Every year Barber puts on a vintage bike festival. I’ve been going the past few years and love every second of it. This is basically where people of all different ages from all over the country come together to camp out and bring their old motorcycles to show, ride, talk about, race, and just enjoy the bikes. They have a swap meet with tons of old motorcycle parts for sale or trade. They have motorcycle races all weekend. Watching these guys fly around the track is reason enough to check it out. There are motorcycles everywhere. You’ll see cafe racers, bobbers, old motocross bikes, and even some Harley’s. You can hear the guys on the two-stroke motors well before you see them coming. There are motorcycles lined up and down the road for what seems like forever. I usually wind up eating fish tacos at some point from this Mexican food truck that is always there. Not to mention the track itself. The place is surrounded by bright green, well manicured grass. Trees put in just the right place to catch some shade from the Alabama heat. And, for some reason, the sky just seems bluer at Barber.
They have a part of the track specifically set up for cafe racer type bikes to congregate that they call Ace Corner. Up at the top of the hill you can see turn 17 as the old bikes fly by screaming like they still have something to prove. There is no way for me to accurately describe to you how cool this is. You really need to go see for yourself. Last year I’m sitting up there with Pops and I ask him “man, don’t you just want to do that so bad?” He replied, “no, not really.” My brain can’t understand that for some reason.
So after sitting a while we decide to check out the swap meet area where my buddy Ray is working trying to sell some stuff. Ray is probably the best mechanic I will ever know. He works on anything from Ferrari’s to old Triumph’s. I met Ray through Bill Mitchell of Mitchell Classics. Bill always had about 3 vintage Ducati race bikes he kept that Ray raced. I am a pretty big fan of Ducati and a bit of an old soul so naturally I always wanted one of the bikes. Lo and behold Ray has one with a blown motor for sale. It would have probably have been in my best interest to leave it be. I sometimes do things that aren’t in my best interest.
I mulled the idea over for a few days but eventually gave in to the fact that the bike would be my next purchase. The bike is so light weight Caleb (my brother) and I loaded it up in the back of the Green Bean (Honda Element). Ray told us that the bike would run but made a sound that made him think something was wrong with the crank. He suggested I try to get it to run to hear it for myself. So that was the plan. I took it home and drained all of the old gas out of it, got the battery charged up, fixed the clutch cable, and few other little things. You have to push start the bike because of it being a race bike- the kickstarter was removed. We decided that the hill at the top of my neighborhood was a good place to get the bike rolling. So, we loaded the bike up and pushed it down the hill. We would get a rumble and a sputter from the exhaust occasionally but that’s about it. This was still enough to keep us pushing. We were pouring sweat, like Strickland’s do, trying to get this thing to pull its own weight. After several attempts I finally felt it pull. We were convinced that the next try was it. Little did we know the engine had just completely locked up. We decided that pulling the bike behind the car was a lot easier way to get it running. After dragging the thing around the neighborhood I realized that the back tire was not going to move.
The following Monday I called Ray to give him the news. He gave me a couple of numbers of some guys to contact. I also called a few of my buddies that I thought may have some insight. The problem with an old bevel driven Ducati race bike is that there aren’t many people that know much about them and the ones that do are not cheap. At this point I was kind of clueless as to my next move. Fortunately for me, Ray called me and told me that he had decided he was going to help me rebuild the bike from top to bottom. With Ray this involves going through every nut and bolt. Needless to say I was excited to get this news. My next step was to completely tear the bike down.