Don't Ask: Off-Road Dirt Bike Questions Answered

Apr. 11, 2012 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 … I’ll leave your e-mail unedited, for what it’s worth.
Previous Don’t Ask Columns:
March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

Long time fan.
I remember a few years ago reading a story of yours about an epic adventure about a particularly exciting ride in a van.  Is that still published somewhere online? I can't seem to find it on anymore.  I would appreciate a link if you have it available.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I you called the van owner "Colonel" and the van itself was pretty well supped up. He drove like a bat out of hell and you were all pulled over at which point the Colonel basically told the cop to go pound sand. I remember laughing as I read it and wanted to share it with a friend of mine.

Thank you for all you've done for our sport,
Here you go Steve:


By Rick Sieman

(Lest you think this is all fabrication, I can assure that the General is a real person and the F-15 was a deadly serious van. Is he still doing this mad-man stuff? I truly don't know. But for a wild-ass period of time, the General was a glorious breath of fresh air in a rather stilted world.)
“Let me handle this,'' said the General. “You guys just sit here and don't say a word.”

Behind the van, a red light flashed around in a threatening manner from atop the black and white police car. The four of us hastily pushed crumpled beer cans under the seats or into gear bags. Two officers of the law slowly got out of the vehicle, one on each side, and in the manner used by all highway patrolmen, cautiously sidled up to the enormous white van owned by the General.
We call him the General because of his take-charge manner. His real name shall go unrecorded here, more in the interest of common sense and self-preservation than for any other reason. He is an ex pro motocrosser turned enduro rider and is considered by his friends to be on the eccentric side.

The tallest officer walked up to the driver's window and peered inside, his eyes invisible behind mirrored aviator's glasses. The General smiled his broadest smile and said, “Something wrong, officer?”

“Well now, other than the fact that you were doing 143 in a 55 zone, nothing really.”

“Officer, I'm afraid that I must most respectfully disagree with you. At an indicated 6100 rpm, on level ground, with no wind in either direction, this vehicle will only do 137 miles per hour. And I'd like you to consider the fact that this van is loaded to the hilt with motorcycles, toolboxes, gas cans, sleeping bags, coolers riding gear and assorted people. No, no, no. The F-15, under these conditions, could reach a 135, tops.”

The cop's eyebrows lifted well above the rims of the sunglasses and his mouth parted. “Uh, you care to give me one good reason why I shouldn't write you a ticket about two feet long and run this rat van into the impound yard?”

“Sir, two things must be discussed. First off, this is the F-15, by name, and I assure you it is not a rat van of any sort. I have more money and time invested into this engine alone than I care to think about. A certain amount of respect should be shown to a vehicle that, for all practical purposes, belongs to the past. To the glory days of muscle cars. When Detroit was King, V-8s ruled the roads and gas was 29.9 cents per gallon for the good stuff. Even you must feel some nostalgia for those days. Good Lord, man, look at that pathetic thing you're driving down the road. It probably glows bright red when it tops 85 miles per hour.

“Secondly, in this age of liars, scoundrels and cheats, I thought you might appreciate an honest answer from an honest man. You'll note that I did not try to grovel at your feet, or flatter you with false humility. No, instead I gave you straight answers to straight questions. Don't you find this refreshing compared to the lies you must hear day in and day out?”

“Uh, well, sure, but, you still can't go speeding around like...”

“Exactly my point and I couldn't agree with you more. That's why a person should carefully pick and choose when and where he makes a very personal statement about values, the old days and the good things in life. That's what this country was founded upon, pure and-simple. Right?”

“Yeah, sure, right, but ...”

The General placed his hand on the officer's shoulder and looked him square in the mirrored lenses. “Look, you have your job to do and you did it. I was made aware of the limitations society places on me and you. I had my brief flash of freedom and a small taste of the better times. I'm now a better man for the experience and you have served your part in the overall picture of the complex pattern that makes up the universe. Well, look, I gotta go now. These guys are dead tired and have a long day of work ahead of them tomorrow. See ya . . . and thanks.”

With that, the General fired up the F-is and eased it into gear. The cop just stood there and gave a half-hearted sort of wave. The mighty F-15 slowly rolled off the shoulder and onto the interstate again. In the rear view mirror, the black and white car slowly became a small dot. When it could no longer be seen, the General stomped on the gas pedal, the bank of carbs gave a deep moan and the huge rear tires howled. In seconds, we were back up to cruising speed, the white line being eaten up like an endless strand of spaghetti.


The F-15 sat idling in the driveway, with the General behind the wheel, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He was obviously impatient. “Hey c'mon, let's go.”

We threw the last of our riding gear in the back of the giant van, between the Husky and the IT. Jackets were carefully folded up on milk crates to create two extra seats and one last check was made. Everything was in order. All we had to do now was get to the enduro. The General backed the F-15 out of the driveway, knocking over only two trash cans in the process, then pointed the snout of the huge Ford toward the freeway.

A map was rustled out and unfolded against the dash. Tom ran a finger over a few lines, studied the distance table and stated, “Well, I figure we go straight up 5 and cut over here. Then, left here and pick up the interstate again here. We're probably talking about 450, maybe 475 miles. We can trade off driving every two hours so nobody gets all burned out behind the wheel. General? Whaddaya think? Eight hours?”

“Hmmmmm. Four hours, tops. Four and a half if we stop for beer and food. The key here is to get a real good rock station on the radio; one with a strong signal that we won't lose. All of those stations with a strong signal play the same 10 songs over and over again. That way, every time you hear the play list start over, you build up a good rhythm and it helps you maintain your pace.
“Now, I want one of you guys to cover the right-side off-ramps along the highway and another to sit backwards and watch for anything suspicious coming up from behind. There are a lot of weird people on the road nowadays. You just can't be too careful.

“One last thing . . . we've got 40 gallons of AV gas in the tank, balanced steel-belted radials, front and rear, and we have to be somewhere else in the shortest possible time, so if anybody has to go to the bathroom, now's the time. No more of those empty pop bottle stunts. Got it?”

                                              * * *

At the three-hour mark, the F-15 was forced to slow from its normal cruising speed to about 85 miles per hour. A gaggle of vehicles was up ahead, solidly blocking three lanes. They were three - across and four or five rows deep, all going at the same speed.

Now, the General doesn't hold many things in life sacred, but one thing that he places up there with the flag is keeping the fast lane open for those who choose to “dabble” with the 55-mph speed limit.

When he was forced to bring the F-15 down to 54 mph, it felt like you could open the door and run alongside the Great White Van. The General eased the F-15 up behind the last vehicle in the fast lane and flickered his lights a few times.

This was ignored, or unnoticed, by the driver.

The General then gave a few polite toots to his Maserati air horns. Still nothing.

At this point we all reached for - something solid, because we had seen The Drill before. The General gave only two warnings, then set into motion more drastic measures. The F-15 was nudged directly behind the offending car until the bumpers touched. This was usually enough to bring most drivers out of their doldrums. When that failed, the General would slowly, surely and steadily accelerate the F-15. Many times, the driver in front would not even be aware of any increase in speed until he (or she) would glance down at the speedo and recoil in horror.

Sometimes, but not often, the driver would hit the brakes and try to stop. This would have virtually no effect on the 800-horsepower F-15, as it would still make the vehicle accelerate even if all four of its wheels were locked up, smoking and being ground square by the friction.

The driver in front of us became annoyed by the initial antics of the F-15 and responded in an unusual fashion. He started alternating between braking and accelerating. This prevented the General from his “touch-and-push” tactics. After only a few minutes of this, the General flipped his cork. With both hands on the wheel, knuckles white and eyes wide, he floored the F-15, and turned the radio up to full blast.

We all cringed and braced! The F-15 veered off the road and onto the shoulder, and pulled up alongside the car. The General swore a mighty oath, waved a fist at the now wide-eyed driver, then pulled in front of him, half of the van still on the shoulder. The left rear wheel was busting loose and throwing a veritable avalanche of debris on the following car.

Almost immediately, the car fell way back. Without even losing a beat, the General knifed through traffic, swooping past the rest of the vehicles in the cluster, with masterful disdain. We looked at each other and breathed a semi-sigh of relief.

The General looked over at all of us and said, “Yeah. I know how you feel. There are some real loonies on the road, aren't there? Anybody got a beer?”

Rick, was wondering where to look for size of kick/shift shaft seal for my DKW 125. Thanks for the entertaining articles in Dirt Bike mag.,monkeebutt, etc.

Mike V.
Naturally, you're not going to find a DKW dealer on your local street corner. In this case, your best bet is probably the motor section on eBay. I've been able to locate what most people consider hard-to-find parts very easily there.


just picked this up on monday as a non runner. Got it running yesterday but will not go into gear. Any weird or dumb things that might have cause this? I heard something about removing the tranny drain plug or thinking it's a drain plug and it makes a shaft come out of place and the tranny will not engage . Thanks for any help, I always love your your ideas , stories and advice in Dirtbike magazine .
Dave p.s. here's a pick , she is a rat lol.

Actually, quite a few bikes will do that if you take the wrong plug out. For example most of the later Maicos had a drain plug on the bottom of the cases that you could remove. However, if you rolled the bike around or put it in gear, you had to split the cases to get everything lined up properly again. Check with a savvy Zundapp owner.  You can more than likely find an owner's group on the web. Good luck with this one.
Hi Rick,
AMS has this American Eagle 250 for sale in AZ,asking $4500. Do you ever remember how these performed? I may want a bike for the AHRMA classic 250 mx class to go w/ my 74 CZ400 I own. It looks in decent condition.They also have a 76' Greeves 250 in nice shape which also qualifies for classic 250.
Thanks for any info.

Mark Roler 
Victoria,BC Canada
One Owner
Runs Great
Low Time Original Bike
Dunlop Tires and Rims
Sprite Frame ( Nickle Plated )
Metal Profile Forks
REH Hubs
Kawasaki 238 cc F21-M Greenstreak Motor
You just can't find low time bikes like this Garage Queen for Arizona.
Will have correct tank stickers and seat recovered.
I recall riding this particular bike when it was new and the 238 Kawasaki motor was outrageously fast for the time, and the low end and midrange was strong, as well as a decent top end. All things considered, this was a particularly fun bike to ride.

SUBJECT: 1983 RM80
I havea 1983 rm 80 that I got from a guy that said he put new rings and pistons in but he couldn't get it started afterwards. The bike has spark, fuel (not sure if he did anything to the carb) air but no air box or filter. What could be the cause of it not starting please point me in the right direction thank you
tj andrewsz
Chances are that the previous owner put the piston in backwards. This is the first thing I would check.
The exception to the new four-stroke rule?
Got me one of them there Austrian bikes. KTM.  A 2000 520 EXC to be exact. Original clutches. Original piston. Original valves. In fact the valves have been adjusted a grand total of once, even though they were still "in spec". Real tappet adjusters too. It's been to Baja. It's been to Colorado a few times. Bike has been all over Tennessee. Loretta Lynn herself has seen the bike. It seems some manufacturers can make a modern 4-stroke that holds up. And those don't include Honda, Yamaha and all the other Jap manufacturers. Picked the bike up used for a mere $3,000 in it's 3rd year of life. Seeing as though a new KTM costs upward of $10,000, I think this may be the last bike I own. Been thru a few choice bikes over the years.
 Not a turd in the bunch. Suzuki PE175(2), Honda XR 400, Honda XR600, Suzuki DR-Z 400(well the cam chain tensioner was a turd in that bike). And I even owned(get down on your knees and genuflect a time or two), a KDX 200. Got an eye for good bikes if do say so myself. Well there was that Suzuki TM 250(original one). Well everyone can't be perfect.
Them Austrians still make good bikes. The exception to the rule?
Bill Malec
Jackson, Tn.
Most of the newer four-strokes are nothing more than hand grenades waiting for the pin to be pulled. However, if you are going to go the four-stroke route, the KTM seems to be the most reliable of the lot. They don't rely on crazy high RPM like most the Japanese manufacturers. Instead, they concentrate on good cams, excellent ignitions and sound engineering.
Rick, your "worst bikes" photo with Pete S. riding it like a chopper is great. I thought you might enjoy this photo I snapped at Hinshaw's Honda shop in Auburn, WA.  It appears to be signed by Roger DeCoster. And, apparently unused condition!

And again, thanks for your years of entertainment and enlightenment.
John Ely, Seattle

Of all the bikes of that era, the 400 Suzuki Cyclone contributed to more injuries than any bike I can think of. It had tons of horsepower, a wimpy frame and a powerband that came on at different times and places. A truly terrifying bike.


Please settle a dispute between my neighbor and I about the April '82 issue of Dirt Bike magazine.  The cover photo is someone on an air cooled KX250. I staunchly maintain that the person is none other than the godfather of dirt biking, Sir Rick Sieman. Meanwhile my dildo neighbor says its Jimmy Weinert.
This all started from a photo of the cover on EBay that I bid on (unsuccessfully) so we could check inside the jacket and settle this once and for all.  Whoever is wrong has to sift cat turds out of the others flower garden instead of watching live supercross! The stakes could not be higher! Thank you sincerely for all the smiles you've put on my face through the years.
Little Jeff Sharron

The guy riding the KX is none other than the Jammer. The photo was taken by me.
Super...hearty greetings to you young man!
my name is John Sweeney

I was 15 years old in 1972 when I would run to the mailbox in anticipation of the next edition of Dirtbike Magazine delivery. I lived then as I live now in Florida and could only imagine the California dirt experience I lived vicariously through your pictures and stories. I think about a story you wrote once about one fateful dirtbike outing. I remember something about the van towing a trailer/dirtbike combo, where the bike came loose and bounced into the top of an orange tree. I remember parts that included being so hungry you were rationing the gum you found under the seats. Funny stuff!
I'm restoring a 1973 Yammer 125 enduro. It was the first bike I ever "begged my folks" for and I lost it that same year while, (ahem), driving it ON THE STREET! t-boned in an intersection and ...totaled, never to be seen again.  (I, on the other hand was young and resiliant. bounced right back!)

I can't remember if DB wrote any articles about the bike but I would l love to own a copy if they did.

It's been an honor to write to you (how 'bout this technology thing,huh!...) anyway, after all these years, thanks for the memories!

John S.

There's a 125 Enduro Shootout in the July 1973 issue of Dirt Bike. You can get a copy of that issue on disc. The cost is $10 including postage in the US. 
Rick Sieman
36607 W. Costa Blanca Dr.
Maricopa, AZ
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:  

Previous Don’t Ask Columns:
March 2012

February 2012

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