Ever had lunch with one of your heroes? That's the enviable situation Steve Anderson found himself in one fine day in 1986 when Fabio Taglioni, the famed "Dr. T," designer of Ducati's signature desmodromic valve system, visited the Cycle World offices in Newport Beach, California. At the time, Anderson was the magazine's tech editor, formerly (true story) a rocket scientist with a degree from MIT and club roadracing experience. For him, an audience with Taglioni was Gearhead Nirvana. I was CW's feature editor back then and from my nearby office could tell something big was up. Steve had arranged his office – usually looking like a tornado had just hit – into neat piles of papers, books, magazines, leathers, helmets and test gear. Dr. T was on his way.
The two went for lunch at one of Newport Beach's many fine eateries, a fringe benefit of working at the SoCal mag – well that and more bikinis per capita than any place this side of San Tropez. "He didn't really speak English, I didn't speak Italian, but we managed," Anderson recalls. Over food, Steve wondered aloud what might be done about the short service intervals of the desmo layout, with its time-consuming need for shim adjustment. Taglioni responded that if necessary screw-type adjustment could be easily adopted, then when language and hand gestures failed, quickly produced three sketches to show how. Steve had the good sense to ask Taglioni to autograph one of the drawings. It was also during their talks that Taglioni gave Steve one of the best quotes in motorcycling. "The Japanese motorcycle companies want to make an easy car," he said. "I want to make a difficult bicycle."
Taglioni died five years later at age 80. Anderson is very much still with us, though as he told me upon Buell's shutdown last year, "They keep shooting my horses out from under me." In 1988 when I was promoted to the top chair at Cycle World, Steve was made editor-in-chief at Cycle – which in the first of many management blunders from parent company Hachette-Filipacchi, was closed in 1991. I rehired Steve as contributing editor, and he also started a successful accident investigation business. In 2005 Erik Buell came calling and hired Anderson full-time as Platform Director, duties of which included the XBRR roadracer and development of the Buell dirtbike, the one that Harley pulled the plug on just before it axed Buell Motorcycles altogether, speaking of management blunders...
Anyway, just in time for Christmas gift giving, for the Ducatista who already has everything, Steve has put his Taglioni sketches on eBay, nicely framed with a photo of the great man at work in front of a drawing board. Bring money; opening bid is $3200.