It’s gonna get you

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UNRELENTING rain smacks off my visor. Somewhere in the pitch-blackness, in the turbulent air behind me, something evil has picked up my scent. I hear the unmistakable sound of a V-twin engine pulling towards the red line. It bounces off the steep canyon walls and resonates in my helmet.

I tuck down to tease every last mph out and try to snatch another gear to escape from the fast-approaching menace. But I sense it’s closing in for the kill. Suddenly, the corner tightens. I try to drag the bike tighter, but it’s no use. I’m on the floor and heading toward the unforgiving steel barrier. I watch my mount disintegrate, turning into shrapnel as it slams into the guardrail.

It might only be a nightmare, but not every bike I ride rams itself so heavily into my subconscious that it disturbs my sleep. So what is it that has caused all this turmoil? A helicopter and a tricked-up, one-off special based on a Ducati 900 Monster.

The bike is built by Californian Italian specialists Pro-Italia. It has been named the Terminator. The helicopter will haunt us later...

With a few brilliantly engineered and well thought-out add-ons, Pro-Italia has transformed the Bologna-built original. A few miles from their Glendale workshops lies one off the best motorcycling roads I know, the Angel’s Crest Highway. It runs through the San Gabriel Mountains like a piece of carelessly abandoned ribbon.

From the base you climb up to almost 8000 feet in less than 40 miles. Lose it on a bend and you’ll need a parachute. It is roads like this that the Terminator lives for. This bike encourages you to take chances: Faster, harder, tighter. The " come on then " voice comes from its kit brakes to its fly-on-a-camel’s-back riding position, its fantastic ogre’s grunt to its superb handling. Everything is super-taut. There is instant throttle response as the sound from the exhaust cascades off the canyon walls.

The Terminator’s engine. thrives on revs. The faster the crank spins the better. I push it even when the back steps out and attempts to flick me out of the seat – it’s addictive. As I follow the photographer’s car, I amuse myself playing with the power, wheelying, starting to experiment with the limits of the Terminator. I play with the massive PFM brakes, ducking and diving. The short handlebars have a steeper angle than the stock bike’s – gun-fighter style. And I’m getting a little bit trigger-happy...

But as I glance down the steep valley slopes I notice (a good 100 feet below us) a small helicopter. Two miles farther up Angel’s Crest, and as I exit a long left-hander, I allow the bike to drift over to the barrier so I can glance over at the drop. Once again our hovering buddy is there. Up ahead the photographer is having fun in his hire car. Cocooned by loud music and air bags he doesn’t notice the helicopter creeping up. When it makes its dramatic entrance even he can’t fail to notice the six-pointed star and the words " Sheriff’s Department " emblazoned on the side.

The airborne officers of the law are just reminding us who is in charge. A park ranger later explains that the chopper spends most of its weekends ferrying crash victims to hospital – a sobering thought.

Playtime is over and I have to hand back the keys. Terminator is a collaboration between Pro-Italia’s Paul Taylor and designer John Keogh – a man who has done work for Triumph among others.

The major alteration from Ducati’s standard Monster chassis is the single-sided swingarm with Marchesini rear wheel assembly from a 916. Mating the swingarms, mounts and linkages required major reworking of the crankcases and the repositioning of the rear shock mount.

Among the solutions are super-rigid carbon-fibre mounting plates which now support not only the grafted-on swinger, but also a set of extremely neat and lightweight billet machined footpegs and gearchange bracketry. Jordan Formula One team fabricator John MacQuillan made them. Indycar specialist Andy Bondio made the exhaust system. The pipes are hand-formed stainless steel and end in a stacked set of aluminum cans.

The front suspension is also Ducati 916 derived, rebuilt but with stock internals. Attack Racing billet-machined triple clamps replace the stock Monster’s and the brakes are now 320mm PFM twin discs with six-piston calipers and steel braided hoses.

Pro-Italia’s own design of billet adjustable clip-on style handlebars now carry the Brembo GP spec front brake and clutch assemblies. The John Keogh-designed front headlamp fairing and rear seat unit was laid up in glass-fibre by Taylor himself. Four CATZ high intensity spotlights illuminate the way. The rear lights are LEDs, as are the indicators.

Three pounds (1.35kgs) was shaved from the crankshaft, which was balanced and fitted with machined billet steel conrods. The motor now has 11.3:1 high-compression pistons (stock is 8.4:1) matched to reworked and gas-flowed Axtel cylinder heads.

Keihin flat-slide carbs and a set of V2 Street cams complete the massaged 904cc motor. The power is only up a smidgin to 79bhp but the torque is up from a stock 54ftlb to 62.2ftlb. At 163 kg (359lb) the bike is a full 20kg (44lb) lighter than the original, too.

With little additions like the nine-row oil-cooler, dry clutch and leaving the timing belts exposed,

Pro-Italia claims there will build a limited production run of Terminators. How limited depends on you.

PRO ITALIA TERMINATOR

Cost: £13,500

Availability: Built to order 001-818-249-5707

Colours: Black

SPECIFICATION

Engine: Air-cooled, 904cc (92mm x 68mm) 4v sohc four-stroke 90° V-twin. Fuel injection. 6 gears

Chassis: Tubular steel trellis

Front suspension: Showa 43mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Penske single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax GP; 130/70 x ZR17 front, 180/55 x ZR17 rear

Brakes: PFM; 2 x 320mm front discs with 6-piston calipers, 245mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

PERFORMANCE

Power and torque: 79bhp, 62.2ftlb

Weight/power to weight ratio: 163kg (364lb), 0.47bhp/kg

Top speed: 135mph

Geometry (Rake, trail, wheelbase): 25°, 10.3cm, 143cm

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff