Ducati 1198sp EVR Clutch Basket & Plates Removal and Installation

30 Dec

I couldn’t find any video showing how to install a new clutch basket and plates on the Ducati 1198 with the slipper clutch so I decided to make one. While I was at it, I also showed removal. This isn’t a complete clutch replacement, just the clutch basket (aka clutch housing) and the new plate.

I replaced the stock Ducati slipper clutch basket (housing – Ducati part # 198.Z.001.1A) and plates with the EVR 48 tooth set (basket and sintered plates – part # CDU-220ks) ordered from Motowheels.com for a 2011 Ducati 1198sp. There are a few differences between the slipper clutch and the regular dry clutch – like the ball bearings and no marks for lining up the pressure plate – but not much.

I now do my work on the Harbor Freight motorcycle lift. There are issues using this for Ducatis and probably other bikes with larger front rotors. The problem is outlined in this post and this video.

BTW, I added part numbers to this video. I hope that helps. Comment your thoughts on that or anything else about this vid.

Shiny side up!

Harbor Freight Lift – Ducati Issue

11 Jul

Wheel vice hits brake rotor

I finally got a motorcycle lift. After much research I settled on the Harbor Freight lift for the same reason it’s become the favorite lift – value. It’s exactly the same as the Black Widow available from Discountramps.com, but for the price. And it’s less than half the price of anything else. If I had a shop and I was putting bikes up every day I would spring for one of the “shop” versions as they are more stable and have better lift mechanisms, but I really don’t need that.

The Harbor Freight can be got for $400 with a coupon, and the coupons are everywhere. If you search a little harder you’ll find a better coupon so you can get it for $300, which is what I did. The Black Widow costs $480, plus you’ll probably need to have it shipped. Harbor Freight stores are nearly everywhere. (I should add that the Black Widow has a different vice/chock, but I can’t tell from the photos if it solves the problem with the Harbor Freight clearance for the brake rotors.)

Anyhow, watch the video and you’ll see the problem in more detail. My 330mm rotors are big enough that they get in the way of the vice if I push the bike all the way up to the stop plate. If I don’t push it all the way up so the vice only holds some of the front of the wheel, it is unstable.

So, I’m going to remove the vice and use my Baxley wheel chock. It holds the front end better, is more stable, and it doesn’t damage my rotors – an expensive repair!


Restarting Baja

24 Dec

It’s time. It’s been five years since my first surfmoto trip to Baja, and it’s been five years since my last surfmoto trip to Baja.

Everyone wonders where the time went, but for me, it’s no mystery. Starting and running a new business took up much of the time. Spare time went to 5-day rides to and from LA and Monterey, CA, for the races at Laguna Seca, Ducati events like the 20th Ducati Monster Anniversary ride, and the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. My two- to three-week trips were to Nicaragua, where I have a home at the beach in front of great surf breaks, Colorados and Panga Drops. (And of course, I have a motorcycle there, a Yamaha XT125, and a garage.) And lastly, getting a new house and building out the garage for my growing stable of motorcycles was a big time-suck as well.

Since that first trip, when I tell friends about that ride they always say they want to do it, too. “When are you going again?!?” “Let’s do it!” But in the end, they really don’t want to do it, at least they don’t want to do it enough, so nothing happens. I’m used to that. It’s why I did the first surfmoto trip alone; I couldn’t find any takers. So when folks talked about wanting to go, I’d say, “Sure, let’s do it.” And I would wait for their follow-up. It never came.

Until last week. My riding buddy, business partner, and fellow Ducatista, Steve (we both have Monsters – he an S4r1000 and me, an S2r1000 – and 1198’s – his the Corse1098 and mine the 1198sp) texted a link to an organized Baja ride. One where you buy one of their 250s and the ride is free except you to need to pay for your personal expenses – hotel, meals, gas, insurance, etc. In other words, there’s no tour or organizer fee.

I generally don’t like organized tours or group rides. The Ducati Monster ride mentioned above is the only one where I ever enjoyed myself. (The worst was a bike magazine sponsored ride at Quail.) And that was because we broke into three groups, from fast to slow, as soon as we got into the twisties. But I am not interested in joining a group ride through Baja with a bunch of folks I don’t know, especially on a bike I don’t want to buy. Besides, I know Baja pretty well. I traveled it enough to write a surf travel guide for Baja awhile back, and of course, I did the surfmoto thing, too. So why would I want to get shackled by a group tour?

So, I talked Steve out of that and into us planning our own trip. We’ll invite some friends, like our other business partner and riding buddy, David, fellow Ducatisti like Arrick, aka DIYMotoGuy, and designer/builder Alex of Earle Motors, and whichever competent rider-friends we can trick into a “fun” Baja ride.

I started working on itineraries. Will update from here. Baja here we come!

Your Last Surf Trip

16 Aug
Surf buddies paddle out for last respects.

Arn’s last paddle out.

(Work in progress.)

Will you know when it’s your last surf trip? Will you know before you book your flight? Before you commit to the week in Baja? While packing? Unpacking your boards at your destination anxious to paddle out to get the travel grime off and just get wet? While standing at water’s edge thinking twice about paddling out? While sitting out the back worried a bit too much about getting caught inside? While getting caught inside? During the trip back? While waiting for your boards in oversized luggage? While sharing hugs and good-byes? Or when you opt out of the next one? How will you know you took your last surf trip?

It seems like yesterday, but it’s now nearly 10 years ago that my best friend took his last surf trip. I didn’t know it was his last trip and neither did he. It was my birthday. I headed to Baja for one of our traditional “gentleman’s” trip (as if any foray into Baja could include the term “gentleman”) to celebrate a milestone birthday – alone. None of my usual surf travel partners could or would make it – it was the middle of a Baja crime panic, plus everyone was getting older and, well, busy. So I headed down alone, threatening to send pictures if the waves were good. I didn’t mind. As the years piled up I had grown accustomed to taking surf trips on my own. Scheduling had become more difficult for everyone. Life was doing its thing.

It was late September, so good south swells and conditions were pretty much guaranteed, and I knew I could create anxiety with my buds, if I wanted – especially my best friend who I had surfed with my whole surfing life – by texting shots of the lineup with captions about warm water (for Baja). All the while I would be reflecting on my own mortality. The latter being what we do on every birthday after #39.

The surf was great, as expected. The winds were lighter than usual. And the crowd wasn’t there, which is one of the benefits of September surf travel everywhere. As much as I wanted to share this with friends, I knew there was only one who really mattered, so my only texts were to Arn. If anyone would jump on this, it would be the guy I learned to surf with, who had never backed out of a surf trip, and nary a wave, for that matter. Arn charged harder than anyone I’ve ever known. The only reason Arn wasn’t with me already was that he was recovering from a board to the head (not his, he was a Huntington local) suffered a few weeks prior that was nearly healed.

Arn and I learned to surf at the Huntington Cliffs, moved away from home to Newport as soon as we finished high school, and went on our first surf trip together – Baja, of course. Later, while I was schooling in Florida, Arn shaped me a mushy-wave board and signed it “Arnold the Jap”. We did motorcycle and ski trips while I was living in DC missing a lot of surf, and whenever business brought me home to CA Arn would meet me at the airport with a board and wetsuit. If anyone was going to jump on this opportunity, it would be my best friend, Arnold.

So one look at the video of K-38 that I texted and he was on his way for a quick, 3-day weekend of early fall Baja. This wasn’t a tequila-drenched Baja debauchery weekend. It was just surf, eat, rest, surf, eat, rest. Stay in nice, comfortable condos overlooking the surf. Hot showers, cold beers and best friends hanging out.

My birthday fell on a Monday, the same day the stock market crashed signaling the beginning of the Great Recession. Arn and I were eating our second breakfast after our first surf that day while watching our life savings dwindle to practically nothing on CNBC. That sucked. But the surf was still good, so we went back out and put the stock market in its place. It would recover eventually, just like dwindling swells return. We couldn’t do anything about the stock market, but we could surf.

It was Arn’s last surf, but neither of us had any clue of that as we dragged our happy-but-exhausted butts over the slippery rocks and up the cliff. He wasn’t feeling right as we got to the condo, not sure if it was still the head injury or the onset of the flu, but he knew something was up so he packed it in and headed home a day earlier than planned. He was pretty sure it was related to his head injury, but in the end, it wasn’t.

A month later I got the call: “Mike, I have liver cancer.” I responded in the typical way that someone without cancer does. I was positive, proffered encouragement, “you’re gonna beat this, so-and-so did,” etc. But Arn, always the rational one, had the facts: You get liver cancer and you die. It takes months, not years, and it’s horrible. You deteriorate fast. We had a surf trip planned in a few weeks to enjoy our first stay at the new condo we bought together near Playa Colorados in Nicaragua, but Arn had to cancel, of course. He was about to knowingly paddle out into unsurfable surf.

It was not a fun conversation, of course, but everyone has it sooner or later. And typically you will have more than one. What was most impactful and memorable was the last thing Arn said before he hung up the phone. I still think about what he said nearly every day, and I share this with every surfer I know. What he said was simple and pure. And so obvious that it hit me like a brick.

“Mike, surf more.”

Arn knew he had taken his last surf trip.

I went ahead on our planned trip to Nicaragua, sans Arnold. The surf and conditions were incredible, which actually kind of sucked. A string of good south swells was in the water and the hard offshore winds were not as hard. There were hours and days of oil-like glass, something rarely seen in SW Nicaragua. I remember being out one overhead afternoon at Colorados. I counted six of us in the water – me, a young couple who would later become good friends (Seth and Lindsay) and three other older guys on Rusty Desert Island type boards. We were spread across about 75 yards and the lefts were the best I’ve ever seen there, before or since. And of course, all I could think about was Arn. Why is he missing this? He would so be pig-dogging these glassy barrels. When will he be back? Will he be back? Or did he already take his last surf trip?

The days, weeks and months crept along painfully, especially for Arn. This bull of a man withered into what cannot be described. We spoke every few days, mostly about the business world and goings on with the Nicaragua properties, but always about his cancer’s progress. I tried to watch surf videos with him, but he didn’t want to. I tried to get him to go to the beach just to watch the ocean, but he wasn’t interested. He advised me to “surf more” and then he stopped, in every conceivable way. Eventually, the day came where he decided to turn around and paddle in. No more chemo or treatments. About six weeks later he passed. I was with him the day before. His sons and wife were at his side as he took that whitewater up the beach.

Arnold never knew he was going on his last surf trip until it had passed. The media presents death to us as a long, going-to-sleep process with time and opportunity to say our farewells, wrap things up and pass away. It makes us think that we’ll have an opportunity to take that last trip or surf knowing what we’re doing and enjoying it for what it is. Dying is not like it’s seen on TV or the movies. And you probably know that.

The surf media occasionally features really old guys still surfing. As groms, young adults, full adults and even middle-aged adults we sometimes wonder how long we will surf. But the answer is simple and always the same: “I’ll never stop surfing.” We expect to stay in shape, to keep surfing at the forefront, the #1 priority. Careers, relationships, and family responsibilities can all be managed so as to keep surfing no matter what. Sure, slowing down is inevitable, and challenging oneself with big waves will matter less, but I’ll still keep surfing. I’m a surfer.

You are. But you won’t.

It may slowly creep up on you or it may catch you by surprise, either by injury or disease, like Arn, but one day you will paddle out for the last time.


(to be continued)

How to Load a Motorcycle into your Truck

1 Aug

Time to transport your motorbike? This is the by far the best instructional video on how to load a motorcycle into a pickup truck without ruining your bike or yourself. Plus, how to secure the bike. More photos and diagrams are here at Revzilla’s site. Excellent, excellent advice. Have fun!

Every Bike Tells a Story

19 Jun

Yesterday I stopped by Whole Foods to get groceries and ended up spending half my time in the parking lot looking at motorcycles. Yes, at Whole Foods.

First, I found a great parking spot that was already occupied by a Suzuki DRZ400SM – that’s the super moto version of the DRZ400, the baby brother to my DR650es which I was riding. Of course I checked it over, starting with tire wear (check the chicken strips to determine rider skill, daring or both), then moving on to accessories, maintenance (dirty chain? worn sprockets? rust?) and damage. This was a nice, clean bike with about 3/4″ chicken strips. The only accessory was the exhaust – Yoshimura. It was nearly new, so it was no surprise that the bike was in nice shape. And the relatively small chicken strips told me that the owner was an experienced motorcyclist, which also makes sense because few noobs would understand what a super moto bike was.

As I was looking over the DRZ a bit of red caught my eye. About five parking spaces away was a white truck with a red Ducati in the back, circa 2007-2013, pre-Panigale. From that distance I already knew it was either a just-purchased bike, a repair, or heading to or from a track. Grocery shopping would have to wait.

As I walked over I could see it was a 1098, so that meant it was the early model. Everything was stock, including the exhaust, and the entire right fairing was scraped substantially – it had been down. The brake pedal, bar ends, clutch cover and other parts were unmarked, so they had all been replaced. It had no sliders. So it was a stock 1098 with severe road rash from a long slide. It wasn’t a tip-over, a high side or anything causing the bike to tumble. Fast enough to slide some distance, but not so fast as to completely destroy the fairings or cause the bike to flip.

But was it in the truck for repairs, and recent purchase, or a track day? The brand new Pirelli tires answered that question: track day. On his way to (not from) a fun day at the track. And was this an experienced rider or a noob? Young or old? Hard to tell. Perhaps and experienced rider picking up a salvage repair bike to ride at the track? An experienced or inexperienced rider picking up his repaired bike that just happened to need tires, too? (Wrecking the track-day scenario.) Difficult to tell without actually seeing the rider or peering into the truck’s cab to see what sort of equipment was there. Did he have his leathers, helmet, boots and other gear? Nothing else was in the back of the truck, not even a toolbox. The track-day scenario was looking less likely.

When I decided it was time to do my shopping I noticed the DRZ owner gearing up, so I went over to say hello and compliment him on his choice of bikes. Youngish guy, probably about 28. Knew his bikes. We talked wheel size and geometries. Always good talking bikes with bikers. Better when they know their stuff.

I did my shopping, returned to the parking lot, and the 1098 was still there. Where is that guy? Probably eating. Well, now I’ll never know for sure, unless I see the guy at the Rock Store, the dealer or at a gas station. I decided to stick with the track-day story as I liked that one best.

And maybe that’s the point. Every time we see a motorcycle sans motorcyclist we imagine the story of both. Examining the bike is the best part as that tells most of the story. The rider can tell the rest, but he can’t get around the chicken strips. Why we write those stories in our heads cannot be explained, but it’s part of the experience.

Clean Frame = Jail Time

12 Jun
Stripped naked for DMV inspection.

Stripped naked for DMV inspection. Notice the beautiful sans-stickers frame.

Don’t clean up your bike’s frame unless you’re ok with 90 days in LA county jail.

I recently bought a beautiful 1198sp. (Ducatisti know.) Hardly ridden. Kept in a garage that’s cleaner than my house. No mods. I’m in CA. The seller in Indiana. “Beautiful” included having the unsightly silver/grey stickers removed from its iconic red trellis frame.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 3.08.41 PM

1198sp with stickers. (And clothes.) Not mine, but nice…except for the stickers. It wasn’t easy finding a photo of one that still had the stickers.

Buying an out-of-state bike is an ordeal, and getting it registered and licensed in one’s home state adds to the journey. But a bike with a cleaned up frame is a whole other thing. And from what I’ve just learned, just owning a bike with sticker-free,  cleaned-up frame is a jail-time offense in California.

“No person shall knowingly buy, sell, offer for sale, receive, or have in his or her possession, any vehicle, or component part thereof, from which any serial or identification number…affixed by the manufacturer…in whatever manner…has been removed…punishable by imprisonment…not less than 90 days…and a fine not less than ($250).”

After two trips to the DMV, being sent to the CHP for a secondary VIN inspection (3-week wait) then back to the DMV (waited over 2 hours; leaving now) I’m close to getting my baby properly registered and plated. And I’m lucky! Because the guy I bought it from managed to remove all of the stickers (without shredding them, as they are designed to break up when attempting removal) and save them with the rest of the paperwork, intact.

Now I need to carry the stickers on the bike with the registration or risk jail.

But you know what? It’s worth it.

Yumbo 200 Dakar – Nicaragua Surfmoto Bike

14 Mar


Yumbo 200 Dakar

New Yumbo 200 parked outside Pili’s Restaurante in Hacienda Iguana

I’ve been looking for my Nicaragua surfmoto bike for awhile and finally pulled the trigger today, buying this new Yumbo 200 this afternoon.

A bit of background…I’ve been spending time in Central America for 20 years now, and have a condo on the beach in front of Panga Drops in Nicaragua. I visit Nicaragua a few times each year, and every time I end up renting expensive vehicles that can deal with the roads and accommodate my surfboards. Most of my driving is off-road, and whether off or on-road, the whole time I’m wishing I had a motorcycle.

I’ve wanted to ride my DR650e down and leave it here, but it’s a three week trip, at least, that would be followed by import tariffs that could cover the cost of buying a bike here in Nicaragua. I’ll make the ride eventually, but in the meantime, buying a bike here in Nicaragua seems the best plan.

Once that decision is made, the next fork in the road is whether to buy Japanese or Chinese (or Indian). Japanese bikes cost twice as much as Chinese, and more. They’re better, of course, both in reliability and handling, but that’s more hearsay than fact as reviews are scarce so you’re left to asking around.

Also, there are no dual sport bikes over 200cc, Japanese or otherwise. Most of the Japanese bikes are 125 or 150cc – about a fifth or less of what I’m used to riding.

I test rode a used Honda Bross 15o. It rode OK, but it had over 80,000 km on the odometer, so while it had been well-maintained, it just wasn’t a great idea. Besides, the guy wouldn’t go less than $1,600, and I could get a Yumbo 200 for $1,200.

Which I did, but not until I scoured Rivas for something that seemed more, well, better made. And what might be better handling. With these rock-strewn dirt roads, handling was most important. But you can’t test ride the new bikes, so handling would be a guess.

I looked at Dayun, Raybun and others, but mostly Serpento. Genesis was closed. They all seemed cheaply made, and I almost bought a Serpento, but the only 200 they had was a sort of supermoto, and I wanted an off-road/dual-purpose bike.

I bought the Yumbo 200 in Tola for $1,200. When I rode away two things were noticeable. First, the brakes totally sucked. Second, the forks were crooked. I returned to the shop and we straightened the forks. Maybe the brakes need breaking in.

On the ride back to Hacienda Iguana the speedometer cable detached itself, but that was the only mishap over the 14km ride.

More to come on this. Sorry for the bad photo above.



Last November (2016) I sold the Yumbo back to the dealer I bought it from. It really was a spindly piece of junk, so I learned my lesson. I bought a low-kilometer, 2015 Yamaha 125XT from a friend in Hacienda Iguana and couldn’t be happier. It’s 75cc down on the Yumbo, but nothing breaks, it handles twice as well and will hold its value better, too. I sold the Yumbo for $400, a third of what I bought it for 2 years earlier, but that’s OK.

It’s about time!

16 Oct
Cycle World Does SurfMoto

Cycle World boys try out a short surfmoto trip during the Baja 500.

I was really happy to open up my Cycle World magazine a couple of weeks ago to see their Baja surfmoto adventure. (Not so keen on the “surf and turf” theme, but whatever.) They headed down to Coyote Cal’s in Eredira and caught a bit of surf at Punta Cabra. They rode and tested new bikes – the poster boy of adventure travel bikes, the BMW R1200GS and it’s closest rival, the KTM 1100 Adventure R. No Carver racks for these boys. The BMW and KTM have enough going on that all they needed were some straps and padding – almost like strapping boards to your SUV. Go read the article here. It looks like SurfMoto is catching on.

I’ll take 2: One for the street and one for the track

24 Jun
Ronax 500 V4 2-stroke

I think 4-stroke sport bikes have gotten a bit boring. This is not.


That’s one for the street and one for the track. This is truly exciting. It’s about time someone brought back these magical 2-strokes. Thanks Ronax. Check out the video.