Ducati Panigale V4SP #876

I couldn’t resist it any longer!
I was finally in the position where I was able to spend some money on a new bike, and the V4SP was the one bike that I really, really liked. It’s the background on my desktop, it’s the screensaver on my phone. The only problem was that they were all sold out and it was quite a stretch in the finances to buy one anyway.
Then one came up at my local dealer and was advertised on ebay. I went down to look at it and it really was amazing. It was £500 more than list price, but whatever, it looked worth every penny! I talked numbers with the salesman and they were all within budget. I just needed to check insurance, so I took a card, they emailed me a quote and I left feeling excited.
A few days later I was having real trouble with the insurance: my current insurer couldn’t quote online, and when I called they couldn’t quote over the phone and said they would get back to me… but they never did. I tried again the next day and got the same response.
While looking on ebay I noticed that the V4SP at the dealer was now sold. Bugger.
A week later another one came up for sale in Coventry, but it was wearing an extra set of fairing painted red – who wants a red SP?!? – although it came with all the original fairing, but was £5k over list price. I called to see if I could do a deal, but it was already sold.
Now feeling a bit dejected, I left resigned to face the facts that I wouldn’t get one. I even sent an email to DUK in the hope they might be able to help, but unfortunately not.
A week later on a friday lunchtime and I was looking on ebay and noticed another SP was up for sale at Chris Walker Motorcycles in Grantham, and it was at list price. This time I pounced and called them straight away. Sod it. I got put through to Chris himself and it turns out that he had ordered this for himself, but it had taken so long to arrive that the season was now over (it was November after all!) and he didn’t want it sitting around in the showroom gathering dust. I stuck down a £500 deposit to secure the bike, and the rest was arranged by the wonderful Mark who saw to my every need.
A BikeTrac was fitted, the DataTag applied, a paddock stand thrown in for free and even free delivery all the way from Grantham to sunny Essex!
The bike came with Zero miles, and looked so beautiful in the sun as it was rolled out of the van.
I’ve managed to put around 100 miles on it before the cold and wet weather see it tucked away now for winter. There’s a couple of bits of carbon that I want to add, as well as some mods like removing the reflectors off the front forks (which double as a brake caliper spacer, so you can’t just take them off!) but I have already applied my own and some club stickers!
She’s a joy to ride, even though I’m running it in, and feels so light and easy. It really makes the 748S feel agricultural in comparison.
Once the weather improves I can finish running it in, get the first service done and then we can go play on some trackdays…

Pronto 66 is on its way!

It’s that time of year again when I sit down and compile all the articles for the next edition of Pronto magazine before sending everything off to Steve for layout and then finally printing.
I thought that I was going to struggle for articles as it feels like nothing has happened, but if anything we’re actually over the normal amount of content that we would usually print!
There’s another great technical article which I am hoping you will all enjoy, as well as a round up of the news and the latest in the Desmo Due championship.
Speaking of DD, it’s Donington this weekend so I will have to make sure that I update the article to reflect the latest points table for Class A and Class B once the racing is complete.
Can you believe that we’re 66 issues in? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was hunting for images of all the front covers to celebrate our 50th edition!
Until next month when I will write another short blog post, stay safe!
Ducati Sporting Club UK

A Test and the New VOZZ helmet

I couldn’t resist a blat down to Squires biker cafe last weekend as Vozz helmet were offering fittings on their new lid that I have been keeping tabs on since its inception…

Two-piece, rear opening with no chin strap is revolutionary enough but, supremely comfortable, very quiet in use and the widest field of vision in its class made this a must try for me.

Check it out here:


Day 6 – Verona to Misano via Venice

Thursday 17th July

Today was the last day of our World Presidents Meeting tour and the main part of the day would be a trip to Venice. We were not far from Venice so it took us just over an hour along the motorway to arrive at a car-park just outside the city where we would catch the boat to the centre. We had all packed a “day bag” with suitable clothes as it was now too hot to walk around in riding gear, so once we had all changed and stowed the riding gear in the support van we headed to the boat.

A short boat ride later and we were in the middle of Venice and free to roam about. We took a few pictures as a group and then went our separate ways to explore Venice and walk around the city before heading back to the meeting point for a boat tour and lunch.

WPM in Venice

The boat tour took us around the main lagoon of Venice, giving us the history of the area as well as Venice. It’s interesting to see how many of the homes use boats just like cars, even having their own “driveway” mooring in their gardens!

Before long we were saying goodbye to Venice and were back at the bikes getting ready for the last ride down to Misano and our hotel for the next few days while we attend WDW2014. We were supposed to be going via Bologna and possibly a factory tour, but unfortunately time was against us and the coast road we were taking to Misano was notoriously bad for traffic, so our guides opted to push on instead.

The road to Misano was pretty dull but we had to laugh as we were approaching traffic as there was a large grey Audi that kept moving right over to the left, to the centre of the road, and it was causing some of the bikes to hang back to make sure the road was clear.

Spotting my chance, I cracked open the Diavel and it powered past the line of cars without problem and glance into the Audi as I went past to see a nice young lady in the seat … but no steering wheel! I tucked back into traffic in front of the Audi and checked my mirrors and noticed that the Audi was actually on a UK ’63 plate! That explained why he kept moving over as the driver was on the wrong side and couldn’t see the oncoming traffic! A brief chat on the bike-to-bike intercom with our last-man, who happened to be on a UK plate as well, and we gave the Audi a cheery wave and gunned it past the next line of lorries.

To our surprise, looking back the Audi had followed us and was doing pretty well at keep pace with us through the traffic! After a few more overtakes we realised he was sticking with us so from that point on our last man was helping the Audi to follow us on overtakes.

Eventually we had to turn off for a petrol stop and we waved the Audi past as he sped on with a lovely deep rumble that meant it must have been a top-of-the-line S8 or similar.

The last few miles to our hotel, just outside Misano at Gabicce Monte, were uneventful and we all arrived rather hot from the ride back. Fortunately the hotel had a pool so we opted for a quick dip before the Clubs welcome dinner for the evening.

Hotel pool!

The evening event was a huge dinner organised by the local Romagna clubs to celebrate another WDW, and included a fantastic bbq-style buffet with drinks and a massive DOC cake! It was another great chance to chat with other clubs, speak to clubs you already knew and share time with old friends. It really did make you feel welcome and that you are part of the larger DOC family.

DOC Cake!

Tomorrow we begin three days of WDW2014, which will include some Club/Presidential duties, but hopefully will be a great time at the track and the evening events. Finally we return back to the Factory at Bologna on Monday after WDW and head back home.

Distance today: 350 km

Day 5 – Bolzano to Verona

Wednesday 16th July
After all the great roads we were on yesterday, and the late night at the kart track (plus a few beers!) the mood was a bit more subdued this morning for the ride down to Verona. Fortunately the roads were not as challenging as we were heading along fast sweeping bends through the valley to Lake Garda.

Once again the scenery was stunning riding through the mountain valleys, and the weather was getting warmer as we got closer to Lake Garda. The Diavel was having no problems with the lazy touring and as I was getting more used to the riding position I was finding it quite comfortable too.

We soon arrived at Lake Garda and the views were nothing short of breath-taking!

A view over Lake Garda

The lake itself was beautiful and the view from above looked amazing. After stopping for a quick picture, we rode down to the lake and followed the road round for a few miles. It was now quite hot at about 25 degrees and the lake shore was full of people enjoying the weather and the water.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to stop as we had to push on back up the mountain for lunch. The road wound up the side at quite an angle and we were soon viewing the lake again from a spectacular view point. Given the heat, most of us chose to stay inside with the air conditioning to cool down over lunch!

After lunch we made our way to Verona. Our hotel was situated just outside the city but as we arrived quite early in the afternoon, we had time to make use of the swimming pool for a welcome cooling dip after the heat of the day, before heading into Verona for some sight-seeing.

In Verona we took in the sights with a tour guide, visiting many of the city’s famous landmarks and site of historical importance, including the balcony of Juliet from the famous Shakespeare tale of Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet's balcony in Verona

We had dinner in the centre of Verona, overlooking the Arena, the ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans. The food was good, the wine flowed and the weather was warm well into the evening so we all made the most of it until we had to get the coach back to the hotel.

The Arena of Verona

Distance today: 255 km

Day 4 – Kaprun to Bolzano

Tuesday 15th July
Today was going to be the “big” day of the trip as we crossed from Austria into Italy over the Dolomite Mountains and riding the Grossglockner pass over Austria’s Highest mountain. From the buzz of excitement in the group when we set off I knew that it would be a good day riding but I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
We arrived at the bottom of the mountain at some toll booths, all grouped together. We waited for all three groups to arrive before heading through the tolls, and we were told that as there was only one road we would all meet at the summit and it was every man for himself!
The bottom of the Grossglockner pass
For my first impressions of the mountain road, it was very wide at three lanes (two lanes up, one down) and seemed to be quite a fast flowing set of gentle curves. As we wound our way up the mountain you could feel the changes in pressure as your ears popped and the mountain side got steeper and steeper.
After a few miles the road became more of a set of short straights with a hair-pin bend at the end on a quite steep angle! This took some getting used to on the porky Diavel, but it was more down to my ability than that of the bike itself. I had soon learned to take the corner wide and pitch it all the way over to turn the corner and could then gas it out making use of the traction control to propel me forwards to the next bend.
These switch backs went on for mile after glorious mile as we wound our way up to the top of the mountain, riding through the clouds and out into sunshine at the top! Although there was still snow on the ground (in July!) it was a nice pleasant 15 degrees and the air had that wonderful mountain purity at the top.
The top of the Grossglockner pass
We were all buzzing with the amazing road that we had just ridden, and it was smiles all round as we all talked excitedly about our own experiences.

Robbie from the Scottish Ducati Club took some on-board video so you can see for yourself, but you really, really, really should ride this road at least once in your life!

Our next stop was the glacier on the mountain, the Pasterze. From there we took the other side down and stopped beside a beautiful lake near Cortina d’Ampezzo for lunch, where it now felt like it was at least 25 degrees in the sunshine by the lake!

After lunch we continued on our way to Bolzano by taking the Giau pass. This time the roads were not as wide or well surfaced, but just as twisty and steep going up the mountain. I would liken this more to riding through back roads over the moors in somewhere like Derbyshire or Cornwall, just with more mountain!

The top of the Giau pass

Crossing over the pass we took the road down which was unfortunately wet and slippery, so not much fun but again the traction control and ABS on the Diavel really helped to keep everything under control, and I’d switched down into Urban mode (100 PS) to save myself from any surprises!

Finally arriving in Bolzano we had to quickly head out for the evening entertainment with a Kart race, live band and BBQ, but the talk of the evening was more about the amazing roads we had ridden that day.

Distance today: 298 km

Day 3 – Linz to Kaprun

Monday 14th July
Today’s agenda was a tour of the lakes of Upper Austria: Traunsee, Attersee, Mondsee and Wolfgangsee. Our final destination was in Kaprun which is well known for being part of the ski region of Zell am See, but also has plenty of walking and cycling activities during the summer.
We were soon out of Linz via the motorway and the scenery just got better as we got closer to the mountains. Even though it was summer there was still plenty of snow to be seen on the highest peaks, but we would not be heading up that high today, just taking in a tour around the valleys and lakes.
The roads were pretty fast and sweeping and the Diavel took everything in its stride. I was actually beginning to enjoy riding the bike – maybe even surprised at how much I was enjoying riding it! – and it really didn’t feel as big as it looked. It was super-stable in the corners and motorway so maybe that was the only time you noticed the size?
We stopped for another good lunch and soon got going again, but although it looked rather grey and dull it was still quite warm (for an Englishman!) at around 15 degrees and riding in a textile jacket with just a t-shirt was not a problem at all.
We arrived at our hotel in Kaprun for the night and it could not have been more “Austrian” if it had tried! It was a lovely wooden chalet style with pointed roof and windows with shutters nestling in the hill-side next to a running stream and cows on the hill. The view from the balcony was stunning and you could even see a bob-sleigh run on the hillside opposite!
Rest stop in Austria
Distance today: 264 km

Day 2 – Vienna to Linz

Sunday 13th July
Today was the first day to get acquainted with my bike for the week, a 2014 Ducati Diavel Carbon. I’d never ridden the Diavel before and to be honest it wasn’t something that I would personally chose although I must admit that the design has grown on me over the last couple of years. The bike itself looked pretty smart with a white trellis frame and the black wheels with chrome accents made it look mean!
Diavel Carbon
We started off the day on a steady pace along the motorway, divided into 3 groups of roughly 20 bikes in each, and this gave me a chance to get used to the ride on some easy roads. My first impressions were that the large beast you saw in front of you soon disappears when you’re sat on it. There’s no expanse of tank in front and it doesn’t feel that wide either. The bars are in a comfy position but for me at just a smidge under 6 feet tall, I found that the seat was way too low to be comfortable and took some getting used to.
The bike was in “Urban” mode by default, which was the low-power (100 PS) with the traction control wound up, but this felt a bit sluggish so I soon figured out how to change this using the switches on the bars and put it into “Touring” mode that gave me the high-power (162 PS) setting but with a “friendly” power/torque curve and still with some of the traction control wound on. It instantly felt better and more responsive, and cracking the throttle made the bike shoot forward at a fairly rapid pace.
We soon left the motorway and started taking some better roads, more fast sweepers than tight twisty roads and these suited the Diavel fine. The scenery in Austria was stunning as we’re not used to mountains in Essex, so to be honest the bike sat underneath me doing its thing while I took in the view and I didn’t really give it any thought, except for the odd leg stretch or shuffle to ease the cramped riding position on my hips.
After stopping for a decent lunch we then continued on the sweeping mountain roads to Linz with some real chocolate-box scenery along the way, including seeing the ski runs in the mountains, stationary as it was all green grass rather than covered with snow.
We stopped off at a hotel in Linz and had a fantastic dinner and evening of entertainment organised by Ducati Club Linz to welcome us to Austria!
Dinner in Linz
Distance today: 320km

Day 1 – Vienna

Sat 12th July
It was an early start as the taxi collected me at 5.30am for Gatwick and the flight to Vienna. I hadn’t flown for a while and was worried that I had forgotten something or would miss the plane, but as it turned out there was little traffic on the road and plenty of time to get through security and to the gate.
I’d never been to Vienna before and the flight was uneventful. Once off the other side the instructions were to meet in the café just outside the exit, and it seemed that I was the first one there, but less than a minute later and the Ducati clothed people started to arrive with both old and new faces! After some introductions and some reuniting hugs, we took a short ride in a minivan to the hotel.
Today was a rest day with just a dinner for the evening to ease us into the World President’s Meeting (WPM) slowly, so I went and unpacked, got changed and went down to the bar for the first beer, and boy did it taste good!
More and more presidents began to arrive and we drank and chatted until the coach arrived to take us to the fair in Vienna for a meal and a wander around. The meal consisted of a massive amount of pork – and I mean massive! – and a huge bowl of chips which was all washed down with plenty of beer.
We sat and chatted and then wandered around the funfair late into the evening as it was still very warm, before finally heading back to the coach for the hotel and a good night’s sleep.
Tomorrow we start riding and I didn’t fancy doing that with a hang-over!


Last minute preparations

There’s less than a week to go before I head off to Vienna to join the World Presidents Meeting (WPM) and ultimately end up at WDW2014, and I’ve been making a list of all the things I need to do before I go. The last thing was to book a taxi to the airport for saturday morning, which I’ve just ticked off my list… but at £82 it’s more expensive to get to the airport than it is to fly to Vienna!

Although I will be given a loan bike, that didn’t stop me doing some bike prep over the weekend, as my friend Andy is also coming along to WDW but will be riding down. He’s picked up a lovely last-model ST4S with full luggage and a few more upgrades that will be ideal for the trip over to Italy. As he only picked the bike up on saturday, we spent sunday night in the garage prepping it for the long trip. This included wiring in a power cable for the sat-nav and fabricating a quick and cheap sat-nav mounting bracket from parts laying around. With this done we were looking at ways of improving wind-blast from the standard screen, but Andy has bought a touring screen to see if this helps before resorting to cutting up Ikea chopping boards or plastic buckets to fabricate something!

So over the next couple of nights I will be packing my suitcase, being careful of the luicrously low weight limits on budget airlines, and then repacking, repacking, panicing and repacking 🙂