27 February 2010 – Waiting game…

I didn’t get a whole lot accomplished this past week on projects.  The ST4s is dead in the water while I await parts from 5 different vendors. It probably won’t be back together until April. On the product front, the only success I had this week was finally getting a batch of the tapered roller bearings for the steering head for the 90s era SS and Monsters. That was kind of a big deal, since the only other source was Ducati and they cost A LOT more. So now I have tapered roller bearings for every Ducati made after 1990. Cool.

I stocked out of surflex clutches this week. I sold 6 in 1 week, which blew my inventory. They’re on order, with no ETA from the vendor… as usual. Meanwhile Lockhart-Phillips stocked out of Barnett clutches, so I’ll have to source them directly from Barnett at a higher price until L-P gets their resupply late next month. I have a few on the shelf to tide me over until I can get them from Barnett.  No other news. Nobody seems in a hurry to get me quotes on parts I’ve ordered. It must be nice to not have to hustle for a sale.

Wait List:

  • Silicon Hoses
  • ECU reflash
  • Hard ano rear sprocket for BST
  • Milled out parts from Alex
  • Fairing parts from painter

Don’t worry guys. I’ll take pics of the mods and final product. Shooting pics of the M1100 for the BOTQ very soon.

I’m looking forward to the ride tomorrow. The rainy skies this morning broke away leaving a sunny day. I’ll spend the night in the shop working on some odds and ends. Let’s hope the roads aren’t strewn with debris for tomorrow’s ride.

In case some of you forgot, the 2010 WSB season kicks off tomorrow. Two Ducati’s on the front row, but they aren’t both from the factory team. Carlos Checa on a satellite team heads the front row.  Haga qualified a disappointing 14th,  a full row behind the B-team Ducait riders. BMW and Aprilia are struggling to open the season. We’ll see what shakes out tomorrow.

Enjoy the rest of you weekend.

25 February 2010 – S4 Rebuild Question


In the process of rebuilding my bike from the ground up. I’ve just bought some SBK
forks, and Marchesini mags, Fuel cell tank, and leaning towards a Quat D ExBox
w/Rexxer ECU. The bike has a DP ECU, Termi’s, DP shorty airbox. The question I have
is I can’t make up my mind to build out the 916, or to locate a 996 and swap. I’ve
thought about sending it to the Ducshop, I’m looking at $2k or more. I’m trying to
lighten the bike as much as possible, but want something a tad quicker. In your
experience, what would you recommend? Get some new Twitter updates.

Reply: Mark at the Ducshop is probably a better person to ask, since he does these rebuilds every so often. To me, the perfect setup would be a 748 close-ratio tranny mated to a 996. The 916 is good, but the 996 has significant more grunt. It needs the single-injector mod though to run right. To have that done right with high comp pistons and lightened/balanced/knife edged crank will set you back a few pennies. It depends on what you want to do with it – track, street, bling? Infinite possibilities ain’t there? With regards to twitter, I post periodically, but right now am swamped with the requirements of teaching this semester. Only so many hours in the day.

23 February 2010 – New Monster Owner

Many of the questions I get are from first-time Ducati owners. This gentleman has spent a lot of time and money trying to get rid of the clutch “rattle” on his newish Ducati.  I’ve helped him out, but have also explained that a dry clutch will always make more noise than a wet clutch for obvious reasons. More of his questions follow.


What’s up with this M1100 shop manual?  How come you can’t even get it in pdf form? I never saw such waste of ink and paper as in their user manual; you know, they refer you to the dealer for a chain adjustment!!!:  but I will go to italy if I have to in order to get it.  Not even Mercedes is this zealous with theirs! Also, what’s up with this exhaust valve? I installed the tail tidy and had to disconnect the cable and upon reconnecting it, i thought i made a little experiment and left it open all the time; the bike seems to run smoother in the low RPM’ range!!! with check engine light and all. I’m thinking they probably have to reset the computer when I bring it for the 600 mile service, and God knows what kind of verbal abuse I’m gonna be subjected to. I had seen a picture of the bike with a full termignoni system and it does not have it. It is there probably just to mitigate noise at certain RPM’s, and to annoy me, right?

Hello, the M1100 shop manual will be available in PDF soon, but it usually takes a year or so after a new model release to become available. Yes, the latest manuals refer  you to the dealer for chain adjustments. You can guess why – repeated instances of owners mis-adjusting the chain tension themselves. Usually, customers will OVER tension the chain, which places increased wear on drivetrain items and added stress to the transmission.  The exhaust valve is to reduce noise levels. Yes, the check engine light will come on if you disconnect it. You can only get rid of it if you install the termi system with the race ECU. Because of the new Siemens ECU, no other exhaust manufacturer has made full systems for the bike to eliminate the exhaust valve.

We had several nice rides this past weekend. I rode the 888 on Saturday to the Oasis with Brad, Daryl, and Daryl Sr. On Sunday 7 of us did a Blackwater ride. I rode the MTS1000 2-up at a sedate pace. The MTS front brakes are pulsing again even after the rotor upgrade. I never did get around to fixing it at the master cylinder.

All of the bikes are road-worthy again except for the dead battery on the GC. I need to order one this week as I’m planning an out of town excursion on her in a few weeks.

This week ‘ll also wait – for the ST4S coolant hoses to get to the silicon hose vendor, for the painter to finish my bodywork, and for a lot of backordered parts to arrive.

On another note, I’m toying with the idea of a Ducati maintenance seminar. I’ve had a few people send me emails asking for it. I’m shooting for hosting one the first Saturday in April. Registration is limited to 10 people. First come, first serve. It will be an all-day affair starting at 0900 and running until 1700. Lunch provided. $75 registration fee that includes lunch. Email me for details. Seminar will be custom-designed based on the models of bikes that attendees own.

Enjoy your week.

20 February 2010 – The Winter Project

Above: The ST4s sits…. waiting on parts

Like many of you, my Wintertime is project time. This winter I sought to tackle 2 projects. The first was to clean up the ST4S and give it a new look. A batch of parts is off getting lightened/milled while I await the bodywork repaint. Even though the carbon bodywork was made by Carbon Dream in Italy, the finish is WAY lower than typical Carbon Dream stuff. The bodywork they made for the MH900s is something to behold. For the ST, the finish is poor, with no clearcoat, and pinholes everywhere. My painter is having fits. It’s taking him 4 coats of clear sealer to fill the pinholes and then a good coat of clear to make the carbon shine like the sun. I made up my custom decals, and kept it  minimalist  – one on the tail section sides, and one on each mid-fairing.  I already swapped over the Wilbers rear shock, black powder-coated peg hangers from my ST2 and the BST wheels fitted with new rubber. The coolant hoses are off getting modeled for silicon. Yup, it’s going to happen. I’ll put up a page later next week to accept pre–orders for the silicon hoses. They will fit the ST4/ST4S ONLY. I’ll do the ST2 hoses after that. I’ll offer a discount on pre-orders, but won’t know price until I work things out with the manufacturer. Updates will be posted here. I’ll probably do a batch of 30 sets on the initial run.

Yesterday I also contacted my LCD module vendor about getting another batch of them made. I should have the voltmeters in by the middle of March, and the kits ready by the end of March.

We’re riding today and tomorrow. It’s still a bit chilly, so the Superbikes will continue to get the chores. Now where are those darned electric gloves?

Enjoy your weekend.

14 February 2010 – The Great ST Swap – updated

I rode the 888 yesterday for a short jaunt to the Oasis. It was the first time I’ve ridden it in over 6 months, so it took awhile to get her cranked and the cobwebs blown out. It’s a great bike to ride, but, by far, still the most uncomfortable Superbike Ducati has ever produced.

Over the weekend I also started swapping over the goodies from the ST2 to the ST4S. That process will take weeks. Shock, wheels, pegs, bar risers, etc. all get swapped. That’s about a full day’s work. In the meantime, I’m cleaning up the motor. The alternator cover is back on after the lightweight flywheel install, and another new product, a billet water pump cover went on. I’m also replacing the coolant hoses and ditching the voltmeter. The 3-phase charging system doesn’t really need it. It’s rare to blow a voltage regulator on those bikes. Pre-2000 bikes need a voltmeter.

Once the stuff is all swapped, the Red/White ST2 goes up for sale. That will happen in a few weeks, along with the Gran Canyon. I won’t be paring the collection down any more this year.

Update:  I’m toying with the idea of having custom silicon coolant hoses made for the ST4/ST4S.  Currently, the only available option is Samco in the UK and the cost is $300 for just the hoses. I’m guessing I can beat that by about 50% and my set would come with stainless hose clamps designed for silicon hoses. If you’re interested, send me an email. If I decide to do it, I’ll probably do a limited run of 20-30 sets.  Final cost won’t be determined for a few weeks.

Enjoy your week.

9 February 2010 – Too much goin’ on.

I’ve been slammed the last week running my careers. First, last minute edits caused unexpected time commitments for my MCN article on fitness. Then sales picked up, and this week we’re leaving for the Indy expo to check out new products.

On the bike front, we had a nice chilly ride last weekend. Mark, Hal, Brad and me did a Blackwater jaunt. It was almost 40 degrees when I left the house, so it seems to be warming up. I finished the first go-round of mods to the M1100s and am currenly tearing into Mark’s ST4s, swapping over all the goodies from my ST2. That will take weeks because I don’t have the time to put into it.

The book inches along. I finished the photo edits of another chapter last week, but I’m behind schedule AGAIN. I’m trying …..

A big thanks to Ken for a few stellar posts. Writing those posts is a serious time commitment, so I hope you guys appreciate the efforts of my editors when they spring a post on you. It’s usually very good stuff.

All for now. I’ll post from Indy.

6 February 2010 – Tire Thoughts (Ken S.)

A recent post to the BB about tires started the gears turning in my head: “Why do tires do the things they do?” Further, I suspected that this could be another Daily Desmo exploration; perhaps one that has been answered a thousand times, but needs to be asked anew.

Fear not, there will not follow deep thoughts about silica compounds and Kevlar woven, of mold release agents and other such wizardry which is beyond my reach – nay, let me be honest – beyond my threshold of caring.

I just want to know why front and rear tires wear differently enough to warrant a swap of one and not both?

Is it only my secret shame that I equally wear both the front and rear tires on my Ducatis?

Perhaps I’m doing “it” wrong? Not since years ago and far away has a thought plagued me such as this – not really, but give me a little dramatic license here.

Looking at motorcycle dynamics, and perhaps influenced by my own “push the front” riding style, you would think that a front time would – by design – undergo the same amount of wear, or perhaps more, than the rear tire in a given amount of miles. Consider the sportbike design: the transition of weight from front to rear during acceleration, especially when coming out of corners. That rear tire is like Hercules himself performing great feats of strength as it literally sacrifices its skin in the catapult-like launch of machine and muscle (we’ll make some assumptions here – you know who you are) against for evil forces of inertia, gravity, wind resistance, and friction. But wait! Like the Titan Atlas, on whom all of the Firmament was rested on his shoulders, we have this poor front tire who seems to do all the heavy lifting in the motorcycle world: breaking, steering, an unequal amount of the vehicle’s weight given its smaller size… Hey, who keeps picking on the little guy and expecting that he’ll run twice as far as his big brother, the rear tire?

No, this is not #1 choice for rubber reincarnation: The Rear and Front tires seem to share a Doctor Evil and Mini-Me relationship while not being equal in stature or roles – “You complete me!”

If I had to choose a rubber product to be reincarnated as, I’m thinking a front motorcycle tire would be at the bottom of the list (I’ll keep what’s at the top of the list to myself).

So, why do I routinely hear of people burning through their rear tire and then having enough tread left on the front for a double-date?

A few possibilities:

The front tire is tougher than me, always has been, and always will be. Well, that’s a given. Drag me behind a car for about a block and I’ve had enough, but we’re talking about something else here entirely. I can understand a Harley running through a couple of rear tires given the weight distribution and general handling characteristics, but in a sport bike it seems that tire manufactures would build in some “planned obsolescence” to ensure that you were either close to the limit or right at the wear markers on your front tire when the rear gave up. Examine, for example, the new “multi-band” long-wearing tires that have hard(er) rubber, or at least what passes for it these days, sandwiched between two nice soft bands of “please let me make it through this curve” that will wear away more quickly. As seen below, they’ve even made the rear tire harder in the center band than the front tire – almost like they’re daring you to try getting two rear tires out of this front…

The newest of the new in tire technology might be able to give you longer overall tire wear, improved grip, and equal mileage out of both tires.

Maybe it’s the way we have our bikes set up? Who hasn’t bought a motorcycle and thought to themselves: “You know what this thing needs? A lot more weight on my wrists and an even more extreme neck angle!” Perhaps we’re fighting the natural process by taking our sport-bread stallions and putting a 300-pound jockey in the saddle… What was that I read the other day? Oh yea, you’ll love this: “Motorcycle dynamics optimized for a 150-pound rider.” Huh? Is that in a Speedo? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m 5-feet 8-inches with a 46-inch chest (no jokes about implants) and in a full race-replica Alpinestars GP suit with boots, gloves, helmet, and a spine protector I think I’m just a taste over that 150 (at taste can equal anywhere between 5 and 100 pounds – just go with me on this one). So, we get that nice comfy seat, change the pegs, raise the bars, and maybe the sacrifice for the improved ergonomics is an increase in rear tire wear (with the subsequent offset for the front tire). What if we follow that rabbit a bit further and start talking about weight distribution during acceleration out of a curve when the rear tire is already loaded up more than designed (for that 150-pound rider), partly because of the increase in rear preload, partly because we’ve shifted our weight back to be more comfortable, and even more so because we have to really put the spurs to it because the bike is moving a brick instead of a feather?

If this is the rear tire, and it looks like all of it is getting a workout, I wonder what the front looks like…?

Maybe we’re just taking chances? Well, the logic here is that since I’m riding a “murder-cycle” anyway I might as well get every penny out of those tires as I can; after all, and this is just between us, those tire manufacturers only put those wear bars on the tires because the Depart of Transportation makes them. Just look at the tires those race guys use: they don’t have any treat on them at all! These tires here are just finally getting “cut in” like they should be in the first place. I’ll hold off until I start seeing belts, then I’ll spoon some fresh ones on (and you know that those new tires are deadly for about the first hundred miles or so, just look it up!). You think I’m joking here, do a search. Better yet, get on eBay and look at your 748s, 916s, 996s, and 998s that are for sale. I’ll bet a sandwich that you’ll find at least a few that fit this pretty well: ten years old, original tires (oh, and original belts and hoses too), and less than 3,000 miles. Only ridden to and from Starbucks on Sundays – recently inspected by Such-and-Such Expert Motorcycle Guys as absolutely perfect to pick up here at my house and ride cross-country to your home! “I’ll even pick you up at the local airport…”

Mileage or burnout? It doesn’t really matter – this tire is dangerous!

Maybe it just works. All the huffing and puffing aside, there are folks who fit a certain set of tires, ride for a certain number of miles, swap out the back and get a full two-tires out of their front. I’m not bitter, just curious.

In case you can’t read the script: 15,782 miles out of this rear tire (although I would hope that an Avon Venom R isn’t exactly what you’d fit on your 1198R with its 827-pound load rating). This thing has to be as hard as woodpecker lips…

Well, I think I’ve satisfied my own desire to write about this subject. I hope I’ve stirred up some curiosity in those of you who take time to read this. Whatever your tire tales might be, keep them warm and fresh – with that I expect you’ll outlive us all.

4 February 2010 – Why not a new bike? (Ken S.)

It seems that with our culture of disposable objects that this might be a given; wearing things out isn’t so much the measure of when we are done with them, but rather when we become “tired” or, dare I say it, less enamored with those that we currently possess and more enamored with those that are offered at the local buy-a-torium.

Well, why not buy the newest of the new every time that it comes out? Better suspension, brakes, engine, emissions, riding position, looks, and all the rest?

Suspension: is it better because it’s better, or just because it’s new (and thus hasn’t been ignored like that on your existing bike)? Would doing some maintenance on those old (we’ll get to that word in a minute) forks and shock make your bike handle like new, better than new, or possibly better than anything coming out of the factory? Maybe that’s a scary question, we’ll return to that later.

Brakes: your bike has twins up front, so does the new bike. But, the new bike has radial calipers and eight pads per side for increased feel, less distortion, and improved braking! Well, that’s great, but what if you serviced your brakes and put some cast iron full-floating rotors up front with some organic pads? You could even get fancy and go carbon fiber or ceramic if you wanted to get really exotic. But, you’d still have that old bike (there’s that word again).

Engine: New valve design, increased displacement, different engine control system, fuel injection is more precise, power is up… but, you’re old bike seems to be doing just fine. All of the gremlins that weren’t obvious in your test ride but came to be know in the first few months of ownership have been either removed or made to behave themselves enough so as to not be more than “character” for you now. If anything, you’ve been thinking about having some hot cams put in during your next service to really bring some bite and snarl to what seems to be a pretty tame bike (now that you’ve gotten comfortable with how it delivers power and handles). Maybe pull the heads completely, send them off to a shop, get the full works done along with those cams, and maybe see about a big-bore kit while you have the heads off…

Emissions: While the new bike is a marvel at engineering, they seem to be making it harder and harder to hack through that stuff to actually let the engine breath the way “it was supposed to” from the factory. You’ll have to spring for that new “race only” ECU or wait until the aftermarket figures out what they can do here. Oh, but it has the newest of catalytic converter designs – which seem to get thrown into a pile in the corner of the garage when that new aftermarket exhaust gets installed – because all of that emissions stuff is heavy. Wow, that stuff is going to add something like $3,000 to the price of the bike… will have to think about this, already have this figured out with my old bike.

Riding position: Wow, they sure went and made this new bike aggressive. Guess they need more body weight over the front wheel to keep this thing planted even with the traction control.  Traction control… what do I do if that starts acting up? Does the race ECU do anything to that? Are there more sensors involved, what about the ABS stuff? Don’t have any of that on my old bike, but then again, I don’t have to worry about it breaking either.

Looks: Man, this new bike is so hot! I really like what they’ve done with the front end, and the frame is really sticking out there now, even the fuel tank looks mean! My old bike looks so plain next to the new one, although I could spring for those carbon fiber wheels now, and maybe get a custom paint job like those Tricolor bikes (I wonder if getting a gold frame would be an option?).

In the end, it will all be up to what each of us decides is “old” versus what is “classic” in this hobby that we enjoy. To some, old is that thing that isn’t new. It matters not a bit if that means a day, a month, or a year. To others, old implies a history, a form of connection with the past, and stretching further a connection with the present and the future.  I would like to think that by maintaining a motorcycle that has moved out of the public eye by a generation or more, that I have established an anchor for younger riders who might be faced with the inner struggle represented by the dialogue above as one model year changes to the next and what once was top of the shelf moves to a place defined by ambiguity in our culture – a place where things change, often just for the sake of change, to drive us to consume more for the sake of consumption than for anything else.

4 February 2010 – Hacked

The blog was hacked early this morning, with a redirect automatically sending visitors to advertising sites. A portion of the header for one of the files was hacked and a java script installed. The problem has been fixed and a security patch applied. I’m glad I’m a computer geek as well as just a regular geek. If you got redirected to advertising sites, clear your cache/temp files and history so that that crap is out of your browser.

2 February 2010 – Superbowl Party

I’m having Super Bowl shindig at my place Sunday night. If you’re interested in attending, pls send me an email. BYOB. Finger foods and other munchies will be provided.