Somebody should take away my e-Bay account before I get myself in real trouble.
Looking back at the Cagiva Gran Canyon project in the early stages, I simply had in mind a bit of a cosmetic restoration, a wheel conversion, a fork rebuild and some minor engine tune-up tasks. And then I started looking at late-model 900SS motors on e-Bay. Scrounging around Brad Black’s site and whatever specs I could get my hands on, I came to understand that the motor as delivered made some pretty low HP and torque numbers that reflected the use of what were essentially 750 Monster heads with very conservative cams. The resulting experience is a machine that needs a 45 tooth rear sprocket (as opposed to the SS’s 39 or 40 tooth) in order to deliver enough oomph to make the bike practical. And this means that the bike is howling away at almost 6,000 rpm at highway cruising speeds.
The post 2000 Super Sports on the other hand, have excellent cams, big valves and a much more efficient (bathtub) combustion chamber that deliver almost 16hp and 7ft/lbs more than the GC counterpart in something close to stock trim. Plus; it’s just a cool idea… So, I started trolling e-Bay for a donor motor back in August of this year.
From all the alcohol and drug abuse that I put my body and mind through in the 80’s, I’m now stuck with the requirement to sleep medicated (trazadone) and this means every morning I wake up with a moderate hangover and the usual morning routine sees me banging back at least two coffees while I cruise a variety of boards, blogs and of course – e-Bay ‘till the fog clears enough for me to dive into work. I’m not at my best during this first hour of my day and as such, e-Bay should be strictly off limits. But it’s not – so I put a snipe in on a super low mileage 2002 SS motor without really thinking through all the implications.
Well, in the fullness of time, I won my low-ball bid, the motor arrived and checked out as being advertised, and I figured I’d end up a whopping $200 out of pocket by the time I sold the old CG engine on e-Bay. I put the engine on my Cycle Cat engine stand; figuring I’d tackle the engine swap when I took the bike apart in late November. In the meantime, I decided to push the button on the wheels swap and began researching the best vendor. After I bunch of board reading, website crawling and phone calls, Woody’s Wheel Works in Denver Colorado got the nod. Chris (Woody’s son) told me he could get me the Excel rims I was looking for in gold and deliver a finished set converted to run tubeless in about two to three weeks. About a $1,500 investment (including tires), this approach would have me on 17’s and running Michelin Pilot Power 2CTs, so I bit the bullet, put the bike up on the lift, tore off the wheels, then broke ‘em down to the hubs which were then sent off to Colorado. My real job goes through cycles where it goes from super-busy to downright wacky, so it was probably banging on the door of three weeks before I called Chris to see if the rebuilt wheels were on the way back to me.
It was pretty obvious right away that they’d forgotten about the order and a little disconcerting when he called me back the following day to tell me that the Excel rims in gold were back ordered “forever”, but that they could get a set in silver; then have them stripped, buffed and re-anodized gold locally. OK. Two weeks turnaround he promised, so I moved on to other things. Three weeks later, they were to be ready in another week and then we went into the weekly deferral mode for another two weeks until he sent me an email advising that the wheels were back from the anodizer, but not perfect. I looked at the attached photos to see an obvious color shade difference between the front and rear and ever worse – inconsistencies in the front rim’s finish that looked like they had not fully stripped the rim, nor discovered the fact during buffing.
It was time to have a fireside chat with the man himself, so I asked for Woody. Now, he seems like a nice enough guy and after listening to him tell me about the staff issues he was having and the difficulties he had getting a good local anodizer, I agreed to let them take another crack at the process. How long? Another week - tops. But when I called a week later to check on the status of my still-borne rims, they gave me more bad news. They were still getting inconsistencies in the finish on the front rim. Would I take them as they were with a discount? Ummm – No.
And so I got off the phone with Chris and started thinking about options. I knew one thing for sure and that was that I no longer wanted to play. One of the companies I had hit in my searches was TCR Wheels –who specialize in anodizing and building wheels for motocross and motard applications and seem to have good reviews on the boards. But no tubeless conversions offered.
So, I begin to wonder what the issue is with tubes in my application anyway. After all, I’m a vintage guy. I’ve raced on tubes and abused them for tens of thousands of miles. I can only remember on flat in almost 40 years of riding. I know it’s not the weight; the tubeless conversion materials weigh almost as much as the tubes themselves. After much research on the issue it seems relates to kinetic energy, friction and heat. Biased ply tires don’t squirm as much as radial tires do. The radial tire squirms and the (generally) synthetic tube rubs against the inside of the carcass – thus generating enough kinetic energy, friction and heat to blow the inner tube. The solution has many parts, but the bottom line is that you can use a hi-quality natural rubber tube with a radial tire and be perfectly safe providing you pay attention to tire pressures and stay off the racetrack.
I called TCR and after a nice long chat with Kim – wherein she reiterated all that I had come to know regarding the tube thing and then quoted me a nice price and turnaround time to do the work I has asked Woody’s to do some 8 weeks ago. Cool. But the call back to Chris at Woody’s to pull the plug on the project turned ugly. They were very reluctant to let me pull the plug and then when they finally acquiesced, their position was that I should buy the rims they had messed up, the spoke kits, the tires, etc . Harsh words were exchanged, but ultimately the hubs were boxed-up and sent off the TCR.
With Das Boot still up on the lift during the wheel saga, I’d been picking away at the cosmetic restoration, fabricating some rear sets (from left-over Hyperstrada bits) and reading up on the Marelli 1.6 EFI system. A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and started tearing into the new motor and removing the old one from the GC chassis. During this process, I realized that it was high time (after all these years) that I set myself up to do my own valve adjustment and while purchasing a shim kit from EMS, I also bit the bullet of a copy of the highly recommended LT Snyder’s 2V Maintenance Guide for Ducatis.
To make a long story short; after doing all the maintenance tasks, I set up the new motor for installation in the now spanking clean GC frame and while enjoying a smoke as I gazed somewhat absently at both engines, I finally noticed that I’d forgotten to consider any difference in engine cases given the difference in swing arms. So the engine swap became a top-end swap – which added the job of decking the heads and left me with a more difficult left-over motor to offer up on e-Bay. I mean, what do you call a 2002 SS engine with a 2000 GC pistons, barrels, heads and engine side covers? Aside from cheap…..
We’ll put the motor in this weekend and I approach the job with more trepidation than usual. While I’ve tried not to disturb the EFI system too much during all of the maintenance and restoration processes, I’ll be shocked if it simply fires-up and runs well. And I’m using a different ignition sensor. But who knows? Maybe it will - and then I can blunder my way through a TPS reset and carb synch (the easy part). The wheels should arrive next Wednesday and if I haven’t thrown myself into a black hole of EFI issues, I can mount the front long enough to see how my fender lowering brackets worked out – then ship the finder off the Frosty for paint. And send the forks to John Snadden up in The Great While North for cartridge emulators.
Then I’ll simply flip through the appallingly bad Cagiva Gran Canyon manual ‘till I get to my favorite section. You know, the one that goes: “to assemble, simply reverse the order of instruction”.
Content: Cagiva Gran Canyon, loudbike, Steve Munro, Ducati, Woody's Wheel Works, TCR Wheel Lacing