But any enthusiast with foresight knew, even back then, these bikes told a compelling emotional story flush with timeless design elements and an engaging man-machine interface. And within the massive spectrum of classic British two-wheelers there were bikes like the Vincent Black Shadow, the Norton Commando and the Triumph X75 Hurricane. I appreciate all legendary British motorcycles, but I personally loved the Triumph X75 Hurricane.
On July 15th, 1992 I bought a 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike. This was my second Ducati, after selling my 1987 Ducati Paso a few days earlier. I had graduated from CU Boulder a couple months earlier and couldn’t normally afford a near-new Italian motorcycle, but I sold the Paso for $4,600 (a nice profit after buying it for $3,200) and the same dealer in Fort Collins, Colorado, offered me this bike for $8,700. A 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike cost over $12,000 new, and only a couple hundred were imported to the U.S. Getting a year-old 851, with 1,800 miles on the odometer, for $8,700 seemed like a deal I couldn’t pass up.
These Ducatis had an impressive spec sheet for the era. In 1991 there were only about four bikes offering fuel injection, two were Ducatis and two were BMWs. The 851 Superbike’s 90-degree V-twin also featured four valves per cylinder and water cooling. Horsepower was rated at 93 and weight was about 460 pounds. The Ducati 851 Superbike’s technology and performance was a big step up from my 1975 Triumph Trident and 1987 Ducati Paso. It’s capabilities on Colorado’s twisting mountain roads were, quite honestly, above my skill level at the time, though I slowly expanded my riding prowess. It’s red paint and Italian styling were also quite exotic in 1990s Colorado.
At a recent press event I used a bandana on my head after driving on the track with a helmet. Normally I would wear a traditional hat in that situation, but I didn’t have one with me. The only head covering in my bag was a bandana, which I’ve used to protect my scalp from sun and wind for over 30 years. I usually wear something over my head after wearing a helmet, both to protect my scalp from the elements and to protect my appearance from helmet hair.
However, this was the first time I’d worn a bandana at a press event, and it sent the other automotive journalists into quite a tizzy. “Dude, when are we gonna start rappin’?” “Yo man, where’s the smack down?” “Karl? I didn’t recognize you! You need to get a tattoo now.” Get a tattoo?…
Anyway, these and several similar comments were made in good fun, though it reminded me I’ve been doing the corporate thing so long none of my current industry colleagues have an awareness of my motorcycling past — and all the “hooligan-ism” that goes along with it.