Don’t Ask: Dirt Bike Q&A With Rick Sieman
1. Do not write your email to me IN CAPS. If you do so, I will print out your question and do terrible things to it.
2. Do not request a personal e-mail response. Since I get thousands of questions each month, trying to answer them all would cut deeply into my leisure time, which I value more than your current state of confusion.
3. Try to spell at least in a semi-correct fashion. If you choose to mangle the English language, expect no mercy from this quarter. You might be mocked severely.
4. Do not ask for me to send you copies of my many manuals and literature. I am not in the library business, nor do I want to spend the bulk of my day at the copy machine just because you're too lazy to ask your dealer, or look around a bit.
5. Don't bother me with truly stupid questions, like how to get 50 more horsepower for a buck and a half
6. Now that you know the rules, think carefully and have at it!
Oh yes … I’ll leave your e-mail unedited, for what it’s worth.
Have a question for Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman? E-mail questions to email@example.com, Attn: Don’t Ask.
Previous Don’t Ask Columns:
SUBJECT: HUSKY REED VALVE KIT
Hi Super Hunky,
I wrote you recently about the early reed valve kits for Husqvarna pre-reed valve bikes, particularly my '74 250WR.
I asked around on a vintage Husqvarna site and several folks had info on them, including an article on installing them and doing the proper mods to make them work. And, one of the guys even had a couple used DH's and sold me one. He is HUSKYDOGGG (with three G's) from Ontario.
There were at least two brands that were sold back in the day, REM and DH are the two that I know of. The one I bought, as I said above, is a DH. There are at least two different sellers out there with NOS REM's, though they are pretty pricey.
Just wanted to share what I found out.
Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do for the dirt bike community.
Thanks for the kind words. Any time we can get information that will help our readers we like to share it.
SUBJECT: MAICO ACTION SHOT
Where was the Oct Don't Ask photo taken? Great pic, two Maico's in a corner, love it! Good to see you're still out on the track.
That photo was taken at a vintage race last year at Speed World in Arizona. That track has since been closed, but it may reopen again. Typically, there were 150 or so vintage racers on a normal Sunday. So vintage dirt bike racing is alive and well here.
SUBJECT: KAWASAKI KDX 200 FLAT SPOT
Hi guys!!!! Wonder if someone can help me? I have a kdx200 05 it starts 1st kick and idle fine! Exhaust valves is work and the reeds looks good, but when I ride it and it goes in band and then straight after that it has like a flat spot! Can anyone help me
Devon Van Onselen
When something like this exhibits itself, the very first thing I would look for is a clogged-up exhaust system. If you have a whole bunch of carbon packing your muffler, that could be the problem. Secondarily, I would check the jetting. You could be way rich on your needle position and it will create a flat spot right between the midrange and the upper rpm. Lastly, you might check and see if your compression is a little bit on the low side. If it is that would indicate that the rings are worn and it most certainly would create a flat spot.
SUBJECT: BSA OR BSR?
I rattle-canned the ST tank and side covers gloss black. Wet sanded and repainted. Came out choice! Only problem, somehow gloss black makes dents in the tank. I swore there were no dents. Now, there's 2.
I'm having gold 6" long stickers made in the "BSA" leaning letter script. Instead of 'A', it'll be an 'R'. "BSR". Get it, Rick? Poor man's Gold Star. I sketched up, in actual size what it'll look like.
Well, Rick, 3 rattle cans of black and $35 for 2 custom stickers...VIOLA! For the side covers I'm going to have the sticker place (Accurate Design) make 2 BSA stacked rifle emblems and instead of the bayonets, it'll be Yamaha's tuning fork(s).
I know, I'm sick...
Enclosed are a picture of the sketch and my SR mocked-up with the freshly painted goodies. Thanks for all my comments you have posted on "DON'T ASK!" over the years. I have a blast composing them.
Time to kick back with the TV remote...and food!
Oh, we're going to the Dez campsite early November for up to 2 weeks. Wish I could bring the '76 TT but it is my next project. Needs carb and 1 rear shock which means a pair of new ones.
SUBJECT: RESTORING AN OLD MAICO
I have an '81 Maico 490 Mega II. Its my baby. My pride and joy. In all actuality, it was stumbed upon. My grandfather lived in a very rural part of southcentral Pennsylvania. My Dad asked him to keep an eye out in his little community paper for any motorcycles listed. The ad said,
For Sale: 1981 Mango 90. $300.00
My Dad knew exactly what it was then and there. We went that evening and bought it. I was 13 at the time and riding a ported and polished '89 RMX250. After I watched my Dad sprout wings and fly across the open fields of Bedford, PA, I slung a leg over and had the most intense ride of my life to this day. The Maico struck both fear and awe at the same time! The power is so smooth and deceptive. The front tire never once touched the ground. Now, twenty years later, its time to do a complete restoration on the bike. The shocks are completely blown. Since they're unable to be rebuilt, I was wondering if you could steer me in a direction for front and rear rebuild kits. I'm having a rough time finding NOS parts and want to bring it back to OEM showroom condition. Any source is greatly appreciated.
Bikes were a constant between my Dad and myself and since my first son is expected on December 25th of this year, I'm hoping that he and I have the same connection through motorcycles that my Dad and I have to this day. Thank you for everything in advance.
Why don’t you just do what everyone else who ran a 490 Maico back in 1981 did and that is use Works Performance shocks. You can reach them by calling 818-701-1010 and tell them Rick sent you. Seriously, I ran a 1981 for a full year on the Works Performance shocks and never had a complaint about them. As far as the way they worked, I would rate them with the best rear suspension I’ve ever ridden.
SUBJECT: WHAT’S A MINI ENDURO WORTH?
My son just bought a mini enduro. Number on it JT1 209398. He was going to fix it up to ride and just have fun but is it worth more than that?
There’s a big following on the Mini Enduro and a good clean restored unit is going for around $1500 or so. I’ve even seen real beaters go for $500 on eBay and I saw gas tanks in decent condition going for $150 to $225. So take it from there. By the way, your bike is not a JT one. It’s a JT two. The serial numbers on that bike started with 300 101 and went through 330 000.
SUBJECT: WAY BACK THEN IN EUROPE
Rick...I was in the Army in Ger in 69 and went to a local motorcycle race one weekend outside Stuttgart. There must have been 100`s of those CZ`s with the two down pipes racing. I had ridden and raced motorcycles all my life but no MX. That was the day I said I gotta do this! And have not stopped yet. LOL Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
I have told people countless times about these old bike and watching them race over there. I just wonder if we might have been seeing some big name racers at the time, but I would have had no idea.
You probably got to see a bunch of really great racers of that time. But more importantly, you got to see all of those great old bikes in action. Witness a bunch of 250 twin pipe CZs on the starting line must have been truly amazing. Consider yourself lucky and treasure those memories.
SUBJECT: BLAST FROM THE PAST
A "long" time ago you wrote an article about getting your bike ready for the next day's ride with your buddies. It was one of the funniest ones you ever penned. Basically you were tired of getting ribbed because you were never ready to go when your buddies came to pick you up. So you started getting your bike set up way before hand and everything that could go wrong did - I remember tid bits about broken bolts, pieces falling down behind the dash board, etc.
How might I get a copy of that article?
Here you go. Straight from the past.
PERFECTION - AND A LITTLE BIT MORE
By Rick Sieman
(Notes: The story, as bizarre as it sounds, is true, almost word for word. Except for the part about a tear rolling down my cheek. Hell, I'm way too macho for that!)
There it sat, gleaming yellow in the flickering light of two anemic fluorescent lights: my bike. Perfection. Ah yes, the satisfaction of a job well done. Here it was, noon on a Saturday, and my Sturdy Steed was ready for the race to take place on the morrow.
Not bad. Usually, I'd finish up around three in the a.m., catch a few hours sleep and wake up very, very tired in the morning. Too tired, in fact, to race at peak efficiency. But this week, by God, was going to be different. None of this last-minute scrambling about and bleary-eyed, late-morning work.
Nope. I'd started work on the bike on Tuesday night. Couple of hours in the garage that night on the filter and such. Then the next night, check the timing and go over all the spokes and stuff. Thursday, ah yes. Thursday, just a low-key evening in the old garage. Tune in to a funky country music station and go over nuts and bolts. No big hurry. Check all the little things. Seat bolt, air box attachments, brackets and gidgets ‘n things. Nothing was left to chance.
Friday was like frosting on the cake. Take apart the carb and check for sediment, blow out the petcocks and peek in the fuel line filter — oh yes — even check the gearbox oil level and change fork oil. Like I said, by Saturday morning, everything was well under control.
There sat the mighty flyer, a finely honed package, waiting for the master to sling a leg over the saddle and bloot off into the open spaces. Reward time!!
I popped open a cold can of suds and leaned back against the workbench, giving silent thanks that I had the foresight to work in advance.
None of this last-minute crap for me anymore. Nosirree. Get it done early and get to bed early that night. Clean mind, clean body, and a well rested knight faces the morning jousts with impeccably prepared and efficient organism.
Let's see … was there anything at all that I had missed? I mean, as long as I was standing there, it never hurts to check for that last little detail. Lemmmee look … hmmmmm … cables lubed, filter serviced, fresh plug, everything good and tight, all the motor mount bolts gone over … erp!!!
Wait a minute! That bottom motor mount bolt, the one under the skid plate. That's the one item I never did check. Wow. It's a good thing the old memory banks clicked into high gear. Man, if that thing ever got loose, the 501 would shake like a one-legged washing machine on the spin cycle. Whew. Damn good thing I thought of it.
No big deal. Just remove the skid plate and get a pair of 13mm wrenches on the offender. Snug ‘er up, and call it a job well done.
It took, oh, maybe 20 minutes to get the skid plate off. Not such a long time, considering that about $20 worth of Loctite was holding the nuts and bolts in place. I really did not want the plate to fall off.
I remember the one time a skid plate of mine did fall off . . . but I'd rather not go into that story at this time.
Seeing as I was in clean street clothes, a section of the daily newspaper was laid on the oil-mottled floor to prevent discoloration of Sears especial $3.99 chinos.
Ah hah! The offending nut was indeed loose on the bolt. ‘Tis a good thing I had the foresight to follow every detail through to its conclusion. Preparation pays, ya know.
One 13 wrench on the bolt and the other on the nut soon got the proper tension … just one more turn … perhaps one more for insurance … PING!!! Dammit! Snapped the bolt in half. Curses filled the air. The resident pussycat slunk off into the bushes as blasphemous Navy curses crackled at 143 dbs on the A scale. Double damn and many shucks, not to mention a smattering of gee whizzes, emanated from my normal altar-boy-like mouth.
A quick study of the situation left me no alternative. Without that lower motor mount bolt, the 501 would surely shake itself to dust in less than five miles. But to replace that offending unit would mean yanking the engine. The man who designed the piece of apparatus immediately became the recipient of many evil thoughts, and most certainly would have received bodily injury if he had been present.
Oh well. At least I still had plenty of time left in the day to make a repair to that one stupid bolt. Forty minutes later, the engine was sitting on the floor, right next to the exhaust pipe and the carb and the coil and the head steady. The bleak hole in the chassis stared back at me, as if to say, “You dumbass, you should have known better than to trust one of those hardened peanut-butter bolts.”
A search through the Official Dirt Bike Trick Toolbox revealed the non-presence of the right sized bolt. Oh, there were longer ones and shorter ones, but not one of the correct thickness and length.
More mumble mumble.
So I fired up the G.Y.D.B.T. and headed for the nearest Maico shop, Mike Chamberlain's, about two miles away. Sure, Mike had one, and that'll be 86 cents puhleeeze and here's your receipt and y'all hurry back, hear?
I flipped the bolt up on the dash of the G.Y.D.B.T., and smoked off (literally) down the street. Sheer moments later, I arrived at the plush D.B. garage, and reached up on the dash for the bolt.
Heartsink! It had fallen down the crack between the dash/window joint. I clambered up on the hood of the El Camino and peered in through the windshield at the offending gap in General Motors' finest effort. With much neck craning, I was able to spot the wayward bolt about five inches down under the dash, nestling on a rat's nest of wiring. A quick check from the floor of the truck revealed that it would be impossible to reach the bolt from underneath.
Back down the road towards Chamberlain's shop, the throaty exhaust of the G.Y.D.B.T. splitting the tranquil San Fernando Valley air.
I hurriedly whipped into the parking lot and leaped out of the truck for the door. Which was locked. A sign on the glass proclaimed, “GONE RACING - SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.”
The balance of the afternoon was spent flitting all over town looking for the right kind of bolt in one bike shop after another. Zero over zero luck. You see, it has to be this one certain size; nothing else will do.
Faced with the possibility of twittering away the rest of the day on L.A. freeways, I headed back for the garage and proceeded to do the only logical thing. Off came the windshield of the truck and the bolt was rescued. And it only took about three hours.
Feverishly, I ran into the garage and started to install the bolt in its proper place on the chassis.
Oh no! It was the wrong bolt. This one was far too thick, even though it was the right length. Now what?
Enough was enough. I would have no more of this hunting-around trash. I would make the bolt fit, come hell or high water. Out came the big electric drill and the right sized bit was placed in the chuck.
Now, at this moment in time, you would think that the fates would have backed off and left me alone for the day. No way. The drill bit sunk in the hard chrome moly metal and chewed a path out, then snapped cleanly off at the hilt, leaving a free-wheeling electric drill to buzz its buns off for naught.
Curse of curses!
Oh well, there was always the chance that an EZ-out would extract the drill bit. Sure. Did you ever try to drill a hole in a drill bit?
No way; a half-dozen ruined bits lay on the floor some hours later, exuding smoke and round edges.
Wait a minute; there in the corner of the garage sat the old original prototype 450 Maico, complete except for head and barrel. Heh, heh.
I would merely take that chassis and install the 501 engine in it. I would ride tomorrow. It made sense; the two chassis were virtually identical.
The key here is the word “virtually.” Never, never in a zillion years, would you suspect how much difficulty a one-inch variation in pipe brackets can cause. Out with the torches, the hacksaw and …
At 5:30 that next morning, Tom's van lumbered into the driveway. The sight that greeted his sleepy eyeballs must have been something indeed, here, spread over the garage and all over the driveway, were the following: Two motorcycles, completely disassembled, the windshield of the G.Y.D.B.T. leaning against the fence, a pile of beer cans around the bike propped up on the stand, tons of tools scattered about, and one each person who had been working all night and still wasn't done.
“Well,” said Tom, “are you going racing or are you gonna rebuild your entire garage this morning?”
Feverishly, I glanced around at the carnage. At best, it would take another full two hours to finish my bike. But then, the race was about 90 miles away and that would give me plenty of time to work in the back of the van while Tom was driving.
We loaded all the necessary trash in the van and boogied off down the road . . . in-between munches of a McDonald McTriple Burger, I continued turning wrenches.
Right about halfway to the track, Tom leaned over the seat and sarcastically asked, “Hey Rick, howcum you didn't take care of all this stuff earlier in the week? I had my bike completely done Saturday morning, ya know, you really ought to …”
A tear splattered against the backing plate. It was mine.
SUBJECT: DIRTBIKE TEST - 4,000 MILES OF BAD ROAD
The XR650R is on a very small list of bikes I would give up my DR650 to obtain. That bike makes the insane kind of power people put the 790cc kits in the DR to reach, and it does it with much better off-road credentials. I really like what you've done to this one.
Yes, that bike is a genuine rocket. If you don’t mind putting up with all the extra weight, it will reward you with eye-watering acceleration and a top speed that will take your breath away.
SUBJECT: HONDA 250 ELSINORE LACK OF COMPRESSION
I have a 1997 Honda CR250R elsinor and when I try to kickstart it, it seems like its not getting any compression in the motor. What do you think the problem could be??
Since your bike is a 1997, that would make it over 15 years old, and chances are that poor old top end is just flat worn out. Your best bet is to take it to a decent mechanic and have them do a compression test on the bike. That should be fairly inexpensive, but when he gives you the news that you have low compression, get ready pay for a top-end job at the very least.
My new book, THE LAST RIDE, is at now out. It's fiction and starts in 1969, when an 18-year-old kid just out of high school gets a chance to ride his Yamaha 250 DT1 from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles … all off-road. His adventures are truly amazing.
The book then jumps 40+ years where the same person, now in his 60s, wants to get that old Yamaha back in his possession and return it home by riding it all off-road across the country again. The book is $15 plus $2.75 for mail anywhere in the US (or $5 for Priority Rush mail) and for more information, the email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paypal address: email@example.com.