My shop is in an over-sized two-car garage attached to my home. My work is a calling, in the theological sense of the word. Ethical and moral questions arise every day – they are hard, sharp, unambiguous and unavoidable.

What Can a Spark Plug Tell You?

Posted: August 30th, 2013 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Fuel & Air, Motorcycle Repair | No Comments »

Knowing how to read a spark plug can give you very helpful insight into what is actually happening inside of your engine. Below is a correspondence I had with a customer explaining what I could deduce from the state of his plugs.

R,

I did a quick and dirty compression test on the cold engine – 140 psi on the left cyl and 150 on the right. These values will increase to around 160 psi when measured correctly on a hot engine – and that’s very good. So your engine is fundamentally sound and I can procede with the work.

Significantly, the two spark plugs looked very different and yeild clues as to the poor performance. The insulator tip can be read to give a good idea of what’s happening in the combustion chamber. The left plug was black with an oily sheen while the right was nearly white and dry. I suspect that one of the valve guide seals on the left cyl is allowing oil from the cams down the valve stem into the cyl and that the right cyl is running way too lean. I’ll take another plug reading after I have cleaned/rebuilt/adjusted the carbs. If the oil fouling on the left cyl is not too bad, it may be better/cheaper to just replace that plug once in a while rather than pull the head to install new seals. Plugs are cheap and easy to replace. Valve guide seals are not.

Cheers,
Chris


The Wretched Truth About Restorations

Posted: December 13th, 2012 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Editorial, Engine, Forks & Steering, Frame & Body, Fuel & Air, Ignition, Timing, & Electrical, Motorcycle Repair, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

Greetings Chris,

I have researched available motorcycle restoration shops on the East Coast and have found your shop one of the best suited for my project. I would like to determine if your willing and able to restore a vintage Yamaha 80 enduro shown in the pictures attached? If so, to what level of restoration are you capable of achieving? And how long would this take? Further, what ballpark pricing can you provide?

Regards,
R

_____________________

R,

Thanks for your note of inquiry – and the very flattering words about my shop and work.

First, I need to know that you know the First Law of Restorations; you will end up spending waaaaay more than the finished product will fetch on the open market – two to three times more is the rule of thumb – and the multiple is higher with smaller displacement bikes.

So let’s see if I can scare you off right now. Mechanical restoration/rebuilding will run $3k – half parts and half my time. Cosmetic restoration will be another $3k – about half for first-rate factory correct paint and decals and half for re-chroming which, when properly done, means stripping the old chrome from the part, filling the deeper rust pits and other defects with a conductive metal filler, a heavy layer of copper plate to fill the smaller pits, a layer of nickle to keep the copper from showing through the final layer of chrome. This process is sometimes called “triple chrome.” Better add another $1k to cover things like tires, seat re-upholstery, and this, that, and the other thing. That’s $7k – and no matter how realistically I think I am estimating time and money, everything takes longer and costs more than I had expected – even when I know this and take it into account. That may be the Second Law of Restorations; everything will take longer and cost more than even your worst-case estimate. A final bill of $8k could happen. And all this for a bike that will be worth no more than $3k when done – probably closer to $2k.

I have been doing this stuff long enough to have learned a few things; nobody ever complains about getting a bill less than they expected. Dealing with a panicky customer as the running estimate is regularly revised upward is no fun. I’d rather scare you to death right now.

I’ve just come in from the shop – 11pm – after an afternoon favor checking out a problem on my sweetie’s son’s bike turned into eight hours of pro-bono work – time for a bit of supper.

Cheers,
Chris
Existential Motorcycles TEL: 828-6839289 Web: http://www.existentialmotorcycles.com
Alexander, NC 28701

______________________

Greetings Chris,

Thanks for your carefully thought out email below. Your thoughts and details provided are worth close observation and consideration. With the economy in its current state and no prospects for any improvement in the foreseable years ahead, I must fully think through what makes sense for me moving forward. I will let you know if I decide to proceed in the coming months.

Happy Holidays and warm regards,
R

________________

R,

Thanks for taking my bucket of cold water over your head so well.

Now I can ethically add that there are many excellent non-monetary reasons/rewards for/from restoring a bike – all better reasons, in my way of reckoning, than money.

And it could be done in two stages; mechanics/functional restoration one year and the pretty bits the next.

But it will be expensive and time-consuming.

Under no circumstances should you compromise your financial health to take on a proper restoration. It sucks all the fun out of it – and the damned bike becomes the cause of it all. And I become the dealer man for whom you are stealing the children’s lunch money to feed your habit. Pure poison. If/when you do this, have the cash on hand and set aside.

I do take extensive notes as I work and lots of digi-pix. On long-term projects I send these as updates every day or so – kinda helps the customer come along for the ride – and adds considerable value to the results – builder’s notes and documentary pix impress the hell out of buyers. But most of all, it’s fun for everybody. I enjoy telling stories of the day’s work and it helps me to review my work and confess my sins. Yes, I break the code of the Mechanics’ Guild and freely admit that I make mistakes and, sometimes, really fuck things up. I’ve made just about every damned-fool mistake you can think of and broken every tool and part. But a funny thing happened – as the years rolled by I made fewer and smaller mistakes. I still make mistakes – sometimes even dumb ones – but for quite a while now (knock polished alloy) they have been non-catatrophic and recoverable errors. And every one still a lesson of some sort.

Cheers,
Chris

Existential Motorcycles TEL: 828-6839289 Web: http://www.existentialmotorcycles.com
Alexander, NC 28701


So you think you want a custom cafe racer?

Posted: November 19th, 2012 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Forks & Steering, Frame & Body, Fuel & Air, Ignition, Timing, & Electrical, Motorcycle Repair, Random Things of Interest, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | Tags: | No Comments »

Greetings,

The following in the first installment of correspondence between me, a would-be cafe-racer builder, and one of his customers. The customer was so appalled at what was delivered to him that he forced the builder to bring the bike to me and pay me to put things right.

Caveat emptor!

Chris


John and Casey,

This is the first in a short series of illustrated reports on my findings and work on your bike.

It will be difficult reading for both of you – and it is difficult work and writing for me. I began work on your bike last evening and had to quit after 1 ½ hrs. as what I was finding was making me increasingly angry.

In short, this bike was built/assembled by a dangerously incompetent person who should never be allowed to work on a vintage motorcycle again – unless they are willing to apprentice for a couple of years with someone who knows what they are doing.

Report – Initial Inspection:

Compression test: L = 190 psi and R = 175 psi. on a cold engine.

Since the spec on a new engine is 175 psi., these numbers suggest a substantial build-up of carbon on the piston crown and head. I will put a bore scope down the spark plug hole today and have a look. Also I’ll do a leak-down test. For the price of this bike – $7k – it should have a freshly-built engine, not just a freshly-painted engine.

The electronic ignition module is located in the worst possible place on the bike – directly in front of the leading edge of the rear tire with no intervening fender or other shield to protect it from the grit/crud/spray hurled at it by the spinning rear wheel. I will relocate it or shield it.

The front brake is dragging badly – and it’s a simple drum brake – the adjustment of the cable/actuating mechanism is just too tight. Again, no excuse for this. A simple pre-delivery inspection would have caught this. No bike should leave a shop with compromised brakes.

All three Phillips head screws for the cover on the centrifugal oil filter had seized and the heads stripped out. The rust pattern in the stripped screw heads shows that no attempt was made to remove the stripped screws and replaced with good ones so that the new owner could access/clean the filter. Which suggests that the person who built this bike did not clean the filter either.

Working carefully, I was able to remove all three screws in about 30 minutes. The pix below show what I found and how I fixed it. They also show the inside of the centrifugal filter and what I found in there – the usual black sludge but with lots of small bits of metal embedded in it – steel as it sticks to the head of a magnet. This probably comes from the transmission gears and suggests that it has been treated badly at some point in its past.

First I drilled out the heads of the stripped screws a bit and then hammered a 3/8” drive torx bit into the hole. Anoint with penetrant, heat with MAPP gas, and attach impact driver to the torx bit. One good whack with a 3 lb. Short sledge and voila. Well, almost. The threads of the top/left screw were stuck so badly that I just twisted the head off the screw shank. Fortunately, I was able then to carefully lift the cover off and then get a grip in the bit of shank protruding from the case.

And finally, two of the four bolts holding the footpegs to the frame were badly cross-threaded and one on the right side had jammed half way in and been left like that, here’s the pic.

Not only does the shoddy/dangerous workmanship offend me, I am dumbfounded by the fact that the person who assembled this bike did not think or care that anyone would notice.

I am posting this series of correspondence on my website – minus your names – as a bit of a caution to folks buying a custom-built bike and to those who think that capitalizing on the cafe-racer fashion is an easy quick buck.

John, I am roughing up you and your biz – and it’s got to hurt. But it’s the truth. If you can’t stand it, refund C’s money in full and get out of the biz. Otherwise, do the harder/right thing and take it and learn from it.

Sincerely,

Chris Finlayson
Existential Motorcycles
Alexander, NC


John and Casey,

This is the first in a short series of illustrated reports on my findings and work on your bike.

It will be difficult reading for both of you – and it is difficult work and writing for me. I began work on your bike last evening and had to quit after 1 ½ hrs. as what I was finding was making me increasingly angry.

In short, this bike was built/assembled by a dangerously incompetent person who should never be allowed to work on a vintage motorcycle again – unless they are willing to apprentice for a couple of years with someone who knows what they are doing.

Report – Initial Inspection:

Compression test: L = 190 psi and R = 175 psi. on a cold engine.

Since the spec on a new engine is 175 psi., these numbers suggest a substantial build-up of carbon on the piston crown and head. I will put a bore scope down the spark plug hole today and have a look. Also I’ll do a leak-down test. For the price of this bike – $7k – it should have a freshly-built engine, not just a freshly-painted engine.

The electronic ignition module is located in the worst possible place on the bike – directly in front of the leading edge of the rear tire with no intervening fender or other shield to protect it from the grit/crud/spray hurled at it by the spinning rear wheel. I will relocate it or shield it.

The front brake is dragging badly – and it’s a simple drum brake – the adjustment of the cable/actuating mechanism is just too tight. Again, no excuse for this. A simple pre-delivery inspection would have caught this. No bike should leave a shop with compromised brakes.

All three Phillips head screws for the cover on the centrifugal oil filter had seized and the heads stripped out. The rust pattern in the stripped screw heads shows that no attempt was made to remove the stripped screws and replaced with good ones so that the new owner could access/clean the filter. Which suggests that the person who built this bike did not clean the filter either.

Working carefully, I was able to remove all three screws in about 30 minutes. The pix below show what I found and how I fixed it. They also show the inside of the centrifugal filter and what I found in there – the usual black sludge but with lots of small bits of metal embedded in it – steel as it sticks to the head of a magnet. This probably comes from the transmission gears and suggests that it has been treated badly at some point in its past.

First I drilled out the heads of the stripped screws a bit and then hammered a 3/8” drive torx bit into the hole. Anoint with penetrant, heat with MAPP gas, and attach impact driver to the torx bit. One good whack with a 3 lb. Short sledge and voila. Well, almost. The threads of the top/left screw were stuck so badly that I just twisted the head off the screw shank. Fortunately, I was able then to carefully lift the cover off and then get a grip in the bit of shank protruding from the case.

And finally, two of the four bolts holding the footpegs to the frame were badly cross-threaded and one on the right side had jammed half way in and been left like that, here’s the pic.

Not only does the shoddy/dangerous workmanship offend me, I am dumbfounded by the fact that the person who assembled this bike did not think or care that anyone would notice.

I am posting this series of correspondence on my website – minus your names – as a bit of a caution to folks buying a custom-built bike and to those who think that capitalizing on the cafe-racer fashion is an easy quick buck.

John, I am roughing up you and your biz – and it’s got to hurt. But it’s the truth. If you can’t stand it, refund C’s money in full and get out of the biz. Otherwise, do the harder/right thing and take it and learn from it.

Sincerely,

Chris Finlayson
Existential Motorcycles
Alexander, NC


John and Casey,

This is the first in a short series of illustrated reports on my findings and work on your bike.

It will be difficult reading for both of you – and it is difficult work and writing for me. I began work on your bike last evening and had to quit after 1 ½ hrs. as what I was finding was making me increasingly angry.

In short, this bike was built/assembled by a dangerously incompetent person who should never be allowed to work on a vintage motorcycle again – unless they are willing to apprentice for a couple of years with someone who knows what they are doing.

Report – Initial Inspection:

Compression test: L = 190 psi and R = 175 psi. on a cold engine.

Since the spec on a new engine is 175 psi., these numbers suggest a substantial build-up of carbon on the piston crown and head. I will put a bore scope down the spark plug hole today and have a look. Also I’ll do a leak-down test. For the price of this bike – $7k – it should have a freshly-built engine, not just a freshly-painted engine.

The electronic ignition module is located in the worst possible place on the bike – directly in front of the leading edge of the rear tire with no intervening fender or other shield to protect it from the grit/crud/spray hurled at it by the spinning rear wheel. I will relocate it or shield it.

The front brake is dragging badly – and it’s a simple drum brake – the adjustment of the cable/actuating mechanism is just too tight. Again, no excuse for this. A simple pre-delivery inspection would have caught this. No bike should leave a shop with compromised brakes.

All three Phillips head screws for the cover on the centrifugal oil filter had seized and the heads stripped out. The rust pattern in the stripped screw heads shows that no attempt was made to remove the stripped screws and replaced with good ones so that the new owner could access/clean the filter. Which suggests that the person who built this bike did not clean the filter either.

Working carefully, I was able to remove all three screws in about 30 minutes. The pix below show what I found and how I fixed it. They also show the inside of the centrifugal filter and what I found in there – the usual black sludge but with lots of small bits of metal embedded in it – steel as it sticks to the head of a magnet. This probably comes from the transmission gears and suggests that it has been treated badly at some point in its past.

First I drilled out the heads of the stripped screws a bit and then hammered a 3/8” drive torx bit into the hole. Anoint with penetrant, heat with MAPP gas, and attach impact driver to the torx bit. One good whack with a 3 lb. Short sledge and voila. Well, almost. The threads of the top/left screw were stuck so badly that I just twisted the head off the screw shank. Fortunately, I was able then to carefully lift the cover off and then get a grip in the bit of shank protruding from the case.

And finally, two of the four bolts holding the footpegs to the frame were badly cross-threaded and one on the right side had jammed half way in and been left like that, here’s the pic.

Not only does the shoddy/dangerous workmanship offend me, I am dumbfounded by the fact that the person who assembled this bike did not think or care that anyone would notice.

I am posting this series of correspondence on my website – minus your names – as a bit of a caution to folks buying a custom-built bike and to those who think that capitalizing on the cafe-racer fashion is an easy quick buck.

John, I am roughing up you and your biz – and it’s got to hurt. But it’s the truth. If you can’t stand it, refund C’s money in full and get out of the biz. Otherwise, do the harder/right thing and take it and learn from it.

Sincerely,

Chris Finlayson
Existential Motorcycles
Alexander, NC
Bad location for sensitive electronics


Value, Price and Values; “What’s it worth?” Nothing – nothing compared with a good meal, warm clothes, a lover’s touch, a stranger’s smile. Nothing at all.

Posted: May 14th, 2012 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Motorcycle Repair | 1 Comment »

To: chris@existentialmotorcycles.com
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2012 7:40 PM
Subject: Suzuki 1974

Hi Chris I saw your Craiglist add, I have a 5900 mile tc100, I have attached a short movie showing the bike. I replaced the carb and the coil. it will start, but has a oil leak in the middle seal, I would love to keep the bike, but I dont believe I have any of the tools it would take to completely dismantle the motor. I have a new Gasket for it. If you were looking to purchase it how much is one worth. I have some new parts for it and the original owners Manuel, and a service manual. I got it without certificate of ownership so there is no known title for it.

Thanks for your time, To clear my mind how much to fix it?

A

_____________________________________________________________________________________

A,
Thanks for your note of inquiry.  My computer w/Windows Media Player did not recognize your attachment – but I can tell you a few things that might be useful in setting a range of values for your bike.
Two-strokes gave four-strokes a run for their money for 20 years – ’60s-’80s – and another twenty years for dirt bikes.  But the 2-stroke is now officially a dead-end technology – like steam power for automobiles – and while orphan technologies will always have a happily-demented following – http://www.stanleysteamers.com/ – they don’t get much respect from the general collector market – and that’s what set’s the benchmark values for 20+ year old motorcycles.
Then there is the American Fallacy Factor.  The American Fallacy is this:  if X is good, then 2X is better.  Full-stop, no-doubt-about-it.  Tiddlers get no respect from the market.  Since your bike is roughly 1/10th X ….
So, if your bike is all-but-be-damned show-room new and is functionally flawless, it would do well to fetch $1k.  And the decline in value for decline in cosmetic/mechanical condition below this standard is not a linear function.  I don’t know the correct word/phrase but relatively small declines in condition precipitate large declines in market value.  On the other hand, the price of rebuild/restoration parts does not decline with the value of the bike that needs them.  Thus, a less-pricey-to-purchase bike – which will need lots of parts – can end up being more expensive to repair/restore – which further depresses their value.    If your bike is complete – all original parts present and accounted for – it looks okay (no dents/rips/rust) and it runs okay sort-of, it’s maybe a $300 bike.  Same but not a runner, $100.  A motorcycle-shaped collection of rusty parts – $0. I have said, “Some of the most expensive bikes I’ve owned, I got for free.This bizz can get complicated – and that’s what makes it entertaining and instructive.

To fix it means splitting the cases, extracting the crank, renewing the seals, and putting it all back together again.  Since the time is the same whether I install the old pistons and rings or new items, it makes sense to refresh the top end with new piston and rings – 6k mi. can be a lot on a vintage small-bore 2-stroke.  But that’s another $200 in parts/machine shop.  My time would be 4-8hrs – @ $60/hr. – depending on how many stripped/seized fasteners and otherwise buggered parts I run into in the process.
There are many excellent reasons for restoring a funky old bike, but rational economic self-interest is not among them.
Cheers,
Chris
Existential Motorcycles        TEL: 828-6839289         Web: http://www.existentialmotorcycles.com
Alexander, NC 28701

An engine’s tale

Posted: May 8th, 2012 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Motorcycle Repair | Tags: | No Comments »

J & N,

If resurrecting moribund old Honda engines is holy, then I’m on my way to sainthood. Did you know this one was seized? Not badly, as it turned out, and only on one side.

The attached pix will show you what I found as I went along.

See that one spark plug hole has been stripped, drilled out for an insert, and that has been buggered so that no plug was in the hole – for quite a while judging by what I found inside.

The heads of the screws holding the alternator cover in place were long gone. At the point of the picture, I had cut a slot in the heads of two with a small cold chisel sized to fit the blade of one of my impact driver bits. That moved them. If it hadn’t, there was one more possible move before drilling them out.

Now, with a 14mm socket on the end of the crank, I am sure that the engine is stuck.

The head came off relatively easily as I have been anointing all the fasteners with PB Blaster for the past few days.

I cleaned the debris out of the stuck cyl/piston and covered it in a pool of PBB to soak overnight. This afternoon I placed a 1″ hardwood dowel atop the piston and gave it a short stroke with 2lb. brass hammer. Tapping alternately the top of one piston and then the other eventually began to move the piston and soon I had it free enough to pull the cyls. up off the pistons.

This was likely a newly-built engine on its first overbore – the bores are roughly 64.25 mm. and have no taper or ovaling. The pistons are straight and square too. But the machinist who did the boring did not leave sufficient piston/cyl. clearance – the pistons are larger than nominal spec – and the engine had a light seizure – or two. The next thing that happened was that whoever responded to the seizure got that plug cross-threaded and stripped – or perhaps the heat of seizure stuck the steel plug hard in the alloy head.

The man with the wrench is already pissed off. His brand-new engine has just puked and now he’s gone and made things even worse. Out comes the hand-held power drill and a heli-coil insert. And you can guess the rest. The poor beaten bastard just dropped his tools and walked away leaving that cyl. open to the atmosphere.

Every engine – every machine – tells me stories about it’s history. My work is kind of archaeology – digging into the past, interpreting the traces/evidence of those who have gone there before.

I’ve 3.5 hrs. in so far inc. researching best available prices for pistons/rings/pins, tensioner, cam chain, etc. The only set of NOS Honda pistons I could find in the US was fouth-over (last overbore) and with rings sourced from elsewhere would have been more $ than the set I have ordered from the place in the Netherlands I have used before with satisfaction. They also had the best combo price for the tensioner body/small roller and the big roller. But their cam chain was twice what I can get a good one for here. The parts were 219 Euros which is around $290. With shipping it’s about $320.

Cheers,
Chris

Existential Motorcycles TEL: 828-6839289 Web: http://www.existentialmotorcycles.com
Alexander, NC 28701


So I get this note from a guy in the Andes …

Posted: November 30th, 2011 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Fuel & Air, Motorcycle Repair | No Comments »

… and this is what it said. But to make sense you should go to the end of this post and read back up. I’m too damn lazy to rearrange it for you. And please do visit Matt’s blog. He’s an extraordinary man – too smart to be fearless – but he is. I do believe the man loves living too much to be afraid of dying.

Begin copied text:


Matt,

RE XT500 – yes, more power – lots – but also more size and weight – lots too. I’ve become a bit of a crank about weight in my cranky old age. Big power is big stupid fun but the additional mass needed to keep it all more or less in line is not fun – but still stupid. See? I told you I am a crank.

My first bike was a Hodaka Ace 100 – a 100cc. 2-stroke street-legal enduro bike. It made modest power but weighed just under 200 lb. In real off-road/no-road riding, one’s rate of progress is mostly terrain and traction-limited – not power-limited. So big power is worse than useless – you can’t use it but it still comes with all that extra size and mass. Stupid. Of course, the more nearly your course of travel resembles a road, the more you can put big power to the ground.

This winter I am building myself a hot-rod to my liking – 300 lb. & 40 rear-wheel hp. (approx.). A former customer had an XR650-L that he seized due to letting it run out of oil. Usually, the damage is worst at the extremities of the pressurized oil supply – the head (cams and valves). But in this case the piston seized hard enough to break off a big chunk of the piston skirt on the intake side. The cam journals got hot – cooked oil on the adjacent castings – but they did not score or seize so the rest should be fine. When I autopsied the corpse and gave him my estimate for a resurrection, he asked for some time to think it over. After a few months I ended up with it in lieu of. And not much of a bargain at that. But I have an earlier-gen XR600R frame which is smaller and lighter and I’ve got the new higher-compression over-size piston/rings/etc. and boring the cyl. and renewing the valve faces/seats will be under $200. Say another $1k for a CBR600 front and rear end tacked onto the XR frame. Make it $800 for cables, tires and widgets and what-not. I’m leaning toward a monochrome/bare metal aesthetic – no paint, no plating – everything fine-bead blasted to a dull satin luster and clear-coated – powder or epoxy. All fasteners of silicone-bronze. The tank a longitudinal stack of three aluminum alloy tubes approx. 6″ dia. w/ends slash-cut/tapered and capped at each end. A repro-tractor seat cast in aluminum – yes, they are available for around $60 intended as a decorator item and often used as seats on bar stools in the den – I guess. Seat rigged as a springer with those cool mini coil-over shocks. No fenders. I have no idea what it will really turn out to be – I tend to make things up as I go along. But you get the gist – a light-weight thug.

Yes, opening up the airbox can only help.

Cheers,

Chris


i meant drz400…. typo there at the end.

thanks chris!

you can see pictures of the whole journey (11 months on the road so far) at www.spokecount.com. one of the best posts is called ‘’san blas
panama to capurgana colombia.”

i ordered a carb kit from keintech, but getting it delivered down here
has been an issue. i will take the carb apart and see what i find. i
seem to recall somebody on the ADVrider forum mentioning the
adjustable needle. i just put in a brand new air filter and applied
the recommended 2-stroke oil. do you think opening up the airbox
would assist any?

i am glad to hear the shop is coming together! i take it existential
MC is doing well! any more custom projects going on?

i ALMOST bought an XT500, but balked at the last minute for the
simple, reliable dr200. but i am already missing the extra umph of my
drz200 on the long mountain climbs when there are 10 trucks to pass.

and to clarify, i don’t recall ever claiming that the unicycle trip
was fun… :)

cheers,
matt


Matt,
An adventure indeed – but that’s what I’d expect from a loon who thinks a 2k mi. off-road unicycle trip is fun.

You are almost certainly experiencing oxygen starvation – or, rather, your
engine is. The carb is jetted for sea level or thereabouts and the stock
jetting usually work pretty well up to about 3k ft./1k m. elev. It’s the
main jet that is most in play at full throttle – and the stocker is
flowing
too much fuel for the available oxy at your higher elevations making the
engine run too rich – you will be fouling plugs soon if you haven’t
already. So lean out the pilot mixture – screw it out if the pilot screw
is upstream of the throttle slide and in if it is downstream – and lean out
the mid-range by lowering the needle. I can’t recall if your needle has the
grooves and a clip that makes it adjustable. If so, put the clip in the
highest groove – lowering the needle. If your needle is not adjustable
you will need a smaller needle jet. If you are having problems now at 3k m., it
will be undriveable at 5k. And even if/when you have the jetting sorted, the engine will be making significantly less power – less fuel/air = less power. Make sure your air filter is clean clean clean. If it is at all occluded,that will exacerbate the rich condition. Please do add me to the list if you are sending out periodic reports. You would barely recognize the shop these days – fully insulated, well- lit, two real table lifts, floor to ceiling shelving, three workbench spaces, organized and humming.

Cheers,
Chris


hey chris!
i hope you are doing great. i have cooked up quite the adventure. i bough a 2003 suzuki DR200 with 6000 miles on it in medellin, colombia. i am headed south fast to ushuaia, argentina, then back north slowly. now here’s my issue. when i am running between 50 and 60mph in 5th gear, i am getting some power loss. it is especially noticeable when i jam on the throttle to pass, climbing, or when a wind gust hits me. the bike ran great at about 1500m and now i am between 2 and 3000m going up to 5000m in peru, any suggestions? drill out the mixture screw, as it might be too lean? or could it be some other issue? just wonder your thoughts.

cheers,
matt


A note on winter/long-term storage.

Posted: November 16th, 2011 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Fuel & Air, Motorcycle Repair | No Comments »

Greetings fellow motorcycle owners,

Do the right thing for your two-wheeled companion – do a few simple and inexpensive things now so that your bike is ready to ride on the first great day of spring.

Or you could wait until that first warm day only to find that your battery is dead, the fuel in the tank gone bad, the carbs gummed up from sitting full of untreated fuel for months, the chain rusty and the sprockets shot – and every bike shop in the known world is booked for weeks out with work for other lazy-ass motorcycle abusers just like you. Is there really a choice?

So here’s what you do:

A. Take your bike to one of the several shops in the area for a winter-storage prep.
B. Do it yourself.

Either way, this is what should be done.

Have the following material ready to hand:

Oil and filter
Stabil brand fuel treatment
Cable lube
Chain lube
Fork oil
Cleaners and polish

1.) Ride your bike until you have to switch to Reserve.
2.) Add the specified amount of Stabil to your fuel tank for its capacity – directions on the back of the Stabil bottle
3.) Fill the tank to the brim and ride it for five miles or so – enough to ensure that the fuel in the carbs is treated fuel.
4.) Top up the tank.
5.) While the engine is still hot/warm from your ride, change the oil and filter.
Change transmission oil if separate from the engine oil – shaft-drive oil too if you have one.
6. Clean/lube/adjust the chain.
7.) Pinch the chain between your fingers at the 3 o’clock position on the rear sprocket.
If you can pull it more than 1/3 the way up off the tooth, the chain is stretched and will only trash your sprockets if they are still good – which they probably are not.
The teeth on the sprockets should be symmetrical – not worn more on one side than the other or hooked. The ends of the teeth should be squared off – not pointy.
You will need to remove the front/countershaft sprocket cover to examine the teeth.
Worn sprockets will trash a good chain and versa vice. Ideally, they are replaced as a complete set – chain and sprockets.
8.) Replace the chain and/or sprockets as necessary.
9.) Examine your brake pads/shoes – replace if worn.
10.) Replace brake fluid.
11.) Flush and change coolant – if your bike is a water-pumper.
12.) Drain and replace the hydraulic fluid in the front forks. Consult your manual for the right type and amount.
13. Replace the fork seals at the same time if there is any evidence of weepage.
14. Remove all the control cables. Using a pressure luber, run cleaner and then lube through them. Replace and adjust.
15.) Change/clean the air filter.
16.) Replace the tires if worn more than 1/2 way.
17. Remove the battery and marry it to a trickle/float charger someplace that does not freeze.
18. Clean and polish your bike. Clean/treat plastic/rubber with Armor-All.
19. Put it on its center-stand or some other stand – take the weight of the bike off the springs and the tires’ contact patches.
20. Cover it with a dust sheet if stored inside – the best cover you can afford if outside.
21. If the bike is to be stored outside or in an unheated garage/shed, spray the whole thing down with WD-40 or some such to prevent condensation corrosion.
In the spring, spray it down with a cycle cleaner like SS-100 and hose off.

Now for the pay-off.

On that first day of spring, install your battery, turn the key, and go riding.

This public service announcement is brought to you by Existential Motorcycles on behalf of all the WNC motorcycle shops.

Cheers,
Chris Finlayson
Existential Motorcycles
Alexander, NC 28701
TEL: 828-683-9289


How to identify the source of compression loss without a leak-down tester.

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Motorcycle Repair | No Comments »

  If you have a compression gauge, here’s a quick and effective way to identify the source of the compression leaks without a proper leak-down tester.

Screw the compression gauge hose into the spark plug hole – but instead of fitting the gauge, attach the hose from your compressor.  The hose should use the same type and size of quick coupling as the gauge.  Remove the oil filler plug.  Turn the air on and listen for the sound of air.  If you can hear it at the filler plug hole, the rings are leaking – at the carb, the intake valve(s) on that cyl. – at the exhaust pipe – the exhaust valve(s).


Good sources for vintage Honda parts

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Engine, Forks & Steering, Frame & Body, Fuel & Air, Ignition, Timing, & Electrical, Motorcycle Repair, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | Tags: | No Comments »

Here are links to a few sites that I have found have a good inventory of new vintage Honda parts:

http://www.cmsnl.com/

This one is in the Netherlands but I’ve gotten parts from them in a week or so – and they have stuff that no one else has.

http://www.babbittsonline.com/pages/parts/viewbybrand/default.aspx

Babbitts is good too – and they have on-line parts diagrams for just about every vintage Japanese bike.

http://www.ohiocycle.com/

http://www.classicjapanesemotorcycles.com/

http://www.westernhillshondayamaha.com/aboutus.asp

http://www.vintageconnections.com/

a source for OEM type electrical connectors, etc.

http://www.davidsilverspares.co.uk/

Excellent inventory and prices are o.k. now that the British Pound has tanked against the dollar.

http://www.hondarestoration.com/


A few basic truthes about custom work.

Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Custom, Engine, Frame & Body, Motorcycle Repair, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | No Comments »

It will take twice as long and cost twice as much as the initial best-estimate – even when you and your builder try to take this into account in the estimate.

Much of the work depends on outside expertise and suppliers; a machinist, a powder-coater, a painter,  a metal-plater, and so on.  A critical part is out of stock.  When it arrives, it is the wrong one and must be returned and exchanged for the correct part – which is out of stock.

Custom work is not simply a matter of bolting a bunch of cool components together – just about every component needs to be modified in some way to work correctly and look right.  A good builder is also a problem-solving engineer.

When the bike is apparently done – it’s not.  The first shake-down ride will reveal a number of problems, small and, possibly, large.  Correcting them often means undoing and redoing a lot of work.

Given all this, it is inevitable that the customer and the builder will have some fractous moments.  The customer can become frustrated/suspicious/angry about the delays and cost over-runs.  The builder can become pissed-off/angry that the customer expects miracles – no matter how diligent the builder is in explaining things to the customer.  The most important part of an, ultimately, successful customer/builder relationship is how they handle this.

There are, of course, many rewards in custom work.  A good builder enjoys the creative engineering and aesthetic challenges.  The customer has the pride and satisfaction of riding a bike she/he has brought into this world and which is unlike any other on the planet.  Despite the inevitable customer/builder conflicts, there are also moments when the collaboration results in something better/more pleasing than either one would have come up with on their own.