31 March 2009 – More rain…

I’m glad we had a few days off from the rain, but it’s now back in full force again. Talk about soggy. Oh well, as we say in the Army it’s just liquid sunshine, and if it ain’t rainin’, it ain’t trainin’. That’s a motivational slogan to prevent soldiers from griping when in the field training in inclement weather.

No bike work this week. I blew yesterday with business stuff and my trip to see the Wibels. It was good to see Scott again. He’s one of my favorite people.

The semester is winding down at the University. I’ve been laying low due to all the budget cuts. Without my business and Army careers, I’d probably have a poor attitude in the classroom. No raises in 5 years, continued cuts, and talk of more cuts. Its downright depressing. Fortunately, my outside activities put me in a good mood and I eagerly look forward to my lectures. Teaching is a blast.

Time to get to work on my Army prep for the weekend, so no wrenching this week. Sorry Mark. Your 999 will get completed next week. Gee, I ought to think about doing my taxes too. Joy.

Enjoy your Tue.

30 March 2009 – Washout

Stoner topped the time trials in Jerez, stunning the Yamaha team that was on top of the charts. Is his wrist healed enough for a full race? We’ll know in 2 weeks. Unfortunately, for Nicky, the testing isn’t going that well. He finished a distant 11th.

Mark and I mounted up early yesterday on STs and tried to put in a short ride to the Oasis. As soon as we turned off Hwy 112, there was a barracade and sign at Hwy 64 that the road was closed due to flooding. A dualie going the other way stopped next to us to tell us that the water was 3 feet deep going over the bridge. Not good. We back-tracked to our favorite road – Hwy 87. We made it halfway down that road before a similar sign blocked our path.  That was the end of our ride. We could have back-tracked all the way to Hwy 90, but that’s a boring straight run. If our local roads were this bad, God knows how bad Blackwater is. I’m hoping this is all cleared up by the time of the rally and open house on the 11th. Yes, Rally and Open House. I still only have 2 registrations, so I’ll be pulling the plug on the Bike Show this Saturday pending a wishful flood of registrations this week.

With the ride a relatively short affair, I picked up and rake and dug out all the yard gear to spend a gorgeous day in the yard. 6 hours later the yard looks presentable — for now. Next I get the joy of trying to fire up the sprinkler system.

I have aftermarket turn signal stalks that will go up on the website this week. They are variants of the old rectangular turn signal stalks used on old SS, 748-996, Monster and ST. The’re about an inch shorter than the OEM stalks. The OEM stalks fade from the sun and have a tendency to get tweaked – bent from somebody hitting them. This mod will bring them in closer to the bike 1″. Plastic just like the OEM ones. $7/set.

I’ve commissioned somebody to make a run of aftermarket sidestands for All post-888 superbikes + Mhe/Sport Classic that are 1″ longer. I’m hoping to have a prototype by 1 May. Details will be posted here only. I’m already getting emails for details, which my spam-blocker is gobbling up and devouring.

Army duty foreshadows this week. My last weekend of Phase II is this weekend, and I’ve got a big term-paper to knock out before Friday. I’ll put that off until later in the week though. Today I make my normal run to Elberta to see Ike and family, then a ride over to the in-laws for dinner. Looks like the perfect opportunity to test ride Brad’s ST. No lunch with you today Brad. I’m having lunch with the Wibels.

Enjoy your Mon.

29 March 2009 – Zen and Ducati Maintenance (Ken)

LT raised an interesting point that I believe is worth exploring as a separate post:

We Ducati riders / owners / maintainers take a special burden upon ourselves by virtue of the brand which we have chosen; namely, that of simplicity and complexity wrapped together in a single package. For example: while many may complain about the dry clutch and it’s sometimes finicky nature, last time I checked automobiles, BMW motorcycles, and several other brands of motorcycles still use dry clutches for their simple utility, the ease of maintenance, and the separation this setup affords from the engine or transmission lubrication systems.

The parts: Courtesy of Bluming Inc.

The desmodromic valve system is another example of what first appears to be magic turning out to be rather simple once understood. Get someone who has never pulled a desmo head apart trying to adjust their valve clearances and it seems at first that they’re trying to conduct brain surgery until the simple nature (and dare I say it – beauty) of the design becomes apparent (talk about economy of scale – could they possibly manage to fit any more stuff in such a small area?). Same for something as initially daunting as disassembling the rear axle of a single-sided swing arm for cleaning, repacking, and reassembly. Once the steps are broken down, you might as well be oiling the chain for all the anxiety this procedure produces.

Am I saying that these  different components are the very definition of simplicity? Not in the slightest. As a member of the “dropped an exhaust valve down the cylinder and had to disassemble the engine to get it out” club, I can attest to how these relatively simple systems can be bundled together in the most aggravating way possible. Have a Super Sport and want to do a valve adjustment? Whoops, time to start moving shocks (or just remove the engine). Need to change the fuel filter? Jokes on you, we put it inside the tank, so start removing components (let’s not even talk about doing this on a Multistrada where the gas tank seems to make up about half the motorcycle).

The assembly: Courtesy of Bluming Inc.

However, looking at the ability to break down those complex systems into simple subcomponents where the average person can actually have a change to troubleshoot most issues and conduct most of the services on their Ducati as compared to many of the motorcycles being produced that have become so complicated, their operation a mystery to even the service technicians trained to service them, I say we are far ahead of most other owner / maintainers out there. Is that to say that scratching your head bald while trying to decipher a factory wiring schematic isn’t a possibility; not in the slightest. Same for wrenches thrown across the garage in disgust at the inability to reach something or get clearance because of the way components were designed or assembled. However, will any of these exercises in patience and perserverence compel any of us to seriously consider parking our bikes and start riding a scooters as a way to forever swear off doing maintenance again? Of course not.

Why is that? Maybe because of that crucial moment when everything is back together, there are no “extra” parts sitting in a box, and the starter button is pressed for the first time after having the bike spread out in pieces across the garage, there are few people who experience the feeling of “I made this broken thing work again with my own hands” as that L-twin rumbles to life and reaffirms ones identity as more than a passive participant in the ownership experience.

Beauty in motion: Desmo animation courtesy of Bluming Inc.

However, with all that said, there is such a thing as too much Zen, and we all eventually become aware of where our skills outstrip the requirements of maintaining the machine to which we cling at high speeds and questionable lean angles, at which time it’s best to drop the bike off with LT or your local trustee and say, “Just fix it and tell me how much, I’m more interested in riding then wrenching.”

Enjoy your Sunday,

Ken

28 March 2009 – Transportation of the body versus that of the soul (Ken)

With the rise of motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, and now the multitudes of three-wheel variants on their way or already available to the public, I find myself wondering at what point we will experience that shift in culture where vehicles other than automobiles are considered serious methods of transportation and no longer “toys.”

The family that rides together…

In a great many other countries, the motorcycle has been the dominate form of transportation since its introduction. Many are the photos of hundreds if not thousands of motorcycles and scooters all pouring through the streets of a city somewhere across the ocean, the sight of an automobile being to them like a jack-knifed tractor trailer is to our sense of danger and simple “wrongness.”

But, here I think is the issue that is causing traditional motorcycle riders to rightfully shake in their collective boots: We have taken the Zen out of the cycle much like the yoga parlors across this nation that are joined with a coffee shop or a spa. Much as the knowledge of how automobiles operated was taken away from their operators for “convince” and easier sales, we now see a generation of “twist and go” riders who have no idea what actually makes the vehicle they are operating actually function, and they seem just fine with that.

While I will not wish for the return of drum brakes and leaf-spring suspensions, I do appreciate being able to discuss the finer points of full-floating brake rotors with those in search of knowledge, of the benefits of cast iron over stainless steel (at least from my perspective – opinions and all that), and to have an intelligent discussion beyond what the supposed max speed of their respective motorcycle might be (or, as seems to be the case lately, to discuss how many MPG they can squeeze out of their particular machine). To me it seems that we have inundated new riders with so many bells and whistles that we have removed the rider’s responsibility to themselves to understand what it is that lies between their legs, in fact making what amounts to an automobile with only two wheels.

Try much more than an oil change on most motorcycles and you’ll need computer equipment to get everything back up and running (let’s not even talk about the “needs service” light), robbing young riders of the ability to maintain their vehicles beyond adding “bling” and other things that don’t really contribute to knowing your motorcycle in any meaningful way. The same goes for riding as I have observed; the ability to pin the throttle and scream along at triple-digit speeds is not conducive to becoming knowledgeable as to the riding experience, nor the ability to make the bike dance along on one wheel.

The new single-sided front end came as a bit of a surprise…

I am concerned that the loss of small motorcycles on which riders once learned only accelerates this growing devide between those who ride and those who are moved.

27.5 March 2009 – Different day, different bike

 

All it takes is a bent bolt and a properly adjusted actuation rod to lower the rear brake pedal. Cool huh?

Tasty – The DT ’99+ SS peg lowering plates and billet footpegs. Still plenty of ground clearance and more leg room. For us long-leggers who need a little help.

Today I finished up Brad’s ST. The mods look great. I’ll be putting the bike up as a Bike of the Quarter and the bike is going up for sale as well.

I wheeled Mark’s 999 up on the lift after dinner and started to prep it for a full service. One of the mirror screws is stripped, so I can’t get the mirror off. I managed to get both the air runners off and the radiator, so it won’t hold up the service, but Mark won’t be able to change back to his track fairing until we get that screw out. The screw is recessed, making removal a nightmare.

I wrote up the directions for the SS peg lowering kits and assembled some kits tonight. They’re ready to go, and are up on the new product page. I also made up a batch of the angled bolts to lower the rear brake pedal. Those bolts will go in the ST peg kits.

Tomorrow will be the 4th straight day of rain in the panhandle. At last count, rainfall is around 15 inches over the stint. That should cure any rainfall deficit we’ve been experiencing.

It’s been a long day, so I’m off to bed.

Enjoy your Sat.

27 March 2009 – An evening with an ST2

After 11 years, this ’98 STs still looks good. I think it is Terblanche’s most brilliant design. Other than the hard-to-remove fairings, it is easy to work on, the motor in either the 2 or the 4 valve configuration is sweet, and the ergonomics (thanks to a little help from Desmo Times) is all-day comfortable.

After University chores yesterday I finally had a chance to get cracking on Brad’s ST2. I checked the F/I setup and it was spot on. Not bad after 10K of use. Other than a fresh clutch pack, belts, a few shims, a new chain, and a full fluid change, the tune just involved time. The only mods I performed were new axle cover plates (I had a prototype set on Brad’s bike that had since been changed to the actual production version), a DT fan kit upgrade, DD headlight, a vented clutch housing and pressure plate, and new brake/clutch lines. I should roll the ST off the lift later today and get to work on Mark’s 999. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow as well, so I’ll spend Saturday watching movies in the workshop while wrenching on a Superbike.

The 4 days of rain is supposed to end Saturday, so let’s plan a ride on Sunday. No ride through Blackwater after 4 days of rain (flooding = crap on the roads), so another local ride. 0730 departure from my house. Breakfast at the Oasis truck stop at the Wilcox Rd Exit.

Enjoy your Fr.

26 March 2009 – Patience

The saying goes that patience is a virtue. If that is the case, people don’t have as much virtue as they used to. I’ve noticed a marked change in customer behavior over the past 6 months. They are, in general, more apt to fly off the cuff over little things, make demands, and, in general, have higher expectations from businesses. The only thing I can attribute to this change in behavior is the added financial and emotional stress wrought by the financial crisis. Perhaps people are worried about their job or have debt levels that are effecting their interactions with others.

A case in point. A customer places an online order with me, but prefers to click on the “telephone” order link. There are still some people gun-shy from giving their CC# online I suppose. He places his order while I am away on Army duty. He then gets my automated shopping cart email on the details on the order with a comment box indicating that I am away, plus a separate email stating that I am away. This wasn’t good enough. He then leaves 4 phone messages on my answering machine to complete the order with his credit card, each one more terse than the last. When I return to town, I call him up and get his answering machine. I leave a message reminding him that I was out of town, that this is a part-time business and state that if he wants an order promptly to please pay online with a credit card, paypal or AMEX. He then calls back, leaves 3 more messages, the last of which says “nevermind, I’m tired of waiting”.  WTF?  This instance has been repeated by other weird behaviors — customers demanding a tracking # within hours of placing an order, statements questioning why I have a minumum order dollar amount, and folks getting upset when they can’t figure out how to install something.

Here’s another one. A customer orders one of the Powerlet starter upgrade kits. These kits are fairly simple. 3 wires come off and are replaced by the thicker powerlet starter wires. A customer sends me an email that one of the wires is about 12″ too short and wants his money back. I put him in touch with Powerlet to get the matter resolved, since I’ve never had fitment problems with the powerlet kits. After several more interesting emails, it turns out that the customer was trying to replace the wrong wire. At this realization, he stops replying. I’ve been around long enough to know that when that happens, it means a customer has realized his mistake and is embarrassed. Still, no apologies for wasting my time or Powerlet’s time.

Now I’m not perfect either. I know that I’ll botch one in 50 orders with either an incorrect part or forget to include something. When this happens, I try to be prompt to make an order complete. The difference now is that when I screw up, I know that the customer’s blood pressure is rising higher by the minute. As a seasoned customer myself, I tend to be more relaxed. Stuff happens, and a motorcycle is NOT a life-and-death need. Of course, tell this to the person who has a long-awaited vacation pending, but who waited until the last minute to order a must-have part. Perspective is everything.

25 March 2009 – Is a used to was the same as a has been?

I’ve never been one to dwell in the past, preferring to think of a possible bright future. That mentality gets harder as I get older and see the years pass beneath my feet, all the while knowing there are fewer years in front of me than behind me. However, I’m a firm believer that a busy and fit person will stand the test of time better than a slacker, and that longevity will be my reward. Besides, mean people seem to live forever. 

On my office wall is a plethora of “I love me” diplomas, certificates, awards etc. I used to faithfully frame each one and would hang it in its rightful place. Now there are about a dozen awards/certificates from the past 5 years or so sitting in the corner, awaiting an expected run to the framing shop. Unfortunately for the certificates, I don’t really care about them any more. I don’t frame them any more for the same reason I don’t look at the ones on the wall — I already know I did it, so why do I need to remind myself? Perhaps when I get old and decrepit, I’ll need to look at them to remind me that I accomplished something, but for now I know what I did and don’t need the reminders. I’m sure I put them on the wall at one point to remind myself how special I was, kind of like an ode to myself. That was either an act of lack of self-esteem or a bit of pompousness, or both. As we get older, we should have something to show for it, whether it be offspring, things to hang on the wall, or things to look at (and ride). I don’t dwell on my wall plaques any more than I do my stable of bikes. They are but things, and serve as way-points on the road of life. If happiness is the aim, then these waypoints bring fond memories and smiles. If they are set up as ends in themselves, they bring reminders of regrets and opportunities lost.

Why the philosophical thought this day? Heck if I know. Maybe I’m just turning into a lonesome Cowboy, full of meloncholy and wistfulness. Or maybe I’m just in a weird mood due to the 4 days of rain that’s about to hit us. Who knows? Oh well, I wonder how much I can get for my framed diplomas, awards, and certificates on eBay?

New products up on the website – Original Spirits brand Contact Cleaner and Barnett clutches for wet-clutch Ducs. I’m ditching the Speedymoto pressure plates due to cost and switching to a variant that is almost as nice but is 25% cheaper from Slingshot. They’ll be here on Friday. I also now stock the larger rectangular coffin covers for master cylinders on late model Monsters.

Enjoy your Wed.

23 March 2008 – A short ride and a long weekend

I got back home Friday night to a full inbox of orders. I started tackling them Fr night, most of Sat and a good chunk of Sunday. I’m all caught up. There are a few backorders, so out of the 60 orders, here are the ones that are waiting on a few parts:

  • Camacho, Cunningham, Storey, West, & Roach – Front Brake Pads – pads on the way from 2 different vendors – will ship on Wed
  • DiPaolo – clutch pushrod seal kit – on order, should ship on Sat.
  • Ducharme – CRG Levers, will ship on Wed
  • D’Angelo – Fatduc 02 Manipulator – on order, will ship on TH.

That’s not a bad stockout list considering the volume of orders. Whew!

I took 3 mini-breaks over the weekend – one to enjoy dinner out Sat night another to do a short ride with Mark on Sunday and then a dinner at Mark’s Sun night after he dropped his 999 at the shop. I took the 916 out for a spin. It was the first time I’ve ridden the bike since I shagged the voltage regulator last Spring. All seems to be in order, or at least that’s what the LCD Voltmeter indicates. I noticed a few issues with the bike though. First, it needed more rebound damping up front and in the back. Second, with the bars at full lock to the left, the fairing cutout hit the master kill switch. I adjusted the Cyclecat risers and the suspension at the conclusion of the ride. I experienced another issue with the tires. I have a set of Bridgestone BT010 tires on it. They’re now about 5 years old, have gotten hard, and the rear end insists on breaking free in tight turns. Not good. I hate to replace tires with a lot of tread left, but there’s no sense riding on bricks for tires. I’ll have to fire up my tire machine and change them out. Brad, what’s for lunch?

I tried out a new helmet on the ride yesterday – a Nolan N103. I’ve never been a fan of flip-up helmets. They’re heavier than standard full-faced helmets and are kind of dorky looking. But they seem rather functional, so I gave one a whirl. In short, I really like the helmet. The Nolan is the premium flip-up helmet. I chose it for several reasons, one being the closing mechanism is more robust than other brands, with steel attaching points to mate the front and rear portion of the helmet. Second, it has a flip down tinted mini-visor inside the helmet. I purchased the helmet to use for touring duties this summer, so we’ll see how it works out. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve done a long day in the saddle wearing one.

Well, the AMA has outdone itself. The Buell won both races against the 600cc machines. Hooray. And then the AMA suspended Hacking for being Hacking and then Mladin and a few others for skipping an autograph session. The AMA series is now an embarrassment to the sport IMHO. And why does Superbikeplanet keep reporting the number of Superbike wins by riders in the Suzuki Cup series. I could care less how many races and titles Mladin has won. If he moved to WSB or MotoGP I’d pay attention. He’s a great racer… at the country-level. But I always viewed the AMA as a sort of minor leagues, competitive racing, but as a series to prepare the best for the world-level. When was the last time you bought a poster of a minor-league baseball player who hit the most home runs in a season?

It’s been beautiful weekend in the Panhandle. There aren’t many days I get to leave the windows open, so I’m enjoying things. The kitties really are enjoying it too.

That’s about it. Time to gear up and hit the gym. Enjoy your Mon.

21 March 2009 “Know When to Fold ‘Em” (billg)

I got a call last night from my buddy who rides a Yamaha Warrior to join in a poker run this morning. I would have turned it down, but he doesn’t get out to ride much so I anteed up. The mornings have been slightly chilly her in South Georgia, but a few layers of clothing seem to fend off an ill feelings. I was hoping to remove my hand guards since the weather has finally taken a turn toward Spring but couldn’t since after swapping back to the stock bars on the S2R, I had no way of attaching the bar end mirrors… Oh well.

As predicted the weather was chilly for our 9am meet for coffee prior to the 10am ride. Not a bad showing of about 30 bikes. 80% HD, 19% Japanese, and of course the 1% Italian. My long term hopes are always to show the locals that they can own one; they can work on one; and they can break from the herd.

I think if I did not own a Ducati, I probably would have gone for an Aprilia or an MV. I’m real pleased that I have not had any thoughts or feelings that “something is missing”. This mornings ride was no exception. While there were only a few stops, I enjoyed it when a large gap occurred from a stop sign and it gave the opportunity to go threw a few gears. I had a fair hand going, King Hearts, Queen of Diamonds but I ran into an issue with the tendon in my elbow flaring up. It’s been happening all week, but this morning it really made it impossible to lift my helmet to put it on. After the second stop I had to call it quits and head back home like a wounded bird.

It was still nice to get out and ride to no where as opposed to work. I handed over my hand to my friend to finish playing. Other than that I’ve been exercising my version of Mark-onomics by laying low and paying up. I did manage to remove the antlers off the ST3 and move the rear signals to the fender eliminator I purchased from LT two years ago. I’m going to make due with using the CoreTech tail bag for all travels. The bike looks like a teenager whose had his or her braces taken off. What a sweet smile. I’m also repairing the side panels which have an issue with the mounting nut that is embedded in the lower center portion of the panel. The thin surrounding of plastic around the pressed in nut tends to break by design. Epoxy has been liberally applied to build some strength back into it. One other item I am waiting on is a wide band O2 sensor/gauge from Innovative Motorsports which will give me real time air fuel readings. I’m curious as to how close to good my tuning has been and whether I can walk it in even closer to an ideal setup, then hook it up on the S2R to verify that setup also. More on that when I get it hooked up.

Hope everyone gets out and rides, especially those in the North. Spring is Here! Be Gone Blessed Winter! Now where is my damn ice bag. Time to freeze my elbow.