Motorcycles line the curb outside Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on El Paseo in Palm Desert. A la Sgt. Esterhaus, Kevin Gettmann instructs the riders to be safe out there. But these are not cops, and their motorcycles are far from standard issue. They’re mostly red — Ducati red, to be exact.
Ranging in age from their 20s to 70s, members of the Palm Springs DESMO (Ducati Enthusiast Sport Motorcycle Organization) Owners Club meet on Sunday mornings to go riding. But, just as they are not cops, they are not speedsters — despite the racing heritage and look of their bikes.
“It’s not about revving engines and racing around town,” says Gettmann, who is the club president. “We strongly encourage members to ride safe and to respect laws and to ride with full safety gear.” The club’s Web site (www.psaducaticlub.com) lists guidelines (including those for changing lanes, riding distances, and hand signals) and features articles by a former racer and instructor on safe riding techniques.
Gettmann started the club with Jordan Freeman, who, at 29, eschews the sport bike clubs he affiliated with in the past. “They don’t ride the way I like,” he says. “They go too fast or do stupid stuff like wheelies at 60 mph. It was just never my style. These guys ride the way that I want to ride.”
In little more than a year, the club has grown to about 50 members, including women. On Sundays, a group of them gathers at the coffeehouse and then heads up the mountain to Idyllwild, to Mt. Palomar, or to Julian.
Last July, eight of them rode some 400 miles to watch the Laguna Seca MotoGP race and rented a house in Carmel just south of the track.
They also make regular trips to Ducati Newport Beach (clubs must be affiliated with a dealership to be recognized as a club by the factory in Bologna, Italy). The dealership hosts open houses, fashion shows, and catered parties during race events and brings bikes, tents, flyers, and giveaways for the Dr. George Car Show in Indian Wells.
“They love us, and we love them,” Freeman says, adding that they visit the dealership regularly “to make a presence so they see we are committed. Our goal is to have a dealership out here.”
Meanwhile, the dealership offers a service shuttle in which a van can take — and return — up to four bikes for service. Gettmann thinks the dealer ultimately could open a satellite location in the desert.
“We knew that if we could organize all the current owners of Ducatis and grow the enthusiasm of owning one, it would attract new owners,” Gettmann says. “And that would entice a dealer to open a location in the valley to service our bikes and bring further growth to the club.”
Between visits to Newport Beach, club members help each other with maintenance; and, Freeman notes, “We have a tire changer for the club.”
In addition to Sunday rides, club mem-bers gather on Thursday nights in downtown Palm Springs during VillageFest to talk among themselves or to passersby about their bikes. This was the club’s genesis.
“We’re working on things to involve the entire community, such as rider safety seminars,” Freeman says.
They’re also looking for an Italian restaurant to showcase their bikes in a prime location for an “Italian Bike Nite” social dinner club. “Also, we’re looking to do the same thing with an ice cream/gelato business for the summer months,” Gettmann says. “We want to emphasis the social benefits of owning and belonging to a Ducati club.” And, he adds, “We want to promote PSADOC in a positive way to the community.”
SHARING THE PASSION
Tom Roach rides 30,000 to 40,000 mile a year on motorcycles, owns more bikes than he can count, and has set national records and won championships on the All Harley drag circuit. He owns Palm Springs Harley-Davidson and homes in La Quinta; Carlsbad; and Vail, Colo. He spends one month a year in the Alps, Pyrenes, and Dolomites, where he also keeps bikes. After 60 years of riding, and in spite of the fact he is a Harley dealer, Roach shares a passion for Ducati motorcycles with other members of the Palm Springs Area DESMO Owners Club.
“The Harley guys do chrome, and Ducati guys put their money in carbon,” he says. He’s also put $3,000 into riding gear. “I designed boots, pants, a jacket, and gloves just to ride my Ducati,” Roach says. On this Sunday, he’s riding a red, white, and green 2005 S4 Foggy replica, of which there were 300 made and only 100 brought into the United States. “I will always keep this bike,” he says.
Palm Springs architect Jim Cioffi calls the club’s “old guys” the fastest, but is quick to point out that “It’s one thing to ride at a brisk pace and another thing to go crazy.” Like Roach, Cioffi is a former racer (competing in drag racing in college on a Triumph Thruxton Cafe Racer). After owning six or seven motorcycles of other makes, he bought a 1992 900 SS Ducati four years ago. He likes the camaraderie as well as the safety of riding with other people. And, like the younger, less experienced riders, he considers Roach a mentor.
“Tom will take you aside. He took me aside. He said, ‘You’re off the seat nicely, but your head is up too high. Get your head over the tank.’ He will follow guys, then say, ‘Why don’t you follow me and I will help you with your line?’”
Another Palm Springs architect and owner of a 1992 900 SS, David Christian also has a racing background, though in cars, a highlight being his 1985 run in the 24 Hours of Daytona. These days, he instructs other drivers at Willow Springs Raceway. While he’s relaxed zipping around in a Lotus, he says, “I get butterflies on track day on my bike.”
Like other “Ducatistas,” Christian likes the fact that Ducati is a small company; only 188 bikes of his make and year were brought to the States. He also likes the charismatic personality and heritage of Ducatis and that “You don’t see one at every stoplight.
“There’s another element,” he adds. “My bike at 17 years old is a cool Italian bike; and in 10 years, it will be a cool Italian bike.”
Cioffi and Christian found a bike similar to theirs — a 1993 900 SS — for their friend and neighbor Dennis Cunningham. A home builder, Cunningham calls Ducatis “the Ferrari of motorcycles.” And although the bikes often run $20,000 to $35,000, he says, “It’s an inexpensive way to get a Ferrari feel.”
Kevin Gettmann, who lives in Cathedral City and works as a regional manager for a lighting company based in Canada, only paid $15,000 for his 2007 Monster S2R 1000, but ratcheted up the base price to $40,000 with accessories, a titanium exhaust, carbon ceramic front brakes, forged 10-spoke wheels, and other goodies. “While the [Monster] name sounds a little scary, it’s one of the original bikes designed as a ‘naked’ bike without the fairing,” he says. “The engine is fully exposed.”
Christopher Cross of Palm Springs, owner of Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery, rides a 2002 998R Ducati. Like other club members, he enjoys riding with others who have similar bikes and appreciates the Italian style. “I think they’re rolling art,” he says.
Stuart Watson agrees with the “art” designation. Perhaps that’s why he and his wife, Meredith McLendon Watson, keep their bikes in the living room of their Palm Springs home. Stuart, a professional photographer, loves the combination of technology and vintage look in his 2006 Paul Smart limited edition bike (only 200 were made) — a replica of a racing bike from the 1970s with green and silver paint.
“On my 33rd birthday, my present to myself was to take the California Highway Patrol motorcycle safety course,” Watson says. “After graduation, I purchased a new Moto Guzzi — the other Italian motorcycle. I quickly added to that purchase and to date am on my 24th motorcycle — almost all Italian!” Watson joined the club in part because of his appreciation for Italian design and to share time “with like-minded individuals.”
Meredith, an English teacher at Cathedral City High School, rides a 2007 1098S Tricolore (red, white, and green). “I had a Suzuki, but I always wanted a Ducati,” she says. As a female, she gets the typical response from strangers: “They’re amazed. Most people say, ‘You don’t look at all like a person who rides a motorcycle.’ The automatic assumption is it’s a Harley. I am really proud to not follow any stereotype and ride a sport bike.’”
Keeping it in the family, Meredith’s father, Wade McLendon of Rancho Cucamonga, joins the club members on rides when he visits his daughter and son-in-law. Although he’s had motorcycles for years (“the last 20 were BMWs”), he was looking for something lighter when he bought his 2007 S4RS. “It probably will be with me the rest of my life,” he says. “I am just not a Harley guy. I like the twisty roads.”
Like Meredith, Christy Scott of Cathedral City attracts a lot of looks as a female on a sport bike. She mimics the “Ooowwww!” she often hears, but says it’s the sound and the lines of Ducatis that she likes. She rides her 2001 748 to the Allure hair salon she owns in Rancho Mirage and enjoys riding with club members on weekends. “They ride safe,” she says. “They’re also great riders. It’s improved my riding twofold.”
After Christy had her bike for a couple of weeks, her husband, Brian Scott, bought a 2002 Mike Hailwood (a model honoring the late racer). A shop foreman for Mercedes-Benz, Scott says he appreciated that historical connection and the fact the bike “was different from everything else [Ducati] had made.” As for the club, he appreciates “having a safe ride.”
Fabio Ceresa, a real estate broker living in Palm Desert, and Daniel Urrego, an anesthesiologist living in Palm Springs, have been riding since they were kids. Although their bikes — a 2002 MV Agusta and 2009 MV Agusta Brutale, respectively — are not Ducatis, the club welcomes them as members. Both like Italian bikes; and, Ceresa says, “I like to ride with people that have comparable bikes without going crazy, like young people going fast.”
Ted Grossman, a retiree who lives in Indio and Steamboat Springs, Colo., has only been riding five years. “I didn’t get my first motorcycle until I was 62. I had never been on a bike until I was 62,” he says. After watching friends with motorcycles, he started riding touring bikes before trying Japanese bikes. Then, he recalls, “I got on a Ducati and knew in two minutes that’s what I would buy. Unfortunately, the dealer knew that too.” He joined the club to share the riding experience and to learn. His is a 2008 848 Superbike.
“Ducati is definitely a lifestyle,” says Jordan Freeman, an IT consultant who lives in Cathedral City and rides a 2008 1098. “It’s definitely not like the other sport bikes.” The lifestyle is so pervasive that Freeman sees club potential in Ducati-riding strangers. Even when he was in a car, he turned around to catch up to a motorcycle rider. “I told him about the club,” says PSADOC’s vice president.
Matt DiPonio, a sales representative for a medical device company who lives in Palm Desert, joined the club to meet people with a like-minded interest and to learn to be a better rider. He says he identifies with the motorcycle manufacturer “because I am Italian, and my family is pretty much all Ducati fans.” He rides a 2009 848 White model.
But if anyone stands out amid the sea of red (with splashes of white and green), it’s Allen Short of Indio, who owns a yellow 2001 Sport Touring Ducati. “I ride long distance,” he explains (he’s gone as far as 600 miles in a day). In addition to racks for saddlebags, he says, the bike rides higher “so you can go farther.”
And, yes, other club members tease him for riding a non-“Ducati red” bike, but he stands by his nonconformity. “Red looks like everybody else’s,” he says. “Who doesn’t have a red Ducati?” To put a fine point on it, Short, who works as director of retail for Prada USA, wears a Prada jacket and helmet.
At 70, Allen Bixen is one of the club’s most senior members. A real estate broker living in Palm Desert, he once raced sport cars and has been riding motorcycles for 30 years. The Ducati, he says, “is a bike of passion, style, panache” and club members “are bright, interesting people with different occupations that all have a common love.” Bixen, who rides a 1997 916 Superbike, supports Cioffi’s claim about the older guys as his eyes sparkle mischievously.
“We just like to go through the turns fast,” he says. “The fun of these bikes is in the turns.”