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What's up with this "Desmo" thing I keep hearing about? (No, not THIS Desmo)
You may have heard the term "desmo" being tossed around when people talk about Ducatis. This is a reference to the desmodromic valvetrain that Ducati uses on all of their current bikes.
If you're wondering just what in the heck a desmodromic valvetrain looks like, here's a clue. Note the cam opens AND closes the valve. The only spring (not shown here) is a tiny hairspring used to aid in holding the valve closed during startup, and, so I've heard, enable the bike to idle better.
To check the valves, you need to check both the opening (the cap on the valve stem) and closing (the dark, top-hat looking thing) shims.
Click on the picture for a rough, short history of desmo valvetrains. Nope, Taglioni didn't invent them, and Ducati wasn't the first to use them. Mercedes raced with them in 1954(?), but they weren't the first to use them either. You need to go back another 40 years or so. I think the first patent for a desmo system was issued back in 1910?