Donít Ask: Dirt Bike Technical and Maintenance Q&A

Feb. 05, 2013 By Rick Sieman
If you choose to email a question to this forum, then you must conduct yourself accordingly. Therefore, the following rules are in order:

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 Ö Iíll leave your e-mail unedited, for what itís worth.

Have a question for Rick ďSuper HunkyĒ Sieman? E-mail questions to, Attn: Donít Ask.

Previous Donít Ask Columns
January 2013

December 2012

November 2012


Your book was quite a surprise. Iíve not encountered another book remotely similar.

Wonderful is just too milk toast in describing it. My best shot would be comparing it to the feeling that a person has when first taking off on a motorcycle; the joy, the thrill, the freshness.

Growing up in rural Conn., Iíd never have guessed others might have had such loony early motorcycle experiences.

Your stories ignited long dormant misadventures, and in partial repayment I offer these:

My very first motorcycle ride lasted one second. I went straight off a 10-foot cliff, crashing sprawled out next to a several hundred pound rock. A foot to the left and it could have been the end of the Jawa and the barely 14-year-old kid.
The Jawa was abandoned at a nearby garage. $25 freed it from retirement, and a fair amount of work brought it back from the brink. It was a peak moment when I mounted this now roaring relic.

Unfortunately, my previous experience driving cars on the sly did not enlighten me to the fact that itís not a good idea to hold your right arm up when dropping the clutch. Of course, it leaped forward taking me straight off the cliff  WOT instead of the smooth turn I envisioned.

Somewhat dazed, I picked us both up, and did the same thing again leaping blindly out across Rt. 87, somehow not being taken out by the horrified trucks and cars, before stopping.

I pushed it back in the field and fired it up again, this time launching WOT through a grove of hardwood trees.

Apparently, it takes me three pokes in the eye before thinking about the stick.
If you ever get bored, Iíll tell you about the three times in one evening I inexplicably avoided termination on my Royal Enfield Interceptor in Miami in the sixties.

Thanks for writing and publishing your stories. As a plus to the time machine and laughter you provided, itís got me to search for schools like Cornerspin, and Iíll get a dirt bike for this summer in Idaho.
P.S. Iíll write an Amazon review when I can drag myself from your book.

Many thanks for the kind words. Yes, my latest book is quite a departure from stuff that I normally produce. If youíre interested in getting a copy, go to the end of this column and there are ordering details there. By the way, since I once had a Royal Enfield interceptor, I would love to hear a story about that unit. Again, thanks.

I got a 1/77 CYCLE ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE that has some neat tests, etc.
Just for fun, I went looking for more on computer. Dudes are selling them for like $25!

The May '71 has this: "Only four-stroke Motocrosser" Man, have times changed!
How about this blooper on same cover: "Honda 100SL- Better than the Supper Rat?" Fun stuff...

David Fruhling
Yes, those old magazines are sort of fun to look through. Most of the predictions they made never came to pass.


I know you are the guru of Maicos and I have always ridden Japanese or CanAms ... recently I bought a 1981 MC250 for post vintage and a 1973 440 for the vintage class...I have included some pics for you to see...

As I'm a Maico newb, I was hoping you might take a moment and be so kind as to make me a short list of maybe 20 things I should be on the lookout for before racing the 1973 440...? Maybe you have done an article like this? I know you would know which years had wheel or engine probs, etc...This 1973 440 came from Winnipeg from a guy who bought it off of John Caldwell at Canadian Maico a few years ago. It has a 36mm Bing carb, PVL ignition, Wheelsmith pipe, Canadian Maico steel clutch plates and SS spokes, HD front fork springs, Falcon shocks, etc to name a few is a link to pics of when it was on his website...

Thanking you for some "heads up" info if you have time Rick!
Mitch Brown

Since I had a 440 Maico, I can certainly pass a few tips on to you. The rear sprocket bolts should be replaced with something of a bit bigger and Loctited it in place. At the very least, if you choose to go with the standard sprocket bolts, make sure that you use blue Loctite and check the bolts after every ride. 

I always replaced the stock head steady with an aftermarket unit that was much stronger. Keep a real close eye on the primary chain. If you start to get too much sag in it, it can create a real problem. I changed the transmission oil after every other ride. It might seem like a lot, but it never had a tranny problem.

Naturally, the Bing carburetor had to be re-jetted. Even back then, a Mikuni carburetor was the real way to go. It started easier, ran cleaner and got better gas mileage. You canít ask for a lot more than that.  I replaced the stock filter with a decent aftermarket unit and made sure that the connecting boot was not leaking.

I fabricated a small rubber piece on the exhaust pipe hanger, thereby eliminating all of the cracking problems from vibration. During the first 10 to 15 hours of operation, a very close eye was on the spokes. Once they were seated, there was no real problem. 

As with most of the bolts on the bike, I put a wrench on them. I especially made sure the motor mount bolts were tight and took great pains not to ignore the 13mm bottom engine bolt. Extra care was taken to make sure that the timing was correct and that a little tiny bit of lube was on the point cam so that it would not wear prematurely. 

For superior front brake use, I replaced the brake cable with a good aftermarket unit. Same with the clutch cable. The stock shocks were replaced with Konis. Nowadays, I would recommend Works Performance shocks. The brake shoes, front and rear, were sanded gently until the braking surface of the shoes perfectly matched the drum. At this point, the brakes worked okay. However, if you want really good brakes, you went to a Yamaha front hub.

Once all these little details were taking care of, the bike was virtually bulletproof. All the stories you hear about Maico Breako were brought about by people who were too ignorant to use basic maintenance on their bike.
I was with you, from the first issue. I was introduced to motocross at the old Three Valleyís riding area in San Diego in 1967. I had a pathetic Suzuki 80, and knew it was a piece of crap as soon as I bought it. I bought one of the first Yamaha AT-1s with my paper route money, and graduated to a DT-1 in 1970, which is when I started racingóI was then sixteen. At 17, I was out of High School and in the USAF.  I was stationed, initially, at Beale AFB, about 45 miles north of Sacramento, outside of Marysville/Yuba City.  There, I tried to race as the ultimate low-budget entry, on the princely sum of $288 a month that I got as an A1C (E-3).  At that time I rode a 1972 RT-2 that started out as an Enduro, not the RT-2MX.  I actually did pretty well on  that ill-handling, heavy pig, and I took my first overall win at a race at Cal Expo and the State Fair in 1973, just before being sent to Vietnam.  I also rode the inaugural Christmas GP at McGills Cycle Park where I was leading the 500 Intermediate Class, but still got lapped by Bugsy Mann on his BSA 441, and the Black Bart GP in Marysville, sponsored by the Yuba/Sutter M/C, where I was a member. After service in Vietnam and Thailand, I was sent to motocross heaven, Ramstein AB, Germany!  As one of three USAF members that raced the German support class, I was sponsored by the Maico factory, and picked up a new 250 GP from the factory in Ammerbuch-Pfaffingen, outside Stuttgart, in 1975.

I wrote an article about what racing was like for the three of us, me, Garland Lassiter (Bultaco), and Mike Ponder (Husky and Yamaha DT-2MX when he tired of working on the Husky). The difference between stateside racing and Europe was amazing, and brutal! The bikes were MUCH more expensive in Germanyóthe Yamaha DT-2MX was bought new, after a year unsold, at the equivalent of $2500. There was a Yamaha dealer in Kaiserslautern, near Ramstein. For me and Garland, it was a 200 mile, one-way, trip to the Maico Distributerand a Bultaco shop. 
For parts, we all ďlivedĒ out of the FMF and Moto-X Fox catalogs (plus, Iím ashamed to admit, JC Whitney). It was sent to you at DB, but I never heard anything. Itís interesting that my Maico finished every race I entered, and I placed 6th overall for the season, twice, and thus qualified for the W. German GP twice. I did replace 2nd gear, and put new, stock rings on the piston after honing the cylinder (I also taught Motorcycle Mechanics for Big Bend Community College at Ramstein). It was never Maico-break-o with me. Itís interesting to note that I lived 45 minutes from Brad Lackey (Louvain, Belgium), and shared a practice track with him regularly, along with Adolf Wiel and others. 
Also, all three of un Americans, raced 250s in the Open Class, for much the same reason you mention in ďMonkey Butt.Ē  Since in Europe that only use each track once per year, and the tracks are tighter than Stateside, there were no straights that made the Open class bikes power an advantage.  They spent time in wheel spin and lost time, we spent time hooked-up and accelerating!     I quit racing at age 23, due to some Vietnam related injuries, and had to separate myself from racing, as it just hurt too damn much.
Turning the clock ahead to 2012, my injuries, after five surgeries, are now such that I can at least return to off-roading, and my doctor has cleared the way for me racing AHMRA events in the ďGeezerĒ class. So, I started a search.  I found, courtesy the Internet, a 1973 RT-3 at a dealership in Dallas. It was all original, with only 1886 actual miles. $5000 dollars spent, and itís mine, in California, and has all the hot set-up mods that I had back in the day.  I have a silenced expansion chamber and a set of Boyesen reeds to install (and jet).  Itís licensed, both street and ďgreen stickie,Ē and I have a stock of parts that will enable me to continue riding it as long as I physically am able to. Itís neat to know that the EPA and CA ARB wienies are turning green every time I ride it, and thereís NOTHING they can do about it!

We were lucky enough to be able to live through some wonderful years. Iím afraid those years will never happen again. Things were simpler back then and it didnít take a fortune to be able to own a bike and go out and ride it. Well, at least we have our memories.
Hey Rick! Got a couple of good questions for you. I race XC/hare scrambles on a 1998 CR500. I know it's not the best choice for the woods, but I absolutely love the bike. Would you have any good suspension mods to help with the handling? I get a lot of sideways deflection at all speeds from rocks, roots, etc. Both ends have fresh fluid and are sprung for my weight (220 lbs.) and ability (senior B class).
I've tried many different comp. and re b. adjustments, oil levels, and fork tube heights with no luck. Would some different valving/ shim stacks correct this? Or am I doing something wrong?
One last question. Whatever happened to Kim Osborne? Between the two of you, I would laugh hysterically at your columns. You both have the wonderful gift of being able to make people laugh. Haven't seen anything from her for quite some time. Thanks for any help you can give me.
Steve K. 

What you have to do to make that CR500 work in the woods is to get the suspension really soft. You can accomplish this via a very light fork oil and sending the shock to Works Performance (818-701-1010) to get it modified for your type of riding. You might also consider a heavier flywheel weight to let the engine rev slower. This wonít take any peak horsepower away from the bike, but it just lets the engine revs build slower and much more predictably.

I bought a pair of shocks for my 1974 Honda cr125 and no one has heard or know of them perhaps you might enlighten me.
S&W Freon cell shocks with aluminum bodies I think I got them from Al Baker.
Canít remember which issue of Dirt Bike I found them.
Andy Hannibal
Santa Clara Ca

S and W made shocks for about a 10-year period. When bikes started to get long travel around 1974, the conventional shock absorber would fade rather quickly. All sorts of bodies were put on the shocks to try to make them last, including oversized bodies with lots of fins. S&W chose to put a plastic sleeve in the shock body that had Freon in it. The idea was that as the oil in the shock tried to expand from heat, the Freon bags would resist that and the shock would not fade. Itís no surprise then that the S&W Freon cell shock was not a great success.


Hey Rick,

I received my signed copy of your new book today. Thanks for the quick shipping.

After putting the wife to bed I picked it up and got started. Honestly itís not what I expected but still I went through the first hundred pages pretty quickly. After turning out the lights I just couldn't stop thinking about it. So I got up and finished it.

After years of reading your stories I wondered just how much of it was true and how much bench-racing story it was. I guess I'll never know. Still I enjoyed it very much and I can't blame Mitch for putting Chico in his place. The courts don't serve justice and I've applied my own justice in my time.

I related to Mitch because I also washed cars, picked up bottles and cut grass for my first bike. I also related to Bobby Lee. When I went to purchase my first bike, a Kawasaki G5 stripped for the dirt, the seller got tired of me counting change from a coffee can and gave me the bike for half of what he was asking. It changed my life and I'll never forget it.

Thank you for Monkey Butt all the things you did at Dirt Bike. I enjoyed them all from the "World Harmony Enduro" to the "Pighorn" test that pissed off Kawasaki.

My new book, THE LAST RIDE, is pure fiction. However, some of the characters that Mitch runs into during his trip are very real characters that I have known throughout the years. Itís a fun read and got a lot of people thinking about taking a trip like this.
Hey Rick,
Thanks for the info, hope you are doing ok down in AZ. Used to live there many yrs ago, now I visit occasionally up in the NW corner to do some predator hunting, etc. Moving to AK was a good decision for my family, but still not far enough away from the strong arm of our commie/wacko government! Unfortunately I don't think you can go anywhere in this once great country and find much freedom anymore, tough times are a coming.
I have really appreciated your writing skills & humor over the yrs. Was some good times back during the dirt bike craz of the 70's. All I got left is a 61 Greeves Scottish & a Cushman Trackster, what a combo. Yes they both run & are still used!
Hang in there,
Trapper Doug
Palmer, Alaska

Arizona is one of the true free states and Iím happy to live here. Iíve never been to Alaska, but I hear itís a great place to live. Like you said, itís hard to get away from this oppressive government that we have. Keep on riding!


Hey Super Hunky, back in the late 70's or early 80's you wrote an article that still sticks in my mind. It was called Murphy's Law of Selective Distruction. was wondering if you have it in your archives.               
Steve Fischer
By Rick Sieman/July 1979/Dirt Bike
(Notes: I had a lot of fun with this one. I bet you could add a few of your own with no trouble whatsoever.)
A friend of mine, once upon a time, ran into the back of a water truck as he was leading a race. He escaped with very light injuries, but put a dent in the side of the plate steel tank and moved the water truck about four feet to the side, upon impact. His bike was twisted into a very, very expensive and unrideable knot of sorts.

Later, as he nursed a rapidly purpling knee, with the seventh of 11 beers, he turned to me and moaned: "Murphy's Law. That's what it was. Murphy's Law in action. If anything can go wrong, it will.''

I nodded my head sagely (how else does one nod a head?) and agreed with him. Yes, indeed, Murphy's Law does seem to apply to dirt bikers in a rather dynamic fashion. I thought back to one time, during a desert race, when my rear wheel fell off on a dry lake bed, and I never found it. Ever.

Further thought, aided by the brewer's art, led me to consider other laws that affect us as dirt riders. Thus:

Talbot's Unspeakable Law
If anything on your bike is working well and you mention it, it will either break or no longer work. Example: If you go up to a friend and say, "Gee, my bike is running clean today," sure enough, it'll probably seize later in that day.

Talbot's Unspeakable Law, Part II
If you say anything bad about your bike, it will happen. Example: "Those fork seals of mine always blow, especially when I'm doing well." This sort of comment just about assures a set of blown seals, usually when you're leading the pack on the steep downhill with the blind drop-away jump.

From the above two laws, one can see that it's best not to ever say anything about your bike.

Krause's Law of Diminishing Returns
The first 90 percent of a job takes only 10 percent of the time. The next five percent takes 75 percent of the time and the remaining five percent of the job will consume the left-over 65 percent. Or something like that. (Editor's note: No explanation is needed here if you've ever split your cases or have done a top-end job.)

Owens' Law of Desperation
When in doubt, never ask a mechanic. Example: You are confused as can be. You're not sure just where the shim goes in relation to the spacer on the layshaft. The transmission is neatly spread out all over your workbench. In desperation, you call a local shop and ask for the service department, asking the mechanic for advice. He tells you absolutely that the grooved side of the thing goes right next to the flat side of the widget and the whole works slips on top of the funny looking splined gear. You assemble the engine and gearbox, happy as a clam.
The first time the bike is running and third gear is engaged, a horrible sound emanates from the innards of the box. You know, you just know what happened. In desperation, you take the ailing machine to the same mechanic you called and he scornfully tells you that you put the widget and the thing in wrong.Nothing you can say fazes him. All you can do is sigh and reach for your wallet.

Super Hunky's Law of Selective Destruction
The most damage will happen to a bike during the lightest crash. Note: This particular law is my favorite. I have seen a motorcycle tumble end over end for nearly a thousand feet down a hill and virtually nothing happens to the machine. On the other hand, I have watched a bike in my garage lazily tip over and fall to the floor, with the end result being a broken case cover, bent bars, punctured tank, ripped saddle, bent shift shaft and a tweaked peg.

Also, the bike will usually land on something like a quart of gear oil and blow its contents all over your toolbox. This almost always happens to me when I'm changing fork oil. Then, the fresh oil from the fork tubes will spill out on the floor, too.

Clipper's Observation - A Sub-Law
The other line moves faster. Example: You are signing up at an event. There is a long table with several lines. All seem to be of equal length. Yet, the one you pick will take twice as long as any other. Especially, if your event (or number) is one of the first up.

Talbot's Law of The Expanding Universe
Inside every small problem is a large problem struggling to get out. Example: You decide to replace your clutch springs, because when the clutch gets hot, it slips a little tiny bit. In the process, you lose two friction plates, break the clutch basket and drop the selector mechanism down behind your workbench, where it cannot be reached without first removing 20 bolts through a concrete wall. See?

Project Bike Laws
If a project bike is not worth doing, it's not worth doing it well. No other comment is needed here.

Lipkin's Theory
The chance of an air filter falling with the greased side down, is directly proportional to the cost of the floor surface, or the time left before you absolutely have to go.

Explanation: If you walk into the house to answer a phone call with a heavily greased filter in your hand, the chances are about 4 to 1 that you'll drop the filter on a tiled floor. If you're taking the phone call while standing over a shag carpet, however, the odds immediately go up to around 60 to 1. And so forth.

The Multiple Observation Rule
You will always crash on the part of the course where there are the most spectators. Note: This is especially true if you know someone in the crowd you're trying to impress, like a new girlfriend. Conversely, the part of the course where you're the most fluid and dazzling is the section where no one is observing but a chipmunk or two.

The Law of Joining Forces
There are two kinds of people on a racetrack: those who crash and those who cause crashes. Note: The ones who cause crashes are invariably the ones who almost never crash themselves.

Talbot's Commentary on Murphy's Law
Murphy was an optimist.


My shift light blinking what can I do
William Billiot
First off, learn how to write a little bit better than a fourth grader. Have you ever consider using a question mark at the end of your sentence???????????  Here are few extras for you just in case. 

Hey, my name is Tyler Gray i live in michigan and i just bought my 1st
vintage honda. i was wondering if u could help me price it i gave 125
dollar a cc its been painted over with red pait over the decales =(
seat taped and rod bearing plactly gone its a 1976 honda 125.. i dont
belive it is a elsinore but im not that much of a pro at bikes yet.
could u help shed some info on it??
Tyler Gray

This is a perfect example of why this nation is in big, big trouble. Here we have a person writing with a question on his Honda. He offers very little information about the bike, his writing and punctuation is abysmal and his stupidity is on display for all of the world to see.  Now go away and try to take third-grade over again. This time, pay attention to the teacher.


Dear Friend,
I hope you are well and best wishes to all.
Itís to understand that we seem to have in life what is best for us at the time. When I was a teen age youth, I enjoyed reading the popular motorcycle magazines which my only sibling at home and I bought with money earned by riding our bicycles delivering a paper publishing in the local neighborhood.  Your editorial was always a favorite to us and helped a lot in forming a firm knowledge base about the motorcycle industry production units in general.
I now own a genuine RH75 Suzuki.

I have contacted you before about 5 years ago to mention it and ask for a value estimation and recently have listed it on eBay here:{RDhref+}ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT{RDhref+}forcev4exp=true
Certainly, I understand that we both know itís a priceless axiom in context of our view of manufacturing marvel and deep within a common spirit can deftly fathom the grace of a holy creator, Christ Jesus.

Concerning the RH, all things being constant and relative surrounding a design concept which was introduced to develop over time, and extend to a certain critical point of conclusion, we might agree that the one I have here is one of the last and finished pre-production units of the introduction era to enter the pre-release RM125 of 1975. This due to the LTR kayaba shocks and frame design and for productions sake, it remained with the TM type 5-speed trans and in-line front fork legs also having the TM style steel tank design but with a factory image Suzuki S symbol and low expansion chamber with a Honda CR style similar shortened stinger and minor dimensional changes to perform with enhanced porting to an approximate 10,500 rounds per minute peak power output.

With this in mind, my RH unit introduced the first RM and mutated release versions of full-blown RN (370) copy RM250 and 370A and B models, which sold in droves and partly, if not significantly, inclined Honda Motors to put the Ďwarmed overí red framed Ď76 CR-250 Elsinore model on sale along with at least a half dozen others. My brother, Mike, bought a Ď76 MR-250 Elsinore for the factory promoted reduced price of $749.00 out the door which was down from the MSRP of 1249.00 if I remember correctly.

Can you validate my memory and understanding of facts here. It would be a help to me and hope to reciprocate as I enjoy your insight and perspective about all things motorcycle.
Kind wishes,
Keith S.

Itís very hard to place a value on a bike that old and that rare. I know of one collector who has paid over $20,000 for a restored RH, and that was about three years ago.  If it was my bike, Iíd sit out for a few more years before I got rid of it. Itís money in the bank.

I love my two-strokes Ė the sound, the simplicity, the smell. There is one question that's been bothering me for some time so I thought I would tap into the deep wells of your off-road motorcycle knowledge and see if there is an answer. Now, I am fully aware that two-strokes smoke inherently. What I don't understand is why most every two-stroke I've owned smokes excessively and runs poorly when cold started. Once I run through the gears and clear it out they run fine. This becomes a real nuisance when I want to fire one up curb-side in front of my house and my neighbors look at me as if I'm some kind of pollution producing lunatic. I do tend to set my bikes up on the slightly rich side but not excessively so (or so I believe.) If you have any thoughts and/or advice on how to remedy the two-stroke cold starting smoke and bog I would be greatly appreciative.

Any by the way, you look great in those Southern Comfort TV commercials!
Michael Behrens
ĖStill Smoking
A few things come to mind. A two-stroke receives the fuel air oil mix to the lower end via the carburetor. Consequently, the mix is then taken up through the transfer ports to the top end where itís burned and then finally exits through the exhaust port. This means that when you shut the motor off, thereís still a bit of the mix in the bottom end of the bike. When you start the bike cold, you put the choke on and the combination of the choke and the extra fuel in the bottom end does make the two-stroke smoke a bit.

You can do a few things to lessen this problem. One is to use a synthetic premix oil that will burn much cleaner and smoke less than a traditional mineral oil and run it at 32 to 1 or possibly as lean as 50 to 1, depending on the product. Secondly, donít set your bike up rich on the pilot circuit unless itís very cold out. This is when the bike does smoke like crazy.

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 Ö 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 and for more information, the email is:  Paypal address:
(PHOTO BOOK HERE) Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!