Author: Richard (Page 1 of 10)

How hard can it be…

…to buy a car? I may have mentioned this before, but I hate buying cars. Or rather, I love the process, spending way too long playing with online configurators and researching deals, to the point where I feel sufficiently equipped for the really negative part of the process: dealing with car sales people, a sub-species whose means of sustenance I have never quite managed to understand as, like the Chameleon of antiquity, they appear to exist on air alone. They certainly don’t do so by selling cars.

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No More Garage Queen

Back in the day, a dozen years ago, whenever I ambled into Snell’s of Alton they had a brand new Ducati 749R displayed on a podium. It was a compelling sight, deep red paint glowing radioactively under the shop lights and its carapace of forged alloy, cast magnesium and carbon fibre a blatant display of technoporn. I’ve wanted one ever since. It took a decade, but finances and time finally coincided and, after a two-year search, I came into possession of one of the 400 or so built in 2004 to homologate the machine for World Supersport. Continue reading

Low-Flying Bastards: The Ducati Road Show

This is turning from an event to a tradition: the day on which Scotland’s Ducatista come out to play at The Green Welly Stop – the highland’s answer to Surrey’s Box Hill. On offer are test rides on the latest and (hopefully) greatest toys from Bologna. This year, they’ve wisely moved from the infeasible optimism of mid-April to early May, thereby much reducing the likelihood of needing snowploughs. And it’s worked: today’s weather was warm, sunny and bike-friendly, especially on the chosen test route: 24 miles of the A85 from Tyndrum to Dalmally, one of the world’s finest motorcycling roads. There is some interesting new stuff this year: as well as the  usual and unedifying sight of portly blokes of a certain age contorting creaking joints onto the Panigale, we had the amusement of watching sports and adventure bike riders (self included) wobbling down the road whilst frantically waving their feet in search of the xDiavel’s foot pegs. Yes, Ducati has brought their new ‘Cruiser’ along, which could be considered a brave move on these roads. But you’ll notice the quotes around the C-word there – that just may be a clue that categories may not be a reliable guide to reality. Continue reading

Getting Serious…

For the first time in three decades, I’m seriously considering buying a motorcycle that isn’t made in Bologna. I’ve documented my recent dissatisfaction with Ducati at some length in this blog, but it boils down to a combination of their failure to address the quality failings of their products, their falling into the trap of corporatist detachment from their historical market and a product strategy that, in places, is compromising their essential character. There have been indications of this for a long time, but the process seems to have accelerated hugely since the Audi takeover. Although I’m not writing the Ducati option off at this stage, I’m certainly looking very closely at the alternatives. Continue reading

Autumn Light

7:30 on a Sunday? Sorry, does not compute. But my phone is binging cheerfully at me, the little sod, a cat is asleep on my head, beloved is a whiffling heap under the duvet and I’m struggling with the concept of needing to be vaguely functional in the next twenty minutes and on the bike in a hour. The intervening time is spent knocking up bacon butties and coffee for self and Fiona, the proprietor of the famed Green Welly Stop, as she drops in en route to Tulliallan for today’s Scottish IAM Motorcycle Forum meeting. I’m worried though: TGW does totally excellent coffee and I need to ensure I’m on decent form to repay the hospitality.
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Gentleman Hooligans

This is my belated ‘quick look’ comparison between Ducati’s 2015 Multistrada 1200S DVT and its predecessor, the – and, specifically, ‘my’ – 2010 Multistrada 1200S. This was courtesy of Ducati Glasgow, who turned their pristine demonstrator over to me whilst my bike was in for replacement of a blown fork seal (that being a pretty standard issue with Öhlins forks).

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Thirteen years ago, egad, I wrote this about one of the IAM’s track-based skills day. I’ve just been to another one and had once again, a rather mixed experience. At least this time, there weren’t any actual accidents, damage or injuries, which has to be a major step forwards. But there were a few ‘issues’, he says, through clenched teeth.

A little personal context here: I don’t do commercial track days any more: I’m just fed up with the testosterone-soaked antics of too many people who don’t have the gumption or skill to go racing but who seem to think that a track day is a competitive environment and an excuse for poor and deeply inconsiderate behaviour to others – it only takes a few to screw it up for everyone.

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Age of Indecision

Five years now of Multistradom. And all is not entirely well in the state of Ducati Ecosse. Frankly, I’m a little hacked off.

After years of evangelising the whole Ducati Thing and telling all and sundry that their reputation for expiring gracelessly in embarrassing places was a perceptual hangover from a dim and distant past, the Multistrada 1200 has stopped me in my tracks – in short, this has been the worst finished and least reliable motorcycle I have owned from the modern era. In fact, the only one of my machines that provided any real competition in the “What is going to fail next?” department was my 1957 Royal Enfield. Continue reading

Öhlins SCU: Converting Manual Damping Settings

In fitting, setting up and using the Öhlins Mechatronic SCU, I’ve discovered a few things about it that might just be of some use to anyone else going through the same process. As far as I can tell from the documentation, the Öhlins SCU:

  • Doesn’t access or use the four riding Modes from the Ducati ECU (Sport, Touring, Enduro, Urban). I’m guessing that this is held locally to the Ducati ECU and not broadcast over the CANBus.
  • Only adjusts according to which of the three engine maps is selected. For example, with the Ducati map defaults, Urban and Enduro (100bhp map) modes will have identical damping behaviour when controlled by the Öhlins SCU.
  • What you of course can still vary individually for each of the four riding modes is the level of DTC intervention and the rear preload (referring to the 2010 Multistrada)
  • As with the OEM SCU, the Öhlins unit has a 32-step range of damping adjustments. However, the Öhlins unit maps the 1..32 Ducati settings onto its range 1..17, with the Öhlins 18..32 being new, softer, settings. So the Öhlins settings are coarser but give a wider range of adjustment at the ‘soft’ end of the scale.

The last of these matters not when you’re letting the Öhlins SCU control the damping. When however you want to carry over manual damping settings from the OEM SCU to the Öhlins unit, you need to convert between the two. The Öhlins manual includes a conversion table for some of the settings, but not for all.

I’ve therefore created the table below to give a full mapping. I’ve derived this from the data points given in the manual, which I suspect are simply rounded figures, so the mapping between the two isn’t quite linear. A purely linear fit is thus perhaps a little less accurate than the second-order fit calculated in the last column: the difference however is moot given the likely approximate nature of Öhlins’ figures. You may however find it a useful ready reckoner for converting manual damping settings.

Conversion Table: DES to Öhlins SCU Damping Settings

Conversion Table: DES to Öhlins SCU Damping Settings

Please note that I’m providing this figures for information only – Although I’ve taken reasonable care and thought in producing this, it is, as ever, your responsibility to ensure that you’ve taken all appropriate professional and technical advice before modifying your motorcycle.

Little Red Ducette

I’m a great fan of the smaller capacity Ducati sports bikes. I hold to the principle that a sports bike, like a sports car, is one with which you have to fully engage and whose performance should be exploitable – albeit with concentrated practice – on the roads or tracks on which you or I use it. That immediately disqualifies most modern litre-class sports bikes and and high-end sports cars – the combination of huge horsepower and software intervention that makes them ridiculously capable in the hands of riding and driving gods on the Nurburgring simply frustrates us mere mortals who are (usually vainly) trying to get them to a place where they can be bothered to wake up and take an interest.My first bike on my return to motorcycling was a Ducati 748 and, despite having since ridden examples of all full-fat Ducati sports bikes made since then, I’m still enamoured of the balance of power, handling and usability of this machine and its ilk. OK, so the current ‘small’ Ducati sports bike – the 899 Panigale – puts out 150bhp – more power than ANY road-going Ducati built prior to 2007 but, relative to the axe-murderer 1199 Panigale, the principle still applies. Continue reading

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