Dance and house music pump out across the vendor area, and in that alone you know this is a different type of motorcycle gathering. Then, it starts, what was house is given a new beat, and then drown out completely by the “pompone”. The thunderous cadence of L-Twins firing up on the “starting grid”. This new fusion is the soundtrack for the first Ducati Northwest, held August 5th, 2004 at the Portland International Raceway.Approximately 650 Ducatista, riders of other brands and onlookers passed through the gates of Portland International Raceway (PIR) for a day featuring a smattering of vendors, celebrities, concession food, and most importantly the track. As a group it has to be said right off that the Ducati demographic is a solid one, and that should make primary organizers Kevin Davis of Ducati North America and Arun Sharma of MotoCorsa very pleased.
As a group the Ducatista seem happier, more passionate, affluent, better dressed, and above all better looking that the crowd you find hanging out at the local “hogs’r’us” dive bar – Portland nightlife may never be the same. Even after the squad from John Valk Ducati’s ride to the event took to town. Not convinced?
Molly Culver was one of the attendees and won a few laps around the track on the back of Doug Polen’s 999. You might know Molly from the TV show V.I.P. or as the host of OLN’s Dirt Rider Adventures, and with credentials like that we don’t think Doug was complaining too much at having a pillion.
Still, the real star of the show was the Track. Including attendees, V.I.P.s, and dealers, 300 track day ticket holders vied for the 27 available track times. For many, a third of these 15-minute slots were a chance to take a new model year Ducati onto the asphalt loop – albeit under the watchful guidance of ride leads.
For the rest of the track goers it was a great excuse to do a few turns of Portland International Raceway at speed, or near to it. Unfortunately, due to the differential in pacing between the various levels of riders there was a fair amount of bunching in the turns, but with judicious timing, as well as the use of the throttle and brake this was hardly an insurmountable issue. In case you needed a little guidance on pulling off such maneuvers, author Nick Ienatch was on hand to sign his guide to the subject of riding, Sport Riding Techniques (reviewed here on OWD). Regardless of riding style there were moments when one could taste motorcycling at its purest and most intense… and then others where you just had to wait things out.
Indeed, waiting was an issue as lineups dogged the morning, with 45 minutes to get into PIR, then another 45 minutes to get through the demo or track sign-up lines. These lines and a lack of signage were cited as the event’s low points by a number of attendees. Still, a brief polling of the crowd showed that the first time event blues weren’t damping anyone’s spirits – especially as the overcast skies gave way to afternoon sunshine. Unfortunately, slow entry into PIR may have made it difficult for students of Ducati University to make morning classes on time and low AM attendance saw Duc-U’s afternoon sessions cancelled.
Pity, as we were hoping to get in on a suspension clinic; our tester Monster S4R, provided by John Valk Ducati, needed a serious tweak to accommodate a certain editor’s 200lb mass, since it came to us with setting suitable for a bulimic wood nymph. Fortunately one of the on-site vendors, Oregon City’s GP Suspension stepped in, and, with a little elbow grease, made the Monster listen to reason and lean with the best of them. Suspenders properly tuned, the 996-powered naked rocketed around the track, proving to be really good fun (watch for our upcoming review of the Monster S4R).
The Monster also resulted in the best quote of the day; two riders with more years under their belts than I’ve been alive were heard in conversation after taking a 999 and the S4R on the track. “That 999, she’s a lady, you’ve got to be gentle with her, caress her, romance her or she’ll rip your head off. The Monster, you just rip her knickers down and have your way with her.” Wait, what’s that we hear? Ah, it’s the Ducati marketing department just collectively shuddering.
Other than off-the-cuff utterances there were a number of other attractions. Shopping your thing? Helping ensure the Ducatista were well dressed and safe was Portland’s MotoCorsa, whose entire store went AWOL and wound up at the track, near as we could tell. In the process some great deals were to be had. Since when has “expense conscious” and Ducati been housed in the same sentence? Dainese’s Mark McPerry was also on hand ensuring that track style reigned supreme. Of course the vendor area had a few items with the ability to send most spendthrifts into conniptions.
Ducati Seattle had the third of six NCR Millona Standard editions on hand. Its baseline configuration sees the bike reputedly weighing in at a mere 258 pounds, and a massive 30,000 Euros. That means that you won’t have enough money left over for the bag of pennies needed to weigh this purpose-built track bike down in a strong wind. Not quite up your alley? Looking for something even more individual? You’d find it at the Acme Rocket Bike booth.
Acme Rocket Bike turns out one-of-a-kind custom cycles with a huge difference… a complete lack of engines carved out of pig iron singing potato-potato harmony. Acme’s one-offs are based on some of the best bikes of our time, the R1, the 916, but for the 999 they are trying something different – a production run. Acme is working with booth-mate SpeedyMoto, manufacturers of some of the slickest aftermarket Duke bits we’ve seen, to produce a reworked 999. Pierre Terblanche’s controversial design will be stripped away as the 999 is customized to classic café racer inspired looks – we took the time to chat with Robert Steffano, “designer, artist and gearhead”, about the project and look forward to sharing the story with you in the coming weeks.
If giving modern bikes classic inspiration isn’t your pace, if you just want the real thing, then there were plenty of examples of classic Ducatis on hand. Judging went on in a number of categories, so the envelopes please:
Best and 2nd place Monsters:
1st – Richard Beam(flame yel M900)
2nd – Katie Buder(tangerine/stripe M900)
Best and 2nd place SS’s:
1st– Dr Pete Wylie(red SS900 SP)
2nd -Terry Afdem (yel SS900 SuperLight)
Best and 2nd place Sport Touring:
1st-Mark Trbojevic(red ST4s)
2nd-John Bouffler (flat black E900/Elephant)
Best and 2nd Superbike
1st – Chris Gill (1993 888/955 ex Polen bike)
2nd – 2003 999R FILA
Best and 2nd Classic:
1st – Tom Young(1976 SS900 silver/blue)
2nd – Brian Holzinger (1982 TT2 replica)
Being the slackers that press are noted to be, we only managed to snag interviews with a couple of the winners in these categories. Namely Chris Gill, who was exceptionally pleased that Doug Polen was on hand to sign his former race bike, and Dr. Peter Wylie, who it seems has quite a thing for carbon fibre. Peter’s SS900 SP is almost completely devoid of original plastic; it’s like some insane carbon fibre-y experiment complete with mad scientist. Well, ok, actually he’s a mad dentist and instead of a misshapen deformed monster, the product is an exquisitely styled and painted carbon fibre-clad beauty.
Not so much the case with Gary Eagan’s Multistrada, which, sporting a number of optional extras coveted by the long distance set, isn’t likely to be winning a beauty contest any time soon. Gary is Cycle World’s Editor at Large and now, more importantly, holder of the North-South transcontinental record after a 12,000-mile / 4-day / 5-hour run astride his Multistrada from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida. Psssssst, wanna buy a Multistrada, only “slightly” used?
Of course not everyone had to buy a bike, some just settled for winning one. Zero down, zero financing, oh and about $15.00 paid out for general admission, Paul Anderson, could easily live with those terms on his new Monster 620 Dark. Poor suffering soul, he just bought an Aprilia Mille and now has to spend his morning coffee deciding which bike to ride.
As a first year event Ducati Northwest 2004 featured great highs and only a few lows. OWD thinks that another Ducati Monster 620 Dark owner, Dave Griffiths, summed it up nicely when asked about the day. His high, touching a pipe out on the track. The low, “It’s over already!” Ducati Northwest in the end turned out to be all about the track and not near long enough to get the most out of a good thing, a brilliant first effort by any standards and we can’t wait till next year.