Tag Archives: Ducati 749s

My car history part 13: Bikes, planes and automobiles

In summer 2014 I replaced the excessive and untrusted Italian bitch, my Ducati 749s, with a smaller yet beautifully sculptured, Kawasaki Ninja 250R.

'Nikita' - my Kawasaki Ninja 250R
‘Nikita’ – my Kawasaki Ninja 250R

What a lovely bike! It’s so light to handle, I feel as if I could chuck it over my shoulder. The Duc had been a swine to get out of the garage, and I was always afraid to drop her (again).

I had been worried that a downgrade from a 750cc superbike to a 250cc bike would be a huge disappointment, but I’m actually very happy with the Ninja. It’s a more modern bike; no faffing with a choke, and she starts every time, unlike the troublesome ‘Daisy’ (Daisy Duke). She’s much lighter and accelerates well enough for my needs and gets up to 95mph – erm – that’s plenty, thanks!

I’m now enjoying biking again for the first time in a year. The Ninja seems to go around corners much better too; I’m not having to overthink this counter steering concept; I just look where I’m going and go there! On the Ducati it seemed it would never turn in time… admittedly it’s not a bike for beginners!

The current line up: MX-5, RX-7 and RAV4
The current line up: MX-5, RX-7 and RAV4

Car wise, the other half’s Lexus RX300 has been sold to friends, so it’s nice to see it in good hands, and after test driving a few replacement RAV4s, found the perfect one: ‘Mimi‘, pictured to the right of Maggy and Becks. The latter, the RX-7, is back and up for sale and several people are interested. I’m current using my beloved MX-5 BBR turbo, Maggy, for my commute to work.

We managed to do an excellent trade in of the Scirocco for the RAV4, the plan now being to sell the RX-7 and buy a fuel efficient diesel for the long commute.

So that would be:

  • RAV4 – for the girlfriends job
  • MX-5 BBR turbo – for fun – and I will never get rid of this car!
  • Ninja 250R for weekends and convenience
  • Sensible car for my commute

I’ve finally become sensible.

No more silly 20 year old supercars.

Have I become too sensible and boring?? Will I stop wasting money on motorised contraptions??

Well… we did go for a flying lesson the other week.


And it turns out that you can buy a two seater for only 10 grand… 😉

Next part of the story: From Lotus to… Skoda?

My car history part 12: Old before my time

By early 2014 I’d owned 20 different cars myself, plus also purchased and regularly driven 4 girlfriends cars. I’d found the ideal fun turbo charged MX-5, was waiting for the somewhat short-lived experience RX-7 to be rebuilt before selling it, had managed to get rid of the bloody beamer and had now possibly found the perfect sensible hatchback.

Well, it was a coupe – the VW Scirocco.

The line-up; the MX-5 BBR turbo, VW Scirocco, Mazda RX-7 and the girlfriend's Lexus RX300
The line-up; the MX-5 BBR turbo, VW Scirocco, Mazda RX-7 and the girlfriend’s Lexus RX300

On paper, ‘The Roc’ met all my needs. She was fun to drive and reasonably ecomonical – whilst out of work for a few months at the
beginning of the year and only pootling about on school runs and to the shops, I was only averaging 31mpg, but recently I’ve done
a few longer runs and I could get 39mpg out of her at a push – not bad for a 200bhp ‘hothatch’/’sports coupe’.

But surely I could do better. I could get a 60mpg diesel with a proper hatchback – the ‘Roc’s ain’t exactly large.


I must be getting old.

Am I finally getting the sensible hatchback diesel??

Do I really want to get rid of ‘Siri‘?

Maggy, the MX-5 BBR turbo, resprayed
Maggy, the MX-5 BBR turbo, resprayed

I am finally being sensible and reasonable. Maybe boring. But I have the MX-5 for fun (recently resprayed in Mazda Graphite Grey, from the 2010 model Mazda3). I’ve just started a new job where I’m going to have to drive over 100 miles every day. Buying a diesel could save me £1000 a year in fuel costs. And I could buy a
decent quality diesel for half the price of the ‘Roc.

Where I like the Scirocco, A LOT, and it’s a lovely car, I’ve just not come to love her.


Well, I’ve been trying to work that out.

I think it’s the combination of the DSG automatic gearbox and the small turbo lag. You see, I’m not a huge fan of autos, but as the girlfriend loves them and isn’t used to manuals, and we were planning on selling the RX300 and having a gap before finding her a replacement, she planned to use the Scirocco, and I’d test driven an auto ‘Roc and had been convinced.

At the time.

I’d tried the flappy paddle semi-auto sport mode on the test drive and found it fun. This was the answer to a boring auto, I could still change gear when I wanted!

In practice, I never use it. I just haven’t been able to get used to it; you can’t ‘feel’ which gear you are in or need to be in so much as you would with a manual gearbox. Perhaps with time I’d get used to it, but I’m finding the sheer joy and simplicity of the MX-5’s gearbox is more than enough and leaving the DSG gearbox in auto mode.

The problem with that is the combination of the DSG boxes momentarily lapse to decide to drop down a gear when accelerating, plus the small turbo lag, results in a slightly irritating delay.

Only slightly – its not as annoying or dangerous as the Brera’s turbo lag. But in reality it feels more sluggish than the girlfriends older, lower powered, heavier RAV4 auto.

I can live with it, and still enjoy the car, but I can’t love it.

So why not keep it?

We’ve found the perfect replacement for the RX300, a 2009/2010 Toyota RAV4. It meets all my girlfriends needs, and whilst I’m not
exactly an SUV fan, I have to say, it’s one nice looking beast! The newer post ’08 engine offers slightly more power (up from 150
to 158bhp) and better fuel efficiency (31 to 38mpg) and seems to drive nicer; the standard auto has been replaced by a CVT system
with a semi-auto flappy paddle option. There are mixed opinions about these CVT gearboxes which effectively have no clutch – but
she liked it and it seems a better option that the older models which after 50,000 miles seem to be somewhat tired feeling (see
my post on the Pistonheads forum).

It’s not cheap though. But she needs something decent for her job and it would be a good ‘family car’ for us at weekends and for trips, purchasing things with it’s large boot, etc.

So that’s why I’m considering selling the ‘Rocco. I just don’t need it; it would make more sense to sell it to part fund the RAV4, and then get a cheap diesel for my commute.

During all this debating, the sun came out and I got back on the motorbike.

But I wasn’t happy with Daisy. She was a b1tch, she’d threw me off, I didn’t trust her!

Yet again I offered my business to Pistonheads, eBay and AutoTrader to sell yet another vehicle.

I decided to replace the somewhat excessive 750cc superbike with a little 250cc.

I’d considered a range of 600cc bikes but I hadn’t liked the weight of the Ducati and it had been a pain getting her in and out of the garage, and into tight parking spaces. I recalled how nice and easy life was with my 125. The wet weights of the 600s were all very similar.

I looked at the KTM Dukes, as these are incredibly light yet quite powerful. Unfortunately they are quite pricey, and with me only using the bike occasionally, I felt it was unreasonable spending so much money. I wanted to scrape back some cash from the Ducati and buy a cheaper bike. I was also worried about the more upright seating position compared to a sportsbike due to my tailbone issue (to be posted shortly in the Health & Fitness section).

Then I fell in love again…

Next part of the story: Bikes, planes and automobiles

My car history part 9: Gremlins strike back

The Gremlins still lived inside Maggy the 5th (my 5th and supposedly perfect MX-5, a rare BBR turbo model).

James (my much relied on MX-5 guru friend) had rebuilt the top end of the engine after she’d cooked herself but unfortunately had found the bottom end had also suffered considered damage. It wasn’t economical – plus he just didn’t have the time – to try and repair that too; we might as well source another engine. But first we’d try the car as it was, just in case we could get away with it…

She drove beautifully!

But quickly earned the nickname Smokey Disaster 2 (after the disastrous Maggy the 3rd AKA White Lightning AKA Smokey Disaster; see my earlier car history).

Smoke puthered out of her, due to the damage to the bottom end. She stank.

Then I recalled that the MOT has expired whilst she’d been away being rebuilt!

Of course, with that level of smoke coming out of her, she failed the MOT emissions test miserable.

James agreed to source me an engine and scored a blinder with a £150 low mileage lump – it had only done about 75,000km – i.e.
around 47,000 miles. Some poor sod had wrote of his low mileage pride and joy MX-5, but the engine was intact.

Poor James was up to his eyeballs in work, a house move, and trying to sort his own MX-5 out. He didn’t have the time to fit it, and then winter approached… I was going to be without Maggy for a few months.

My heart sank.

Not helping matters were the fact that the Gremlins had hopped into the beamer.

In the first month, I took it back to the dealers three times for problems with the headlights.

Then I took it in for a leak in the boot.

Then an issue with the roof not latching.

Then the boot leak returned.

The list of problems mounted. I was at BMW Sytner Monday or Tuesday mornings (the days I worked from home) dropping her off at
least twice a month for the next few months. I got to know the receptionists (I could have easily fallen for the young blonde ;))
and service guys. I made the most of their coffee machine and raisin toast.

Thankfully, the warranty covered everything – oh, except for the steering misalignment problem, but due to all the hassle I’d had,
they fixed that at a reduced price.

So much for a reliable BMW.

I’d had already decided that I wanted to sell her, but couldn’t until everything was fixed.

Meanwhile, I’d got back into motorcycling, due to the girl I was seeing at the time. I did the 1 day CBT test and got myself a Yamaha YZF R125 – the baby R6.

The 'Baby R6' - my Yamaha YZF R125
The ‘Baby R6’ – my Yamaha YZF R125

It was a beautiful looking and handling bike. Sure, it sounded a bit whiny but you could get up to 84mph without too much fuss. It was light and easy to handle and I took every opportunity to pop out to the shops or bank with it; I was loving the traffic jam skipping abilities and parking conveniences a bike gave you.

My girlfriend then took me along to a bikers meet, at MFN – Miles From Nowhere, or perhaps Middle of F**king Nowhere?! We had an
hour long convoy cruise beforehand with her riding her Honda CBR600, her friend/landlord a big cruiser and a guy we met up with
enroute chilling on his Harley.

Riding in convoy on the windy Derbyshire country roads was a great experience.

I started taking my full test. Squeezing in a couple of hours one or two evenings during the week, and a full or half day on Saturdays where I could, over a couple of months I managed to get my full bike license.

And in August 2013 bought a Ducati 749S Superbike!

And after 2 minutes of riding her, dropped it, shattering my brake pedal, pride, and confidence.

As our close group of friends would say, “These things happen“.

They do. It seems that most bikers have dropped their bike in the first year of ownership.

2 minutes, however, was pushing it…

'Daisy' - my Ducati 749s
‘Daisy’ – my Ducati 749s

My problem had been a lack of familiarity with the ‘dry clutch’ found on Ducati’s of that ilk, and not being yet being used to
the weight and balance of the bike. As I’d pulled away at a tight right hand turn junction, on loose gravel, I’d panicked at the
‘grinding’ sound of the dry clutch, and worried about over revving on the low grip gravel, had backed off the clutch without compensating with the throttle, and stalled it, whilst turning. Not being used to the bikes balance I hadn’t realised she was going over until it was too late to put my foot out, well, at least in the right place!

So down she went.

It seems most Ducati owners had also broke their brake pedals in the process of ‘binning it’ too. Crappy plastic design. I found a suitable metal replacement for the brake pedal and a replacement clutch cover from eBay (as I had dented mine in the drop) and got back on her.

But my confidence had took a blow and I gingerly pootled around, terrified of every right hand turn. Eventually I got used to the dry clutch and the weight of the bike, and opened her up.

Wow. What a machine. I’d easily hit 95mph in 3rd gear – I probably could have in 2nd to be fair – and there were 3 more gears to go!!

However, she was still somewhat of a beast to handle, and hard work. Popping to the shops and the bank as I had on the 125 was more of an effort. For a start, she weighed a ton in comparison, and getting her out of the garage was quite an effort. The same with parking her in the tight car park at the bank. And I wasn’t enjoying the thumpathumpa sound and vibration (particularly with my injured tailbone – will write a post on that in the Health & Fitness section later) of the V twin engine. I preferred the Japanese high revving scream to the Mafia machine gunner Italian. Perhaps I should have made the natural progression from my R125 to it’s big sister, the R6.

By then though, autumn was setting in and it was getting colder and rainy. As a fair weather biker only – I had bought her for fun, and the occasional traffic and parking advantages – I tucked up Daisy (Daisy Duke ;)) in the garage and put these musings aside for a few months…

Next part of the story: Maggy’s big sister