During my recent mid-west road trip, Alpinestars arranged a ride for me around the Indianapolis Grand Prix course on the back of a two-seater Ducati piloted by the legendary Randy Mamola.

After a mandatory trip to the medical building for a quick workup, some incredibly patient Alpinestars folks helped me and six other back seaters into the suits, boots, gloves, back protectors and helmets that will hopefully prevent any long-term disability in the unlikely event that one of us falls off. When everyone is geared up, we do a short semi hunched perp waddle through the paddock area, through the Ducati garage and onto the brickyard.

A Ducati mechanic fires up a little red device that looks and sounds like an Amish internal combustion carpet cleaner with a busted silencer and pushes it against the back tire of the two-seater. Randy puts the bike in gear, eases the clutch out and it’s earplug time.

WhaaaaaAAAAVOoooOOM, WhaaAAVOOM, WhaVOOM, WhaaaaaaaaaaaVOOOM, WhaVOOM, WhaaaaaAAAAVOoooOOM

Then he takes off down the track to scrub in the tires while I wonder why no pop stars have sampled that sound. Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki GP-bikes sound like unmuffled gasoline-powered sewing machines, but the Ducati’s lyrical bark, rumble and rhythm indicate the presence an acoustic engineer in the Bologna r & d department.

The two-up bike is Loris Capirossi’s 2006 Ducati GP-6 retrofitted with a foam “seat” and a fuel tank redesigned to accommodate two of the ultimate oh-shit! handles. Two Alpinestars guys get me situated on the “seat,” somebody gives an okay and we start rolling down the straight with the front wheel in the air as Randy feathers the clutch through an impossibly tall first gear then he’s already into the brakes uh-oh I’m sliding forward getting a bit too intimate with Randy…look at that I could reach out and touch the ground…oh we’re upright again…I’m sliding back…hang on tight another turn…my arms are tired already…oh yeah I’m supposed to be turning my head and looking through the next curve.

Nothing really happens when you move around in a car. Leaning into a curve or craning your neck is an arrogant fantasy in which you think your body language is going to change the handling characteristics or performance of a two-ton plastic and steel missile. A motorcycle, however, is a different story. You can move your butt around, push down on the foot pegs, turn the 15-pound melon that sits on your shoulders and use opposing gravitational and gyroscopic forces to create an instantly gratifying adrenaline rush.

My adrenal glands, while slower than most, finally kick in at turn three, at which point I realize that I’m an active participant in this exercise and I need to get with the program. I turn my head when Randy turns his, do those long forgotten adductor exercises, push back on the handles when the braking force at the end of the back straight effectively doubles my 215 pounds and hang on with a new appreciation of why Ben Spies spends his off season training with Pro Tour bicyclists.

It was over in less than two minutes, but I’m still having trouble wiping the smile off my face over a month later. Thanks to Alpinestars, Randy Mamola and Ducati for the experience!

Posted by on September 27, 2010