Category: Bikes (Page 1 of 4)

Real world experience from a non-aligned writer (well, maybe a little declared bias when it comes to Ducatis, certain Porsches and EVs) on the riding and driving of new, old, strange and unusual machines.

Twice The Wheels, Half the Service

OK, so this is a motorcycling blog, with heavy emphasis on Ducati. But I’ve been amused by the number of times on assorted fora that the subject of Porsches comes up, with a surprising number of Ducatista admitting to current, past or intended ownership of the marque. And I am amongst that number – I’d been hankering after a 911 ever since, as a geeky kid, I stood with nose pressed to the glass of the showroom window of Glen Henderson in Edinburgh’s George Street, whilst my engineer father patiently explained the merits and insanities of the rear-engined layout.

It took a while but, in late 2012, I bought myself a four-year-old Porsche 911 from the Official Porsche Centre (OPC) in Glasgow. That started a relationship with the car and the dealer that’s been a mixture of delight with the car when it’s working, and continual, jaw-dropping frustration with the ability of this dealer to combine being – for the most part – pleasant and personable with screwing up, well, pretty much everything they do.

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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

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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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

Multistrada 1200S: Four-up

Four years? I can’t quite believe it. Where’d they go? Although, looking back suggests that starting and building a couple of companies alongside the renovation of our old Highland farmhouse is going to swallow up a chunk of years with but a passing whoosh. Which is my excuse for what’s sitting in front of me – an exactly four-year-old Multistrada 1200S which shows a pathetically low total of 8,000 miles. Actually, it displays a mileage of 700, because the clocks have been replaced under warranty. Of which more anon. But those are many fewer miles than I used to do in a year – my 46,000 mile ST4s sits smugly alongside in the stable, on its charger, currently awaiting a light restoration and rodent extraction before being put back into circulation. As mine was one of the first of this new generation of Ducatis off the production line, it’s probably now worth taking a critical look at what’s not worked as well as I might have hoped as well as summarising my thoughts about the bike now and whether my initial opinions have changed.

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