Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency Respect Every Ride talent: meet Greg
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Greg is featured in the Respect Every Ride campaign. He rides a 1986 Ducati F1.
What's the story behind your bike and what do you love about it?
The bike I’m riding in the campaign is a 1986 F1 Ducati. Most notably, it was the last work of the great “Dr T” - otherwise known as Fabio Taglioni - principal designer for several decades and the man responsible for the Desmodromic valve system that is Ducati’s DNA. This F1 marked the end of the "analogue era", since it was also the last machine that Ducati produced before its take-over by Cagiva, who re-engineered its production ethos.
Some say it is the last "true" Ducati. Others say it was intended as Ducati’s swansong - a signing off by Dr T during a period where the writing was on the walls of the Ducati design shop.
The ethos of the F1 lies in the TT2 - a lithe factory race bike that won Ducati more championships than any other during the early 1980s. The F1 was marketed as "a TT2 for the road". Like the TT2, which was down on power compared with its Japanese rivals, its strengths are something to be felt rather than read off a spec sheet.
And that was how I came to fall in love with the F1. Not long after they were released in NZ, I was fortunate enough to briefly ride one, and it made an indelible impression on the younger me. It felt so incredibly natural - like a familiar, well-fitting glove.
A few other Italian bikes, cars and scooters followed, but I never stopped dreaming about the F1. So when an opportunity to secure one came up about 15 years ago, I jumped on it. I’ve had a few since and the bike in the campaign is a more recent purchase. It’s pretty much as it left the showroom floor, having sat in a museum for most of its life. So the hard part is not to put too many miles on it! I think I’ve doubled its total mileage in the last year! That said, machines like this were made for one purpose - to be ridden.
And that’s perhaps one of the F1’s greatest strengths. It’s very much a classic and oozes with personality. Yet unlike some of its older siblings, it’s also very practical (and capable). You can literally ride it to work every day if you really want to.
Tell us the history of your motorcycling passion?
My gateway to motorcycling was largely through Italian scooters. Sure, I’ve ridden motorcycles since the day I was old enough to get a licence, but the passion was really ignited by the discovery of Italian motorcycles. I’d already developed a "thing" for Italian cars and scooters so this was very much a natural progression.
During the '80s and '90s, I somehow ended up with shed-loads of Vespas and Lambrettas - a time when they were considered by most as worthless junk. I became known as the guy who could fix them, which fed the collection and helped pay my way through uni. Through scooters, I discovered the Italians’ unique and delicate balancing of aesthetic and machine. And there seemed to be a sweet spot from the early '60s through to the early '90s. This ethos is definitely still the case in contemporary offerings, but now more akin to an Aperol Spritz than the kick-arse Negroni of older machines.
What’s also so addictive about Italian engineering is their love of racing. It’s in their DNA and you can feel it in just about every Italian car or motorcycle, even scooters. In many cases, the design aesthetic is purely informed by its purpose - to win races. Racing got into my bloodstream as a young teenager with karting and I haven’t been able to shake it since.
What many people don’t realise is that racing makes you a better driver or rider. Not only do you learn skills that you would/should never learn on the road, it also diffuses the urge to misbehave on the road. As a teenager, I was a relatively conservative driver/rider because the thrills I got on the track surpassed anything I would ever experience on the road.
How did you get involved with the NZTA ad campaign?
I felt quite passionate about being involved because the campaign’s message is dear to my heart. I saw it as a rare opportunity to promote a message that is good for the wellbeing and safety of the motorcycling community.
Where does your perfect ride take you, and do you change the way you approach your favourite road?
For me, it's the perfect ride because it’s always changing, depending on what bike I’m riding, with whom and the conditions. And even what the purpose is - a ride to get somewhere or a ride for the sake of a ride.
My idyllic ride is a beautiful crisp, dry morning on a road shaped like spaghetti (twisty) and in perfect condition (smooth and free of gravel).
For me, the joy of motorcycling is physical dynamics - in other words, carving through graceful corners to the very best of your ability. Going fast in a straight line gets boring quickly.
A lot of people talk about the idea of flow - where you enter an instinctual and rhythmic state of mind - akin to playing a musical instrument. For me, this is the pinnacle of the motorcycling experience - and lucky for me, Italian motorcycles are the perfect tool for the task!
In your eyes, what makes a good bike rider?
This can be very simple. But perhaps let’s flip it around for a moment. For me, what makes a bad motorcyclist, is one who thinks he/she knows it all – that’s when you close your mind and stop learning – it’s the case with anything in life. And unfortunately in NZ, there is a large statistic of men in their later years of life who do think they know everything when it comes to motorcycling. Maybe it’s ego.
Motorcycling is one of life’s few pursuits where the learning curve goes on forever. I’ve been riding all my adult life, yet I often still feel like a novice. This is especially the case when I’m on the racetrack amongst riders who are profoundly skilled – this can be seriously humbling!
But this is also a wonderful paradox, because if you keep your mind open and keep learning in the pursuit of bettering yourself, then motorcycling just gets better and better! I’m having more fun on a bike now than I ever have in my life (and I have been riding a while now).
I support anyone willing to put aside their ego and do a riding course. Because you will always get something from it - no matter how experienced you are! We’re lucky that these kinds of courses are even available to us and they seem to just get better and better.
What message would you offer yourself on your first year of riding?
Aside from suggesting I go racing on the track for a few years before I attempted any public roads, do a Ride Forever course, and work through the stages.