People occasionally ask me, “What’s your favorite motorcycle?” My standard answer is, “Anything that’s $1000 and Italian.” The aesthetic appeal of Italian design is apparent to anyone with at least one good eye, but why the one-grand qualifier?
One of my current daily drivers is a 2000 Ducati Monster 750 that I found for next-to-nothing with only 8500 miles on it. Il Mostro Cheapo took a little elbow grease to get on the road, but after a few evenings of fiddling I was rewarded with a great, practical ride that looks pretty good from 10 feet away, makes all the right noises and pounds the pavement like a 65-horsepower pile driver. Resourceful riders can have a lot of fun on a $1000 motorcycle.
Who says gentlemen prefer blondes? The author’s latest score is a 30,000-mile 2001 Ducati
The previous owners of my Monster were a young married couple. They bought it new, dumped it at low speed, parked it eventually and put it up for sale. I did a valve-and-fluid service, added a cool, round headlight from an ’80s Moto Guzzi and fixed the electrical relay issue. My buddy Sean Fader even floated me a pair of nice, gently used Staintune mufflers, so the Monster now has an exhaust note like a Tyrannosaurus Rex moaning in amore. The bitchin’ lil’ Ducati has since performed flawlessly for some 7000 miles. It does sport some scars: The tank came dented on both sides after being bashed by the handlebars; the front fender is cracked; the tank decals are long gone; and the seat has a half-inch-long rip in the seam. But that’s all cosmetic.
The major benefit of a $1000 motorcycle is you won’t be heartbroken if it falls over in a parking lot, gets dropped by a visiting friend or gets backed into by some jackass in a Jaguar. You can easily shrug off the psychic baggage that each new ding generates, and are thus free to concentrate on the ride instead of mindless bike worship. You’re not going to park a $25,000 Benelli Tre on a sidestreet in Manhattan for a few hours, but with a $1000 BMW R100/7, you can just kick the sidestand down and walk away without fear of trans-gression from the Powers of Darkness.
You can also customize it any way your twisted little brain desires without worrying about how it will affect resale value. Any fool with a heartbeat and a Gold Card can plop down $25K for a factory custom. With a $1K heap, it’s up to you to add the artistic vision. After all, which bike are you drawn to Sunday morning at the café: one of 15 cookie-cutter custom choppers or the Moto Guzzi V50 with the Iron Cross tank badges made out of smashed PBR cans and the moose skull duct-taped to the handlebar?
Keep an eye on your local classified ads and you may be surprised at the opportunities. But do know that cheap bikes aren’t for everyone. If you don’t know what you’re buying, you could easily get taken by some sleazeball seller trying to pawn off his salvaged junk as primo stuff. If you doubt the honesty of the seller or the integrity of the machine, just walk away. If you lack mechanical skills, you may want to consider a more refined mount. The cash you save by buying a pile can quickly disappear if you have to pay a shop $60 to $90 per hour to work out the bugs. If you’re mechanically inclined, however, you may be only a suck, squeeze, bang or blow away from starting up your new heap and sharing with your neighbors your appreciation for reverse-megaphone duets, trios and quartets. If you’ve got the right tools, skills and attitude, a $1000 bike can also provide a great opportunity to learn about motorcycle service and maintenance.
Personally, I’d rather have 15 $1000 piles than a single $15,000 exotic. I’d dent, damage or destroy the nice one soon enough anyway, and then I’d be bikeless. It would take an extraordinary string of bad luck to deprive me of all 15 of my runners. Having a pile of Italian piles simply keeps things interesting.