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28th April 2004


Opinion: Buying Italian Bikes

After a particularly difficult day, Russ Gannicott would like to share his ten reasons why not to buy a classic Italian bike (and how to survive if you do)...

1). Whatever you buy, you will never find one exactly like it illustrated in any book on the make or model.

2). No technical specification, English translated manual or factory records will ever correspond with what you've bought despite being assured by the previous owner that it's 'untouched and original'.

Quality of finish can be variable.

3). Most parts of your bike will be made from 'unobtanium' apart from the bits which are easy to replace. These will disintegrate, vaporise, oxidise, crumble and delaminate in roughly the same time as it takes you to fit them, go and make a cup of tea and walk back in the shed to admire your handiwork. All the large obvious bits will be cheap, the little bits horribly overpriced. Frames and tanks; 'yeah, I'll have a dozen of each but HOW MUCH for a set of piston rings?'

4). You need to be a member of a secret society. A network of contacts has to be made normally entailing strange nicknames and passwords and you have to develop a vocabulary which is the verbal equivalent of playing poker; lots of disinterested noises interspersed with hints of what you might have hidden in your spares cache for future swaps. Oh yes, you also have to learn how to pronounce words with two 'zz's' and 'cch' in.

5). You need to join a gym. This is, unless you are a regular horse rider; the only other way to develop the required half inch of armour plating on your buttocks which is needed for anything more than an hour's riding.

Don't mention Italian electrics.

6) A degree in meteorology is a prerequisite as you will need to know, with pinpoint accuracy, what the weather will be throughout the course of your day. At any suggestion of rain you should abandon plans for riding. Failure to observe this will ensure in needing to use Plan B and probably result in an enormous telephone bill through playing verbal poker with the other 'secret society' members.

7). Plan B. Always have a Plan B. The Italians have this off to a fine art which usually entails pavement cafes and bars. Always plan your route so that you can coast into the nearest pub or café and admire your bike from the comfort of the bar or table whilst enjoying a good pint or nice meal whilst executing Plan C.

8). Plan C. Bit trickier this one. You'll need to find a sharp-eyed friend with a van. The object of the exercise is to invite them to your final destination for a pint but ensure that they set off an hour after you do. Providing they follow the same route, they should be able to stop and collect all the bits which have broken, vibrated loose and dropped off along the way. In the worse case, they should hopefully spot you 'parked' in picnic spot or pub car park and recover your bike for you.

Ah, bless...

9). Should you survive this far, be prepared to be inundated with advice and criticism regarding the originality of you bike. I'm not quite sure how this works, as you've had no success in tracing the correct colour scheme, mudguard pattern, exhaust shape or tank badges, so how come everyone else is an expert and knows exactly what your bike should look like?

10). Ensure you have a large shed. This is not only to keep the multitudinous boxes of spares in, but also for the other bikes. What other bikes I hear you ask? Well, the problem is that Italian bikes are addictive, and not only that, the more you own the less miles you put on each one, therefore the less they should break down! One Italian bike just isn't enough. It's a bit like pasta, a forkful of spaghetti may be nice, but what you really want to do is stuff your face with it!

Italians. Worse than Brits?

But look at it; it's beautiful...

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