There was cold in the air and gray in the sky today. For the first time this year, it felt like winter was coming. I decided to take a quick ride in the flats up to Carter Lake, which sits at the very base of the foothills between Longmont and Loveland.
The way to Carter Lake from my house cuts through a pretty crossroads town named Hygiene, winds past some horse country with a few nice bends, and then climbs a few hundred feet to arc along the lake’s southern and eastern shore. Towards the north end of the lake, there’s a boat house with a convenience store that makes for a good stop. It’s a sixty-mile round trip, if you come down the back of the lake and hit the faster roads on the way home.
The Ducati is much the opposite of my Harleys. Where the Harleys make power from 3,000 to 5,000rpm and redline somewhere around 6,000rpm. The Ducati is cantankerous—the right word is “bitchy”—below 3,500rpm and doesn’t have a redline. Why stop a good thing?
In many ways it’s a ballerina. It moves gracefully, with barely input on the bars. Its massive brakes are surprising gentle feeling, and the clutch lever pull is downright delicate. But below fifty miles an hour, the engine feels big and imposing in way that doesn’t quite fit the ballerina handling, and every time the revs dip below four grand the bitchiness starts up. The open clutch (you can see it spinning here at :24, along with my temporary hack job on the seat) creates quite a racket and the seating position, with the low clip-on handlebars, is painful.
After seventy, the Ducati transforms. The wind takes the weight off the wrists, and the clutch noise is drowned out by the exhaust bellow. More than that, after six grand, the engine begins to match the frame, and the bike becomes utterly smooth, its acceleration instantaneous rather than progressive: one moment is 70mph, twist the wrist and the next is 100mph. This seems to happen in sixth gear as easily as in third.
By the time I hit the lake the wind had kicked up strongly, pushing me around in lane at will. I recalled the south side of Carter Lake has two problems—sand and deer—and by the time I had come to the first curve I was down to about 10 miles an hour, tracing a thread of blacktop through the sand. By the second curve there was not a thread to be found, and the sand was blown into high drifts across the road.
My mind flashed back to Black Friday 2016: I had just turned a thousand miles on the Sportster and, riding in the mountains, I came around a curve, discovered that the shadows had left a sheet of thick snow, and down I went.
Apparently sand is more compilant than snow, at least this time. The Ducati’s head shook, but we passed through uneventfully. Coffee at the shop hit the spot, and I took the long way home.
At least there was no deer problem.