Sunday, December 30, 2012

7) Finally I'm "over it"

Like I said, some of my mates had all got sick of me and my ever present tool kit, doing roadside fixes, but my biggest bugbear by far was the electrics.Fast forward to 2010 and as it would turn out, the last time I would go out on this bike for  nearly 3 years! (I'd planned a spin with my best mate, a Triumph 675 Daytona riding lawyer with no mechanical aptitude) Of course, at the first gas station we came to, the starter solenoid went pop. He was very unamused; another ride ruined by my unreliable Ducati. "Dont worry, I said, I can fix this" and started walking the bike away. "Where are you going??" I pulled out my screwdriver, whipped the tail off, pulled out my wallet, stuck the screwdriver in it and held it across the solenoid terminals until the bike started. Was almost worth it for the look on his face as the sparks flew and, for all intents and purposes, I electrocuted myself. 
Answer: A safe distance from the pumps.

Alas I had finally lost all trust, and relegated myself to riding my other bikes. I went through a phase where I bought and sold a few different machines, just because I had the spare funds, and as long as I mad money on each deal, it was good experience. To check what I was riding, have a look here:  Other Bikes I've Owned

6) Things start to get out of hand...

I cant remember at what at what point things started to get really out of hand, but it was some time in 2008 when we really bonded. My mates who rode it could never figure out how I managed to make the bike go so fast. That Summer I enjoyed many rapid ride around the hill roads of Banks Peninsula so my riding skills were becoming honed.

To be honest the thing went better than any old Supersport had a right to. Its' (unfiltered) FCR carbs sucked so hard that you could feel the change in air pressure in your ears when you wrapped on the throttle, let alone hear the deafening noise of air, bugs and low clouds being forcibly ingested into its 944 cee cees of high compression hammer-hell. The front came up at 4,000rpm in 2nd off the gas, which never ceased to impress me and the cancer of unreliability seemed almost in check.

It had carbon everything, I had bought an Ohlins shock from local Ducati Wrecker Ducatispares, the bike had a Romeo Y Julieta Churchill  aluminium Cigar case (from a cigar that I had personally smoked) for a battery overflow container.  
It was, in short, as cool as hell!

However, cool is a relative term, so when I discovered that the swingarm was made of common steel, not the aluminium found on later bikes, I went on the hunt for the best 2v Ducati Swingarm that I could find. Which at the time was from a 1000SS DS. 

My quest led me to the door of Muzza Bikes, a shop that specialised in Motorcycle Smash Repairs, and all things Ducati. Murray, the owner did indeed have a swingarm, but also the entire rear assembly, wheel, brake, etc that went with it. At this time I was still suffering from a Purple single pot rear caliper that looked like it had come off someone's Grandad's R-Series BMW. So I bought the lot.

Revised exhaust system.
When I trial fitted the later model swingarm, I discovered, to my horror, that the Spaghetti exhaust system didn't go in the smaller gap for the rear cylinder down-pipe. It would need some modification to fit.

More research led me to a bloke by the name of Corey, an exhaust welding guru who had also done some work on the Britten. Corey crafted the necessary modification to my system, made the balance pipes more substantial and added some Lambda probe fittings, so I could get meaningful results on a dyno. Taking it to a local shop revealed 82.4rwhp, and oodles of torque. 

After fitment of the swingarm and new (underslung) rear brake caliper, the bike looked amazing, apart from the miss-matched wheels. Hmmmm.... Clearly, something would have to be done...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

5) Oh that's right, I mentioned modifications...

(AKA down the Rabbit Hole) 

Many people would have given up long past this point, but I refuse to be beaten, and be it due to my tenacity or pig headed stupidity, I carried on with my grand plan to make the bike what I wanted it to be, not what IT wanted to be. This is where the addiction really took hold.

All too Avant Garde for me!
First thing I did was re-paint it. The paint was pretty average in places and the previous owner had a heap of stickers on it (cleared over unfortunately). Not my thing. Also 'not my thing' was the PURPLE brake calipers. (Hmmmmm) Of course, because I had the annoying braking issues, I figured I might as well rebuild the calipers before I got them painted (a nice tasteful gold). 

Because the custom subframe was set so much lower in order to accommodate the Supermono fairing, the Ignition Barrel obscured the instrument panel. The answer was (obviously) to cut the housing off the top triple clamp and mount the barrel on the frame between the V.  A bit of media blasting was required, them some paint to match the lower triples and gold wheels.   

The headstock nut was standard Kawasaki and pretty rough so I designed a new one.  
Custom head stock nut design.

I took my design to my old mate Rob Selby from Britten Motorcycle Company. Rob machined a lot of the one-off special parts for the Brittens and now works for a company that restores exotic cars from all over the world, old Astons, Bugattis, Ferraris etc. 

Billet alloy footpeg adjuster and milled out gear lever
Another thing I noticed was the gearshift linkage fouled the fairing. Rob made me a billet alloy footpeg adjuster, and I got him to mill out my gear lever & foot brake lever while h was about it. Already the bike was starting to look a bit more purposeful. 

Finished. Or so I thought...
After over $800 in paint for the fairings, upper triple, calipers, (not to mention the cost of machining) I decided  the dash, which was in poor shape, needed a freshen up as well, so I bought a new unit, designed a custom tacho face, and got a carbon fibre instrument cover made. Here's the end result (including the nut Rob Selby made me). 

A few years ago I'd bought a personalised plate: DCATI. So, I got the guys who made me the carbon fibre instrument cover to also make a carbon number plate holder (tail tidy). The QB Carbon 955 Corsa tail fairing differs from all other 916 fairings in that it has a rounded hump rather than a flat top with vents. Again, just that little bit different. A set of carbon fibre cam belt covers also managed to find their way onto the bike. 

Before we go totally down the Rabbit Hole and as you get deep into this blog (and you will come appreciate just how deep it is!) it is appropriate that I issue both a warning and a disclaimer.

When building a custom motorcycle, consider that everything you change will have a flow-on effect. And that effect will possibly have an additional (flow on) effect. THINK before you change stuff. The internet is your friend. Forums are FRIENDS. Learn from the advice and mistakes of others. If you're planning on becoming an Obsessive Compulsive Modifier you will have good days and bad days. I'm not a trained mechanic, so in most situations I only kinda know what I'm doing. Over the years I've learned by trial, error, Haynes manual and the occasional sage advice from my mentors - an A-Grade qualified mechanic, whose workshop I am graciously allowed to use, and my Dad, who is a highly qualified Engineer and probably the cleverest engineering problem solver you could ever meet - when they have time! Even with help, sometimes I'm out of my depth and sometimes I'm totally over it. (Usually when I "F" something up.) Having the attention span of a shrew, that usually only lasts until I see something else I can work on. (That’s a useful tip by the way.) This sort of project will cost you more time and money than you have budgeted for - believe me! If you don't have the passion, vision and money for a project, you may not have the stamina for it. However, if you're a mad passionate motorcyclist, have a reasonable mechanical aptitude, no sense of the value of money and no wife/dependants, the Rabbit Hole awaits. =) Oh and lastly, at best you'll waste some money and a bit of time (it'll be more than worth it!), but at worst you could lose your life. Do not rely on any of the solutions I have come by as optimal, especially mechanically. I recommend you obtain independent, qualified advice. And now, down the Rabbit Hole. 

4) The fixes and modifications begin!

The bike had revealed its' true nature as an unreliable POS, combined with something akin to a money pit on par with a really bad drug habit, often leaving me embarrassingly on the side of the road. I quickly learned to carry tools.

The boiling brakes were finally traced to an unfixable master cylinder. Even after I rebuilt it, it still didn't work! Finally after warping both discs, I gave up and bought a Suzuki Master Cylinder from a GSX-R750. 

The boiling battery was courtesy of a faulty regulator/rectifier, which I replaced with another Kawasaki one. Low voltage as a result of this (compounded by my high compression pistons) started a litany of Starter Solenoid failures. I eventually had to replace the starter motor as well. Then, of course, the Sprag (starter) Clutch gave up the ghost, so the motor had to come apart again.

Sprag Clutch replacment 2007  
Note Special Tool. Held together with Number 8 wire.

On another long trip, a plug in the electrical system worked itself loose, resulting in a few lurching backfires and then bike unconsciousness. On the same trip the hydraulic clutch died, though luckily I got to a petrol station (that had DOT4  fluid) before (gearboxless) I had to stop and bleed it.

Another battery problem on the way to a Rally left the bike stranded in the middle of nowhere, (I carried on on a friend's machine)  and was traced to faulty stator wiring. 

Luckily, I managed to get home under my own steam every time, but even for someone who regards "roadside maintenance" as part of the motorcycling experience, it was getting a bit tiresome. And I was turning into a raving alcoholic.

3) A bit of background

I'm the handsome fella on the far right
I've been into bikes all my adult life, and, back in the day, in my mid 20's, I worked for John Britten on the V-1000 bike project, doing everything from managing travel arrangements to corresponding with prospective Britten buyers to design proposals for a V-1000 roadbike. 

After having owned a few interesting Jap bikes including a VFR750F and a ZZ-R1100, around the same time I started getting into Ducatis, starting with the resurrection of a couple of written-off 750 Pasos. You could say I'm a sucker for punishment.  And that I had the worlds best mentor for Motorcycle DIY inspiration. 

2) Hmmmm, what HAVE I got...

The spec as it came was reasonably impressive. Its' previous owner(s) had spent some serious money on it and it featured some very cool and innovative engineering solutions. This is what it came with: 

* Kawasaki ZXR400 front wheel and forks (re-valved)
* Floating Disks
* C
arbon front mudguard

* Braided front brake lines
* Projector beam headlights (offset Le Mans style)
* Braced frame and custom front sub-frame
* All footpeg hangers removed from frame
* '95 900SS footpeg hangers added.
* New brackets added to frame to fit later shock
* Upside down gear linkage
* Modified rear frame
* Ducati Supermono fairing (in carbon fibre)
* Ducati 916 mirrors
* '95 Ducati 900SS tank
* Ducati Paso (aircraft style) tank filler
* Ducati 955 Corsa tail section (carbon fibre) 
by QB Carbon UK
* Custom Seat
* Vee Two Australia 944cc Big Bore Kit

* 916 SPS Clutch
* Balanced crankshaft
* 39mm Keihin FCR Flat-slide carbs on standard intakes

* Chris Beaumont (V8 Supercar) fabricated spaghetti exhaust pipes* Custom muffler hangers
* Carbon (SPR) mufflers
* Carbon hugger 
* Aftermarket indicators
* Ingnition immobilser

1) So I've bought this cool old Ducati.

Project Superdue 

Once a humble Weber carbed 1989 Ducati 900SS this Ducati Supersport has accidentally become a one-off, almost 'money no object', woodsmans-axe style obsession in a quest to attain custom motorcycle Nirvana.

This was what it looked like in 1989
The story goes... its' previous owner, an architect from up north, originally swapped an old FZR1000 for a untidy ‘89 Ducati 900SS which was badly in need of some TLC. After 11 years in the UK he brought back a suitcase full of Ducati parts, including a modified carbon fibre Ducati Supermono fairing and a QB Carbon 955 Corsa single seat unit.

How or when a Kawasaki ZXR400 front end came to be grafted to the bike was never quite clear, (was it once a race bike?) but a later 900SS tank, VeeTwo 944cc piston kit, some 39mm racked Keihin FCR carbs and a spaghetti exhaust system were fitted and voila!: a cooler, faster than normal 900SS Special was born.

And like this when I bought it...
When I bought the bike in 2006, attracted by the cool bodywork, an impressive specification and the glint of carbon fibre, it was once more in need of attention. A trip to the National Ducati Rally revealed brakes and a battery that boiled, dodgy electrics and pieces falling off left right and centre.