Red Steel, I Love You

October 17, 2007

Originally posted to ydnar.vox.com in October 2007.

So I have this thing for steel bikes. I also have a thing for the color red and italian parts. I like dry clutches, twin cylinders and single-sided swingarms. I like cafe-racers and loud pipes. I like torque more than horsepower, and I have no overwhelming need to race whatsoever. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with two-wheeled machines, building them, designing them.

I saw my first Ducati on King Street in old-town Alexandria in 1997. I believe it was a 748, and the stance and sound were amazing. There was something really beautiful and honest in its lines, the steel frame and the complete lack of any pretension about being anything other than a race bike for the street. It clanked and roared. There are other steel-framed V-twin bikes. But they never did it for me—the Harley attraction may be a subtle difference, but it’s palpable. My bike will never have a fairing nor a stereo.

After figuring out what I wanted (an S2R 1000), I sat and waited. For a few years. On Sunday I went to Hattar in Marin, parked and immediately walked up to the exact bike I’d been looking for. It was perfect: Red frame, red body, black wheels and a pair of sweet Arrow carbon pipes up the right side.

Negotiations went pretty well, and a few hours later she was mine. The first ride was a dimming Sunday ride back over the Golden Gate Bridge, wind, fog and all—firmly planted in the right lane doing a grandmotherly 50 mph.

I’m taking it slow at first until we get to know each other better; I want this relationship to last a long time. She’s loud, capricious, strong and beautiful—the only way I like it.