Hopeful Monsters

… they are things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it’s not known if the environment is quite ready for them – Max Ackerman – one of the two primary characters in Nicholas Mosley’s book, Hopeful Monsters.

According to Wiki, the German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1878 – 1958) was the first scientist to use the term “hopeful monster”.  Goldschmidt believed the large changes in evolution were caused by macromutations (large mutations).  Some modern scientists have written that hopeful monsters are neither impossible nor should be seen as anti-Darwinian because, even if proven to exist, they would not replace the evidence for gradual evolution by mutation but supplement it. The early neo-Darwinian synthesis theorists had rejected hopeful monsters due to lack of evidence however, some now believe that Goldschmidt was not entirely wrong.

The author Nicholas Mosley is the half brother of Max Mosley and the eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the English politician known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists, and his first wife, Lady Cynthia Mosley. Lady Cynthia died in 1933, and in 1936 Sir Oswald married Diana Mitford, in a ceremony in Germany attended by Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler.  Monsters to a man.  Max was born in 1940.

In my teenage years, when my universe revolved around motor sport, I was keenly aware of Max Mosley’s racing exploits.  He competed nationally and internationally between 1966 and 1968 before retiring and becoming the M in March Engineering; he would eventually spend four terms as president of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).

The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motorcyclisme) is the two-wheeled equivalent of the FIA, acting as sanctioning body for the MotoGP World Championship and the overall governing body of motorcycling sport at a world level. It groups together 112 National Motorcycle Federations across six continents.

All of which brings me, in a roundabout fashion, to my new Monster. The 78.9 hp 696 variant had to go – physically too small (Bike magazine described it as a two thirds size motorcycle) it was playing havoc with my back and wrists. Enter the 112 hp 821 Ducati Monster Dark. This is more of a Darwinian evolution than a macromutation – it weighs more, mainly due to being water-cooled, but has much improved space for the rider.  It feels like you are sitting in the bike rather than over the bars – a disconcerting aspect of the 696.  Best of all, even with stock cans, it sounds like it has just escaped the underworld – I love it 🙂

Guilty secrets ...Folding ...

You don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding is the well known adage of the more mature rider.  There is no finer example than the 90 year old John Berger who not only still rides but has the descriptive skills to express what the rest of just feel:

except for the protective gear you’re wearing, there’s nothing between you and the rest of the world. The air and the wind press directly on you. You are in the space through which you are travelling.  Your contact with the outside world is more intimate. You’re more conscious of the road surface, its subtle variations, its potholes, whether it’s dry or damp, of mud or gravel; you’re aware of the hold of the tyres, or their lack of it; bends produce another effect: if you enter one properly, it holds you in its arms. A hill points you to the sky. A descent lets you dive into it. Every contour line on the map of the country you are riding through means your axis of balance has changed…This perception is visual but also tactile and rhythmic. Often your body knows quicker than your mind.




  1. Cate Franklyn · November 11, 2016

    The bike is sure a beauty and NEVER stop riding!!!!! Or taking photos either 🙂

  2. Pit · November 11, 2016

    Truly a “monster” – very impressive! Have fun riding it, and always stay safe!

    • northumbrianlight · November 13, 2016

      Thanks Pit – Ducati know their market – chaps of a certain age searching for their lost youth 😉

      • Pit · November 13, 2016


  3. LaVagabonde · November 11, 2016

    Congrats on your new monster. 🙂 It is a beauty.

    • northumbrianlight · November 13, 2016

      Thanks Julie – at least it was a replacement and not an addition 😉

  4. enmanscamera · November 13, 2016

    These are some neat pictures of an exciting motorcycle. However, I really enjoyed your “monsters” article.

    • northumbrianlight · November 13, 2016

      Many thanks for the generous comments – I am appreciative and surprised in equal measure when people take the time to read my ramblings.

  5. restlessjo · November 14, 2016

    I shall expect to feel you hurtling past next time I’m on one of your country lanes, Robin. 🙂 Love that paragraph from Berger!

    • northumbrianlight · November 14, 2016

      I am very sensible/restrained on country lanes Jo but you will hear me coming on the Monster – from several miles away 😉 Berger is good isn’t he – there was very good profile on BBC4 recently which prompted me to buy his Keeping a Rendezvous – the Granta edition has a motorcycle on the cover 🙂

  6. Leya · November 19, 2016

    Monster? Stay safe!

    • northumbrianlight · November 19, 2016

      Thanks, I will try to – it’s quite a friendly Monster 😉

      • Leya · November 19, 2016

        I am sure😊

  7. meticulousmick · November 22, 2016

    just keep on living my friend…MM🍀

  8. MJF Images · November 24, 2016

    Sweet bike!! Sadly I had to sell my beemer awhile back.

    • northumbrianlight · November 24, 2016

      Thanks Mike – I like to be reassured I have made a sensible purchase 😉

  9. Motorcycle Rambler · February 15, 2017

    “except for the protective gear you’re wearing, there’s nothing between you and the rest of the world”. I like that quote! Enjoy the bike…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s