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Motorbikes

Bridgestone BT 016 tyre review UPDATE

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This is the front tyre. Worn almost flat on the sides. Very strange wear.

It’s been a year since I bought a set of Bridgestone BT 016 tyres for the Monster. My initial thoughts can be read here. What do I think now after a couple of thousand miles?

Well, I’m still not convinced. These tyres just don’t feel right. Admittedly they turn in faster now that they are scrubbed in a bit and it has become easier to get the bike through the corners but I still don’t feel completely confident in them. Is this because they don’t give much feedback or is it my built in survival instinct keeping me reigned in?

They have not frightened me or done anything untoward, though today the front end did seem to lose it’s grip for a moment and I was surprised at that. The one thing these tyres don’t lack is grip.

The back tyre is wearing well and evenly although there is actually a step where the softest rubber at the edge of the tyre has worn more than the middle compound. This has not yet affected grip or performance, or at least I am unable to detect it.

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Back tyre wearing very well compared to the front although a slight step is noticeable between the softer outer compound on the outside edge and the slightly harder compound next to it. Softer outer edge quite visible.

The front tyre is another matter. The sides have a distinct flat on them. This is very unusual for me as I do not weigh much and am not a heavy braker. This must be why the turn is improved because of the slightly V shape the tyre now has. Normally when the back tyre is worn out I still have plenty or grip left on the front but with these BT 016s the front tyre is more worn than the rear already.

I’m not sure how many miles the tyres have done but it must be a couple of thousand so they are not doing bad. Mind you the bike is not heavy and neither am I. I’d like to think that my riding style is fluid and I don’t brake much so in theory I should get a lot more miles out of a set of tyres than most.

The question is really; would I buy these tyres again? The answer is a most definite NO. Mainly because I don’t like the way the front tyre is wearing unevenly and because the outer part of the rear tyre is at a lower level than the rest of the tyre but mostly because I just don’t like the way they feel. The bike is twitchy coming out of bends and on uneven surfaces. It never did that with the Pilot Powers. I don’t think it’s a problem, it just takes the edge of one’s confidence when the bike doesn’t feel completely planted.

Perhaps I could mess about with the suspension settings but I hate to do that, especially when the bike was so well set up for the Michelins.

What will I replace these tyres with? A mate has fitted Continental tyres to his Paul Smart and he seems to like them a lot but I still think those Michelin Pilot Powers were an excellent tyre at least once they were warmed up. I think that triple compound is a bit overkill for the road so I will probably go for something fast street as opposed to road/race. I’ll keep you posted on that!

So, conclusion:

The Good – Fast warm up. Excellent grip.

The Bad – Lack of feeling. Uneven wear. Slow turn in and direction changing.

Marks out of ten. A seven at best.

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Motorbikes

Tear along the dotted line

Here’s a 10 minute video I made using the GoPro® HD Motorsports HERO™ Camera mounted on the Ducati Monster M900. Filmed in the south of France.

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Please Click here to watch the video and enjoy!

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Motorbikes

Bridgestone BT 016 Tyre review

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Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. ISO 250 f11 @ 60 secs

Well, I’m not quite sure what to make of these tyres. They feel so very different to the Michelin Pilot Powers I had before. I like the look of them and I like that the tread doesn’t go right to the edges unlike the Pilot Powers. This just makes sense to have as much rubber on the road at extreme lean angles. There’s no need for getting rid of water as you wouldn’t be leaning to the edge of the tyres in the wet. Well, not unless you were completely mental that is!

The shape of the tyres seems very round with a symmetrical radius and this is noticeable on the road. When in a corner you can choose the angle of the bike whereas with the Pilot Powers the bike would lean over always to the same point. It’s a strange sensation indeed but not unpleasant, just different.

The biggest difference is when weaving through tight S bends. The bike needs quite a lot of input from the rider to get the bike from one side to the other. It’s a fluid motion but quite unlike the Pilot Powers which almost snapped from one side to the other. That suited my small stature as the bike did all of the work. Now I have to make some effort.

The grip from these tyres is extraordinary and they seem to warm up almost straight away unlike the Pilot Powers which took a few miles. After the tyres were scrubbed in I went along one of my favourite roads to give them a proper test. The bike can certainly lean further than the Pilot Powers and frankly the angle I could achieve was ridiculous and had me laughing at the exit of every corner. I tried leaning more and more until I had my boots scraping the road. No big deal you might think but this Monster has rear sets fitted which are much higher than the original pegs and I can’t see how it’s possible that the bike can lean so far as to get my feet touching the road. It’s almost like riding on a wall of death!

Having these levels of grip is very reassuring. It’s good to know that there’s plenty in reserve if ever I need it. It will be interesting to see how long they last! The front tyre has two compounds and the rear has three which is a brilliant and very logical solution. If you look at the picture below you can see the slightly different colour on the last 25mm or so of the tyre where the softest compound is.

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Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. ISO 250 f16 @ 60 secs

On the road the tyres are comfortable and reassuring but somehow my suspension feels too soft now, like it is under damped so this must mean that the tyres are more supple and are absorbing some of the shocks from the road. I put 2.5 bar (36 psi) in the front and 2.8 (40 psi) in the rear. This is what the guy in the tyre shop put in and it was what I used on the Pilot Powers too. The Bridgestone website is pathetic and I was unable to find the recommended settings but a few people said that they were 2.5 front and 2.9 rear so since I’m only small It’s probably about right.

Some mentioned they were running much lower pressures but this caused the tyres to go greasy after a while. I tried dropping the pressure on the Pilot Powers once but I didn’t like it so put them back. If you are going to get these tyres, I would start with higher pressures and see how you go. That said the bike has developed a twitchy front end on bad surfaces and under power and the bars slap about a bit. This never happened with the Pilot Powers. I tried lowering the forks a bit (11mm) and this has made a huge difference. Turn in seems unaffected but a bit more of my weight forward has really helped and the bike seems much more planted.

These are excellent tyres there’s no doubt about it. All that remains to be seen now is how long they last. If I wanted to be critical I would say that it takes a bit longer to get the power on coming out of bends. It feels like there is a lack of grip in the middle compound area, but it’s more probably the shape of the tyres that makes it feel like this. The Pilot Powers were excellent for getting the power on early coming out of bends and these BT016s just seem a bit slower. I would also say that they are slower to turn in and require more rider input to switch from one side to the other through the bends.

I’m nitpicking of course. The bottom line is that I am faster into the bends and faster out of them and I can lean more even though they don’t feel as reassuring as the Pilot Powers. Maybe it feels that way because I am going faster? In any case, if you do buy these tyres because you want to ride fast and have tons of grip then you won’t be disappointed.

They are not the cheapest tyres on the market but considering the technology that has gone into them I think they are a good investment. After all it’s the rubber that keeps you where you should be so not skimping on tyres is a good move.

I can’t comment about wet road riding since I am a fair weather biker but I have no doubt they would work just fine. These tyres don’t grip on the white lines and road markings in France. But then neither did the Pilot Powers. This is due to the crappy teflon coated paint they use, it’s no fault of the tyres.

Marks out of ten? I’d have to give them a 7 which is slightly less than I gave the Pilot Powers. The reason I have only given them a 7 is because of the slower turn in and somehow softer more wallowy ride they give. If nothing else, they have made me realise what excellent tyres the Pilot Powers were. Next time I would like to try the CT2 Michelins which are the dual compound versions of the Pilot Powers but sadly they don’t make them in a 170/60 size so we’ll have to see once the BT016s are worn out.

Update: 2000 miles on…

Categories
Motorbikes

Ducati Monster M900

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Leica M9, Elmarit 21mm Asph, f5.6 @ 30 sec 160 ISO. (Lightroom preset ‘Nostalgialicious’)

The thing I noticed most when I first saw Ducati’s new Monster M900 was that incredibly wide back tyre. Of course I also noticed the massive twin discs and upside down forks. It even had trick little carbon side panels. Even when it was stationary it looked like it was going fast. It looked pretty bloody good back in 1995. It still looks pretty good today too.

My first impressions on riding it was that it was totally planted. It went around corners as if on rails soaking up bumps and completely ignoring irregularities in the road. Even when I opened the taps a bit I soon realised that this bike had very high limits and I wasn’t anywhere near them. I doubted I could even get close to them. This kind of realisation makes riding a Ducati special.

The power was fabulous, even though there wasn’t really that much of it. 85 hp is not very much by today’s standards and the engine doesn’t rev very high. There isn’t even a rev counter. But it’s got grunt, an immediate rush of power no matter what gear you’re in. It’s quite possible to ride a Monster very fast without even having to change gear very often.

Then there are those brakes. Awesome is the only word for it. Just the pressure from one digit will pull you up fast and true from any speed. The brakes hiss when applied. I have never heard that before.

Being a short bloke who only weighs about 60 kilos has a large bearing on the kind of motorbike I can ride. One of the good things about the Monster is the low seat height but it’s also very light at only 180 kilos so that low hp figure is somewhat misleading. My old 400/4 Honda weighed as much and had only half the hp. A mate has a Bandit 650 which has the same hp but that weighs 50 kilos more than the 900cc Ducati!

OK, so it’s not really a bike to ride long distance, with no fairing it’s just too tiring, but if you want to ride far buy a Honda Goldwing or a BMW. The Monster is about enjoying yourself. It has no redeeming practical features at all. The pillion position is terrible and neither comfy for the rider or pillion. The grunty nature of the motor and the amazing brakes means you’re constantly being nutted by your passenger. There isn’t room for a spare change of pants even.

It has a lousy turning circle, thanks to the shape of the frame and this can be annoying in town but here’s a clever way of turning the bike around. Out on the open road it’s never an issue and this is where this bike was designed to be, not in a car park. It’s quite economical and the quoted 17 kms per litre is about right. This means about 100  – 120 miles on a tank. Not a huge range but like I said if you want that kind of stuff you need a different kind of bike.

The funny thing is, I was always a Japanese bike man. I liked high revving, small multi cylinder bikes. I had ridden plenty of other bikes of course but all the big twins that I rode vibrated and made my vision blur and I didn’t like the way the engine snatched at low speeds. I didn’t even particularly like the sound they made. They were also pretty heavy and that’s no good for a little bloke so I was always happy with a 400 or 500 cc bike. Anything bigger would be too much for me in every sense.

A year with the Monster has changed this attitude completely. I never knew that a big twin could be so light and agile. I have to remind my self that I am riding a 900cc bike. That’s a big capacity engine. Bike insurance might be expensive but I’m now of an age that makes a real difference. A clean licence and plenty of no claims bonus helps too.

I really do feel at home on the Monster. It might be a 900cc bike and capable of going like one but it feels much smaller when you’re riding it. You don’t have to ride it like a nutter to get satisfaction from it unlike the Monster 696 I tried. Far better to have a quick bike that you can ride slower and still enjoy. If you want to ride fast you can, the Monster is a very capable bike in the right hands.

It’s always a treat to be able to keep up with the serious boys on their new road rockets. They always seem surprised that such an old bike can do so well against their modern high tech ones. They are even more surprised when they get overtaken coming out of a bend. That instant power delivery from the Monster’s twin means that while their motor is just winding up towards the power band, you’re already in it and it can make a big difference.

On paper the Monster M900 doesn’t appear to be any kind of threat to any of the latest bikes of a similar capacity but in the real world it does very well thank you. There are some who say that Ducatis are too expensive or unreliable. The bike I am riding is 15 years old and it has been reliable for the year I have had it. Everything still works. There is no play anywhere and the chassis and running gear still feels very tight.

The Monster is an iconic bike. It has influenced the look of many of the bikes on the road today. It has it’s faults but when it comes to smiles per miles you can’t do better. If you want a bike purely for the pleasure of riding and don’t need any practical aspects why not try an original Monster? Low mileage old ones can be bought for a fraction of what they cost new. These were very expensive bikes when they were first sold.

Recently I hired a Ducati 696 for a weekend and although it was a very competent bike, I felt it was trying to be everything to everybody and had lost some vital element. Given a choice between a brand new 696 or my 15 year old M900. There’s no contest. I would take the original without question. It’s a great bike and a true design classic.

Categories
Motorbikes

How to turn a motorcycle around easily

 

 

Here’s a helpful trick that all Ducati Monster owners need to know. The Ducati’s have a very poor lock so turning them around so they are facing the right direction can be a right pain, especially if you only have little legs! Here’s a simple way that requires very little effort and is very quick.

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Motorbikes

Michelin Pilot Power tyre review

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Leica M9, Voigtlander f4 21mm 160 ISO Michelin Pilot Power

Before buying some new tyres for my cousin’s Ducati Monster M900 he’d been kind enough to lend me, I did some research online and soon realised that there is a huge choice of rubber out there. Actually it’s just plain confusing. I tried reading reviews of tyres but everyone seemed to be happy with their choice no matter who the manufacturer was and anyway, how can one know the experience of the reviewer?

In the end I decided that since the Monster is a powerful bike and I want to live for many years to enjoy it I’d go for a high performance street tyre and sacrifice a certain amount of wear for more grip. Since tyres are what keep you planted it makes sense to me to buy sticky tyres plus I wouldn’t be touring or going long distance on the Monster because without a fairing it’s just too tiring to ride.

Not sure why I chose the Michelins over any other brand but in the end I went for the Pilot Powers, maybe it was the tread pattern which is about as minimal as you can get. It looks pretty slick. I wanted to try the dual compound version but they didn’t do one in the right size for the Monster so single compound it was. The Pilot Powers are made from synthetic rubber straight from Moto GP land so should still be pretty good.

Another thing that I like from a tyre is a nice clear end to the tread. I want the tyre walls and the tread to have a sharp angle and not be rounded off. It just looks better to my mind. The Pilot Power is a good looking tyre. Some might say that it doesn’t matter, what matters is performance, not how a tyre looks at standstill. But the designers of bikes go to a lot of trouble making their bikes look a certain way and there’s no denying that tyres can completely change the look of a bike. Don’t agree? Put some trial bike tyres on a Ducati Monster.

So choice finally made, I took the bike down to the garage to have new shoes fitted. I was glad to be rid of the Pirelli Corsas that were on the bike, especially the rear, it was too wide, a 180/55 and not the correct 170/60/17. It’s not much, but I always think that designers know what they are doing when they specify a certain size of tyre. If they had wanted to fit 180/55 they would have done. It still had plenty of tread but the tyre gave me absolutely no confidence at all. Every corner I went around filled me with terror. A Ducati Monster is a great handling bike and shouldn’t feel like that.

The Pilot powers looked much better on the bike and the back tyre better proportioned to the wheel. After a warning from the fitter to be careful until the mould release has worn off the tyres I set off and wheelspun out on to the road. I had not intended to at all but the low down grunt of the 900 cc engine was enough to spin the back wheel. Guy wasn’t kidding.

Right away the bike felt better. The ride was softer yet firmer and the steering neutral. After 100 kms or so of gradually riding faster and faster and building confidence I realised that these were bloody good tyres with excellent grip and feel.

They need warming up for about 10kms but once up to temp they just do their job. The only time they aren’t very good is when riding over white lines. That may just be because the French have a rubbish reflective paint that appears to be made with Teflon on all their roads. Someone told me it was because the high quality Patented grippy version in the UK was too expensive. Who knows, perhaps with some other tyres it might not be so bad.

On one trip with a mate following on his Hornet 900 I was told that I was leaving black lines on the road coming out of the corners! The power of that big V twin must have been pushing the back tyre to the limits but I had no inkling of any drama being played out, the bike just goes around corners like it is on rails.

The turn in is very fast with these tyres, I think I read somewhere that the front tyre has a slight V shape which aids this. The bike lays down in the corners and stays there, the angle of lean stays fairly constant. They were never tested in the wet so I can’t give any feedback about how they might have performed but in the dry they grip very well.

They lasted well too. I managed to get about 3000 miles from the rear which, considering the kind of abuse it was subjected to was quite impressive, or at least I thought so, no doubt some reading this would be horrified but from what I can tell this is about right for a high performance street tyre. The front has plenty of tread left but it is lightly deformed but that’s hardly surprising considering the awesome stopping power of those 8 pot Brembo brakes. Both tyres wore evenly but that’s mainly because I rarely ride on straight roads.

I have been warned though by someone who gets through a hell of a lot of tyres on his bikes that Michelins can become suddenly unpredictable near the end. I have recently noticed a couple of little twitches from the back end when well heeled over but I couldn’t say whether it is the tyre going off or just an irregularity in the road surface but in my mind it could be the tyre, it probably is the tyre and so it’s time to change it.

Even though the front tyre looks OK, I’ll change it as well just to have a new matching pair from the same maker. One set of new tyres every year seems fair enough and the Pilot Powers were bought and fitted for about £200 which isn’t bad really, the Monster has big wide wheels after all.

If all I could get was a new set of Michelin Pilot Powers as before I would not be disappointed at all. Marks out of ten? I’d have to say at least a 7, maybe an 8 but I really haven’t tested that many different types of tyre so this is fairly meaningless although it can act as a bench mark. Lets go from here.

This time I am going to try the much rated Bridgestone BT 016 (read the review here) just because I feel that the bike deserves it and can you ever have too much grip? Will the BT 016 be better? I’ll let you know in a few weeks after I have thoroughly tested them in the real world.

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Motorbikes

Ducati Monster Quat D Ex-Box exhaust

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Leica M9, Summarit f2.5 50mm f2.5 @ 20th sec, 2500 ISO, Ducati with ExBox exhaust. See how clean it looks with no visible pipes. This is one clean back end.

When my cousin lent me his M900 Monster it came with the noisiest pipes you ever heard. He had the pipes made up for the bike when it was new and instead of having one pipe on each side, it had them both on the right hand side, quite forward thinking at the time. It looked excellent and the sound was awesome if you like that kind of thing which I did but I didn’t think our neighbours would.

To give you an idea of how loud it was when it fired up, windows would open and people would be wondering what the hell had happened. I tried to ride it quietly but even at very low revs it was very loud. The funny thing is, I rode it like this for a few months until I could finally afford to do something about it yet no one said a word, if anything people would say they liked the sound. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, the South of France is biker heaven!

One day I arrived at a roundabout where there were 4 bike cops all standing watching me arrive, arms folded. I would get tugged for sure… I tried to keep it quiet but wasn’t fooling anyone as I burbled, popped and rumbled towards them, I just rode confidently, turned my head to look behind me as I slowed and then powered on through the round about.

Eight eyes followed me around. Obviously they were not after bikes, so just as a treat for them I gave the bike some gas, not too much obviously but just enough to really enjoy that big twin sound. They didn’t come after me and I got the distinct impression that they quite enjoyed seeing the bike. I would have been pulled over in the UK for sure. Then consider that the bike has no indicators and a tiny number plate, easily enough excuse for a British cop to bust your ass! Like I said, it’s biker heaven in the South of France.

Even though no one seemed to mind about the noise I was feeling rather conspicuous all the same so I decided to look into some quieter pipes. My original idea was to simply change the cans and leave the beautiful custom made stainless downpipes in place but I just couldn’t find anything that would fit properly and nothing looked as good as the Supertrapps originally fitted. I decided to try another approach.

Then I saw some pics of a monster with the entire exhaust under the engine. It was the Quat D Ex-Box. I liked it and it seemed that it was road legal but could be easily adapted to be louder by unblocking the top of the two outlet pipes in the box.

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Leica M9 Elmarit 21 Asph, f8 @ 500 160 ISO. M900 with Ex-Box Oct 2009

It cost a whopping 1000€ and was interesting to fit. The downpipes are made in pieces which slot into one another and are held in place by strong springs. It’s a crazy system but it looks quite funky and does work. The box itself is very nicely made and quite heavy. In theory the weight so low down and central would help with the handling a little.

The first issue soon came to light. The tyre was touching the exhaust pipe because the chain was too short. One new chain with two extra links later, we were in business. For the first test I left the exhaust road legal as supplied and started the bike.

‘Wow’ I thought, that dry clutch really is loud. This is perfectly normal of course but I hadn’t heard it before over the noise of the old pipes. The Ex-Box in legal mode is very quiet indeed. I quite liked it though for it may have been quiet but it was still deep. A test ride was in order.

As soon as I pulled away I noticed the lack of power, I reckon it lost 20% right away. Normally the front wheel will lift in first if you accelerate hard, now no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the wheel off the ground. The bike felt very civilized but gutless. Maybe not gutless but it had lost the immediacy of the original delivery and the power curve felt very flat.

So I turned straight around and got the allen keys out and removed the capped top hole and installed the uncapped piece that comes with the exhaust. This meant that both holes in the exhaust were now open. I started the bike. The sound was deeper and louder. Nice.

A ride soon confirmed that the power was back. I was surprised that the original pipes were so effective. Loud they might have been but they were obviously well set up. So I had achieved my goal, a Ducati that sounds like a Ducati but won’t upset the neighbours too much.

The best thing about the Ex-Box is that it makes the back end of the bike so clean and mean looking. The bike is very narrow and the Ex-box emphasizes and enhances this feature.

Everyone notices this exhaust and most people’s comments are positive. I like it because it makes a nice sound, cleans up the back end and is a little different. You don’t often see bikes with them fitted.

Conclusion: Expensive but well made, nice sounding with clean looks but you might need a slightly longer chain.

Stay Upright!

Categories
Motorbikes

Ducati Monster 696 review

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Leica M9, Elmarit 21 asph, f8 @ 500 sec 160 ISO. Collobriere, France, October 2009

Last October my brother visited and we hired a new Ducati Monster 696 with the intention of blasting around the French countryside. Although I am very happy with a M900 Monster I was keen to see what 15 years worth of evolution had done for the beast.

First impressions are of a tight, well engineered nimble bike with quick steering but with harsh suspension. It would have been nice to be able to adjust the set up for my light 60 kilos. The new Monster is aimed at everyone so I wasn’t surprised that the suspension was firm. But I suppose better too firm than too soft.

The engine was smooth and the bike quite comfy, all things like switch gear and mirrors worked well. The engine certainly revs but it lacks the bottom end grunt of the M900. Brakes worked well as you would expect from a Ducati. The noise was disappointingly quiet but that could easily be turned up with some aftermarket Termis, no doubt it would also liberate some power as well as some decibels. The engine feels restricted to me with a very flat power curve though it revs freely and now and then the rev limiter would kick in.

To be honest I didn’t like it. That’s an awful thing to say I know. I really wanted to but after riding it I just don’t. What got me most of all was the harshness of the ride. The M900 soaks up bumps with ease and is surprisingly comfy to ride even on rough roads but the 696 jars and crashes over the smallest irregularities in the road which makes riding it very tiring. I also found the throttle very snatchy and hard to use smoothly, maybe this could be adjusted by a remap or maybe freer pipes.

You can see the family resemblance easy enough but I don’t like the plastic feel that it has or the LCD display. I mean, plastic tank covers which are really flimsy too. I know you can change it’s colour easy enough but that’s not reason enough to have so much plastic everywhere. I know that plastic is lighter too but it’s just so nasty. The headlight is a split screen affair that most people seem to like though it looks too plasticy to me.

At one point I took it out on my own to see what I could do with it down a favourite winding road. Suddenly it all made sense, the stiff suspension is needed when you’re sweeping at high speed around the bends but who wants to ride like that all the time? Plus, I had to shift my feet on the pegs as my feet kept touching the road which was really annoying. The pegs are far too low.

It seems to me that Ducati have tried to create a bike that can do everything for everyone but it certainly didn’t work for me. Taking the bike back to Columbus (Excellent Ducati Rental) should have been a great trip along the sea front all the way to Cannes. This is an awesome bike road but by the time I arrived I couldn’t wait to give it back, it was so uncomfortable and my wrists were sore from the jarring ride. I have heard that the Monster 1100 is a completely different beast. Maybe I should hire one of them next time! That or the Street Fighter.

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Leica M9, Elmarit 21 Asph, 80 ISO f11 @ 125 sec Ducati 696 Nr St Tropez, France. October 2009