Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wounded Duc - Great Service!

Mark Hattan over at Wounded Duc contacted me today and sincerely apologized for the missing pieces from the clutch slave. He told me to order new replacement parts from Evoluzione and he would refund the difference. This kind of old school service is very rare. Sure, people make mistakes, especially in the contorted universe of used parts, but it's the conscientious dealer that takes the time to rectify the problem and sees to it that his customers are satisfied. I am sure I will be needing more stuff him so it's great to know he takes pride in his company. A big thumbs up to Mark over at Wounded Duc!

Some of these small missing parts are now enroute.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First mechanical work and long ride

I finally got back down to Florida to see my Ducati. I have been shipping parts to my parent's house and there was quite a pile when I got there. Basically everything I talked about ordering on this blog was stacked neatly in their guest room. I picked up the parts and loaded them into my girlfriend's Nissan Xterra.

I needed to register the bike and transfer my license to the state of Florida so my dad drove me and my girlfriend over to the St. Johns County DMV. It was an amazing place with no long lines and very organized. I went to get my license and they said I needed more ID than I had with me to transfer my NYC license. I was worried that I couldn't get a plate for my bike and my first ride would be thwarted. Strike 1...

Low and behold the gods of vehicle registration shined on me, and the agent told me I could register the bike as long as I had Florida insurance (I did). I would be able to ride the bike as long as I had my motorcycle endorsement on my current NYC license (I do). I got my tag and left the building excited. My first real ride will happen soon I thought - OK a hit!

I wanted to get to work but I had my class reunion mixer (1983) to go to that evening so the parts would have to wait. The reunion as fun yet somewhat melancholy for me. Everybody seemed to have nice families and great jobs, and here I was still figuring out what to do with my life now that I realized I will never be a rock star. I feel lucky though, as I have done a lot of great things in my life. I am also starting a new relationship with a great woman after a very tough divorce and losing touch with my step daughter. It was very bizarre seeing these people from high school, many of which I have not seen in 25 years.

I woke up very early on Saturday and headed to the garage. The bike looked great from a distance but up close were the signs of neglect and sitting in the hot Florida sun. I didn't have the oil yet for my oil change so I decided to fit any parts I could before heading over to Big Bike to get some Mobil 1 V-Twin oil.

I unboxed my Cycle Cat front stand that I got a killer deal on from oncycles.com and propped the bike up on it's front wheel. I have to admit it looked pretty cool as if it were in the paddock of some MotoGP race about to begin. I shook this fantasies of Mugello and Assen race tracks out of my head realizing I had work to do...

I started with the mufflers. As a teenager I had worked as a muffler installer and pipe fitter at my father's Meineke Muffler shop. We moved to Jacksonville in 1977 from New Jersey so my dad could pursue his dream to own his own shop. He was always a gear head as was my older brother John. We worked side by side for many years at that shop so anytime I do anything remotely related to exhaust work, I flash back to the days in the muffler shop. It was the location of many good times and hard times. It was where I learned to work with my hands and understand what it means to have a work ethic. My bands would even practice there after hours, blasting punk music as loud as we could in the cinder block building, undisturbed on University Boulevard on the Southside of Jax. I spent many an hour in that shop with my first bike, a 1980 Honda Hawk, polishing it and bolting on cafe racer style parts. I thought how strange it was to be changing a muffler in Jacksonville after all of these year - something I thought I would never do again...

The swap was incredibly easy for the mufflers. Just a hanger bracket to loosen and the thunderously loud D&D carbon fiber pipes slid right off. As a younger man I would have loved the racket these things produce but I am older, calmer, and certainly more peaceful than my angst filled youth. I slipped the factory pipes on that I purchased off of a forum member at Ducati.ms and slipped the bolt into the hanger. Easy right? Well hold on, the muffler was almost touching the swing arm. There was only 1/16" of clearance and that did not seem right. The bike was obviously involved in a left side crash. I knew this when I bought it, but did not know the extent of the damage. The hanger, which is also the bracket for the rear passenger peg, was bent and possibly the mounting points on the frame - or maybe both. I didn't feel good about this clearance and I did not have a pry bar to "adjust" the bracket and frame so I reinstalled the D&D carbon fiber can. Strike one again...

I cleaned up a little and headed over to Pep boys to pick up supplies. I got shop rags, screwdrivers, a bleeder bottle, brake fluid, oil catch pan, metric wrenches, degreaser, Goop hand cleaner, WD40, an oil filter wrench, and some other things. I then went to Big Bike and got some Mobil 1 Full Synthetic oil specifically engineered for V-Twins. This place is a chopper shop so I am sure the guy thinks I have some hog and not a Ducati. The oil is expensive with 4 quarts ringing up at a princely $60! But I want the engine to be as protected as possible, so it's worth it. I headed back to the house to resume the wrenching.

I noticed when I tried to move the bike the clutch would not engage. I knew the clutch slave cylinder was leaking, but I did not know how bad the damage was. I decided I would tackle the clutch slave replacement next. I originally ordered an upgraded piston for the stock slave, but I later saw a deal on an Evoluzione aluminum billet slave and purchased that. I pulled off the sprocket guard and I was horrified at what I saw. There was a mound of gunk around the counter-shaft sprocket. I scooped some of it out and set the cover aside. I will deal with that later, one step at a time. I unbolted the slave and pulled it away from the engine case and there was a great deal of leakage . I wiped it away the mess and went to install the new slave. I looked at my instructions and realized that Wounded Duc where I bought the used part from, did not send me all of the parts for the slave. There was no way to install it without these 2 rubber rings that should have come with it so I would have to wait on installing the part. Strike two...

It was a good thing I ordered the Evoluzione updated piston. I tapped the old slave on a piece of cardboard to get the old piston out and finally had to resort to using pliers to extract it. It was totally gunked up and ruined. I cleaned the slave housing thoroughly, lubed the new piston with some Castrol GTLMA brake fluid, and pressed it in. I bolted it back on the bike, filled the reservoir, and started to try and bleed it conventionally out the bottom bleeder valve. I was not getting any feel in the lever because there was so much air in the line, but I recalled reading about a trick on the Ducati.ms board. Instead of using the bleeder valve at the slave, the tip stated to just loosen the banjo bolt at the top by the master cylinder and let the air out. Once I did this, the lever tightened up and the clutch now worked. I pumped it up a few more times to be sure all of the bubbles were out. I was happy that I would be able to ride today and also ecstatic that I actually fixed something on the first vehicle I have owned in 9 years. Another hit!

I changed the oil next and that went smoothly. I pulled out the drain plug and examined it as the used black oil dumped into the oil pan. There were no metal shavings or engine chunks on the magnet of the plug so I felt good about that. I twisted off the oil filter with the new oil filter pliers and let it clunk into the oil pan. The oil was definitely used as it looked very black and worn. I filled the bike up with 3 quarts of the golden expensive lubricant and started the bike and let it cycle for a little while. I topped off the oil being sure it was just slightly below the maximum fill line on the sight glass on the side of the engine case. I bolted the fairings back on and cleaned the bike up a little with some spray wax. It was now ready for a spin. I took a few gulps of water and washed my hands.

There are moments in our lives we never forget and this was surely going to be one of them - my first real ride on a bike in over 17 years. I pulled on my Agostini helmet, cranked the bike, and wheeled out of the drive way. I turned onto San Jose Boulevard and gassed the bike, shifting well before the redline. I recalled the many rides on all of my previous bikes and remembered how great it was to be out on two wheels. I passed many landmarks of my youth. The movie theater in San Marco, and the now defunct club Applejacks where we used to sneak in under age and get drinks and watch blues. It was a great flood of emotion and I was stunned how life can come full circle. I never thought I would be riding a bike in Jacksonville again as I first did some 26 years ago, and yet here I am. The bike is in a bad state of tune and needs a ton of more work, but I take pleasure that I have a purpose. With the repairs and maintenance comes a zen like peace. I didn't go very far on my ride, probably 10 miles. But it was a beautiful beginning in the journey of being not only a motorcyclist but a happy person.

Is a front pit stand cool or what?

A little too close for comfort.

Pass the degreaser.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Phil Read Helmet scored!

Okay, this is the helmet I wanted since I started looking for the Ducati to buy. I love checkerboard because of my punk rock roots and and I like 70's racers because I rode my first motorcycle in the 70's (In fact a Honda 70). The helmet is a Phil Read replica. Phil was a Yamaha and MV Agusta rider in the 70's. He was the last guy to win on 4 stroke bike (1974) until the advent of MotoGP in 2002! I am afraid this will have to complete my helmet collection as the coffers are low and I need real bike parts like tires! Don't ask me why, but for some reason I wanted Phil Read's helmet and Giacomo Agostini's helmet. Probably inspired by a picture I saw of the 2 of them battling it out on MV Agustas. Now I have both helmets. This now ends my helmet collecting - we now resume the regularly scheduled broadcast...

Ska anyone? My new cool Phil Read helmet...

My helmet collection inspiration. Read chasing Agostini.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quiet Please!

I guess if I were younger and I didn't build extremely loud guitar amplifiers, I would love the sound of the D&D pipes I got with the bike. They are VERY loud. They are carbon fiber and look cool, but beyond saving what's left of my own hearing, I also want to be considerate of the neighbors in the quaint neighborhood where I will be living for the next year. I was eyeing a set of stock mufflers on eBay but I didn't jump at the buy it now price and got sniped by somebody as I was trying to snipe myself! Once again the Ducati.ms forum to the rescue. Within a few hours of posting a "wanted to buy" for stock mufflers in the classified section, a very nice guy emailed a price for $140 shipped for a pair in great shape. I jumped on the offer. I realize I have been spending a lot of money on the bike but I am getting some nice deals from great people. By purchasing these pipes, my relationship with my girlfriend just got a few decibels better as she often starts the bike up for me when I am away!

I got a good deal on these stock pipes.

Chain and sprockets, and brake pads

I am really going to get the 900ss road ready. I figured I need to go so I ordered a new set of chain and sprockets from CA Cycleworks. They had a great deal on a DID chain VM520 98 link x-ring chain. They ship fast and have great customer service. I emailed them twice today and they responded quickly both times. I also got a JT 15 tooth front sprocket and a JT 39 tooth rear sprocket. This is two more teeth on the rear than stock at the advice of many SS riders on the the Ducati.ms board. This will help with smoother take offs and using all of the gears. I may also go down to a 14 tooth on the front just to try it around the city. I will be doing some short tours so I will keep both on hand and switch as needed. Now that I know my bike will go, I need it to stop. I decided to get new brake pads all around. I have not even checked the ones on the bike but I will will feel better knowing I have new anchors on the old boat. I got Ferodo Platinum Brake pads for all calipers in the same order as the chain from CA Cycleworks. I need to get the rotors in shape with a 3M Scotch-Brite pad. They have rust in spots and I want to get them shiny. I am shipping all of this stuff to my parents house in Florida. They are probably getting crazy seeing this huge pile of stuff building up in their garage. I love you mom and dad...

A new chain and sprockets is always a good thing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Slave to the clutch slave

Yes, I know I already ordered a new piston for my stock clutch slave cylinder but I found a really cool website called Wounded Duc (great name!) that has clean used parts and they had a gold billet Evoluzione slave that I had been craving since before I got the bike. So I went ahead and ordered the sexy gold aluminum part like a drug addict craving a fix. Heck it's my birthday today so I deserve it! I will rebuild my stock slave and sell it. I was tempted to buy the seat too but I am getting mine Corbin recovered by Corbin.

The small gold part near the shift linkage is mine!

Friday, June 5, 2009

More parts on the way

I ordered a bunch of stuff from Desmo Times which is a company in Florida run by a interesting guy named LT Synder. He put out a great manual which I have that has a lot of great maintenance tips for the 900SS. I ordered an oil filter, drain plug crush washer, fuel cap flange O-ring, NGK Iridium spark plugs, an air filter cleaning and oiling kit, and Powerlet starter wires which should help the bike crank up better. I am hoping for better starts with the combination of the new Dynacoils I have received. The bike is in Jacksonville Florida right now and I am in NYC. I get to see her on June 26th and my first order of business is to change all of the fluids and go for a long ride!

New starter wires.

New fuel cap o-ring. Mine is totally rotted.