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Ducati 916

Lunchtime bike market

(Travels with Guido series #315, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, published Apr 2021)

Ducati pic by Ben Galli

Harley-Davidson Sportster ironhead


The mixing of claret, food and finance has some risks


One of the highlights of the week is the Lemmings Motorcycle Club (Motto: Death before Courtesy) lunch at our regular noodle palace. On Friday. Actually ‘highlight’ isn’t strictly true, as people have been known to leave with heads bowed, on the verge of tears, or steam coming out their ears and on the cusp of doing something everyone will regret – probably including several innocent bystanders.

Now that I think of it, walking into Madame Sandy’s (where it’s been held for the last 30-ish years) is more like stepping into an arena than an easy catch-up with friends.

Depending on the day, we’ll be fighting over politics, which of the people at the table most resembles their least-attractive motorcycle, or blaming each other for things that, in truth, they had no control over.

As an example, I roast Newbold (a founding member of the SR500 Club) whenever my SR gives me grief, which is all the time. He correctly points out: A. His runs; B. He had no role in designing the series; And, C. I have his permission to get rooted. Fair enough.

Another favourite topic of conversation is trying to buy each other’s shitboxes…er, I mean future collectible transports of delight. One outstanding example was Proffessor K and my 916 Ducati.

He was appalled when he first clapped eyes on it, because – although in near enough to mint condition – it was propped up under a lean-to behind my shed, partially obscured by long grass. Clearly he felt this was no way to treat a piece of Italian exotica, and he’s right. It’s just I hadn’t got around to reorganising the shed so I could somehow shoe-horn the little bugger in. (The bike that is, not Kingsbury.)

Anyway, he interpreted my careless parking of the thing as meaning I only really had marginal interest in it and, over the intervening few years, made me several silly offers to take it off my hands.

There were good reasons to sell it, including that, for someone my size, it was about as comfortable to ride as a barbed wire fence. Still, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

More often than not, Prof K would lay in wait on Friday, until I’m fairly heavily loaded with a mix of claret and chilli noodles – and therefore even more slow-witted than usual – before launching another campaign to wrest the Ducati from my stubbornly unyielding clutches.

Some days I’m not sure whether he actually wanted the bike, or saw the whole exercise as a hobby. Maybe something to do when he wasn’t baffling students.

Anyway, one day he cracked and made a generous offer – one of his restored pre-Evo Harley Sportsters for the 916. Generous? That’s because in the cruel world that is the motorcycle market, the Hogley at the time was worth more than the Duc.

Yes, comparing the two is like comparing…oh I dunno…a Sopwith Camel with an F-16. They’re essentially the same thing, but one would suck the pilot out of the cockpit of the other on the way past.

Still, I had to think about it. While I was chewing it over in my head (and poured another glass of red to aid the process) several other Lemmings and guests piled into the debate, some of whom decided to act as my financial advisors (rather like having Trump run a women’s shelter) while others decided to negotiate on my behalf.

Some decided the relative prices should be adjusted according to top speed, others according to how shiny it is, and a third faction thought a formula along the lines of the horsepower divided by the weight and multiplied by the number of spokes in the wheels might work.

Prof K became increasingly exasperated, pointing out somewhat plaintively, “But it’s a good deal – the Harley’s worth more!”  He was right. That information fell on deaf ears, which is normal.

It was as I slowly tuned out the chaos, and vaguely watched Prof K justifiably leave with steam coming out his ears, that I reached for yet another soothing glass of red. No-one said lunch was meant to be easy…


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