“My first motorcycle was a 1973 Ducati 750 GT. Back in those days in New Zealand, there were no restrictions on the type of motorcycle a learner could ride. It was like a baptism of fire – I crashed it more times than I can remember, but fortunately I survived.”
Although I loved the 750 GT, all my friends had British bikes and I always yearned for a Norton Commando. So I bought a 750 Combat in 1974, but had a real love/hate relationship with this bike. Commandos are great when running nicely, but don’t really suit inexperienced mechanics with dubious skills. One 800-mile ride took me 14 hours after persistently tightening loose exhaust header pipes and replacing carburettor float bowl screws. However, the bike handled wonderfully and was great fun. And such was the fondness of my memories of this Commando that last year I bought another – this time an electric start Mark III.
On a trip to Britain in 1975 I test rode a Honda CB400F, and a year later entered the world of Japanese reliability. But although this little Honda was beautifully built and finished, it lacked soul, and ultimately led me back to Italian bikes. I’d always had Ducati 750s, with a Sport replacing the GT in 1974, and a 750 SS replacing that in 1976. No-one wanted the round-case 750 SS in 1976 – they all lusted after the new 900. I couldn’t afford a 900 though, so through a friend I found a genuine 5000 mile one-owner 750 SS, still with the original tyres and the factory race kit. Thus began a relationship with the 750 SS that continues to this day.
I was fortunate to enjoy the 750 SS when it was not considered a commodity, but instead was simply regarded as an old motorcycle. So I rode it regularly as a sporting machine for many years, appreciating its smoothness, handling and refinement. It has never given me any trouble, and the motor is still as it was when it left the factory.
While the 750 SS has been a consistency in my collection, every year saw the buying and selling of other bikes. In 1979 I managed to save enough for a 900 Darmah, followed a few years later by a series of 500 Pantahs, 900 MHRs, and 750 F1s. Throughout the 1980s a series of Japanese bikes came and went: a Suzuki GS400 for everyday duties, a GS850G, Honda VFR750, and a Kawasaki GpZ 900R. But the finest and most underrated bike was the BMW K100RS. The K bike may lack character, but it does everything asked of it, and with aplomb. The K100RS did 75,000km of touring, mostly two-up, pushed hard over mountain passes in New Zealand and Australia, without missing a beat. A fantastic bike, and a bargain in the used bike world.
In 1987 I had a serious accident on a 450 Desmo Ducati, and this effectively ended fast road riding. I could no longer shift on the right or kickstart a motorcycle. So my trusty 750 SS has since become a museum piece, but I continued to ride. It was initially Ducatis – an 851 SP3 and 900 Supersport – but later the nostalgia bug bit and I went on to buy a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, a Laverda 750 SFC, and an MV Agusta 750 S. As I could no longer ride long distances I began restoring Ducatis, and over the next few years restored a number of 750 GTs and Sports and a 750 and 900 SS.
In the early 1990s, with my riding career curtailed, I began writing articles for motorcycle magazines. A number of these were historical features on Ducatis, and a friend suggested I put them together and send them to several publishers as a book proposal. Haynes liked the idea, and in 1996 it published The Ducati Story. This subsequently went into three reprints and five editions, and has been published in three languages. Some of my books are very specialised, and I was particularly fortunate that Veloce was prepared to publish comprehensive books covering the 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport (only 401 bikes built) and MV Agusta Fours (around 1200 built). Now I continue to write books for Veloce, but the wheel has turned full circle and all future planned titles cover Ducatis.”
Interview with Ian Falloon recorded in 2010.
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