Ride with the Champ by Mike Cecchini
Some of you just might think that Mike Cecchini has one of those "special" lives that we'd all like to dream of having. True to a point......a very short point. Contrary to popular belief.........I mow the lawn, take out the trash, wash/wax the car and do so many of the same things that the rest of you do. Occasionally I get an opportunity to do the "dream" things. I think the word "opportunity" is key here and I will admit that.......well....being retired at such an early age has allowed me to be in many worldly places, near and far. But trust me when I say that I'm just another guy that thoroughly enjoys motorcycles and the people that I meet because of them. Certainly, on this occasion, I wasn't singled out and anyone that wanted to ride was welcome.
The word had gone out several weeks in advance that Doug Polen would be at a local motorcycle store/shop and our local Ducati Club, Mid-Atlantic Ducati Club (MAD), just might get to take him on one of our typical ride routes. JOY. I felt like Snoopy at dinner time.
Local mega motorcycle store, Battley's Cycles, here in wonderful (gag) Washington D.C. suburbia, had invited Ducati WSB Champion Doug Polen to attend open house and sign/talk/smile and otherwise whoooo the crowds that would appear to see/talk/hear him in person.
The day ?? It had been pretty dreary for the past week or so. I mean it WAS December and Maryland isn't exactly the tropics. But mother nature gave us all a treat......it was an incredible 72 degrees with bright, clear, perfect day. I had been fighting a severe cold/flu for several days and wasn't sure how my body would feel. But it is amazing how things just go away and work out when something special is about to happen.
Since my 888 had be set aside (down) for major motor, front end and swingarm transfusion, a leftover project that had gotten considerably stalled from Nov. 2000, I had not ridden it or any Ducati in the past 13 months. Now.....I'm not complaining about what I did ride, but lets just say that if I'd had my "druthers"........it would have been my 1990 (now son's) 851 or my 888 Ducati. I'm at home on these bikes and do my best riding when on them.
When we began the ride I really thought that it was just going to be one of those token rides that celebs give the locals for bragging rights. But.........as we cheerfully were about to learn..........this was not the case.
The large pack of Ducati's left Battley's in a crescendo of wonderful sound that left the large HD crowd smiling, but standing in the parking lot. We had to ride up the main artery out of metro DC and I could see that Doug was beginning to wonder if we'd ever get to some twisties. He motioned to me in classic form, giving me the hand gesture (curves) and then the "what's up" motion. I put him on hold with a single finger (no...not that one) and within several moments we peeled off the superslab onto some of Maryland's excellent twisties.
Did forget to mention that we had "local" support ?? We have the pleasure of a county officer that is one of us (MAD). With him along we'd almost have to rape and pillage to get a citation. Otherwise Maryland is not the place to ride the way you'd like. The word predatory comes to mind. FYI.....Maryland wrote over 250 million dollars last year in traffic citations. 250 million !!! Again.......I digress. (I gotta fix that.)
Once we were on roads that suited our Ducatis Doug lit up like a kid in a candy store with dad's gold card. He could hardly contain himself. Wheelies off every whoop crest and scrubbing tire edges to make sure he didn't have any surprises. And while I know he's a pro, he fell right into the rhythm along with us. Then...... off we went...........just the two of us. It was incredible. Here I am, loving the bike that I hadn't ridden in years, feeling like I really could do no wrong, comfortable and secure, with a World Champion in my mirrors. Amazing.
Doug used me as a guidepost for the roads he had no clue which way they went. I would mirror glance at his endless wheelies when he needed a bit more grin factor and we did what Ducati's were made for........riding quickly.
We (MAD) always stop for the pack when we make a turn so that we don't loose anyone. This was especially important today because of the numbers involved, but I soon found out that there were a few of the regulars back there making sure that no one got lost or left behind.
As we pulled into one of our regular gas station stops, Doug quickly starts looking at the forks and attempting to dial in some more preload, but needs tools that the ST4 does not have (boo). A quick announcement brought the proper wrench from an Aprilia tool kit. Adjustments made, club photos taken and several autographs of bikes and t-shirts later........we were off. Doug looks at me.........grins........lights up his rear tire, smokes it a bit and then is off with a "churppppppp"............what a hoot this guy is !!!
This is how the 2 hours went. Yea.........only 2 hours with "the man", but he needed to get back to Battleys for his real purpose. Such is life.
I have a memento of this special day, Doug signed a large "Doug Polen--World Superbike Champion" Brembo poster that is now glass framed and back on the wall in the garage. I found myself looking at it several times late last night almost pinching myself to make sure that all this it really took place. Life is good.......especially when you get to ride with The Champ.