Sunday 30 October 2011

Sitting Pretty

After two weeks of waiting a huge, much anticipated box turned up at the office filled with two little bundles of joy from Diopa in Germany: Imola seat units for me and Ian H, and our totally spoiled Ducati Sport Classics.

When I first got the Duc I loved it's bulbous rear end, with a seat wide enough for Susan Boyle and no room for lights or indies, but over time, the more I saw original 750ss & 900ss Ducs with their proper L-shaped seat and skinny tail the more the OEM rear end started to look a little overweight and not really in keeping with the rest of the bike. It needed sorting.

The Duc's cunning camouflage was let down by it's loud pipes.
Besides, for a bike to be a proper shed-made special it needs some custom-looking body parts, so when I saw this stunning Ducati on the Sport Classic forum, owned by MojoDuc, I knew I'd seen the seat unit I wanted for my little Duc.

What finally sealed the deal, was getting to see one in the flesh on Ian W's Paul Smart at Brands Hatch. Once I'd seen it on his bike it was hard to imagine a Sport Classic with any other seat unit. All of a sudden the fat OEM rear just looked wrong.

What I really like is that it sits on the frame rails instead of enveloping them, keeping true to a real cafe racer's flat frame lines, and adding the lightness that any proper street-bike should have. Side by side the OEM unit is huge and weighs a ton.

I knew The Diopa seat was going to come un-painted, but I didn't know they were made of red impregnated fibreglass. As it happens, I had already planned to paint the whole bike, cos I didn't want to wrap the new rear-end in black vinyl. Matt black may look good but it's a nightmare to keep clean, and in most light it hides the lines of some beautiful bodywork. I fancied Silver with Black stripe or maybe a White with Black &Gold stripes.

So, one way or the other, the wrap would have to come off, leaving the tank red again, and this meant that if I stripped the wrap off now, I could ride around with the imola seat on the bike for a while before getting it painted. Result! ...Time to get the wife's hair dryer out.

Unwrapping the bike from it's thick black n gold vinyl cocoon was a pain in the arse though...

Stripping was never less fun
...Warren at Wrap My Bike did an amazing job getting wrap into every nook and cranny, and I now realise he must have removed and drained the tank to flip it over and add black wrap panels to the underside. I've been picking bits off for whole day. Good job Warren!

Fitting the seat was next, but it wasn't exactly plug and play.

The quality of the fibreglass in the Diopa seat is very good, and the design looks just right, but there are a few imperfections in the mould (or is it a cast?). In terms of fitting, underneath the seat there are four sturdy rubber pillars that sit on the frame and stop anything rubbing. There is some kind of indestructible-looking machined plastic for the front locator hooks, and at the back there is a very butch-looking machined latch pin. The problem is the latch pin wasn't fitted in the true centre of the seat, which was obvious to the eye on both units the minute I looked at them. This seems like a very easy thing to get right and I'm annoyed by this oversight.

When I tried both seats on the bike it was obvious that the latch was about 4mm too far back and another 4mm off centre. What a load of rubbish. Come on Diopa! ...I used a thin round file to start a new hole, and soon ended up with a figure-8 hole with one opening in the correct spot. I needed to remove the spacing washers under the four rubber pillars to bring the seat a couple of mm closer to the frame, and I had to add 4 stacked washers to the underside of the latch so it reached far enough down to engage with the latch itself. I'm surprised all this wasn't sorted by Diopa. Are the Ducs all different when they come out of the factory? I doubt it.

It was a bit fiddly, but the end result is perfection - in fact it's easier to get on and off than the OEM unit is, and feels just as secure, if not more so.

So... I have a new pretty a rear end, but suddenly I also have a red wanker's bike again...

...But now that all the chrome is gone, and I've anodised the wheels and brackets black - leaving the front fender in matt black too - it actually looks ok in red.

This morning I rode the bike over to the Ace Cafe to watch the BBC's Matt Roberts lead out some charity ride, and in it's restored red, my bike drew more attention than anything else in the packed car park.

Later on I slipped into Soho for a quick coffee at Bar Italia, and ended up being flanked by four bike cops who all decided they wanted a Sport Classic, so I spent 20 mins telling them where to look for one and what mods they needed, while tourists stopped and took photos of the bike, as though it was part of some Bar Italia pavement display.

It's amazing what dressing like a tart does for your popularity...

As a reminder, here she was before I even got her home and started modding.

Daisy Duc knew she needed to go on a diet or get some major surgery
And here he is now...

 A few trip to the surgeon later, and Daisy is looking forward to Bikini weather
So pretty it hurts my eyes... But what colour should she be? Ducati Silver? White with Black & Gold?

Monday 24 October 2011

In the genes?

Any idea what model this is?

I just received an email from my dad with pics I've been hunting for ever since I got a glimpse of them a few months ago after a family wedding... I know this kinda thing doesn't normally prompt a new posting on a biker's blog...

...but to say I'm proud of these pics is an understatement.

Mac on his BSA, somewhere between 1927 and 1930

This is my uncle Mac - my grandma Nora's brother, who lived with her in Staffordshire in the 70s. I remember him very well as I grew up visiting her home. He was always in the shed. I actually assumed he lived in the garden somewhere, as I don't think I ever saw him in the house, even though we often slept and ate there as a family. He had calloused hands, a gravelly voice and always wore a flat cap ( least in my head he did, anyway).

But it gets better than that...

Nora MacDonald and Veda Blezzard on Mac's bike
Nora (at the front, natch) was a force to be reckoned with.

As my grandma I remember she smoked 40 a day, drank like a fish, had a ram-rod straight back and took no nonsense from anyone. As a young woman she was pretty out-there (I'm told), and this pic seems to be evidence of that. I'm guessing it's a fairly outlandish photo of a lady, for the late 1920s. (...although Mac was clearly smart enough to put the centre stand down)

Mac obviously loved cars and bikes, and made the most of his passions.

A Bullnose Morris... Apparently?
Any idea what these bikes are?

My uncle Tony also played a big part in my love of bikes... As a twelve year old I was blown away by the looks and sound of his bright red & black GPz900R, which to me was the coolest machine on earth.

I bought my own at the age of 20, in silver, and then went backwards in time with more bikes from the green machine; owning a '79 Z1R and late 70s z650. ...I prefer to forget my GT550, but it was matt black with open pipes.

Duc vs Duke vs Duc

I had planned to post a couple of new blogs this weekend, but the untimely death of the brilliant rising star, Marco Simonceli, at this weekend's MotoGP in Sepang totally robbed me of the will to write anything about bikes that wasn't a tribute to him, his personality, his raw talent and his unique character. The grid will be a lesser place without him...

But there are other places for all this (to which I've already contributed) - so for now, I guess life has to go on. Meanwhile, my thoughts are with his family, friends, crew and fellow riders, especially Vale and Colin...

All weekend I've been caught up in this ongoing debate with myself:

To recap; ..My Ducati SC1000 - the bike that was supposed to be my summer plaything - has turned out to be a brilliant all rounder, and apart from my fears over Ducati's engine paint quality, it does make a pretty good all-season, everyday bike. This has made my Superduke rather redundant. The over-engineered tonker-toy from KTM should have been my modern reliable stalwart transport - with attitude - while the Duc stayed at home waiting for sunny days and gentle cruising, but the smooth and confidence-inspiring Duc has turned my angry, punch-drunk Duke into a bike I'd rather leave at home, unless I'm feeling rude and nasty and want to upset cyclists and scare old ladies.

You also may have noticed that I saw - and fell in love with - the looks and vibe of the Union 900ss. Not so much because it's a Ducati 900ss in a retro fairing, but because ever since I saw a Ducati Paul Smart in the flesh, I've secretly wished I had a cafe racer with a half fairing, and the Union bike's execution is just so damn pretty.

Anyway, you've read all this before.

Spending my KTM cash on an another version of the bike I already have is probably insane (but I might still do it anyway), and I would need a fairing for either bike, so in the meantime I wanted to check out a fairing supplier recommended to me by Adam from Untitled M/C. Edgar is the man behind FlatRacer - who made a couple of lovely BMW CRs featured on Bike EXIF.

The original Batcycle was much more restrained...

His work in creating the tanks, seat units and fairings for his Beemers led him into specialising in producing these for other BMW owners, and so I went to visit him at the Ace Cafe to look at the 900ss inspired half-fairing he has been producing - which seems to have identical lines to the one used on the Union bikes.
Monza 900ss with 7inch headlamp opening
We met over breakfast on a surprisingly warm and sunny October day. Edgar seems to share my OCD when it comes to quality parts and finish, and was keen to show me in great detail exactly how well made and well thought out his fairings are - and he was absolutely right. The fibreglass is twice the thickness of many aftermarket products I've seen before, the molding is smooth, and the outside was extremely well finished (although he said it needed more polishing), plus the screen fixings used expanding rubber inserts, with a rubber washer to isolate the screen from rubbing or vibrating.

All in all, it was a high quality item - and I'd certainly be happy to recommend any of Edgar’s bodywork products to anyone, at least from what I saw. I also liked the way the headlight was kept flush with the fairing (he does 7 inch and 8 inch versions), and you can add a perspex protector screen, which can be swapped out for a trackday number. Cool.

This fairing has clearances that suit late 70s BMWs, but it was based on a Ducati, so I was happy to see that despite the unfortunate location of my newly relocated reservoirs, which meant we had to offer it up on a tilt, it looked like it might be an achievable fit without too much hassle.

The one thing that has put me off though, is that adding this fairing to my current Duc might require me to lower my clipons, and this is a bit of an issue:

As the SC is such a great day to day bike with it's current setup, I don’t really want to make it lower at the front, as I'm happy with my body/wrist/neck angles, and don’t really want to change them. It would be fine for a weekend bike ridden mainly in the twisties, but I also want this bike to be truly usable, two-up, in-town, and for all -day errands and play. This could be a deal breaker, unless my "other bike" becomes the practical one...

So I'm kinda back to where I started; looking at the feasibility of building a Union-like 900ss, probably using Edgar's fairing, and maybe some other FlatRacer bodyparts... hopefully with help from Tim & Kevin at Spirit.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Inspiration & Confusion

This Saturday I took a trip across the river and through the Blackwall tunnel into deepest Kent with Bonnie Barry & Scrambler Ben to visit the Spirit of the Seventies workshop and meet Tim Rogers - one half of the talented duo that are building some stunning, timeless custom bikes in the UK.

The boys compare pocket sizes while Barry's Bonnie doubles as a handbag holder

They've had a lot of great press recently, and it's well deserved, as their design and vision is matched by the their quality of parts and build, and their background in riding proper bikes on track means they don't compromise when it comes to performance and handling.
These bikes are not all show and no go.

Spirit 1 - 1976 z750
The first couple of Spirit bikes were based on Kawasaki's z750 and Yamaha's XS750 (bored out to 850) which also make popular donors for street customs from the likes of Wrench Monkees and Roland Sands, but Tim & Kev's take on these bikes are beautiful and original. I specially like their ubercool paint schemes.

Spirit 2 - 1979 XS 750 ...eighteen, nineteen, twenty! ... Coming, ready or not.
Their third outing is a street tracker based on a 78 Yamaha XS 650, and this bike is one of the prettiest of them all (although I'm a clip-ons kinda guy).

Spirit 3 - 1979 XS 650 Street Tracker
What's more, it was built on-spec and is available to buy. ... I thought Ben was going to get his wallet out on the spot after a test ride that left him grinning from ear to ear. Ben's heavily modified and blacked-out Triumph Scrambler is lovely, but this kickstart (optional), flickable beauty suited him just a little too well.

(...g'wan Ben, you know you wanna).

It was after this meeting of minds and metal that I realised something I'd been fretting over...

...I realised that my Superduke has to go...

The Superduke R is a stunning bike (Kev also had one) and they are a rush to ride and own. KTM held on to a pure motorcyling ethos that I've admired for years, and I've owned a few. The SM950 and standard Superduke are two of the best. They practically reinvented the streetbike class and definitely invented the hypermoto. They have also stood out from the crowd, hanging on to the principle of Ready To Race, and keeping away from electronic rider aids and me-too models for longer than most manufacturers...

But sadly, they are having to change to stay competitive and to adhere to ever-stricter EU regs on noise & emissions. On top of that, thanks to the era of health & safety without responsibilty, (and riders who can't ride), ABS and Traction Control are here to stay on big bikes, and are firmly knocking on KTM's door.

Robin was very upset that Batman had bought a single seater

...but why should this iconic bike leave my garage?

Well, I'm just not riding it any more. KTMs make superb all-season bikes with their bullet-proof dirtbike-based finishes and fastenings, but the R version of the Superduke is just too lairy, and compared to my other trellis-framed European litre-twin, it's fucking hard work to ride. The FI has been smoothed out with a Power Commander and MotoHooligan Airbox, but it's still an arse to ride through town, and instead of playing it's part as my everyday practical bike with attitude, it's taken a surprise back seat to my pretty Sport Classic.

My Ducati summer play-thing has evolved simultaneously into my custom-lite special AND my practical day to day ride.

But most of all the big, badass, Batbike of a KTM suddenly looks dated. A new 1200 will be out soon, but the journos stopped talking about the SD in group tests two years ago, and although it's still an amazing machine, it's set in it's era, ...and in many ways stands for what annoys me about biking now:

...It's approaching it's bloody sell-by date. 

So, if I liberate the Superduke into the hands of a new admirer, and liberate the cash that's been sitting on non-rolling wheels for too long, what do I replace it with? 

...A really sensible winter bike? Another KTM 950 Supermoto, or perhaps a Husky 510SMR fitted with race wets for winter? ...Both are very appealing... 

But then Tim at Spirit sent me a photo... (bastard)

First-up, he commented that the mid-nineties Dukes have a pretty flat frame, and could make good donors for a cafe racer. 

...and then he ruined me with this...

This was made worse when I googled Union bikes, and saw it's sister bike...

I suddenly and desperately want a bike like this in my life.

I posted this bike on the Ducati forum and one smart arse (correctly) pointed out that I already have one of these bikes. The Sport Classic is the defining retro Ducati cafe racer. Practical, with decent handling and performance, and timeless looks...

But the Union 900's combination of braced box-section swingarm, monoshock rear, solid wheels and 70s style half fairing results in a fantastic mix of old and new that I really love. Bonnie Barry also owns a mid nineties Ducati 900ss FE, so I've seen one in the flesh, and it's a great base bike for something like this.

I'm in two minds.

One part of me says; let my modern retro (the Sport Classic) continue to evolve, but also serve as my practical year round day-to-day bike. Apart from my fear of the UK's uber-corrosive road salt and it's effect on my engine finish, it's perfectly capable of playing that role, even if I make it very pretty and keep customising it.

This would allow me to use the ca$h to help me pick up an old 900ss and then get Tim & Kev at Spirit to customise it for me, with our take on what the guys at Union have done. But am I crazy?

Another route would be to take my lovely Duc SC and add a fairing... It's probably going to annoy me - after all that effort simplifying the clocks, indies and headlamp, ... I'd have to build some kind of frontal subframe and then retro-fit a fixed half fairing and headlamp... or I could consider getting the OEM parts from a Duc SportClassic 1000S or Paul Smart, which already have a very similar fairing... but I prefer the Union one - I think it's from Glass From The Past in the US.

It's blunt nose is even prettier than the Paul Smart.

The snapper wasn't told all cafe racers have to be shot in front of
rusty steel, bare concrete or rotting wood 

This bike needs Y-Spoke wheels, reverse-cone end-cans, and to lose that ugly hugger... But otherwise, she's a peach.

I have no idea what I will do next. The cost comes into it. Logic doesn't play a part.

I know that with plan A I could end up with two bikes that are almost identical, one with and one without a fairing. I know that instead I should add a fairing to my Duc and buy myself a 950 SMR for winter...

But I really don't care what the smart thing to do is. Biking is now officially my pointless passion and I will do whatever makes me the most happy.

The faux-retro Duc shows off his 180 section rear rubber,
while the real 70s retros talk block tyre treads and carb-jetting... 

Minor Tweaks. Major Joy

Ugly, pissed, urine-sample pots - ruining the lovely flat lines of my low bars and tilted clocks!
The problem is, that once something starts to approach your ideas of perfection, small things start to bother you.

The Ducati Sport classic is quite pretty straight out of the factory, but it has all the usual issues related to meeting EU and DOT regulations, plus the price limit on the bike set by the marketing department that means some parts are just plain cheap.

Dealing with tail tidies, mirrors, indicators and sorting out the fuelling (limited by emmissions and noise regs) are must-dos that most of us just have to sort... and then you move on to the bigger stuff (as per my previous posts). So now I've done the must-dos and some of the bigger stuff, I'm back to the small things that niggle.

First up, are those horrible tupperware Brembo bar-mounted reservoirs just have to be minimalised, or hidden. Fuctionally I'm sure they are the bees-knees (Brembo know what they're doing, right?), but having two un-equally sized and positioned urine-sample pots, mounted crookedly on each lever with a bent bit of alu suddenly looks totally unacceptable.

Plan A is to hide them altogether

After much arguing about the way a sealed hydrualic system works, the consensus seems to be that the reservoirs can be mounted anywhere, as long as they are at the highpoint in the system every time you bleed them - so at some point I may tuck them under the yokes.

Meanwhile I'm gonna start cheap and simple, by replacing the oversized Brake pot with a Clutch-sized one, and then mounting them evenly. From there, I've cut down both brackets by about 12mm and am mounting them backwards, and initially I'm using clear fluid hose so I can see if any bubbles collect where they shoudn't, as the new routing I have keeps the reservoirs high, but the hoses are horizontal and won't encourage bubbles to rise through the thick fluid. I figure that as long as I can see the state of the fluid, I'm able to monitor whether my alternative mounting ideas will stand the test of time.

Should I be drinking more water, doctor?
Anyway, it's a small mod, but a big principle, so while it's not the most exciting bike-related post on the interweb, it is a pre-cursor to me doing something more radical...

Small things can bring big joy...

Better, but still about as attractive as Shrek's ball-bag. I'll hide them under the top yoke soon

My next obsession is trying to reduce the size of those clocks... This could be messy or expensive!

This guy (Robsy) on the US Ducati Forum had new shells made from carbon fibre. Maybe if I get the hacksaw and superglue out, I could bodge something similar...

Thursday 13 October 2011

Owning it... Custom Lite?

PhotoChop Special: Plan A - AKA 'Bike of my dreams'
We'd all love to drop into Deus, Roland Sands, SOS or Untitled and have them build us a stunning, one-off, bespoke motorcycle according to the bike of our dreams, but most of us either can't afford it or can't justify the expense... instead we lust over bikes posted on blogs like Bike EXIF, wondering at what stage in life we have to get to before we're dropping ten to fifteen grand on a custom bike just for the joy of ownership, ...or perhaps wondering how hard it could be to try and do some of this stuff ourselves...

Somewhere out there, there is a world between the mass-market Oxford & Motrax aftermarket goodies listed on Busters and M&P, and the stunning one-off creations, custom built by the likes of Wrench Monkees.

...Let's call it Custom Lite?

Forums & garages across the land are full of bolder bikers, knocking-up brackets, fitting high quality parts from one manufacturers bike to another, modding what they already have extremely creatively, and sharing links to obscure places (mostly in Europe and the US) where specialists create more unusual parts and accessories in low-volume for aficionados and mates., I've tried to step beyond Motrax and into Custom Lite.

Here's my story so far...

It all started few months ago when my little Ducati was almost bog standard.
So clean, shiney and unspoiled... Little did she know...
I found her on EvilBay one evening.

She'd just been listed late in the day at £5500, and with only 5000 dry miles on the clock - and the Race cans and ECU fitted - I had to have her, so I rang the shop and left a message offering £5200 unseen.

The next day they called back and accepted my offer.

I was very lucky on a few counts. Firstly, an old mate of mine - Chris, from race/tuning shop XBikes - was up the road in Wisbeach and her offered to ride over to check her out (cheers Chris). He declared her almost mint.

Secondly, I had no idea the bike had just been immortalised in TRON, and as a discontinued model they were going up in value, especially against a backdrop of excitement around new expensive cafe racers from the likes of Norton, and retro bikes popping up everywhere in TV campaigns and even on thier own TV series...

So... without knowing it, I was already trendy...

Kiera couldn't work out why she wasn't going anywhere, even at 7000rpm
But the bike wasn't my own yet. ... I had a very different vision.

All in all it's a typical story of small changes and additions, each made one at a time until the sum of the parts added up to something a little more unique, but she's still far from finished.

The US Ducati Forum was my main source of information, with other people's bikes to inspire me, and plenty of links and advice on how to get what I wanted for my bike. I started with the obvious.

Does my Bum look Big in this?

I like big butts and I can not lie...
I made my own tail tidy from one made for a Suzuki by RG Racing. They kindly drilled extra holes for an LED tail light from another model. I had to get the bracket re-cut, and re-bent to fit properly. The indicators came from a German company, ShinYo, (yes, I know they don't sound German) who make all kinds of unusual stuff. (Well worth checking out, by the way)

Next up was the colour...

Ok, so Ducatis are supposed to be Red... but... When you see a red Ferrari, how often do you think WANKER instead of being impressed...?

... But if you see a silver one, or a black one, suddenly they're cool.

Ok - be honest now, it's partly envy - but we also hate show offs. ...Well, I often feel the same way about some Ducatis. I wanted something a little more original and less, well, Italian perhaps.

Instead of paint, I decided to try a vinyl wrap. It was cheaper and easy to reverse. Brett at WrapMyBike in Slough did it all for a couple of hundred pounds, and they did a superb job.

I settled for matt black with a retro gold racing stripe, inspired by the 1970s 750 and 900ss.

This 900ss turned up at the Ace cafe on Italian Car & Bike night
Other mods followed fast...

New Michelin Pilot Pure tyres replaced the AWFUL fake retro Pirelli Phantoms, which were flat-profiled and had about as much grip as tupperware. Really, I can't emphasise enough just how shit they were. If you have them on your bike, change them now. The sharper profile of the Pures was possibly the best aftermarket handling accessory money can buy. It was like a new bike afterwards.

The basic suspension also needed sorting as the ride wasn't right... Mike Dawson at MD Racing fitted me some progressive Wilber springs in the front forks (German again!) and changed to heavier fork oil, and he set up the adjustable rear Marzzochis for my weight and riding style. This transformed the ride even further.

A lighter clutch action came courtesy of my mate Ian H (who has a lovely GT1000) when he offered me his unwanted Rexx Clutch slave.

I found an independent guy in Germany (again?) who was producing "gauge lowering brackets" which tilted the OEM instrument cluster back, flatter and closer to the yokes. (much more reto looking). In an effort to De-Bling the bike I also removed the chrome rings on the clocks (thanks to a how-to on the Ducati forum).

A 14 tooth front sprocket improved the gearing for town riding, I found a hugger being produced in small quantities by a fellow Ducatisti in the US (GTRossi), and I played around with angled clipons from Speedymoto, also in the US.

EvilBay furnished me with black anodised adjustable levers, I got crash protection from RG Racing, retro bar end weights came from Renthal, ...and after a while she was looking closer to what I had imagined.

...but it wasn't enough... and there was still too much gold.

(ok, ...I found some gold pinstripe tape on ebay)...

...step away from the Gold pinstripe tape, man!
Next - The bike really needed black wheels, and more black.

I needed help. Adam & Rex at Victory MC / Untitled Motorcycles took the bike in, and disassembled the wheels, front fender and headlamp brackets to all be powdercoated black. I also wanted a smaller front-end look, so as well as removing chrome bits and re-angling the clocks, I found a 6.5 inch Clubman headlamp from ShinYo (again) in matt black, and also had that fitted to replace the 8 inch chromed Bosch unit. I needed two 17mm spacers to get it to work with the OEM brackets, and google found me a lovely fella up north somewhere who made one-off spacers to order.

He charged me just a fiver to machine me exactly what I needed.

So far so good... But what next?
To me she still looks too close to what you could buy from a Ducati dealer. The stance and proprtions have changed. The engine and chassis have those must-have mods, and the cosmetics are on the way, but mostly it feels like I'm just swapping lamps, lights, controls and running gear...

What she really needs is a proper old school, one-off rear tail and single seat unit.

My new biker friend, Ian W, has a lovely Paul Smart, and he sourced his old school tail end from another German company called Diopa (what is it with these industrious, cafe-racer loving Huns?).

Ian's Imola seat unit just looks so right on his stunning Paul Smart.

Billy the bucket thought he'd found the perfect hiding place...
(great photos Barry).

Ian H and I have ordered a pair of these seats and they should arrive in a couple of weeks - ready to paint and fit.

Other small tweaks will include fitting a black race-style filler cap. The 848/998 tank is the same shape, so there are a few aftermarket options which should fit, and more creatively, I'm desperate to hide those unsightly brake and clutch fluid reserviors.

One imaginative guy on the Ducati forum fabricated some brakets to remount them hidden under the yokes, but a debate is raging as to whether they will still function if they're not at the high point of a closed hydraulic system. Who knows...

Also, I need to sort out the ugly black triangles...

The rearsets, passenger footrests and end cans all hang off two big black triangles, which are not awful, but not nearly as pretty as the setup that comes on the single seat (monoposto) version of the bike (just look again at the rearsets on Ian's Paul Smart).

There's a great company in the US who specialise is parts for the Sport Classic called JCPak selling one solution; "Mack hangers" - which are perfect, but very expensive at $550, so Hugo and I are looking to get some made in London for a fraction of the cost, and then I will fit the monoposto standard rearsets which are plenty nice enough.

Here are the lovely Mack hangers from JCPak...

Nice, but $550 (with rear footrest adapters)!

So - here we are... black on black, stripped-back & beefed-up.

Imagine her in a few weeks with the Imola seat unit. ...A lot like this one, belonging to MojoDuc.

So, all in all I'd say she's about 75% done...

And if you want to know what CAN be done even if you're not Roland Sand or Deus, check out this bike for inspiration.

It's a home-build by GTRossi on the Ducati forum (who makes the hugger my bike is fitted with)... It's not really a sport classic any more with an 1100 ST engine, GSXR front end, and handbuilt frame, tank and bodywork, custom pipes, etc... I'll post up new pics when he's finished it.


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Kick Starter...

I guess what seperates bike-riders from bikers, is that bikers ride out of passion.

Riding is a lifestyle choice not a mode of transport. Two-wheels defines us, and what we ride is a reflection of who we are - or at least who we want to be.

I've been riding all my adult life, and my biking has evolved from being something I do for pure riding pleasure; the adrenalin-rush of speed, the grand entrance, the noisy departure - to something I also do to be part of something - with friends, or, to escape from the world - into the purest possible space... Space that's single-minded, and all mine.

...Something I control in a complex world. My passion. My waste of time & money, on things I want, and not things I need.

...Something that friends stop questioning, and assume I will do without reason. I'll ride when I could drive, get wet and cold when I could be warm and dry. I arrive and leave when I want (but don't expect me to be able to bring anything). My clothes need to work when I'm operating machinery - at speed - with sturdy boots, thick denim, and the protection of a leather jacket, with a non-fussy haircut that defies the abuse of hours in a crash helmet. Kiss goodbye to gelled hair, ironed shirts and soft shoes. (...and good riddance)

As I get older I get slower, but somehow quicker. This quote from Colors maybe says it all?

There's two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: "Hey pop, let's say we run down there and fuck one of them cows". The older one says: "No son. Lets walk down and fuck 'em all". 

I know what I want, I have a better idea of how to get it, and I'll make less compromises and suffer fools less gladly, and when it comes to my bikes, and my biker friends, other things often take a back seat. Right at the very back.

The core components of my biking nirvana are timeless beauty combined with practical quality. What looks right is right, where practical engineering seemlessly meets iconic design. I've moved on from stupidly fast and high tech bikes, to surprisingly quick and low tech, but low tech that is still at a level with most people's actual riding ability.

What good is a BMW S1000RR to anyone on normal roads? ...a 200mph bike tamed by traction control and ABS that can only be ridden safely by the inexperienced with all the rider aids tuned up to the max.

Yawn. It's souless, uninspiring and ultimately useless. Even the 'exciting' new Ducati Panigale Superquadro engine will only work because of the advances in ECU-controlled fuel injection. Put carbs on it, and it wouldn't even idle. Like the Eurofighter: Turn off the computer and it's not aerodynamic enough to even glide.

So, where am I today? I've joined some of my wiser friends in the world of the timeless bike. The cafe racer / flat tracker / streetbike - whatever you want to call it. It's all about the simple basic bike, with no sell by date...

...Like a cartoon motorcyle drawn by someone who knows nothing about bikes, except how they should look.

It's a vehicle of cliche parts; a twin-cylinder, finned, aircooled engine with twin exhausts either side of the wire-spoked rear wheel, mounted on twin-shocks, fronted by a round headlight and white-faced analogue clocks - and nothing attached that doesn't need to be there.

Oddly enough my 'old school' pride and joy was born a little late - in 2009 - a Ducati Sport Classic 1000, but it's air-coooled, tube-framed roots begin with the Ducati 750ss and the eras of Mike Hailwood and Paul Smart. I could have been more of a purist and got something more fragile, with skinny wheels and a couple of oil leaks, but I'm not ready for that just yet.

I'm very drawn to those gorgeous 70s and 80s conversions of Japanese and European bikes from the likes of Sprirt of the Seventies, Wrench Monkees, Untitled Motorcycles, Deus and Co, and would love to own something so precious and bespoke...

...but what really counts is making your ride your own.