“They took my Allen keys from my at security,” on the phone photographer Kevin Miklossy sounds disgusted, “you need a 6mm and a 3mm. Does the Ducati toolkit have them?”
I laugh, “You’re joking right.”
The 1098S toolkit philosophy is one of insert gold card and swipe. Kevin is flying to meet me with another loaner in Ojai and CycleVenture who’ve caught wind of the ride are sending a 1098 rack and luggage to the hotel.
It takes three passes of Cambria’s Main Street on a bike loud enough I’m ready to jiffy marker, “I’m sorry for the noise” on the back of my leathers to spot a hardware store and acquire the wrenches. A final fill up before lighting out of town eases my conscious, a middle-aged woman in a Mercedes convertible walks over, “My god, that sounds amazing! Can I sit on it?”
The 1098S has pull.
It’s nearly three before I’m bound for Ojai and the heroic highway 33, via the Cuyama Highway (166) off the 101. Confronted with a “safety corridor” of long straights and relaxed sweepers, I wonder what sort of driver has an accident on this sort of road. Suspecting my “cop luck” may have been exhausted in my flight down the coast, I attempt a restrained pace. It’s no good.
Every bike has a natural sweet spot. At 4500RPM the Testastretta Evoluzione purrs smooth and calm at 75mph in third. No mater how often I drag myself back down to the limit the 1098S creeps back this marker.
Ahead four mini-vans, masking tape crosses taped in their rear windows, are in an exact speed limit procession on a long double-yellow marked straight across the desert. While I debate the merits of passing, a CHP pulls into the oncoming lane from a side road. Seems I’ve been “saved”, but once the cruiser is out of view it’s “onwards Christian soldiers” because it’s hotter than Hell.
“Heaven” is the Ventucopa gas station on the 33, or at least the cool blow of its air conditioner. Between relentlessly climbing temperatures and the 1098S’s engine heat my Clover leathers are like being encased in a cowhide sauna. One I suspect will never smell the same again. The man at the till looks up catching a waft, time to head out onto the 33.
The next 20 miles of this much-anticipated accent into Los Padres National Forest has been grated a process that’s liberally applied with gravel, sand and dust to the road. The decent into Ojai, however, is pure bliss.
The front tire slips occasionally, I’m not 100% because of the heat, and yet I can’t bring myself to ease the pace. This is the hint, where a dream bike shines in the real world, because very occasionally you encounter dream roads. I could go directly to the hotel, but instead I U-turn and repeat…
The Capri Inn in Ojai has the package and my first thought is that CycleVenture rack has sent the entire warehouse – it’s huge. “Some assembly required” is a problem for a “no assembly achieved” sort of guy; luckily Kevin (who has ridden up form Irvine on a loaner Kawasaki Councours 14) is more mechanically inclined. I needed have worried; even after a glass of wine the Venture rack mounts on the 1098S with the ease of a child’s mechano project.
The fantastic thing is the Ventura rack, without the weight of my back pack the bike’s handling is feeling more natural and the firmly sprung 1098S hardly notices the 33kgs/72.75lbs of luggage hovering over it’s rear tire. Removing that weight from my backpack is transformative – the 1098S has taken a step closer to 1098GT.
The next two days are spent terrorizing a classic sampler of roads around Los Angeles. Kevin and I switch off between the Kawasaki Concours 14 and 1098S, as we ride the local roads with the guidance of various local riders. It occurs to me, briefly that we may have a maddest compo on our hands, Kawasaki Concours 14 versus 1098S, a story idea filed away for the future.
The Angeles Crest, Spunky’s Canyon, Lake Hugh’s Road and assorted connectors between fall under our tires, before Kevin and I return the Kawasaki Concours 14 to Irvine. That leaves the “real ride” yet to begin as the 1098S and I point northwards.