It called my name when I first saw it on the showroom floor. The Good Harley Angel on my one shoulder was whispering in my ear, “Don’t go there…it’s the Devil making you look! Don’t let those smooth lines tempt you!” On the other shoulder, the Devil put his hands on his hips and said, “Are you going to let Harley push YOU around?! You are Italian! You deserve to be on the finest Italian motorcycle ever built! GO FOR IT!”
I hurried out of the Ducati dealership before I could be tempted further. I had ridden a Harley for nearly 15 years and had owned my beloved white Heritage Softail for 10. What was I going to do—get rid of “Pearl” and get on this sweet red and black ride and take off for the Amalfi Coast?!
Then an invitation from Cycle World came to do a test ride in Fort Lauderdale. I put on my red cowboy boots, jumped on the Harley and took off for the meeting place. There, a group of riders were just returning from their test ride and as they took off their racing-style helmets, big smiles revealed their experience on the new Diavel which were all lined up, looking like Kentucky Derby horses waiting at the gate. All black, red and black and red—my favorite colors, and I knew that my red boots were aching to get on those foot pegs. Looking back, I must have looked pretty ridiculous—red pointed toe boots, a “Frenchy” half helmet and a black stretch jacket and jeans—so UN-sport bike clad, but at least I was color-coordinated to the bikes. I knew I could speak their language even if I didn’t have the “right” helmet, boots and jacket.
As I sat on the bike, the Harley Angel reappeared and hissed, “I can’t believe you are doing this! You look out of place—you ARE out of place. You are a HARLEY rider—get out while you can!” But the Devil sat firmly and grabbed my ear cooing, “Bella, feel how the seat contours to your hips. See how the handle bars reach out to you. Feel how light the bike is and how easy it is for you to lift—how comfortable you are!” I brushed the Harley Angel off, knowing her wings would ensure a safe landing elsewhere and I put up the kickstand.
There was no little ride around the parking lot to get accustomed to the totally new feel of the bike, the instrumentation or the shifting. The videos, Powerpoint presentation and visual review of the technicalities had whet my appetite, but my heart was pounding as I felt the horsepower beneath me ready to pounce. The forward shifting felt so foreign, the pointed toe of my boot felt cumbersome and ill-fitting at first, but as I strapped on my helmet and tightened the strap on my sunglasses, the Devil whispered, “You ARE ready!” Then shouted, “Andiamo! Forza!”
The only woman in the group, I felt compelled to take a place in the middle of the pack—not to be too pushy, but not to be left behind. I cruised with my fellow biker buddies, feeling the nimble bike respond to my every subtle move, watching the RPMs build with my confidence and listening to the strangely different sound of horsepower that almost purred, then roared, like a big wild cat leaping into action across the open plain. The roadway traffic felt like litter blowing by as we whizzed along, a small but mighty group of Diavels, tearing through neighborhoods like our own posse of Rangers, parting the crowds and leaving them staring open mouthed in our wake. When we pulled up to traffic lights, the bikes seemed to stop in an instant, smoothly and evenly with balance and grace. As drivers stared, my ear-to-ear grin grew. Yes, we were test riders, we were champions of the road! The highway opened a black ribbon of asphalt but the higher speed run was all too short as our guide took off on an exit far too soon and we started our return. By this time, I had fallen to the rear of the pack so I could more comfortably become one with my Devil, not worrying about the others, just tuning into how the bike and I were becoming more at ease with each other—or rather, how I was letting it lead me so easily into its arms. With the famed Mark Cernicky as my “wing man” I felt confident that my lack of experience on sport bikes wasn’t a problem—just an awakening. Mark gently coached me on a few handling aspects and encouraged me to let it out—“You won’t blow the engine up!” he laughed, and I felt the speed slowly climb as I tried to let myself feel the responsiveness in the curves, to flow with the bikes smoothness and agility.
As we pulled back into the lines where we started, I didn’t want to dismount the Diavel. I wanted to do it again—to more finely hone my skills—to become that cruiser rider who could live in both worlds thanks to the engineering of Ducati. I talked to the dealer about features. I stroked the smooth red paint and ran my fingers over the carbon fiber as if I could feel each thread. I looked down at my red boots and realized that they fit easily under the toe shift and envisioned myself in a full-face helmet. I said my thank you’s to the Ducati team and planned my visit to the Pompano Ducati dealership rationalizing how I could own another bike, how I could add bags, how I could pay for this addition to my stable. As I got on my old Harley, pulled the 750-pound behemoth off its kickstand and started her up, I rode out of the parking lot feeling like I had just ridden a race horse through the gates and was now astride a water buffalo, ambling back to the barn. Red is my favorite color—mixed with black, it matches my wardrobe and spirit—The Devil is now clutching my ear, “Forza! Forza!” but the Harley Angel just lit back on the other shoulder and said smugly, “You can’t! You’re on a Harley again! So there.”
How far is Pompano Ducati from here? How far is the Amalfi Coast?!