This story comes to us from Behind The Moto contributor and friend of the shop, Larry Fletcher.
Always a dedicated Anglophile, my Ton Up Club Chicago mates were aghast when I rolled up to Holiday Club for Pints & Pistons Bike Night on a brand new Ducati Monster 1200. Had Fletch gone mad? What was one to make of this odd sight? I quickly explained that the bike was on loan from Motoworks Chicago for my weekend trip to the Indianapolis Moto GP. Confusion was soon replaced by envy. Cat calls soon ensued.
“Don’t Get a Ticket!”.
The Ducati Monster’s reputation certainly proceeds it. Italian, hooligan, hot rod, wheelie machine, etc. I’d spend a whirlwind, 600 mile GP weekender finding out if it’s all true.
I have clocked most of my motorcycle miles on vintage British iron or docile, Triumph Modern Classics. So the Monster was quite a leap up in power and performance. I found the upright, streetfighter stance very comfortable and it appealed to my Rocker sensibilities. The Monster certainly projects a aura of invincibility that was very appealing. Testosterone levels immediately increase in its presence.
I knew I needed to pack light for my blast south to Indianapolis. There was little room to strap luggage or bags to this beast. Everything I needed would have to fit in a backpack. No problem though, as I’ve had to pack light before. I’d planned on a mid-day Thursday departure to avoid rush hour Chicago gridlock, and soon I was heading over the Skyway into Indiana. The trek down Highway 65 was a breeze and I found it effortless to pilot the Monster on this 200 mile trip. Comfort was never an issue and the only thing I found myself wanting was a windshield. The wind grows into a nuisance at extended highway speeds on the interstate, but that is the price you need to pay for naked cool.
Thursday evening in Indy and I found myself attending the Steer-In Bike Night with my friends from the local Ton-Up Indy chapter. They too greeted me with looks of amusement when I arrived on the red Ducati, but I could also see the respect they have for the power and performance of the big Monster. The parking lot of the Steer-In quickly filled up with hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of motorcycles and the unofficial kick-off of Moto GP Weekend had begun.
Friday morning I reported to the Vance and Hines Harley-Davidson Paddock at the Speedway to help my friend, AMA Pro Road Racer Brice Cooper, in the Pits. My duties were a tradeoff for that coveted Paddock Pass for the weekend. Brice was racing for the Suburban Motors team in the XR1200 class. In addition, I got bonus access by riding in on a Ducati and being able to park my whip at Ducati Island in the infield, just across from the paddock.
Brice was coming off a wicked crash at Road America in the Thruxton Cup which had left him unconscious and in need of arthroscopic back surgery. Yet there he was just two months later mounting up on the XR1200. I have a mountain of respect for Brice and his racing peers who risk life and limb on the track for little-to-no reward but the satisfying thrill of competition.
Being at the track on Friday of Moto GP Weekend was a rare opportunity. The facility was relatively quiet, with few spectators. This gave me easy access to all the exhibits and vendors. One of the highlights was the National Moto + Cycle display in the vendors area of the paddock. They had a great display of vintage and reproduction speedway bikes and cool memorabilia and gear for sale. Check them out on Facebook or if you get a chance visit their shop in Indy.
Friday evening I found myself riding across the street from the track to Sprockets on Speedway, a bike show and street party hosted by the Indy Desmo Owners Club. This second-year gathering looks to be building momentum and should be on any future Moto GP weekend agenda.
As Saturday dawned I found myself back at the Harley-Davidson Paddock preparing Brice’s bike for the qualifying heat. Being the red headed step child at Moto GP, the Harleys were only given the track very early in the day. At 7:30 AM to be exact. Then again after all the GP race festivities were over late in the afternoon. Spectators were pouring in on Saturday as interest in the GP has grown considerably in the US, and even better, the Indy event has been renewed for five more years.
Saturday evening I made my way down to Motorcycles on Meridian and I have to say, I was blown away by how big this event has become. The sheer number of bikes easily rivals Main Street at Daytona Bike Week. This festival alone is well worth the trip from Chicago and the festivities are underway on both Friday and Saturday.
Sunday brought race day at the Speedway and a more relaxed schedule for me. There would be no practice for the Harleys and the XR12OOs were running very last on the schedule. I happily slept in, met with Ton Up Bothers for a late breakfast and got down to the track in plenty of time for the real reason we had all gathered in Indy for the weekend: Moto GP. The racing was spectacular and watching Marc Marquez toy with Valentino Rossi before eventually continuing his dominance of the GP was the icing on the cake.
The main event for me of course was not the GP but Brice’s race on the Harley. He had a great race and earned a top ten finish. It was all the more exciting because teammates Steve Rapp and Ben Carlson finished 1st and 3rd respectively, and my buddy from my Triumph days, Danny Eslick (this years Daytona 200 Winner on a Triumph 675) came in second in an astounding photo finish.
Sunday night the Ton Uppers gathered for a relaxing Surf ‘n’ Turf dinner as we discussed where our adventures would take us next. I let them know that after my return ride to Chicago I would be trading the Monster for a Ducati Multistrada for my next weekend’s ride to Toronto for Mods N Rockers. This was greeted with both smiles, ribbing and of course, more envy.
My Monday morning return ride to Chicago was aided by my iPhone’s Weather Bug Radar app. I was able to time my trip North up 65 so that I arrived in Lafayette just prior to a front moving through with some brief but heavy rain. Warm and dry, I waited out the showers for an hour in a coffee shop and when radar showed a break, I was off on my trusty Monster, soon to be back in the Windy City.
Check out more photos from the Moto GP Indy weekend over on Facebook.
Only a few days later I found myself going over the nuances of the Multistrada before riding away from Motoworks once again. The Multi is even more of a departure to what I am used too. Especially because it had a windshield and hard bags. Wasn’t I just complaining about the wind beating me up on the Monster and the lack of payload capacity? Problem solved right? Truth of the matter was, the Multi would be perfect for my 1000+ mile weekender to Toronto.
The touring aesthetics can be difficult for a Cafe Racer’s sensibility to handle, but it certainly has all the bells and whistles needed for a big road trip. I got over my prejudices as I packed for the trip more than enough payload capacity in the Ducati’s luggage for everything I could possibly need, including my Davida Half Helmet and Rockers Jacket. Yet the Multi’s pack mule abilities were only part of the appeal. It has all the juice you could possibly need. The 1200cc, L-twin power plant is the same motor as the Monster 1200, but tuned differently.
For this trip I opted for an early morning departure to avoid rush hour traffic in the city, and as the sun came up I was cruising out of the city. I encountered the ever-present road construction in Northern Indiana but otherwised I cruised right along with very light traffic in the early morning hours.
I chose a northern route through Michigan that led me through Kalamazoo, then up 69 through Lansing then Flint, then eventually across the Canadian boarder at Port Huron. The route steered me clear of Detroit and the busier boarder crossing there. If you go yourself, be sure to have your Passport in order and be prepared for inquisitive Canadian Border officials. I had the added adventure of explaining why I was riding a bike with a Dealer plate, but luckily Motoworks provided me with the necessary paperwork to get me through.
The bridge across the boarder offers a spectacular view of the port and the scenery through Northeast Michigan and Western Ontario is incredibly picturesque. My view was uninterrupted as I encountered very little traffic on my journey north.
I found it interesting how quickly I realized I’d crossed into a foreign country. The obvious clues were the switchover from miles to kilometers for speed and distance, and then the first gas stop with prices in Canadian dollars and measures in liters. The exchange rate was basically even and if you use plastic, there’s no need to even use Canadian funny money. Interestingly, Canadian roadside oases are very nice, clean and hospitable little stops called “On Route” with good food and coffee choices as well as immaculate restrooms. They’re a far cry from what we are used to in the USA. Canada’s connection to the UK is also readily apparent as I crossed through cities like London, Ontario, and Cambridge on the voyage east.
The entire ride from Chicago to Toronto was easily done in one day with an early breakfast before I rode out. Before I knew it, I was enjoying a nice dinner in Toronto that evening. Saddle time was somewhere between nine and ten hours and with allowances for gas stops, lunch, and the boarder crossing, the entire trip took about twelve hours. The Multistrada made the journey a breeze. The bike has a very comfortable riding position and the windscreen kept me from getting hammered by the wind.
The Friday evening kickoff for Mods N Rockers Toronto was held at Town Moto, a sharp little boutique shop that caters to urban motorcyclists, not unlike Chicago’s own Isle of Man. Town Moto carries all the cool moto clothing and accessories that young fashion-minded folks yearn for: Deus, Roland Sands, and Brixton. They carry helmets, grips and gloves from the likes of Biltwell and Lowbrow Customs.
As I arrived early for the Friday evening festivities, motorcycles began to line Ossington Street as eager revelers staked a claim to some premium asphalt to park their prized possessions. The location was perfect for this urban two-wheeled gathering. Not only was Town Moto present, but revelers could also grab beverages at a micro-brew pub, a traditional pub, and a coffee house. What else could you ask for? Soon the bikes were arriving in force as the event kicked into high gear. Town Moto provided complimentary BBQ in their back garden as the crowds began to swell. I shared a pint with my friends from the Toronto Ton Up Club and the Multistrada received a similar reception that I got from my Chicago and Indianapolis comrades when I arrived at Indi on a Ducati Monster: bewilderment which slowly turned to envy.
Saturday morning riders gathered for a parade route through the outskirts of Toronto. Aproximately 100 bikes participated in the ride that would lead to The Duke Pub for a motorcycle show. Unfortunately mother nature was not playing nice and rain showers interrupted the ride. Yet the weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the revelers and many riders showed up at the final destination for the rally. A splendid time was had by all.
Sunday morning I found myself riding that awesome Multistrada East across Ontario, then Michigan on a beautiful sunny day heading home to Chicago. Need to get away yourself? I highly recommend a two wheeled weekend escape to Toronto.