Something new

My wife and I went for a drive today and ordered a new bike to add to the stable. A black 2018 model Ducati Monster 821. We will keep the ST2 for now as it is comfortable with the Supersport, the 250 single and the BMW K100RS in the garage.

The new 821 comes with some interesting updates, the same 110 bhp engine, but things like colour TFT screen and riding modes similar to the Supersport, improve the bike. She is having the higher “comfort” seat fitted due to having long legs.

When Judes niece comes to visit on her red version of the same bike, it will make interesting outings.

Some of the things planned at the moment are: A noisier lighter exhaust which might include elimination of the catalytic converter, perhaps flatter bars to alter the riding position, a small screen to improve the looks of the bike, exhaust flapper valve removal, and other things.

Watch this space.

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Test of the R&G heated grips.

Well it is a chilly 8c here in this part of France today, but the roads are almost dry. Time to test the grips.

Togged up with my thermal merino under garments (thank you Trish) and my 15 year old BMW gloves, off I went. I set the grips on four out of five LEDs showing, so not the hottest setting, and was rather surprised that after abut half a mile the heat was coming through. The controller is a push button that goes through the sequence of one to five LEDs and is very easy to operate with gloves on. If you leave them switched on when you turn the ignition off, as I did to refuel, then they will be switched off when you turn the ignition on again. This is a very useful feature as they are not drawing power when you want to start the bike.

In use, with the extra insulation of a pair of hands inside gloves wrapped around them, they are both of about equal temperature.

I took power for the grips from the bluetooth module plug under the seat on the Ducati Supersport as I am never going to have a bluetooth module fitted on my bike. There are four wires in the plug and the black and the red ones are earth and power that is switched with the ignition. I used the inline fuse that R&G supplied with the kit, but cut down the very long cable that came with it.

When fitting the grips the right hand plastic throttle tube needs the bulge trimming off the end as per R&Gs excellent instructions. R&G also supply individual parts such as just one grip should one get damaged in use.

I must say that I am very happy with this modification and am impressed with the quality of the parts.

Ducati 939 Supersport panniers.

The Supersport has now got nearly 4000 kms on it, and I have loved riding every one of them. One of the first things that I bought was a tank bag, a Givi magnetic one that holds 15 litres. It is the same as the one that can be bought at a Ducati dealer for this bike and fits very well. I have also fitted a USB socket to the front of the bike to plug the tank bag in.

As this bike is such a great all rounder it will benefit from more luggage space. The Ducati panniers that are a very expensive optional extra, just don’t seem as well made as I would expect them to be. 

They also sit very high and to the rear of the rear axle. I prefer weight to be low and as far forward as it can be. So I had some thoughts.

One thing that I did not really want was a set of pannier frames on the bike when I have not got any luggage fitted, it would ruin the looks of a very beautiful bike. So I took the ST2 panniers and frames and started to modify.

I have removed the rear footrests from my bike as I never carry passengers, that allows me to fit the panniers slightly further forward and use the footpeg mount as a pannier rack mount. After cutting the brackets off the standard Ducati ST Pannier mounts I made new brackets to suit the Supersport. There is a strong point at the forward end of the rear numberplate/light hanger that is attached with 8mm bolts, so I used that along with the rear footpeg mount, also 8mm.

The prototype fits very well and looks fine on the bike. The best bit is that it is very quick to attach and remove the mount. So I made a time lapse video to demonstrate.

If anyone wanted to replicate this mount but wants to keep the rear foot pegs, then that would not be a problem, but the bikes rear indicators would need to be move backwards somehow, and the front mount would need to be longer.

As with any panniers on a bike they should not be overloaded (max about 10kgs) and high speed should be avoided.

I will update when I have refined the mounting. The silver pannier inserts are removable and could be painted.

Ducati Supersport horn

When I bought my first new bike back in 1977 at the age of 18, I had my fathers words in my mind, “Make sure that every bike that you own has good lights and a good horn”. That BMW R75/7 had both.

Here we are 40 years later and I have just bought the new Ducati Supersport 939. This bike comes with some decent lighting as standard and has the LED strip for daytime conspicuity, nothing needed there then. The horn on the other hand was like Mickey Mouse farting! It could not be heard over the sound of the engine on tickover. Bikers who have visited this area will know that there is one huge danger on the roads in this part of France – Belgian car drivers. A good horn stops them in their tracks.

The horn of choice was the DENALI Soundbomb Split. I went for the split as there is not much room on the Supersport and with the split I could use both sides of the bike. Here is the kit:

The part on the left is the dual tone air trumpet, the fitted aluminium bracket is my construction – more of that later, centre is the compressor and on the right is the air hose to connect the two. The kit also came with a relay which I threw away and fitted a better quality one.

The trumpet was fitted under the left fairing fillet panel with the home made bracket.

These are the two bolts that hold the fillet panel on, remove them and pull the panel rearwards and it comes off.

The following two pictures show the bracket that I made from aluminium to hold the trumpet. This is bolted with a rubber packer so that it is insulated for vibration from the bracket.

The bracket holds the trumpet out of sight below the fillet panel, and attaches to the top radiator mount and the bolt that holds the existing horn in place. Here it is in position.

The trumpet must have some clearance around it so that it when it is in operation it is not able to touch anything. The original horn is left in place and left connected, it can be seen in front (right in picture) of the bracket leg.

The compressor was fitted on the other side of the bike, also on a bracket bolted to the top radiator mount. The radiator expansion tank hose is a hindrance to using an allen key on this bolt, so a hex head bolt was fitted.

The relay was operated by piggyback wires from the original horn. The reason for keeping that horn is that the electrical system will not operate the Soundbomb alone as it draws too much power and the bike thinks that there is something wrong. The compressor is wired to the battery through the relay and a 25 amp fuse. Note the carbon fibre mounting bracket on this side. I have to thank my aircraft career for the ability to make brackets!

The horn button on the bike is now a thing to be wary of, I would not use it to say hello to someone on the side of the road as the ground shakes when it is pressed. Watch out Belgian drivers!

A small experiment

I say experiment because I have known of these items for years and at last decided to try them. They are Grip Puppies. These things fit over the standard grips in a bike and do a number of things, they make the grips thicker and more comfortable and they add padding so that vibrations are damped when wearing thin summer gloves.

I bought them from ebay LINK, and they were here within a few days. They take 10 minutes to fit over the existing grips with a little soap and water and then are left to dry.

I went out for a ride with them fitted and was instantly impressed with the feel of them.

My wife likes them too so another set will be ordered for her ST2.

Exhaust valve.

It seems that many new bikes are fitted with a flapper valve in the exhaust these days, Ducati being one. If you look back through the posts you will find that I took the exhaust valve motor out of my 848 and fitted a little box to fool the ECU into thinking that it was still fitted. Well I have another little box the same.

This picture shows the oil filter from a previous post but the exhaust valve gubbins is in the same area. The valve itself is under the triangular cover to the rear of the green circle, it is held on with three bolts. Just under the front of the green circle, the cable that runs to the motor, which is in the lower front of the fairing. is just showing, 

First thing that I did was to take a short video of the motor with the bike running to see when it was closing the valve.

This actually proves nothing apart from the fact that it is working. In my  view anything that is making a restriction in an exhaust system for no known reason is a waste of time, and does nothing for efficiency.

The motor and cable has been totally removed along with the brackets. This saves a bit of weight, not that I’ll ever notice while riding, and gets rid of that ugly cable hanging down. The valve itself is still in the exhaust but is wirelocked in the open position.

Time will tell if the modification has any effect on the way the bike runs, or on economy. It is very easy to reinstall everything if needed.

All that I need now is a spare exhaust box to see how easy it will be to cut open, remove the catalytic converter, and weld closed again. That is one modification that I know from experience makes the machine more economical and boosts mid range torque.

 

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.