Day 8 with the Supersport

Today is the 8th day of ownership. As the first few days were so wet that they could be described as tropical, it has taken me till today to clock the magic 1000kms. I had to go out for a quick 70km thrash this morning to get there so that I could do the first oil change. The dealer would normally do this, but as he is a 280 km round trip away, and I prefer to do things myself rather than let some apprentice mess with my bike. I had bought the necessary Hiflo HF163 filter and the 10w50 synthetic oil last week.

This shows the mileage at 1022 kms with the service indicator on. The right window is showing the average fuel consumption over the last 130kms or so, in litres per 100kms, this has improved over the 3 or 4 tanks of fuel as the engine gets looser.

Because the oil filter and the drain plugs are very accessible there is no need to take any of the fairings off to do the oil change, having the bike on a hydraulic life makes it even easier.

I did take the fairing off though, just to check everything underneath them. I also needed to take a power lead from the battery to feed a relay for the new horn that will be the subject of a future post. While I was on the right side I also retrieved the flying lead that Ducati fitted to power a GPS. It was tucked under the frame just to the rear of the steering head.

I also took the time to fit some red reflective rim tape to the wheels while the bike was on the lift. I am not a fan of black wheels on a bike, and since the 848 had rim tape fitted which made it look better, I splashed out 99 pence on an ebay kit.

The rim tape just adds something to those very black wheels.

According to Ducati I can now take the engine to 6000 rpm,  bt the bike has so much torque from low revs that I will not be in a rush to get there. The handbook tell me that I should use less than 5,500 rpm for the first 1000kms, but I did the same as I have with every other new bike and car that I have owned, I started low and built the revs up over the miles. It has only been the last 100kms that It has got anywhere near 5000 rpm. I was lambasted by a couple of ‘know it alls’ on the 939 forum, but it seems that I have the last laugh as my mirrors don’t vibrate like others seem to.

I have bought many new bikes in my time, some sporty ones but mostly big tourers, I can easily say that this bike is the nicest all round “Sports Tourer” that I have ever ridden.

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.


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.


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.

It has been a long summer.

We have had many biking visitors and loads of miles have been completed on the Ducati 848 and the ST2. Neither have needed much doing to them apart from routine maintenance. The ST2 headlight has evolved yet again and now has two LED halo rings that are illuminated when the ignition is switched on, but extinguish when the dip beam HID bi-xenon is switched on. A friend, who has just bought an ST2, also wants a headlight the same but with a 55 watt halogen bulb in the bi-xenon projector, so I will use the spare headlight and make one up for him.

My wife’s BMW F800ST has been sold as she much prefers the ST2 with its perfect suspension and the more involved riding experience. The Chinese 125 monkey bike has gone as it was never being used.

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This Autumn I also decided that my 1991 BMW K100RS 16v was surplus to requirements as I no longer need a heavy intercontinental high speed tourer. The decision is to turn it into a naked cafe racer style bike. 40 kgs of fairings have been stripped and much modifying has been done. It will be a single seat 100 bhp naked and will be ideal for the roads around here. Quite a bit of work has already been done to the RS but no pictures will be published until it is nearly finished.

Then came an amazing gift. A friend of ours has some amazing old cars, 1970’s BMW 3.0 CS, 1948 Alvis soft top, Triumph TR4a and also quite a few old motorbikes. Now as an engineer I take great pleasure in spending the day in his garage working on mechanical things to help him out. Last week we spent all day trying to set up the huge twin choke carburetors on the mighty 6 cylinder BMW, the week before we rewired the electrics under the dashboard of the TR4, and before that we stripped the brakes down on his old Honda 750 F1.

He also has a number of old bikes going back as far as the 1930’s one of which caught my attention, a 1967 Ducati 250 Mk3. I have always wanted either one of these, a Moto Guzzi Falcone or a BMW 250 single. Unfortunately as life goes on and ones finances become more  stable the price of these bikes tends to go far beyond reasonable levels. So it was with great surprise that T and his wife told me that I could have the little Ducati to restore.

People tell me that these bikes are worth good money, but I am from a different school in that to me a bike is something to cherish and use and not an investment. This particular bike is a 1967 but was first registered in the UK in 1969 according to the log book. It was last ridden in 1993. The trailer was prepared and the little Ducati (now called Dinky Duc) was brought home. Because there are 3 big bikes in the garage and one of them is on bike lift, Dinky has been allocated space in the warmer carpeted office.

A thorough examination was made to see what bits were needed, she is quite complete, but the list included battery, clutch, fuel taps, tyres and other minor things. While waiting for parts to arrive from the internet I removed things like the silver painted mudguards and chain guard so that they could be stripped de-rusted, primed and painted. The carburetor was in bits in a box, so that was rebuilt and fitted. I put new oil (10/40 semi synthetic) into the little engine and checked the points and plug. Dinky was pushed outside to see if she would start as these bikes are known to be difficult. Jude came with her video camera and started filming. She started first swing of the kick starter for the first time in 23 years.

Dinky later had her seat refitted for a quick photo shoot before being returned to her carpeted resting place for minor mechanical things like the clutch to be done. Enjoy the pictures.

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Engine oil

There are a few things that you need to know about selecting an engine oil for a four stroke engine. This guide is written to give an overview rather than a scientific analysis. It is also my opinion based on years working in the aircraft industry, and may be different to the opinion of others.

Viscosity (thickness)

Multigrade oils have two numbers, as in 20W50, 10W40, etc. The first number is the thickness of the oil when it is cold, and the second is when it is hot, the higher the number the thicker the oil. Having said that cold oil at 10 will be thicker than hot oil at 40, so we need to look at the numbers individually.
When the engine is cold and we start it up, we want the oil to circulate as quickly as possible, so a smaller number is better. The life of an engine can be determined by the number of start ups, that means for the first couple of hundred revolutions, the oil has not been pumped to all lubricated surfaces, and that is when an engine wears. The oil will only stay at the cold viscosity for a few minutes, as it starts to warm it moves towards the hot viscosity (the second number). I use a 5W40 in my motorcycles for this reason.
The second number is the hot viscosity. At 95C the 40 will be thicker than the 5, but don’t forget that a 40 is more “runny” at 95C than the cold number is at 10C.
The ideal oil would be one where it is the same thickness cold as it is hot, but this would be a very expensive oil to make and would have numbers that have a large difference. Mobil make a very high quality racing oil that is 0W60.


A mineral oil is just that, oil pumped from the ground with things added to make it work in an engine. One of the things that are added is viscosity improver’s. These additives break down with use and change the viscosity of oil. That is why a car that uses mineral oil needs the oil changed more often than one used with synthetic.
Synthetic oil has other properties, one being that it is manufactured to have “long chain molecules”, in other words the oil strings are much longer than in mineral oil. To see how this works, get some hair and cut it into short 5mm lengths, put it on a table and slide your finger in it. You will find that your finger is touching the table. Now do the same with hair cut to 30mm lengths and you will find that it takes longer for your finger to touch the table – the wear surfaces spend less time touching each other. It is the case that a much thinner synthetic will lubricate better than a thick mineral.
Mineral oil will also start degrading the additives when it gets too hot (about 120C+). You oil temperature gauge will not show this, but there are places in an engine where the oil will be much hotter than where the temperature sender is. Synthetic oil will not break down till it gets to a much higher temperature, (around 150C). If you want to test this then an old frying pan, a thermometer and your cooker will show it, fried mineral will create treacle at a given temperature, whereas synthetic won’t. Most car engines with turbos on need synthetic oil. You may think that your oil never gets hot enough to need synthetic, but should you develop a slight oil leak, and that in turn reduces the amount of oil in the engine, then it will get hotter.
Semi-synthetic oils are an in between.
Some motorcycles (and some older cars) use the engine oil to lubricate the gearbox too, we should therefore look for an oil with high shear properties. Those oils are used in most Japanese motorcycles, which lubricate the gearbox in the same way. In my opinion, this part is not too important as the old style Minis also used the engine oil to lubricate the gearbox and they were happy with normal car oil.
At the end of the day you must decide on what oil you want to use with reference to the manufacturers guidelines and your own experiences. I use a fully synthetic 5W40 petrol oil in my bikes, and a fully synthetic 5W30 diesel oil in my diesel 4×4. I am quite happy to double the oil change interval with these. When you are guided by the owners handbook for your bike take into consideration the fact that oils have evolved over the years just like tyres have. If you are happy to use a 20 year old oil specification as directed by the handbook then feel free to use the 20 year old tyre types that it recommends.

At the end of the day the job of the oil is to hold two metal surfaces apart, neither the oil not the metal know if they are in a Ducati motorcycle or a 50 year old Ford.