In a span of 25 days, the Ducati Globetrotter ride took Vir Nakai through Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.
Vir Nakai is no stranger to spontaneous travel. His life as a photographer, traveller and co-founder of Helmet Stories – a guided motorcycle travel outfit – keeps him on the road long enough to anoint the Himalayas and all that lies northward as his official workspace. Armed with nothing but two wheels and a horizon, Vir’s Instagram account is ideal for a spot of social media escapism – and this is one of the many reasons he found himself saddling up on a freshly minted Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro, with nothing but the best of the European countryside to give him company for a month.
Flashback to roughly a month ago, when a rather optimistic Vir, much like 2999 other applicants across the world, sent in his application in the faint hope of winning what are pretty much the grandest motorcycling sweepstakes in modern times – the Ducati Globetrotter journey, celebrating Ducati’s 90th year on earth. Out of the 3000 entries, 7 were to be selected and then sent forth to circumnavigate the globe and touch base with all the major flashpoints in Ducati’s manufacturing and racing history, astride Ducati’s most cutting edge sports-tourer.
The new Multistrada 1200 Enduro has been rendered more dirt-friendly, thanks to a larger, 19-inch front wheel, long-travel suspension, off-road tyres and over 260 other parts that make the bike every bit the off-roader the standard 1200 intends to be. Each selected rider would complete a selected leg of the 29,450 km journey, passing over the baton (in this case, the bike) to the next rider. Given the breadth of motorcycling experience between the participants, you’d have better odds at winning blind poker than getting a slot on the Globetrotter calendar.
“I think they were looking for people who could tell stories”, says Vir, evidently still trying to make sense of a 25-day dream sequence, which his mind appears to have absorbed like a sponge. Sure, India is a big, hungry market for Ducati, whose recent re-entry into the country hasn’t gone unnoticed by an enthusiastic riding population. But to consider him a random beneficiary of a greater commercial strategy would be missing the point. Vir’s own instinct for logistics and long-distance travel mark him out – an attribute that certainly contributed to his riding the inaugural leg of the journey (Bologna in Italy to St. Petersburg in Russia), with the bike having been run-in by none other than the Head of Ducati Service at its factory in Bologna.
On a route that’s peppered with multiple checkpoints going through Austria, Denmark, Germany and Sweden all the way through Norway and into Russia, you’re expected to be gobsmacked by Monet-style landscapes springing up on you at every turn. That’s pretty much par for the course on any Eurotrip. But what left a far greater impact on Vir was witnessing the sheer unifying power of a motorcycle. Throughout his journey, he was overwhelmed by how many people invited him into their homes. Perhaps it was customary amongst Ducatisti, a glimpse of the strong fraternal bonds shared by each of the several Ducati Owners Clubs, which personally saw to it that Ducati’s new emissary didn’t want for anything.
The Globetrotter ride not only opened up the best of European countryside, it also helped its rider explore and mingle with a huge cross-section of Europe’s biking population, which includes as many women as it does men. The fact that the motorcycle was festooned with stickers and badges from multiple DOCs across Western Europe made passage through countries (especially Russia, where border officials aren’t the friendliest) much easier – it’s almost unfair to backpackers, who are almost never greeted with the same hoots and cheers as a man on a Ducati Multistrada. Clearly, there isn’t a more elaborate way to test a motorcycle’s ability to dissolve cultural and linguistic boundaries than giving a traveller said motorcycle and a destination.