Friday, 13 March 2015

Warning - eBay's GSP might not find you

No, not a GPS sat nav that's doesn't work, but eBay's Global Shipping Programme (GSP). A friend has just warned that a rare Dell 'Orto was not only refused shipping (because it might still have fuel in it 30 years after last being used) but was actually destroyed. Apparently they do likewise if they consider a package too big, which has led to vintage guitars being "liquidated" (who thinks up this jargon?).

Message seems to be that GSP generates a customs label from the listing, and that a carburettor is just a prohibited item, no questions or discussion allowed. Could you get round this using a different shipper and a seller who's prepared to fill in the custom’s paper work a little more imaginatively? Maybe, but if you get it wrong that could mean the destruction of a rare spare part. At least people seem to get their money back.

Another friend had to wait several weeks for a  green frame 750SS to be released to the shipper, and you can guess how much money was tied up while he sweated it out. Personally I've never had any problems buying from the US, but their border bods are most heavy handed in the world  - and that includes my experience of Iran and Iraq! I was arrested aged 18 trying to board a flight home from New Orleans because my work permit was three days out. Even they eventually realised it was more hassle than it was worth not to stick this bemused limey on the 'plane, but you have been warned; caveat emptor

Thursday, 5 March 2015

RIP Franco Farne

Franco Farne has passed away in Bologna, aged 81. For me the greatest of the great, perhaps even more important to Ducati than Fabio Taglioni. A quiet, retiring man who shunned the limelight he did it all. His parents worked at Ducati and while he raced a Cucciolo he ran around town on the rare Ducati Cruiser scooter. Associated with Ducati for well over 50 years, by the time Ing. Fabio Taglioni joined the company in 1954, the 20 year old Farne was already working there as a mechanic and part time racer/test rider. He soon became Taglioni's right hand man in the race department where he stayed up until 2000. During the 1970s, when the factory did not have officially go racing, he was a part of the unofficial effort at NCR. He then "returned" to the factory and was in charge of the race department under the Castiglionis. In 2000 he joined Bimota to manage their World Superbike team but when that failed (due to sponsorship problems) he returned to NCR - thus returning to the Ducati fold. Pictured here with one of the six 1970 450 Desmo GP bikes he helped develop.

Rest in peace Franco - and if there's a heaven you, Masimo Tamburini and Dr T will make it a very special place

With thanks to Phil Aynsley

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Another Ducati book? Oh yes - the Desmodues

Before some smart Alec points it out, I know that technically all the old bevel and pushrod Ducatis were Desmodues (two valves per cyclinder) but it was with the launch of the Pantah Ducati that started to use the label (actually retrospectively when the Desmoquatros arrived).

Anyway the book tells how Ducati rose from the post war ashes, serious contemplating giving up motorcycle producation on a number of occasions. The most hair raising thing was waiting on the Scarmbler, especially since Ducati won't let authors use their press archives in books (unless, it seems, you're called I*n Fa$100n) so for early show shots I'm indebted (as usual) to Vicki Smith of Great insights too courtesy of Pat Slinn, and the other members of the Sports Motorcycles team to whom the book's dedicatied.

It’s probably cheaper elsewhere (cheaper than I can buy it in fact - publishers, got to love them) but if you’d like a signed and dedicated copy you can buy one at   
my Big Cartel webshop adding a message in PayPal. Or just email me . Thank you!

Honda V4 - the four strokes; my second Crowood book

An Italophile writing a Honda book? But the V4 story fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to have invaluable insights from Cook Neilson - racer and Cycle editor of legend - and Gerald Davison, who ran Honda UK and the NR500 project. Genuine never before told insights. Includes production histories, specifications and over 250 colour illustration, from development of the first Honda V4, the oval piston NR500 and the  VF road models that followed. Also covered the VFR750 and VFR800 (including 2014 update) and VFR1200F; the legend of the RC30 to the opposite extreme of Honda V4-ness the 1990 Pan European/ST1100/1300 and CTX1300 cruiser. And of course  Honda V4s in MotoGP and, finally, owners' experiences and insight from those who worked in the industry.

It’s probably cheaper elsewhere (cheaper than I can buy it in fact - publishers, got to love them) but if you’d like a signed and dedicated copy you can buy one at   
my Big Cartel webshop adding a message in PayPal. Or just email me . Thank you!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Old values, new (wave) customs

 Ducati have done the obvious - but wise - thing and handed over a trio of Scramblers to customising houses. Love the Scratch with its bashed 1970s Yamaha 600TT look. Oddly it's the yellow Deus ex Machina Hondo Grattan I 'm least smitten by. Maybe that's because the name is Latin for "grotty Honda" (only kidding). The black bike is Scrambler Caffe Racer by Mr Martini , and it looks like The Right One, especially with that exhaust.

Dario Mastroianni – Customiser at Officine Mermaid: “We decided to
customise the Ducati Scrambler because we immediately earmarked it as a uniquely convertible Italian bike. We've infused it with our unmistakeable Officine Mermaid style, with a kind of rough-and-ready look that's spartan and basic. We named it using the English word Scratch, to convey the idea of it being scraped or damaged. This can be seen straight away from the fuel tank, which we stripped of paint and treated by hand – a procedure we use only on our most exclusive bikes. The metal mudguards have been left rough (a bit like us) and
then hand-brushed at the workshop. We've left only what is essential on the bike – anything that wasn't necessary has been eliminated. Even the exhaust, for example, while derived from the original, has been reduced to a minimum. For the front we've chosen a traditional stanchion fork with a wide 21'' wheel and an 18'' wheel at the back, while the saddle and handlebars are made of vintage green leather with a decidedly Western style. Our Scratch has a main rally-style headlight and a smaller lateral spotlight.”


Friday, 17 October 2014

DVD of the world tour aboard Ducati 175s by Giorgio Monetti and Leopoldo Tartarini

I was told about this fabulous documentary by an Italian friend. It combines footage of the 1957/58 world tour aboard Ducati 175s by Giorgio Monetti and Leopoldo Tartarini with up to date filming of the pair reliving their experiences on the bikes today. And you thought the Motogiro was tough.  At a bargain 15 Euros (+8.50 euros shipping; say £20 the lot) you can buy the DVD here

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from POPCult">POPCult> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ducati's new Desmodromic Variable Timing

As predicted last week - Ducati's unfortunately named DVT in a refreshed Testastretta with ankle socks for the DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing); official blurb follows - sorry about the odd paragraph spacing...


Ducati presents the first motorcycle engine with variable timing of both the intake and exhaust camshafts.

Named Ducati Testastretta DVT, Desmodromic Variable Timing, Ducati's new Desmodromic engine

is the first in the world with variable timing on both inlet and exhaust camshafts, leading the way for

a whole new generation of such engines. The innovative, new design overcomes an engineering gap in current production motorcycle engines and underlines Ducati's strength in developing ground-breaking
engine and motorcycle technologies.

The variable timing system is able to continuously adjust valve timing, by acting independently on both the

intake and exhaust camshafts. The system optimises engine performance throughout the rev range and in

any operating condition, to guarantee the highest power, smooth delivery, muscular torque at low rpm

and reduced fuel consumption. With full Euro 4 compliance, DVT sets a new standard in the combination

of power, delivery and usability of motorcycle engines.

Ducati Testastretta DVT engine characteristics

Brand-new DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) system

Bore 106 mm, stroke 67.9 mm

Capacity 1,198 cm³

Max power 160 HP at 9,500 rpm

Max torque 136 Nm at 7,500 rpm

Desmodromic distribution

Dual Spark (DS) ignition

Anti-knock sensor

Euro 4 compliant

New generation

By independently adjusting both the timing of the camshaft controlling intake valves and the timing of

the camshaft controlling exhaust valves, the Ducati Testastretta DVT engine optimises high rpm

performance for maximum power, while at medium and low rpm, it ensures smooth operation, fluid power

delivery and high torque. This means that the vehicle's engine will adapt its characteristics according to rpm

values, while always ensuring compliance with exhaust emission standards and keeping fuel consumption


When a new engine is designed, one of the most critical parameters to determine its 'character' is the

amount of intake and exhaust valve overlap. The overlap angle is defined as the interval of crankshaft

rotation, expressed in degrees, during which both the intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time.

This overlap occurs between the end of the exhaust stroke and the start of the intake stroke and is normally

a single value that does not change. However, the Testastretta DVT is not limited by a fixed valve overlap


Instead, the Ducati Testastretta DVT’s overlap angles can change, thanks to the introduction of the DVT

(Desmodromic Variable Timing) system: a valve timing adjuster fitted to the end of each of the two

camshafts per cylinder head. The DVT system consists of an external housing, rigidly connected to the

cam belt pulley, and an internal mechanism which is connected to the camshaft and can independently

rotate inside the housing. This rotation of the internal mechanism, either in advance or in delay with respect

to the housing, is precisely controlled by varying the oil pressure in special chambers of the mechanism.

The oil pressure is adjusted by dedicated valves and the timing of each cam is dynamically controlled by a

sensor located in the cam covers.

Desmo attraction

The Ducati Testastretta DVT engine uses the unique valvetrain that made the Bologna-based Italian

manufacturer a world-famous name. Thanks to this unique system, the intake and exhaust valves are

closed mechanically and with the same level of accuracy as they are opened. The term Desmodromic

derives from the Greek words “desmos=link” and “dromos=stroke, travel”; in mechanical engineering

terms, it refers to mechanisms designed to actuate valves both in the opening direction and in the closing


This system, used in all Ducati models, has also been extremely successful in Ducati Corse World

Superbike and Desmosedici MotoGP motorcycles.

In the development of the DVT, the Desmodromic valvetrain represents a major advantage over a

traditional spring based timing system; the actuation of the valves at low engine speed requires less force,

not having to compress the valve springs, this allowed Ducati to limit the size of each cam phaser with

obvious benefits in terms of lightweight construction and compactness for a perfect engine integration.

Ever-present strong torque

With its 106 mm bore and 67.9 mm stroke for a total capacity of 1,198 cm³, the newborn Ducati

Testastretta DVT engine produces a maximum power of 160 HP at 9,500 rpm, and a torque up to 136 Nm

at 7,500 rpm with a perfectly linear delivery curve. The torque is already 80 Nm at a low-range value of

3,500 rpm, and it remains consistently over 100 Nm between 5,750 and 9,500 rpm.

Despite an increase in power, however, the DVT system has a positive impact on fuel efficiency, with

an average 8% reduction in fuel consumption compared to the previous non-variable configuration.

Ducati's permanent research and development efforts applied to injection systems have repositioned

the fuel injectors to target their spray directly onto the rear of the hot intake valve, instead of the colder

surface of the intake port wall. The resulting enhanced fuel vapourisation improves combustion efficiency

and ensures a smoother delivery.

The Testastretta DVT is equipped with a Dual Spark (DS) system that uses two spark plugs per cylinder

head, providing a twin flame-front that ensures complete combustion across a very short period of time.

Each spark plug is managed independently, to optimise efficiency throughout the rev range and in all

conditions of use. An anti-knock sensor ensures safe engine operation even while using lower octane fuel

or in situations potentially detrimental to combustion efficiency, e.g. at high altitude.

In order to achieve a smoother cycle-to-cycle engine operation, Ducati has used a secondary air system

similar to that developed for extremely high-performance engines. This optimizes combustion without

increasing emissions, by completing the oxidisation of unburned hydrocarbonsto reduce HC and CO levels.

Suitable for any condition

Thanks to all these characteristics, the Ducati Testastretta DVT sets new standards for Ducati twincylinder

power units and introduces new, revolutionary parameters to achieve the best possible balance

among maximum power, smooth delivery, low-rpm torque, low fuel consumption and reduced emissions,

thus standing out as the most technologically advanced Desmodromic twin-cylinder engine on the planet.

The Ducati Testastretta DVT system does not affect the valve clearance adjustment schedule, and in fact

requires major services only at ownership-friendly 30,000 km intervals. This engine can be used in a wide

variety of conditions and locations, while