31 December 2007 – Recounting the Year

By all accounts, 2007 was a very successful year, both for me and Desmo Times. My business grew a bit, I wrote some stuff for MCN, my new building is now more complete than incomplete, I learned a lot more about Ducatis and I was healthy throughout the year.  I really couldn’t ask for more than that. Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most about the year is that I once again enjoy going on local rides. There are only a few destinations for local rides, so I try not to burn out by riding every weekend to the same destination. There were only 2 goals I fell short of for the year; 1- not being able to grow the Ducati contingent of our little club, at least enough to continue weekly meetings and 2 – not attending enough track days for my liking. I have little control over the first goal, but the second goal I hope to rectify in 2008. If some of you would commit to a few track days at Jennings, I’d be more motivated.

That’s it for 2007 folks. I wheeled the 999s out of line last night for the ride today. I’m heading out on the last ride of the year with Mark in a little bit. I’ll finish today’s DD by providing a link to an interesting video. If you’re first reaction is “how unsafe”, you’re a codger who wears women’s panties. If you’re first reaction is “that’s way cool”, you’re an aggressive rider who also surfs during Hurricanes. If you’re first reaction is “I wonder how I can build a similar suit”, you’re a motorcycle technician. :-) 

http://www.glumbert.com/media/rollersuit

Thanks for reading my little Blog throughout the year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2008.

30 December 2007 – Fit & Finish

Bluto and I made an out-of-town business trip to a local Ducati dealer a few days ago. The dealer carried a few other brands, including MV Agusta. It was my first opportunity to see an MV up close for scrutiny. Even though the MV is Italian made like a Ducati, the fit, finish, and attention to detail is far superior. Having just purchased a 1098s this year, I compared it to the F4 1000R MV. MV took so much more time to make the little details of the bike nice. Here’s what I found:

  • Paint is better – deeper wet look than a Ducati
  • MV still uses Dzus fasteners, making fairing removal a breeze as on the 916 series.
  • Battery and ECU location are a well thought out — under the seat.
  • The plastic is dimpled to give it a more finished look so that the addition of CF isn’t really necessary 
  • All openings in the fairing and tail section have nice metal grill covers.
  • Bikes includes a quick change rear carrier and sprocket
  • Bike includes a nice tool kit
  • Bike includes a battery tender lead on the battery
  • Bike includes a battery tender
  • Bike includes a rear stand
  • No immobilizer to thwart both thieves and owners (I hate the immobilizer on Ducatis) 
  • Bike includes a rear hugger

 Above:    Bluto eyes an MV, and notices the key with ribbon in the ignition.

The MV was sitting next to a Ducati on the showroom floor, allowing easy comparison. It made me embarrassed for Ducati. The overall appearance of the MV was awesome. Is it a superior bike? Well, MV is supposedly more exclusive, but I’d say it is due to MV still caring more about producing a hand-crafted and limited number of motorcycles. What about price? Well, the MV listed for 3K more than the Ducati, but the tag on the bike was marked down below the Ducati 1098s $4000. Ducati has a few things in its corner. Ducati kills MV on parts availability, dealer network, # and availability of models, etc. But Ducati could learn a lesson about attention to detail from MV. As far as fiscal responsibility, Ducati should chart a course 180 degrees from the historical MV path to involvency (of course, Ducati has had their own financial troubles throughtout the last 30 years).  Which bike can you go faster on?  Probably a Gixxer… just kidding. I haven’t ridden the MV to tell, but it would be hard pressed to keep up with a 1098s. The new 312 MV is supposed to have a 170 at the rear wheel, but it’s still toting 40 pounds more than the 1098. If you’re into arguments about which bike is faster, you’re missing the point anyway. The MV is a piece of artwork. I consider my 916 and 999 to be similar in terms of beauty. Will the 1098 ascend to garner this lofty praise. I doubt it. The MV F4 was one of the centerpieces of the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim. I can’t imagine the 1098 on the same pedestal. I’m just glad I have one handy to shake the cobwebs out of my corner carving skills.  Speaking of which — Blackwater ride tomorrow – 0800 meet up at my place. Mark and I will ring out 2007 in a fitting manner – with the cacophony of Desmos echoing in Blackwater.

29 December 2007 – The Sunshine State?

After looking at the local radar and the hourly projections for rain % here and up in AL at 0700, I’m pulling the plug on the Stagecoach Run scheduled for 0930. It the ride was later in the day, it would have had a chance for me. There are some ironbutters that will make the trek regardless, so the event is never cancelled or rescheduled. Like I said a few days ago, I don’t mind getting caught in the rain on a trip, but mounting up in the rain on wet roads for a short local trip is about as much fun as troubleshooting a Ducati electrical problem. I don’t need to ride THAT bad today.

28 December 2007 – Crap Weather

The weather looks like crap for the next 3 days. There goes the Stagecoach Run and Jennings track day for me. I’ll decide on the Stagecoach ride on Sat morning. If the roads are dry, I’ll ride. I don’t mind getting caught in the rain. Riding through it for an entire ride is zero fun, especially for a quirky social event.

It looks likes one of those weekends in Pensacola when I wish I were living somewhere else, and reaffirms my intent not to retire here. There are far worse places to live, but the 55 inches of rain every year and 5 months of withering heat try one’s patience. On the plus side, it beats the weather in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No new news. My suppliers are all mostly shut down for the holidays and aren’t returning calls. That plus the slow-as-molassas UPS delivery service makes the Pony Express of the 1800s look like overnight delivery.  

27 December 2007 – Bluto Time

Things are slow around DT this week. I’m still awaiting parts for Kim’s ST and Bluto’s SS. I expect the parts to be here by Friday. In the meantime, I cleaned up around the shop yesterday and awaited the arrival of Bluto. He popped by last night for a little visit. We discussed our trips for next year. Bluto will be doing a portion of the Trans America Trail in July while I’m at MotoGP. Unfortunately, we won’t be doing any riding together. We’ll enjoy some time together today until he leaves tonight. The rest of the week will be spent in either the workshop or the new building.

No new product news. I’ll work on the website and some product stuff next week after New Years. I want to finish both bikes in the shop by the time I head back to the classroom the 2nd week of January.

Weather this weekend still looks like crap. Rain on Friday and Sunday, but there may be a window to get in the Stagecoach ride on Sat. I’ll probably roll out the Gran Canyon and my rain gear to be prepared.

26 December 2007 – Weather iffy for Stagecoach Run

The weather is looking iffy for the scheduled Stagecoach run this Sat, with the forecast changing by the hour. Based on experience, I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance it will be rained out.

Here’s a pic compliments of Patrick from the Blackwater ride on the 24th. Patrick’s 996, Scott’s 999s, Mark’s ST4S and my 1098S. 

25 December 2007 – Merry Christmas 2007

From the entire staff of Desmo Times, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.

24 December 2007 – Suspension Setup – Part 2

Rear Suspension – With the front suspension set, it’s time to set up the rear shock. I’ve never dealt with rear shocks offering high/low speed compression damping, so I’ll focus on 3 way adjustable rears. Like the front, rear shock setup begins with setting the BASELINE MEASUREMENT. Begin by recording your present rebound and compression damping settings, and zero both out.  I measure my BASELINE MEASUREMENT by one of two methods, using a hoist to raise the rear of the bike enough to unload the rear shock or, on lightweight bikes, lifting the rear end myself while somebody else measures. Measurement takes place at the tail of the bike directly above the rear axle. By putting a strip of tape on the side of the tail section, a measuring tape can be used to measure the distance between a point on the rear axle and the bottom of the piece of tape.

Once the BASELINE MEASUREMENT is read, let the bike rest on its suspension and push the rear end down a few times rapidly to let it settle. Again take a measurement, which will be the STATIC SAGSTATIC SAG should be between 5-10mm. Again, if you ride on bumpy roads, set yours at 10mm.   Once this sag is recorded, sit on the bike in your gear with your feet on the pegs while somebody holds the bike up. Take another measurement. This will be your RACE SAG.  RACE SAG should be between between 30-40mm.

The easy part is now done. Next comes the hard part. Return your rear shock’s settings for compression and rebound. Like the front forks, the rear shock shouldn’t bottom out and rebound should be sufficient to prevent the shock from topping out and then returning to static sag. To check the balance of the suspension, have somebody hold the bike upright while you stand on both footpegs. Drive the pegs downward a few times in quick succession while somebody looks at the side of the bike. The suspension should compress and raise evenly front to back. If either end dives faster than the other, increase compression damping on that end. If either end bounces back up faster than the other, increase rebound damping on that end. Do any adjustments incrementally, and keep checking your work. A similar check can be done by pushing down firmly on the rear of the gas tank, but you won’t achieve as much compression to the suspension compared to using your feet on the pegs.

Once you’re satisfied with the way the bike bounces, take it for a spin. Select a piece of road with a few mid-corner bumps. The most challenging thing for a suspension to handle is a mid-corner bump. If you’re suspension is set properly, mid-corner bumps won’t unsettle the suspension.

It takes a lot of practice to learn to feel what your suspension is and isn’t doing. I never knew what I was missing until I rode a bike that was setup properly. Now I have no patience for suspension that is improperly set, and spend money there before anything else (well, almost anything else).

A few final notes: First, there is the impression that paying for high-dollar suspension components guarantees a good ride.  A suspension is only as good as it’s setup, and the fork/shock internals you can’t see. I’d rather have a well set up base model Monster (which lacks any adjustments on the forks and only preload and rebound the rear) than an improperly setup Superbike with full Ohlins.

Second, on bikes that are Bi-Postos (2 up), rear shock setup is a compromise, as no rear shock can handle the damping for both you and your rider for the same settings. For this reason, the ST models and MTS models have an easy-t0-reach, preload adjuster knob. Unfortunately, if you have a Ducati Superbike Biposto, you lack this ease of adjustment. I’ve found bi-posto Ducati rear shocks to be oversprung for a solo rider of average weight (170-200 pounds), but undersprung for the combined weight of a passenger and rider. The settings from the factory will usually create a harsh ride if you ride 1 up. By setting your sag, you’ll know where you are. If you do a lot of 2-up riding, the sag should be measured in both configurations (single and 2-up).

Merry Christmas.

23 December 2007 – Suspension Setup – Part 1

Note to Self – Bookmark this DD for future revisions to my Suspension Setup discussion in my books. One of the best online setup guides is at

http://www.gostar-racing.com/information/motorcycle_suspension_set-up.htm

One of the most often ignored things to perform on any bike is proper suspension setup. There are 2 reasons for this: First, most owners find suspension discussions to be about as interesting as nuclear physics. Second, it takes 2 or 3 people to properly set up a bike’s suspension. I’m as guilty as the next guy for not properly setting up suspension, but not because of reason #1. I rarely have a few friends hanging around the shop begging to help me set up my suspension. I can usually set up my own compression and rebound damping, but it takes a few friends to do 2 vital things – first, to set up sag and the second to see if the suspension is loading and unloading evenly.

Front Forks – Sag setting work begins by zip-tieing the front right fork slider. By having somebody completely unload the front forks, you can measure the amount of slider showing when the zip tie is pushed all the way up against the dust seal. That measurement is the BASELINE MEASUREMENT.  Then take note how many clicks of rebound and compression damping you currently have set and zero them both out.  By zeroing out the damping, your sag readings won’t be effected by the damping settings. Next, let the front forks back down and gently bounce a few times on the front end and let the bike settle to get the STATIC SAG. I look for 30mm of static sag on the forks. If it is less or more, adjust the preload. Once the static sag is set, have a friend hold the bike upright while you sit on the bike with your normal riding gear and put your feet on the pegs with your body in a normal riding position. Then gently bounce a few times to set the suspension. Have another friend measure the RACE SAG. I use a fork race sag of 45mm for street use because we have a lot of bumpy roads around here (35-45mm of race sag is the recommended amount). You can get away with only having 1 friend help out with the race sag measurement by using a front chock similar to a Baxley Sport Chock to hold up the bike. I then adjust the preload on the forks to achieve a setting of 40mm. Double check your measurements and take averages if the readings are a few millimeters off from each other.

Once, the race sag is set, reset the fork compression rebound settings to where they were. Next, take the bike for a spin on a bumpy road and note where the zip tie is upon your return. It should be between 10-25mm the bottom of the slider. If it isn’t you aren’t using your bike’s suspension to soften the bumps. Most sportibikes I’ve seen are overdamped for my weight (170 lbs), so I usually end up taking most of the compression damping out of the front. If the front end still isn’t using up enough travel, then your forks are oversprung for your weight.

Once the compression damping is set, zero out the rebound damping and bounce up and down on the front forks. The forks will go down and spring up quickly, bouncing at the top of the stroke and returning to the static sag position. Keep adding rebound until the forks no longer bounce at the top of the stroke, meaning the forks won’t pogo when you hit a bump. 

That’s about it for an initial go at setting the front forks. If you want to change settings, only change a single setting at a time, in 1 click intervals, and take the bike for a spin on a bumpy road between adjustments. A few clicks can make a big difference.

We’ll come back to checking the bike’s balance and finalize front suspension settings once we set the rear suspension.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow – Rear Suspension Setup

22 December 2007 – CABs & MINOs

I was perusing one of the online for-profit forums and came across a post of somebody who wanted to have a local machinist clone a set of Nichols engine bolts. The poster wanted to know if anybody had purchased the Nichols bolts and if they could take measurements. One guy responded with something similar to what I would have said, something to the effect that the poster should be ashamed to try to rip off a small manufacturer’s intellectual property. This same thought occured to me when I read on the ST forum about a guy recommending that people look at the design of my ST4S cam holder piece and figure a way to make a cheaper copy. I call these people  CABs (Cheap Ass Bastards). A CAB is somebody who is a DIY type, but is obsessed with the almighty dollar. I don’t mind somebody adopting their own way of doing things with self-made tools or techniques, but I have a problem with somebody ripping off the intellectual property of somebody else. The Ducati niche is small enough already. We don’t need to cannibalize the designs of each other. I didn’t invent most of the tools I carry, but rather than design my own copies, I have purchased the tools from those I feel deserve the business due to their design being innovative. That isn’t always the cheapest vendor. 

The opposite extreme of the CAB is the MINO (money is no object) type. Some vendors support these enthusiasts, although there are probably far more CABs than MINOs. My good friend Charlie told me about a dealer who puts the stickiest newest tires, slipper clutches and aluminum quick change sprockets on superbikes, knowing that his MINO customers will be back in a few thousand miles for replacements, because they love to say they have the stickiest tires, or the most expensive clutch or the lightest sprockets. Another good example is the type that has to have ohlins forks and radial calipers even though they only use their Ducati for jaunts to the corner store to purchase milk (and what’s up with milk costing $4 a gallon?).

If you don’t think you are either a CAB or a MINO, you’re in good company, as I believe both categories are outliers amongst their Ducati-riding peers. Most riders just want to ride and wrench – in that order, and don’t have the time or inclination to be an outlier. What customers do I target? I try to satisfy the customers in between the CABs and the MINOs – Ducatisti that want to do the work themselves, but are willing to pay for the correct tools at less-than-OEM prices.