A Life in 66.6 Mile Increments Part I – The World’s Fastest Sport-Tourer

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cover-1Sitting long, low and sepia-lit in the evening sun at Alice’s on Skyline Road the 1098S projects sensuality and anticipation of acceleration so pure it borders on erotic; needing only to shed vestigial street fitments to reveal its true track-borne nature.

A fellow rider walks up, “That’s gorgeous, where are you riding to?”

Hefting a backpack of computer, photography equipment and disposable Wallmart undies over my shoulder I reply, “Irvine, then Portland, Oregon.”

“On that? Are you nuts?”

Sitting long, low and sepia-lit in the evening sun at Alice’s on Skyline Road the 1098S projects sensuality and anticipation of acceleration so pure it borders on erotic; needing only to shed vestigial street fitments to reveal its true track-borne nature.

A fellow rider walks up, “That’s gorgeous, where are you riding to?”

Hefting a backpack of computer, photography equipment and disposable Wallmart undies over my shoulder I reply, “Irvine, then Portland, Oregon.”

“On that? Are you nuts?” 

Perhaps, but there is a thesis about at test here. In the real world finances and time often force us to choose “only” one bike, so can a dream bike like the 1098S fit? Philosophically the question is fine, but consider the implications; trips to MotoGP with friends, nips across provinces and states, transits to track days, and the ongoing quest for joyous road. A few laps on a circuit may be a test, but the real world is a challenge.

This thesis is of growing importance to aspiring Ducatista, because the Ducati range appears to be narrowing, becoming more track and racing oriented, and that risks leaving road riders out in the cold.

The 1098S sweeps down La Honda (Route 84) and courses out onto the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). By Santa Cruz the 1098S establishes itself as a lane splitting scimitar. Full-throated opera of Termignoni race exhaust bellowing with authority enough to part a red sea of brake lights, the thin twin slicing between cars. By Seaside night has fallen and the nemesis of coastal riding sets in; the marine layer.

The PCH, running down California’s coastline between Monterey and Hearst Castle is a captivating favorite. Corners sweep off into blue skies, scenic vistas, the pacific crashing to your right below, open straights, good sightlines and challenging technicalities – it’s an entrancing sport riding mix. By the time I fuel up in Big Sur, I’ve jokingly dubbed the 1098S “the world’s fastest sport-tourer” – I’m unsure how far from wrong the jest is.

This 1098S is fast and loud, hard, intense and near violent, much more so than the one I tested this spring in and around LA. That’s to be expected, I’ve inherited the bike from Cycle World who used to set a blazing 9.84-second quarter mile after equipping it with a full Termignoni race exhaust system, ECU and air filter mods, but even without that history the bike grabs attention.

It engrosses the gas station attendant, captures two young men road-tripping from Cincinnati and eventually accumulates a crowd whose questions remake me into a Ducati field rep. “How much horse power?” and “How fast?” A lot and very…

The 1098S is eager to demonstrate those points. Back in Vancouver, photographer Kevin is tracking my progress on Google Maps as I phone in from various waypoints, “You’re cooking.” This is despite my life now being measured in 66-mile increments, 66.6 for poetic license.

On average that’s the how far I’ve been going before finding a reason to stop; phone call, fuel, photos, scenic vistas, washroom breaks… take your pick; subject to the 1098S’s aggressive ergonomics, the engine heat, and limited tank range these breaks become mandatory. I’m unsure if this will be the 1098GT any time soon.

It should be a frustrating mode of travel. It certainly is for the other traffic, as I repeatedly shown them the 1098S’s rear Diablo Corsa III with each race between pitstops. The 1098S is hardly awake at double posted though the corners and double-yellows become a suggestion. Passes are executed on a wave of torque so strong that even third gear sees the front end noses skywards and corners with good sight lines are an opportunity to overtake lumbering four wheeled pylons. This is riding “civilized” under the influence of a 1098.

Strange though that thanks to the required frequent stops, the 1098S is forcefully realigning my sense of touring. I’m seeing more than I ever have on this stretch of road. John Ruskin, a 19th century author and artist, would be proud. Ruskin was taught to travel for beauty, summer vacations would see his family journey no more than 50 miles in a day to take it all in. I’ll not be limiting the 1098S to such inconsequential speeds.

Ruskin also advocated stopping to study the scenery. On an outcropping overlooking the Pacific Ocean painted against a light blue summers sky this “multiple jump” mode of travel seems a modern best of both worlds fruition of these ideals; the excitement of travel at speed on massively entertaining roads and the excuse to stop anywhere I or my camera fancy.

It’s vaguely science fiction, looking at the map I compute my next “jump” and with a twist of the 1098S’s throttle space warps. The 50’s may have predicted flying cars, but the each “faster than light” hop of the 1098S is proving far more entertaining. The sci-fi vernacular becomes part of my internal monologue… the Termignoni exhaust having rendered my iPod’s efforts inconsequential.

By the time I detour inland, the 1098S and I have passed three (thankfully) disinterested CHP and made good enough time for a leisurely lunch at the French Corner Bakery in Cambria.

The sign may say French at the corner of Burton and Main St. in Cambria, but the rich spicy pork Tortas says Mexican… at it’s most delicious. Served warm on a fresh bun these marinated pork based concoctions are augmented by avocado, lettuce, jalapeños, tomato, and feta cheese – the jalapeños are not optional. After one of these sandwiches for lunch though dinner may well be – making the French Corner a favorite stop on Pacific Coast Highway tours.

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