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Ducati 916

Bad Criteria

(Travels with Guido series #345, August 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; pics by Ben Galli Photography

Is there such a thing as a defensible motorcycle purchase?

Something that has long puzzled me is how people make decisions when it comes to buying motorcycles. Okay, now before we get too far into this, let’s separate out two things: reasons and justification – because they definitely are not the same thing.

You might use the justification on your partner (“It was a bargain”, “It’s an investment”, blah blah), but this is me you’re talking to and it’s not going to work.

No, it’s what’s going on in that cluttered skull of yours during the buying process that’s of real interest. What set me off on this was a conversation with then Motorcycle Trader mag Editor Chris Harris about the recently-launched Triumph Scrambler 1200.

He was talking about how it’s more a credible adventure tourer with some actual off-road ability and, somewhere along the way, muggins blurted out that I wouldn’t mind adding one to the shed. “But you’re not really an adventure tourer kind of rider,” he countered. That set me off in justification mode – some pollywaffle about how I quite like the class as road bikes, yardy, yardy…I knew damn well I wasn’t making sense.

The truth? I like the look of them. Is that a shallow reason to buy a motorcycle? Yup.

Here’s the thing: most of us actually buy motorcycles with the heart and not the head. Unless you’re using it as something to slog to and from work every day, any logical reason for ownership is just flat-out irrelevant to your enjoyment. If you want logical transport, buy a used Hyundai.

Every now and then someone asks me for an opinion from a choice of motorcycles they’re browsing, and the range of models they end up considering is always staggering. It’s never just three 1200cc cruisers – oh no. It’ll be a 1200 cruiser, an adventure tourer and a naked.

Then they’ll veer off at a completely new tangent and buy a Suzuki GSX-R1000. It happens, and it makes you wonder whether buying a motorcycle is more about sorting personality issues than purchasing transport.

For some of us, the solution is to own a fleet with a bit of everything in it. In my case an adventure tourer was a glaring omission – pretty well everything else was there. (Okay, I've since fixed that – G.) Get it right, and changing bikes is like changing shirts – just pick the one that suits your mood that day.

Even in that situation, I reckon looks play an important part. Dunno about you, but I’m not about to throw a whole lot of money at something I think is pug ugly, unless ugly is what gets you excited and gives you a reason to get up in the morning.

No. It has to look right. Back at Chateau Despair, our best example by far is the Ducati 916. It’s beautiful. And it’s loud, it’s very red and it’s fast. There you are, four really good reasons to own one, none of which you can legitimately use as a justification for throwing money at it.

If you looked at it in any practical sense, it’s a dismal failure. It’s designed for a long-legged jockey, and I’m about the size of a horse. It’s viciously uncomfortable, so really the best approach is to ride it so fast that survival rather than comfort becomes your main priority – which means on the track. And that’s not cheap.

While it’s quick, you can get something more powerful and reliable for considerably less money. It might one day be worth something, but at the moment it’s just holding value, maybe – so there goes any credible investment argument. Really, there is no damn good reason to hang on to the thing.

Then again, all is forgiven after a ride, when you’re eyeing it over a cooling glass of claret. So yes, I bought it on looks, which leads me to suspect that bad criteria lead to really good decisions…





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