Sunday, June 21, 2009

more screwing around

So what follows are some photos of me continuing to not get started on the bike, but instead to do other peripheral stuff. Building a primitive work platform out of old shipping palettes.

This is more than worth it: I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a lift table, but it would kill my back and my knees if I had to go through this whole thing with it on the floor. I'm going to have a 21 pound (and growing) baby strapped to my back most of the time as well.

So now what I ought to do is clean off what grease and grime is left on the bike and then get to work dismantling it and cataloging all the parts. I could take a couple more close up photos of how the wiring is routed, although I'm sure that more than half of the wiring on it now is jury rigged.

One reason I hesitate is the chaotic state of my garage. The right thing to do is to spend at least another full day sorting all the sundry nonsense stuffed into the garage and move as much as I can out of there, into the basement of the house or the rafters above the garage. And probably build at least one storage shelf in the garage so that I can neatly store and label all the parts I remove.

I don't relish this chore, mostly because I don't have a clear idea what to do with all that stuff, and I don't know if I'll be able to decide where to put it. I could easily get sidetracked dealing with some of that stuff and not get to work on the bike for two more weeks. That's an argument to simply get started on the Bronco and work out the details of what to do with the parts as I go.

While you mull that over, read my Motorcycle training article. I got it on Wikipedia's main page in the Did you know box. When I'm not working on the Bronco, I'm going to be writing a Wikipedia article on the Guggenheim Museum's 1998 The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

at last

So I finally finished this high chair I was making.

Why that matters is that we needed the high chair and it was taking forever. I couldn't really spend any time on the motorcycle until I got that taken care of.

So! I did do a compression test on the Bronco and got 20 psi dry and 25 wet. I haven't actually researched what those numbers mean to me on this particular engine. But it's something to compare to when I'm done.

I would have worked on it today but I haven't started my other bike for three weeks and so I took a ride to Snoqualmie Falls.

So that's out of the way, for now. Going to get to work real soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

wherein i say nice things about DomiRacer

So you remember from, um, one post ago, that I got a box of parts from DomiRacer that should add up to a complete magneto-flywheel assembly. So it turns out that I got two flywheels, and both of the coils were lighting coils. You need one light coil and one ignition coil.

So I checked my order and sure enough, I specified 2 when I ordered the flywheel, and didn't even notice then they replied back with a change in the prices. The coil part numbers I asked for were correct, at least. So I emailed them and explained the errors and they said they would credit me for the flywheel if I sent it back, and send me the ignition coil in place of my second light coil. I paid shipping on that heavy brass flywheel, but of course that was my fault. Later they even called me on the phone to verify that they were sending me the right coil.

So there you go. DomiRacer is A-OK.

Now that I have a more or less complete bike, I feel more confident investing more time in the bike. I had some fear that the project would stall indefinitely waiting for the magneto and flywheel, but now that I've got them I'm going to go all in.

The engine turns freely by hand with the plug out, and you can feel compression if you put your thumb in the spark plug hole. I think I want to use a compression gauge to measure more accurately the wet and dry compression, as a heads up for what I'll find when I tear into it, and as a baseline to compare to when I'm done.

Dry compression is the reading you get with the pressure gauge screwed into the plug hole, turning the engine several times. You then remove the gauge, squirt some motor oil into the combustion chamber, and repeat the compression measurement. If you get too-low compression in both tests, this means your valves and possibly also your rings are bad. If you get low compression dry but significantly higher compression wet, this means your valves are probably OK but your rings are bad. This is because the oil flowing down from the top of the piston onto the rings formed a temporary seal, correcting leaky rings if the were leaky. If both readings are good, with the wet perhaps a little higher, then your engine is in good shape.

With this bike having only 8,318 miles on the odometer, it seems perhaps a possibility that the rings and valves are healthy, and I might even go so far as to start riding the bike without completely tearing the engine apart. But there is likely rust, mouse droppings, spider webs and oil sludge all up in there, and so that would be risky. I need to at least know I'm going to have oil pressure and the oil gallery that carries lubricant from the oil pump to the upper valve train is not blocked.

Right now in this bike I have $585.61 in parts, plus the $375 purchase price and $60.38 in taxes, title, and fees. That's $1020.99. I would surmise that if you could find a complete but not running 125 Bronco, you might get it for $600 to $1,000, though that bike would not have a brand new alternator-flywheel or muffler and whatnot. I budgeted $1,500 beyond the purchase price, so I've got about $800 left to get it running. I think I can make the engine run, but won't be able to ride it regularly without rebuilding the wheels, which I think would put me over budget. But we shall see.

I've been stuck on the couch with the baby, one or the other of us sick some of the time. And all of the time waiting for the weather to improve. I spent the time researching Ducati history, and polishing the Wikipedia Ducati Bronco article. I also created a new Berliner Motor Corporation article, which turned out far better than I had thought. I was able to find a lot of source material on Google Books. I made a half dozen new motorcycle stubs for various bike mentioned in these articles, like the Ducati 60 and so forth, and also a lot of little tweaks on articles like Motorcycle Frame, which didn't even mention pressed frames. This could go on forever of course, but I think revising the Wikipedia history of Ducat Singles to include the story of the pushrod OHV bike's and not just the bevelheads is doable. I fear Ducati two-strokes will be forgotten; I know I have little interest in those smelly, smoky things. *winky winky*

Today think I can see something like a sunbeam out the window, so I think I'll strap the little guy to my back and wander out to the garage. Of course, I can only finish putting the lights back on my wife's Yamaha Vino 125. After that's done, then maybe I'll get to work on the Bronco.

Monday, March 30, 2009


These are magneto parts! I can't wait to get started.

A couple weeks ago the bike's new title arrived, so I no longer have to worry about officialdom issues popping up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

not sure how high to go on this

I can't find prices for all those bits, but they seem to add up to around $125, except for the exhaust. It could be worth $100 to $300. At least that's what headers for other Ducati singles can cost, but I'm not certain if there are any for the Bronco to be had. None of these are parts I'm certain I need, although I'm pretty confident that my rings, valve guides, clutch springs and so on are not as young as they once were.

It's interesting that the triple clamp seems to be painted the same blue color somebody sprayed all over my bike at some point. Maybe the forest service or somebody like that was using these bikes for utility work at some point and painted them all blue. I don't know how I'd find out but I'd at least like to be sure if it is the same paint.

Friday, March 20, 2009

exhaust nut success

I just got this Ducati singles exhaust nut wrench, and it worked like a charm. I was worried that I should have chosen the other type, cut out of a single flat pieces of stock rather than this two piece version. But no worries.

I also added WD40 around the nut repeatedly over several days, allowing it to soak in. The nut looked very rusty and seemed like it would be totally seized, but not the case. Turned very easily.

This headlight bucket looks like it isn't quite the right part. That's $4.99 I probably shouldn't have spent. But maybe I'll have it powder coated along with the other bits and resell it.

Here's the polished air cleaner next to one of the ones I didn't do. This sort of make you think the bike could look really nice some day.

I got email back from Buchanan Spokes, about my questions as to what to do with my wheels. They said I probably won't find rims 2.75" x 16" so I should have the originals re-chromed and buy a set of spokes. Hopefully I can learn how to build my own wheels, after a few tries. Maybe I can find an expert to inspect my work before I attempt a ride.

Monday, March 16, 2009


This is a Benelini Wards muffler, not specifically for a Ducati Bronco. The original has a nearly identical inscription except it says "MOTO DUCATI" down below the "Brevetti Interfon-Special Silentium" logo. This was much cheaper than the Ducati one, and I'm not going for that level of perfection.

As long as it works. *fingers crossed.*

I have to finish other projects before starting any actual work, but I did put one of the Dell'Orto carb air cleaners on the buffing wheel yesterday and it polished up real nice. I've also been spraying WD40 around the rusty exhaust nut and letting it soak in for days, as Mick Walker recommends in his Ducati Singles Restoration book. The special exhaust nut tool should be here soon and then we can see if I can break it free without drama.

Friday, March 13, 2009

a healthy clutch of young fresh carburetors ready to take wing and fly the nest

Too flowery?

I just got a carburetor but it was missing the air filter assembly, and then this batch came along. It cost less than half what the one that I got earlier cost. Granted, these haven't been cleaned and I know less about their actual condition.

But now I have at least two air cleaners to work with, and plenty of spares. I've noticed you can often get lots for less than the parts contained in them. Maybe it's the risk of not knowing exactly what you're going to get. Or maybe sellers like it when you help clear out their stocks.

I think I can end up with one nice working carb, maybe one spare, and a bunch of parts I can sell off later.

Earlier, I saw carburetor for sale that they had put a mirror polish on all the aluminum. I kind of like the idea although it would take time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

first actual part has arrived

Look at that!

Well, it's just a carburetor, and not a particularly high end performer but that's not the point.

The slide still attached to the end of the bike's throttle cable fits in there, and it looks right on the intake. There's a rubber bushing that takes up the 5mm or so difference in size between the carb and the intake, which I don't have yet. This unit might need a different float or a rebuild to work, though it will probably be some time before I have a chance to find out.

Anyway, I'm a step closer to a complete bike. The muffler should be in transit, as well as a tail light and license plate assembly. I had to let this Bronco parts lot go. While there were many attractive bits in there, none of them were things I am sure that I need, and with $30 shipping I figured around $100 was my limit.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

stuff, finding of

Today, after searching for days, I found my copy of Ian Falloon's Standard Catalog of Ducati Motorcycles 1946-2005. Unlike other sources, such as Wikipedia's history of Ducati, or Ducati's own web site, this book covers the full range of OHV bikes made from the early 50's to mid 60's, which is to say, the 125 Bronco and its ancestors. You'd think from what they are saying that Ducati takes a quantum leap from the Cucciolo auxiliary bicycle motor to the Taglioni OHV bevelhead race-winning bikes.

In fact there were a dozen or more other models progressing in a logical evolution from the 50cc clip-on bicycle engine to 65cc mopeds to full motorcycles growing in increments up to the 125cc Bronco of 1960. Taglioni came on board in the middle of this and added his desmodronic designs to the mix, and they were produced alongside one another.

Perhaps this history doesn't fit with Ducati's current branding agenda which is all about equating Ducati with desmo and desmo with Ducati, with Taglioni as the omnipresent patron saint from whom all things begin. And that Ducati is all about racing and always was (forgetting all those non-racing bikes).

None of this is my concern, although now if anyone tells you bikes like the Bronco aren't "real" Ducatis, you'll know why.

The good news is now I have my book and that means I was able to finish fleshing out the Wikipedia Ducati 125 Bronco article I created a few days ago.

In other news, I got email from the seller of the $100 Silentium muffler I ordered on eBay, asking if I wanted the 35mm or 32mm pipe. (Thirty two.) I'm bidding on a batch of carburetors/parts of carburetors, including the air cleaner assembly I don't have, as well another batch of miscellaneous 125 Bronco parts including forks, seat innards and various levers and bits. I have my eye on a parts bike or two out there for sale, mostly because I need that magneto, flywheel and cover.

I think I'm on track to get this bike running and riding within my $1,500 budget. To make it look beautiful and run and ride, I will probably have to spend more than that but there's no hurry.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

finding and creating research material

I've been reading up about this bike on all sorts of sites. Wikipedia didn't have a page for the Bronco, and the Ducati Singles page ignored the non-Desmo singles, so I created a stub.

Some of the pages I've liked are jfairstein's 1964 Ducati Bronco page, and the Ducati Singles page at Like Wikpedia, most of what you find is all about the bevel-drive Desmo bikes, as is the case with Mick Walker's book I mentioned below. But much of the information is similar, and the principles and strategies for restorers are of course relevant.

I've also been browsing the eurocarb ltd Dell'Orto store, and Moto Guzzino Vintage Italian Motorcycles. Road and Race Motorcycles in Australia is likely to be invaluable; I heard good feedback on them at DesmoNorthwest. I emailed Road and Race to ask if their 12v upgrade was avialable for the magneto alternator on the Bronco; unfortuately no, not yet, but they might scare up the parts I need and some day might make an upgrade kit.

So besides shopping and reading, I took a drive last week out to Carnation, WA to Giordano's Vintage Motors to see what sort of bikes they had. Indeed, there is an impressive array of 100-175 cc Hondas all the way to Triumphs and a Norton Commandos. I wouldn't mind one of those small Hondas, though the prices were over $600, nearly twice my Bronco for bikes in not much better condition. They also had a Sears Allstate Gilera, which they wanted $550 (!) for. It was about the same as my bike, though not missing as many parts. I realized then that those bikes use the same Aprilia lights and switches, and Silentium muffler, and Dell'Orto carb. So when I see Gilera parts for sale I take a close look, just in case. I also noticed the Gilera had a fender nearly identical to my bike's, which suggests they salvaged it from a Gilera after one of the apparently many wrecks it had.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

learning to scrounge for parts

The first things I bought were the parts catalog and owner's manual.

In particular I need to verify part numbers before buying anything, or where part numbers aren't given, I can go by the pictures. And most importantly the catalog tells me what I have, or I should say what I'm supposed to have. For example my bike has turn signals (or the damaged remains of them) on the front, and a flasher relay, wired up with speaker wire and a incongruous switch on the handlebar. But it appears these bikes never came with signals, only a tail light.

This tells me I at least have no reason to try to pound the twisted metal of the signal mount back into shape, or try to clean up and re-chrome the signal housings. If I want signals, and I'm sure I do, then I'm free to pick any I like because there is no question of correctness. What I'd like is to make some that attach with a light "footprint." Maybe only clamp on and wire up as a kind of easily-disconnected accessory, so that you can remove them if you want to see the bike in original condition.

I want to try for a reasonably original and correct bike, as long as it is practical and not onerous. If some obstacle makes that expensive or frustrating, then I'll be happy if it is at least rideable and nice looking.

Reading the owner's manual is amusing as well as enlightening, if only for the humanity of the message and the rough edges of the Italian to English translation.
...A good motorrider will make intelligent use of the controls and at the right time. When riding uphill and the machine tends to slow down, change to a lower gear at once; do not «hang on» to a high gear when the effort required from the engine advises use of a lower gear.

There isn't a shop manual for this bike, but the owner's manual has a significant amount of in-depth maintenance data, including a wiring diagram, ignition timing, and valve clearances.

Once I got this book I began shopping in earnest.

Monday, March 2, 2009

so it begins

I found this bike on Craigslist a few weeks back, listed for $450, with no title, aquired in a lien sale on a self-storage unit.

So we drove down to Lacy, near Olympia, WA, and found the bike in about the condition I imagined based on the ad photos such as the one above. I felt fine with the price until I realized there was no carburetor or flywheel cover, nor flywheel nor magneto alternator. So I suggested $375 and we had a deal.

We put it on the trailer and when I got it home I took a few dozen photos and put them up on Picassa. I wanted points of reference and records for the project, and the photos are handy when I'm shopping online and need to look at part of the bike without having to run out to the garage.

At this time I'm at the planning stage. I took photocopies of what little the Seattle Public Library has on this bike in their reference section, and ordered facsimiles of the spare parts catalog and owner's manual. And just today I received a copy of Mick Walker's Ducati Singles Restoration.

I have a few saved searches on eBay to alert me to any of the parts I need. I will probably have a Dell'Orto type ME carburetor shortly, and a Silentium muffler. I think the flywheel and magneto situation will be the most difficult problem, and I'll probably have to buy a parts bike for that. I just saw one on Craigslist that might work.