Electrics – charging system

The Ducati 250 has does not have the correct regulator/rectifier fitted. The original probably gave up at some time over the last 50 years of its life and a previous owner fitted what looks like a British bike system that might even be older than the bike itself! The two parts are separate and are shown in the next picture by two green arrows.

oneThe other thing that can be seen from the picture above is the amateur wiring using any old bits of car and household cable with Lucar connectors crimped onto them. That will all need to be changed to look more original. While this old system was fitted I checked the voltages, Battery was 12.83 volts without engine running, I have a feeling that my voltmeter is over reading by about 0.3 volts. With the engine running it went up to 15.4 volts, so it is charging the battery, but even if that is 15.1 after deducting the assumed voltmeter error, it is too high for my liking. with the puny 35 watt headlight on it dropped to 13.7 volts, indicating that the 40 watt alternator is getting near its limit.

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I bought this regulator/rectifier from ebay for the grand sum of £17 from China. It claims to be a Mosfet RR, but I am not so sure for that sort of money. Mosfet is a new type of RR that is bang up to date, it generates less heat and is supposed to be more efficient. Read about it on Google if you are are an electronics buff. The fact that it has three alternator inputs (I have marked them in yellow) say that it can be used on a more modern 3 phase generator, but in this single phase application it is fine to use just two inputs as that is all that comes from the generator. The other two connectors are for battery positive and earth.

threeThis is the new one fitted. There is plenty of space under the seat so it will get plenty of cool air.

The voltages are a bit different, the battery was still around 12.8 volts, but the running was now at a much more controlled 14.4 to 14.5 volts. Switching the light on still dragged that down to 13.7, so the battery is still charging.

On an old bike with no electronics the original 15+ volts would probably do little harm. It might shorten the life of the battery a bit, but you may never notice. I intend to fit an electronic ignition system made by Elektronik Sachse in Germany, but having spoken to the company it seems that there have been a couple of failures of their electronic boxes (I understand that the rate is miniscule, about 2 to 3%), and that may be due to the users bikes charging system producing an over voltage. There website is CLICK HERE.

This regulator will also fit my wife’s Ducati ST2, a bike that is known for weak electrics and a bike that is also fitted as standard with a single phase generator.

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Ignition key

The standard ignition key for a 1967 Ducati 250 single is so basic that any bent nail would work to switch the ignition on. If someone wants to steal a bike then they will probably lift the bike into a van, but I am not going to make life easy for them. As I never had the key for Dinky, I used a fuse holder inside the headlight and just inserted a 10 amp fuse to switch the ignition on.

I bought an ignition switch from ebay for the grand sum of £3.50 but at least it has a double sides key and can’t be switched on with a bent nail. The only thing was fitting it. I do not want the do anything to Dinky that is not reversible, that means that she can be returned to a standard bike without any effort in the future. For that reason I cannot just remove the old ignition switch from the headlight shell, enlarge the hole and fit the new switch, as that would damage the shell. The end result was to make an aluminium bracket that fits to the top of one of the front forks. The new switch, with key, is indicated in green in the following photos , the red arrow is the old switch.

ign2 ignsw

The result looks quite neat.

The next job was to fit the headlight for the first time. An LED bulb was fitted into the sidelight position to be sympathetic to the puny charging system on this old bike and will be used as a running light. If I switch the 45 watt headlight on instead of the LED then it will use just about all of the electrical power used by the little bikes generator.  I was surprised to find that the headlight lens is plastic and was just thinking how advanced Ducati were in 1967 to fit plastic lenses, my guru Craig, shattered that illusion and told me that it should be glass.

hlight

It does look rather cute now though.

As most of the major stuff is done for now on Dinky the Ducati, I shall move back to some work on Ronnie the BMW RS with his cafe racer conversion.

The 250

I have not said too much about the 250 as there are not that many people out there who own one that is in everyday use, and there is a wealth of information on the web anyway.

When we got Dinky she was in good condition but had not been ridden since 1993. She had been well looked after while Alyson owned her, but as with any 49 year old bike, no one knows what previous owners has changed.

It was easy to ascertain that her year of manufacture was 1967 despite being first registered in the UK in 1969. The reason is that she is known as a narrow case model, as opposed to a wide case model, and the narrows were only produced up to 1967.  There is an engine number which tells me that she is a 250 mk3, and the black frame also says mk3 as the mk1 has a red frame. The frame has no number at all on it, which indicates that it might be one of the batch that was destined for the US market in ’67, but was sold in the UK instead.

After a few jobs like rebuilding the carburetor with a new seal kit and fitting a new clutch we tried her out and found that she started first kick of the high compression engine. Some minor problems came to light, things like leaking fuel taps, one on each side and a stripped thread in the inlet rocker cover. I do have a Helicoil kit, but a longer bolt serves as a temporary fix. The mudguards, front and rear, have been stripped and repainted in between waiting for items to arrive in the post. The tyres are over 20 years old and the front one is a remould as well as being so far out of balance that I would need to decorate the beautiful alloy rims with weights to correct it. New tyres and tubes should be here in a few weeks.

I am also waiting on an ignition switch, not the bent wire one that is original, but one with a proper key that will be fitted where it cannot be seen so that it does not detract from the originality of the bike. A modern Yuasa AGM battery has been fitted. I went for AGM for the fact that it is sealed for life and cannot spill should the bike topple. I do not need the extra cranking amps as they are only of use in a starter motor and do nothing for the kickstart.

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I was a little baffled by the regulator/rectifier, the part that controls the output from the puny little alternator, it is certainly not original and seems to be similar to a Lucas item off a BSA or similar bike. I am looking at replacing this with a more modern solid state item and rewiring the whole of this area to sort the existing mess out.

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With the sump filled with some nice 10/40 semi synthetic oil, it was time to test a few more things. The headlight is still not fitted because a fuse inserted in the cavity acts as an ignition switch for now. With no helmet or gloves, both are a legal requirement in France, off I went around the tracks in the woods to do some testing. Jude was out with here video camera and produced this. Best with sound on.

The ultimate headlight for the ST2

Please note that the videos in this post have a narrative so please turn on your speakers.

The ultimate headlight because there have been many ideas and a few mock ups so far. The headlight that has been running till now has a HID bi-xenon projector with a 35 watt ballast and a blue tinge bulb in it. As a bi-xenon supplies both a dip and a main beam from the single HiD bulb there was no need to have a separate main beam bulb so I put a cheap LED bulb in there instead. So rather than the standard setup of using a 55 watt halogen bulb for dip and then another 55 watt halogen for main, consuming 110 watts on main beam, the system used 35 watts for about 3 times the amount of light.

Since that was fitted my wife has taken a liking to the ST2 as I have been riding the 848. Most of the time she is behind and one thing has become apparent, the headlight is not very noticeable from the front. Due to the huge amount of light coming out of a HID xenon it has to be in a projector as the shield stops any stray light while on dip beam. This is a disadvantage as maximum visibility is needed at all times for other drivers. French law requires bikes to be ridden with lights on at all times. What was needed was a bright LED that would switch off when the main lights are on for good visibility during daylight  but no dazzle at night. I then found these on ebay:

They have two functions but the 30 watt LED is far too bright even for a daytime running light.

This is what has been in the main beam position up to this week. As can be seen the cheap H1 LED in the main beam has fallen apart due to the vibration on the bike.

The following video shows how to take the headlight apart:

Once you are at this stage there are four screws on the back of the projector mounting plate that need to be removed to change the projector. Even if you leave the standard projector in there, it is worth dismantling just to clean the inside of the glass as can be seen in the video, I would guess that the light output from your standard bulb will increase enough to notice even it, if this is all that you do.

Once the ebay light is fitted into the main beam side of the Ducati headlight, the 30 watt LED is wired into the same circuit as the cut off shutter in the projector. This means that it will illuminate as a flasher even when the headlights are switched off. The “angel eye” wires are a bit more tricky, the red wire (+) is wired into the bikes fuse box to a supply that is live with the ignition on, but dead with ignition off. I have fitted extra fuses into my fuse box to supply this and the voltmeter, and have fitted a 1 amp fuse (12 watts). The earth wire from the “angle eye” is wired to the supply side of the sidelight bulb. By doing this the “angle eye” will earth through that bulb as long as it is switched off, but should that bulb be switched on the “angel eye” will extinguish.

So what you see now is as follows:

Ignition on – Angel eye on, 5 watts consumption, everything else off.

Headlight switch in park, first position – parking light on, rear light on, about 8 watts consumption, angel eye off.

Headlight switch in dip, second position – HID xenon comes on 35 watts consumption.

Main beam selected – same 35 watt HID xenon, cut off shutter open, plus 30 watt LED on the other side.

The 30 watt LED is also the head light flasher at all times.

Here is the end result, the larger picture shows beam patterns on the wall while the smaller shows what the headlight looks like to oncoming traffic.

And there it is, the ultimate headlight using modern technology in a late ’90s designed headlight. It now fulfils all the functions that it should whilst using the minimum electrical power that it can and puts out huge amounts of light compared with the standard setup.

Back to the ST2 electrics and headlight

My wife has taken ownership of the ST2 while I use the 848. The ST2 is a much nicer bike to ride than her much newer BMW F800ST anyway. On trips out she has the HID bi-xenon headlight switched on as is the rule here in France. A couple of times she has told me over the intercom that the voltmeter is only reading 12.6 volts, so I know that there is not much charge going into the battery. As I always ride at the front (women can’t navigate) I have noticed that the sharp dip beam cut off in the headlight does not really do much for visibility. Both problems have been sorted with yet another headlight design.

In this design there is a circular LED “angel eye” as a daytime running light, A conventional side light for parking with the headlight switch in the first position and the HID dip on the second position. When the parking light or headlight is switched off the “angel eye” switches off. This way it can throw more light in all directions for the daytime to make the bike more noticeable and does not stay on with the lights at night so as to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.  A 30 watt LED light is fitted inside the ring to provide a headlight flash function. as there would be none without the dip beam being on otherwise.

The ST2 is now very noticeable during the daytime from the front. The voltmeter is showing 13.9 volts at tick-over so we know that the battery is charging, and the daytime running light is only consuming about 5 watts. It is wired through a 1 amp fuse in a spare position in the standard fuse box.

I am not sure if I should make videos and take photos as it is some effort when I am not sure that there are many ST2s and ST4s out there with owners wanting to modify the lights, if I am wrong and there is someone then let me know and I’ll go and document it.

Headlight bulbs – general

All over the bike forums there seem to be people asking about LED headlight bulbs at the moment. We are not talking sidelight/parking light/running lights etc these are easy to change to LEDs and, as they are visibility lights and you don’t need to use them to see the road ahead, they do not need to be anything special. We are talking about headlights, dip beam and main beam, the things that you use to see where you are going.

Halogen Headlights.

Most modern vehicles these days use a light bulb known as a HALOGEN. The halogen bulb has been around for many years and has been developed to what is now the pinnacle of its efficiency. Most single filament halogen bulbs consume 55 watts of power and put out around 1400 lumens of light. They are very cheap to buy and produce, and are great value for money. The halogen bulb is on its last legs development wise and is probably the best that it is ever going to be. Some manufacturers are claiming all sorts of magic things for their bulbs (130% more light is one) but there is very little difference between the bulbs and you would probably need electronic equipment to see that difference. In conclusion, buy a halogen bulb from a known manufacturer and you will have the best available. Before you go out and buy 100 watt versions of halogen bulbs, remember that watts is the power consumed and more of that extra power will turn into heat than light, so for 90% more electricity, you may only get 25% more light, but enough heat to melt the wires on your bike! The second bulb from the left in the picture below is a 55 watt halogen bulb with a H11 base as fitted to many Ducatis.

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The first bulb (left) is a 35 watt HID xenon with a H1 base, The third is a COB LED with a H11 base, and the right hand one is a SMD LED with a H1 base.

LED headlights.

The LED bulbs above (the two on the right) are absolutely useless as a headlight bulbs. They would be fine for a show bike that never goes on the road, but will not give any decent light to light a road ahead. The COB LED uses about 8 watts of power, but at a guess only puts out around 500 lumens. The other LED (on the right) will use about 2 watts of power and puts out as much light as a dead glow worm.

If you want LED headlights then be prepared to spend the money on complete LED headlight units as LED bulbs in halogen reflectors just do not work. Manufacturers like BMW and Ducati motorcycles, and Seat, VW, Audi, Mercedes cars all make LED headlights but they are designed to be LED headlights and are completely different to anything else. These are being fitted to save electrical energy and improve longevity rather than to boost light output.

HID xenon.

These are the headlights that are often seen on upmarket cars. They consume 35 watts and have a light output of around 3000 lumens, over twice as much as halogen bulbs. The downsides of HID xenon lights are that they need a ballast fitting to fire them, see next picture, and they need to be fitted into projector headlights to control the amount of stray light and avoid dazzling other drivers. Both my Ducati ST2 and the 848 have projector headlights as standard. Projectors can be identified by looking at the front of the headlight and seeing what looks like a round magnifying glass. The projector has a physical metal shield inside to provide the sharp cut off required. The lack of this shield and the subsequent stray light is the reason that HID xenon bulbs should never be fitted into normal reflector headlights. When they come towards you at night you will sometimes see HID xenon lights as blue, they are not blue as standard, but the blue light in the visible light spectrum bends more than the other colours, so the blue is the first colour that bends around the edge of the metal shield in the projector. Below is a picture of a modern HID ballast.

ballast

If you retrofit HID xenon lights to your projector equipped Ducati then you will have to find room for this ballast. It is about 2 cms thick. These lights use less power than standard lights so would put less strain on the bikes electrical system. Some people think that a relay should be used with this, but after some experiments with starting and running these units I have come to the conclusion that a relay is not needed, if you use an inline fuse then a 5 amp is fine for each ballast.

Bulb bases.

In the pictures above you will see that there are two different bases on the bulbs, H1 and H11. These have nothing to do with the light output of any bulb that is fastened to the base, it is only the fitting of the bulb to the headlight. I have shown the H1, H3 has a small wire tail and is used in some headlights and many foglights, H4 is a twin filament bulb for dip and main beam in one bulb but with a large base, H7 is a more modern fitment used on some BMW bikes, and other things, H11 is used on the 848. There are more but a Google image search will show you those.

I made a little video today to illustrate the difference between the LED and the HID. Both bulbs are on in the video but I then put a bit of card over the HID light to show what the beam looks like for the LED.

This one shows the lights from the front. This proves that LEDs are great to be seen with but not for seeing the road with.

ST2 Electrical generation

When I bought the bike back in November the last owner gave me a spare regulator for it and told me that he had never had problems. Reading the web one could believe that every ST2 has problems with the generator/regulator system, and that was the reason that I changed every bulb that I could for LEDs.

Today was a warm 16 celcius with the sun shining so off I went for a quick 40 mile ride. Halfway I stopped for coffee, as I tend to, and the bike had been running fine. When I set off to head back for home I negotiated a few road junctions and opened the bike up to about 120 kmh. At that time a red light on the dash was trying to get my attention, the charge light was shining at me and the voltmeter was showing 12.3 volts. By the time I got home it was down to 11.9 volts an the ST went straight onto the bike lift.

With all the fairings removed I slaved the spare regulator into the system to see if that was the problem and bingo it was. The only problem was that the spare regulator has an extra plug on it. The original has two plugs with two wires in each and this one has another plug with two wires. Time to check the original regulator and found that one of the connectors inside one of the plugs was dirty and looked like it had been getting hot. It is quite easy to remove the metal connectors from the waterproof plastic plug with an instrument screwdriver, and once removed it was cleaned up with abrasive paper, squeezed to make a tighter fit and reconnected with some silicone grease. Bingo the system works again and there is nothing wrong with the regulator!

I think that I will get myself a spare for the future.