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Alex de Rijke: my love of superbikes

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Alex de Rijke lives his other life in the fast lane, fantasing about being a World Superbike champion

My fantasy career is as a  World Superbike champion or, even more far-fetched, Moto GP Champion.

I like to argue I could have been a contender but got distracted by architecture. In reality it’s an ongoing passion combined with competitive instinct. My professional alibi is that it helps develop spatial awareness skills. Dimensional judgement, visual memory, risk management, anticipatory and quick decision-making skills all benefit from riding fast on circuits. Which also happen to be designed for those who like space, speed and quality time wearing leather.

Since the age of 16, I have ridden daily on and off road at limited speeds, and now occasionally on track at unlimited speeds. You live more in one day on track than 10 years of safe living, and come away a safer rider. Compared with a bike, driving a car is like watching television, an anodyne rather than visceral experience. A bike projects you in space, performs antigravity in corners. Riding demands full mental and bodily collaboration, with undivided concentration. If you even thought about texting while riding a bike, you’d crash.

A motorcycle is a faithful donkey or a beautiful, exotic stallion, depending on the designer. Being Italian helps. The first real ‘superbike’ is universally acknowledged as the Ducati 916, a radical technical/sculptural masterpiece designed by Massimo Tamburini, ‘the Michelangelo of motorbike design’. The 1994 Ducati was (and current models still are) a production road bike developed through continuous racing. Faster than a Ferrari for a tenth of the price. The 916 won four world championships in a row –  and every motorcyclist’s heart. The next iteration won two more. It has been the departure point for superbike design development ever since. Five hundred Ducatisti attended Tamburini’s funeral in the small town of Rimini last year.

I’m an architect who doesn’t own property, only motorcycles. My modified Ducati 1098 S and rare BMW HP2 are only used on track; precious time where men who often are designers, writers and makers of all descriptions prioritise a pilgrimage to a European track of choice. My idea of heaven is my other life.


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