The next Generation

So far this blog has covered three Ducati models, the ST2, 848 and the 250 mk3. There is another blog out there in the ether about the restoration of my 1991 BMW K100RS 16v.

Times are changing though, the 848 will be going. We still have the other bikes and have no intention of selling them at the moment, but it is time for a change. We have ordered a new 2017 Ducati Supersport 939.

The 848 has been one of the nicest bikes to ride that I have ever owned, and I started in 1975 with a Honda 250K4, a Honda CJ360T, a Suzuki T500 and a brand new BMW R75/7 shortly afterwards, and I had all of those bikes together too. Everything that I have owned has been a tourer or an all rounder bike and the closest thing to a sports bike was the BMW R1100S, we had two, one for me and one for my wife. I bought the 848 just for a bit of fun and what a bike. Not too comfortable – my wife only tried it once, but a delight to drive as long as it was not in town. Smiles per mile were ample, screaming around country roads with the loud exhaust was a real hoot, but things have to change sooner or later.

I have some plans for the Supersport, but I will not go into them yet and will drip feed them as posts with plenty of pictures and videos as I usually do.

I have not ordered the S version of the bike as I cannot see that I need any of the toys that it has fitted. The quick shifter on the S might be fun, but is not needed for my sort of riding, the expensive suspension might be something to brag about, but I don’t need to brag and I have no intention of going on a track, so the non S is what I chose. If my wife also likes riding it then she will have one too, but she will have the S because she wants the white paintwork that is only available on that version.

A non technical post for a change.

Since we first bought the ST2, the Ducati brand has impressed us with the precise handling and the wonderful sounds that the L twin engines produce. Both the ST2 and the 848 have aftermarket “loud” cans on them, not a problem in France where there are no MOTs (annual technical inspection) for bikes, and the police have got better things to do than be petty about a little noise.

Jude has been offered an upgrade to an ST3, but is very happy with the ST2 and does not seem to want to change it. My 848 is a very sporting bike, the handling is light and precise and the roadholding is fantastic. I can happily say that I have never ridden a bike that puts such a big smile on my face for so long. The downside to riding a bike that fits like a glove is the comfort levels. The wrists can get uncomfortable after a couple of hours and the neck a bit sore after a while but the enjoyment factor means that you don’t notice too much.

We were in our local town, Perigueux, the other day and decided to look in at the BMW dealer, there is no Ducati dealer there. I have owned BMWs since buying my first new one at the age of 18, but went off them when the bikes were getting taller and taller. What I did spot that caught my eye was something called an RnineT Racer. The RnineT is the standard 1200 boxer engine in a naked bike with some trick bits like upside down forks etc. The Racer has a small ’70s style fairing and is a single seater (we never carry passengers anyway) but has the cheaper option of normal forks.

I thought that the bike looked rather cute. The price tag is over €14,500.

That got us thinking that Ducati had just released the new Supersport and Supersport S. The Ducati is about the same price for a very well equipped bike. Off we went to Limoges, to the nearest Ducati dealer, and found a Supersport S in white standing outside in the rain. What a machine! It took Jude exactly 10 minutes to decide that she wanted one and not the red one, but this white one. She immediately took some pictures so that there was no chance that she would forget what it looks like!

I would say that for about the same money, the Ducati is much more of a bike.

I now have for sale my beautiful red 2010 Ducati 848 as seen in many of the posts in this blog. I will get a Supersport and so will Jude, it will take a little time, and I will probably get a red one, but we are having a pair!

Ducati 250 single ignition

I have read that the 250 and 350 Ducati singles are very fussy about ignition timing. They need to have about 36 degrees of advance when running at higher engine revs, but about 5 degrees static. The reason that the spark fires so far ahead of TDC is so that the fuel mixture has time to expand at the correct point in the engine, where the maximum pressure from the explosion will do the most work. At low speed it needs to be nearer TDC to allow the engine to be kick started.

The system is an old fashioned points and condenser with a centrifugal advance mechanism that should give about 31 degrees of range. There are no timing marks on these engines so a bit of work is involved in setting the timing with the engine static. There are some good explanations of how to do this on the net, notably this one http://www.liebold.com/timing/timing.htm and I thank the author for sharing it.

I found that after setting the timing correctly, the bike would start but the performance was dreadful, as if the timing was wrong, so I adjusted it by ear and got it running better. It still was not correct. The little bike could only achieve 95 kmh (55 mph). Further investigation was needed.

I took the two bolts out of the points cover and examined the parts behind with a bright light and noticed that the wire on the condenser was attached with a single strand. I removed the points plate to resolder the wire.

The picture above shows the points and advance mechanism housing with everything removed.

And this picture shows the wire that should be attached to the condenser.

Now I have been soldering all of my life, off and on, and it is not difficult to do, but this job was a failure. There was no way that I could get solder to stick to the stub on the end of the condenser, so a new condenser with wire was required.

Behind the points plate is the advance mechanism, it is removed by taking out the small bolt in the middle of the cam. So out it came. I noticed immediately that something was not right with it. There was too much play in the thing. The springs are not stretched but are loose. This means that in the static position it could be either 5 degrees or about 12 to 15 degrees of advance without the engine even running. This could mean that the bike only had a total advance range of about 20 degrees.

The bottom picture shows how there should be no gap (red arrow) but the spring appears loose (blue arrow). This is the position that you would time it static.

The upper picture shows that the gap in the weights (red arrow) would be about 7 or 8 degrees different still with the engine static. The springs (blue arrow) are now touching the post but have no tension on them.

The best solution to this mess is, in my opinion, a nice electronic ignition system that does away with points and condenser, and replaces the advance mechanism with an electronic version. That system has been ordered and will be the subject of the next blog post.

Phone/GPS mount for the 250.

Readers may remember that the only time that I have ridden the 250 M3 was up and down the lanes around here. One thing that I noticed, apart from the gears being upside down, was that the speedometer was unreadable as the needle jumps all over the place. As this is going to be a bike that will be used, it is important to me to know how fast (or slow) I am riding. The solution is a small smartphone running a GPS speedo application. It just so happens that the phone that I own is small, I bought it so that I can use it on the 848, and is ideal for the solution.

First thing to do is buy a 4cm wide piece of aluminium extrusion. It is not super strength aluminium , but it only needs to hold a phone. I cut my bit 14.5 cm long and drilled a 26 mm hole in one end. I then put a slight bend in the bracket so that it should not get too many reflections on the phone, this is the result:

bracket bracket2

Okay it doesn’t look like aluminium extrusion, that is because I polished it with Micromesh so that it matches the alloy top yoke on the bike.

After fitting I stuck a piece of strong self stick velcro to the bracket, and then wondered why I had polished it!

velcro

And fitted the phone to see how it looks.

gpsfitted

It will work just fine. It is a very functional mod that can be removed in seconds so does not alter the fabric of the bike at all.

My helmet, a Schuberth C3 Pro, is fitted with a Sena 10u intercom system so that I can communicate with my wife on her bike. The little phone can also be used in GPS mode with the instructions being bluetoothed to me.

Do you want to see the ST2, 848 or 250?

As many people know we have bike visitors for most of the year apart from the very cold winter. Some of the visitors love to camp at the St Leon campsite . It is a great place to be, in the middle of a medieval village but next to the river Vezere. The campsite is owned by the village and is very well looked after and cheap. There are toilet and shower facilities and loads of bars and restaurants in the village, and also within a few miles.
This year some of the bikers will probably be here in the second week of September travelling from the Republic of Ireland. So I thought that it might be a good idea to open this up a little and see how many others would like to visit for a week or two.
Jude and I will be available each day, as usual, to guide rideouts to local attractions, while fitting in a cheap but enjoyable lunch, showing people the places that locals want to see.
The cost for anyone who wishes to participate will be the cost of your camping, very cheap, the cost of your own fuel and food. On the subject of food, locals always eat at lunchtime and a 4 course meal with a glass of wine costs in the region of €12 to €14. We do not run this as any sort of business, so our time and fuel is at no cost to anyone else.
I may ride a sporty looking Ducati, but the pace of the rideouts is, within reason, governed by the group. Jude and I are on intercom and she will generally bring up the rear. If you have an intercom in your helmet then we can also discuss the various sights of the area as we pass them.
The main attractions are: Weather, food, history, a BBQ at the campsite and canoeing on the river if you wish. I speak A little French and fluent German as well as English if that is any help to visitors.
My house is about 8 kms away with a well stocked garage should anyone need any technical assistance. There are also local hotels around if anyone is a non camper.

st-leoncamp

The picture shows the campsite in red. Jude took the photo from the back of our microlight a couple of years ago.

packing-up1

Two Irishmen and an Australian packing up to leave St Leon.

Front fork top plug.

The nice thing about the 50 year old bike is that there is loads of aluminium to polish. I love aluminium, probably due to a life spent repairing aircraft made from the stuff. But aluminium has its place and that is not everywhere.

The 31mm fork tubes on the bike are made of steel, as one would expect, as they need to be strong. The top yoke is made of an aluminium alloy casting and that is also strong enough for the forces involved on that item. But the plugs that attach the two parts together are also aluminium and they have a screw thread that screws into the steel fork tops, never a good idea. This is where they are fitted. In this picture the one on the right is the new one, more later.

onenewfit

These pictures show the problems with aluminium alloy fork plugs.

two_old oldtop

As can be seen, the 12mm allen key holes have been damaged by a previous owner who probably needed to take them out but did not possess a 12mm allen key, but even worse the threads have been ripped off the alloy by the steel threads of the forks. I have no idea if this is due to over tightening or just wear and tear over the last 50 years. The reason that the top four threads are not damaged is that these do not screw into the fork tubes, but sit inside the top yokes.

The answer is a set of steel plugs. This arrived today in the post:

box

On opening I found this.

box2

Which was kind of amusing. The manufacturer of these stainless steel fork plugs obviously has a fantastic quality control system which involves the local medical laboratory or he has reused a box, made me laugh anyway.

package

The packaging was superb!

old_new

This is the old and the new on my desk with the correct removal tool above them. This picture illustrates the lack of thread left on the old one. If you now go back to the first picture you will see that a new stainless steel one is fitted to the right hand side and the old alloy one on the left. They are both steel now.

The threads on the new ones were slightly rough on the skin, nothing to worry about, but being a perfectionist, I rubbed them over with some 4,000 grade micromesh just to polish the edges slightly before a quick wash off with degreasant, refitting of the o-ring and fitting to the bike. This procedure was overkill as they can be used out of the box.

The new plugs were bought over the internet from www.eurojamb.com and I will let you browse their website to find the price, but be assured that for the quality they are well worth that price. Joe at eurojamb is also a star, he is quite willing to answer emails promptly, even ones from people like me who try to avoid ordering anything from the US. Thanks Joe.