30 April 2011 – What day is it?

This week was a blur. I conducted 12 hours of verbal comps for my graduating students, and spent about 25 hours finishing the service and mods to Lance’s ST3. That’s right 25 hours. In addition to the service, I installed one of my fan kits, a new sidestand, reservoir covers, and steering stem nut with the ram ball. While I was at it, I took pictures and wrote notes and will be adding 4 pages to the book specifically on the ST3 valvetrain. I’ll post the updates to the website when complete. That will have to wait until mid May though. I finished Lance’s bike tonight, then found out he can’t come this weekend to pick it up anyway. Shit!  Well, at least it’s finished. I got an email from Editor Dave that he wants me to cover a tour held by the Tennessee public relations dept for motojournalists. I don’t know much about it, but they asked me what kind of bike I wanted. Two other motojournalists are coming along, but they are cruiser oriented. I asked for an 1198R, then laughed and said an MTS1200 or BMW R1200GS would do. Anyway, I’m out of here Wed AM heading up to see family and will stop off in Knoxville on the way back to start the tour the following Monday. I already put the ad up on the website that there will be a 10 day cessation to shipments. If you need anything, Monday is the last day I’ll ship until I return. I’m also turning off my email. I need a break. There’s a chance the motorcycle tour will fall through. They don’t seem to have their act together. If that happens, I’ll only be gone a week.

I was planning on taking the Hyper on a Sunday ride but then decided I wanted to install the fender eliminator kit I purchased from Competition Werkes – one of my suppliers. To install it, you have to tear the whole ass end off the bike. Then I decided I didn’t like the chincy aftermarket license plate light and turn signals that came with their overpriced kit, so had to make my own brackets to use the stockers. I ran out of time, so the M1100s gets the nod on Sunday. I won’t resell the CW kit. It’s another product I adapted for my own use but wouldn’t necessarily recommend.

I topped off the week by deciding to check my military email account. I usually do so a few times a month when out of uniform. Sitting in my inbox was an email 3 weeks old telling me that this past monday was the last day to submit my packet for O-5. WTF? A two week’s notice to submit something that important. I got no help from my unit giving me a head’s up, so I made a few phone calls, got a hold of the application form, found a Captain that gave a damn, and got my application in. Now I’ll have to check my board file and correct missing documents in the next month. The board meets in early June and the results will be out this fall. If I don’t get picked up, I’l probably pack it in. This time next year, I’ll pass the 20 year mark, and I’ve been a Major long enough. Of course, if I’m picked up for O-5 I’ll then have to think if I want to go for O-6. I doubt it. I’d have to do the War College, and I’m not feeling that motivated. Of course, it beats changing closing shims on the exhaust valve on an ST3 any day.

Graduation is tomorrow. I’ll go and harass my graduating students, then go to Daryl’s graduation party and have some fun tomorrow night. Sunday is a Blackwater blast, some more fun and start thinking about packing for my trip.

I haven’t been away from all 3 of my careers since I took a long weekend early last Oct. I need to recharge my batteries, go for some nice long runs, and relax.

Oh yeah, the M900 sold. That’s 4 gone this year. The S2R800 will join the MV up on the chopping block. I’m getting down to the few(ish) that I’ll keep. I think 10 or so is manageable. Hey, it’s better than 19.

Have a good weekend.

LT evo.

26 April 2011 – No shipments for at least a week

Beginning Wed May 4th DT will be shut down for at least a week for some R&R. I may have an MCN gig to attend as well, which would extend the shutdown another week. If you need product, order it in the next week.

25 April 2011 – Success with a 998 and Frustration with an ST3

I finished up Dean’s 998 last week and he came on Fr to pick it up. I enjoy fixing the early Testas. The valves were not optimized at the factory and doing a good tune really wakes up the motor. With Dean’s bike out of the way, I laid into the ST3 in the shop. It’s been years since I worked on an ST3, and at the time the only thing I had to do was change out a few opener shims. In short, I hate the ST3 motor. Having to pull pins to get the opener rockers out of the way sucks. The problem is Ducati’s use of the washers on either side of the rocker retaining clip. The washers are the same outer diameter as the clip, so you can’t get the clip off. If you need to pull a shim, you need to partially pull each rocker pin and slide the washers and clip off. The whole point of the 2 valve design was having the ability to slide the opener rocker over to service the shimstack. On the ST3, it’s a cludge. It’s easier to just pull the rocker pins and yank off the opener rocker ala the pre testa 4valvers. 

My joy was enhanced when I then noticed one of the rocker pins was in backwards from the factory. Try pulling a rocker pin when you have nothing to screw in the slide hammer. F*&^.  I got the pin out on the left intake, then remembered that to pull the right intake rocker pin,  you have to remove the belts, the cam wheel castle nut, the cam wheel and the left side cover from the head. What a STUPID design. Thank God they killed off the ST3 motor. I’m coming up with a way of slotting either the rocker pin clip or the washers so that the clip can be pulled without pulling the rocker pins. The preceding probably doesn’t mean anything unless you’re used to futzing with Ducati valvetrains, so I’m just venting.

I look forward to finishing the ST3 this week, and closing the shop for awhile. I have one more piddly job to fix the electricals on an old 900ss, then can fix a few of my own bikes.

I didn’t ride yesterday, choosing instead to do some work and recuperate from a late Friday night out. I still can’t dance worth a damn, but I look better if you have a few drinks in you. Add in some shooters and I not only dance better, but everybody starts looking better too.

I tackled Blackwater today 2-Up on the MTS.  The Hyper was due, but the 3 year old battery took a dump and customers bought my last 2 fresh batteries on the shelf. Oh well.  I’m doing Blackwater again next Sunday and then will miss a week.  I need a 2-up capable 2-valver that’s air-cooled and puts out 120+ hp. I’ll be well into retirement before such a bike comes out. I love the gearing I have on the MTS for hauling ass, but have to run in a lower gear to get any pull coming out of corner with a passenger. My passengers have been waifish enough, so that’s not the problem. The ST4S is always sitting there if I want that kind of grunt I suppose.

Thanks to Brad and family for harboring me for some Easter grub and a nice boat ride. I got home in time to square away the biz for the weekend.

This week is finals, so I’ll be covered up with school during the day and in the shop at night. Hey, it beats being unemployed.

TTYL – LT

21 April 2011 – Wrenching and the Ether Bunny

This week has been a blur. I’m full bore  at the University getting ready for final exams next week, and I have two bikes to finish this week before the shop shuts down for the Summer. The 998 service is completed and I’m working a lot on the ST3S.  Both bikes should be out of there this weekend. Once that is done, a car gets parked in the workshop so that I can redo the inventory building and work on the parts side of the house.  The ST4S hose kits are on order. I’ll post here when I activate the order link. Like last time, I only ordered 25 kits.  I have a lot of new products to roll out this summer. Most are maintenance related.

I’m not riding on Saturday so that I can get the ST3S finished. I plan on riding on Easter. I don’t have any family here, so it’s just another day to me. I don’t know if Mama’s is open on Easter. I’m guessing not, so I’ll be at Whataburger at 0730 and riding at 0800. I don’t know if I’ll be 2-up or not. I’ll be Hyper mounted either way.

Enjoy the rest of your week and holiday weekend.

TTYL – LT evo

18 April 2011 – Passengers and Squids

The Mh900e didn’t cooperate yesterday so I had to ride the Sport Classic. The MH’s issue seems to be fuel related, so that’s 2 bikes down with fuel-related issues. I won’t have time to look at them until June. Mark on doner ST4, Brad on the Spyder, and Daryl on the Buell rounded out the breakfast ride on Sat. On Sunday, I 2-upped it on the MTS. What a great bike. If you’re short the ST series is probably a better all-around bike, but if you’re long of legs, the MTS is SO comfortable, and wide bars give much more leverage in the turns. I think it may be as quick through the turns as the Hyper.  My passenger had a cruiser background, so she was wide-eyed after the ride at the speed at which I attacked the corners (more due to her inexperience with sportbikes than my cornering prowess). She was a good passenger though, didn’t move around a lot, and didn’t weigh much. The key is weight. If a cheek doesn’t fit in the palm of your hand, the rider effects the handling. So, you have two choices – grow bigger hands or ride with smaller passengers. Of course, it’s all relative. If you weigh 300pounds a 200 pound passenger would probably seem light, even if your combined weight exceeded the max capacity for the bike.

I mixed up the speed, and slowed down for some sight-seeing on the straights and then accelerated through the corners for some fun. The MTS suspension is more than capable of good 2-up comfort and the Corbin seat gave her a perch to see over my shoulders. The weather was perfect too. Nobody else showed up, but I prefer to be with a new passenger by myself anyway. Our group is used to a set speed, so I didn’t have to worry about changing my speeds and holding anybody else up.

On the way back, one turn north of Norcross corner we came across a group of riders parked on the inside of the turn. Two police vehicles were there with an ambulance and they were lifting a rider onto a stretcher. That corner is a sharp left hander as you are heading South,  and somebody didn’t make it. I hate to see it for two reasons – first, I don’t like to see fellow-riders go down and second I don’t like to see law enforcement all over our riding Mecca. I gave up riding with people I don’t know a long time ago. There’s no excuse for going into a corner too hot. The ego is a terrible thing. I know there’s a possibility of equipment malfunction, but such crashes are usually due to rider error. The location of the crash indicated the rider went on the brakes, stood the bike up and ran off the outside of the corner and into the field about 20 yards before binning it. Damn. We rode slowly by the gawking riders and medical personnel. Blackwater claims another one. Years ago, Patrick crashed lightly on the next hairpin South of where today’s rider crashed. To my knowledge, that corner doesn’t have a name. It’s not good for a corner to have your name. You have to earn it with body parts, either your own or from the motorcycle.

Enjoy your work week.

15 April 2011 – Pre-ride vs Post-ride

When I finish a customer bike, I get to send my favorite type of email saying the bike is ready for pickup. I usually get a reply asking how much better the bike rides compared to when they dropped it off. I always state that I haven’t a clue. Unless a customer identifies some problem to clue me in, I focus on tuning it properly. When I do that I don’t care about how it ran before because I know it will run great when I’m done.  However, I smile when I see valves way out of spec, because I then know how much performance the owner has been missing out on. A case in point – Dean’s 998. I dug into the valves this week. They were way out. On the vertical cylinder, all four openers had preload, meaning their clearances were negative. That ain’t good, and it takes far longer to adjust them because you can’t get a feeler gauge in and have just start opening clearances until you can. On the same cylinder the closers were .004″ out and likewise on the horizontal cylinder, although the openers on that cylinder were pretty good. If you do the tune by the book, well somebody’s book anyway, you do it right and it just works the way it’s supposed to. I’ve seen some weird things when I’ve cracked open valve covers over the years, so nothing surprises me.

When I’m finished the bike gets a good check ride, and warmed up to temp several times to look for leaks. I don’t ride the bike for hours, but I can usually spot problems when I take my time. I never finish a service and give it to the customer the next day. Most of my customers are out of town, so if I miss something it’s a PITA for them to bring it back. I’m not perfect, but if the bike sits a few days and I take my time, problems seem to be isolated. Have I messed up. You betcha, but I haven’t messed up anything that I couldn’t fix.  Still, I really don’t enjoy it. Working on bikes is tedious and mentally taxing. There are far worse jobs, but it isn’t as much fun when you do it often. Again, my hat’s off to technicians that do it daily. You have to love your work to be meticulous, so if you find such a technician put him/her on your Christmas card list.  

I’ve got a few more busy weeks of working on bikes and then I’m free. I’ve decided to schedule the shop according to the seasons. People bring me their bikes in the Spring, and I’ve got too much going on with my other careers. The best time for me is in the winter – from Nov through Feb. So when I’m done with this batch of bikes, the shop goes closed so that I can reorganize the inventory for hiring Daryl part-time. I’ll reopen the shop this fall to coincide with the Fall Level 2 maintenance seminar. Just a head’s up. I’m hoping that several people attending the fall seminar will want to have their bikes worked on. It will save me from having to tear into my own bikes. Long term I plan on having display motors on stands for tinkering with, but I’m not there yet.  I’ll announce here when the fall seminar details. I’d like to make it a weekend event with a ride and a dinner, inviting attendees from previous seminars.

TTYL – LT evo

12 April 2011 – Happy Civil War Anniversary, the Debt Clock, the D16, and Local Rides

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War starting is this week. I grew up studying the Civil War. I was raised a Yankee, but as a kid I always routed for the underdog. I studied the battles, and lamented the South’s loss, not because of the slavery issue but rather because I’m not a federalist, and besides the South had way cooler Generals. I miss visiting the battlefields up there.

Not to frighten you further, but take a look at

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

I’m sorry folks, but our financial system is NOT recoverable. If you think that the measly cutting of the budget will fix things, you’re sadly mistaken. Patrick is correct on one point – Pay off your debt.  Get a fuel-efficient vehicle, own your house, no credit card debt, and own things that hold their value. Land typically does. For currency, only the hard stuff will be worth anything – gold and silver. It’s going to be a rough ride, but if you have a job and are out of debt, life won’t be so bad.  As far as stock-piling guns, ammo, foodstuffs and water, I’m not convinced on a total collapse, but things are going to need to change.

Anyway, back to bikes. I’ve never really lusted after the D16. I think the bodywork looks too retro. I’ve seen a few tasty ones with full MotoGP exhaust and graphics that look much better, but I honestly believe a lot of the D16 technology will be in the next Superbike. Plus you can actually ride a Superbike on the street. The D16, from what I heard, isn’t really a streetbike. It’s a racebike with a headlight and turn signals. You know the old adage about it being more fun to ride a slow bike fast than the other way around.

I’m riding Sat/Sun again. 0730 departure from the Ark on Sat for bfast at the Oasis and 0700 on Sunday meeting at Momma’s at 0730. Momma’s was closed last Sunday so backup is Whataburger.  If nobody else is coming, I may go 2-up with a gal.

TTYS – LT evo

10 April 2011 – The IRS, Rides and Wrenches

The IRS awaits a check from me next Monday. Maybe it’s just me, but I could puke every April 15th. That’s the day I realize how much I pay the federal government to misuse my money. I’m so disgusted with the budget fiasco that I think it’s hopeless. I don’t mean to spread alarm, but I’ve got an Andrew Jackson that says our currency will be reissued within a decade because the dollar will devalue to nothing due to our indebtedness. Of course, that Andrew Jackson note would be worthless then, but maybe there will be an Obama or Bush note that will be issued in its stead. If a world currency shows up, expect the antichrist shortly thereafter.  Hmm, I wonder if he rides.

I enjoyed a Sat ride with Daryl and a Sunday ride with Dan. The S2R800 got the nod on Saturday. I have to keep the gearing on the bike due to clearance problems between the swingarm eccentric and the oversize carbon/mag wheels, which means you can’t blitz on the bike without driving the revs way up there. Hmm, a built in governor. I don’t think I like that. Anyway, I got to catch up with Scott Wibel and Scott Armstrong at the breakfast meet. Is it me, or are we all ageing?  15 years of friendship shows the wear and tear. On Sunday, I rolled out the SS1000 to do a Blackwater blast. That bike will smoke any 900ss and is rock solid out of the box suspension-wise. Ducati really got that bike right, which meant of course, it was time to discontinue it. What a shame.

I worked this weekend on Dean’s 998. I just love prepping a 998 for service. That airbox/shower injector setup is a mofo to get out of the way. Throw in a few overtorqued fasteners and it took me almost 3 hours to prep the bike for the valve adjust. Ducatis should come with inpact drivers in the toolkit to remove stuck fasteners. Gee, my smart-assed nature seems to have returned. I’m sure it’s just a temporary thing.

Weird movie of the year thus far for me goes to Sucker Punch. I dig weird movies, so I kind of liked it. The special effects of the fantasy sequences were spectacular.

I think there’s racing next weekend, but I’m too tired to check. Biz has been brisk, so I’ve been busy packing boxes to keep up. My latest problem supplier is CC, who underestimated demand for their belts and stocked out just when China shut down for their vacation. Stocking out of belts in March/April is like running out of toys at Thanksgiving. Damn.

Enjoy your workweek.

5 April 2011 – Rides and … rides

Hell for Leather has some nice shots of the new Triumph 675R from Spain. Damn if it doesn’t look like an 848 from the side. Or maybe it just looks like a Japanese bike, and so does the 848. Either way, it looks cool and the extra goodies on the bike are awesome. Still, there’s no substitute for displacement.

I’m running out of weekends that I’ll ride this Spring. With temps in the low 80s this weekend, it’s warming up fast. I’ve already drained all the fuel out of the Superbikes. I’ll miss at least two weekends in May due to trips, so I’m riding both Sat and Sun. Bfast ride on Sat and Blackwater on Sunday. Brad/Hal are out of town, so if anybody else is interested, I’m departing the Ark at 0730 on Sat and 0700 on Sunday. Meet on Sunday at Momma’s Place in Milton at 0730. I’ll either be S2R800 or SS1000 mounted. I don’t think I’ll have the M900 on the road by then.

I’m slammed in the shop, with a 998 in there along with an ST3 and another bike coming in the end of the month. I’m looking forward to shutting the shop doors for the Summer. Since I never did get to that insulation, it’s a good thing.  At least the shop is clean. Having the Seminar forces me to clean up a bit.

I have a new product to get out this week. I got somebody to make oil drain plugs for the deep sump testa and the new 1100 motors. No more stripping that damn 5mm allen headed bolt. Mine has a 10mm hex head for a wrench, is safety wired and has a magnetic plug to match the OEM one. Awesome.

I will be having a Level II Seminar this fall to cover in depth valve adjusts, belt changes, F/I setup, clutch replacement and fluid changes. I’ll do a bike from head to toe and have students pull shims etc. It will be all hands on with no classroom instruction and students are encouraged to bring my book to take notes and read up on procedures beforehand. It will be reserved with first dibs going to people that attended my Level I school the last 2 years. Time frame will be LATE Oct so the weather will be cool.

No WSB or MotoGP this weekend.

Enjoy the rest of your week and weekend.

LT evo

3 April 2011 – Planes, Bikes and Automobiles

Above: The 2011 Spring Maintenance Seminar Graduates.

MotoGP spoiler below.

11 Ducatisti made the trek to Pensacola on Friday to partake in the day-long seminar on Saturday. They came by plane, bike (4 rode, 1 as far away as 700 miles), and car. A special thanks to 

  1. Jon Hitchcock – Carmel, CA
  2. Shane Madere – Prairieville, LA
  3. Keith Forehand – Chipley, FL
  4. Richard GoForth – Alpharetta, GA
  5. David Parker – Clemmons, NC
  6. Michael McKinion – Bay St Louis, MS
  7. John Phelps – Jennings, LA
  8. Darrell Snow – Summerfield, NC
  9. Andy Lee – Odenville, AL
  10. Patrick Ozanne, St Simons Island, GA
  11. Michael Curley, St Simons Island, GA

I enjoyed myself at the seminar, and I hope the students did as well. To the person, they were nice people. I finally got to meet John Phelps, who is one of the nicest guys around. There isn’t a mean bone in his body.  Suzi delivered the lunch spread and I was able to keep the doors open to enjoy the awesome weather. I made several improvements over last year’s seminar, but, as usual, identified some things that need tweaking with regards to the hands-on portion. But I tried to impart as much as I could and allowed plenty of time for question and answer.  Saturday evening three of the students came to dinner with Daryl and me, and on Sunday John got to experience a spirited Blackwater romp with 5 of us. I rode the sport classic and donned the leather helmet and goggles. Good times.

Last night Dan came over and we watched the Eurosport feed of the MotoGP race. I LOVE watching wet races. It was a crash fest, and it was karma that Nicky ended up on the podium. He deserved it, regardless of Spies’ and Edwards’ screwups. Rossi making it back to 5th after his crash was amazing. Watching the full pre race, race and post race activities without commercials is a treat.

I’m full up in the shop again, with an ST3 and a 998 awaiting a service. I have one more bike coming the end of the month, and that will finish my service chores until the Fall. Yup, time to focus on my own projects and the parts side of the business. I can’t do that while working 1-2 days per week in the shop.

Have a good week.