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By Chris de Fraga

Passion and performance – that is an Italian motor cycle – at least that is how it looked from the more than 100 racy Italian motor cycles gathered recently in Argyle Square North in Melbourne’s Carlton.

The number of brands represented included some of the most popular makes as motorcycle members gathered in unseasonal chilly weather.

“Brr. I have thermals for men and women and thermal hats – but if it turns warmer, there are caps and T shirts,” a dedicated member of the Ducati Owners Club of Victoria said.

But the two things which stood out from the motorcycles were their sleek designs – even in naked form – and the technology. Whether it was a historic MV Augusta four-cylinder racer or a Ducati with Mike Hailwood’s signature on the side, they were clearly machines of style and elegance.

Lift the seat of the four cylinder Aprilia, however, and there was an electronic pack the size of USB stick with cloth wrapped wires coming from it that could determine the performance of the whole machine.

One of its wranglers standing nearby showed how a smart phone App could alter the bike’s suspension set up, corner to corner, on a racetrack – Piaggio had engineered it to be able to do it. The racetrack at Phillip Island was dialed up on the App to show how it could be used to set the bike up for a track. Tracks used in Motor GP championship races were all listed on the App on the phone.

It also could manage, through traction controls, the amount of power it would deliver to the rear wheel depending on whether the bike was being leaned into a corner or powered out.

It had four settings for wheel stands on the move, from ridiculous to absurd, and then a soft letdown from each so the rider had time to neatly gather it up again.

Oddly, the way the power was delivered was so controllable, the sound from the motorcycle could also be manipulated. Just as Ferrari uses three exhaust pipes from a V8 engine where two might be sufficient, the extra pipe is used to tune the engine’s  “sound track”, a vitally important sales tool.

Many of the motor cycles as they arrived – most of which were ridden to the venue by their owners – were given a little extra throttle so the crowd could appreciate the effort that had been made to make them sound special. Even a tiny competition bike had an aggressive bark to remind bigger bikes it mattered in its class.

Sound is an important part of motoring in Italy whether it is big and booming like a Polizia Stradale Moto Guzzi or an ultra noisy Ferrari.

More than 900 spectators milled around the parked machines – rows of Ducatis, a clutch of Laverdas, a sole Gilera, Moto Guzzis, Aprilias, MV Augusta and Vespa, most of them polished up and looking in their prime.

Those overseeing them were warmly clad in motor cycle wet weather gear including rubber boots, leathers, and helmets – not so much of the heated gloves and socks for the keen moto crowd – and no one mentioned the weather apart from the sales person on the Ducati stand.

To view some images from the day, please click on below link 



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