Ducati Ownership Again!
I know this is yet another distraction away from Vincent's,
but as I am sure you have realised now, I am a bit of a motorcycling
butterfly, flitting from one interest to another. Perhaps it is becoming
clear to you why my Vincent is still not built after 16 years of ownership!
|Ducati Bi-Posto and SP/SPS
- What's the Difference?
Ideally I would have liked an SPS model, or even the earlier SP model, as both these models are pretty exotic when compared to the more standard Bi-Posto (dual seat) model. Unfortunately, both of these bikes still fetch a premium and would almost certainly be out of my price range (good SPS models still seem to be fetching £7,000+!).
As a bit of background, although all the 748/916/996/998 are by their very nature exotic, the SP (1994-1996) and SPS (1997 onwards) are even more so. The main distinguishing feature on the chassis side was an Ohlins rear shock as standard, single seat, and Termignolli Carbon Fibre exhausts. Dependant on year, there were also a number of other smaller differences, such as carbon fibre mudguards etc. The other main difference between SP/SPS and standard models was in the engine department. Again, dependant on year, there were mods such as higher compression, different cams, larger valves and even Titanium Pankl con-rods. Interestingly enough, the main feature of the SPS 916, distinguishing it from the earlier SP model, was that it was actually bored out to 996cc and had different crankcases to allow for this. It was this engine that then became the basis for the standard model 996 Ducati (although not with some of the other exotic SPS features). Even the very last 916 SP models were not actually 916cc but were instead bored out to 955cc (sometimes I feel like one of those people you meet on their own at parties, who insist on telling you everything there is to know about shower curtain rails . . .)
Eventually I found the bike you see here, a late 1997 Bi-Posto 916, but fitted with many of the SPS goodies I was looking for. To me, 1997 was the best year as far as overall style and features were concerned. By then they had overcome a lot of the reliability problems that plagued the first examples, and although the build quality was improved further in 1998, unfortunately Ducati's went very minimalist in their finish for that year, with only a single 'Ducati' transfer on the fairing. I personally think that these bikes look like they had come out of the paint shop only half finished, and regardless of better electrics or not, I would rather not have one. By 1999 they had realised they had screwed up and put a couple more transfers on and were bearable again, however, by this time they had moved on to the 996 model, which again was out of my price range for a reasonable example. Unlike some, I also prefer the gold frame and 3 spoke wheels of the earlier models, believing them to be more 'pure' than the later designs.
Anyway, this particular bike
appealed because as well as being a reasonably presented 1997 model,
it was fitted with the following goodies:
Anyway, I will be the first to admit that these goodies helped persuade
me, despite the fact that its service history has been sporadic of late.
In fairness, the current owner admitted he had hardly done any mileage
since he had owned it, and because of this and a couple of other faults
I had found, I had accounted for a service and cambelt change in the
amount I would need to pay to get it roadworthy. Certainly it looked
to have a reasonably comprehensive history for the main part of its
record mileage, including the very important 12K service. With regards
the little recent use, I had heard horror stories of 916's being used
in spring after having been laid up for a few months and immediately
shedding the cambelts, so had been told if there was any doubt at all,
it was safer to have these replaced.
|JHP Ducati - Coventry
As it was deep in the depths of December when I bought the bike, I picked it up in a van and without even first taking it home, deposited it at JHP Ducati in Coventry. Although I had not heard of JHP until recently, having made some enquiries, I found they are one of the most respected Ducati service agents in the country and are used by a number of people for race preparation as well as just road servicing. Indeed, the owner John Hackett was a successful racer himself in the recent past.
Having now had the opportunity to visit them and see their service facilities I can tell you I was tremendously impressed, in fact I would rate them as the best laid out motorcycle service setup I have seen, bar none. As well as a fabulous showroom, which would do justice to many a supercar brand (in fact I believe it was previously a Porsche showroom), they have the most amazing service area, spanning the whole width of the building and having a bay for each bike being worked on as well as a separate (clinically clean) engine shop.
|One of the points that impressed
most, was that for each bay there was a purpose built trolley that held
each bikes body panels in just the right place. To me, it is this attention
to detail that separates the best from the mediocre.
It was clear that I was not the only person who held this impression of JHP because the main service bay was packed with customer Ducati's, including some very exotic race machines (I won't name drop, but will tell you there was at least one works spec bike sat close to mine when I went to collect it!). All in all, a mouth watering sight.
Apart from all this, I can report back that the customer service I received from them was excellent (even John Hackett himself was kind enough to offer me a coffee, despite being obviously busy at the time), and the service turned out to be not quite as expensive as I was expecting. All in all I would definitely recommend them to any other Duke owners contemplating a service.
|Front Mudguard and Rear Brakes
At the same time as the bike was in for service, I started looking on e-bay to see if there were any carbon fibre front mudguards available (as fitted to the SPS). Over a couple of weeks I saw two or three, although it was clear that anything carbon fibre for Ducati fetch's a premium. Eventually I was successful in bidding for a very pretty Harris version (although it looks identical to original Ducati), this too arriving a couple of days before Christmas. Obviously, Santa arrived early for me this year!
As always though, once having got the bike home, I could not resist but have a play with a few bits myself! I noticed that although the standard front brake hoses have been replaced with braided hoses, the rear hose was still standard. This was easily enough rectified, so I ordered a braided hose from Earls. Jeff, the service manager at JHP had identified that the brake pads needed changing, and although I asked him to replace the fronts, I thought I might as well do the rear pads myself at the same time as replacing the brake line.
|Clutch Slave Cylinder
Another area that that Jeff identified needed attention was the hydraulic clutch slave cylinder, which looked to have a slight weep. This I'm told is a not uncommon fault with 916's and a modified fix is now available, which is a marked improvement over the original, but requires a slight mod to the pushrod.
|That said, I had recently seen a very pretty billet slave cylinder being advertised on a website that not only looked the business, but also reduced the lever pressure required by about 30%. As this billet cylinder would not turn out to be very much more money to purchase than having the original refurbished (and substantially less than a similar item from Ducati themselves), I decided this was a better route to go, so purchased it with a view to fit it myself. It arrived over the Christmas period and certainly looks the business (see photographs). If you own a Ducati 916 yourself and would like to try one of these quality items, then go to www.ducati-shed.com or go to my 'Links' page for details.|
Over the Christmas holidays, we had one particularly bright cold morning, which was ideal for me to go out and fit all the new bits. I opened up the garage, and with the bike half in/half out of the garage on its rear stand, and the sun shining down on me, I had a very pleasant day, fitting the new parts with no serious issues.
Changing the rear brake hose was relatively straight forward, and I took the opportunity to remove the brake caliper and thoroughly clean it, before lightly smearing the working surfaces with Copaslip. Some people seem afraid of getting grease anywhere near brake calipers but I have found that (particularly with rear calipers) they stay smooth in operation for far longer if the surfaces adjacent the pads are lightly smeared, to stop them corroding and locking the pads.
I use a special spray fluid to clean brake calipers (which does not attack the seals). It is the fluid used to clean computer systems (my main occupation) and evaporates soon after being applied.
Finished For Now . . .
I will let you know over the coming months how I get on with being back in the Ducati fold, but am hoping (pleeeeaaase) I won't have any serious horror stories to report. At the moment I am just really looking forward to getting back on a big bike and enjoying some nice summer blasts, hope the leg bends enough!