Do you remember your first motorcycle? Well Art Buhlmann does. Even though he bought it more than 50 years ago, he remembers it well. How? Because he never sold it. He still has that first motorcycle, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on. Now in his 70s, Art’s collection of bikes has grown to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120. Everything from bicycles, to motorized bicycles, to scooters, to motorcycles, to side car rigs, to classic cars — Art’s collection is spread across multiple buildings, each carefully curated.

When Johnny told me about this event, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. I aspired to being a collector at one point, but that’s given way to more practical pursuits. Not simply from the financial realities of accumulating said collection, but simply from a care and feeding standpoint. In my own garage, I found that once I had more than a half dozen bikes of my own, there’s just no keeping up with the upkeep without help. These days I’m actually trying to reduce the number of bikes in my stable.

Yet our steeds for the day weren’t from my garage, but from Motoworks. Johnny had a great idea to go hands-on with a bit of Ducati history. In particular, we have a couple of previous generation Ducati Multistrada we’d taken in on trade, including an 1100S complete with Ohlins suspension. We also have our current generation Multistrada 1200S GT that’s become our go-to travel bike. The plan was to ride them both and see how these two bikes compared.

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Johnny hopped on the current generation Multi, with Chun as pillion in a rad set of vintage leathers. With full luggage and touring appointments on the Multistrada 1200S GT, it’s a proven bike for a big trip. Meanwhile, I hopped on the Multistrada 1100, which was sporting just a top box. I know the 1200 well, so I was excited to see what the older bike was like.

From its inception, the Multistrada has been about offering a lightweight bike that straddles that line between sport touring and enduro. That makes them perfect for ticking off big miles, but just as good for our Sunday morning jog south of Chicago.

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Letting the clutch out on the Multistrada 1100, the first thing I noticed was just how light the 1100 felt. The air-cooled L-twin felt familiar, but quite lively. It’s quite a bit less refined than the bike that replaced it, but in good ways. That motor is overflowing with character, and mated to that lightweight chassis and Ohlins suspension, I was in love pretty much right away.

We tore down the freeway a formation of two bikes. There’s something satisfying about a liter touring bike on the open road — especially something as light as the Multistrada. Just crank on the power and away you go. Yet engine alone isn’t the only thing that makes these high-output machines so much fun. Knowing that the bike will turn and stop as hard as it will tear forward inspires a lot of confidence. It was true for the Multistrada 1200S GT when I rode it up to Lorem Ipsum, and it was just as true for the Multistrada 1100 I rode that morning.

We arrived at Art’s to see a number of other bikes coming and going. We knew we were in the right place. Right away the event felt one part festival, one part backyard BBQ. At first glance, the grounds looked modest, or at least they would have if they weren’t covered with at least 200 motorcycles. We were directed as to where to park, and greeted mechanically by a running vintage oil derrick.

Art’s place has two main buildings where he keeps his collection of bikes. The first one I entered was actually made up inside to look like a sort of a main street of yesteryear. There were storefront facades along the interior walls, which included a barber shop and even an Indian Motorcycle dealership complete with motorcycles in its pretend storefront windows. Yet there seemed like less of a theme to the bikes, which were of an incredible variety and all-but stacked inside the building like chord wood. Each one was in museum shape, and as Johnny pointed out to me at one point, most had plates and current registration stickers on them. Incredible.

I could spend pages trying to relay the depth of Art’s collection. or even the warmth of meeting him in person. Instead, I’ll let these photos be those thousand words:

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For the ride back, Johnny and I switched bikes. The Multistrada 1200S GT felt very familiar, yet having ridden the 1100, I felt like I somehow knew it better. They were more alike than not, these two bikes, but the differences between them are telling of current trends in motorcycling. Tighter emissions regs are pushing everything water-cooled, the Multistrada included. The 1200 was also quite a bit more refined. It’s more grown up. Not boring, mind you, just tighter, better appointed and more advanced. Between the two, I’d definitely want the 1100 for a day’s ride, but I’d want the 1200 for a month’s adventure.

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Yet a Sunday ride is what we’d done. As much fun as Pat’s open house was, my favorite bit was simply getting out on the road and out of the city for a little while. In the blur of building bikes in my shop or all the hustle and bustle of Motoworks day-to-day, it’s easy to go a while without a good ride. I’ve got to watch that. It’s just too good to get out on the road and forget about things for a while and only focus on that next bend, or the next clear section of road to stretch a bike’s legs. It’s a great reminder that there will be plenty to do indoors when winter comes, but for now, time to get out and ride as much as we can.

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