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

Upgraded oil cooler

I tried to anodize my factory cooler initially, but it didn't turn out so well. I messed it up pretty bad, so I replaced it with a Hypermotard cooler.  I should have just gone with the Hypermotard cooler from the start. I was excited when I got it in the mail; its better than I thought it would be. Sleek, black, and has a temp sensor on it I can use if I choose not to use the one on the crankcase sump. Check it out...

The new cooler. Only difference is the old one was grey aluminum.

Paint and body

When I started, it was gunmetal grey with a few scratches and minor dings except for the tank, which had a deep dent with a crease in it. But because of the damage from being knocked over, it needs an entirely new paint job. I decided to have the color changed entirely from grey to black with a red racing stripe and red Ducati tank decals.


Look close and notice the factory clutch cover?
Look carefully, you can see the dent on the tank (white mark)  
Trying to decide the placement of the DUCATI logo

2014 Off To A Decent Start

Back in December, on the 15th to be exact, I took my Monster out for a test ride on Interstate 405 in Bellevue. Well, the fucking rear brake nearly locked up and wouldn't release on the highway. I ended up riding it with the rear brake clamped down for maybe a mile until I could get off the highway. Had it towed to Ducati Seattle for scheduled maintenance, and just today picked it up.

Had to replace the rear rotor, the factory one was trashed. I picked up a cast iron racing rotor from Randy Nedescu over at Bellissimoto. Cast iron sounds strange; you would think its heavier and would rust, but its lighter and wont rust. They use these rotors on the Moto GP circuit. Also got the valves serviced, belts tightened, instrument cluster fixed, had the ECU (fuel-air system) dyno'd and also had a new Brembo racing clutch and master cylinder installed. I'm happy as a clam now; although I just drained my bank account getting this service done.

Had to take a glamour shot of it sitting in the showroom at Ducati Seattle (Thanks Sky!)
The factory rear rotor after I trashed it. Its hard to see but there are grooves
all over this thing; completely unserviceable now
Here's the new rear brake rotor; it looks pretty cool too cause its black instead of stainless steel
New Brembo radial clutch and master cylinder. This thing is cool, I can dial it up or down from 16mm to 18mm

Blown Motor

At the end of March, it was a nice sunny and warm Sunday afternoon. Those days are rare in Seattle in March, so I brought the bike outside; washed it, waxed it, and cleaned the engine. I was running the engine at idle speed to burn off the smoke from the engine shine spray I used, and was wiping down some parts at the same time. That's not a good idea, and I kept telling myself to be careful. Why? Because I have open timing belt covers, and only the sprockets are covered, partially.

Running the motor while wiping the engine down, is not much different than using a hair dryer in a bathtub with 6 inches of water in it. You're probably going to be fine, unless you slip and drop that hair dryer in the water. Well, I slipped, figuratively speaking. The crankshaft sprocket snagged the rag and sucked it in. To describe this better, Ducati engines are "Interference" motors. They have two timing belts, one for each cylinder. Both belts connect to the center sprocket, or the crankshaft. The timing has to be exactly perfect, I listed the steps below for an understanding of how this works:
  1. There are two cylinders in a 2 valve, L-Twin Ducati engine; the horizontal, or front cylinder, and a vertical, or rear cylinder.
  2. One piston goes up on the compression stroke (front cylinder), the rear (opposing) piston goes downward, on what is known as the combustion stroke. this sequence must happen 4 times for a complete rotation or revolution of the engine (hence a 4 stroke or 4 cycle engine).
  3. As these actions or sequences occur, valves open and close. You have intake, and exhaust valves. When the piston heads down on the combustion stroke, the intake valve opens and the combustion chamber (cylinder) draws air in from the throttle bodies. At the same time, the injectors spray the fuel into the combustion chamber. When the valve opens, its extending into the cylinder.
  4. When the piston comes back up on the compression stroke, the intake valve closes, and the exhaust valve opens. Engines vary, and you can have 2 valve and 4 valve engines, depending on who makes it, the displacement, any number of variables.
  5. In Ducati engines, they have a complicated, yet powerful valve system known as the "Desmodromic", or Desmo valve engine. On these engines, there are no valve springs, just mechanical levers. They are very efficient, and eliminate a phenomenon known as "valve float". This occurs when the engine reaches such high RPM, that the valve springs cannot open and contract fast enough to maintain speed combustion and compression cycles, and the valves remain open when they should be closed. This means loss of compression and loss of power.
  6. Because Ducati incorporates the Desmo valve system, there is no valve float that occurs. However, like some other engines, they are known as "interference" motors. If the piston firing and timing sequence becomes lopsided, you will almost certain strike an open valve with a piston head. This is catastrophic, and also known as a blown engine. Many cars use interference motors, Volkswagen is a good example.
This happened to me. When that rag got sucked in, one of the timing belts skipped a tooth, the engine jumped time, and both intake valves were bent. They were bent soooo miniscule however, you couldn't even tell. But it has to be precision, to maintain compression on an engine that can reach 8000rpm in first gear alone.

Anyway, I spent about $800 getting the intake valves replaced, new timing belts, and labor. I am lucky the engine was at idle speed, had this happened on the highway, the engine would have exploded and the rear wheel locked up. I could have gone over the handlebars.

Impossible to tell, but they are bent.
Bent intake valves; the one on top has been striking the piston head. 

The moment after I blew the motor. You cant see anything obvious.
The three red discs are the open belt covers; the only cover the sprockets. The
timing belts are exposed though. The one in the center is the crankshaft cover,
the rag got sucked in behind it.

Upgraded Rearsets

I just couldn't get past the factory rearsets, or the powder coated grey metal parts on each side that contain the shifting and brake pedals and footpegs. They were fine, but that's the issue for me. If you are going to make an improvement, commit and do it right.

Because I was removing the factory rearsets, I would also have to relocate the master brake cylinder. In the photo below, you can see the master cylinder for the rear brake mounted under top mount point of the rear set. Relocating it posed a challenge because it also eliminated the brake light sensor wire.
The new rearsets had their own shift and brake pedals, I would not be able to use the factory ones. The brake light wire and sensor switch would not work on the new ones, so I would have to buy a new banjo bolt pressure switch.

The banjo bolt is a threaded bolt with a hole in the bottom that allowes pressurized brake fluid in, and out the top through small holes, and into the high pressure brake line. Then it heads out to the brake calipers, pads and rotor. The pressure switch on the new banjo bolt acts as a simple relay, where brake pressure when the pedal is pressed, pushes the contacts together, completes the circuit, and sends a signal to the brake light. I've posted an image at the bottom.

To the immediate left of the open clutch cover, the grey metal
"wing" is the rear set. You can see the gold rear master brake
cylinder. This would be replaced as well with a new black one.
Larger view
Photo of the right side rearset, with the master cylinder
for the rear brake mounted vertically. Notice the pressure switch on top


Additional Changes

Along the way, I've been inspired by other blogs and other bikes. I thought it didn't make much sense to go halfway, so I added some more upgrades. I thought if I replaced the clutch cover and had it powder coated black, I should do the left-engine/stator cover the same, powder coated black.

I had always liked the look of the Streetfighter appearance, so I decided to take the upgraded euro" headlight off and replace it with dual lights.

I also didn't really like the look of those new clutch and brake reservoirs after a while, and I noticed they were also starting to bleach out and turn a pinkish color, so I decided to replace them with some less "glam" reservoirs. You can see the red anodized ones are gone in these photos.

I had seen so many rad looking bikes along the way, I realized the only way to make this legit was to put clip-ons up front. Here is the problem though; putting clip-on bars up front usually lowers your posture and can drastically change the geometry and handling of the bike. That's what happened here. Initially I ordered a set of PSR (PowerStands Racing) clip-ons, and they looked so good. But my forward lean stance dropped about three inches. It was soooo uncomfortable and it was so hard to control the bike. I ditched them almost immediately and replaced them with a new set of Woodcraft clip-ons with 3" risers. They looked great, and felt great.

Stock handlebars
Stock handlebars removed. This, was a nightmare. I had to tearapart the entire front end: 
headlights, gauge cluster, brake and clutch grips, and all control switches.

With the PSR clip-on bars. I also got rid of the stock turn signals
and replaced with some short stock ones. You can see them to
the left and right of the headlights

Two more images below showing the newer brake and clutch reservoirs and the new short stock turn signals. Further below are a few shots of the new carbon fiber "shorty" wheel hugger, aka fender.

Cleaning the pipes

Around the time I did this blog and majority of the work, I decided I wanted to wrap the pipes in Kevlar pipe wrap. They look sharp and insulates the pipes from the excess heat. I did a sloppy job though, and decided later I wanted the black pipe wrap. The top photo is what the bike looked like without wrapped pipes, or stock. 2nd photo is after I had removed them; you can see the pipe wrap I put on originally; its off white color. Everything thereafter is black pipe wrap. It looks pretty dope and keeps you from getting burned.

Removed the pipes all the way from the headers
Wrapped the pipes in black Kevlar wrap, then spray painted
with engine enamel (black) to prolong the color. Eventually
the color will start turning dull black