Despite the fact that the contemplation of Quality and motorcycle maintenance led to the complete mental breakdown of a man much brighter than myself, I feel moved by recent event to broach the subject. Whereas one of Pirsig’s primary problems was in definition (e.g. What is Quality?) I am going to expedite the process (and preserve my mental state) by offering a working definition. For the purposes of this discussion, quality will be defined as “The ability to finish a fair number of races without material failure.”

2002 R1

A Spanish mountain road, an empty pull out and thou.

A couple weeks ago I was having dinner with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts after a hard day of dirt bike training. During the discussion of various upcoming motorcycle oriented weekend one of the attendants remarked that he had recently had his immaculate red Ducati 916 repainted gloss black. After the initial shock wore off around the table, he hit us with the second hit of the combination. He was thinking about trading in the 916 to get one of the new Silver and Black R1s. He had seen the two page ads in RW and desire had been gnawing away at him.

After years of ridiculous colors combinations that would embarrass a tub of ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins, the time honored Bold New Graphics engineering finally pays off. The R1, with its’ new frame demurely blacked out, has hit a home run with its’ delectable styling.

It is a sportbike that looks like a serious piece of hardware. It is a marine edition stainless steel and graphite Mossberg pump shotgun, not a plastic super soaker. A bike that exudes “probable cause” before the key even hits the ignition.

Avon Tires

Melksham Calling


Daytona Comparisons

The wind. The wind is blowing in the flatlands of Florida. It billows over the grandstands, spills down into the bowl and finally, stacks up against the three story high banking forming its own invisible barrier. In these conditions your air speed is thirty miles an hour higher than your ground speed. And the ground speed is intimidating. Despite the abundance and density of air, it is hard to breath because the chin bar of your helmet is smashed up against your mouth. The cheek pads of the brand new helmet have surrendered to the frontal pressure. What air you can get into your nose and mouth is pulled through a straw because the strap on your helmet is strangling you as your helmet obeys physical law and obediently tries to fill the vacuum created behind it. The track is bending away from you to the left. You are faced with a difficult decision: relieve the pressure on your throat by attempting to find shelter behind the vestigial windscreeen, or crane your neck into the windblast in order to be able to see far enough around the banking so that you have a chance to pick a clean line through the other bikes; bikes that you are closing on at 100 feet per second. You tell yourself that the speedometer is hopelessly optimistic but it is reading 170mph when your front tire slides sickly across a cold sealant patch towards a cement wall and catch fence behind which tens of Dale Earnhardt mourners gather. The bike catches traction and shakes itself straight as your mind fails to override the body’s desire to clench the bars. And you still have an entire eighth of throttle left in the grip. Disbelief as you pull the last eighth and, in what seems like an absolute defiance of all previous understanding of motorcycles, the bike positively surges ahead. Welcome to Daytona, open class style.

Ducati 999 At Willow, Part 4

Andrea on Handling

Note: the following is a dramatic reenactment of conversations between our trusty correspondent, Sam Fleming, and Andrea Forni.

“Our MotoGP bike has a higher top speed than the Aprilia. The laws of nature
governing the handling of a motorcycle are the same in world Superbike
or MotoGP. We will be competitive."  Photo: Andrea Forni – AOD MOI


Ducati 999 At Willow, Part 3

Carbon is the new Chrome

So you quit racing and you have more money than you know what to do with? Feast your eyes on just a sampling of the accessories Ducati has laid out for you. Although this is just a few of the factory options, assume that any casting is available in magnesium and any sheet metal is available in titanium and you will be close.

Ducati 999 At Willow, Part 2

The Ducati 999 On The Stand:

The biggest innovation on the 999 is the adoption of a car technology to a production motorcycle: CAN or Controller Area Network. I know it might be hard to work up much enthusiasm for the wiring harness but what they have done is a bigger step forward than those compact coils on sparkplugs that we have all come to love so much. Instead of having a wiring loom with a sensor, wires, and receptors for each separate function, a CAN uses digital signals, single sensors and two computers which sort out which signals are to be used for each function. For example, on a conventional bike there are three temperature sensors for the coolant: one for the fuel injection, one for the temperature gauge and one to turn on the fan. By comparison, on the new Ducati there is a single coolant sensor which feeds digital data into the network. That data is then utilized by the ECU for the fuel injection and control of the fans. The same data is used by the instrument cluster to display the engine temperature on the large LCD. This system is very versatile since it is much easier to improve software than to improve hardware. The integral lap timer built into the instrument cluster of the 999 requires no additional hardware (it uses the starter button switch and the LCD) it simply uses software to pick up and display information on hardware that is already there. The integral shift lights are also more of a software feature than a hardware feature. The reduction in wiring and sensors is not insignificant, Ducati has dropped 3 kilos off the electrical system with the adoption of CAN.

Ducati 999 At Willow, Part 1

The 999 Part 1

“What do you think of the look?”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Dunlop has released the street going version of their 208 series tires. Following the nomenclature of the past, the new tire is called the D208 ZR and is claimed to be an improvement over the D207 ZR in handling, ride comfort, mileage, and grip in both wet and dry conditions.

Formula Hayabusa

What is a car review doing in a magazine dedicated to motorcycle roadracing?

It looks like it sounds: mean. Photo by Scott Fisher.



There are many good reasons why you should not read this story and/or ignore everything presented below. I point this out now to save folks the trouble of writing in letters complaining about how this study is biased in one direction or another.