Do The Ton December 2017 Bike of The Month Winner
Max Betteridge's Ducati Monster 400
Every enthusiast with any amount of internet miles ridden has seen builds using steel, aluminum, titanium, fiberglass and carbon fiber, but this little Monster employs a material that very few people are familiar with; basalt fiber. For 20-something Kiwi Max Betteridge, there was no other option to even consider.
“In many ways, basalt is the new carbon,” he says. “It has similar performance to carbon but at a lower price. What captured me was the subtle gold hue in its reflection in contrast to carbon’s harsh weave. Basalt appears almost black until the light hits it at just the right angle. Then it reveals a surreal depth.”
Clearly not what we affectionately refer to as a “poverty rider”, Max considers his baby Monster a budget build. “I bought the donor bike for about 1/3 the price of the cheapest brand new Ducati,” he reveals. “The paint, powder coating and anodizing were the only things which I didn’t do myself. In the end, the paint cost nearly as much as all the other costs combined.”
Max’s day job involves a lot of surface modeling, so that’s how he approached the project. As soon as he got his hands on the little Duc he 3D scanned it and began designing the bodywork in CAD. Hey, if you want something done right…
Surprisingly, Max doesn’t have a proper garage at home. Furthermore, he doesn’t have a way to transport a bike either. He would take parts of the Ducati to the office in the morning, work on them during his lunch break, and then take them home in the evening. What’s your excuse now?
His goal was to build something minimal, sleek and unique. “I knew from the beginning that I had to ditch the original tank,” he says. “But I was still naïve to the difficulties of making a visual composite part. I thought this project would be easy”. Famous last words indeed. “But by the time I had started my first part and learned how much work was involved, I’d already committed.”
All body parts including the tank, tail section and belly pan are molded from basalt fiber. For each part, Max would create a CNC, laser, or hand cut mold, before laying down the final form in basalt, often times requiring more than one attempt.
The Monster’s frame was shortened and stripped of unnecessary tabs and brackets then Max designed a new sub-frame to support the seat and provide mounting points for the lights, then cut the final part from stainless steel using a high pressure water jet.
Artisanal hand-made and aftermarket parts are used throughout the build. The triple clamp, headlight brackets and grip clamps were all designed and CNC machined by Max. The taillight, turn signals, filler cap, clip-ons, rear sets and bar-end mirrors were carefully selected bits from fine aftermarket purveyors including Dime City Cycles.
Max even managed his own leather work, which most builders prefer to outsource. He laser cut the pattern for the seat, grips and tank strap from a single hide to keep consistency.
There are a couple features that particularly stand out. First is the redesigned dash. The Monster’s original gauges were knackered, but Max wanted to keep the mechanical and electrical side of the bike as close to stock as possible. So he stripped the OEM units and rebuilt them into a new basalt fiber enclosure. He also milled out a new faceplate and bezel, anodized them, laser-etched fresh markings, and put them on display behind fresh acrylic. Trick.
The other standout is the custom tank strap. The laser-etched Ducati logo is all class, but it’s the way the strap conforms to the rise of the gas cap that really drives home his attention to detail. “The straps were initially flat,” explains Max, “but my workmate convinced me that it needed to jog up to meet the top of the filler, then he convinced me that a straight jog wouldn’t be good enough…can you believe this is the same workmate who convinced me that doing all the bodywork out of basalt would be easy?” Yeah sounds like a good buddy. Bet he helped drink the beer while “supervising” too.
“So I CNC-milled an aluminum press tool and pressed the straps in a twenty ton press to form the jog. After all the effort, I think this became my favorite feature on the bike.”
Another hurdle was moving the Monster’s twin Termignoni mufflers to a lower position. Fabricating new hangars was straightforward, however rigging up a new set of intermediate pipes proved a challenge. Since he had no way to get the bike to a local shop for modification, Max had to do it the hard way.
He 3D scanned the exhaust at work, created a CAD model, and then ‘unrolled’ it to create a flat model that could then be cut out of stainless plate with a water jet. Max folded and welded each segment together and only then could he take it home and check fitment.
“Almost everyone I spoke to said the idea wasn’t going to work, or that I should be doing it another way,” he admits. “But I take great pride in the fact that they fitted first time!”
In our not so humble opinion, Max absolutely crushed the lines and visual impact of the bike. The color choice, a cream called ‘Ferarri Avorio,’ combined with clear-coated basalt do an excellent job of showcasing Max’s considerable efforts.
“My most validating moment so far was seeing an elderly couple admiring it in the car park, and the elderly woman, the most unlikely of people, starting a conversation with me about how it looks. I can’t say this bike looks categorically better or worse than the original, but it seems to be having the effect I was going for.”
Max has dubbed his Monstrous creation “Flat White” a term that any barista or coffee connoisseur can attest is appropriate. “In New Zealand, nine out of ten coffee orders at a café will be a flat white. It’s an absolute staple in our diet, and New Zealand’s interpretation of an Italian classic.”
“In the same way, the Ducati Flat White is my take on what I think is Italy’s most iconic bike.”
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