The scream of 10,000 RPM’s resonates through the hard shell of Dennis’s full face helmet, drowning out the pull of the wind. Legs tucked in and torso on the gas tank, the feeling is nearly euphoric. A moment of pure concentration, eyes fixed straight ahead, brain completely focused on one thing: staying upright. He hasn’t blinked in nearly a minute; there’s no time for that. Inhale and quickly glance down. The speedometer reads 160 mph, yet it feels faster. It always does.
Looking at the Panigale, you’d notice many things. Beautiful lines only Italians could pull off. Aggressive headlights that seem to stare you down. However, what you can’t notice from simply looking at this supermodel is a feature more important than any other. It’s the fine-tuned collaboration between all parts on the bike, working together much in the manner of an orchestra, to form a machine greater than the sum of its parts. It’s the feeling that travels up your hands and arms as the bike leans into a corner, and the gentle resistance of the brake lever as you pull your fingers in. It’s a connection that you form with the bike. All bikes have it, but the Panigale has it good.
Dennis Matson’s love and passion for motorcycles started on the back of his father’s CB750F. As he recalls, going fast on wheels was the closest he could get to flying at a young age. The evolution went from a big wheel, to a Schwinn bike, to dirt bikes followed by the streetbikes. This evolution might seem like the normal path for a gear head but it brought Dennis further than most dare adventure.
In 2012, Dennis set out on a journey starting in Newport Beach, CA to go around America on a Panigale 1199S. A daring feat some might say, but one he took with an open mind and a will to discover new experiences. It’s on his Italian super bike that Dennis rode 15,900 Miles (25588 Kilometers) over the span of only a couple months riding through 37 states (in US and Canada). As he worked and travelled he only lived in the present moment and the future just remained unwritten pages. Anticipation became his best friend as his adventure unfolded in front of him. The limitless possibilities were surreal and left him hanging on the edge of what was next the entire trip. The possibility of controlling his destiny through a right or left turn is what pushed Dennis forward all along.
The choice of the Panigale might seem radical to most but to Dennis it was plain and simple at the time. The only other bike that he had interest in touring the country on was the RSV-4 Factory, but the lack of a strong dealer network and reliability issues made it an easy decision to wait for the release of the Panigale. Rocketing through North America as fast as possible wasn’t the idea behind the choice of motorcycle, though. He’d lusted after Ducatis since he’d first started riding, so doing the trip on the bike he loved was the most important factor in his decision. The reward of riding his dream bike was far more important than dealing with the inconveniences like a lack of storage and committed riding position. Furthermore, the trip was was all about living new things and enjoying the present moment. Riding the Panigale was a true testament of pushing the limits of his own physical and mental abilities.
When I asked him which roads he enjoyed most on the Panigale his first answer was his experience at the Circuit Of The Americas at the press launch of the Panigale 1199R. Though his Italian mistress wasn’t present for the launch, the invitation was a result of the adventures that took them from coast to coast. His second choice of favourite roads America had to offer included the serpentine asphalt winding up and around Pikes Peak, as well as the endless, largely unpatrolled Alphabet roads around Minneapolis. One can only imagine the thrill of twisting the throttle and letting such a beast roar with nothing else in mind than the tarmac ahead.
The unknown is something that prevents many from venturing too far from home on a bike, but it was the unknown that guided Dennis all along his adventure. The unknown for most people, as he tells me, is like a monster under the bed. It’s not the darkness itself that scares, but what could be hiding there. Our imagination tends to look for the worst—the fact that no kid ever checks for presents hiding under his bed demonstrates how predisposed we are to see the unknown as something to be avoided. Whether it was on endless stretches of road, riding along crocodile infested swamps, befriending coyotes in Death Valley, surviving rush hour in NY or the apocalyptic conditions of Detroit, he kept pushing on to discover what the country had to offer. If all that wasn’t enough, he was determined to pull off an “Iron Butt” (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) before the trip was over. He managed to make it from Austin, TX, to Scottsdale, AZ in just over 16 hours (and stopped to visit with his sister along the way. It was no easy feat, but where there is a will there is a way.
Always one to push the limits of what others think is possible (his ‘resume’ includes 4 Ironman finishes and winning a racing championship in a Honda S2000), he’s either extremely passionate or masochistic (or maybe both). Whatever the case, his love of adventure keeps pushing him forward. A day after he returned from his trip across the continent, Dennis loaded up his FJ and left yet again. Staying in one place feels like a prison to him, as evidenced by his latest trip around the Pacific Northwest racking up miles (a lot of them off-road) on his Panigale 1199S.
Some might call him crazy for going offroad with such a motorcycle. Others might say going coast to coast on a Panigale is just impossible. Dennis on the other hand embraces every opportunity to be able to live such experiences and it resonates through his will to want to share this adventure. During his travels Dennis came up with this idea that motorcycles act as a limbic system regulator. Here is his ideas on the phenomenon:
“My theory is that Motorcycles function as limbic system regulators. Some are better at mimicking mammalian traits than others, which is why we attribute anthropomorphic terms to bikes (eg ‘soul’ or ‘personality’), which is also the reason why we refer to them as females, too.
In short, external inputs that we experience through our senses function to stimulate and regulate our own internal systems. For instance, warmth and smells cue activity and metabolic levels, tactile stimulation increases growth hormone levels, feeling the heart rate and rise and fall of another’s chest regulates heart rate, respiration and circadian cadences, and immune system strength increases or decreases based on sensory stimulation. Is a twin much different than a pulsing heartrate? The bike inhales and exhales, the wind caresses our hair and face and bodies affectionately, there’s warmth from the engine (especially from a Panigale!), and to some extent a bike embraces our bodies (sportbikes put us in the a fetal position, a Harley spoons you from behind), and perhaps most important the bike reacts to our every input and responds to our inner states—if we’re restless it speeds up, if relaxed, it slows down. This is limbic resonance, a state in which the physiological rhythms are positively stimulated through synchronized contact, regulating everything from cardiovascular health to immune function, hormone levels and circadian rhythms.”
It’s clear after reading this why Dennis pushes forward and keeps favouring the Panigale over other means of transportation. It’s where he feels most comfortable and at home. We hope here at Driven With Passion that Dennis keeps living and sharing his dreams—perhaps even crossing oceans for an adventure on foreign soil. Dennis would love for his next ride to be “Around the World with an Italian Supermodel” but only the future will tell….