Torrid Motorcycle Romance
Classic beauty compels the discarding of facile thoughts. Answering the market’s current desire for naked retro-style motorcycles, Ducati’s latest effort exhibits a profound respect for the esthetic and performance benchmarks it set in the 1970s with its coveted bevel-drive 750 GT and Sport models. The interlacing of traditional Ducati DNA with a 21st century perspective is embodied in the new SportClassic GT1000.
Bred in the Emilia-Romagna region that is home to rolling sculptures emblazoned with the prancing horse of the House of Savoia, the offspring of the Ducati brothers share the birthright of pedigree with their four-wheeled cousins from Maranello. The factory and its museum enshrine the 60 years of championship machines and heroic individuals who have led this David in the battle against the Goliaths of the motorcycle world. A visit to Bologna, therefore, which the Italians sanctify as the gastronomic center of the universe, is a pilgrimage where one best savors the sapore at the core of every Ducatista’s passion for the brand.
Pulling up to the factory gate on the Via Cavalieri Ducati in the Borgo Panigale prefect of the city, one is immediately overcome by the ambiance, thick with the flavor of legend. Given the legacy of the firm’s revered roadsters, the current team of designers and engineers were challenged to visibly raise the game. It was decreed that simply copying the past was not an option; anything less than a contemporary level of technical excellence would be unacceptable. “We would never dream of building a motorcycle whose technical shortcomings would be passed off as ‘character’,” my hosts explain. The challenge is addressed by not one, but a family of motorbikes, each a specific modulation of the sporting soul of the marque. The previously unveiled Sport1000 and the Paul Smart Edition aim to satisfy devotees of the company’s racing bloodline. The GT, on the other hand, is crafted with a dolce vita approach.
In preparation for my date with this new thoroughbred, the director of the Museo Ducati has walked me through the machine’s genesis with a passionate description that reminds you this creature could only be fashioned by Italians. The emotion is justified with the first look. This is charisma rendered in metal. As one is seduced by its proportions, it is clear this motorcycle is more than just a ride. The Ducati GT1000 is made to be worn—a glove that fits the body and caresses the road. (Click image to enlarge)
The mid-morning skies are clear. Mounting a red GT fresh from its technical inspection, I am stunned by how light and comfortable it feels. This is a company that also makes world-class Grand Prix bikes.
Project Engineer Federico Sabbioni described the GT’s evolution: “From the full-scale model, we worked closely with our trusted suppliers to develop components specifically for this model. Our traditional trellis frame provides high torsional rigidity with optimal levels of strength and weight saving. The GT1000 has undergone some of our most rigorous test sessions ever at the Nardo track where Ferrari, Maserati, BMW and Porsche all test their machinery.”
Ducati’s ability to constantly refine its signature elements over the years allows it to match style and substance. The GT1000 is lean muscle clothed in subtlety and elegance. The use of chrome is judicious. Fit and finish are exemplary. Easy-reach bars, ergonomic pegs, and a wide padded seat welcome the prospect of a daylong excursion. The scalloped tank and side covers invite the rider to embrace its flanks.
The desmodromic L-twin engine’s unmistakable baritone is our call to action. Our quartet leaves the factory and within minutes, we are clear of the traffic. Soon the landscape resembles a Titian painting. Astride the pride of Borgo Panigale, we discover the winding country roads through the small towns in the hills south of the city. As the throttle is twisted, a velvet band of power flows. The slim machine is propelled along a variegated path of sweepers and switchbacks with an ease and swiftness that inspire confidence in the most tentative rider, and ambition in the expert. From a sprint to top speed, it can be reined in with no effort to almost a full stop and then just as quickly unleashed again, like a champion quarter horse.
The miles are gobbled up as the sylvan countryside tempts us to get lost on purpose. Carving in and out of whatever traffic there is presents no issues as the featherlike throttle and ample torque make overtaking simple and safe. The customary encounters with buses and vans that drift across the centerline are preempted with a flick of the bars, a dab on the brakes, then a touch of gas. Catlike, the Gran Turismo extracts itself from potentially perilous moments so the rider can focus on the pleasure it so willingly provides. Even in downhill hairpins at dizzying angles with stomach-tightening drop-offs, the Ducati is a ballet dancer on point, never breaking a sweat or losing its poise. (Click image to enlarge)
The new GT combines sportbike performance, usability, practicality and comfort in its stylish neoclassical clothes. Still, it is not easily categorized as a retro-roadster. Doing so many things so well, thanks to the balance of its elements, the GT1000’s versatility will make you find excuses to ride it. The array of accessories that includes luggage, a fairing and an upgraded touring seat to enhance the grand touring experience.
If one can fall in love with a machine, then, the Ducati GT1000 is destined for a well-deserved share of torrid romances. But can one hope for conjugal bliss with such spirited temperament? Much like classic Ferraris, owning a Ducati was once not only a sign of individuality and refined taste but an admission of a deep relationship with a mechanic. “Bevelheads”, as enthusiasts of Ducati’s classic twins refer to themselves, commiserated on a constant basis as they maintained their passionate, but often problematic, marriages.
Cognizant of its responsibility, and true to a commitment to performance without compromise, Ducati has addressed the realities that once made trepidation synonymous with ownership. Nowadays, Ducati’s kaizen approach of continuous improvement and its transformation to a customer-focused organization, while maintaining their artisan’s qualities, means Ducatis are as solid and reliable as they are beautiful. (Click image to enlarge)
Indeed, the love is evident in this new Gran Turismo just as it is in all great things Italian. Perfect balance and an indefinable element of style, along with its unapologetic brio as a performer, set the GT 1000 apart from the retro-poseurs. Ducati’s winning spirit, and its obsession to excel, no matter how daunting the competition, is captured in a local Bolognese expression: Noi non siamo i migliori, ma gli altri non sono migliori di noi—“We are not the best, but the others will not best us.”