As a long-term Ducatista (50 years!), I’ve owned some of the best and ridden most of the rest. My own highlight was the ’74 750 Sport, which I rode from Ohio to California (with clip-ons), a trip described in the May ’75 issue of Cycle Guide. Next in line would be the Desmo 350 and the 250 Scrambler. In my seniority I remain bevelheaded.
That said, I did quite enjoy brief affairs with the Alazzurra and Elefant, and access to the 916/996 for track use was enlightening and much fun. And the Multistrada and Hypermotard are wonderful devices and logical (insofar as logic figures in Italian design) evolutionary branches of the street-scrambler tradition. Only two deficiencies – money and garage space – preclude my ownership of both.
Now, in my dotage, I have elected the 1981 Darmah as the ultimate all-round rider from the bevel catalog. Sufficient power, traditional Bolognese handling manners, and moderate comfort combine the civility and performance that define the gentleman’s roadster. In all but the tighter twisties it will keep pace with newer bikes, sounds better than any of them, and carries the elemental visual esthetic of a hand-crafted machine. Which it is.
Those for whom original bodywork is sacrosanct will cringe at the abbreviated Darmah, as will the anti-bobber brigade. But lighter and simpler works for me, and the basic flat-tracker riding position is a natural fit. The Maier windshield makes highway travel tolerable, and the stock tank accommodates a sizeable bag. The squared steel fenders were replaced with a Ducati Indiana (!) front and a trimmed Suzuki MX guard in back. The headlight stays are 750 GT and the steel-base tractor saddle is covered in pigskin. Quite comfortable, thanks.
The sidecovers are wrapped with heavy duty vinyl. In the early 80s Ducati was distracted (misguided?) by the Japanese brands, and opted for more glitz in the graphics. The jumbo logo fonts and hokey tiger decals were inconsistent with Italian design standards, but they did stand right out. As you can see, some of them I covered right up. In its next iteration (probably a street-tracker), the side covers and stock tank will likely go on the shelf. Lovely tank, but too large for the purpose.
Disclaimer: The stock Darmah shown here actually belongs to Jeff Zato, because I neglected to photograph mine before so mercilessly brutalizing it. But Grazia (Grace in Italian), is mine and I hers. She sings to me sweetly of the roads taken, and responds to my touch with compliant form and finesse. Ain’t life grand?