DUCATI Weekend

By
Updated: April 22, 2019

What happens when an office-bound ad manager gets a taste of the glamorous, creative side of the magazine game. Mayne Media’s Mitch Newell found out.

Simon Leplaw, Ducati Australia’s marketing manager, invited one of the company’s editors on a two-day ride, but the editor had prior commitments.

Hearing of the clash in timetables I hinted a certain staff member – me – was available and a morethan- willing replacement.

All agreed this was great idea.

I was in.

Italian Stallion

The plan was a pre-run for an upcoming Ducati adventure ride, and I picked up a Multistrada 1200 Enduro Pro the day before.

It wasn’t the first time I’d ridden this particular bike, but it’s still the only 1200 I’ve managed to throw the leg over. I’d always thought my first ride on a 1200 would have been a German, Austrian or Japanese brand. As it turned out I was absolutely stoked my first big-bike experience was an Italian one. Fantastico!

Off The Cuff

I didn’t have a GPS on the Multistrada and needed to make my way across Sydney to the starting point. So, with no GPS and heavy rain that would potentially drown my iPhone, even finding the rendezvous shaped up as a little aventure in itself. I glanced down at my Scott Dualraid jacket and noticed the clear-plastic pocket on the sleeve used for rally/enduro time cards. I decided to write directions on a piece of paper, insert it into the compartment and simply follow the instructions.

Brilliant, eh?

But the clear pocket turned out to be not entirely waterproof. My notes quickly began to disintegrate, and the only thing I could think to do was to take a pic of the quickly dissolving text. My visor had fogged up pretty badly anyway, so reading anything was a challenge. Seeing there were only about 10 turns left I decided to memorise the directions in a sort of old-school nursery-rhyme manner:  “Right into blah blah; left into blah; left into blah blah; right into blah…”

The next thing I knew I’d arrived.

Each To His Own

We headed off mid-morning in clearing weather. Simon was on his ‘adventurised’ Multistrada 950 and his mate, Jim Laftsides, was mounted on his own Multistrada 1200 Enduro. Jim’s bike ran a straight-through Termignoni exhaust that really allowed the operatic tones of the big V-twin to soar to Pavarotti magnificence.

On the outskirts of Sydney things started to open up and the bikes shone. Before trying the Ducati I’d always found road riding a bit of a chore, but on this bike it was something else, especially in Sport mode. My background is in motocross as a junior and I haven’t ridden enough road to be an expert, so I can’t explain properly the exact characteristics I admired. But I knew the bike had serious horsepower, smooth power delivery, unbelievable handling and amazing brakes.

You’d expect that from Ducati I guess, and you don’t need to be a rider to appreciate the bike’s Italian good looks and superior finish.We had our first taste of dust and dirt when we hit Blackfellows Hand Trail near Clarence and roosted through the Newnes State Forest.

For me, the first 30 minutes or so off-road on a 1200 can be a somewhat humbling and intimidating experience – especially when it’s not my bike – but before I knew it I’d begun to settle in and the Enduro Pro felt more nimble than expected. Off-road I preferred the Touring mode, which I believe provided medium level of horsepower, traction control and ABS, but I think each of these settings and rider assists can be adjusted individually to suit personal preferences.

Raptorous

We fuelled up at Capertee and quickly scoffed a servo pie – or ‘God’s pocket’ (as Christ only knows what’s in ’em). Our run through Turon Gates and Palmers Oaky was as good as it gets in my humble opinion. The earlier rain had settled the dust and the moisture was providing some extra traction. It was one of those magical afternoons of riding I’ll never forget, with twisting second- and third-gear turns climbing through pristine green hills. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky we were to have this less than half a day’s ride from the office (it really was a pity that editor couldn’t make it for this one). Skippy, Bugs, Fatso and their extended families were out en masse but it was Eddie the Eagle that stole the show. He was massive, and when he took off, his wingspan was seriously of light-aircraft proportions. Back in ya burrow Bugs, and quick!

Winner, Winner

Freezing our arses off and stinging for refreshments we rolled into a motel at Oberon on dusk before heading to the local watering hole. It was packed, and the queue for a Schnittywas lengthy, so we did what any weary adventurer would do and took up our spot at the bar to wait it out. There was plenty of time for a debrief and yarn about what was in store for the morning, and when dinner finally arrived the portions were bigger than our heads.

After a few more rounds of ‘debriefing’ we headed back for some shuteye and an early start.

Deflated

After a couple of Panadols to ease the headaches from our enthusiastic debriefing at the pub the previous night, we took off from Oberon on a cold, crystal-clear, morning.

Not long out of Oberon the other guys’ GPSs had us shredding through the pine forests. The temperature was perfect as we shot through Shooters Hill towards Jenolan, and where I’d kicked off with icicles hanging from my nostrils, within 30 minutes I was opening vents on my jacket and pants. It’s amazing what that big burning ball in the sky can do for your soul.

I pulled up behind Simon on a trail near the turnoff to Dingo Dell and remember trumpeting, “Christ! How good is this, mate!”

We waited a few minutes and realised Jim couldn’t be that far behind. Simon decided to head back and suggested I wait, but after a few minutes I headed back, suddenly highly religious and praying nothing bad had happened. After some cautious backtracking, I saw Jim sitting on the ground next to his bike. For a second I thought he was in trouble but quickly realised it was just a flat rear tyre. By the time I’d arrived Jim already pretty much had everything set up and was pumping air into the tyre so he could find the leak. Jim’s a cool customer and this was actually his first attempt at plugging a tubeless tyre, so after reading instructions on the pack, and with slight assistance and plenty of encouragement from the sidelines, within minutes we were back in action.

Kids, Eh?

The ride down into Dingo Dell campgrounds was a rage and quite technical at times. There was some pretty steep terrain, but each of us got through without heartache and the reward was a few cool little creek crossings, a quick spell, and some pack snacks. The climb out was sweet as, then, after some more nice, twisting fire trails, the trio of Multistradas popped out on Kowmung River Firetrail and headed towards a fork where Jim left to find his way home.

Back on tarmac, we wound down the twisting mountain roads and to Jenolan Caves. It had been 40 years or so since I was last at the location during a primary-school excursion, and funnily enough, at the café we overheard a few bus drivers whinging about the behaviour of the school kids they’d been carting around the joint. With calls of ‘No respect, ‘Parents should be ashamed’, and ‘Need a good kick in the arse,’ I couldn’t help thinking somewhere in among the group of ‘spoilt little shits’ currently underground surely there’d be a future adventure rider who’ll be sitting here in 2058 with their Ducati Multi Superwatt 12000 parked nearby.

Rhyme Time

We cruised back into Sydney and when Simon peeled off near our starting point all I needed to do now was to sing my little nursery rhyme in reverse to make it home: “Left into blah blah; right into blah; right into blah blah; left into blah…’’