Staff bikes: Ducati Monster 1100 Evo - The modern cafe racer
Over the months that I've owned the Monster, many have asked me "What's it like?" My default answer is "A real, good, honest motorcycle". Which sounds like damning it with faint praise; that's far from my intention. What I mean to say is that this stripped back, stylish, air-cooled Italian V-twin, punting out a modest 100bhp at the crank, is - for me at least - a modern day evocation of the clip-on-equipped, oil-dropping clankers beloved of kids in the '50s and '60s.
Fobbed off by those I called friends, I set out on a solo voyage of discovery taking in three spots for a brew and a pose between work and home. The glory of the Monster's engine is the way it responds to short, sharp inputs of throttle, making it the ideal weapon for 10-mile hops between coffee stops. The standard Pirelli Diablo II tyres are already up to temperature by the time I'm two miles in.
En route to the first stop, the Stibbington Diner on the A1 - a proper truck stop, nestled behind the treeline just south of Wansford, Cambs - the OE rubber gives me a massive amount of confidence. I ride in an open-face most of the time (which I find tends to slow me down, in a good way) but I fear for the Ducati's high-set pegs at one point.
Leaving Stibbington it's a short hop north on the dual carriageway, head down behind the tiny flyscreen, to the Woodview cafe, hidden away behind a petrol station on the A1 near the village of Thornhaugh. The bike copes well with windblast (helped by the fact that I have the physical bulk of a 12-year-old boy) and on roads like this I get the rare chance to use the bike's sixth gear.
Really, at legal road speeds, it's hard to see when you'd need top gear. This is perhaps the biggest niggle that's crept in over the last few months. That, and the lack of a gearshift indicator to warn me when I'm about to toe the unresponsive 'overdrive'.
So, to the Woodview. I pass this cafe most evenings and have always been intrigued by its ghost-town charm. Er, but I had never thought for a second that it might have been an abandoned appearance because it was actually closed down... Its car park is littered with bottles of 'trucker's Tizer' while sapling-size weeds have colonised its patio.
On this short blast there's one more safe bet for a decent cup of coffee, the OK Diner - 1950s pastiche roadside dining at its best, two miles north of the A606/A1 junction. The bike looks at home outside the chromed and neon diner facade. In true US diner style, the coffee is bottomless. Not too dissimilar to the affection I've developed for this bike.
Ducati Monster 1100 Evo, £8995
Value now: £7895
Fuel economy: 43.57mpg
Dry weight: 169kg