Larry Kahn is a gearhead who built one of the most interesting custom Ducatis you’ll ever see. I first met him after he left a comment on Bike-urious, and after exchanging a few emails with him it was clear that he’d have some interesting stories worth sharing. Read on for the usual questions!
How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
Much as I hate to say it, it can go back to cars first. In 1966 I was 11 years old and my old man used to hang out at a newstand back in Jersey that his buddy owned. He’d take me with him sometimes and while hanging out I saw the cover of the October “Road and Track”, and on that cover was an orange Lamborghini Miura.
That picture got my attention away from Hustler and Playboy and Juggs! Anyway, that turned into hanging out with some other kids that had karts and mini-bikes, and I was kart focused until some kid gave me a try on his Bonanza BC1100 2-1/2HP Tecumseh powered mini, he said turn this to go and squeeze this to stop.
I twisted the throttle, it took a moment for the centrifugal clutch to hook up and then it felt like I was TEARING down the block. Panicked a bit for a moment or two, got it together enough to get it stopped, paddled it around with my feet and returned to the kid, got off shaking and forgot all about go-karts. Got a Bonanza for myself from California Speed and Sport in New Brunswick, New Jersey. That was about 70 motorcycles ago.
What bikes do you currently own?
I seem to be settling down with eight bikes. My main riders are a 2007 Bonneville for my mellower moods with the usual personal mods,
a 2006 Ducati Sport Classic set up with a GT upper clamp and some semi flat-track bars and cocktail shaker pipes for my punk moods, and a naked-ized/streetfightered Suzuki 650 V-Strom. What a great all-around motorcycle to just go for a ride mood. Then once in a while there’s a few dirt roads around here (California central coast area) and the other old farts and I take out DR650’s and try to not fall down. There’s a beater 1999 Yamaha R6 for track days only, and then over the years I’ve held onto a few long term. The only bike I bought new of all these is my Norton 850 that I’ve owned since 1976. That’s the closest to married I’ve been. Sharing the living room with that is a 1948 Indian Chief I resurrected about 25 years ago.
I get that out to take to an occasional Harley event just to keep the Harley guys humble. Not easy to do. And lastly is a 1972/3/4 Ducati 750 GT built from parts. Before the internet. Lotta phone calls and chasing leads for parts. That stays in the kitchen between rides. Remember, I’m a happy bachelor.
Assume for a moment that money is no object, and importation laws aren’t a problem. What’s the next bike you’d buy, and what would you do with it?
Egli Vincent in black with the half fairing. And I would look at it and ride it and look at it and ride it. Ranks in the cool department with the Miura and then some. Got some great wide open roads around here to let it sing on. And it’s lines and minimalism just grabs me. Stunningly beautiful and brutal in equal measure. Lotta money.
What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken?
Really it comes down to just a day trip about 20 years ago. There was this perfect late October mid-week day and I rode my Norton up California highway one to Big Sur and back. The thing is there was just about NOBODY else on the road that day, no highway patrol, campers, etc. and it was clear and warm. I was young and handsome and the Norton was running perfectly. Might have been the zenith of my existence that day.
Do you listen to music while riding? If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your favorite tunes when you’re on your bike?
More often that not have a song in my head but listening to music while riding seems like watching TV while having sex. So no.
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Just got a new Bell Bullitt (that’s how they spell it) and really like this way more than any other helmet I’ve owned. It has a nice big opening so it’s like wearing a 3/4 helmet but you do have the chin bar.
I tend towards claustrophobia so most full-face don’t work for me. Nice helmet all-around. I also like my older Joe Rocket leather jacket with removable side vented panels and armor. Seems to be shrinking though…
You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles – 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?
I’m not sure that amount would buy that Egli, but that would be top on the list. Or I’d buy a set-up Suzuki RG500 Gamma and get to Barber track/museum for a trackday and the museum tour.
Had a Gamma for a little while in the eighties but sold it to move to California. I miss that one. That should eat up $25G’s with dinner.
What inspired you to create “Dufuckincati”? And after you ran the 900SS into the ground, what made you decide to do it again with a Sport Classic? What’s the reaction you get from other riders?
The air-cooled two valve Ducati’s are great real-world sportbikes, light and enough HP to be fun and able to use it all without getting into go-to-jail speeds too often. They are very visceral and you can work on them at home. No extra crap on them either. The reason for the Dufuckincati was that to me motorcycles are a pure thing, existing just for the soulful joy of them. The elitist attitude that was starting be associated with the name was bugging me at a moto-soul level. All the primping and snotty nonsense seemed almost sacrilegious so I built my ratty and loud 900SS from a basketcase I got trading an Ariel Square Four bobber. (maybe not my smartest move but oh well) and made my statement along with building a great ride.
I beat the crap out of it for a few years, and it reached a point of more $$ to fix it then find another. They are a lot of bang for the buck these days, usually around $3500 or less for 1990’s era. Some local guy wanted it for parts so off it went. Then the Sport Classic came up at a price way to good to ignore and I really wanted to use those pipes and I needed a new project anyway. I think the 900SS handles better but the Sport Classic is a lot of fun for sure.
And most riders and non-riders seem to be cracking up when they look at a Dufuckincati so that’s good. A couple of Nancy self identified “Ducatisti” seemed offended so even better. (and btw, some guy from New York stole my idea and is selling Dufuckincati stickers and T shirts. Imagine that, some New Yorker stealing an idea from a guy from Jersey. No shame at all!) (did we just give him a free ad? I don’t think he’s getting rich anyway)
What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
I think we are in a golden age for the sport right about now and for a little while, but after the baby boomers die off/quit riding in the next twenty years or so I’m not sure much will be left. Many many changes in society will have an impact that may not lead/allow many into risking life and limb to ride anymore. Orwell’s “1984” and all that. So let’s all get out and make noise and wastefully burn up all the fossil fuel while we can!