Monday, November 28, 2016

Idle hands are the devil's playground

When we were kids, trouble managed to find many of us when we were bored and had plenty of time with nothing to do. This was certainly the case for me, as a twin growing up in Phoenix, AZ back in the 80's and 90's. These days, at the age of 37, I still find myself with plenty of time, but plenty to do.

I love to surf, I love to run, and love to be active. I also love motorcycles. Right now I ride a 2002 Ducati Monster 750, this is the 3rd motorcycle I have owned. I've also had a 2004 Yamaha R1, and a 2001 Honda CBR 600 F4i, and currently a 1973 Honda CB500. Japanese bikes are great, but this Italian lady has been a good lady to me.

I bought the M750 from a guy in Wenatchee in August of 2011 at about 9000 miles. Since then, I have managed to put about 20,000 miles on it. That's a LOT of riding. I ride all summer; mountain pass loops around Mt Rainier, out to Yakima, Blewett Pass and to Leavenworth. I've rode more than 1000 miles in 27 hours over labor day weekend of 2013 (Seattle to Centralia, west to Long Beach, south to Seaside, OR, east to Portland, North to Kelso, Washington. East to Mt St Helens/Adams, over to Rainier, and home. And capping the summer of 2014, I rode about 4500 miles in two weeks from Washington through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, California, and back up the coast highway to Portland and back home in Seattle.

Around the fall of 2013, someone knocked my bike over while parked in downtown Seattle. They were "kind" enough to pick the bike up, but did not leave a note. The damage: rear brake master cylinder, dented tank, scratches all over, dented headlight housing, and other cosmetic damage. Total cost? $5000. Progressive Insurance covered the damage though. So while the bike has been unrideable because of the rear brake, and the tank and body parts in the shop, I decided it was time to rebuild it.

2002 Ducati Monster during Mt Rainier pass ride, circa 2012

Stock vs "Open" Clutch Cover

The first upgrade I did was the clutch housing.
The 2002 Monster 750 had what is called a "wet" clutch, or one that is bathed in motor oil (the same stuff in the crankcase). Earlier Monsters and even current ones if I am correct that are higher engine displacement had what is called a "dry clutch". The dry clutch has no hydraulic fluid, its completely dry. Many Ducati enthusiasts prefer to take the stock cover off and put a custom (there are hundreds of variants) cover on that allows you to see the clutch spinning inside as well.

The dry clutch is very loud and noisy as well (in a good way), it sounds like the valves are badly in need of an adjustment and most owners of dry clutch models have probably pissed off and made enemies of their neighbors because of the noise, particularly when they leave for work early in the morning.

By contrast, the wet clutch is quiet. I wanted the open clutch, so I bought a custom cover machined by a guy in Portland (Mark Riley of SatoriMoto out of Portland, OR). I think I found him on Ebay and asked if his covers would work on an M750; they wouldn't but Mark had an extra 750 cover laying around The cover is basically a stock cover with a hole machined in it and a piece of glass inserted and sealed in. Its not cheap, but its worth the price.  Images below show the stock cover with the cover after replacing. The final appearance is at the end of the blog.

The bike with stock clutch cover. After the new cover has been added. The pressure 
plate is a stock, cast aluminum one, which will eventually be upgraded

So, after I had added the open (windowed) clutch cover, I thought it looked too plain. This is the cover after having it powder coated. I opted for powder coating because its resistant to petroleum, will not bleach or fade in UV light like anodized metal, and because cast aluminum does not anodize well. Most of the parts you see anodized are milled, which works well.

Controlled Chaos

I thought after the upgraded clutch cover and timing belt covers I was done, but after showing my photos to a friend of mine who subsequently said it looked like shit with wires all over, I decided I needed to clean up the wiring loom.
Ducati builds amazing bikes, but lets face it; the wiring loom and zip ties all over the damn frame is a clusterfuck and was pissing me off. So, it was time to get to work.

If you see photos from the previous posts, there are zip ties all over the frame. Its not bad, but its not good, at least not good enough for me. Its also next to impossible to work on the bike with wires everywhere. I tagged everything with matching color code tags. I really didn't feel like toasting the bike's ECU from connecting the wrong wires back together. If you look closely, you can see an aftermarket set of "open" DanMoto timing belt covers. Those didn't last long, I hated them. The anodized finish started bleaching out in the sun right away, and they just didn't look good. I replaced them with SpeedyMoto open belt covers later on.

Look at this mess. If you look closely you can see the color coded labels I
placed on the wires so I could match the male ends with the right female ends

Ditching the factory airbox

Around the same time I was rewiring the bike, I remembered talking to Mark Riley of SatoriMoto via email. He mentioned once he cleaned up the wiring, he also removed the stock airbox and replaced it with "pod filters"

The factory airbox is essentially just that; its a big black box that holds the air filter and attaches to the "velocity stacks", which attach to the throttle bodies of the engine. The airbox itself is basically a bigass ugly black plastic box that holds the air filter. The challenge here was to remove the airbox and replace it with a set of pod filters (below)

This exotic thing was the factory airbox
After removing the airbox, I had a gaping hole in the cavity once occupied by the filter assembly. This made it all the more necessary to clean up the wiring. The opportunity here was a clean engine body, increased airflow, and higher performance.The next few images below show the area where the factory airbox used to be, it also exposes the throttle bodies.

I've read more blogs and forums than I can think of, and one of the most useful resources is Chris Kelly owner of California Cycleworks. I bought some pod filters from California Cycleworks online and put them in but wanted something bigger almost immediately.

These pods fit directly onto the throttle bodies, but they also
eliminate the factory velocity stacks. That's ok, but I've read
the intake air volume becomes more turbulent without the stacks.
Chris told me I was wasting my time and money without upgrading the velocity stacks. The stacks kind of look like trumpets sitting on top of the throttle bodies. Those are like the carburators on a fuel injected bike. The stacks are shaped in a way that draws air into the throttle bodies in an optimal way. I broke down and spent another few hundred dollars on a TPO Parts "Beast" kit, which included custom machined stacks and K&N Pods. After yanking the stock airbox and velocity stacks, I inserted these in and watched the rebuild start to take shape.

The image below is a stock image I ripped off from TPO Parts because I was too dumb to get photos of the build with the new stacks.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. TPO Parts Beast Kit below. Includes new velocity stacks and pod filters.
This is what replaced the factory airbox

Girls like fancy jewlery

Bling. I never met a woman that didn't appreciate fine jewelry, the same goes with the bike. She's a beautiful Italian woman that treats me well. So, I buy her nice things to wear. Such as:
Oberon anodized fuel cap. This one looked good initially, but like
all anodized parts, it started bleaching out quickly in the sun.
The color started turning pink, so I ditched it for a black one
Anodized front sprocket cove. Same with this sprocket cover; didn't like
the bleaching of the color (started turning pink), so I spray painted it black
Anodized brake and clutch fluid reservoirs. The reservoirs looked nice here, but
they more or less looked like film canisters so I replaced them with another
universal set with black lids
New headlight bucket, lens and bulb. I had an HID xenon one
but the ballast and wires it required got in the way so tossed it.


Crankcase breather system

I'll be honest, when I started this rebuild I knew a decent amount about engines and mechanical operations related to internal combustion engines, but not as much as I do now. I saw all of this black rubber tubing and hoses and wanted to find out what it was for and get rid of it if possible. First step was the OEM crankcase breather. If you don't know what its for, the breather allows "blow-by" gas to escape the crankcase. This is exhaust gas that contains unburned hydrocarbons. Blow-by occurs when the gas escapes the cylinders past the piston rings, and its common on every engine. The breather sits on top of the crankcase and vents the gas out into a breather tube, into a collector reservoir that catches oil mist, and then routes the gas back into the intake manifold via the air filter and throttle bodies to be reburned.

This is an EPA requirement, but let me point out two things here; the engine is designed to breath clean air, not partially burned emissions and gases. The other point I want to make, is that the oil collected in the reservoir under the seat, has nowhere to go. The PCV breather has a one way reed valve that prevents gasses or fluid from entering the crankcase. So that crap sits there in the collector box.
Once I got rid of that, I had to replace the factory breather valve with something decent looking and still had to vent the gas out somewhere. I decided to get a K&N kit designed for this; it has a hose and filter that goes on the end to catch the oil mist

TPO calls it a "remote" crankcase breather kit.Has a hose that allows you to 
vent out the back of the bikethrough a small K&N filter

I also bought a new breather valve from STM I oversleeved the black hose the kit came with in braided steel for looks, its pretty cool. The hose is routed under the seat and vents out the back of the bike away from everything.  

New coils

When I removed the factory airbox, I realized that one of the OEM ignition coils was mounted to it. Removing the airbox meant having to find a new way to mount the coil. I decided to junk the OEM coils and pick up a set of high-voltage, low resistance coils from CA Cycleworks again. These come with new NKG plugs, wires and cool looking race quality red coils.

One of them is mounted in the engine cavity near the pods, the other is mounted in the rear, under the seat to the left. Don't ask me why, they do things different in Italy I suppose.
One other item not shown is the voltage regulator. Ducati mounted it directly under the seat, between the bottom seat assembly. What a bad idea; the regulator gets hot because its dealing with electricity, so I picked up a bracket online to reroute it under the seat entirely. Result - Better airflow across the heatsink.
Same photos as the pod filter installations, showing the coils here,
this one in the former air box cavity in front of the battery