Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Why are we doing this?

OK, this will probably be the longest post in this blog but it sets out the reasons for this project and where the ideas came from.

Back in 2008 Gary Inman launched Sideburn magazine. I had been reading Gary's articles for PB for quite a few years and especially liked the Benelli through the Sahara trip. I bought the first issue of Sideburn (and every one since) as I loved the photography and design. I didn't know anything about flattrackers or streettrackers but I loved the way they looked. My life was very busy but I liked the idea that these guys were starting their own racing series in the UK doing a form of racing that they believed in. My (probably naive) thought was that if I bought the mag and t-shirts I could support them - if I couldn't be part of it I could at least try to help them make it happen.

At the time I was doing a lot of trackdays on an Aprilia RS250 and riding a Ducati 749s on the road but I really admired the bikes in Sideburn. There was just something so cool about them.

In idle Googling I stumbled across Mule motorcycles and that was it. My love affair had truly begun. The side on profile of some of those bikes are truly works of art. The horizontal straight edge running flat from under the fuel tank, seat and seat unit. Beautiful.

By now I had a well developed friendship with my local Ducati specialist, Richard Llewellin at Louigi Moto where they had solved some God awful problems that I'd had with my brand new Ducati... but that's another story. In 2007 I did some circuit racing with Louigi in the Ducati DesmoDue Championship and the following year started doing off-road adventures around the world. I used to take Sideburn with me and everyone on the trips would read them from cover to cover. The flattrackers and streettrackers were becoming engrained in my psyche.

Sometime later I rather offhandishly asked Louigi how much it would cost to build a Ducati streettracker but I never really got an answer. I started trying to find engine parts we would need but this proved difficult and other things took over and it was forgotten for a while.

Then in late summer 2011 after reading the latest Sideburn I sent Louigi an email saying 'OK, come on, let's get serious and build one... Let's talk it through'. Almost immediately I got an excited reply from Richard saying that he had just bought in a Ducati 750ss Supersport with the intention of building a streettracker but had decided against it as he already had too many bikes and was now wondering what to do with it. I went over to Louigi Moto the next day armed with lots of Sideburn mags and pics grabbed from that there interweb. Richard and I had very, very similar ideas as to what we wanted to build. The only thing we disagreed on was that he wanted to paint it in stars and stripes with big tassels hanging off the handlebars!! I did not!!!

So then it started. We had a look around the workshop and found some Ohlins front forks and various other bits and bobs, struck a deal, bought the bike and forks and set about stripping what was a pretty immaculate 750ss. The hope is that selling the bodywork, wheels, tank and forks will virtually pay for the initial cost of the bike.

My son Alex and I spent a day at Louigi's stripping the bike of everything we could. We then photographed the bike naked so that we could get it into Photoshop and start visualising what we wanted it to look like.

I knew from the outset that I wanted to run 19" spoked rims and flattrack tyres. We knew the easiest way to do this was to buy some Ducati Sport Classic rims, cut the hubs out and lace on new 19" rims. However, these wheels are not only expensive but also hard to come by. And then the first bit of amazing luck happened - an old friend of Richard's worked at a scrap yard and put a set on eBay. Richard called him, got the auction removed and the next day we had our donor wheels. The rims were bent from a crash but that didn't matter to us.

Richard wanted to have cartoon like K&N's coming out of one side of the bike and the exhaust on the other. The only trouble with this on a Ducati is that it can't be done with 90% of engine heads. You need to use Ducati Pantah heads and these are hard to come by. I had tried to find some a few years earlier but failed. Richard had also been trying to find some for the last few years and had amazingly just acquired a set the week before! These were thrown into the mix and the project took another step forward.

So, the brief:

To build a flattracker / streettracker with minimal road legal requirements. The bike is to be Ducati based and wherever possible use Ducati parts. It should look and be fit for purpose. The bike should have almost comedic elements such as BIG K&N's and a feature exhaust system that doesn't just go from A to B but rather winds it's way from A to B via Z, J, M and C!

We have a donor bike, a Ducati 750SS Supersport. From this we will keep the swing arm, engine, some of the frame... and that's about it! Everything else will be fabricated.

Wish us luck...