It’s alive! Here’s what we’ve been up to lately

So thanks for all the emails asking if we’re planning to do more episodes. The answer is yes. We’ve been just been quiet over the (northern hemisphere) winter because it’s just been too bloody freezing to hang out in an unheated garage drinking beer, spannering bikes and waving a camera about.

But we’ve all been busy with our own projects. I decided to paint the ugly front subframe on my Cagiva Elefant 750 and touch up the engine side cases and belt covers, which the dreaded ‘previous owner’ had allowed to get into a horrible state. That snowballed into painting the whole engine, which meant taking the heads and barrels off, so while I was at it I did the valve shims – finally conquering one of the tasks most feared by the Ducati home mechanic. If you have a two-valve desmo Ducati there are videos here and here that break the job down into a fairly simple procedure, complemented by a pretty decent write-up here (read carefully though – it does get a bit out of sequence at one point). Basically you just need to be methodical and stay on top of the measurements. And don’t drop anything down the oil return holes!

All of the above took me several months – fitting it in between work and family life, and doing the painting during breaks in the lousy weather. There have been loads of little things along the way, mostly refurbishing or replacing fittings and fasteners that would look crap up against the newly painted engine and frame. I don’t have a garage but am lucky enough to be able to get the bike into a back room of the house, otherwise none of this would have been possible.

The subframe painting job is well documented in this video. With the engine, I decided the strip the old paint without taking it apart, which meant I didn’t have to mask off the internals – though I did cover the exhaust and intake ports, plus any holes left open by disconnected oil and breather lines. I degreased the engine, then coated it with a strong gel-type paint stripper. In the UK it’s called Nitromors. When the paint had blistered up I blasted it off with Richard’s big Karcher presssure washer. I repeated the paint stripper and pressure washer treatment until I had all the paint off that was coming off that way. Then I attacked it mechanically with a handheld wire brush and a wire wheel on a drill.

At this point I cleaned the engine crankcase thoroughly and coated it with U-Pol acid etch primer. This stuff is great for making paint stick to alloy but you have to be aware that it can only be applied to bare metal. Don’t try it for a touch-up job – it will eat the surrounding paint. Over the top I used a rattle-can silver paint meant for alloy wheels on cars. This stuff is more durable than regular car paint. Finally over that went several coats of 2k lacquer. At this point I wasn’t aiming at the barrels and heads, or the side cases – I had another set of the latter that I had already painted and lacquered separately. Then I took off the barrels and heads, painting and lacquering them away from the crankcase (on the Elefant the barrels are black rather silver). Eventually the whole lot went back together with heads shimmed and shiny new head nuts in place. Here’s hoping my paint lasts longer than the crap job that Ducati did. I fired the bike up briefly yesterday – as shown in the video – before wheeling it back indoors for finishing touches.

Trent’s been busy with similar work, doing up a Ducati Monster 620. He’s actually had some training in bike painting so his work will be a lot more elaborate than mine, involving custom graphics and the like. I’ve been relying on him a lot for advice and encouragement. One thing we’ve learned is that some Ducati paints come off easily with gel stripper, while others require sandblasting. This can vary on an individual engine – the crankcase paint might blister up immediately, while the side cover paint won’t budge. Weird.

You’re probably wondering why we didn’t make some episodes about this stuff. Well, you can get the basics of painting from that subframe episode. But also we’ve tried to make Garage Night TV about individual jobs that a bike owner might encounter in everyday and periodic maintenance – like changing the chain and replacing the steering head bearings. That’s the kind of thing we’re hoping to show in upcoming episodes. Brake bleeding and carb balancing are two areas we want to cover. Of course there will always be special episodes about something interesting we’re doing, like putting KTM forks on Richard’s BMW F650.

Another off-season highlight was Rich and Pete being recognised by a Garage Night viewere when we visited the adventure motorcycling day at the Ace Cafe in London. The boys were pretty chuffed about it and it really gives us a kick-along to think about doing more shows.

So once I can round up Trent and maybe a few of the other Garage Night boys we should have some more of our regular shows for you. Stick with us!

– Waz

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3 thoughts on “It’s alive! Here’s what we’ve been up to lately

  1. Still tweekin my GL-1200 Standard, rebuilding the brakes, augueing with the electrical wiring, deciding on what new lighting I am putting on her. toying with whether to put the rearviews on the end of the bars or the turnsignals on the ends or just do both if it is feasible.

    other then that just watching the weather and been laid up with the damn flu for a couple of weeks.

  2. Waz, thanks for the update. Sounds like you have been busy. Looking forward to “the boys” coming back together to produce more shows!


  3. I got my new turn signals and handlebar marrows. Fitted up the Harley mufflers on her. and I still need to get the brakes done and then paint the Ole girl. Trying to make a design to make the Ole standard a Bumble bee. make her Yellow with black accents. Getting rid of all the chrome I can. Also moving the instrument cluster into the false tank housing. Moving the head light and speedometer to a lower elevation. as well as removing the crash bars and narrowing the running boards by 1 1/2″ to give a more streamline look with the drag bars. I am just doing a little work

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