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Lock on Ducati

Ducati CEO Michael Lock
Michael Lock is not your typical CEO.

Of course, winding your way past beautiful beaches and through the hilly, golden terrain of northern California on a 1000cc motorcycle isn't exactly your typical way to get to work, either.

A native of London, Lock is the CEO of Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati (DMH), and his preferred mode of commuting is in the saddle of a Ducati Monster S4R S Testastretta.

TheStreet.com had a chance this week to sit down and talk with Lock about trends in the motorcycle market and the unveiling of two new Ducati designs, as well as the "House of Ducati" booth at the upcoming Cycle World International Motorcycle Show, Jan. 19-21 in New York City.

Emotional Decision

My first question for Lock concerns consumer choice: When a rider decides to purchase a motorcycle, why would he or she go to a Ducati dealer when it's possible to find an inexpensive, mass-produced Japanese motorcycle that has -- on the surface, at least -- similar specs?

His response is hard to refute. "People don't buy motorcycles for rational reasons. You can take the subway, it's probably quicker to get uptown ... and probably safer than a motorcycle. But actually, the safest thing of all would be to stay at home, and then no one has a life," Lock reasons.

It's Lock's belief that his company's motorcycles offer an emotional pull on riders, something unique to European motorcycles and Ducati in particular that competitors simply cannot match.

"It verges on the irrational. I think there's no easier way of putting it than that. It's an emotional decision rather than a practical one," Lock says.

However, he is quick to point out that Ducati, though a small company, is driven by its racing heritage, and what it gleans from that experience is brought directly to its street bikes.

Therefore, any motorcycle you buy from Ducati has a real-world, track-tested pedigree -- this is not an instance of style over substance.

Make New Bikes but Keep the Old

Lock displays obvious enthusiasm for the opportunity to introduce two new models to the wide Ducati line. The "House of Ducati" booth at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show is an ideal forum, as it will include not only the new bikes but displays on Ducati history as well as a special guest.

The first new model is a top-of-the-line Desmosedici RR. This four-cylinder bike derives its name from Ducati's hallmark desmodromic-valve system -- and from the sixteen (sedici) of them it contains.

Delivering 200 horsepower and 200-mile-per-hour performance, it was originally designed to race in Europe's prestigious Moto Grand Prix. The production model of the Grand Prix racer available to the public is what Lock coyly refers to as "marginally street legal."

Because this luxe motorcycle lists for $65,000, it would certainly give many buyers pause. But as Lock wryly puts it, "it sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money. However, if you compared it to a quarter-of-a-million-dollar Ferrari, I think you'd find it's actually exceptionally good value for the money."

Also on tap, the radical, new Hypermotard ($10,995) is taking its first bow at the show. This blend of road racer and motocross motorcycle is an exceptionally light, nimble and narrow bike, as suited to agile moves in city traffic as it is to winding through back roads.

And the special guest?

To view Sean Driscoll's video take of today's Top 1% segment, click here.

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