Greg Mellinger, owner of MCC Motor Cycle Center, has two customers awaiting the newest Ducati, the Desmosedici. The $72,500 bike can reach 200 mph. Photo: John R. Boehm
Finer Things: Newest Ducati bike sets hearts racing
By Lisa Bertagnoli February 18, 2008
In the motorcycle world, there are Harleys, BMWs, Kawasakis and Hondas.
And then there are Ducatis.
The Italian motorcycle company recently announced the rollout of the Desmosedici RR, a $72,500 street-legal bike capable of reaching 200 mph. Actor Tom Cruise is among the 1,500 buyers of the limited-edition motorcycle.
"Somebody put it as 'the thinking man's Harley,' " says Greg Mellinger, owner of MCC Motor Cycle Center, a European motorcycle dealership in Villa Park. At least two Chicago-area collectors are on the list for the Desmosedici, but both, through Mr. Mellinger, declined to be interviewed.
Tribune Co. Chairman and CEO Sam Zell, a well-known Ducati fan who attempted to buy the motorcycle company in 1996, declined to comment on whether he was one of them.
Bill Latoza, principal of BauerLatoza Studio Inc., a Chicago-based architecture firm, and his wife, Joanne Bauer, own six vintage foreign motorcycles. The collection, worth about $68,500, includes a rare 1957 Ducati 175cc SS, which Mr. Latoza keeps in Italy.
Italian bikes "look like they're going 100 miles an hour standing still," he says. "They make you understand why dogs stick their heads out the car window."
Adding to the elitism of owning the bikes is that no one much bothers to ride them here. Instead, they travel the world with their motorcycles, seeking racier curves ("twisties") and more splendid scenery. Some, like Mr. Latoza, keep a bike or two in Italy. Others ship motorcycles to foreign cities via air freight, at a cost of about $5,000 round trip per bike. Another option is to rent motorcycles, an attractive alternative in remote locations such as Mongolia.
Mr. Latoza's seventh motorcycle is a 2001 Ducati ST2, his "zip-around-town" bike. But like other Ducati aficionados, he prefers to race or tour overseas.
This May, Mr. Latoza, 53, will race in Rome's five-day Motogiro d'Italia, which covers about 800 miles. "It's a grueling race that pits you against traffic, road and weather conditions," he says. He plans to ride the 1957 Ducati; handling the 50-year-old machine will only add to the difficulty and thus the thrill, he says.
Burt Richmond, 70, a retired Chicago architect and motorcycle collector, also seldom rides here. "If I'm going to get on a motorcycle, I want a minimum of five things: history, culture, cuisine, unique accommodation and spectacular scenery," he says. "And I want twisties."
Mr. Richmond displays a collection of 30 or so European motorcycles in a studio behind his Lincoln Park home. The collection ranges from an unrestored 1954 Ducati Sport 48 to a gleaming red 1956 MV Agusta Disco Volante, with a signature bowed-out gas tank. He estimates the collection is worth about $200,000.
Each spring, Mr. Richmond and his wife, Diane Fitzgerald, travel to a mostra scambio, or swap meet, in northern Italy to find bikes to add to the collection.
The couple have ridden in Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, North Africa, Costa Rica, Peru and Italy, where they keep a stash of motorcycles. They also plan to race in the Motogiro.
Ms. Fitzgerald, 54, a management consultant, learned to ride in 1997, after Mr. Richmond gave her a Ducati Monster 750 for Christmas. They rode "a grand total of 45 miles" in Chicago before setting off for a motorcycle tour of Morocco.
While Ms. Fitzgerald says there are some challenges to riding a Ducati — "everyone complains about the clutch" — it's still quite a ride for the ego. "I tell my nieces and nephews that I'm the coolest person they know."
©2008 by Crain Communications Inc.
Thanks to Crains for publishing this. Its about time bikers were recognized as something other than knuckleheads...