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.

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.

Working on the starter – ST2

After the last post I decided that it was worth ordering and fitting a new set of brushes to the starter on the ST2. At less than £10 a set and only an hours job to change them, it made no sense not to. The standard procedure is to remove the starter motor from the bike, but this involves a huge amount of work and special tools. Access for removal is from the left side of the bike and after dropping oil, removing engine casings and finding special tools for removing the flywheel, gaskets would then need to be sorted to rebuild afterwards, no way!

I am lucky to have a hydraulic bike ramp in my garage, and have fitted a front chock stand to that, so one man operation is simple. When the ST was ready I removed the lower right fairing panel, six allen screws, which gave all the access that I needed for the starter motor.


The cable from the solenoid is removed (10mm spanner) from the terminal with the blue arrow and stowed out of the way. I used a ruler to draw a red line with a marker pen from one end of the starter to the other, so that everything is easily lined up on reassembly. The two 8mm screws (marked with green arrows) can then be removed. The forward one can be pulled completely out of the motor. and the rear one, with the spanner on it, just undone so that it is not engaged in the threads any more.


At this stage rotate the whole motor 90 degrees anti-clockwise.


And remove the second screw. Note that both of the long bolts have a small o-ring on them.


This will allow the whole motor to move forward enough to remove the end cap complete with the brush plate and the brushes, marked with green arrows. Note the shims marked with red dots, that can be removed for fitment later. Put the end cap to one side for now and concentrate on the commutator, marked with orange arrows, which is made from copper. This one has a bit of black on it from the wearing of the carbon brushes. I used 600 grade wet and dry paper to remove the black and then went over the copper with much finer paper (8000 grade) to give it a smooth polished finish with as little resistance to the brushes as possible. If you don’t get this smooth the the brushes will wear again. I cleaned out the grooves between the copper parts with the corner of a ruler and then blew out any dust with the air gun.

Changing the brushes for new ones involves nothing more than fitting a new plate into the end cap after removing the terminal for the starter cable.

Refitting is the reverse of the above procedure, but remember to refit the shims (with the red dots in the picture above), and lining up the red lines on the components. The brush plate has a small tab that only fits in one position as does the end cap.


Tools: 8mm ring spanner, 10 mm box spanner, ruler and allen keys to remove the lower fairing panel. If you are working under the bike then I can highly recommend a 10watt LED floodlight, as sold on ebay, as it pushes out loads of light with plenty of spread and is cool to touch so it will not burn you or set light to the rags and tissues that any mechanic has laying all over the place when he is working.

Total time for this job was less than one hour. If the starter button is pressed now the bike almost starts itself before your finger get to that button! 🙂

The starter brush plate is a universal item and is fitted to many Jap bikes and I would suspect that just about all Ducatis are the same.


Starter motor blues

The Ducati ST2 has been a strange starter since the day that I bought it. When the starter button was pressed there was a 1 to 2 second delay before anything happened at the starter motor. I had changed the battery on the bike from the almost new lead acid to a gel for other reasons and that had made no difference. I fitted a voltmeter to the bike to make sure that it was charging at all times and it was. The thing was that I did not trust it!

My wifes BMW F800ST was also playing up in that it was very sluggish to start despite a newish battery, and that would sometimes not start at all. Because of this she had started using the ST2 and found that she preferred it to the BMW. So the F800ST will be put up for sale.

While I had the BMW up on the ramp I removed the starter motor from the front of the engine, just two bolts and a power lead. On stripping it I found that the surface of the commutator (the copper bit where the brushes touch) was a bit black rather than copper coloured. A quick rub over with some very fine wet and dry, then a wipe with acetone to clean it had it looking like copper again. After refitting it (5 minute job) the bike sprang into life with a weak battery. It would probably now start on a watch battery!

That got me thinking about the ST2. The only problem is that the lower fairings have to come off, the left hand engine casing has to be removed and the flywheel has to come off just to remove the starter! Someone at Ducati needs a new job. I found that instead of all that work, I could get to the back of the starter from the right side of the bike and with the use of some bent 8mm spanners, I could remove the rear plate with the brushes on it. The commutator stays hanging on the bike, but there is enough room to clean it up in the same away as I had the BMW. It took quite a while to refit everything as it was not designed to come apart like that.

The ST2 was on the ramp, but I pressed the button anyway, I would not normally start a bike that is over a meter of the ground on a ramp, but it was just pure music. A mere touch of the button had the motor burbling away through the sweet sounding GPR exhausts. 30 seconds later my wife was at the garage door with a cup of tea for me and a huge smile at the sound of what has become her bike.

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.


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.


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.

HID xenon conversion part 1

This post will concentrate on fitting a HID (High Intensity Discharge) xenon kit to a vehicle that has a projector headlight fitted as standard, that includes the Ducati 848 and its big brothers, and the ST2 and ST4. Other bikes such as the older BMW R1100S also have projectors fitted and can be upgraded in the same way.

I would not consider fitting a HID xenon to any light that does not have a projector due to the HID giving out about 3 times as much light, (35 watt version) as a 55 watt halogen bulb. The shield in the projector stops any of that light straying into other road users eyes.

There are vendors on ebay who will try and sell halogen bulbs and call them HID or xenon, but they are halogen, if there is no ballast then it is not a HID. Ebay is the best and cheapest place to buy a kit, and most kits for sale in the US or Europe, started life in China and on ebay. Buying from ebay will also ensure that you are getting the very latest and smallest ballasts on the market rather than some previous  generation, bigger ballasts from some ones old stock.

First decision to make is the power that you want, two versions are available, 35 or 55 watts. The standard halogen bulb fitted to your headlight is a 55 watt. The watts in these cases are a measure of electrical power consumed and not light output, that is measured in Lumen. A 35 watt  HID xenon has nearly three times the light output of a 55 watt halogen. If you use a 35 watt HID xenon bulb then you must also use a 35 watt ballast.

The second decision is the colour of the bulb, measured in “k”, a 4300k is about the same white as daylight and a 6000k is bluer, but puts out no more light than the 4300k – bigger is not better. You also need to know what type of halogen bulb is used in your standard projector. The Ducati 848 etc use a H11 and the ST range a H1 or H3 (I can’t remember which).

Below is a kit that was ordered separately as a bulb and a ballast from ebay for around £8 for the lot.

kitThe part ringed in green is the 35 watt ballast. I know that it has DUFF written on it as the black wire coming out has been damaged. The red wire is the input.

The bulb is ringed in red. In this case it is a 6000k H11. It comes, as they all do, with the cable to supply 12 volt power to the red lead of the ballast and two plugs to take the very high voltage out of the ballast.

kitconnHere you see the connector for the 12 volt in, circled in red, and the two connectors for the bulb supply, circled in green. The hard part of installation is finding where to fit the ballast, but this ballast is a very thin modern one and fits behind the triangular panel inside the right mid fairing on the 848.

hidbulbThis shows the only part that needs to be fitted now the ballast is located. The HID bulb (green) needs to be fitted in place of the standard H11 halogen, and the two wires arrowed in red need to be fitted to the original plug supplying the halogen bulb. I avoid touching the bulb just as I would a halogen due to the oils in human skin. As the ballast will be outside of the headlight enclosure a rubber grommet is supplied to fill the hole than needs to be cut into the back of the headlight.

Does it make much difference? Well here is a short video that I made in my garage with the Gopro. The first light that you see is the 6000k HID xenon dip beam. The sharp beam cut off can clearly be seen.

When the main beam comes on (a standard 55 watt halogen H11) you can clearly see that it is not as bright and more yellow than the dip which stays on. At one stage I put my hand over the dip so that just the halogen main can be seen, that shows that it only lights toward the top as there is a shield inside that light too, it is just a dip fitted upside down! If that shield were removed there would be a better spread of light from the main. That will be the subject of another post.

The main thing is that people can see the difference between the two light technologies and can understand how a 35 watt HID xenon gives so much more light than a 55 watt halogen.

There is, however, one disadvantage to the HID, it does not light instantly like any other bulb, but takes a few seconds to come to full brightness. This is the reason that I will leave a halogen in the main beam for the flash function.

Doing this mod took me about 45 minutes and needed no special tools other then a 25 mm hole cutter to cut the plastic. It has been running for a few hundred miles without problem.