This Forgotten Ducati Darmah Is A Mighty Canyon Carver
Friend of Petrolicious Jose Gallina recently sent over these stunning photos of a rarely-seen Ducati, the Darmah. Turns out that the bike is owned by Shaik Ridzwan, not only a passionate fan of motorcycles but also the founder of The Mighty Motor, a collective of creatives, producers, and designers who are passionate about motorcycles and the people who ride them.
So why ride a Ducati 900 Sport Desmo Darmah?
Michael Banovsky: From what I’ve been reading on it, [the Darmah] wasn’t an incredibly popular bike.
Shaik Ridzwan: It’s a beautiful bike, [but] it wasn’t raced, and all that—the Darmah was kind of a street bike that came from [racing]. Maybe it was the original naked bike, kind of thing.
SR: I got the bike from a friend, and brought it back to California and continued to work and ride it. I liked it, it grew on me. I like the design language. The designer in me liked all that, the period font and styling. I like it. The bike is pretty much the way I picked it up, except the original electronics—people that know Ducatis know that’s the first thing that people replace.
MB: Is it the ignition system that you switch out?
SR: Yeah, everything, the ignition, coils, pickups; the Bosch pickups were the same pickups that we use on the BMW R100, but the Germans were smart enough to put it in a way that it was not in a hot oil bath the way Ducati did. After thirty years, or so, those pickups were cooked. Those are the kind of thing that will probably not be a problem until now.
You got to love they way Italians do it, because they just do it because they want to save space. They want to make it look and sound good.
I had the bike and it was…I wanted to make it to the point that I could ride. I have some older bikes, the Darmah was kind of my in-between. I have some newer bikes and some older bikes. The older bikes are not that fun to ride if you want to go fast and go up in the canyons. The Darmah was the in-between. It has disc brakes, dual disc brakes in the front and a single one out back, it has 900 CC, so it can get up to speed. It’s not fast by modern standards, but it can get up to speed and even more fun to ride. I put some sticky tires on it and I pretty much learned to ride it when I moved to LA, riding it up on the hills, getting to know the bike.
It’s got a long wheelbase, it’s relatively heavy, it doesn’t have huge power, so it’s kind of like anything vintage you know: you just ride it because you like it ride it.
MB: You were mentioning before that it’s sort of your in-between bike, how much of an adjustment is it from riding a really modern bike?
SR: Modern bikes to me—and when I’m saying modern bikes these days are over 140 horsepower, full of electronics, you know, traction control and all that kind of stuff.
When I grew up riding, and what I still have to ride, it’s what’s between your ears and your right hand. That’s it, that’s your ABS and your traction control. Sometimes, we go up in the canyons and we switch bikes, and I will ride a friends bike and let him ride the Darmah down the canyon, and you have to think so far ahead compared to the newer bikes because it doesn’t give you that same kind of instant reaction, braking, accelerating, keeping the res up. In the modern bikes you don’t even have to worry about that. You are not within the same revs, it’s fine, you have enough power to just carry you out of the turn, with these bikes you have to go back to the basics of the engine. Where is the sweet spot? Learning and all that, that was a learning curve for me with the Darmah.
I have older bikes where you kind of already knew, ’60s Triumphs and BSAs, were you kind of knew “Okay, it’s kind of like a wild horse, everything is crazy and raw.” You knew it. This is like the in-between.
MB: What would be the perfect road for the Darmah? The perfect cruise on that bike?
SR: The sweet spot for the Darmah is around 5-6,000 RPM, and that’s when you start to hear the engine being really happy, and you can hear those bevel gears winding, and when I hear that wind of the bevel gears I know that it’s at that point where the engine is at it’s power band. For some roads it’s too tight, it’s got this long wheelbase and it doesn’t really like to do that, going really slow—and no Ducati I have likes to go slow.
MB: How you learn the nature of a machine that you buy or that you acquire? Is it a process that you really enjoy and look forward to?
SR: I do, it’s like the The Mighty Motor, the reason why I did The Mighty Motor is because of the process of telling the stories. That’s what I’m addicted to. My dad, everyone in my family is kind of a storyteller, you know? That’s what I love when I go see a bike, it adds more to the whole package. That’s the reason why I don’t really restore any of my bikes. The Darmah and Triumph that I bought, it was a ’66 and it was all original, rus spots here and there, I wasn’t bothered with it. Because that was my story, I went out there and bought it.
I looked at the whole title on the Darmah and it’s from New Mexico, and I’m sure someone knows who owned it before—if you wanted to find out. I [first] saw it in his warehouse just leaned over, covered in dust. I usually just start riding my bikes; it will break, I’ve broken a lot of bikes. That’s my process of learning about the machine. I love that kind of stuff, opening it up, and getting either excited or frustrated of what you find inside.
Because I’ve broken down multiple times on the Darmah, I know exactly if there is any problem that happens to it now, I would probably know what’s wrong with it. You can send it to a mechanic and it will come back and you have no idea, it drives perfectly, of course, and then something breaks again—on vintage bikes and vintage cars it will in a matter of time, something will go. Then you go into this whole spiral of always sending it back to someone because you don’t know what the hell has been going on in the first place.
Thanks to Jose Gallina and Shaik Ridzwan for their help in getting this interview and feature together; you can follow Jose online and on Instagram; Shaik is @shaikridzwan at Instagram and The Mighty Motor.
Photography by Jose Gallina