Simon de Burton
There was no shortage of magic moments on the inaugural Ride 70s tour for classic superbikes back in the summer – but one of my favourites was watching Kerry Sano rebuilding a Norton’s carburettor in a ferry-port car park.
A few minutes earlier, a gaggle of us blokes had been scratching our heads and proffering random guesses as to why the Norton was misfiring like a damp firework. And then Sano strolled over, five-foot nothing, elfin-haired and, well, female. ‘It’s the carburettor. Dirt in the main jet. I can fix it,’ she pronounced as confidently as only a New Yorker can.
Turns out she’s not only an ace motorcycle rider, but a wizard with the spanners too, having spent years as a team mechanic in the world of American stock car racing before being recruited by Ducati as a service technician. Now she runs her own business, fixing, restoring and building high-end motorcycles for high-end clients at a workshop beside her picture-perfect country home in Philadelphia.
Sano was just one of a range of interesting people to have signed up for Ride 70s, a classic motorcycle touring business recently launched by Pietro Casadio Pirazzoli in the unlikely setting of San Marino – the fifth smallest country in the world.
But Casadio Pirazzoli’s horizons extend a whole lot further than San Marino’s diminutive boundaries. He wants people who love the look and sound of the superbikes of the 1970s to do more than admire their period features and use them for pottering to the shops – he wants them to saddle-up and head back in time on two-wheeled adventures through some of the most beautiful scenery Italy has to offer.
An artisan carpenter by trade, the 55-year- old once had a need for speed, and spent his spare time blasting along serpentine mountain passes on superbikes capable of more than 170mph. But that was more than 20 years ago, before the first of his three daughters arrived. Parental responsibility cooled his need for a weekly adrenaline rush, but it didn’t dampen his love of motorcycles. So he waved goodbye to his latest plastic-clad rocket ship and bought a 1971 Honda CB500 Four instead. And he liked it so much that he soon began to seek out further ’70s classics, to the point that he now owns around 20, which he keeps in a converted stable beneath San Marino’s Mount Titano and its towering Guaita fortress.
The collection initially inspired Casadio Pirazzoli to establish Ride 70s as a club where fellow classic fans could hang out, so he styled-up the interior, decorated the walls with vintage motorcycle adverts and old-school riding kit, and built a functional but aesthetically pleasing workshop. A well-stocked fridge, a counter top, a coffee machine and a couple of lived-in sofas add to the atmosphere – and if you love old bikes, being able to glance across at a Moto Guzzi Le Mans, a Kawasaki Z900, a Norton Commando Fastback and a BMW R90s in signature Daytona Orange makes the place feel like heaven.
The logical next step was to make the collection available to anyone who fancies the idea of really getting to experience a classic bike, by riding one on a proper tour covering hundreds of miles over the course of several days – and, suddenly, Ride 70s was on the road.
‘Classic bikes from the ’70s have developed a really strong following because of their retro looks and slower pace – but they have become expensive to buy and restore, and they need to be properly maintained and, most importantly, regularly ridden,’ Casadio Pirazzoli says.
‘Many people just don’t have the time in their lives for all that, or prefer the ease and convenience of riding modern bikes,’ he explains, ‘which made me think of starting Ride 70s to give them a chance to experience adventures on a classic superbike without having to own one.’
Although I have old bikes of my own, the idea of being able to ride a whole selection of someone else’s certainly appealed – so when Brummell was invited to take part in the first Ride 70s “spring raid” I was quick to volunteer. In the event, I became so enamoured with “my” black-and-orange Moto Guzzi 750s from 1974 that I didn’t want to ride anything else, I just wanted more of its wonderful, loping gait as it took me across the width of Tuscany via Montalcino, on to the island of Giglio and back via Montepulciano, with overnight stops in well-chosen hotels and, on the island, in a villa rented for the occasion.
It proved to be a superb trip, taken at an easy enough pace to enjoy the scenery and to avoid any “incidents”, while also allowing those who wanted to experience different bikes on different roads to do so – and always in the blissful knowledge that, in the event of a breakdown, someone else would be around to fix it.
Best of all, I came away having made a bunch of friends ranging from a Norwegian cycling champion and a documentary film producer to the marketeer of a Jamaican restaurant in Dubai and a luxury kitchen retailer from Zurich. The average biker? There’s no such thing – just people with a shared love of freedom.
This year’s forthcoming Ride 70s tours include Sardinia’s Secrets, 17-24 September; Tuscany Dreaming, 8-15 October; Endless Summer (Sicily), 29 October-6 November; ride70s.com