1977 Ducati 500 GTL | Me & My Bike

Photography by Ed Milich

Name: Tomokazu "TK" Iwata
Age: 35
Home: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Marketing Consultant

"My wife and I have always had a passion for motorcycles. During the dot-com heyday in San Francisco, it was hard for us not to end up with a garageful of bikes. When people asked why, we'd say 'one for every occasion.' The 500 GTL was not just another bike, though. Simply looking at it invokes a feeling of wonder, like being 10 years old and discovering racecars or rocket ships. The roar of the engine and the distinct smell of oil and gas invoke an indescribable feeling of awe. And when I work on the bike, hours slip by. It's a thrilling ride down Memory Lane.

"Finding the Sport was pure coincidence. I wasn't looking for one-I got sucked in. It was just another Sunday morning. I had my usual cup of black coffee in hand, and was randomly scanning Craigslist. I saw: 'Vintage Duc. Engine kind of runs. Needs lots of TLC.' The 3-hour round-trip drive was a minor roadblock once I set my sights on her. Three months and $2000 in repairs later, it was ready for the road. The 500 GTL is the last bike I've purchased. She's a temperamental, high-maintenance machine. Sourcing parts can take months, but I'm not complaining. Finding a mechanic who's dedicated and vested into Ducs, and crazy enough to lay hands on a 500 Sport is tricky. Fortunately, I know of two in San Francisco! I've seen photos of other 500s online, but have never seen another one on the road.

"I love watching the facial expressions of motorcyclists, especially Ducatisti, change when I show up on the Sport. Most don't know what it is. Those who do are probably in disbelief that a 500 is moving under its own power. Mechanics are usually afraid that I'll ask them to work on it. This bike is a great tool for sizing people up.

"Riding this bike around San Francisco is a guilty pleasure. I want to take her out on every occasion, but I feel like she only has a limited lifespan. I have to restrict my riding time. What happens if I break a rocker arm or throw a drive chain and hole an engine case? Absolutely nothing is available from Ducati for this bike! Workarounds are therefore a way of life just to keep her running.

"A riding buddy and I stored our bikes-my 500 GTL and his '98 GSX-R-at a garage for a couple of years while we traveled for work. When we returned, my 500 GTL fired up after a few kicks. The Gixxer was a no-go, though, as someone had stolen parts from it, including the shifter. I told him that he should get a more dependable bike-like mine!"

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