The summer holidays are still in full swing, and I'm stuck with the bin lids for another fortnight still. So getting out on the Monster is tricky. I can take one child on the back at a time, but until Ducati Performance comes up with a sidecar fitment, I'm snookered for getting them both about on the Monster.
But things have been happening anyway. I have some nice Michelin Power RS tyres which I've been wanting to try out on the road since I went on the track launch back in April. They were just incredible at Qatar on litre sports bikes, but I want to see how they do on the road, at a more normal level.
First, I had to get the wheels off the Monster though. And there were a couple of hurdles there – I needed both a suitable paddock stand, and a gigantic socket to get the back wheel off. Hmmm. My garage is fairly well stocked, but I was falling short here – time to get on the phone. The good folks at R&G Racing do a sweet paddock stand (www.rg-racing.com/browsebike/Ducati/Monster_1200S/2017/PADD-SS-LH-BK, around £145) for single-sided bikes, and they got one over to me quick-fast. I just ventured onto the eBay for a socket though: a 55mm bi-hex 12-pointer is what we need for the latest Ducatis, and I got one (plus a ¾" to ½" adaptor) for £20 delivered all in. Not bad.
Bike on stands, front wheel off easy enough, and now I was all set for the rear. But I was speaking to Mr Steve 'Wilf' Moore, boss of the Moto Rapido Ducati BSB team, about the job, and he pointed out that the spindle nut is effing tight on these. The nut needs ratcheted up to 230Nm – which is pretty hefty. Rather than faff about with trying to get one of my feckless family to help hold the back brake on or whatever, I just got the mighty impact gun onto the job. My Dewalt DW292 mains wrench has the power – and rattled the big nut off in seconds.
A quick pop down to my mate Dan Miles at DMP Performance Motorcycles (http://dmpmotorcycles.co.uk, recommended for all this stuff), and I borrowed his tyre machine to swap the Michelins onto the (very light) rims, then popped the wheels back on the bike. The single-sided swingarm is a bit of a bugger in terms of needing a special stand etc, but it is, of course, fabulous for getting wheels on and off in a jiffy. The only hassle is the locking wire clip. Making sure the castellated nut lines up with the holes is a faff, especially when you're trying to get the torque right at the same time. I'm no doubt doing something wrong, but after a bit of fiddling about, I got it 'really tight with the clip in place', which I'm taking as a win. The front was a dream, although as I suspected, I noticed the brake pads were getting a little bit thin, and will need replacing soon.
I've only had the mighty Monster out for a 30 mile scrubbing run so far, but the Michelins have made a huge difference to the rather caned Pirellis that were on there. Mostly to the steering – it felt fine before, but the lovely new-rubber profile of the Power RSs have sharpened the steering up a treat, and it's suddenly much more nimble, but it doesn't feel at all unstable, or like it's 'falling' into bends.
I gave the Powers a proper track run back in April, and have no hesitation in recommending them for track use. What I want to check now is road work, so I'm sort-of hoping for some cooler damper conditions over the next couple of weeks. Luckily, this shitty August looks like it will happily oblige…
New Monster learnings this week: turning off the wheelie control makes things much livelier all round. I'm a little confused, since I've left the traction control on, which would, you'd think, also do the anti-wheelie thing. I'm off to see what the owner's manual suggests.
In the meantime, I want what I always want on a bike: one button to press that instantly lets me do wheelies, and then lets me turn traction straight back on again, without stopping, going through a load of shit menus or anything else. BMW is the king of this at the moment…