When I first saw it—long before I knew Alex Earle, its creator—I thought, “A futuristic flat-tracker built on the bones of a Ducati Monster? This guy’s a loon.” But I couldn’t shake Earle’s bike. Its graceful shape, its attention-to-detail, its raw simplicity, its brutal character—it appealed to me, more than any of the slew of sexy, stripped-down bikes I’d lusted after.
It’s been a couple years since then, and only a few people have ridden this motorcycle, the reimagined Monster that Earle Motors spent over a decade transforming into his personal bike. So when Earle invited me to ride his olive green “Il Mostro” with a “23” slapped on its backside, I didn’t hesitate.
We shook hands, shot the shit a bit, and then I asked the question that bugged me for years: Why build a futuristic flat-tracker out of a Ducati Monster? “I had an ongoing fascination with Ducati Monsters, but I wanted the bike to be more aggressive and brutal,” said Earle, “and I really love the whole flat-tracker, simple aesthetic. To me, the dirt fairgrounds track thing felt very honest and authentic. I can relate to it more than MotoGP or superbike stuff somehow; it’s not exclusive or posh. It made sense to me that I could build an Italian-engine street-tracker.”
Earle continued: “This was my bike from the beginning. I wanted something that suited me... My fabricator and I would go and work on this thing every night after work for, like, five or six hours. Every night. For a year. On the bike you’re about to ride.”
I ran my hand along the Ducati’s smooth bodywork, squeezed it’s spongy, motocross-style grips, and dragged my fingers across its handlebars. I wiped the dust from its digital instrument cluster, pulled pebbles from the treads of its fat Maxxis tires, and smoothed out the suede on its wafer-thin seat. I felt bad, like I wasn’t worthy of throwing my leg over the bike, but immediately felt comfortable once I had.
No, it sounds better. When I finally started the olive green motorcycle, the L-twin engine coughed into the perfectly shaped, tightly welded, 1.75-inch exhaust, which started to burble and pulse in a steady cadence, aggressive, uniform, and unfiltered. It’s a war cry that sounds like a Tommy gun going off in a tunnel and let’s you know the bike is bored of idling and wants to ride. I pushed on my Arai helmet, zipped up my Union Garage NYC jacket, slipped on my Grifter gloves, eased out on the deft clutch lever, and pulled across Pacific Coast Highway and onto the twisty roads climbing through Las Flores Canyon.
I cracked my knuckles on my thighs before getting into a comfortable riding position on the curvy, one-piece fiberglass body, which runs from the three-gallon fuel tank to the clamshell number plates, leaning forward onto the super-low, extra-wide handlebars. The bike chugged and jerked like a wooden rollercoaster would before I opened the throttle completely. The handlebars vibrated viciously, the exhaust blared violently, and the bike took off veraciously. I began to worry because the bike, although simple and stripped-down, felt as heavy and immovable as a Harley Panhead, and the Ducati’s big, bouncy tires felt like they were floating just above the pavement. I didn’t feel confident going into the first corner, so I snatched the front-brake lever, buried my foot on the rear-brake set, and slowed to a crawl.
“This can’t be it, can it?” I thought. “I know Alex designed this bike so that function followed form, but, man, it can’t be this forbidding, can it?” Nope. I slid off the side of the bike and leaned it into the corner, and it followed obediently, tracing the turn perfectly. It felt far sportier tilted over than it did upright, so I pulled myself back onto the suede seat and went full-tilt, banging through gears as I barreled uphill. The bike became more remarkable with every curve. The tires had more grip than I’d expected, and the long handlebars gave me leverage to lean deeper and go faster into turns. Toward the top of the canyon road, the bike and I had a good report and a nice tempo going. It understood that I wanted to ride it like the sport bike it was built on, and I respected that it now has an individual, quirky personality that takes time to learn and appreciate.
I, discontentedly, put down Il Mostro’s kickstand, dismounted, and handed the keys back to Earle, thanking him as I did. I asked what project is up next. “People ask me what my next bike will be and it’s really hard,” he replied. “Because that’s like asking what kind of person I’ll be next year. It’s like, ‘No, here it is.’” Earle got back on his tailor-made Monster and took off, bombing back down through the canyon, sticking his inside leg straight out in turns like a true flat-track racer would, on the bike that haunts my dreams.