On Yer Bike: Ducati 900cc

This month, FMM Curator and self-confessed motorcycle enthusiast Wayne Harley describes his participation in the Giro dei Vigneti aboard the museum’s Ducati…

As reported at the start of this newsletter, at the end of last month the museum hosted the 2019 Giro dei Vigneti ‘lap of the vineyards’ organised by Sonja-Liezel Theron and the CIAO Club. FMM was selected as the start venue and we were also invited to tag along on one or two of the stages. As I had recently picked up the Ducati 900cc Mike Hailwood Replica from its owner Stuart Mackay Davidson, it was the ideal machine with which to take part.

The Ducati was featured in our April 2018 newsletter, and my reason for collecting the bike was that it needed a little TLC and a good long run, and I thought this tour would be the ideal opportunity to blow out the cobwebs. So I asked Stuart for permission and he happily entrusted me with his 1980 monster. As I only had the opportunity to join the tour from the Thursday, I had to ride the first morning on my own without any form of support or back-up on a bike I had only received the week before… Not that I doubted my abilities. but there’s always a voice of caution in the back of the mind and I was a little worried of just how long I could go without any trouble.

So I set out on a cold and misty morning for Bonnievale via the Franschhoek Pass, which was a disappointment due to the fact I couldn’t see the clocks on the bike never mind the road due to the mist, and was more afraid of someone running up my tail than going off, so it was a rather tense time crawling over the Pass. However, everyone else had the same problem, but once over the Pass and into the valley below I could see the road again, although it had taken longer than expected and I was now late for the lunch stop at the Van Loveren Estate.

I needed to make up time, which the Ducati’s 80 hp was more than happy to aid me with and not before too long I was in Robertson. I quickly stopped off at a filling station for fuel as I was not sure how thirsty she would be. Surprisingly, it had done 135 km on 8,5 litres, which is almost 16 km/litre (6 litres/100 km), and despite my rather heavy right hand,  the Ducati would maintain these consumption figures for rest of the Giro.

Having joined the tour and had lunch with the other participants, I was able to pass on my rather uncomfortable backpack to the support team, who did a stellar job by now freeing me up to really start enjoying the Ducati on roads made for riding. The overnight stop was the Karoo 1 Hotel about 120 km away, and fortunately before I got there I needed to traverse the Burgerpas… I fell in love with the Ducati all over again in this pass. I must point out that this Ducati was built in 1980 and produces 80 hp (58 kW) at 7 500 r/min – pretty good for a 39-year-old bike – compared with the 2019 Ducati 939cc Supersport S that produces 110 hp (81 kW) at 9 000. And then the handling is really not bad at all, even with its all tube-steel frame and original old Marzocchi front and rear shocks. To be honest, I turned around and took a second run over the pass, which was a little naughty but, oh boy, so much fun on a machine that can…

The next morning we head off to Saronsberg Vineyard cottages via Theronsberg Pass, a total distance of 125 km with which I only needed to use third and fourth gears as the big twin has enough torque and 7 500 in fourth is way fast enough for any twisty mountain pass. Approaching a corner you only need to drop to third and the big vee’s engine braking is very usable and predictable, but on some of the tighter turns second gear is needed.

As we had reached our overnight stop with time to spare, I gave the Ducati a quick once over. After two days of riding with a number of high speed runs, mountain passes, traffic and even getting lost at one point, nothing was needed other than a good wipe down and a little tiger in the tank. The next morning was the last day and would see the tour pass through Riebeeck Kasteel with a lunch stop at Allesverloren, and then on to FMM for the final stop. Everything went so well until about 10 km from the museum where, having misjudged my fuel range, I had to switch over to the reserve tank. But in doing so, a small piece of rubbish found its way into the front carburettor and blocked a jet, forcing me to limp home on one cylinder.

As for the rest of the Tour, it was worth every kilometre and I can’t wait for the 2020 edition. Well done Sonja-Liezel.