30 January 2011 – Shrinkage

I reported an MIC stat several months ago concerning the change in ridership in the US over the last decade — the fact that the average age of riders increased from 40 to 49 from 2000-2010. The latest number on sales shows that US motorcycle sales shrank an additional 15.8 percent in 2010 to 439,678 units. That’s almost a 40% reduction in unit sales from 4 years ago. I find it amazing that more manufacturers haven’t gone under given those numbers. One look at our Sat morning meets is an indication of what’s going on – if you don’t have gray hair (or no hair in Brad’s case), the odds are you are in the minority.

Is this old rider the “look” of the future of American motorcycling? God, I hope not….

28 January 2011 – MTS Recall

See recall from NHTSA below. If I was a skeptic, I’d say Ducati is recalling the tanks simply to inspect the fuel flange for warpage to replace the tanks. Or if I wasn’t a skeptic I’d say that the viton oring they used in the application, which is the same basic one used on all the flush-mount fuel pump assemblies, is too shallow. I don’t blame Ducati for choosing Acerbis as their tank provider. I blame Acerbis for not designing a tank to withstand Ethanol.. or perhaps I’m being too harsh.

Make: DUCATI  Model: MTS 1000
Model Year: 2006
Manufacturer: DUCATI NORTH AMERICA Mfr’s Report Date: JAN 24, 2011
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 11V020000  PE10045
NHTSA Action Number: PE10045


27 January 2011 – Rossi Promotes the Brand


Mike sent me the link to the MCN pics of Rossi testing on the 1198. The shoulder won’t be healed in time for a full run at the title this year, so Ducati is going to use this year as a testing year. When the bikes go back to 1000cc next year, hopefully Rossi will be ready for a run at the title. Competition will be stiff.

No news to report. I started making the voltmeter kits, mounting one first on the 853. I also came out with dzus conversion kits for the 848/1098/1198.

John sent me a link confirming that the EPA approved ethanol 15%. What a disaster. Somebody needs to kill off the corn lobby.

I was on the MTS site perusing the posts and read a thread about MTS1200 ownership. It was hard not to feel sorry for the early adopters. The usual pervaded the thread – bad running tendencies, reflashed ECUs due to maps that were too lean, all the common stuff with 1st year Ducatis these days. You’ve got to be tough to be an early adopter.. or dumb.. or both.

I watched the final American Top Gear episode this week. It was their season finale and was a recap of the season. It recapped the cool cars they tested, and was the only episode that I didn’t fast forward through. If the series is to make, they need more cool bike tests and less redneck truck-testing and old GM car episodes. The show tries to copy the Brit version. It doesn’t need to. It just needs content that car enthusiasts want to see. It’s better than not having a US based version at all, but I’d be surprised if the show gets a 2nd season.  

Mike from EMS emailed me that he has a tool and shims to fit the R spec 999/1098. Since I haven’t seen one and am not likely to see one, I’m not carrying the product. Evidently, the Rs have a different closer shim arrangement. About the only way I’ll see an R is to buy one, and that isn’t likely any time soon. I’d wait for a used 1200, so figure 2014. Hopefully I can still contort into a superbike pose then.

The shop is empty again. Ah… That means I can return to my writing. Dave actually emailed that he wants some writing out of me. I’m working on some DT writing as well, but that’s tedious stuff.

Ride on Sat to the Oasis. Usual time/place to meet up.

– LT

24.5 January 2011 – Voltmeter Kits

The voltmeter kits are going to happen. This morning I dug up my parts list for the kit and ordered the voltmeters. I still have a lot of parts to assemble to make the kits, but I’ll be popping up the ad by the end of the week. Costs on the voltmeters have gone up a bit. Kits will be around $51 without the carbon bracket and $5 more with the bracket.

24 January 2011 – Orings, Washers & the Unintended Almost Total Loss Charging System

While finishing the customer 996, I ran into a snag that will benefit folks. I’ve never sourced an aftermarket crush washer to replace the one on the oil screen. It’s a non-standard size and not readily available. My supplier is looking overseas for a source. Why? Because I pinched the one on the customer 996. When that happens, the aluminum crush washer deforms and is no good. I’m out of OEM replacements and it seems silly to have to go to a ducati dealer for a simple crush washer. I also sprung a leak at the junction of the coolant pips where it connects to the head. There’s an internal oring there the Y fitting attaches to the head. I never disturb that fitting, but when doing work on the head it sometimes helps to have that out of the way. Sure enough, it needs replacement. Fortunately both leaks were minor and I was able to do the FI work on the bike. The synch and CO were way out of whack, but other than that she seems to run strong. As usual, I await parts.

Above – The tow of shame. Similar instances have befallen every one of my single-phase charging system Ducatis.

The ride on Sat didn’t go as planned for me. I haven’t ridden the 853 in over 2 years, and that was on a track. She hasn’t turned a wheel on the street in almost 10 years. It’s never a good idea to do a shakedown run on a bike while in the company of friends, but there’s something to be said for breaking down around friends with touring bikes. Less than 10 miles into our Sat ride, the 853 coughed to a stop while pulling away from a stop sign. I ignored the tell-tale erratic tach a minute earlier, which is always a sign that battery voltage is going low. It wouldn’t have mattered because I wouldn’t have made it back home anyway.  As soon as she died, I suddenly remembered that the 748 had the dreaded single-phase voltage regulator. It was the only bike I had with the original voltage regulator…. and I didn’t have a voltmeter attached because she used to be a track bike. There isn’t much you can do when the V/R dies. I parked the bike, rode bitch with Dan back to my place, and grabbed the ST4S to join the boys for breakfast and  finish the ride. Upon returning home, Dan, Daryl and me loaded up the trailer and picked up the 853.  So that makes every single-phase bike I have has had the V/R go bad. That’s 5 bikes. I’d say that’s a trend. So now I HAVE to make voltmeter kits because I need one myself. I’ll never run a single-phase setup again without one.  Of course I had to put up with the “what happened to your Ducati” guffaws when I made it to the breakfast hangout. I don’t mind breaking down. It’s part of being a tinkerer. I just hate that I perpetuate the image of Ducatis as unreliable. The 853 was fixed by Sunday afternoon and she’ll be fine now. But I’ll have to put up with the “are you sure you want to ride that thing again” if I select her for the next local ride… which I will. The only way to overcome adversity is to stare it in the face and steamroll it. I don’t care if the 853 slings a rod… I’ll tear it down and fix it up. Back in the day, this breakdown would dishearten me for weeks. I don’t think I even flinched this time. Of course, it’s kind of like shock therapy. Once you’ve been shocked a million times, it becomes child’s play.

Upon checking the charging system on the 853, I felt better. In track trim I never would have discovered the bad V/R. Without headlights, taillight and an electric jacket, the V/R could barely keep up. It could certainly do 4 or 5 20-minute track sessions. It took an attached voltmeter and 30 minutes of running the bike in the shop to replicate the failure. Every minute or so, it would drop a tenth of a volt.  As soon as the voltage gets to around 12 volts, it coughs to a stop and won’t restart. Very sneaky.  

I’m back to doing some writing. With the 853 complete (for now), and no customer bikes requiring time, I’m cranking out some academic and motorcycle writing. Hey, it beats freezing in the shop.

Have a good week.

– LT

21 January 2011 – Good Enough for a Picture

She isn’t finished, but she’s close.


Enjoy your weekend – LT

20 January 2011 – A Solid Day

I was glad to see all the comments about the last local ride. I should have mentioned that 5 of the 6 riders had several decades of experience, and I’ve been riding with one member of our group for 16 years. My favorite size group is 3. With that number you aren’t waiting around and if you’ve been riding together well you know each other’s habits. I know Brad’s and Mark’s fast sections. On Sunday male testesterone got the better of us, but it that happens once a year or so, so it isn’t the end of the world. But riding Blackwater for years to come is the main goal. I already went through my track phase. Tracks are just too far away for me to enjoy. 3.5.-4 hours of driving each day is just far enough to make it an overnighter, and weekend sessions were too crowded. They’re fun though if you are lucky enough for sessions without crashes.

I wrenched a full hours in the shop today. The 996 is ready to get fired up. After major engine work, I probably spend a few hours double and triple-checking all the connections and fasteners before I ever hit the starter button. I tore off the exhaust system to replace the neutral switch and then discovered the 996 took the newer style without the bullet connectors. Damn. I’m not holding up the bike for 2 more weeks just to get the correct neutral switch, so if the customer wants the bike it will be ready this weekend. I can do the neutral switch install in an hour if he brings it back. Otherwise, it will just have to sit here. Tomorrow, she’ll get fired up and I can start the injection tuning.

I solved two of the issues with the 853. A loose negative ground to the motor was the cause of intermittent starting problems, and a bad sender was the cause of the temp guage going inop. I still haven’t fixed the neutral switch. It isn’t the switch or the light. Hmm…

Sales started off the year at a brisk pace, but have settled back into nothingness. This after the worst December I’ve ever had business-wise. Inventory levels have been slashed and I’m hanging on. I’m good as long as I have my other career to pay the bills. I feel sorry for my suppliers. They jump at every order I send, but I’ve cut my order amounts in half. The entire supply chain is a mess due to the last few years. The news says that things are getting better, but my customers say no. If it isn’t a maintenance item, it doesn’t sell. I have customers returning $10 items just to recoup some money on unused parts. Even with my restocking fee they’ll take the money back just to save a few sheckles.

I talked to a friend at a dealership and he said they got in their first Diavel. He commented on how wide the tank is and how light the bike felt. Given the specs of the bike, I think it will do well with the cruiser crowd. I can’t imagine existing Ducati owners migrating to it, but who knows. With the M1100 and Streetfighter already in the naked segment, maybe Diavel owners will migrate to other Ducatis. That probably makes more sense.

I actually ordered a part for myself today…. passenger pegs to go on the Rizoma rearsets on the M1100s. I’d still like to put Rizoma’s on the Hyperretard, but now’s not the time. Besides, it’s still water-cooled time. I’m trying to get the 853 finished in time for our breakfast ride on Saturday.

I added the first new product in ages – H1 high beam bulbs for the 748-998 superbikes and the STs. I killed off slow-selling foggy masks. If things stay this slow maybe I’ll have the inclination to do a batch of LED voltmeter kits. Gathering the supplies for that sucks.


18 January 2011 – How fast is fast enough?

Six of us made a dash through Blackwater on Sunday. I have mixed feelings about the ride. I usually lead at what I think is a nice brisk pace. I didn’t get to lead this time, and my pace was evidently about 15 mph too slow. By the time we were 1/4 way through, I was in 5th of 6 places. It isn’t a race, but I hate being in the pack because of errant rocks. I was also startled by the quickness of the pace. I shook myself out of my lethargy and wicked it up to keep pace to the halfway point and then led some of the way back. Upon returning to the Ark I pondered the ride. The feeling of blasting through Blackwater is cool, but every once in awhile I remind myself why I go at the speeds I do– the saying “don’t crap where you live” comes to mind. We’ve been riding through Blackwater for 15 years, and I’d like to enjoy another 15 years. Pissing off the locals with blitzing bikes isn’t conducive to achieving the longevity I seek. So…. I’m going back to my normal pace in Blackwater. If folks want to blitz faster, please let me know and I’ll ride elsewhere that day. I don’t want to follow on the heels of warp speed riders. Blackwater has been known to house gun-toting residents. There’s another problem with running at those speeds. Once you’ve done the ton, sane speeds seem way too slow.  I already know I can take a corner fast and that there are faster riders in our group. How about enjoying the ride more by being able to look around? Interesting concept. On the way back I wicked up the pace further. The scary thing is I probably could have gone faster. I never scared myself and always had what I felt was a reseve. When then happens and you’re still going too fast, it’s time to get a slower bike. Maybe if we were all on 50cc bikes that would fix things. I’m convinced that fun doesn’t correlate with speed.

So yesterday was MLK day. I have nothing against the holiday, but didn’t Lincoln and Washington do a decent job at holding this country together in its hour of need? All they get is mention on the calendar. Can’t they make a more all-encompassing holiday. I don’t mind any holiday, but getting a day off for MLK and not other historical figures smacks of being too PC. What about FDR, Teddy, or even Taglioni? Makes you think.

Things on the home front are fubar again. I don’t do my best work when in the throes of such problems. The main reason the 2v book got finalized was Marina. Inspiration in one realm infects others. Things in the land of the DD could get sparce for awhile as well. As Dink said on here last year, this too shall pass.


16 January 2011 – An Intermission

Sometimes I act like this after a long bout in the workshop. One of the classics off youtube. Enjoy.


15 January 2011 – Riding and Wrenching

I didn’t have time to ready the 999 for the run today so I grabbed the 888. What a great bike. It just floats along, cruising blissfully at cruising speeds. I must be getting used to the 888 setup I have because it doesn’t seem as uncomfortable as it used to be. The cyclecat risers really transformed the bike.

I had a close call 50 yards out of the gate. I have a retrofitted 916 style sidestand on the bike and pulled away with the sidestand down. John noticed immediately and pulled alongside to me to pull over. I spotted the sidestand and shook my head. Better to be lucky than smart. Anyway, the ride on Sat was a brisk 31 degrees when we started out. I enjoyed the return ride after breakfast when the temps were a bit warmer. Brad and John were Harley-Mounted. They looked comfortable but I’m not ready for that type of ride yet. Maybe in 10 years or so.

After the ride, I decided to do some maintenance on some vehicles. The Avalanche got an oil change and then I thought I’d tackle the rich running issue on the 853. I had only started it once since putting the new pistons in, and black smoke billowed out of the exhaust. I rolled the bike out of the shop and hooked up my gastester. By adjusting the screw on the ECU I was able to get it down to 7%, but that wasn’t going to cut it. I suspected a sensor so I started disconnecting them one at a time. Air pressure sensor – no dice… water temp sensor – no dice. Then I checked some of the connectors. Voila – the TPS sensor was loose. I then remembered that I had taken some pictures of how to adjust the TPS several months ago and had forgotten to seat the quick disconnect. I readjusted the CO, double-checked the synch and she purrs like a kitten. With that fixed I moved onto the fuel pump. I had the pump out for months when I had the tank painted. When I put the pump back in, it wouldn’t spool up. I used a donor tank to get my 853 running. I decided to pull off the fuel pump for a look see. That was actually the first time that I’ve had to replace the fuel pump on the ST/748-998 series.  The event completely changed my recommendations on how to service the fuel system. When I pryed out the fuel pump from the housing, I noticed all the debris at the bottom of the chamber and attached to the prefilter screen. There was so much debris that over 50% of the surface area of the screen was blocked off. And this was on a relatively low mileage 748. There was also corrosion all over the fuel pump housing. Here’s the skinny – on all STs and 748-998 superbikes, there is a small window at the bottom of the housing where fuel is sucked into the pump via the screen. The window sits very low in the tank, as it should, but the problem is that debris that gets into the tank also settles in the chamber with the screen. Replacing the fuel filter is nice, but the screen is upstream of the filter, meaning if the screen gets clogged it will increase the current draw by the fuel pump and could lead to a failure. The pump will have to work harder – imagine sucking through a straw as you begin to pinch off an end. My recommendation is for the fuel pump to be pulled and the screen cleaned when the fuel filter is serviced. It took me 10 minutes with a screwdriver, WD-40 and a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the rubber pump housing and the screen.  I’m adding this recommendation to the next printing of my 2v book, and this paragraph is the first entry to my online updates to the new 2v book. The next printing of the book will have an extra page with the verbiage here and a few pics.  So, thank my failed fuel pump for possibly saving your butt from a possible pump failure.  I don’t think Ducati specifies this service in with it’s routine fuel system service. Again, this only applies to the ST series and the 748-998 superbikes.  Sorry, no time to get the pics on the blog, but they’ll be on the update page. Update page location on the first page of the new 2v book. I’ll put the first entry up tomorrow.

Anyway, I got the fuel pump reassembled on the 853, then blew up two orings getting the assembly seated. I had the tank repainted and the lip on the bottom had paint buildup. That lip needs to be completely smooth or the oring will never seat. Now that the engine/tank is set I can move onto a few other electrical gremlins. The neutral light is out and the temp gauge is inop, and they both worked when it was in track bike trim. Have I mentioned how much I hate electrical gremlins?

The 999 is ready. Blackwater awaits tomorrow.