30 March 2011 – …Nekkid bikes…(John)

I’m late to motorcycling. I learned to ride at age 38. My first bike was a 1997 Ducati Monster 750. I still own her. When I had a “normal” job that required a daily commute, I rode 90 miles a day on her for two years.

A few years ago, I rode the Monster from my Louisiana home to the Texas Hill Country for a Monster club event and the Monster had a failure and could not be ridden. I rented a Suzuki V-Strom 650 from a dealership in Kerrville, Texas and rode with the Monsters all weekend long through the Hill Country.

I had a blast on that V-Strom. I was shocked a how great that bike was. After my return, a stumbled upon a perfect, used V-Strom 650 and bought her. She has become my touring machine.

Last year, I decided that I want to own a modern(ish) sport bike before I get too old and fat to be able to ride one every day.

I bought a 2004 Honda RC51, V-Twin, 1000cc, awesome machine. Now, however, I find that the committed riding position of the RC51 is too much to handle on anything other than twisty roads. On the long, flat, straight roads here in Louisiana the RC51 is just brutal.

So, I have the Monster. She’s nice, but she’s slow compared to the RC51 and I think I want the speed and handling of a modern sport bike, but in a more upright seating position. In the past, I always felt that a truly FAST motorcycle does not work in a naked style bike. It’s like have a really fast convertible car, the wind blast and noise hurts the speed. I was of the opinion that a truly fast machine had to be a repli-racer, or some kind of K1300s/Hyabusa/ZX-14 style bike.

Then I test rode this 2011 MV Agusta 1090RR Brutale.

Holy Crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Folks, I think I have found the Holy Grail. I fit the bike….perfectly.

This machine was so fast, it felt like I was strapped to a Super Hornet being launched of the #2 cat of the Enterprise. She steered like a dream. She was firm, but not harsh. Brakes? Like catching the #3 wire. Wind blast? Ya know, I didn’t notice it being an issue up to about 120 mph.

So now, I have to reset my internal gauge of what a fun, scary, thrilling motorcycle should be. After riding that Brutale, I really want to ride the newly improved Speed Triple and the Ducati Street Fighter.

I’d love to hear from those of you out there who own any of these machines or have owned a really fast naked bike. Can one of these machines truly replace a 1198/CBR1000RR/Gixxer 1000 machine without losing the sport bike handling, speed, and thrill?

One final poll for the collective: My Monster has a newly rebuilt engine and she has been vapor locking on me. After about half a tank of gas she dies. I open the fuel tank, release the pressure, and she runs again. I don’t trust her to not leave me stranded. I have a six hour ride on I-10 to P-Cola to visit LT evo for the clinic this weekend.

Should I ride the Monster, the RC51, or the V-Strom to the event?

Keep riding my friends…..

John

26 March 2011 – Packing and Stacking

I had another good week in Tampa. My workouts went well and each night I hit the town with friends. The journey home yesterday was uneventful, and I started stacking inventory and then tackled the orders last night and finished this morning in time to make the mail pickup. All but two orders went out, and the remaining two will head out on Tuesday. I’m having trouble getting supplies from a few vendors, but it’s nothing new. Business has been brisk.

It looks like the Gran Canyon sold this weekend, so I should have some more space freeing up. I’m only going to sell a few more bikes this year as I slowly pare the collection down a little to free up even more space.

One negative side effect of Spring hitting us is yardwork. My yard is a mess. I need to tackle some of the weeds before next weekend. Between now and then I need to finish the ST4S in the workshop, take delivery of a customer’s ST3 tomorrow and prep the workshop and Ark for the Seminar next weekend.  Doing this all alone sucks, but I’m used to it. Suzi used to help me with the property chores and I miss the help. Maybe I should do what Burt Monro did in “The World’s Greatest Indian” and let the grass grow so high I can just torch it instead of doing yardwork. Cement and green paint are looking rather appealing right now.

One of the side effects of putting out the various fires when filling orders is I haven’t had time to keep the irons to the fire of new product development. Hopefully once things slow down I’ll be able to do that. But this is the busy time of the year when people are getting their bikes ready for riding. That means filling orders takes priority over other nicities such as new product development/selection.

I’m looking forward to spending the next month in Pcola. I don’t have any more travels until May, but then things will get a bit crazy again.  I’ll be focusing on the business and my fitness right now. It was a tough call to either do yard work or go for a long run today. I chose the run.

WSB is this weekend. I still haven’t watched the MotoGP race. I think I’m a spoiled sport when it comes to racing. If I don’t like the finishing order, I don’t watch the race.  If this year turns into a Stoner/Pedrosa/Lorenzo fest, I’ll be bored. I mean there’s 6 Ducatis on the starting grid. Surely one can find it’s way to the podium… or not.

Blackwater beckons tomorrow. Either the SS or the S2R800 will get a chance to break the bonds of the Ark. Time to get to work with a welcome email to the Seminar participants heading this way on Friday.

Have a good work week.

– LT in 3d

20 March 2011 – Back and Forth

I had a good week at SOCOM last week. I even got to work on my tan during my lunchtime runs and caught up with friends by going out every night for dinner. I found out that I only had 9 days of drill status duty this fiscal year remaining, so I decided to drive home on Friday instead of Saturday. That will leave a full week of duty this week. It was a good thing I decided to come home on Friday. There were 43 orders in the shopping cart and I spent several hours of prep unboxing fresh inventory. I had lunch with Brad and Daryl in Pace and worked the biz from 1-9. I even cancelled a social engagement Friday night so that I could get further on the orders. On Saturday I worked an additional 7 hours. All but two orders went out on Sat. Several backodered parts will get in mid week and Daryl will ship the remaining two boxes for me.  I needed a break, so when I awoke on Sat, I pulled out the Hyper, and did a Blackwater blast with Hal, John, Daryl and Brad. The weather was PERFECT. I’m SO glad I decided to ride the Hyper. It’s probably the most fun you can have on a Ducati. It’s the most forgiving from a handling standpoint, has plenty of torque, brakes on a dime, and is comfortable. If I only had one bike, I don’t know if I’d choose it because of the lack of wind-protection, but if you’re in a bum mood, the Hyper will turn your frown upside down.

It looks like my Super ST is sold. Just like the red/white one, it’s heading to Canada. The Cagiva should be out of there in a few weeks t0o. See Mom, I CAN sell a motorcycle. The extra room in the Ark will be used to space the existing bikes better. I’ve got a hankering for a Ferrarri or a Lambo, but you can do a lot of more useful things with $150K in spare cash.. if I had $150K in spare cash.  But if given the choice between blowing  it on dating or putting it into something that has more longevity than certain parts of my life, I think I’d choose the exotic car over anything else exotic. Of course the only thing more of a waste than a Superbike in flatland Florida is a Supercar in flatland Florida. Besides, a Ferrarri or Lambo screams Small Johnson, and there’s no reason to telegraph that. Additionally, having different possessions is just different, not necessarily better.

I did the 490 mile  dash back to Tampa today after a fresh oil change in the Avalanche. The “A” gets 18 mpg on the highway, which kind of sucks. But it’s an awesome traveling rig, and my buddy’s house is under a canopy of oak trees that crap on everything. I’d rather pig up my truck than the Camaro. I stopped off in North Tampa for dinner with my bro.

This week I again have dinner plans every night, so it doesn’t look like any work will get done on the book. When I get back on Sat I expect the shopping cart will be full again. I’ll then have a week to catch back up at the University, prep the business for the Seminar the first weekend in April, and unpack my Army stuff.  The dress uniform gets stowed away again. I had to dig it out to get a fresh DA photo taken. My O-5 board is this fall. If I get promoted, I’ll hang around at least 3 more years. If I get passed over, it will make retiring at 20 sound like a pretty good idea.

I drew up a fitness regimen to take me into the fall and have planned out the year from a goal/activities standpoint. If I get to do what I want, I’m going to need to be very fit. In the meantime, I can already state my next stint of Army training. It will be from 6-17 June. No biz during those 2 weeks. Being in Tampa in mid-June doesn’t excite me, but then it’s hot there for most of the year anyway.

I have another project bike. A kind gentleman donated a ST4 to me, along with a rolling chassis/motor from a spare ST4. I’ll do my usual conversion and spit it out for sale. That will be a Summer project, amongst other things I’ll probably never get to.

I’ve been following Qatar qualifying and will download the races this week for viewing on my computer.  I’ll comment on them next weekend. Rossi qualifying 1.5 seconds off the pace isn’t good. I expect Stoner or Pedrosa to check out within 2-3 laps. :(

Enjoy the riding. The heat is less than 2 months away. I’ve already retired the water-cooled bikes until the Fall.

– LT evo

15 March 2011 – 450 Miles from Home

Hello from Tampastan once again. My long-planned-for transfer to the 350th CACOM did not go as planned. I out-processed from SOCOM at the end of last year, and submitted my transfer paperwork to the 350th in early January. After numerous inquiries about the status of my transfer, the 350th informed me that they lost my paperwork and the transfer was never processed. Meanwhile two months ticked off my clock for my retirement year end date. I have to have so many days in uniform to have a “good” year. When the 350th botched the paperwork I contacted my boss at SOCOM and asked if I could come back for two weeks of duty. So here I am, still at SOCOM, cementing my 19th good year in uniform. Add to that 2 years in ROTC, and I’ve been in uniform almost one-half of my existence.

I probably spent 3 hours on the phone on the drive down from Pcola on Sunday. I use long drives to catch up with friends. Normally, I don’t sit still long enough to talk on the phone. Texting is so much more convenient, but not quite as personal.

I just spoke to a buddy at the 350th, and he informed me that the day I decide to transfer there I’d better have my bags packed because they are low on manning and the mission set is long. He’s heading to Haiti for 6 months. The rest of the unit is heading elsewhere. Such is the pace of deployments for CA operators.

Notice I said I’m spending 2 weeks in Tampa. I am driving 450 miles on Friday afternoon/night just so I can get home to handle all the orders that came in this week, then driving back to Tampa on Sunday for another week here. This is the last time I’m going to do that. It’s just too much wear and tear on me driving that much and flying/car rental is too expensive. If I was selling pace-makers, I’d be more concerned about the orders coming in. However my parts don’t save lives, and packing a clutch in a box isn’t that exciting. I do it because I recognize the names of most of the customers ordering parts from me. Probably two-thirds of my customers are repeaters, and they’re counting on the parts to get their bikes ready for Spring.

I’ll be back here for 2 weeks in May and I’ve already decided that I’m not driving home on the middle weekend. I may even take down the shopping cart for 2 weeks to give me a break. What I will do is put a notice up on the website well beforehand so that people know to get their orders in. This isn’t anything new. I’ve had to post similar messages for the past 6 years when I take off. My hope is to train Darryl this Summer on the business. If things work out, he could even run it while I do other ventures and I could be in the background answering technical questions, which I can do from anywhere. I haven’t spoken to him about this, but he graduates with his business degree in May and is very conscientious (sp?). Dependable people are hard to come by these days. He also rides and has an understanding of parts, which is an advantage over my last hire. He has a lawn care business going as a side line business, and DT only takes a few hours each day so it’s a good supplemental gig. I don’t think my last Office Manager had a complaint about the money I paid.

I’ve talked to a number of customers about doing services on their bikes. If you haven’t already spoken to me, I’m going to have to refrain. I have bikes planned through the end of April, and then the shop is shutting down for the Summer while I tackle other projects.

The plan was to do some writing at nights at my buddy’s house these next few weeks, but I’ve got a lot of distractions right now. With the house and all the toys paid for, I have to decide what’s next — transfer and deploy, continue with the same old, or try something new. I do know that getting $2000 a month bonus due to no house payment makes quite a bit of difference to one’s finances, and it will allow me to focus on other priorities.

I know now why some people just pick up and take off when they get to certian points in their life. I’ve used career juggling to stay fresh, but I’m pretty weary of that at this point. I regret spending my last two sabbaticals on Active Duty. Being in uniform isn’t really a break, it’s just different work. When the semester is over, I’ll see where the winds blow me. I’m about as free and unemcumbered as I was when I finished college. May and June are my travel months, so we’ll see.

Thanks for the comment about seeing the sign for Blackwater on I-10. Indeed we were in Blackwater last weekend. Matt Gary, a long lost FBR member that who I haven’t ridden with in almost 10 years, joined us and a romp through our riding Mecca. Brad took us exploring on some different roads. I took the M1100S out, which was a good selection for the day. I prefer the taller wider bars on the Hyper, but the front end is much more planted on the M1100s. On the hyper you feel like you’re sitting on top of a skyscraper and when you lean the bike, it’s a whole lot of lean. It is much more flickable than a Monster, but the front isn’t nearly as planted. I find myself leaning over the front end much more on the Hyper. I’d like to take that bike out this weekend, but it depends on how many orders come in this week. Riding takes a back seat to filling orders. Ain’t that sad?

Enjoy your week/weekend. Don’t forget MotoGP is this weekend. I’m hoping the racing is exciting. If the winner checks out early, I’ll be bummed. This year is the last for the 800s. I’m ready for liter-bikes devoid of traction/wheelie control. I’ll get my wish for the liter-bikes next year. I don’t think the other wish will come true, which is a shame. Unlike cars, the rider makes a big difference in the overall race pace on a motorcycle. Electronics minimize the human element. 

Get those Desmos on the road. Riding season is upon us. Sorry this post has very little Ducati content. It’s hard to think about them when I’m tackling my job in Tampa.

LT evo.

11 March 2011 – Parts is Parts

I was looking over my inventory and some of the parts I stock. Some of them are for bikes that have been out of manufacture for over 15 years. I also noticed that other than general maintenance stuff, I carry few parts for newer Ducatis. Why? Because newer Ducatis don’t require as much tweaking. With fewer bikes having dry clutches, I don’t sell as many clutch parts. Due to 02 sensors I don’t sell as many exhausts. In general, I tend to shy away from products that will only fit one bike. You won’t see many parts from me like the voltage regulator plate I sell that ONLY fits the 98 ST2.  The good news is that Ducati is much better about doings from a design standpoint that are right. That leaves me to looking for more minor items, like fastener replacement or redesigning bits and pieces. It also has the side benefit of easing a customer’s wallet. After all, service is expensive enough.

The weather this week was typical Panhandle early-Spring stuff.  Hot an muggy one day then cooler the next. On Wed we had a deluge all day that was so intense that I had to wear double ear protection in the steel building workshop just so I could concentrate above the roar of the rain. The hail on the steel roof at one point was deafening even with double ear protection.

No racing this weekend. MotoGP kicks off the following weekend, and I’ll be out of town. :(

I’m out of here for some miltary chores.  Any orders than come in during the next week will ship per the website next weekend.

Enjoy your weekend.

– LT evo

8 March 2011 – Top Five Dukes

I’ve gotten quite a few emails about my MCN article on the 916. That got me thinking about which Ducati models are my favorite. I’m not saying whether my “favorite” is based on looks or performance. In no particular order, my top 5 Ducatis are:

  • 916
  • 91-98 Supersport
  • 999
  • 888
  • 1994-2008 Monster sans front fairing

On Short List

  • ST2/4/4S from 1997-2003
  • Hyperretard
  • Mh900e
  • 1999+ Supersport
  • Sport Classic
  • Supermono

Notice I only cover 1990 + Ducatis. I’d have to add the ’74 Sport/Supersport,  the F1, and a few of the singles to the list if I go way back. Also note that entire “B” list and 2 from my “A” list are Terblanche designs.

Your faves?

Have a good week.

LT evo

4 March 2011 – LCD Kits with an ST4S expresso

In between school duties I’ve been assembling the LCD kits. They’re taking far too long to construct, but I’ll get them out on time. In between working on the kits, I’ve been finishing Bryan’s ST4S, and I put new sneakers on the 996 that won’t go away.  Bryan’s ST4S has had the sprockets changed out to a 520 kit. I disagree with putting a 520 chain/sprocket conversion on a touring bike with over 100 hp, but I guess the previous owner was trying to shed some rotating mass.

I’ve been too swamped to write much this week, but I did get my Indy Dealer Show article off to Dave and have drafts of several product reviews. For DT, I’m coming out with my own valve cover gaskets for the rest of the older bikes – ST4/ST4s and the 996. I’ve been meaning to do that for years. I’ll also be stocking a new kind of adjustable clutch/brake lever that is less expensive and has adjustable length, and they’re made in the USA. I’ll still carry CRGs, but the new ones are somewhat different in design. When my supplier of MTS billet footpegs went under (Swatt), I lost that product. Well, I found a better-designed footpeg, but they didn’t make them for Ducatis. I’m sending them the dimension of the MTS and HM to get them made. Of course, they may go the way of the long lost ST sidestands. I gave up asking my supplier whatever happened to them. They’re more of a cloning manufacturer than a design manufacturer. I may have to go looking for a different manufacturer. I’m ordering a batch of 20 ST4S hose kits. I’ll pop up the ad at the beginning of next month, as it will take me 8 weeks to get them. That will probably be the last batch I ever order. The ST is getting a bit long in the tooth and I’ve only had a handful of people express an interest. So if you sitting on the fence about getting a set, you might want to take advantage… or pay twice as much for a set from SAMCO.

I watched WSB with Dan last Sunday night in the Ark. We watched the Eurosport feeds. Checa showed them who was boss. Wow. There was good racing behind Checa, but he made it a yawner up front.  I wish an American was in WSB, but I have Checa to cheer for on the Duke, so I’ll watch with interest. Of course, MotoGP is right around the corner.

For some reason, this week I did a search for Anthony Gobert to see what he has been up to in the last year. I can’t find any info on him after he competed in the Australian Superbike series in 2008 and had his purse-snatching episode. Then I went to Youtube and watched some clips of him. There’s one on there of a Laguna Seca WSB race that was awesome. He won the race, but I was amazed at the talent in the field – B Boz, Haga, Fogarty, Corser, Slight, Lavilla, Criville, Edwards, Chili & Yanagawa. Here he is in 1999 at Laguna Seca running for Vance & Hines Ducati.  Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd-lCvULjVE

I’ve got military duty looming, so if anybody wants any goodies, order them before next Friday.

– LT evo