How to build a “Duzucati”

It’s been a few years, but I really wanted to do a write up how I came to build my race bike: a Suzuki SV650 powered Ducati 1098S- or as I like to call it, a “Duzucati”. A big reason why I wanted to write this up is because building custom/one off race bikes used to be a lot more popular, but with the advent of the modern “street bike” (really a race bike with mirrors and blinkers) custom bikes have gotten a lot rarer. People no longer need to do radical custom modifications to get a bike to make good horsepower and handle properly- you just need to walk into the local dealer and give him some money.

I had originally planned on glossing over some of the problems in order to focus on the positive parts of the story, but after a lot of consideration I decided to tell the whole story because I wanted to be honest about the experience. Building the bike and making it competitive wasn’t easy and it seemed dishonest to pretend that everything went smoothly.

With that said, here’s my story… Continue reading


Cheap Racing

So I was looking through my “Drafts” folder and found this post that I started writing back in September of 2011. This was back when I was racing my first race bike and before I built the Duzucati. Not sure why I didn’t post it back then, but looking back over the past few years I can’t say that much has changed. :)

So it’s almost the end of my third year racing in the AFM in a “cheap” class: 650 Production. Basically you take a relatively inexpensive motorcycle like a Suzuki SV650 and make it a race bike with limited modifications. If you’re not familiar with motorcycles, basically the SV650 isn’t a “race” bike like the sport bikes you’re familiar with. SV’s are great for commuting or just going out for a leisurely sunday ride, but they’re not that sporty, don’t make a lot of horsepower and hence don’t go through tires as quickly and since it’s production legal with a minimum amount of engine modifications should last a fair bit.

Boy was I wrong. Continue reading


Initial AiM MXL2 Review

After comparing AiM, Race-Technology, MoTeC, AEM, RaceCapture/Pro, GEMS, XT Racing, TraqMate, VBox and 2D data logger offerings, I decided to go with the AiM MXL2 for my race bike to replace my XT Racing GPX Pro.

There’s a number of reasons for choosing AiM and their MXL2 over the others, but here’s the short version:

  • Software. After using the XT Racing GPX Pro for five years I learned how the hardware is only half of the equation. It doesn’t matter how much data you collect if you can’t display that data as actionable information.
  • Support. Many of these companies don’t have any support here in the USA and their support suffers. Even when the company is native English speaking it can take weeks for them to answer even basic questions about their product. AiM often responds in less then 24 hours!
  • Pricing. Some companies seem a lot less expensive then AiM until you realize they start charging you extra for critical features that AiM includes by default. That and AiM never charges for software/firmware updates for the life of the product can mean saving hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the unit.
  • Features. The MXL2 is the latest generation hardware from AiM and it has many features that other high-end vendors like MoTeC and 2D charge thousands of dollars more for.
  • Ease of Use. Data logging in motorsports has been going on for nearly two decades and many vendors have software which look like it would be more at home running under Windows 95 rather then a modern operating system. AiM is in the process of rewriting their Race Studio Analysis software to take advantage of modern UI design.
  • Education. AiM is the only vendor I could find that not only has a lot of Youtube videos explaining how to use their software, but also offer inexpensive classes around the country. I just finished two days worth of classes (cost me $80) and learned not only a lot about AiM’s products and software, but also a lot about how to analyze the data which isn’t really obvious when you’re first starting out.
  • Quality. Once you look at the wiring harness connectors on the MXL2 you know this is a serious piece of equipment. The dash is billet aluminum and the buttons are solid. Everything about it exudes quality. Actually, the dash is so solid that I decided to re-enforce the front fairing stay on my motorcycle to make sure it could handle the extra weight!

There are some risks though- AiM while very big in the automotive club racing scene it has a very small (but growing) presence in motorcycles. The good news is that there are very few features that are specific to cars or bikes, so whatever enhancements are added over time should carry over. That said, the factory MotoAmerica Yamaha Team is also using the MXL2 so I’m sure the bikes won’t be ignored completely.


GPX Pro Review Part 2

This is an update for my original XT Racing GPX Pro Review.

First, let me say that the reliability problems I had in the past with the screen seem to have been solved. It’s been nearly three full years and the screen is still working just fine. That said, having some more time with the GPX Pro, I’ve got a few more thoughts:

First, XT Racing’s customer support has continued to be awesome. I’ve emailed them about a number of issues and they’ve been really good about providing me help and general advice.

That said, having spent more time with the software and continuing to learn about analyzing the data, there are some limitations with the GPX Pro if you want to get really serious about your data analysis. If you haven’t yet read up on the subject, I highly recommend Andrew Trevitt’s DataMC for a good introduction to data acquisition and analysis.

Simply put, I’ve come to learn that the XT Racing software is easy to use, but rather limited. Continue reading


2014 AFM Round 4 Race Report

After Round 3, I was able to get a lot of track riding in which ended up being both good and bad. The bad came early- a lowside while riding the new full 5 mile Thunderhill course. Both I and the bike came away with only minor damage (me bruised ribs, the bike just damaged controls) but it was enough to end my day. The good was both I and the bike were easily fixed and I was able to do 2 more days at Thunderhill (in ~110F heat!) before the AFM race weekend. All the extra riding really helped my “bike fitness” as I always find that no matter how much I work out in the off season, I can’t replicate the kind of motions while aggressively riding out on track.

I did the Friday trackday of the race weekend I had two goals:

  1. Work on bike setup
  2. Test a brand new prototype front brake lever for Constructors Racing Group (CRG).

Continue reading


2014 AFM Round 3 Race Report

After missing the last three rounds (my engine leaking oil from the cases at Round 7 last year, an electrical issue for round 1 and an injury sidelining me for round 2), I was desperate to finally get back out on track. I literally hadn’t been on a motorcycle since October of last year and I felt like a heroin addict in withdrawal. There was of course the small issue of a severed tendon in my left middle finger which had me sidelined last round. I remember having the following conversation with my physical therapist just a few days days before round 3:

Me: So when do you think I can start moving my finger and start racing? I have a race in little over a week.
PT: Racing? Like a marathon? Oh, no you can’t do that, far too dangerous! You might trip and fall and hurt your finger!
Me: Actually I was talking about bike racing.
PT: Oh, no, that’s far worse… people crash in bicycle racing all the time and you might re-injure your finger!
Me: Uhm… not bicycle racing, motorcycle racing…

At this point I got that look motorcycle racers have been getting from “normal” people since the beginning of time. You know the one- it’s where you suddenly you feel the need to touch your shoulder just to make sure that you don’t have a second head growing out of it. Clearly I wasn’t going to the answer I was looking from the physical therapist! She did however say that the final decision on these matters would be up to my doctor: Dr. Ting.

As luck would have it, I had a follow up with Dr. Ting on Tuesday the 27th and he cleared me to start moving the finger for the first time in 7 weeks and said it was OK to ride if I wrapped my finger to help support it. Two days later I had the truck loaded up and I was driving up to Thunderhill Raceway! Continue reading


2014 Racing Season Preview

This year looked like it was going to really start out on the right foot. Gregg Spears of Spears Enterprises finished building my new motor in early January- well in advance of the race season.  I really can’t express just how impressed I am with Gregg’s professionalism and attention to detail. He took the time to answer all my questions, create a detailed line item quote and took pictures of the build along the way so I could see how everything came together. I know I really shouldn’t be impressed when someone does the job right the first time, but it was a breath of fresh air after all the motor troubles I’ve had recently.

I was also able to work out a deal with John Stark of Stark Fabrication to redesign and build a new improved motor mount.  The original prototype had a number of problems with its design that I wanted to fix and they were able to resolve all those issues and in the end I received a new mount which looked like it came off a factory race bike!

Motor Mount #2,mount #2
Finished motor mount,mount2
Stator side install,Clutch side install

Building the new motor mount took longer then we expected due to some fitment issues related to my custom exhaust, but John and Ed at Stark Fabrication took the time to make sure it was done right which was fine by me. While that was going on, I had new Speedymoto rear set mounts welded onto the frame by the great guys at Pega Precision. I then took the time to cut/grind off various tabs on the frame which are no longer needed so it looks really clean. Finally, I had the entire frame powder coated yellow to better match the paint scheme of the bodywork and I installed new steering head races and went through the bike cleaning and properly lubricating everything. Whew!

2014 Livery

Of course, I made sure to get my suspension serviced by Catalyst Reaction, installed new Woodcraft rear sets, Galfer brake pads and lines- including a custom line for my new rear thumb brake:

Hudson Performance Thumb Brake

I ended up going with a thumb brake this year because when I switched to the Woodcraft rear sets I lost the rear brake (due to how the brake lever & master cylinder are mounted on the Ducati). As you may remember, I had clearance issues with my old “custom” rear sets & brake lever, so this combination solves my problems and looks great too!

Finally, just before the first round of the AFM season, I was able to get everything assembled and ready to tune the motor on Spears’ dyno. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on electrical problems with throttle bodies causing the motor to not run properly and Gregg wasn’t comfortable trying to tune it while it was in this funky state. I ended up taking the bike home to diagnose the issue and determined I had a bad Power Commander. Unfortunately, by the time I got a new Power Commander, it was too late to tune the bike for Round 1. :(

Fast forward a month and bike has been tuned and it’s ready to go for Round 2 at Sonoma Raceway which is also a Pro-Am event run with John Ulrich’s Superbike Shootout! Sadly, while I attended the event, the closest I got to the action was the grandstands and hanging out with my friends in the pits. I learned just a few days before the races from Dr. Ting that an injury I sustained a few weeks ago to my left hand had not yet healed and riding would likely cause further damage and increase the time it takes to fully heal. I talked it over with a number of my sponsors and I’m happy to say that they all fully supported me taking the time to get healthy before jumping back out on track. Even though I was sidelined, it was an amazing weekend with lots of great racing, a large crowd and tons of vendors who came out for the event. The paddock was literally packed full of racers and vendors!

My hand just after tearing the tendon in my middle finger:
Torn tendon

So while I’m beyond disappointed that I’ve missed the first two rounds again this year, I still can’t help but be optimistic about the rest of the year. At this point last year, my motor had blown up three times on the dyno and so I’m far ahead of the curve. While I haven’t been able to ride yet this year, I’m still training with Integrate Performance and working on my fitness so I’ll be ready to go once my hand heals up. At this point, things are looking good for me to be ready for Round 3 at then end of the month and I can’t wait!


The 2013 AFM Season in Review

So I had planned on doing regular reports after each and every AFM round during the 2013 season. But after missing the first three rounds due to mechanical problems and then a constant struggle to not just develop a new bike, but make it reliable enough so I could just concentrate on my riding, I ended up having a really hard time talking about the project in the kind of positive manner that I wanted to.

Not to say I figured this year would be easy- building a one-off custom race bike is of course going to be fraught with lots of challenges, but frankly, the problems I ended up having left me exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was share them with the world.

In the end though, I wanted to make sure to have a record of 2013 and take the time to thank my sponsors and everyone who helped me if for no other reason so that when things go better next year we’ll be able to look just how far things have improved.

So, long story short, back in October 2012 we started off with this poor 2008 Ducati 1098S with less then 1,000 miles:

Doner bike

Continue reading