it..)
- 1967 Triumph 500 Daytona café racer (open meggas, clip-ons, rear sets; the original loudbike..)
- 1966 BMW R50/s (full Avon fairing – I rode it when the Triumph wasn’t working)
- 1972 CZ 250 (the bike that reinforced my opinion that dirt is for growing potatoes)
- 1975 Triumph T160 Trident (rarely ran well, but an outstanding ride when it did)
- 1976 Honda CB 750 (the beginning of the ‘I’d rather ride than wrench’ period)
- 1980 Suzuki GS 1000 (better than the Honda, but still not British)
- 1977 Triumph Silver Jubilee Bonneville (what was I thinking? ..It’s British!)
- 1980 Yamaha RD350LC (Astounding little bike that could. Got me onto the race track)
- 1978 Honda MT125R (My first race bike – seized almost every time I raced it)
- 1980 Honda RS125R (Liquid cooling didn’t make matters much better)
- 1983 Suzuki GS550E (F**k 2-strokes – I want to actually go racing for a change)
- 1973 Ducati 750GT (The Ducati die was cast with this machine)
...The Dark Period...
- 1977 Ducati 900SS (Morphed into a potent 750 desmo vintage racer that I campaigned for 8 years)
- 1973 Ducati 750GT (Originally bought for spares, it became my daily rider and part-time track bike)
- 2003 Buell XB9S (Replaced the GT – what was I thinking?)
- 1987 Ducati 750 F1 (Once I tasted Fran’s TT1, I was hooked on light-weight, hot-rod Pantahs. Ultimately, it evolved into an outstanding 853cc vintage racer)
- 1990 Ducati 750 Sport (The ultimate sleeper with motor, forks, swing arm and wheels from a 900SS)
- 2005 Ducati Multistrada (A crazy naked bike I called the Hyperstrada – totaled when I was rear-ended)
- 2008 Ducati Hypermotard (Another custom – but this one failed to deliver in just about every possible way)
- 1957 Triumph 650 Trophy Bird (In Washington, DC it was the ideal machine – when 50mph is break-neck speed, who cares about traffic?)
- 1972 Norton 750 Commando (Figured I’d mastered the ‘British thing’ – what was I thinking?)
- 2000 Cagiva Gran Canyon (Beefed-up the motor & suspension and swapped to 17s with sticky tires, but it was still a pig. Cool bike though..)
- 2005 BMW R1100S Boxer Prep (Finally; after 40 years of looking, I found the ultimate street bike. Promptly gave up street riding)
- 1985 Ducati TT1 Replica (Lou Saif made me do it and I can’t thank him enough – a brilliant track bike)
- 1985 Bimota DB1 SR Custom (I regretted the purchase throughout the 2-year build, but when I rode it for the 1st time at Mosport, I fell in love)
I still have the TT1 and the DB1 and will likely hang onto them for a while.
But the bike that changed my life was the 900SS that I bought for myself as my 1st year sobriety reward – and shortly after I made the purchase I met Fran McDermott, saw his 750 desmo bevel vintage racer and decided that I needed to take a trip down Racer Road.
Both the process of transforming the machine and the experience of learning to race at the ‘podium’ level rewarded me with a whole batch of new friends, a commitment to a higher level of mechanical skills and a new level of confidence and humility. The bike and I spent the first 8 years of my new life together and it seemed that we both improved at the same rate. Christened ‘the loudbike’ by the tribe I ran with, the moniker has stuck to me and my bikes to this day. But after I rode Fran’s TT1 in the first of a series of vintage endurance races, the old bevel twin seemed a heavy and slow steering antique. So I bought a 750 F1 and began to transform it into a full-on racer and a year later; sold the loudbike to another racer. When he crashed it in Mosport’s turn 2, it flipped at least 5 times before bursting into flames and burning to a crisp.
I thought it didn’t affect me but by the end of that season, I had started to write about the bike and my connection to vintage Ducati hot-rods. The loudbike blog was born. The bike still affects me and I miss it horribly. Maybe it was that period of intense personal growth; maybe it’s tragic demise.
What’s left of the right-hand exhaust (shown flying through the air in the crash photo) hangs on the wall in my workshop; reminding me of one of the most intense and rewarding periods of my life.