How My Monster Died: Bad Luck and Bad Mechanics

Having a chain break is one of those things that can happen on a motorcycle, but with maintenance and no bad luck it shouldn’t ever happen.
Now I’m not amazing when it comes to chain maintenance, but I do keep any eye on mine, and do what I can with out having a proper garage to take care of it really well. Generally this means they don’t last as long and I end up replacing them every 10 – 15k miles.
Since my usual Ducati Mechanic (Nichols Sport Bike) is so far away I have just gone to my local motorcycle shop to get new chains. For the first several thousand miles this wasn’t much of a problem.
However, on the chain before this last one I got a call from Nichols while doing a service on my monster. The wanted to tell me that the clip on the master link was missing and wondering if they put the chain on, they were quite worried about it. I said that they had not and that my local shop had put the chain on. Nichols said they would fix it and put some silicon on it to make sure it did not come off again.
Thinking this was a once in a lifetime mistake from my local shop I went there again a couple of months ago to get another chain. Honestly it was about a year between the missing clip and getting new chain and I didn’t think of it. Especially since it ended up being a non event with Nichols finding and fixing it.
Sadly, when the same thing happened again I wasn’t so lucky and it ended up costing me a brand new engine. The chain was in good condition, just missing the master link, I looked for it on the side of the road, but did not find it. I’m not sure what to do, I’m sure it’s the chain that failed and since something similar already happened to me I’m pretty sure it’s my local shops fault. Nothing I can prove, but…

Looks like we found the weakest link.

Looks like we found the weakest link.

Needless to say I won’t be going back to my local shop for a new chain ever again.

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The Death of My Ducati Monster: Crushed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel

Yesterday, I got up early to ride somewhere cool and watch the sunrise. Just one of those things I like to do on a motorcycle. Things I would never do if I had a less exciting mode of transport. (No one gets up an hour before dawn so they can drive their sedan to a cool place to watch the Sunrise.)

I had a fun ride out to a nice vista point in the predawn light, it was glorious and I enjoyed watching the sunrise while the moon set behind me.

After the sun was up I got back on my bike to return the the real world… and I did with a heart breaking quickness. I thought I felt like I had a loose chain, but since I just had the new engine put in I thought that a loose chain made no sense. I spent a few seconds wondering if I was imagining this weird drive train lash feeling when everything went pear-shaped. A loud clattering from my chain and then I was whipped in the back of my left leg as my chain spun up and smacked me in the leg.
I pulled to the side of the road and was greeted by this sight.

The Chain isn't supposed to be one long piece and looped up like that.

The Chain isn’t supposed to be one long piece and looped up like that.

Not what you want to see on the road behind you.

Not what you want to see on the road behind you.

I knew it was bad right away. I’ve heard the stories and read the posts and the growing puddle of oil was not a good sign. However, I was in the middle of nowhere and decided figuring out a way home was the immediate concern. Luckily I have some amazing friends and equally amazing wife, so soon help was on the way even if an hour or more away. Morning traffic in the Bay Area at 7 AM isn’t conductive to getting around quickly.

We took it to Nichols where I was greeted by my sympathetic mechanic who helped take off the chain and inspect the damage.  It was as bad as I feared. Badly cracked case and a cracked drain plug. While I was initially ready to blame them, he stated they typically don’t break chains since they’re taking off the sprocket to replace the engine.

Not the crisp clean engine it was a week ago.

Not the crisp clean engine it was a week ago.

He’s looking into solutions, but it won’t be cheap and there are no easy options.

I’m really bummed. Motorcycling is a pretty big part of my life and I enjoy it immensely, riding is my therapy and helps keep me sane. Not being able to ride through this is pretty annoying.

Beautiful Day... made very heart breaking.

Beautiful Day… made very heart breaking.

Posted in Motocycling, motorcycle, Motorcycles, Life, Riding, Ducati, Ducati Monster 695 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Summer is Over: I don’t care what the calendar says

Depending on who you talk to Summer is either already over because the kids are back in school and Labor day was a few weeks ago, or it’s not over yet since the Equinox is still a couple of weeks away.

I don’t hold with either camp,  Summer is over because the sun doesn’t come up until after I’m at work. Which means it’s colder and darker for my ride, the very definition of Winter.

Despite this Fall is a lovely time to ride and I am planning some fun motorcycling trips in the next few months. The biggest one is the DV Redux Trip, this time with more ducking and less vultures!

It was a good summer,  it was nice while it lasted but they are never quite long enough. With winter on the the way it is time to start thinking about fixing my heated vest and replacing my winter gloves, both of which have been showing their age.

It is hard to believe this was nearly six months ago.

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It is Never Easy: Remapping My ECU for the 695 Engine

My poor Monster, it’s had such a complicated life. The sum of it’s parts now come from three different salvaged Ducati Monsters! (It’s crazy how often people crash and total these bikes!)

First we have of course my original bike which was totaled and pieced back together somewhere before I got it with about 1500 miles on it.

Then the dash died (it was banged up in the original crash). I got a used one with about 6,000 miles on it from another totaled 2005 Monster 620. This meant I had to reflash the ECU to remove the imoblizer so I could start my bike.

Then with 75,000 miles on it my engine finally gets put to rest and I get a 695 engine… from yet another totaled Ducati Monster with about 1000 miles on it.

All of this added up to a bit of confusion when they tried to remap my ECU for the 695 fueling.

The Before Maping Fueling. Apparently it was a bit rough... but I knew that.

The Before Maping Fueling. Apparently it was a bit rough… but I knew that.

Looks like when I sent my ECU to DesmoPorche they mapped my ECU for a 620... Multistrada?

Looks like when I sent my ECU to DesmoPorche they mapped my ECU for a 620… Multistrada?

Not that the pretty pictures mean much to me, but I thought I would include them. You can see how peaky things got toward to top end, and looks pretty rough. I’m sure it being a 620 Multistrada map wasn’t helping!

Smoother and better.

Smoother and better.

Looks more like it should.

Looks more like it should.

So there we have it. My engine mapping. Like I said in my previous post, things are working great. It’s just too bad about the gas mileage…

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My Ducati Monster 620 er 695

I’ve had my Ducati Monster back for a week and I have to say that I had no idea how much I was going to miss it.

It’s running great. Lots of the little things that were bugging me about the older engine are gone. Of course the oil light still flashes at me, confirming my thoughts that it is an electrical gremlin and not an actual oil pressure thing, since it is doing the same thing with a completely different everything else.


The old... and very sad looking 620 engine.

The old… and very sad looking 620 engine.

The new and very Clean 695 engine.

The new and very Clean 695 engine.

A lot of people have asked me if I’ve noticed it making more power, truth is I haven’t really. It does feel like it has tons of torque, but after riding the R6 for a week the L twin seems like a torque monster.

I have definitely come to the conclusion after riding the bike home the long way three times, that on real roads I’m just as fast (if not faster) on my Monster than I was on the R6.

My only real complaint is that my Monster 695 seems to be much thirstier than my 620. You can go to my Fuelly page and see the dramatic drop.


Basically from close to 50 mpg to low 40’s. Yikes. I’ve been trying hard to drive a slow as possible to see if I can improve it, but I’m not making much progress.


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Yamaha R6: This could get me killed

I have some amazing friends. I have friends who will let me ride their bike for a week while mine is still in the shop. I have friends that trust me not to wreck their bike and kill myself on it. That’s how I got to ride a 2005 Yamaha R6 for a few days.

Holy Crap.

It is fast.

It is fast.

What a mind opening experience.

I’ve only ridden about six different Motorcycles in my eight years of riding. So this bike was a first for me still in a lot of ways. Most significantly, I’ve never ridden a supersport or an inline four, making the R6 very different from the other bikes I’ve had a chance to ride.

My very first impression was how small the bike was, not so much in weight or length, but in riding position. My legs felt more bent, and the handle bars so very low. So low that riding out to the the freeway for the first time was painful. My wrists were dying after the first couple of miles. My other initial impression was how the engine revs, it made a much more buzzing sound and the vibrations at a higher frequency. I ended up shifting a lot earlier than I needed to.

I did my best to put the bike through its paces in the four and a half days that I had it. I took the long way home twice and I think I definitely got a good feel for the bike. My next major impression after I got over the ridding position was how damn fast it is. Initially I thought it was because of the way the engine made its power, but after a couple of days back on my Monster, I realize its because of the fairing. You feel so little wind going fast, you lose all sense of speed except the rate at which you are passing other cars. It feels the same at 60 mph as it does at 100 mph. (I am only guessing, since of course I would never ride that fast on public roads) It doesn’t help that you can do those speeds in first and second gears.

My first thought after riding to work Monday morning was “this kind of bike is why people die on motorcycles” It’s just so fast, and so insanely easy to ride fast.

It looks fast doesn't it.

It looks fast doesn’t it.

The second day brought on more aches, my neck, not used to the racer crouch was killing me. I really began to wonder how my friend rides this bike daily, he’s a bit taller than I am so its even harder to hide behind that fairing for him. The other thing I noticed was how much heat the engine dumped on to my legs from out of the fairing. I found this strange since my bike runs much warmer, but with no fairing to direct the heat I don’t feel it unless at a stand still.

The Yamaha R6 a very precise and accurate motorcycle, I felt that I could easily put it where ever I wanted on the road. Easily slicing through traffic no matter what the speed. I rode the long way home on Tuesday, and found turning was quick and easy. The way the R6 makes it’s power is very different from what I’m used to and made riding twisty roads very different. With a 15,500 rev limit you can stay in one gear much longer,  but at the same time if those revs drop below around 7,000 you lose most of your power. There were many corners that I would be accelerating out of much slower (well it felt that way with much less torque/thrust) than I do on my Monster. The ground clearance though was a joy. I had a lot of fun leaning into turns knowing that my knee would touch down before I started dragging parts of the bike on the ground. It became quickly very clear that the biggest thing keeping me from going faster was my own skills and the road. The R6 was ready to do what ever I asked of it.

Now that I’m back on my monster, I really only miss two things, the ground clearance and the dash. I loved both a lot. Being able to lean the bike and not worry about dragging things is great. I also love how easy it was to know how fast I was going with the big digital speedo on the R6.

I really can’t thank my friend enough. It was such a fantastic experience, something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m glad we made it through it all unscathed.




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Labor Day Ride: Out to the Coast

I woke up early yesterday morning, not unusual for me I get up for work at 5 am most days, so getting up at 7 was relatively easy. I threw on my gear and was out the door and onto the Ducati Monster, heading to some good roads. I did not have anything specific in mind just a general idea that I would head to the coast.

Typical Northern California Beach weather. Fog.

Typical Northern California Beach weather. Fog.

It was a great ride, not too long, but I spent two hours zipping out to the coast and back. Ninety miles of motorcycling nirvana. By the time the world was really waking up I was safely at the coffee shop with my wife planning the rest of our day.

I’m glad I got out early and before traffic got too heavy. There is nothing more disappointing for me than having great riding road ruined by poking along behind someone who is lost, or just admiring the scenery. I love the redwoods as much as anyone, but I’m up here all the time so no need to gawk.

There was lots of sun back that way.

There was lots of sun back that way.

Coast mirror Coast Monster Tank

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