BELT ONE OUT
Nina the 916 Strada has been running faultlessly. However, like many of her siblings (I suspect), she doesn’t get a hell of a lot of exercise. It gets dragged out and taken for a strop once every couple of Sundays and somewhat regretfully packed back into the shed. While it may not see many kays, it still needs servicing. Outside the inevitable fluid changes there’s one other service task which needs to be done, regardless of how little the bike is used: the timing belts.
It’s not something you can ignore unless the bike is laid up long term and not being used at all. In that case, new belts are going to have to be part of the recommissioning process. They lose tension over time and having one let go can lead to catastrophic engine damage. So, for those who we managed to confuse over a couple of recent editions (it’s a long story…), the recommended change intervals are 20,000km or two years – whichever occurs sooner.
Ducatis have a reputation for being impossible and or expensive to service and this was one aspect of the myth I was curious to explore. Having blundered into the workshop of Eurobrit Motorbikes in Melbourne on the wrong day I was pointed at Graham, who did the honours. His view is that belts really are a simple enough task – easy to say when you actually know what you’re doing.
UNDRESS WITH SUCCESS
Getting the bodywork off a 916 is incredibly quick. The seat unclips simply, the tank comes off once you unhook a couple of fuel lines (carefully check the O-rings for wear), while the two main fairing panels undo with just eight Dzus fasteners. There’s also a front belly section that requires a couple of bolts.
Next victim is the airbox and intake trumpets, all of which is straightforward. Scope the condition of the trumpet O-rings – one of ours needed replacing. It was only a few dollars for the part.
It pays to check the sparkplugs while you’re in there. In this case they were perfect, backing up the seat-of-the-pants impression the bike was in good health. That indicated we could safely ignore the valve lash adjustment, which can be a lengthy and expensive procedure on machines with desmodromic heads. Access to the rear plug is easy, though the front, located up behind the radiator, is a bit fiddly.
With that gear out of the way, it was time to drop the battery and holder, again a job that’s simple enough. Then off come the belt covers. Really, all we’ve needed so far is a methodical approach and some basic tools.
Graham pulled up at this point and emphasised that it’s critical to get your timing marks established. He reckons they may not line up perfectly (check a workshop manual at this stage to establish what marks you’re looking for). In any case, he’s carefully dabbed a little paint on the cases and the main three pulleys (one lower driving pulley and two upper camshaft pulleys) for each cylinder, so there are no mysteries when it comes to lining it all up again.
There are two centre tensioner pulleys on each belt, one of which is on an adjustable eccentric mount. That needs to be loosened so belts can be eased out.
BELOW THE BELT
Replacement belts are readily available both as Ducati-branded and aftermarket items – sometimes they’re exactly the same thing with different labels. Graham reckons you can get decent replacements for around $70 per belt. Gates is as good an aftermarket brand as any and ideally they should have direction indicators marked on them.
Getting them back in sees our mechanic friend reaching for the one special tool used in the entire process: a camshaft wrench. There are several variants on the market and it looks like you should be able to get something decent for under $100.
Positioning and retensioning the belts so everything lines up takes a little patience. Graham has a couple of goes before he’s entirely satisfied with the alignment.
From there, it’s simply a matter of backtracking and patiently reinstalling all the gear that had been removed – with one exception. Along the way he discovered a mini LED torch, resting happily on the import approval plate on the frame rail. This presumably was a souvenir left by the last mechanic to work on it and the good news was, with a fresh set of batteries, it worked!
So, would you try this at home? It’s a job that’s within reach of a competent home mechanic, requiring one special tool and a methodical approach. A professional takes two hours, plus the cost of parts. So you’re looking at up to $350 every two years. I understand the job a whole lot better, having seen it done, but for the sake of peace of mind and what amounts to $175 per year I think I’d still leave it to a professional.
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, 90-degree V-twin
Bore and stroke: 94 x 96mm
Compression ratio: 11:1.0
Fuel system: Electronic injection
Type: Six-speed constant mesh
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR:
Frame type: Lattice steel tube
Front suspension: USD 43mm Showa fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: Showa monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brakes: 320mm twin discs with four-piston Brembo calipers
Rear brake: Single 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES:
Dry weight: 195kg
Seat height: 790mm
Fuel capacity: 17lt
Max power: 78kW (105hp) at 9000rpm
Max torque: 88.25Nm (65.09ft-lb) at 7000rpm
Price when new: $24,990 to $26,990 (plus ORC)