Like a lot of you, I have a regular Sunday ride. It leaves from Tam Junction, just a few miles north of San Francisco and winds along the coastal cliffs to the amazing West Marin section of California Highway 1. This last Sunday’s ride was, to use an Internet colloquial, epic by any measure. Not because the weather was unseasonably warm, or that the route was fuzz-free, or that the sunshine brought out friends I hadn’t seen for years, or that the last 15 miles to breakfast in Point Reyes Station was a fast, fun freight train that made me feel like an irresponsible 25-year-old once more.
What pushed it over the top was emerging from the Station House cafe after my customary bacon and fried-oyster omelet and seeing Terry Otton standing across the street next to his amazing $140,000 NCR Legera. I was almost hit by a passing rental car as I bolted across the road to check it out.
I had never met Terry, nor had I mentioned his name when I wrote about the bike to respect his privacy. Turns out Terry enjoyed the MD story and had no problem with his cover being blown. Otton, an investment-firm CEO, is clearly a guy who knows how to enjoy his money and doesn’t care who knows it. He also seems to enjoy the attention the bike generates any time he stops near a group of gearheads, sounding like a tour guide as he points out the delicious hand-made Italian goodness his ride is festooned with.
So when the conversation reached a lull and Otton said, “you can even ride it if you want,” I only needed a little talking-into for the sake of appearances. I instructed a friend to strangle me to death if I crashed and survived, handed Terry the keys to my embarrassingly shabby little bike, and took off down the road.
I was expecting a hard-to-control, fire-breathing beast and got a pleasant surprise. Sure, there’s over 100 foot-pounds of torque on tap and the bike weighs much less than a race-prepped 250 Ninja. But I found it to be almost docile at rational road and engine speeds, not that different from the Ducati Hypermotard it’s loosely based on.
Of course, that’s until you crack the throttle. The front end gets light in about any gear and the bike leaps forward like a scalded cat. Steering response is feather-light, the carbon brakes are fiendishly powerful (but still easily controllable) and the bike never feels skittish or odd the way a supermoto would. Overall, the impression the bike gave me after my 5-mile test loop was that of a factory-prepped racebike—not surprising, given NCR has been building Ducati racers since Mike “The Bike” Hailwood made his famous comeback at the 1978 Isle of Man TT. It was also comfortable, easy to ride and wasn’t so loud as to be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s docile and mellow (although the fueling was sort of bad at slow speeds under steady throttle) until you wick it up past 7000 rpm, when it does turn into a fire-breathing beast. That’s about perfect for me.
Terry does report the bike is lacking in range, with a small tank and extreme, sub-30-mpg thirst for unleaded premium. But judging from the skinny chicken strips on the rear tire, Terry has a good time with his motorcycle—money well spent.
Editor’s Note: Gabe shot this hand-held with his iPhone 4. We apologize to those prone to dizziness.