Now in its tenth year, World Ducati Week (WDW) is the biggest gathering of Ducatis on the planet, with race bikes parading around the track, the stars of World Superbike and MotoGP racing Panigale V4s in the Race of Champions, pillion rides, GT cars rides and stunt shows. And that’s before you’ve taken part in the track parade and rideout, with over 2000 riders.
If you’re thinking of heading to the WDW but don’t know where to start, read this extensive guide covering how to get there and how to get the most out of the event.
With ferries crossing the channel about every hour and the Channel Tunnel running ride-on, ride-off trains about every 20 minutes, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to getting across the wet bit between the UK and France. Prices for ferries range from £50 to £100 and the tunnel comes in at around £50, I’d side with the tunnel for speed – around 35 minutes compared to 120 minutes for the ferry – and convenience. You'd have to really enjoy walking the decks and taking in the views offered by the ferry to make it worthwhile.
The rest areas on the Autoroutes are well kept clean and most have a shaded outdoor picnic area - just visible in the background
For some a motorcycle tour is as much about the journey as it is about reaching your destination. If that sounds like the type of rider you are, you may opt to shun the autoroutes (as they’re called in France and the autostrada in Italy) in favour of the toll-free roads that crisscross France.
There are pros and cons to each or you could opt to mix and match to get the best of both.
Generally the fastest and most direct route from A to B, with fuel stations every 20km or so with well-appointed rest areas along the route that usually have a kids’ play area, clean toilets, shower facilities, café and picnic area. Toll roads are generally very quiet with almost no congestion and easy riding from start to finish. From Calais to the Mont Blanc tunnel, budget to pay about £60 in toll fees on top of fuel and food. The toll route from the channel tunnel to Misano is about 900 miles and in dry weather has a speed limit of 130kmh (80mph), 110kmh (70mph) in the wet.
These roads wind their way across the countryside and run through the small towns and villages that you can see from the autoroute, but they are not easy to get to. Speed limits are 90kmh (55mph) and 110kmh (70mph) in rural areas. The same route as above is about 1000 miles and may suit you if you prefer to run to a looser schedule, as roadside B&Bs are plentiful and generally well priced.
Stopping at the village of Ruffey-lès-Echirey just outside Dijon made day 1 a comfortable 400 miles
A big factor on time is the route you take, toll roads or toll-free. You could also hammer out long days and not stop except for fuel and comfort breaks and do it in two days, stopping just north of the Alps at the end of day one and hitting the autostrada in northern Italy the next day.
For me, I didn’t want to be slogging out high miles in one hit, instead opting for about 400 miles on day one and two, and a shorter stint of 300 miles on the final day. From Calais this meant a stop just outside the city of Dijon on night one and the pretty Italian town of Varese on night two, which is about 20 minutes outside of Milan.
The main thing is to do an amount of miles that you are comfortable with and don’t overdo it. If you are riding in a group, bear in mind that not everyone will ride at the same pace. It’s also good to include an hour or two each day for unforeseen events, like luggage malfunctions, flat tyres and so on.
The full route BikeSocial took and a close up of the route over and under the alps
As with the above, it’s how long you want to ride for and how much you want to spend – whether you place priority on the journey or just looking to reach your destination.
It’s probably the most expensive 7km of tarmac you are likely to encounter – about €30 for a motorcycle and €45 for a car. It’s quite boring but it does take just 15/20 minutes to reach the other side. There can be large tailbacks prior to the tunnel, which means filtering for about five miles – not nice if you’re riding an older bike that won’t enjoy all the start-stop action, overheating and exhaust fumes.
It’s free, the views are breathtaking, the temperature drops by about 10°, the roads are challenging, fast and there isn’t an HGV in sight. It is longer than the tunnel – – but it’s so much more rewarding, cheaper than the tunnel and well worth the extra time. It’s bucket list stuff to ride the Alps and something I’ve wanted to do since passing my test, I’m so glad I did it.
Picture credit: Christophe Finot
The Adriatic coast around Misano is littered with towns that have multi-storey, resort-type hotels that you can stay in if you want a little luxury. If you don’t fancy that or are on a tighter budget you can find many B&Bs and guest houses slightly further in land.
The resorts of Rimini, Riccione, Cattolica and Pesaro are all within about 20km of Misano, and all offer a wide range of accommodation types to suit every type of budget.
For a break from the madness of the event, the beach from Rimini to Cattolica is 12km of sand and crystal clear waters dotted with beachfront bars and restaurants.
Strangely enough WDW is only a three day event and in all honesty, two days at the circuit would be enough to see everything on offer.
Friday this year featured MotoGP and WSBK on track demo runs with all factory MotoGP riders in attendance and all the WSBK riders too – Chaz Davies was there but sadly injured and not able to ride. It’s a real spectacle and while it is not a race, the riders don’t hold back, with stand up wheelies the length of the start-finish straight being pretty much compulsory. In between the on-track action there are stunt shows, public track day sessions for three-day ticket holders, Q&As, signing sessions and exclusive zones for each model in the Ducati range. There are even pillion rides on firebreathing Desmosedici MotoGP bikes that’ve been specially adapted to take two people, and are tuned to 280bhp!
Saturday was all about the racing on dirt and tarmac, with the main event being the Race of Champions. An nine-lap shootout which pits the stars of MotoGP and WSBK against each other on identical Ducati Panigale V4s. Now you could be forgiven for thinking that this was set to be a parade, with the racers rolling round waving at the crowds. You’d be wrong, very wrong. Before the race the teams were swapping the tyres used on the out lap for fresh, slick Pirelli rubber and wrapping them in tyre warmers. From the press viewing area you could see some of the riders waving their hands about, describing how the bike was moving about while the mechanics scurried about changing settings. This was serious stuff and extremely entertaining racing until the action was curtailed on lap seven due to a scattering of rain, prompting Ducati MotoGP team boss Davide Tardozzi running across the track – no really – to grab a red flag and stop the race!
Rounding out the action on Saturday was the flat-track race that takes place in a purpose-built dirt track within the circuit. Here the factory riders take on some stars of off-road riding, all aboard identical scramblers. The racing is fast and frantic with the rooster tails of dust making it almost impossible to follow the action unless your sat at the top of the purpose-built amphitheatre – which also prevents you from inhaling 3kg of dirt.
The flat-track arena is well worth a look. It's clear that some MotoGP & WSBK racers are more at home on the dirt than others!
Sunday this year was the day with the least on-track action with Audi and Lamborghini running taxi rides for those brave enough! But there is plenty more going on in the paddock to while away the day. The Scrambler zone is well worth a look with a wall of death, hot-air balloon rides, live music and basketball, oddly enough.
There are plenty of static bike displays covering classics, modern and race bikes. The Termignoni ‘Sound of Passion’ feature was a big hit, mainly because it was an outdoor area that included air-conditioning but also because of the race bikes on open pipes that would regularly get started up, much to the ear-splitting glee of all in attendance.
If you’ve ridden there on a bike with Öhlins suspension, you can head to their tent in the paddock where trained engineers can set up your bike’s suspension specifically for your weight and riding style. It’s an amazing feature and one that you should really take advantage of while you are there.
In all honesty a Ducati fan could spend a day just walking the bike park and taking it all in. Nowhere else will you see tatty Monsters 600s parked next to £60k Superleggeras and Desmosedicis – it really is a sight to behold and when I say you could spend a day just walking the bike park, I’m not joking. Everyone rides to WDW and with 90,000 in attendance and 95% of people riding to the event, most with a pillion, GSCE maths tells me that’s about 45,000 bikes to peruse over the three days.
Every type of Ducati is represented, from bevel drive 350cc singles to full on carbon framed and faired trackday specials, and everything in between.
It’s fair to say the Multistrada is the weapon of choice, with around half of all visitors opting for the comfy and fast tourer. Custom Scramblers, 748s, 916s, Streetfighters and Panigales were all well represented both at the event and in the local towns and villages.
The highlight of day one had to be the track parade and rideout with around 2000 likeminded bike fans hitting the track and then riding the ten miles or so to Rimini. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this many red-blooded Italians on track, on Ducatis, would be a recipe for disaster, but it ran without a hitch. With a camera car keeping the pace down and Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali leading the group flanked by a group of A-list racers and celebrities, we cruised the hallowed Misano circuit then were led off through the paddock and out on to the streets riding through every town and village along the way. The streets were packed all the way to Rimini, with entire families coming out to watch and wave at the bikes as they passed.
It was a very special moment but not because of the celebs, or Ducati’s CEO, who was just down the road. It was special because it showed how strong the love for Ducati is to the Italian public. It’s more than a factory or bike manufacturer, it’s the bike their mum or dad, their grandparents or friends rode. To be a part of that ride and to feel that passion for a brand was something I’ve never done before. Aside from maybe Harley-Davidson, who basically take over the Sturgis motorcycle rally in the US every year, you just don’t get that kind of response from the public.
The WDW 2018 trip was a bucket list event in more ways than one. The ride there takes in some awesome roads regardless of whether you go over or under the Alps. Then when you get to the event you get access to the riders for autographs and Q&As that you simply don’t on a race weekend. The classic bike displays, flat-track racing, track displays and the Race of Champions means there is something to see for every type of petrol head. Add to that the opportunity to take part in the ride out and you have a festival of all things Ducati that you don’t get anywhere else.
If you are a Ducati fan, or even if you’re not, World Ducati Week is an event that has to be on your radar for the future.