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Discussion Starter #1
I've been working on motorcycles and cars for years. I've got a lot of experience, a garage full of tools, and space to work on stuff. Not a "bring it to the dealership" guy and have never owned any vehicle that was remotely "new".

However, so far all of my experience has been with older vehicles -- no CANBUS stuff and not much beyond ABS. I've got no problems working on fuel-injected engines and the like, but I will admit when I read about some of the electrical problems on newer bikes, I feel intimidated...

My question is -- how would you rate modern Ducatis in terms of user-fixability and maintainability? I guess I'm mainly talking water-cooled stuff, as it seems that the air-cooled 2v engines remained pretty simple up to the end.

I've got no problem with learning new things -- I'm not one of these "carbs only!" dudes. And, as someone who's owned and worked on French, Italian, Japanese, German, and British vehicles, I'm not intimidated by odd or exotic stuff.

But at the same time, I'd hate to own a bike where I have to pour a lot of cash into special tools, or where I have to rely on a dealership for diagnostic stuff or certain repairs. Or deal with the kind of thing where parts are impossible to get or only come in super-expensive "assemblies". And I know Ducs, being more handmade and characterful bikes, generally benefit from a bit more of a hands-on approach.

Plus, I just kind of like the power of knowing how my bike works and feeling confident that I can always fix it.

It's just really hard to gauge when reading forums, where it seems anyone with a new-ish bike has an intimate relationship with a dealership. Is it because the newer bikes are just a giant pain in the ass to DIY? Or because they aren't old enough that people have really had to get their hands dirt with them yet?
 

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Nope, for the new stuff be ready to take on NASA Apollo 13 levels of troubleshooting skills with your laptop and software nobody can afford.
 

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Troubleshooting newer Ducatis can bring factory trained mechanics to tears. You don’t have a chance . But, they’re great fun . Don’t let that stop you.
 

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If you are talking belt driven cam bikes (as opposed to the new panis) most maintenance is doable by well versed home mechanics - the problems come with the canbus and ecu's. You'd need a ducati special computer at a cost about the same as a new bike in order to read and clear codes for some of the newer bikes, but you can get software at a reasonable price for some ECUs - it all depends on the bike. I have fun working on my 10 year old Ducs but I do take them to a shop for some things. Even working on the bikes at home can get pretty pricey; shim kits and belts are expensive and there are some special tools required when you dig into the engine. If you absolutely refuse to go to a shop I'd suggest you stay clear of Ducati.
 

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As others are mentioning the electronics are the hold up. Not the fact they have them as much as you need to have software to do basic things. Some newer (you never said what age range you are talking about) bikes are possible as there is software you can use for over $1000 , some under $500 and some will be less than $100. details matter and it is based on the ecu in the bike.

Once you get past this hurdle the mechanics are all possible if you don't mind taking the time and are skilled or willing to learn on the job. My biggest reason for disliking newer bikes is they have become needlessly complex and a complete Pia to access maintenance items.

Strip a mts1200 down to the motor and it is no different from a 999 10 years prior. problem comes in when it takes hours more time to get to those parts. To strip a 916 to do a valve/major service you are looking at about 50 or less fasteners. Thats bodywork(all), fuel tank,airbox,belt covers,battery box, radiator and valve covers off. Takes under an hour to do all this.

To strip a MTS you are over 100 fasteners just to remove enough to get the tank off. Add time when they now force you to remove the exhaust (Hyper,monster,etc). Why do costs to service rise look no further than overly complicated designs that increase work time.

Being you are doing the work yourself and in theory you do not need to do it that often just know it exists but do not fear it. One of my concerns going forward will be long term viability. I am sure each ecu will be cracked by some kid in his basement who buys a used bike. My question will be at what point can you not get a replacement ecu,dash (ecu) abs ecu, traction control unit, plastic gas tank etc. These parts if not in great supply could become the next 907 coolant tank, 750/906/desmocedici 16 inch tires that makes it hard to keep running as designed.
 

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C'mon guys, a little faith, he is afterall The Monkey O Death................

Really, sound advice. Stick to the older Ducks, they are challenge enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Some good advice here. Sounds like I might need to take it bike-by-bike. My 900SS is so simple and easy to work on, and I was curious if this quality remained in the newer stuff. Sounds like not quite as much. Been mainly considering the later air-cooled monsters and some of the Hypermotard line.

It's a bummer to hear that the electronic stuff can require so much proprietary computer to deal with. I guess that's the price of progress.

Ducvet, I hear you about newer stuff getting to be a big pain in the butt to work on. I think that a lot of these prefab "assemblies" make the bike faster and easier to manufacture precisely, but it definitely sucks to spend hours pulling off fasteners just to get to the meat of the bike.

I find that things like this might not always be dealbreakers, but can definitely end the honeymoon early. Once I had an old French car that required the intake manifold be removed to get at the oil filter. Didn't end up being the reason I sold the car, but certainly didn't help.
 

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It sounds like you might be pretty close to my own level of ability and commitment to buy specialist tools...

For me, the 848/1098/1198 series of bike (and anything that's derived from that tech in the other bikes) is about my limit of what I want to own and work on myself. ECU programming and diagnostics can be done cheaply via some cables and an app on your phone, and not too many specialist tools required. Things like the valve clearances can take a bit of time and patience to learn, but are by no means terribly difficult, as long as you do your research, and check and double-check your work as you go along.

Anything Panigale onwards and I'm sure I would love to ride one, but I wouldn't like to own one - on my budget, at least!

Good luck!
 

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^ tend to concur with forsythem - and just to add a bit of info on simplicity: the 2011 1198 was the last trellis framed, dry clutch Superbike for ease of maintenance compared to the first Panigale in 2012 with its monocoque frame. But move back one year to 2010 and you find the 1198 sans traction control, so even simpler. But that TC can save your bacon with that much power. So tech can definitely also be your best friend.

Now to avoid canbus you have to move back in time to a 996. The '03 999 was the first mass production canbus bike. I had no problems with canbus wiring on the 999 I had from 2003 to 2010, nor with my 1198 for three years so far. both bikes are super reliable compared to older Docs and perhaps the more complex newer ones. Being a simplicity Luddite for its own sake isn't all that bright when the tech makes your bike more reliable vs less.
 

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"I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree... vehemently... Mmmmkay? "

lol.. as always!

My simple point is are you actually gaining anything with having a group of ecu's and fragile items running your bike?
Do you NEED to have 200rwhp that you are incapable of using? I do get collecting for arts sake (technology for technologies sake is nothing but art to me) but if you are buying with long term useability in mind buying something that can not be easily kept running does not seem wise to me.

Lets just say once a bike had no brakes .
Then you create too powerful a brake so everyone crashed.
So then you create a system that allows you to have very powerful brakes and not crash because of them.
Or
You simply create enough brake power that you have enough to stop yet need no other system to control it. This means less systems to break as well as less parts/weight.
Are you better off with a complex braking system that has perhaps more capabilities than you need/want or a simple to maintain /use system that does the job just fine? We each get to figure that out as it is a individual decision.

If you ride the latest rocket shipp does it make you smile more than a simple machine? maybe but maybe not as some of us find enjoyment working to get 100% of what a machine has to offer as opposed to using 50% and admiring the possibility of the other 50%.

There are advances as in experience the testastretta was more reliable as a whole over the desmoquattro motors. I can say I do not remember ever changing a wiring harness on a desmoquattro where I have changed more than a few on 749/999 bikes.

15m ecu's used to fail but it was not usually the ecu but the air pressure sensor that was built into the 15m. still I bet I changed more 5.9ecu's than P7,p8,16m and 1.5 ecu's combined. Does that mean those others cannot fail? no but I would take my chances with them over a 5.9.

Newer bikes like too put sensors in the dash as well as the ecu and most bikes will not function without them. The dashes are plastic and in a crash /fall have been known to break, cannot ride it home without one. As wires shrink in size and connections to sensors/controls get more necessarily precise what will happen in 10 or 20 years to those connections after the bike has been bounced down bumpy roads for 20,000 miles or ridden in rain storms ? Or simply dotted over in a man cave and washed with chemicals more than it is ridden ( I have seen harnesses chemically destroyed by owners from cleaning).

My concerns are not in the short term but as a mechanic who has to try and fix/keep bikes running past 2 year warranty periods I do not see a lot that is pointing to the future being better for these new bikes. Might be a good time to consider leasing instead. Can the new bikes hold up? I bet most can the question will be is it the one you own and if you have issues what are you able to do about it ,at that time.
 

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What they are all trying to tell you is go ahead and buy a newer bike, but don’t sell the old one just yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just to be clear, I'm not opposed to new technology on principle. I realize that a lot of the new stuff can make bikes significantly more reliable.

Even with complexity -- if the job takes twice as long but you only have to do it half as often, then I think you're breaking even.

I think, for me, it's more about user-serviceability. If I've got to plug in a laptop to fix stuff, fine. I'll learn how to do it. Can't be any more painful than dicking around with a carburetor.

But if the only alternative is some kind of high-dollar computer that a dealership has, that sucks. Or if the parts are impossible to get, or if there are a bunch of expensive, specialized tools required.

I think this becomes more of an issue as bikes age. A trip to the dealership isn't just inconvenient, it might cost a significant percentage of what the bike is even worth, assuming they still have the equipment required for your bike.

That being said, I think that as a machine ages, owners get savvier. They crack the ECU, figure out alternative parts or homemade tools.

I just get spooked when I read horror stories of some guy carting his bike back and forth to the dealership as they try to figure out some weird electrical gremlin. Sucks when the bike is under warranty, but a dealbreaker when the bike is 5-10 years old and worth less than the trailer used to take it to the shop.

Sounds to me like I need to take it on a case-by-case basis per model and year. I'll have to do some research to see if folks are having success fixing things on a particular model, or if the catch-all answer is "take it to the dealership".
 

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IMO the biggest reason the new bikes are harder to diagnose/work on than old bikes is because the manufacturers (all of em... not just Ducati) WANT them to be hard to work on. They could easily embed a extremely powerful set of diagnostic screens in the UI that would give you a level of detail about what's going on in the bike that used to take a fully equipped shop... but they want you spending money at dealer service... and they want to make money selling absurdly overpriced laptops to gate service to ONLY franchise shops.

There is more electrical and maybe a bit more mechanical complexity... but that could easily be overcome by sharing some of the diagnostic data our bikes collect... but no...
 

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I'd venture to say there's liability exposure, in the US Land-O-Lawyers at the very least, to the manufacturers in writing self-help diagnostics for shade tree grease monkeys.. especially during the warranty period. Their kindness would run proper shops where they sell their bikes out of business, lead inept spanner spinners to blow up their rides & maim they bad selves, and then blame the manf for leading them down a path to perdition. The lawyers would quickly make mincemeat out of bike makers' bank accounts, of course pocketing the main course, and leaving the aggrieved monkeys a few quid.
 

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And lets not forget they do not want anyone changing emissions on the bikes. The manufacturers could get in trouble if they make it too easy to make them run as they should from day 1.

And I am sure they also do not want their competitors to be able to simply copy their hard work.

I am easy give be a build design like a 1990's Ducati with mechanical reliability of newer engines and make it have zero ecu's that cannot be swapped out quickly,easily and cheaply. Allow users to add or remove whatever electronics package they want with common harness between models so it it easily replaced by oem or aftermarket ecu's down the road. Do not dead end anything with technology that will be obsolete and irreplaceable 10-20 years after the model year begins.

Easy to say .. not so easy to find.
 

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Monkeyofdeath: some fun for you; I encourage you to binge-watch Desmowerx on YouTube: YouTube
His most recent video was a real simple one about tools for Ducati motor work:

When you state you have a 900SS are you talking old school or one of those, new, 1990s models? I have an old 81 Hailwood Replica that is a lot of fun to fiddle with and a much newer MS Enduro DVT that only has just over 1k km on it so doesn't need any tinkering yet. I love watching the Desmowerx engine rebuilds as it gives me a lot of confidence that one day, I could do this myself; makes pulling the old bevel motors apart look rather simple in comparison. The modern electronics troubleshooting is a whole new dimension; I'm not there yet.
 

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I dunno man, I can't help thinking you are jumping at shadows here. Ducati's have their faults and foibles but as time as gone on they seem to have ironed out a lot of them: loose crank plugs, flaking rockers, easier valve shimming, THAT bloody connection on the single phase alternators etc but maintenance intervals have become longer and longer, the bikes have become more reliable not less so.

Look big picture. I think ducvet above stated he would prefer any ecu other than the 5.9M because he had seen more failures with the 5.9M.....looking at the list (shamelessly copied) below it is fairly obvious why: there are a shitload more of them than any other. Failures as a percentage of the whole would be a more telling number than what comes through the shop door but good luck finding that info.

Weber-Marelli IAW P7 ECU
851, 907 and early 888's up to serial number 000508.

Weber-Marelli IAW P8 ECU
Later 888's from serial number 000509, 916 Strada, 916SP, 916SPS, 996SPS

Weber-Marelli IAW 1.5M ECU
900ss, 750ss, Monster 900ie

Weber-Marelli IAW 1.6M ECU
One injector/cylinder: 748, 916 Biposto, 916 Senna, ST2

Weber-Marelli IAW 1.6M B1 ECU
Two injectors/cylinder: 996 Biposto, 996S

Weber-Marelli IAW 5.9M ECU
2001: Monster S4, ST4S, 996R
2002: Monster S4, ST4S, Monster 620, Monster 900, 998, 998S, 998R
2003 onwards: Monster S4, S4R, ST4S, Monster 620, Monster 800, Monster 1000DS, 620S, 800SS, 1000DS, 749, 999, 998, 998S, 998R, 848, 1098, 1198, Hypermotard, Streetfighter


Just keep things in perspective, for every horror story there are 1000's of bikes running perfectly fine that you never hear about. And so what if there is an issue, a 5.9M is less than $150 on Fleabay, which is what, 2 hours of shop time? Unless you go brand new or exotic model nearly all the parts are available and aren't going to break the bank.

Canbus? It's hardly new tech, it's been around for 17 years now and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the odd issue. It allows a lot more functions compared to the older harness/ECU so you aren't really comparing apples with apples. I'm a nuts 'n bolts guy not a 1's and 0's guy, the wrong side of 50, I prefer an analogue riding experience (I actually have a Nemesis TCS kit on the shelf for my race bike but I can't bring myself to fit it, lol) but I'll happily take the functionality that canbus enables.

It actually makes sense to me to have a light simple canbus system carrying complex comm's vs a heavy complex analog system with discrete wires for every single simple signal, but of course a whole new realm of possibilities has opened up making things more complex again. But would you rather still be repairing the broken speedo cables of the previous Superbike? Still velcro'ing laptimers to the triple clamp? Buying complete standalone quickshifters? Fitting Power Commanders? Not have anti-theft protection? Fiddling with cold start buttons or choke levers? Analogue gauges may hold a certain aesthetic appeal but try finding an electronic tacho for a P8 ecu these days.

I'm not a touring guy but a Kiwi mate hadn't been home in a good few years, went back and hired a late model Multistrada. He came back raving about it, said his best motorcycling experience ever was cruising around, finding a good spot to stay then dump the panniers, hit "Sport" to instantly adjust the suspension then go for a decent fang. Beats the hell out of getting out the spanners and counting clicks or just living with the compromised suspension.

The bikes have gotten better not worse, just pick a nice example of whatever tickles your fancy and enjoy it.
 
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