2008 Ducati 1098S - Rabid Transit

Gary Eagan's Desmodromic Cannonball

If a 130-horsepower Multistrada 1200 seems a bit too tame, tear a page from Gary Eagan's book. Start with a 2008 Ducati 1098S, bolt up a pair of Multistrada saddlebags carrying an extra 10 gallons of fuel and see if you can get from New York to California in a day and a half.

Actually, it wasn't quite that simple. Those who revel in racking up lots of miles in a hurry know Mr. Eagan as the holder of various long-distance records. Among his accomplishments, he won the infamous Iron Butt Rally in 1995, covering the obligatory 11,000 miles in 11 days ahead of everybody else; he rode a Ducati ST4 from San Francisco to New York in just under 37 hours in '03; and he took the first '07 Multistrada on North American pavement 3800 miles across Canada in 51 hours.

Invited to take part in an '08 reprise of the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash-a high-speed, transcontinental thumb jammed in the eye of the then-new 55-mph national speed limit four times during the '70s, cooked up by Car and Driver cohorts Steve Smith and Brock Yates-Eagan responded with an emphatic yes. In l914, Erwin George "Cannonball" Baker rode an Indian from Redondo Beach, California, to New York City in 11 days, 12 hours and 10 minutes. Nineteen years later, he went coast to coast in 53.5 hours driving a Graham-Paige Blue Streak 8. That record stood until '71, when Yates and '67 Le Mans 24-Hour winner Dan Gurney covered that same 2863 miles in 35 hours, 54 minutes in a Ferrari Daytona.

All Eagan had to do was get from the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street in New York City to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach in something like 35 hours. But first, there were a few details to iron out. Steve Hicks, National Service Manager at Ducati Canada, welded up mounts to carry those Multistrada saddlebags. To help them carry super-unleaded instead of socks and underwear, Eagan commissioned Fuel Safe in Bend, Oregon, manufacturers of fine fuel cells for everything from Indy cars to armored personnel carriers for more than 30 years. The semi-rigid bladders he unpacked a month later were a perfect fit, complete with exquisite billet fittings that would let him top off without opening a bag. A Termignoni exhaust system would provide a little extra thrust and a more persuasive soundtrack. A Sargent seat, Ducati Performance adjustable rearsets and a pair of Heli bars would make the potentially painful 1098 ergonomics a bit more humane over the long haul. Custom Powerlet mounts were machined for a Garmin 2620 GPS unit and every long-distance road warrior's best friend, the Passport 8500 X50 radar detector. They even wired electrical outlets into the tank bag to power Eagan's electric vest and whatever else needed to be plugged in. Ducati Toronto was ready to help with whatever else needed to be done.

The ebb and flow of Manhattan and Los Angeles traffic were meticulously analyzed to work out the most expeditious departure and arrival times. Routes were plotted. Shifting weather patterns were scrutinized. Even with its two auxiliary fuel tanks, the 1098 carried just 15 gallons, meaning Eagan would have to top off at least seven times. A car with two drivers and a 100-gallon fuel tank might stop just once. Beating anything like that would be tricky, but if Eagan could cross the country quicker than Yates and Gurney did, he said he'd be happy.

As it turns out, this particular cannonball never flew. Organizers called the whole thing off six hours before Eagan was ready to fire. He wanted to give it a go anyway, but The Powers That Be wouldn't give him the green light. The bike was subsequently sold, hopefully to rise again in some other suitably valiant effort.

2008 Ducati 1098S

Gary Eagan, poised to fire his Italian cannonball from the Red Ball Garage on Manhattan's East 31st Street just hours before organizers pulled the plug on the coast-to-coast run.