31 January 2008 – Same company, different address

I finally got the new address from the county yesterday. The property that the workshop and the Ark are on is a separate lot number from the rest of the property, so I was able to get a different address for it. It makes sense, as it’s the business location. I’ll be putting up the mailbox this weekend. The upshot is now that the new place is official, I’ll be changing my shipment locations from the house to the business location.

Today I need to be a busy bee. Mark came over last night and helped me tear down the scaffolding. Today I’ll be returning that, running a bunch of errands, and splitting the day between the workshop and the Ark. I got the reservoir covers up on the webswite yesterday, so I can check that off the list of things to do.

Kelly Hewes sent me a link to the closeout items from Cyclecat, but other than top triple clamps, there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from. Cyclecat is dead. Long live their designs.

I signed up for the March 1st trackday through John Cohorn at Turn One Performance. I haven’t spoken to John in several years, so we caught up on things. He was lamenting the fact that sales were slow, so we commiserated. It’s his full-time gig, so I’m sure it’s stressful when business tapers off. The motorcycle business has always been boom or bust, it’s just that it’s been boom for the last 10 years. Brad used to have a cycle shop, so he remembers without much love lost the feast or famine nature of the business.

I popped by the impromptu get together last night with Mark, Patrick, Ole and Mike at Ginos. Mike purchased a new 848 from his favorite dealer in CA. and had it delivered. It sounded a lot like my 1098 out of the box. With that exhaust note, you don’t really have to upgrade exhausts unless you want to. I don’t think it has the exup valve like the 1098, but I’m sure the 02 sensor is still the fly in the ointment for making exhaust changes. Not a peep from dynojet or techlusion on defeating the 02 sensor. I don’t think they’re ever going to mess with it, just leave things as they are, and develop things to work above 6K where the 02 sensor is irrelevant. Too bad the problems in mapping are below that.

Most of you already guessed it, but the spy shot of my project is no other than the MV Agusta F41000R I took a picture of a month ago and put up on the DD (Bluto was standing next to the bike). I’ve had it torn apart for the past month on the lift while I look it over for necessary mods and upgrades. I’m about finished with it, and hope to have it back together next sometime. But customer bikes come first, so the MV will have to wait.  

I hope you had a good January. 1 month down and 11 to go in 2008. We’re only 5 months away from Hurricane season too.  Many thanks for reading the DD and making comments. I’m trying to figure out a way of making the comments to the DD work better. Other than going to my message board and starting a thread, there isn’t a way to organize comments right now.

30 January 2008 – Another month bites the dust

While there still is another day left to January, this was a quick month. Poof. The highlight of the month was our track day, and some more progress on the Ark. I got to vote yesterday, but I wouldn’t call that a highlight. I actually like one of the candidates, but he won’t win because other than You-Tube he’s virtually inconspicious.

I need to get off my ass and put up the new reservoir covers on the website.  I’ll try to do that before heading into the office today. I didn’t get much accomplished yesterday other than getting out a bunch of orders and mounting one of the ceiling fans in the Ark.

Interesting comments yesterday. I didn’t think my Twilight Zone mention would provoke memories of all those shows. Good Stuff. Tyler gets the prize for bringing up one of my favorite all time shows, The Prisoner. Brilliant stuff.

It’s back to the office today for a bit, then back home to grout the tile in the bathroom in the Ark. That will do it my level of productivity today. I also need to get my next deadline from MCN, so that I can think up some more stuff to write about.

I’m plugging away at getting a few backorders out of here. I’m also getting some weird requests for parts. It doesn’t matter how many times I put it on the website, people still expect me so stock OEM parts for all Ducatis, even 80s era Cagivas. I don’t think so.

Local impromptu meet tonight. Weird Mike evidently purchased a new bike and wants to show it off. Why do I call him weird? Mike owns a Mille and an S4, and comes to all our local meets, but in almost 2 years has NEVER ridden with us on our local rides. That’s weird.

Ride scheduled for Sunday, but if Richard can come over to help me work in the Ark, I won’t make it. Sorry, but I played last weekend and it’s back to a focus on finishing the building. I can finish the inside by the end of February if I’m focused.

Next track day is Sat March 1st. Mark and I are going. Any other takers?

29 January 2008 – Not enough time

There’s an old Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith that sticks with me. Burgess is a voracious reader who can’t find the time to read all that he wants. He secretly wishes that time would stand still so that he would be afforded the time to read all the books on his wish list. One day he wakes up and gets his wish. Time is frozen. People stand in mid walk, cars in mid-journey and the clock hands are deathly still. Burgess rejoices and runs to the library to begin his reading spree. Just as he prepares to start reading the first book, he stumbles and his spectacles fall from his head. In an instant, he mistakenly steps on them, crushing the lenses. Now he has the time to read, but not the ability. It was Rod Serling’s typical bitter irony that confounded Burgess. I’m caught in a similar time crunch. There simply isn’t enough time to do everything. Yesterday, I spent 12 hours at the office, preparing lectures, grading and teaching for 5  hours. In between I accomplished some other admin stuff for the university, tackled customer emails, and finished the 4 articles I had to submit to my editor at MCN. When I got home at 8:30 last night there were boxes of restocking inventory sitting on the porch. I ran out of gas at 10:00, crashed for 7 hours and am up at 0500 to start filling orders. If I would be lucky enough for time to stand still, irony would probably strike me with some affliction, like a sudden inability to type on the keyboard. You should be so lucky.

Above:    Mark poses next to his rattle-can painted rig. Yes, it looks that good up close too.

 Above:    My new project has been underway for a month. Hmmm, those are weird-looking pipes.

 Today is a business day, split between the shop and the inventory bins. The colored billet res caps came in. Hooray. Better news, a price drop and I’ll be selling them sets of 3.

28 January 2008 – Back from a Track Day

Mark and I snuck off for a track day yesterday. It was the first track day for Mark, and I knew he’s enjoy tearing up the track. He did. Our Ducs performed flawlessly. The only downside to the affair was the crowd. Jennings GP was PACKED. There were over 40 people in each of the bottom 2 classes, and most sessions had at least one crash. It was so crowded that we didn’t even get a concrete slab in the pits. But the weather was great, we escaped unscathed and we had a good time. A big thumbs up for the Conti Sport Attacks. Not a slip all day.  

 Above:    Mark tears it up on his 999 

Now that speed is out of my system for awhile, I can again concentrate on stuff here. I’ve got a deadline of late today to get out 4 articles for MCN, a full day of teaching and the 748 and my gear to unload from the trailer.

26 January 2008 – Gee, it’s raining again

It’s another soggy day in the Panhandle of Florida. To cheer me up, I was browsing the Ducati videos on Youtube, and came across this.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSdugjfSQk8

I like to see such collections to remind me that mine pales in comparison. Of course, I have two questions for the collector – 1. – has he ever flogged the bikes on a track and 2. – can he maintain them himself. If he answers yes on both counts, you can dye my my hair red and call me Sally.

I worked on Kim’s bike yesterday. It looks like the head is going to have to go off for some aluminum welding. The valve guide protrusion support inside the valve seat area has too much spalling. After the welding, a pilot hole has to then be redrilled and then the new valve guide installed. I’m going to mount the front wheel and try to move the bike over to the corner of the workshop. It’s going to be down for awhile before I get the head back. Damn….

25 January 2008 – Crap Weather

I haven’t counted the days of bad weather this year, but it’s been a lot. Yesterday was in the mid 40s and raining. That miserable pissy rain that makes you want to stay inside. It’s actually supposed to be partly sunny and a high of 50 today, so I can catch up on some wrenching with the doors open. I wish had an exhaust extractor in the shop. In the summer and winter it would come in handy. I’ll have to put that on my wish list.

I got a note from the Cyclecat Rep. Cyclecat is officially toast. They’re canceled backorders and won’t accept new orders. Other than their frame sliders and motorcycle stands, they’re done. The brand is evidently up for sale, including the purchasing of the patterns/cad drawings of their rearsets and bar risers. Very disappointing news.

One bit of good news though. Starting next week, I’ll have the round front brake and clutch/rear brake reservoir covers available in colors. It took me 2 years, but I found a reliable US manufacturer.

24 January 2008 – Fraud

Case #1 –  Back in October I got a small order by a gentleman by the name of Tom Larry for one of my axle tools. I mailed off the tool, but it came back a few weeks deliverable. I called the phone # on the order and a message said the mailbox was full. Then I fired off an email and it bounced back to me a undeliverable. For the past 2 months the package has sat on my desk awaiting contact by Mr. Larry. This week I received a chargeback to my credit card account that matches the date and order amount of Mr. Larry, except the holder of the credit card used by Mr Larry is somebody else. Bingo. There was no Mr. Larry, and the order was completed with a pirated credit card #.  Something like this was bound to happen. I’m just glad I got my widget back. I copied my sales receipt and shopping cart order info, stapled it to the chargeback documents and mailed it back to my credit card processing company. Hopefully they’ll let the cardholder know his card # was stolen. I doubt that was the only charge to the account. This is the first instance of a fraudalent order to my company. After 3 years of accepting credit cards, I guess that speaks volumes as to my clientele. Ducati customers, by and large, have higher intellects and are professionals. It’s a proven fact. 😉

Case #2 – On January 1st I placed an order for a $1000 part from a company in the UK. I received an email confirmation of the order and it indicated that shipment would take place the following week. The following week (week of 7 Jan) I received another email that my order would ship the following week. Hmm, that’s what they said the previous week. I emailed them to get a clarification, and was assured it would ship the week of the 14th. It didn’t. On the 21st I sent an email to cancel the order because I had to have the part and found it elsewhere.  I found it elsewhere and had it 2 days later. Today I recieved and email from the UK company that my order shipped. Here’s the deal. I’m a retailer, so I know how retailers think… or at least I think I do. When I get an order, a clock in my head starts ticking. I know I have a few days to either get the product out or make sure the customer knows of any delays. I don’t make false promises of shipment, but I also don’t want to have to cancel the order due to delays. So, when I placed an order on the 1st and the company couldn’t ship, they sent their standard email of “your order will ship next week”. That means they didn’t have the parts in stock, and were HOPING to ship the following week. When they didn’t have the parts in stock the following week, the again sent the email because the were still HOPING they’d have it in stock 2 weeks after my order. When I sent my cancelation email, they scrambled to get the parts (I was getting email responses within hours when I inquired about the status but they delayed 3 days when I sent my cancellation email), shipped the parts and then emailed me that the products shipped.  If this sounds like a conspiracy, it isn’t. It’s just not good business. If you don’t have something in stock, and you know there will be a delay, you are obliged to offer to refund the customer’s money. So, when the company emailed me to tell me the item shipped, I simply emailed back that there wasn’t a problem so long as the date stamp was the same day as my latest email, but if I think they ignored my cancellation I’ll simply not do business with them again. International vendors are the worst about this tendency — stringing along the customer, because they know you are thousands of miles away and can’t do anything. And with sales being off for many vendors, the tendency to fill an order at all costs even with lengthy delays will continue. But, remember the adage. A bad customer used to supposedly tell 10 people. Now a bad customer fires off an email on an enthusiast website. I’ll be awaiting the package and stewing. The $1000 order won’t break the bank, but for an average enthusiast a $1000 is serious change.  Stay tuned. Rant over.

Nobody has jumped to take advantage of the free clutch tool with purchase of the Procutting Combo. If a $70 value isn’t enough to entice folks, wallets must indeed be empty. It’s no biggie. With the current state of many people’s finances, I don’t blame the lack of available cash. I’d rather have customers who spend with money they have than with money they don’t.

24 January 2008 – Getting Old

I worked yesterday a full day in the shop, alternating time between 3 different bikes. Last night I was sore as hell. I have a tendency to work on bike on the ground even though I have lifts. My knees are on strike from such tendencies. In addition, my hands are sore from pulling and prying on parts all day long. I’ve often stated that there’s no way I could work on bikes all day every day. I’d much rather ride. Late yesterday afternoon, Santa delivered the long awaited cylinder for Kim’s ST2. I won’t be out at the workshop until the end of the week, so I plan on replacing the cylinder on Friday. That will give me next week to try to get the vertical head functional. In the meantime, I’m maxed out in the shop. The ST2 is right smack in the middle of the floor up on stands, and the other 3 bikes completely fill the inside of the shop. Note to self – when/if I ever move, a proper workshop should be at least 30×40.

Thanks for the comments yesterday on British humor. Last night I watched BBC America again, but this time for different reasons. I wanted to get the international view of the US economic problems. What’s going on right now is the perfect test to see if in fact the rest of the world is decoupled from the US economy through globalization. With other stock markets reeling, I don’t think so. Some pacific rim countries are holding their own, but the US economy is the largest consumer economy in the world. Unfortunately, our spending was and is unsustainable. Even with the banking/mortgage meltdown, other corrections are necessary. I also heard last night that Florida tops the nation in mortgage failure rates. The stock market would be attractive to buy into if it wasn’t for the fact that I think it will go lower still. All I need is a time machine to transport me 20 years in the future for just one day. I’d grab a copy of the Wall Street Journal, and transport back to now, safe in the knowledge of what would happen to financial markets between now and when I retire.

In news on Superbikeplantet, it looks like Pedrosa broke a finger and will be out a month. I had to think a minute about the MotoGP schedule before realizing that he’ll have plenty of time to heal up. WSB has the earlier start. It’s hard to believe racing starts again within a month.

No new product news, but a bunch of stuff is in the works. I’ll have some interesting new developments to report next month. Enjoy your Wed.

22 January 2008 – Back to the shop

Yesterday I wrestled more with ceramic tile and lengths of pine. Slowly buy surely, I’m getting there. Before you know it…. well, actually it’s been 3 months now that I’ve been working on the inside, so that pretty much eliminates the concept of “before you know it”. The only downside yesterday was another wound. Every damn time I take off my work gloves, I end up skewering myself. I was getting ready to call it a day and took off my gloves after cleaning up a bit. I spotted a board that was in backwards (smooth side out), so I grabbed the pry bar, planted it firmly in a crack above the board and pried. The pry bar slipped, and peeled back a one inch hunk of skin on my favorite braking finger. You know when you tear into your flesh and the initial trauma is so great that it doesn’t bleed? Well, that’s what happened. So I made a quick jaunt into the house, douse the finger in peroxide, and wrap it a few times with gauze. I had to whip that board, so I finished that and spent the rest of the day with my finger pointing straight up like I’m about to say something brilliant.

Last night I typed this up with my good hand while watching another episode of Top Gear. I do love British humor. I suppose it started while watching Monty Python as a kid. Suzi watched the show with me, but she doesn’t get British humor. The word is that a US version of Top Gear is in the works. The Brit version is a tough act to follow. The wit and camerawork are almost immune to copying. We’ll see.

Lotsa work to accomplish today – some work on John’s M800, Kim’s ST2 and then roll the 748 into the house garage for a look over. I’m still awaiting the $550 piston from Italy for the ST2. That’s right – $550 for a piston. Bloody hell. If I have time, I’ve got to get the head over to Brad to have the new valve guide popped in.

21 January 2008 – Winter Maintenance

I received visits by Scott Wibel, Patrick and Mark yesterday. Patrick came by to pick up some parts and lend me a tile grinder, Scott dropped by to catch up on things and Mark dropped by to watch the Patriots game with me. The goal yesterday was to keep the fire stoked and burn up some wood. I hated to increase my carbon footprint, but warmth from wood does save on the power bill.

Somebody asked on the message board this past week about the effort required to restore a “bitsa” – a bike concocted from various other bikes. The problem with a bitsa is that no matter how hard you try, it will always be a bitsa. By the time Bluto gets his 900ss, it will be mostly sorted, but it will always have a Monster motor and wiring harness strapped into an SS frame. It will run great, but when he puts it up for sale, it will only be worth what a bitsa is – which is far less than an all original Ducati. The only time I recommend such an undertaking is if you don’t plan on selling the bike. However, there is a satisfaction restoring a parts-bike, knowing that you rescued parts of several Ducatis to make your Franken-Duc. So, the next time you see that killer deal on a salvage Ducati for sale on ebay with “light front end damage”, run away. Run far away.

I’ve been getting a lot of winter maintenance orders — belts, valve adjustment tools, etc. One of the problems with performing winter maintenance is that owners decide to upgrade and change out more than 1 component of the same system – such as replacing the clutch pack and slave cylinder. While there’s nothing wrong with these upgrades, it is virtually impossible to troubleshoot a system of the bike when 2 variables are changed. So, when upgrading, do things incrementally, changing 1 variable at a time. By ensuring the system functions properly after EACH mod, you won’t end up chasing your tail when a modification goes wrong.