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Pushing the starter button for the first time always stresses me out. It shouldn’t, but for some reason it still does and likely always will. But after 5 seconds, the stress is replaced with a quiet satisfaction and then the joy of what generally marks then new life of a bike that I may or may not keep – but one that will transport me through a new riding season. The DB1SR lit right up and although far too lean with Fran’s set-up for jetting, all was well with the motor and the sound with the Montjuich cams put a grin on my face as I warmed it up.
With everything that’s been going on in my life lately, this has been a seriously long build with long pauses that made it difficult to jump back into the process and get into a rhythm going. But, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and although I can only get a few hours to work on it each weekend, it’s down to the small stuff (knock on wood) now. I hope to be on the dyno with it by the end of the month and then it’s off to Calabogie in late May with the two bikes.
This foray into the old-school, small-block Pantah-based motors is proving to be a fun process although I’m gonna miss the stump-pulling torque that came with the big engines, it was making me into a lazy rider on the track. Then again, ask me how I feel about this after a season of running with Fran on a level playing field..
Like the TT1, the DB1 has been a challenging build with lots of time spent whittling bits of aluminum, wrestling with packaging and fussing over detail - but with far more time spent cursing the designer. I have high expectations for both machines though and expect them to be a hoot to ride. I wish there were more venues on the schedule that would allow me to run them with the open pipes – both machines have that great loping cadence that I love to bits and don’t hear often enough.. I obviously have a fetish for exhaust sound and unfortunately, the opportunity to run ‘em as they did ‘back in the day’ is fast coming to a close.. Mosport once a year, ditto with the 10-hour trek to Grattan or 14 hours to VIR. And now that I know what I know, the performance of the open systems is actually inferior to a well-designed silenced system. I’m beginning to realize that in my lifetime, there may only be a few venues in North America where we can run ‘em loud. Get it while the getting’s good.
So, it’s back into the shop this morning – fool around with jetting ‘till I get it into the ball park. Make some noise today.
Consider the stunning billet aluminum fluid reservoirs that double as fork caps – making track-side fluid adjustments on the M1Rs a major task. Want to adjust the steering damper? Remove the bodywork, paisan. All of it.
If you need to adjust your chain tension or swap final drive gearing, the trick-looking concentric rear axle adjusters will modify the hide height – which you’ll have to adjust via two rod-ends that have to be removed to be reset. Got a mechanical or electrical issue to attend to? Remove all the bodywork again. Swapping the carbs to Malossis with ticklers meant that I had to drill a hole in the left side panel so I can stick my little finger through to tickle the rear carb.
In order to allow engine heat to move out through the rear of the bike, designers had to leave a tunnel of sorts open under the seat portion of the main body – and with the structure supported by four shouldered bolts, the street bodywork would bow and crack with anyone weighing more than about 160 pounds in the saddle. To preserve my prototype lightweight race version made by AirTECH I had to fabricate a vertical support post to take some of the weight and stress.
But I love it. I suspect that the handling will be excellent and weighing-in about the same as the TT1, the Montjuich motor with a 790 kit and serious cylinder head work should propel it around the track at a pretty good clip.
I’m finally on the back-end of the project; with cam timing, plumbing and hydraulics left to complete.. With two Ducati bevel twin restorations and Yellow Bike III filling the shop, I moved it into my office (with the TT1) and snapped the pics just prior to running the bodywork down to Robbie Nigl (Peachpit Painting) for color and shine. They’ll make a fine pair of book-ends; the TT1 and the DB1 – two featherweight racers with 86HP small-block engines.
These machines mark a return to racing after a 7 year hiatus. I plan three rounds of the P89 Series at NHMS – and who knows? ..Maybe Team Clutch Slip and the False Neutrals will make a return to the VRRA Endurance race..
Yes - but it was right down to the wire..
The TT1 motor being my first crack at building an 'old school' race engine, I didn't want to hit the track without setting the air/fuel and doing a few pulls on a dyno. Ottawa's not a great place for tuning resources with only one DynoJet set-up within 2 hours of my place and just to keep things consistently difficult; it wasn't available. That had me making calls and surfing local forums until I came up with LenTech / Richmond Motorsports in Richmond, Ontario (about 45 minutes from my place) - a performance automotive shop with a Mustang dyno modified for bikes. The owner's a bike fan, the dyno pretty sophisticated and although expensive (you have to pay for the tech), it was the only game in town. So I booked for the Wednesday morning before the TT F1 Symposium and figured if I got through the dyno session, then I'd be off to New Hampshire on Saturday.
If Chris had the bodywork finished..
That meant Tuesday evening I had to scramble to get some main jets bigger than the 250s that I was running in the 853 (just in case) and get the machine & gear set-up for the day's tuning.
So I cobbled together a temporary seat and rolled into Lentech early Wednesday
morning way more nervous than I've ever been with a new motor. Turned out
I had nothing to worry about regarding the staff or the equipment; other than having
to futz with an O2 sensor designed for a car exhaust, and wrestle with a
jetting set-up that would get us in the ball park - it was all pretty smooth
sailing. Disappointing at first though.. We kept throwing more fuel
at the engine, but it just wouldn't respond until I threw a 270 at it and
suddenly the thing pulled like crazy, came on the cam and showed 86HP.
Playing with the A/F via the needle returned excellent torque (albeit at over
6,500RPM), but the combination of Mike Weber's recipe and the J Precision
converted Alazurra heads returned numbers that just aren't seen that often from
a 750. And it didn't break or make any strange noises...
I installed the Weber TT1 exhaust system we made and was blown away by the instant positive effect it had on the power. Peak torque was now available at 5,500RPM and horsepower was pretty much unchanged. This put the 750 in the same league as the old 853 and banging on the door of the Yellow Bike. Amazing. Check out the YouTube video HERE.
A call to Chris from LenTech and his news that the bodywork would be done Saturday AM meant we were off to the Symposium.
It also meant that I'd be assembling the bike in the middle of the event..
And that's what happened. Weber set me up in the center of all the TT1s, Harris' and F1 racers and gave me a bench to share with F1 racer Chris Jensen and the bike got finished over the next 3 days. I arrived at NHMS late Saturday afternoon completely wired from the drive and all the stuff that preceded it - and immediately drove everyone nuts with my obsessive desire to start putting the thing together. Lou eventually talked me off the ledge, so I quit at about 8Pm and shared some pizza with the tribe - did a little socializing and eventually worked my way over to my hotel.
These Symposiums are different every year; loosely organized and with a different member of the group pulling it together each time. For the 4th Annual, Mike Weber had the ball and he did an excellent job of dovetailing us into a program of regional and vintage race events and finishing the experience off with a track day put on by Fishtail. We had two garages, plenty of room, and an almost equal mix of active race bikes, track day machines and static display bikes and a dynamic environment with a third of the machines going out periodically for practice or races - and in the middle of it all an old guy building a TT1. Legendary tuner Pat Slinn came over from the UK to join us as guest of honor, Ralf Stechow brought the newly restored Adamo / Leoni Cagiva 500 GP bike, Lou brought his newly acquired ex-Adamo TT1 and two Harris TTs, Warren dusted off the F1 he raced back in the day and all these cool machines were complemented by an incredible mix of TTs and F1s.
Lots of drama, good times, amazing machines and great people - but frankly, I
missed half of it 'cause it was a full day's work each day to try and get the
TT1 built and set-up for the Tuesday track day. But I found time to catch most
of the racing action and was so impressed by the field that I started to wonder
if it might make sense to go out and play with the boys next year. I also
found time to watch Ralf fire-up the Cagiva for the first time in 15 years. Check out the YouTube video..
At first I was kinda self conscious about working on the bike in front of everyone, but by midday Sunday I just got into a groove and enjoyed the experience.. I drafted Lou for the seat pad cutting, shaping and trimming. It's not like I haven't done a bunch myself; I just wanted to watch the master at work. And as I expected, he tackled the job with a grace and ease that I aspire to, but likely won't attain for years. It was when I had applied the contact cement to both the seat base and pad that I noticed we had an audience - and they all seemed to have their knuckles up to their teeth in anticipation; knowing I had only one shot at landing the two pieces in the right starting position. No pressure at all..
It was a wonderful blur with folks stopping by to chat and lend a hand (or tools), plenty of minor teething problems and a windscreen that wouldn't fit, but by Monday mid-morning the bike was rolled outside with its new clothes and taken for a run around the pits (my first ride of the year). Mike had arranged for a couple of parade laps during lunch and although the bike had run perfectly when I warmed it up, it didn't like anything under 4,000RPM when I fired it up and headed out for the parade. After a painfully slow first lap, we got a chance to stretch 'em out a bit and I came away from the experience with a sense that I could probably learn to like the track - and that I definitely liked the way the bike worked.
Back in the pits I started tearing off the bodywork so I could pull off the carbs and uncover the cause of the rough running (broken main jet, incorrect float levels and a dash of post painting stuff in the needle jets) and install the Weber system for the track day. I was half way through the process when Lou stopped by to tell me they were lining the bikes up for a group shot and that I shouldn't feel any pressure to put the bodywork back on and get out there.
And it was shortly after the group photo when I was taking a couple of pics of the bike that it finally made the transition from being a project to being an actual TT1 that I owned (and not a half-bad one at that).
Naturally, it rained for the track day on Tuesday.
Thanks to Marty for cooking burgers and dogs for all of us (I wouldn't have eaten otherwise), Jane for the fuel filter, Steve for the drill bit, Lou for the inspiration (and seat pad, brackets and fittings), Gary & Mike for the endless patience during all my calls for help while I built the top end, Patrice for the heads, Chris for the paint (in less than a week!), Rob for the oil lines & brake bits, Scott for most of the pics used in this post (I was obviously too busy..) and everyone for showing up and making the Symposium yet another priceless memory.
POSTSCRIPT: I finally finished the TT1 last weekend and took the opportunity to snap a few pics as I was moving it into my office for the winter..
..More pics on Flickr
With Triumph as the featured brand at this year's Barber Vintage Festival, Vicki Smith had to take a different tack and move the event to the streets. Which - from my taste of the local roads last year - ain't such a bad thing..
So, Ducstock 2012 is really wrapped around Motogiro South; a full-on Motogiro event that kicks-off the 3 days of racing.
It's tempting enough that I'm awfully close to trying to borrow Bar's '60 MV Agusta Strada... Did I just say that??
More on what promises to be an excellent event at Ducati.net.
The Symposium will be based in Garage 4 in the (Center garages in the track infield). Look for the Ducati TT & F1 Forum Banner.
I'm down to the wire with the TT1; The bodywork is at the painter, the dyno's booked for Wednesday and still much more to do..
We’ve been wrestling with this decision for the last 6 months and while it’s been fun, Bar Hodgson & I finally concluded that the Romanelli inventory is really holding us back from a number of business initiatives that we’ve had in the works for a while now.
So, effective 12:01PM today, we disabled the majority of the Ducati, Dellorto / Malossi, and Brembo inventory and physically moved it to an off-site storage location so that it can be put up for sale as a ‘lot’ along with the Moto Guzzi inventory. For you guys as consumers, I’d expect to see it back in play though another vendor within a fairly short period of time.
While it’s taken two years to catalogue the 5,200 unique part numbers, only 2,200 Ducati, Dellorto / Malossi, and Brembo products made it on to the store - with another 892 inactive and waiting to go up with the 1st round of Guzzi inventory. It’s a pretty unique stash of parts in that it lay dormant for so many years – leaving lots of the parts that would normally have been picked through years ago still intact.
And then there’s the MV Agusta and Bimota spares..
As a business decision, it was a tough one to make, but the bottom line is that it was more than a full-time job for Emilia and I - and the store left us little time to grow the other business initiatives that we set out to pursue a couple of years ago.
You’ll still see a couple hundred items on eBay for a while, and tomorrow we'll be adding select Ducati & Marzocchi items to the store; the Exhaust and Performance Products lines will expand through August. And by the end of August, we’ll launch a new line of products (it’s a surprise) for vintage Ducatis ranging from the singles through the early belt-drive machines.
It was a treat building relationships with many of you as customers and sharing in your respective journeys as you brought life back into your machines. We'll continue to do that, but in a different way..
While we’ll look back on the last two years fondly, we’re seriously excited about the prospect of being able to focus on the other business ventures and move them forward.
It’s been just over a year since we took a hard, serious run at putting together a program that would allow us to bring a line of high-quality, hand-built exhaust systems to market. Six (that’s right, six) exhaust fabricators, countless hours, boatloads of drama, more than a few thousand dollars and 15 months later we finally shipped out our first batch of baffled Ducati 750 F1 race exhausts.
You could say that the process has been exhausting.
And ironic. The first exhaust system we shipped out the door is designed to pass the 95db sound limits at most race tracks..
While I’ve always wanted to head into this direction, it was Ducati racer, builder, tuner and card-carrying rocket scientist Mike Weber who lit the fire under my butt when he offered to allow us to copy a system that he had developed over a four year period. You see, Mike’s an old-school Ducati guy based in Connecticut who’s been building race F1s for a number of guys in the Northeast US – guys who raced them back in the day, and in many cases – raced the very F1s they’re racing today. And Mike has a thing for small-block Ducatis with NCR #7 cams. And who can blame him? I loved the engine characteristics of Fran McDermott’s Ducati TT1 when I was fortunate enough to be racing it with him in the VRRA’s Endurance Series years ago and until I got into this project, I had almost forgotten how different it felt to my fire-breathing F1s (or for that matter, everything else I’d ridden). An intoxicating hit when the motor got into the sweet spot and a sound so beautiful that the music it made was – on its own – the high point of every on-board encounter I enjoyed on that machine.
But a lot of builders and riders who are reviving 750 F1s and TT1s have avoided using the classic NCR #7 and Montjuich cams – primarily due to the fact that if you try and silence them, they simply lose power and won’t make any torque at all. The big overlap and duration that make these old-school cams so much a part of the TT1 or F1 racing experience requires an open megaphone to get the spent gasses out of the motor in the very short time available – cork ‘em and that process goes to hell in a hand basket and that means that with the rapid disappearance of circuits that will allow us to run our machines as God (FabioTaglioni) intended, we drop in set of modern cams and suffer the indignity of a classic Ducati that sounds more like a lawnmower than a thoroughbred.
But Mike was undaunted in his quest and set on a long R&D effort that ultimately produced an exhaust system that makes more torque and the same power as the open factory system with NCR #7s while staying under the 95db limit. To our collective knowledge no one’s been able to do that – and as a bonus it doesn’t look and sound half-bad either..
Not too many years ago I simply would have gone down to visit master exhaust fabricator Doug Cook, but Doug’s gone and no one’s really stepped in to fill the gap - so with Ron Spordone’s somewhat battle-scarred Weber pipe under my arm, I went looking for fabricators. At the end of that long and frustrating journey, I met a young bicycle frame builder just outside of Montreal, Quebec who has talent, attitude and an impressive lack of fear of the unknown. Frederic Mignault’s in his early 20s, but turns out beautiful work and understands how to manage low volume production. Given that Doug built frames and exhausts, I figured Frederic could make the transition and fortunately so did he. We’ve both had to learn a lot in a short period of time, but with Mike’s guidance we got through the basics, tooled-up and started making progress faster than I had figured we could.
The Weber design’s challenging to package and requires (unless you run your shifter pretty high) that you ditch the standard linkage and run a reverse lever. It’s a little tight to the fairing in a spot, but provides excellent ground clearance in a lightweight 304 stainless package. Naturally, it’ll work just fine if you insist on running the more tractable (but less invigorating modern cams) – which means we can all get out on those tracks with sound restrictions with an exhaust system that looks good, performs well and doesn’t add a big weight penalty.
It was natural to repackage the Weber Ducati 750 F1 system for the Ducati TT1 and as soon as I could slap together a rolling TT1 from bits of my project bike and a bunch of spares, we jumped into that project as well. Repackaging the primaries to fit in the TT1 fairing wasn't too difficuult, but we added an extra step just to drop the secondary into the area usually cut-out to clear the factory megga and then worked on an exit angle that flowed with the overall lines of the rear of the machine. It's got loads of ground clearance and only weighs in at 4Kg; which is excellent for a system that will get you into a track with a 95db sound limit while developing a bit more torque than the open factory system.
The system uses the standard TT1 mounting tab and has an additional tab just before the silencer so you can run an additional mount from the rear sub-frame (just under the seat).
But, that’s not where the story ends – it’s frankly just the beginning of a partnership that will see us turning out a full range of full-race vintage Ducati exhaust systems in both baffled and gloriously loud, full open factory replicas in both stainless and mild steel.
Which brings us to the system we’ve just completed this week – a copy of a factory Ducati TT1 system generously loaned to us by Lou Saif (off his South American NCR TT1). We’ve made a couple of small changes to the design; most notably providing a bit more clearance (the factory system offered none) along the side of the engine case sump fins and in the primary run past the pick-up wire gland nut. We've done this system in 304 stainless and mild steel and both systems are TIG welded (with a different hanger mount for the stainless version). TT1s are unique, so you can have your system with the “shark fin” (hanger mount) attached with clearance set up for the wider F1 or Sport aluminum swing arm - or simply included in the box so you can position the megga exactly where you want it.
At the moment, we feel that there are too many variables at play to accurately put the dent in the megga to clear the shift lever – so you’re on your own with the deadblow.
...Maybe now I can get back to finishing my TT1...
But, the reality is that with the Bimota DB1 and Ducati TT1 projects I simply bit off more than I could chew and neither machine is ready for prime time. I've been kicking off the season with the DOCC event for 14 years and this is the first time I've missed the deadline.
A whole raft of factors have conspired to push both projects backwards, but the bottom line is that they're the most challenging builds I've tackled and the business took more attention than I expected this past winter. And some of the business projects we've embarked on have required all or part of one or both of the machines, so I've been swapping motors in and out of frames with increasing regularity.
So the TT1 for example, is well on its way - but half of it is in Montreal, where our exhaust systems are being built and the other half is back at the shop. I've got two frames 'cause the ex-Leoni/Adamo DM frame went to Jeff Nash (who now owns the rest of the bike) and he replaced it with a new large diameter, thin wall DM frame - which incidentally, will take a big-block engine. Back at the shop, the new frame's Stadium shock reservoir mount's done, the electrics panel is finished and a tidy, new Scitsu tach's been adapted to the fairing mount. As I pick away at the new frame's wiring harness, the old frame sits in Montreal with the completed front-end and wheels are tied to Shannon's old F1 engine and one of Palmer's old swing arms. The front end is off Lon Allen's old racer and got the full-zoot Lindemann treatment many years ago. The fender's Bimota DB1SR, the wheels & rotors are off my old 853 F1 (very cool to have some of it on this machine) and the fairing is an original Romanelli item. 195mm triples, milled fork lowers, 280mm floaters and Brembo 30/34 calipers up front and 260mm floaters with one of Carlo Leoncini's gorgeous floating caliper mounts to match the rear-sets I bought from him.
The motor's still on the bench, but just about done. Finalize the cam timing, wire the pick-ups, install the clutch and we'll have a nice, old-school small block with serious J Precision heads, NCR #7s, 12:1 compression and lot's of lightened components. I'd have been lost without the ongoing support from Gary Palmer and Mike Weber as I worked through the process of assembling both of the engines.
Part of the reason the TT1's taking so long is the revelation that the best way to build these things is the way NCR put them together back in the day - and that means lots of fabrication. I was lucky enough to get some meaningful guidance from Lou Saif and Bruce Meyers and but for a couple of fairing brackets to redo, I'm about done with the whittling, filing, hacking and sanding phase. There's the fairing to trim, oil lines, brake lines and throttles to make - but that stuff is a walk in the park compared to the stuff I've been wrestling with to-date.
The Bimota DB1 SR project is probably at the same level of completion as the TT1, but the work involved in trimming and fitting the race bodywork kit that Airtech put together is overshadowing everything else..
It took a while to figure out a decent strategy for ditching the immense OEM battery box that blocks most of the rear cylinder's airflow, but I'm pretty happy with the result; possible with one of the spiffy little Shorai batteries. The Dyna mini coils were kind of a disappointment 'cause at the end of the day, their design doesn't really buy you any big benefit in terms of the amount of space they occupy and the HT wire connection really limits mounting options as well. They are ligher though...
One of the biggest challenges was to find an aftermarket shock that would work with the really crazy packaging of the rising rate linkage. At the end of the day we decided that we'd run a Stadium upsidedown and use the ride-height adjustment eyelet to give us the much needed clearance at the rocker.
And then there's the PM wheels. I was delighted to be able to get my hands on a pair (again from Palmer) - until I started trying to adapt them to the DB1.. I only finished the job last week; with the completion of a scratch-built caliper hanger. Fran McDemott was kind enough to load a rectalgle of aluminum plate into his lathe and drill the two holes required and the rest was done with a hack saw and angle grinder. Well, except of course for the floating bushings which I was able to turn up on my little lathe. Note the drill pattern on the rear rotor.. It was on the wheel when I got it and and puts a smile on my face every time I see it, so it stays on the bike.
I spent hours trying to find a way to mount a set of fluid reservoirs to the bike so I could eliminate the completely impractical Bimota items that double as fork top nuts. Think about it.. The only way to fine tune M1Rs is to play with fluid levels and viscosities - and with the OEM set-up, you have to find a way to disconnect the reservoirs from the brake system (without losing any fluid) and then reconnect them after you fool around with the fluids. When I get really pissed-off about this I try and imagine the argument that must have occured somewhere in the final design process..
The DB1 motor's just about done as well; a Monjuich engine with lightened rotating bits from Ed Milich, seriously worked heads from J Precision and a 780 kit. I don't know what I'm in for with the Montjuich cams, but I guess that's all part of the exersize with these two small-block motors; I wanted to experience some of that old school, lumpy, hi-lift stuff before I got on with my life and simply dropped some really big motors into both of these bikes.
Or maybe I won't.. Maybe the lack of cubes and grunt will make me a better (read less lazy) rider. But I won't know 'till I get these damned projects finished.
I think there's an all-nighter or two in my future.
I’ve been using Stadium shocks for the past 9 years and obviously love them. They're relatively light, very responsive to compression and rebound adjustment and most importantly; reliable as hell. I’d put the quality and features up there with Penske’s top-shelf offering and have found that they’ll go as long as 5 seasons without any attention.
We’ve done enough machines with this Quebec, Canada company to come up with a half-dozen good set-ups for the Ducati TT1 and 750F1 machines running a couple of different swing arm combinations and reservoir locations. This is still a built-to-order shock; custom sprung and valved for you and your machine, but we have enough data now to spec the length, eyelets and stroke for the common 750 F1 and TT1 variations:
TT1 with TT1 Aluminum or Steel Swing Arm
TT1 with F1 Aluminum Swing Arm
F1 with F1 Aluminum or Steel Swing Arm
F1 with 750 Sport Aluminum Swing Arm
You can simply specify rider (with gear) and bike (wet) weights as well as your preferred reservoir location choice and the combo that fits from the swing arm list above - and the shock delivered to you will bolt-up as it should and blow you away with its exceptional ride quality. And if you're using a swing arm other than the ones listed above, simply send us your desired length (form mounting centers) and we'll work with that.
The Stadium Type 740 HRII comes with a remote reservoir, ride height, spring preload, rebound and hi / lo-speed compression adjustments. Shipment of your custom-built shock is about two weeks from the order date.
Yes, there are less expensive shocks out there, but if you're actually out there doing track days or racing on these machines, you'll be immediately impressed with the difference a well-built, highly tunable shock can make. If you have one of these fine machines, don’t let an average shock hold back its potential..
Available now on the loudbike Store.
It's not every day you hear about a Vintage Ducati parts sale - in fact, I can't ever remember hearing about one in my lifetime. And that's a good enough reason to have one.
Actually, we had meant to run one back in November to celebrate the 2nd year anniversary of the loudbike Store, but in our world days feel like minutes, so here we are in the beginning of May scrambling to get the bikes ready for the first track day of the season and still beating away at the duanting task of defining, photographing and pricing the 1,300 Brembo, Marzocchi and remaining Ducati items we thought we'd have on-line 6 months ago..
So, with thanks to all of you who helped make the loudbike Store a success over the last two years - we've put together some very special pricing on just over 500 items in the store; with reductions of up to 30% off our retail price.
A boatload of bargains on Ducati Bevel Twin, Singles and Pantah bits!
Here's a sampling of some of the great deals you'll find in the 'Specials' Category in the store:
Prices magically take effect at 8:00AM EDT Saturday, May 5th
Steve & Emilia