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1978 Ducati Darmah

Motorcycle touring North Carolina backroads

| May/June 2008

  • ducati darmah 1
    Motorcycle touring North Carolina on Craig Hunley's 1978 Ducati Darmah.
    Photo by Neale Bayly
  • ducati darmah 3
    Motorcycle touring North Carolina on Craig Hunley's 1978 Ducati Darmah. A marker honoring Tennessee's patriot mountain men, who camped here before battling British forces in the Battle of Kings Mountain Oct. 7, 1780.
    By Neale Bayly
  • ducati darmah 2
    Motorcycle touring North Carolina on Craig Hunley's 1978 Ducati Darmah.
    By Neale Bayly
  • ducati darmah 4
    Motorcycle touring North Carolina on Craig Hunley's 1978 Ducati Darmah.
    By Neale Bayly

  • ducati darmah 1
  • ducati darmah 3
  • ducati darmah 2
  • ducati darmah 4

Ducati Darmah
Years produced:
Total production: 5,598
Claimed power: 57hp @ 7,700rpm
Top speed: 110 (approx.) 
Engine type: 863.9cc overhead-cam, air-cooled V-twin
Weight (dry): 216kg (476lb)
Price then: $3,500 (approx.)
Price now: $4,000-$6,000
MPG: 42 (approx.)

"When God invented roads He painted an invisible line of perfection. Then He invented Ducati motorcycles to follow it."

The year was 1982; I had just stepped off my friend’s 1978 Ducati 860 GTS after an idyllic thrash along one of my favorite English country roads when those words rolled from my mouth. It is a statement we still talk about when I am home in England reminiscing about the good old days with the boys.

Twenty-five years later, motorcycle touring North Carolina Route 181 on Craig Hunley’s 1978 Ducati Darmah, chasing a bright red Cagiva Gran Canyon, I have once more found this perfect line. It has taken me two days and nearly 500 miles in the saddle to adjust my mental database of riding techniques for the aged Italian machine beneath me. The bike has a long wheelbase, skinny touring tires and stiffly sprung shocks, which appear to be working against the softly sprung front fork. The rake and trail feel more like a chopper than a sport bike, and the front brake lever requires the hand strength of a gorilla. It also rewards the user with very little braking power.

But listening to the Conti pipes booming on full noise on the Ducati Darmah, accompanied by the sound of the barely-filtered Delorttos inhaling gobs of mountain air on an open throttle, none of this matters. Sending shivers down my spine as it snorts and spits when I let the heavy throttle springs drop the slides, the sound of the unburned fuel backfiring in the pipes is sending me into a euphoric state of bliss. A bevel Ducati running open Delorttos and Conti pipes is heaven on earth.

Yet as perfectly as the Ducati Darmah runs, I wasn’t convinced about Craig’s decision to use Koni shocks at the rear. Slightly longer than stock and with too much spring rate, they don’t — in my humble opinion — help the front end one bit, making the front tire push. The trick, I’ve discovered, is to leave the front brake alone to eliminate any fork dive. Just roll off the gas, pull in the clutch and give the throttle a quick blip before dropping a gear and getting hard on the rear brake.

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