Since I first watched World Superbikes with any regularity, probably around 1998, I've been in love with Ducati's, and specifically the 916/996/998 model(s).
I remembered seeing Carl Fogarty wiping the floor with the opposition aboard one, and that unmistakable drone of the Italian V-twin singing to up the limiter.
Nothing else sounds like one and nothing else in the world sounds nearly so wonderful. And when you match that with a superb chassis and combine it with the most beautiful bodywork you can see why the model completely changed the fortunes of Ducati.
It just oozes character that Japanese bikes can only dream of.
When I had my NC30 I used to look at the dealer ads in MCN and always promised myself one. I came close once, when I had a bunch of cash promised for my bug but not yet spent, but decided to scratch the Ducati itch later on and concentrate on the car. This must have been 10 years ago, and that Beetle still isn't finished!
As years have passed prices have fallen, and every once in a while I'd find myself checking prices to see if I could scrape the cash together. They would always be just out of reach though.
I also found myself looking at the 'little sister', the 748. A very similar bike with just the engine capacity and rear tyre size being different from the bigger bike. The more time I spent looking the more I figured the 748 made sense for me. Yet I was always concerned that I'd be plagued by the 'but its not a 916' thought though.
And then recently I started to find 748's at what I considered crazy prices. Adverts claiming to be selling immaculate bikes from just £3k, and some gorgeous bikes going on ebay for under £2500! And so I started looking a bit closer. I even called the insurance company to see if it was realistically viable. Many conversations with an old school friend confirmed it was a good idea and so I thank you Rich Gaskin, especially for putting up with me throwing Ducati related questions to you pretty much daily!
I started looking at a few. I had a nightmare day with Claire the other week which incorporated driving 2 hours each way, the seller being a first-class idiot, the kids 'fun farm' (stop off on the way home) not being a farm at all, and the Mighty Benz having a rear tyre blow out on the way home.
I tentatively agreed a price of £2400 for a bike on ebay that was 300 miles away the other week, but the guy decided to let the auction run and it sold for £2450. I had bid a little over the £2400 price we agreed but got pipped at the post.
And then I saw a promising advert on Piston Heads. A 748 for £2300 that had history, the original books, and a service (incl the all important belts) recently carried out. A few questions revealed it was even better than the advert said, with the original tool roll still in place and it had only three owners from new plus loads more. And the current owner had known it for over 10 years as he knew the guy he bought it from.
Thanks to the current economic climate, and him having another kid on the way, I managed to get the price down to £2100. And so we found ourselves on the M3 on a Sunday afternoon (16/09) travelling down to Poole to check it out. Assuming it was as honest as it sounded we'd be bringing her home too, as I'd managed to borrow a neighbours fold-up bike trailer.
Everything was good, the test ride was problem-free, and there's now a big pile of paperwork for me to read through and get in order. Its certainly been well looked after. It carries a few scars, there are a few chips and subtle scratches on the front fairing and mirrors, but in some ways I'm happy about that. It takes a little pressure off, and it also makes me feel a little more comfortable that the bikes honest.
I'm very excited about getting out on it and clocking a few miles on her before winter arrives now. I've waited for this moment for a long long time and now its just round the corner! The alarm on it means I can't keep jumping on board just for a sit - unless I have the fob with me of course - so instead I've had the barn door ajar all day. Its fantastically pleasing to glance to my left as I walk up the garden path and get a sneak at whats tucked up inside.
To finish I have to say the biggest thanks to my darling wife. Not only did she 'OK' the purchase but she also drove half the way down as well as the entire journey back! Easily over 200 miles! Good trucking Baby!
And to anyone travelling up the M3 on Sunday night, you didn't see someone stealing a Ducati - we just hadn't worked out how to get the alarm into 'travel mode' at that point!