Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest interview: Big Steve talks Hypermotards to Ducati blog

I caught up with 'Big Steve' in the city recently after chatting online, we stood around kicking his tyres and talking everything Hypermotard which gave me the idea to share his Ducati experience via an email interview. It's a great read and the start of a new friendship.
Introducing Big Steve from over the hill in the Yarra Ranges, Victoria Australia. I'm looking forward to a Hyper-ride out his way soon - that should make for a great video :P

What's your name and what Ducati do you ride?

Big Steve, Computer nerd & 2008 Ducati Hypermotard owner. My Kung-fu style is “donkey kong riding a tricycle”. I bought the hyper new in 09 (traded my 08 Z1000 & GSXR1000) It’s a bit of a sleeper to the untrained eye.

Big Steve's Hyper - the sleeper

Is it a boy or a girl and did you name it?

I’ve never been one to name my bikes, my youngest Son named my zed “Skidz” & my Gixxer “Prowl” after transformers characters from the movies. I couldn’t top those so I just refer to it as “the hyper”. I use “it” except when it doesn’t want to start or runs out of fuel, then “it’s” a “she” and she’s a bitch.

How long have you been riding?

I’ve been riding since I was 4, got my first bike in prep - a pee wee 80. So that gives me about 29 years in the saddle, and around 17 years on the road. I didn’t grow up in your average Melbourne family, we barracked for Yamaha, not AFL. Dad raced speedway sidecars and had an XV1000 midnight special as his commuter and an old Xt500 with a home made sidecar that doubled as the families second car. The rule for me as a kid was if you could touch the ground when you sat on a bike you could ride it. One of my most fond memories of riding “big” bikes was my first spin on my uncles 89 KLR650, a mammoth of a bike to an 11 year old. I rode it to the top of the lookout road above a little town called Myrtleford in the alpine shire. I rode it up without any issue but when I tried to turn it round on the steep track it overbalanced and fell over on me. I tried to lift that bastard but 150+ kg and over 20 litres of fuel meant I had no hope. Well I sat and waited until my uncle (who had worked out that I wasn’t returning) ran all the way up the mountain. Pretty sure he remembers that day just as vividly as I do. I’m pretty happy with the bikes I’ve ridden over the years, the most memorable was probably an S1 Buell lightening, pretty close to the hyper in some ways actually. The worst bike I’ve thrown a leg over was a VTR1000 Firestorm. It did nothing for me, was uncomfortable and rode like a boat. If I could take one bike out that I haven’t ridden before it would probably be a GSX1400.

Daily ride or weekend cowboy?

Bad Weather biker all the way. I may not get to ride every day but if I plan to ride I do regardless of the weather. I like to think of myself as an “anti-ducati” ducati rider. My bike is usually muddy, there are no chicken strips on my rear tyre, I don’t own polish or tyre shine. I’m a frirm believer that you learn more about your bikes behavior riding a 5km stretch of poor road in the rain than 1000km of fair weather riding on good surfaces. If I see the weather is turning to crap on my ride I will usually go out of my way to find a challenging stretch of road. I’m also pretty good at tolerating weather extremes. I rode evry day in the heat waves leading up to the black Saturday fires (in full gear of course). I’ve also had the pleasure of riding into wonnangatta station at the start of winter, there was a foot of snow on the ground and I dropped the xr I was on in the middle of the first creek crossing. We didn’t even make it into the valleyfor fear of being snowed in, man that was a good days riding.

What kind of mods have you done to your beast and do you tinker yourself or send it to the shop?

So far I’ve taken off as much stuff as possible, I’ve fitted wider/higher tag metals bars, longer pazzo levers for my man hands, open clutch cover with SS springs for a bit of noise I’ve also done some tweaks to the intake and fuelling side to try and cure a bit of asthma from the factory. For sure I tinker myself, I don’t see the point in paying someone to do something I know how to do. I also have had far too many bolts rattle out of other bikes because the “Professional Service” was a little light on in the skills department. I get just as much enjoyment out of wrenching on a bike as I do riding it. Take something off, clean it, upgrade it, modify it. It’s very therapeutic for me. I like that with bikes you can change something so simple but it can transform a motorcycle completely. I’m also really looking forward to getting my new garage - the “Barnjmahal" built next year.

What kind of tyres do you run and have you got any tyre horror stories?

I run a Bridgestone BT006 on the front and BT016 on the rear. It’s a good compromise between grip and longevity. The fastest I’ve killed a rear tyre is 2500km, that was a bt003 on the rear of my GSXR used mostly for riding in the yarra ranges. The longest tyre I’ve ran was a Michelin pilot road 2ct on the rear of my zed. Replaced at 17,500. Slightly harder wearing and less grippy than the BT016 & not as controllable in a slide it was the perfect commuter tyre. My tyre horror story would be the first puncture I received on my zed. Not only did I have to push it 3km up a hill to a servo to air up and make it home it happened the day before the Easter long weekend in 08 meaning no shops were open to do a plug job. I had to miss out on the Hells Angels toy run and watch from the sideline.

Do you have any cleaning pros n cons, tips 'n tricks, favourite products that sort of thing....

In winter I just lube the chain I don’t even clean it. Maybe a little soap and water on the panels and headlight but nothing more. There’s no point when you live in Victoria because a clean bike will only be that for half a week tops. I still inspect everything regularly though (especially the underside of the petrol cap) after all it is a Ducati. I’m a big fan of simple green for cleaning most of the motor bits as it gets the crud off but isn’t toxic should you accidently squirt yourself in the face or mistake it for food (soylent green anyone?). I’ve recently tried the Simple Green Degreaser and am very happy with it on the motor, chain and brake calipers.

Dealt with any awesome people, shops or websites for cool parts?

I was super happy with my dealings with WASPWORKS for my stacks and pods filters. I’ve also (dare I say it) had really good dealings with the service departments a Peter Stevens (With my zed) and Metro (For the hyper) in Ringwood. I can also recommend hitting up Dan the hyper man here on *Editors note: shucks big guy, too kind, the cheque's in the mail.

What's on your current wish list for your Ducati?

I see it as more of a to do list
  • Lightened flywheel with the next service
  • Quickshifter
  • Exhaust
  • Redo my spare seat with better foam and suede/alacantra
  • I’d like to say cams but I vaguely remember reading they don’t do DP cams anymore L

If money was no object, what bike you buy today and why?

Man now you’re walking into a storm (I could be here a while). If Money was truly no object I’d run a 5 bike garage.
But if I was restricted to just one choice I’d probably spend the dollars on some additional tools and build something. Something that goes and stops and turns corners well but is also comfy and I can throw some gear on and hit the road for a few days. I’ve really started to crave the escapism more so than the adrenaline of riding. I’d love to throw a bedroll on the back of a bike and just ride off for a few days. I have a pretty hectic home life so sometimes I think it’d be nice to take a weekend off. I love the stripped back no compromises aspect of the hyper, I just wish it held more fuel. Perhaps stripped Harley, no chrome or bolted on foo foo though, like some of the chops and bobs I post on my blog.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me big guy, great to hear from you. If you want to find out more about what makes Steve tick, check out his blog 'Not another motorcycle blog' and drop him a line.
If you are a Ducati rider and fan and want to do an email interview, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a line sometime.