Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest interview – Jacques Wood, My Dream Ride UK winner

Another internet connection, another passionate Ducati rider. Travel with me to Surrey, England to meet Jacques and read about the tour of a lifetime to Bologna, Italy - the home of our favourite brand of motorcycle.

What's your name, where do you live and what Ducati do you ride?

Jacques Wood, Camberley, Surrey, England and I proudly ride a 1995 Ducati 600ss.
Jacques Wood and his pride and joy - a 1995 Ducati 600SS

How long have you been riding and how did you first get into it?

3 years. I was brought up heavily influenced by cars and motor sport, and my first experience of bikes was from my neighbour when I was 14, he rode at the time - a Kawasaki ZX-9R - and let he me sit on it, fire it up, and rev the nuts off it. I instantly became a closet biker, scared to show my interest publicly as I had nobody to talk to about it. The fact that my Dad was in the same boat was cruel irony. My first Ducati experience was a full throttle ride by of a Ducati 749 as I was riding my push-bike home from school. I was mesmerised by the stunning lines and intoxicating sound, and I spend months on the internet researching, learning and loving all things motorcycle until I discovered what the red beauty that sped past me was. Since then, it's been MotoGP and WSB and the most important things going.

I know from meeting you via Twitter that you recently won a competition called ‘My Dream Ride, and toured can you tell us about it?


  Ducati 600SS from Jacques Wood on Vimeo. I was flagged an advertisement through a national motorcycle news paper, MCN (Motorcycle News) about a competition by Bennetts Motorcycle Insurance, who were celebrating 80 years of existence, by giving away opportunities to make bikers dreams realities. I entered pretty late, I spent an afternoon planned for doing coursework reading through other peoples entries, and to be honest, I thought them all to be a bit naf. It was typically "I want a new leather jacket" or "A brand new Harley" nothing jumped out as being what the competition was all about, a biking dream. So I sat back, and thought up an elaborate idea to ride my tiny 50hp Ducati to the motherland, where my red bundle of joy was born, the Ducati Factory in Bologna, Italy.

 But I hate highways, and my little bike was revving its nuts off to get to 130kph (It's an Italian import, so the clocks are in KPH), so I thought wouldn't be fun to ride the bike how it should be ridden, on single lane traffic roads through small villages on the back roads of Europe with nothing but the journey to enjoy. It seemed far-fetched at the time, and I even laughed at myself for entering.


 2 weeks later, they called and said they wanted to make it happen. I couldn't believe it. A year on that phone call is still fresh it my mind. Proof you've got to be in it to win it.

What an awesome story! I have to say, Surrey, England feels about a zillion miles from Australia, can you tell us about the roads and weather conditions you experience?

Having been to Oz I can give you a direct comparison of road networks. We're separated into Motorways, A roads and B roads, which are designated M, A and B accordingly. The M roads are like your highways only with narrower lanes and a lot more twists, turns and undulations, and they all have a speed limit of 70mph (approx. 110kph). To be honest, they're dull. Next up are A roads which all pre-date the M roads. These are the original roads that connected all the UK cities, 9 times out of 10 an M roads has been built to cut the journey time but will often run parallel to the A road. These are the typically the fast riding roads, with plenty of fast/flat-out corners allowing you to make good progress.

Livio Lodi, the Curator of the Ducati Museum


And finally, my personal favourite, B roads are single lane roads that small towns and villages and are anything from 50 to 100kph limits, but they form with the land scape, and can give some truly fantastic corners that require heavy braking and good grunt and agility to get around the quickest (sounds like a Ducati Supersport in a nutshell). The road conditions themselves vary massively. We don't have any concrete paved roads bar some temporary stretches on motorways. But we certainly don't have any smooth roads, so knee down road riding is very difficult, and sports touring tyres are going to be your best bet for the road, but the grip is usually very good, wet or dry. Speaking of dry; the weather. Famous in the UK for being crap! It’s generally true, the hottest day I've ever ridden in was 31 degrees Celsius, and typically during the summer you're looking between 19 and 25 degrees being a dry summers day. Drainage is very good on the roads, so if you do get caught in a rain storm you very rarely meet standing water. I don't ride in the rain if I can help it, personally don't get the enjoyment of constantly trying to asses the grip levels, I like it when it's dry and I'm riding within the bikes limits. I get a good 6,000km of dry riding a year, obviously more if I end up doing a European tour.

Do you ride daily or is commuting there hell?

I don't ride daily, no, although I can see myself commuting on a ropey old jap-bike (why would I want to put unessential miles on my beautiful Ducati?). It would definitely save time. But the biggest issues for me are insurance and safety.

  When I was in Oz I bought myself a 1985 Nissan Patrol to live in. That cost me $130 AU to insure. At the same time, here in the UK I drove a 1999 Honda civic 1.4 litre. The insurance for that was £1750 GBP; more than double the value of the car, that's for a driver with a clean license and advanced driver training, insurance here isn't optional and if you're caught without it, it's a big fine, points on your licence and your car is seized, which is £160 a day in lock up. We're the most expensive country in the world for motor insurance, but we all still seemed to get screwed over. So now that I'm 22 with no convictions to my name, and no claims made, I'm still looking at the best part of a £1000 to insure a £1000 jap 600.

The second thing to put me off riding daily is the safety aspect even though I ride with full leathers and crash helmet. The number of biker related deaths are on the rise, with the vast majority of them including another vehicle. The problem is that motorists aren't taught to be aware of motorcycles when they're learning to drive, and they aren't aware of the rules for motorbikes and the Highway Code. Ducati Backroad Blast - Shine from Jacques Wood on Vimeo. Here, you can filter past traffic as long as the hazard lines on the road have gaps, if the line is solid you may not overtake/filter. so when filtering through two lanes of traffic going in the same direction, naturally you ride between the two lanes of cars. But very often I have had cars suddenly change lanes in front of me or even moved over to close the gap I am filtering down because either; they're thinking I'm doing something illegal, or they've taken exception to me making progress. Needless to say, there have been plenty of confrontations. Generally, people are accepting, but there are a few out there who make bikers feel like criminals that should be run off the road.

Have you done any mods to your Duc, or is it faithfully original?

I'm always doing something to the bike, I'm not adverse to a stock machine, but I like making mine work better for me. I do all the servicing myself, and i know every nut and bolt of the bike inside out. I am constantly experimenting to extract the best from the machine. Scorpion race end can, and a 900ie rear shock to jack up the rear 10mm are the only obvious alterations.

I've converted it to run on a 749/916 rectifier unit as they're only a 1/4 of the price to replace if they should fail (only had one go in 15,000km). I run heavier weight front fork oil to help cope with my weight, and I use sintered brake pads to help with the feel and stopping power, I'm not interested in carbon fibre and "bling" I just focus on having a solid handling motorcycle. I don't know what the laws are over there to do with modifications, but here, pretty much anything goes, every year you must take a test to ensure the vehicle is road worthy, called an MOT. But, there are two kinds of MOT, the normal one, means you have to have everything that the standard bike would have, but it can all be after market, there are no noise or emissions laws for motorcycles, although there are for cars! (hahahaha).


I reckon he'd make a handy mate to have around..

The other MOT is known as a 'daytime' MOT, which limits you to riding only between the hours of 10a.m. to 4p.m. but, you only have to have a speedometer, correct sized registration plate, and road legal tyres (this included cut slick race tyres). Everything else, lights, indicators, fairings can be dispensed with. I'm toying with the idea of fitting bikini race fairings and getting rid of the added weight (nearly 16kg) for that ultimate race-bike feel. Obviously the curfew is annoying, but if a copper is lenient, they usually tell you to go straight home if you're caught within a reasonable time of the time limits.

Does your bike have a name, and if so is it a boy or a girl?

My bike is named Ceri-Louise, named for a strong willed girl with a cheeky attitude, so she's defiantly a girl!

What would be your most highly recommended piece of kit (Gear)?

My most highly recommended piece of kit is my 'Interphone F4' helmet to helmet communication system, my Dad and I used it for our trip to Italy, it allowed us to talk to each other in perfect clarity, point out potential hazards, and allow my to lead on the road whilst my Dad called out directions from his SatNav. It also blue tooth's to your phone, so you can play music and make calls through it, and the clarity is stunning.

If you could own any motorcycle Ducati what would it be?

Own any Ducati? tough choice! I can give you my top 3. and they are, 749 monoposto, Diavel and TT2 F1 race bike. The Diavel changed my world when I rode it, the TT2 F1 is, I think the most beautiful and best sounding air cooled Ducati going. But I suppose my favourite has to be the 749, I know it's never been a massive success, but it was slated by the fans of the 916, they grew up with Massimo Tamburini's create on their walls, I grew up with Pierre Terblanches 749/999 on mine, and for that, it has to be my dream Ducati.

And if it weren’t Ducati, what make/model would also grace your garage?

A non Ducati? again, there are 3 obvious candidates. MV Agusta F4 750. Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. New Triumph Scrambler. I picked these because, I think the MV is one of the most beautiful bikes ever, and the 750 wasn't overpowered and more enthralling. The Guzzi V7 appeals to me on levels that I don't actually understand, but everytime I see one, I just want to ride it through the countryside. And the Scrambler is just a bit of fun, not fantastic at anything, but a fun alternative to an adventure bike.

Have you even sat on your Ducati with no intention of starting it?

Of course I have sat on her without starting her, paddock stand keeping her steady I tuck myself in the bubble (and at 15cm tall that's not easy I can tell you!) and go through the gearbox making the engine noise myself! Not afraid to admit that.

You mentioned a 900ie shock... help me understand!

going back to the rear shock, the 750ie, 900ie and 1000ie were the supersports that Pierre Terblanche redesigned when the models went fuel injected in 1998/1999. The rear shocks from those bikes are 10mm longer than the carburettor counterparts, but feature the same pre-load, rebound and compression settings. When fitted to the older bikes, the shock causes the rear of the motorcycle to sit 10mm higher. Raising the rear ride height will quicken the bikes steering as you're effectively steepening the rake (caster) and shortening the trail. Now, you could effectively do the same thing if you were to lower the front forks in the yokes (dropping the front would mean the rear sits naturally higher, which will aid to sharper steering) but this lowers the ground clearance of the bike, and, I was on occasions scrapping the bottom of the fairings on our infamously bumpy roads! So raising the rear was the best option, this does increase the swinging arm inclination, so you have to set-up the suspension to suit, I found that softening the pre-load off half a turn from the middle setting and increasing the compression two clicks from the middle setting made it feel more stable, I left the pre-load as standard.

Jacques, thanks very much for taking the time to answer all of my questions, it's been a pleasure chatting with you and getting to know more about you and your burning passion for Ducati (tinged with a large amount of jealousy for your amazing journey!).

Take care mate, and if you're ever back in Australia, be sure to look me up!

If you enjoyed Jacques story, make sure you check out his epic Father and Son journey across Europe to the Ducati factory on their published iTunes eBook! They have also started a Facebook page for more...
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