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Ducati’s 848 Evo bravely goes where no superbike has gone before. And by that we mean around the neighbourhood

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As kids, it was a rite of passage that many of us went through – knot a bath towel around our neck and jump off the sofa. It was a safe, low-cost way to live out our superpower fantasies. And we didn’t really bother to think about what it must be like for Superman to live life as Clark Kent. To have all that power but when there’s no world-threatening emergency, to still be the everyman who sits next to you at work.

And so it is with superbikes. As a kid, I have covered my wall with posters of superbikes diving into corners. And never wondered what a superbike would be like to live with. So here’s the deal. Given the kind of money that can buy you a comfortable four-door sedan (say, a Skoda Laura) we opt for the Ducati 848 Evo instead. The Evo, armed with an 849cc L-twin engine that makes 138bhp and 98Nm, has a claimed top speed of 270kph. This will be my steed for the rest of the day – to do a bunch of chores in and around Delhi.

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It’s morning and I’m told to run out for veggies. With a shopping list and a knapsack, I get onto the Evo. I start the engine and the gurgle of the L-twin fills the quiet morning. The roads are empty, my right hand is itching to twist the throttle and the Evo is more than eager to play ball. I find a straight road, gun it – and reach the market before I even begin to start properly enjoying it.

Slowing down, I move into the crowded market. The roads are non-existent, and there are people, dogs, vegetable carts covering every square inch of the ground. Crawling along, I carefully steer my way to a familiar grocer. Before I can give him my list, I’m surrounded by a mob of vendors. Asking me the usual – price, mileage.

The grocer hands me the vegetables and half a dozen eggs. Shoving it all into the bag, I make a quick exit. In my eagerness to get out of here, I treat the Evo more like a street bike than a sports bike; it flies over bumps and soaks up uneven road surfaces easily. The bike feels agile and the ride is fantastic – whether it’s on a racetrack or in a vegetable market in south Delhi. Soon, it’s back on open tarmac again as I race home to drop the groceries and head for cricket practice.

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Not that I’m a sportsman by any stretch of the imagination but if you’re riding a sub-litre-class bike as your primary mode of transport, then staying in shape and keeping your reflexes sharp become a priority, and what better way to do this than with cricket?

I take out my cricket gear, which hasn’t seen the light of day since college, and leave for practice. The almost human-size bag is not only heavy, it also takes up the width of two bikes on the road. Lugging this cargo around on two wheels is tricky work, and with the Evo, it gets a whole lot trickier. Lucky for me, the ground is nearby. With speed down to a friendly neighbourhood 40kph, I reach the pitch comfortably.

Rolling into the open parking, I notice a bunch of kids eyeing the red Ducati, and try as I might, even once the match starts, I spend many nervous overs keeping one eye on the ball and one on the unattended bike. Needless to say, it’s one of my worst days ever at the nets. I pack my kit and get back on the bike.

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At a traffic light, as the seconds wear on, I’m desperately waiting for it to turn green – not because of impatience, but because the L-twin is breathing fire. The engine temperature has risen to 105degrees F and my legs are slowly getting toasted by the heat from the engine bay. Keeping the Evo above 50kph on these busy streets is a task. Like most sportsbikes, this one too is supposed to be ridden fast, not dragged at a crawl through city traffic.

The extreme riding position feels great at triple-digit speeds but right now, I’m hating every minute of it. My left hand is aching after constantly using the clutch to manage all that power in stop-go traffic. Engine temperature is now past 105. And at every single red light, oblivious to my physical and mental agony, a string of fellow motorists complements me on the bike and asks me how much mileage I get.

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I can’t take this torture anymore. I decide to take a break and let my body and the bike cool down. Parked on its side, I see what these people have been raving about. The 848 looks stunning from every angle. From the dual headlights to the underseat exhaust, it is such a work of art.

While I’m ogling the bike, I get a call from my girlfriend. She’s running late for work – on her first day at a new job. Fortunately, the office is in Noida, which means we’ll be using the highway. Finally! The Evo’s natural habitat. I reach home and find her pacing outside the gates. And she’s not too pleased to see I’ve come on a bike – she agrees reluctantly, seeing as she doesn’t have much of a choice.

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After a few turns, we get on to the highway, and I finally wring the throttle open for the first time since this morning. If my girlfriend’s screaming bloody murder behind me, I can’t hear her over the roar of the L-twin. We make it in time. And I’m rewarded with a whack on the head with her bag and a “we’ll talk later” threat as she runs in.

Now there’s only so much a man can tolerate when it comes to using a superbike like the 848 Evo as an errand runner. I decide to head out for more open road. I’m in Noida; the Yamuna expressway is just around the corner. That’s my itinerary sorted, then. As I move out of Noida, the traffic gets thinner and speed rises. I look at the instrument pod and see the engine’s humming along at 4000rpm in third gear as I approach 80kph. The exhaust note sounds quite relaxed and I’ve not shifted gear for some time now.

I see the ‘Welcome to Yamuna Expressway’ board ahead. I downshift, and the revs rise by a few hundreds. The exhaust is shrieking now as I start climbing up the rev band. I give the throttle some more wrist, and soon enough I can feel the front end lift a few inches off the ground. I’m well past 150kph now.

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At staccato intervals, the rev indicator blinks like a fairy light and I cross 250kph, crouching a little more snugly into the tank. I offer the wind what feels like the path of least resistance – and notice it says 268kph on the speedo. This is as far as I want to push it. I ease off the throttle. The brakes quickly scrub some excess speed off and the 848 switches back from Mr Hyde to Dr Jekyll as if nothing has happened. I take the exit for the Buddh F1 circuit for some more fun.

So it turns out, life doesn’t call for Superman to come and rescue the world every day – some days, Clark Kent is all we need. Much like today – the Evo has gone about the mundane business of everyday life and come out smelling of roses.

Except for the fact that the Buddh circuit is shut for maintenance. Ah well, another day.

(Words: Abhinav Mishra, Photos: Nitin Rose)

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