So where are we on this journey? Near the end my friends? It never ends, it's always beginning. I see that now Yoda.
You have to draw a line in the sand and say - this is it. And at that point I have to stop and thank everyone who helped, advised, lent, pushed, drove, sympathised, supported, encouraged, inspired. Big Time.
The bike is legal and on the road, and I've been enjoying thrapping round the highways this weekend, mainly from one mate to another just to show it off - and why the hell not you might say - and you'd be right. I've had a few friendly strangers talk to me about it in depth, and I'm really pleased by the amount of mates who know it from the blog, but say it looks so much better in the flesh.
Saturday morning, with my usual partner in crime, Mrs Cutter, unavailable, I had to get it up two ramps (over steps) in the garden, and through the house, to make a 9am appointment at the MOT station. Natch' the back wheel spun and fell off the ramp half way up, with bike jamming it's arse between ramp and flower-bed fencing, and I had to risk serious vertebrae implosion dragging it back into a position where I could get it back on track again. Apols to the neighbours, but at least I had the baffles in when I gassed it up the ramps (guiding not riding - I ain't Evel Knievel). I was desperate to get it MOT'd and nothing was going to stop me, and I'll tell you why...
This was a re-run. The week before in an audacious (or foolish) attempt to get it on the road, I ended up at the roadside instead. The front brakes were siezing on and in a frenzy of guilt I convinced myself it was because I hadn't rebuilt the calipers - something I was loath to do as it's hard to get brembo seal kits (long story). Some web research showed the reason to be something else entirely. The otherwise excellent Oberon levers, apparently in common with other high quality aftermarket levers, didn't leave quite enough free play even when fully adjusted (the pin that pushes on the master cylinder piston is adjustable, unlike the stock one, but is still too long). This means that a small return valve inside the master cylinder is blocked. When the hydraulic fluid heats and expands it has nowhere to go other than displacing the pistons in the caliper and thereby applying the brakes. Some experimentation during the following week ended up with the stock lever going back on for now. However it should be easy enough to grind the pin down. It's on the snagging list.
My first ride out after getting the bike MOT'd was with my good friend Sandy on his Street Triple and he's a connoisseur of attitude in bikes, so there was lots of swapping position to hear the overtaking vibe. The thing is, I hadn't really allowed myself to think about riding the Duc, never mind having it be so much fun to ride straight out of the shed.
Next stop was at Barry's, another one with an ear for hooliganism - thanks to him for the 3/8" torque wrench loan and to the excellent Ben for the narrow hex socket. That's the lower shock mounting nut properly torqued at last then - you have to have a tool that will go through a tunnel in the swinging arm yada yada.....
Is it finished? Nah... I have a snagging list as long as your arm or maybe even your leg, and some of it's quite important stuff for both performance and safety. However she rides beautifully, and by some fluke, (and this isn't bullshit false modesty because I genuinely haven't actually done any setting up at all), the geometry and suspension stuff all seems great - pretty much by chance. I took a best guess on the height of the rear suspension arch adjusters, left the Ohlins at stock, and when I put the forks in I set them at the stock height.
She rides so well that I'm now thinking I don't need to spend money I haven't got on having the forks overhauled, and the front and back suspension matched and set up by specialists. (It's possible that the last owner but one sorted the forks with new oil and springs). Maybe my feeling will change with time, (and it might partially be about contrast with the truly appalling suspenders on the VTR. That bike deserves better - it's frame and motor are right up there). However, for now I'm really enjoying pitching the Duc into roundabouts and corners, and I don't even know the bike properly yet. A couple of trusted friends and mechanics' reactions when I said that was an instant - "if it works for you then leave it alone".
The ride's firm but compliant, pot holes don't crush yer jewels and shatter jaws like the VTR. The bike steers very very fast, but isn't twitchy. On one over-exuberant run down a country lane for the camera, I hit a manhole-cover dip in the tarmac off-centre as I was accelerating hard. The bike shook it's head once in disgust, but instead of going into a tank-slapper or chucking me off, it just set it's shoulders straight and kept charging. Seat of the pants experience from 30 years road-riding says that's always a good sign. The good one's look after you and want to ride straight. It doesn't track white lines or get put off by the mixed surfaces we have here in the capital either, another great sign that the suspension and the frame are working together in harmony.
The Mivvs with baffles out are truly outrageous, to the point of being physically painful for the rider at some RPMs. However it is a glorious sound that gets admiring glances from most males with a pulse, remarks that you've been heard coming for the last 20 mins from mates, and shock and awe from non-combatants struggling to protect women and children. Unfortunately the small baffles are much too restrictive, emasculating the sound as well as some of the throttle response. The larger baffles sound great by any normal standard. Crispy, and then honking and howling a duet with the open top airbox when you wrench open the huge gasping flatside carbs. They're not as closely related to the full-phat sound as the baffles in the Quill pipes on the VTR1000 are to their naked counterpart though. And once you've heard them out on the Duc putting them in just sounds too polite despite still being pretty damn vocal. Still they're a good daily solution, with the no-baffle configuration left for "special occasions" - Lord March are you listening (grin)?
Here's a comparo courtesy of wimpy mobile phone audio:
Without baffles, on a private road digitally enhanced to look like a normal street...oh-yars:
Now with the (larger) baffles:
Nice, but not awesome. That WW2 figher plane strafing-run sound is gone. Information wants to be free and all that - loud cans save lives. Ho hum, like I said, special occasions.
I haven't had a chance to top speed test it yet but I think it may not be pulling properly at the top end, and might need a bit of setting up. Started bogging down at a bit over the ton (on private road of course my friends, oh-yars), but maybe it's a gearing thing, as at normal speeds it pulls cleanly and seems to accelerate a lot faster than stock. The carbs tick over fine and pull from fairly low revs no problem.
The main thing is the character, you feel really special - dialled in and on that mission, The tinkling dry clutch and the extra care it needs when pulling off, the snarl, the "giant sheet of paper being torn by God" sound from the cans, the slavering honking induction, the looks it gets, thumbs up from van drivers, the stance, the ride, the feeling off being on something small, light and compact with a big primitive motor in it. The tight feeling of new bearings and top notch shocker, the neat dash. It's the absolute bollocks and exactly what I signed up for. I'd say job done, but it won't be until I fix some stuff, including a small and personally shaming oil leak. Another major one is throttle cable routing that needs to be made safe as it's shown slight signs of sticking open which can be lethal. It wasn't doing it before so I need to get it back to the right cable path and secure it.
Other minor jobs can wait while I enjoy the last of the weather. Then it'll go back in the shed for some fettlin' during early winter. After that I have a scooter, a valve amp, and a Stratocaster that need working on. Then if the Fates are kind, early next year I'll start looking into (engage deep cheese voice) "THE NEXT CHICKENSHACK PROJECT" - shhhh, you heard it here first. I'll keep posting here, but I think that when the new project starts this may fork/subsume into a new blog, haven't decided the best way to do that stuff yet, need to ask a Mac wielding skateboarder or three.
I'm also hoping to have some good news about the bike appearing elsewhere on the web and in print. Obviously I'll flag that up if it happens.
Right the VTR needs to do the commute tomorrow or the battery'll have to go on charge. It's a hard life......