Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Big Sid's Vincati

I recently finished reading Matthew Biberman's book BIG SID'S VINCATI. Although I have only been on a motorcycle a handful of times in my life, I throughly enjoyed this book and I am shamelessly pushing it.

Before we get into Matthew's story, I need to talk a little about the Vincent story. Vincents were made in England by Phil Vincent from 1928 to 1955. The early Vincent, the Rapide (Jay Leno's pictured above) was fast, but in 1948 they introduced the Black Shadow. Sixteen of these were were special factory set ups designated as the Black Lightnings. In 1948 an American, Rollie Free set a record of 150.313 at Bonneville on a Black Lightning. As the famous picture indicates, Mr. Free was courageous to the point of stupidity. But the Vincents were fast. Fast enough to merit a song.

The following is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

"The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and balanced and torqued that you can do 90 mph in fifth through a 35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast -- it is extremely quick and responsive, and it will do amazing things.... It is a little like riding the original Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the takeoff runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again."

Matthew is a college professor who teaches literature and creative writing. Over the years he became disconnected with his father Sid, who eked out a living repairing and refurbishing Vincent motorcycles. Matthew, the struggling writer and college professor didn't feel anything in common with Big Sid, the acknowleged Vincent expert. When Sid had a severe heart attack he became depressed and Matthew realized he would lose him if he didn't give him a reason to keep living.
While the Vincent had the best powerplant of it's time, the Italian Ducati was the best riding and handling machine. So the Vincati plot was hatched, find an old Ducati frame and chop it, rebuild it so it could accept a Vincent engine. It became a reason for Big Sid to keep living. The book deals with finding and rebuilding motorcycles, but primary it is about Matthew reconnecting with his father, Big Sid. There is a slick Youtube hyping the book, but I like this one better:
Disclaimer: My book has really nice personal notes inscribed from both Big Sid and Matthew. Thanks guys.


Hamlet2007 said...

Wow, well done! Thanks so much for this!

Kelly said...

I'm so happy to see another fan! I've been almost evangelical for this book since I read and reviewed it! Great book!!