Painting the Ducati

It’s time. The Duc needs to be painted and I’ve decided on the color. It’s going to be Ducati green, solid, no metalflake. I had some custom retro decals made by Erik at Twisted Vinyl Graphics. There will be a large horizontal decal on either side of the tank, and a smaller vertical one on the seat cowl. The decals look great and I’d have Erik make decals again if I need them for another project.

I’m going to have Black Magic Customs paint the flyscreen, tank, and seat cowl. Mr. Wizard will do his usual magic work and the result will look great. This will really make a difference in the way the Duc looks.

I’m thinking that I will put gold pinstripes on the wheels. I put red pinstripes on the VTX and it looked good so I will try pinstripes on the Duc. The gold pinstripes will match the gold-anodized forks and should tie together nicely. Pictures to follow.

Luggage on the Ducati

I finally bought a tankbag for the Duc. The model is “Engage-XL” and I got it from along with the tank ring. This is a quick-detach tankbag that comes with a rain cover and a shoulder strap.

The tank ring mounts to the ring surrounding the flip-up gas cap. It looks like a horseshoe with the opening towards the back of the bike. The bag itself has a mating horseshoe that fits over the tank ring and clips on with a spring-loaded latch. The underside of the bag slopes down towards the back and is a reasonably good match for the Duc’s tank shape. It takes all of 5 seconds to attach or detach the bag.

After seeing how well this fits, I am kicking myself for not buying it sooner. Now, I can take a spare pair of gloves, a disk lock, my phone, a rain jacket, and a camera with me without having to stuff all of that in my jacket pockets. There’s still a fair amount of room, even with these items in the bag – the specs say 14 liters of space.

This will definitely make dayrides on the Duc much more enjoyable.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 3

Before the GSXR forks get installed, the springs inside them need some attention. The stock GSXR springs are a .95 kg/mm rate, too high for the Ducati geometry and my weight. I’ve ordered some .85 kg/mm springs from Traxxion to replace them and I will overhaul the forks (replace the oil, seals, bushings, etc.) before installing them. No need to install them and then pull them off to overhaul them later – better to do it now and be done with it for a while.

Also, the rear suspension on my Ducati doesn’t have an adjustable link in it so the only way to set suspension ride height is by adjusting the preload on the rear shock spring. But that’s not what preload is actually for – it is to get the rear suspension in the best operating range for the bike and rider’s weight. Once the sag is set, then you adjust the rear suspension link to adjust the ride height. This adjustment will not affect sag – the bike may start higher or lower, but the amount by which it sags with the rider’s weight will not change. There are two ways to get an adjustable rear suspension link on my Ducati – buy a take-off from a different model Ducati, or make your own. I choose the latter, so I will be ordering Heim joints and hex aluminum stock from McMaster-Carr and spend some time in front of a lathe. Maybe I’ll even have it anodized, maybe not. But it will fit, it will be something I made, and it will be on my bike. All of that is good.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 2

Well, I found a good buy on ebay and I have a set of forks. Actually, I have a set of forks, calipers that are still mounted on the forks, an axle that is clamped into the forks, and the lower triple tree as well. This assembly came from a 2005-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000, and the fork diamaters are correct for my Ducati at 50mm/54mm. The forks are “upside down” and the uppers are gold anodized which should look nice installed on the black Ducati. I just need to get the spacers and the fender brackets and I will have the parts necessary to do the swap. There are some incidental parts like copper sealing washers and brake fluid but those should be easily found locally.

I am pretty sure this swap is a rainy morning job, especially with an extra pair of hands. Once installed, setting the preload, rebound, and compression dampening will be trial and error, at least for me. I’m not a suspension expert so I will have to find the right section of road and run back and forth until the adjustments seem correct. Not terribly precise I know, but I have to start learning somewhere.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 1

The Ducati front forks, good as they are, are a compromise. The sag, rebound and compression dampening are set for a rider of average weight and allow no adjustments. Well, you CAN adjust them by replacing the springs, and changing to lighter or heavier fork fluid and/or altering the fluid levels. Not optimum for me as I would much rather ride than pull the front end apart because changes are needed. Never fear, there is an answer. Ducati will happily sell you fully adjustable forks for your 695 and the price tag will exceed $1200. WOW, that’s a lot. But there is another solution to the suspension upgrade question – use fully adjustable forks from a different bike.

There are two possibilities here – adjustable forks from a different Ducati or adjustable forks from a different brand of bike. Both will work but you may age significantly while waiting to find a set of Ducati forks. The best answer is to source fully adjustable forks from a different brand of bike entirely. Suzuki forks are made by Showa, just like the Ducati forks. And even better, forks from the 2002-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 will fit the Ducati triple trees perfectly. Other than the forks, calipers and an axle, all that is necessary to have fully adjustable forks on your 695 is a set of spacers for the axle (the Ducati wheel is a little narrower than the Suzuki wheel) and spacers to center the brake rotors in the Suzuki calipers. The Suzuki calipers are radial-mount calipers and the banjo bolt from the Ducati brake line will bolt right up to it – just like it was made to go there.

Look on ebay for forks, calipers and an axle – they are there all the time. Expect to spend around $400 for forks, calipers, and an axle. If you have access to a lathe, you can make the required spacers, otherwise post a question on the and someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

Once you have the forks, calipers, an axle, and the spacers you are ready to begin. I would expect the swap to take a half-day or so. It should be a good project for a rainy weekend day. You will need to bleed the front brakes, so be sure you have fresh brake fluid on hand. While you’re at it you may as well replace the rear brake and clutch fluid too.

You need:

  • 2002-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 forks (50mm top/54mm bottom diameter)
  • calipers for the forks
  • an axle for the forks
  • spacers to accomodate the narrower Ducati wheel and to center the rotors in the calipers
  • a fender adapter to mount the Ducati fender on the Suzuki forks
  • brake fluid, a single 10mm banjo bolt, 4 copper sealing washers

Let’s get the parts together and then move on to the swap itself.

Bringing home the Ducati, part 2

Well, I sure slept well Sunday night and I earned it with a 700 mile day. Today’s ride would be about 300 miles or so, much shorter and pleasantly, the final stretch for home. I lingered around the place, packing slowly for the trip, checking the bike over thoroughly as I strapped on the tailbag. Everything was fine except for a loose screw in the left rear turn signal assembly. I used some blue painters tape to ensure the turn signal wouldn’t depart the bike, and stopped at a small used car lot to borrow an allen wrench. Ah, the wonderfully complete Ducati tool kit strikes again. They were very accomodating and in about 5 minutes had tightened the screw and was on my way north.

The wind had picked up considerably, something I didn’t notice at the woods before I left. Now, thinking about it, of course not. I was at ground level, the wind very well blocked by the forest of trees in every direction. Riding north, out in the open, the wind was merciless. All of my other bikes have a windshield, and of course the Goldwing has a full fairing out front. The Ducati can’t be bothered with any of that, so you are left to face the wind on your own. I began to feel like a bobble-head doll, expecially when passing big trucks. After several hours of this, my neck began to complain about it. Looking over my shoulder before moving into the passing lane became somewhat painful, but necessary.

One thing I will have to address quickly is the mirrors. They provide a great view of my shoulders and not much more. Sure, you can lean right or left to actually see behind you, but since I do my best to keep a good scan going I was moving around a lot. I’m going with bar-end mirrors to solve this problem. Yes, they will widen the bike but more importantly they will provide a clear view to the rear – absolutely essential when riding in any traffic at all. The brand I will probably purchase is CRG, they have a ball and detent to fold them inward when parking or covering the bike – a handy feature. Review to follow.

When I was riding the final few miles home, it got cold. The thermometer said 50 degrees, but when you’re moving at 70+ mph with no wind protection it seems a good bit cooler than that. It was good to see home, and better still to have a nice hot shower and cup of coffee. A long ride, on a reliable machine, is fun all by itself. But, being home is good too. I can see a few changes to the bike – I had plenty of time to think about what they might be and with some miles on it I think I can prioritize the changes pretty well. The mods and accessories phase is underway.

Bringing home the Ducati, part 1

I sold the Shadow ACE and made a deal for the Ducati Monster 695 on the same day. That’s the easy part. Now the somewhat more complicated logistics of getting a motorcycle from Tallahassee, Florida to northern Illinois in the (usually damp and rainy) springtime.

First, I needed to get to Tallahassee. Looking at the calendar, the first opportunity looked to be the weekend of April 4th, and I confirmed with Gabe that the 4th was OK with him. Then I found a reasonably priced one-way ticket on Northwest that connected through Memphis that was scheduled to arrive just before noon on Friday. Now to handle the clothing/gear for the trip. I did some additional reading and found that the Mini-Beta Tailbag by Wolfman Luggage was highly recommended by others on so I ordered one. It arrived in plenty of time and has plenty of room for the necessities of the road. Since the flight was connecting and was a close connection at that, I decided to box up my riding gear (jacket, gloves, kevlar jeans, boots, and jacket) and ship them to Gabe’s house so they would be waiting for me. The box arrived on Wednesday, so the gear was there. Spoke with my insurance company, gave them the VIN, and they faxed proof of insurance for the trip home. The logistics were under control.

Now the uncontrollable and unpredictable reared it’s head – the weather. According to the weather forecasts the thunderstorms and rain would be in Tallahassee Friday and would make my trip home completely damp and more than a little miserable. Yes, I’ve ridden in the rain before and will again. I was just not enthused about starting a 1000+ mile trip in the rain. The forecasts started to improve as Friday got closer, but they all still contained possibilities of rain. They were correct.

I landed, a bit late as the flight crew came from Montgomery, Alabama on the east side of a fairly active cold front. Not a good omen, to my way of thinking. Gabe picked me up at the airport, a pleasure to meet him. The bike was exactly as he had described it, clean, well-maintained, and ready to go. We grabbed a bite to eat and I changed into my riding gear, packed the tailbag and strapped it on, and I headed out. I left Tallahassee heading west, thinking I might be able to skip around the southern edge of the front or maybe find a way through. Nope. I got about 70 miles or so west of Tallahassee and ran into rain with the guarantee of drenching rain further ahead. I turned around and found a room at the Hampton Inn in Marianna, Florida. The people were nice and I found a good dry spot for the bike. I hadn’t planned on staying unti Sunday, but the weather on Saturday was miserable with tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama. Sunday looked a lot better and I was ready to be moving north so I planned a 6am departure. It was very foggy and damp so it was cool on the bike, but soon the miles were rolling up and I was north of Montgomery and catching occasional glimpses of the sun. By the Tennessee line the sun was out and blue sky was the rule. The throb of the motor and the sun on my face and the miles rolling by made for a very enjoyable ride.

The Ducati has a small gas tank. On the Goldwing, the tank is 7+ gallons and the Ducati is half that. Not knowing how accurate the reserve light was and also not knowing where the open gas stations were I was conservative until I did some math and figured I was getting 46+ mpg and could go 120 miles and still have a comfortable reserve. Actually, stopping and stretching is good for you and helps keep your attention focused on the road and the other drivers.

I pulled into a gas station just north of Louisville for my last stretch before I got to my destination for the day – my place in southern Indiana. There were a couple of other bikes parked so I stopped by them and we started talking. They had been out riding and were heading for home. The remarked about their 120 mile day and asked me how far I’d ridden. I told them I left Florida early that morning and I had ridden over 600 miles that day. I guess they decided that I had the mileage crown all to myself so we said goodbye and ride safely and were on our individual ways. I made it to my place, brought the bike inside, took a hot shower, made popcorn, and went to bed.

A long day’s ride on a bike that isn’t really made for interstate distances was over. The bike can handle it easily, and it did – the bike ran great all day. The hard part for me was the riding position – considerably more aggressive than the Goldwing or VTX, it places much more weight on your wrists and shoulders. Handlebar risers will help that situation, and I had a set with me just for that eventuality, but had no tools to install them. Oh, well, the long day is done and tomorrow’s ride home is easy compared to today – or so I thought…

Hint: bobble-head doll.

A different direction…

Well, I sold my ’03 Honda Shadow ACE. I had intended to have AFT turn it into a firearms-themed bobber, but I decided to go the Goldwing route. I love to ride and I am certain that the Goldwing will log more miles than a custom bobber would rack up. By opting completely out of the custom bobber project, I decided to sell the Shadow. I hope Dan is happy with the bike – it was in immaculate condition and we agreed on a fair price.

I have been interested in a Ducati for some time, and my visit to the Ducati display at the Chicago motorcycle show was the final straw. I joined the and read and read and read. I learned about air-cooled vs water cooled Monsters. I learned about problems that come up more often than others, I learned about exhaust and engine performance mods, I learned about the differences between models. The main thing I learned was that the forum members are knowledgeable, proud of their bikes, and passionate about their choice of motorcycles.

I’ve figured out part of what draws me to this machine – it’s the mechanicalness of it. The trellis frame, the lack of bodywork, the exposed engine, exposed exhaust, the adjustability of the controls, all of it speaks function first, form second.

The result of all of this was that I found a good deal on a 2007 Ducati Monster 695 Dark. The bike is in Florida, which means I will have a 1000+ mile ride to get it home. The problem with the ride home is that I will have to ride through the mountains of GA/NC/TN; what a terrible situation to face. The good part of the ride is that I may have to ride through the mountains more than once. I know, I can feel the sympathy from here.