If you were a 14 or 15 year old in 1969, and living in Italy, AND you had one or more parents that were happy to buy you the latest speed weapon, the chances are that you might be the proud pilot and owner of a 50cc Peripoli Gulietta Super Sport. This Minarelli engined missile would get you around bumpy Tuscan roads or through the streets of Milan with style, speed and noise. With its twin shoe front brakes, clip on handlebars and racing seat, it was a given that you road the balls off it, everywhere.
At the age of 14, the chances are that you were a stick-legged youth, weighing in at 8 stone (or 51 Kilos in Napoleon money) and therefore not much of a weight for the little Guilietta to haul around. This meant 60 mph (or 96, yes nearly a 100 kmh) was easy on a reasonable straight with a bit of a downhill start or a slipstream behind a Fiat 500. Top fun indeed! The local girls would show an indifference to your clutch slipping away from the cafe, but actually would be interested, whilst the aged Mamas would cringe at the teeth-grating noise, particularly as you’d just fitted an expansion chamber to it, and to make it sound like it was even faster.
On your sixteenth birthday, you stand on the scales and it says that you are now 10 stone (63.5 kilos) and that you need a bigger moto because the old Gulietta is now ‘too slow’ for some reason. As the part time ‘kool-waiter-cafe’ job only pays petrol and new shoes money, its back to the parents to get some sort of emergency fund broken into to get a bigger moto. The little two stroke gets swapped for something a bit bigger and 4 strokey, and which hauls around more weight, faster.
Guess what next, the weight is just piling on and at the age of 18, your hitting 12 stone (76 kilos) and its time to get that early 1970s two stroker. The local dealer, who managed to separate your parents from hard earned cash to a) buy your bikes b) fix them when they got crashed and c) buy you go-faster parts, is now the local Yamaha dealer. This means that he’s got a nice RD250 in the window, which is perfect for your increasing weight and size. You convince your parents, with support from the dealer, that this bike will carry you fast and safely now, and even when you are 2 stone (13 kilos) heavier. The deal is done. The Yamaha is fast, reliable, looks and smells good (with the right oil in it) and the indifferent girls are not indifferent any more.
Fa(s)t forward 10 years, and that Ducati is justified on the basis that the wine and food and chocolate and everything else you been shovelling into that hole in your face, needs carrying around better than anything else in the past, not helped by the fact that the car seat doesn’t provide much exercise either. The Ducati pulls really well due to its torquey engine, which gives the impression of effortlessness, particularly when its got a now, 14 stone (89 kilos) rider on its back. The riding position of the Ducati is similar to that of the little Guilieta you had back in the day, except now, you appear to get cramp in your thighs and regular aching wrists. On smooth tarmac roads, The Ducati has the nimbleness of the Gulietta and the fun factor of the Yamaha. On bumpy roads, the Ducati’s sole job is to try to throw you off it, but hey, it does sound good.
Another 10 years and a little bit more weight and the weighing scales say ‘only 1 person at once’ when you stand on them. This means that more power is required to get that ass around the roads. So, what do you buy? A Harley? Some might, but you didn’t, because you’re a European and that means needing a bike which does much more than a Harley. Speed limit signs for Harley Davidson’s don’t have a ‘do not exceed’ number on them, like 60 mph (100 kmh). They just say ‘Harleys, just do the best you can’. So, you buy a BMW R1200 GS. With an engine bigger than some cars, it doesn’t matter how much you weigh, its going to do what the Guilietta did, but 10 times better.
So here’s the moral of the story. Would you give a stick-legged 14 year old a BMW GS to ride? No. Would you buy a Ducati and spend that same amount again on lightweight parts for it to go and handle faster? OR, would you lose a bit of weight and get back onto that Yamaha RD 250? It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re fit enough to do it. Everyday that you can get a leg over the seat of your bike (and its not always easy on a big BMW GS….), its a great, moto day!
A rubbish moral to the story? Quite probably…….
All photos by the author