Don't Ask: Rick Sieman Answers Your Dirt Bike Questions

Aug. 06, 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.

Previous Donít Ask Columns
July 2013

June 2013

May 2013



Hope this finds you well. It has been a while since I wrote. I thought you would get a kick out of this. You did a article on what I called Solar Husky built by McQueen's Solar Automotive for a customer.

The original story and still partly true, was a customer took his 1971 Husky 250 to McQueen shop in later part of 71 to have it converted to a 400.

Between the customer statements and a few invoices for parts sold to McQueen the story was holding true. The connection between his story and parts list was still circumstantial, until few weeks ago.

We discovered a registration for this 70 400 Husky, with matching frame number and dates in the time frame. The registration is in McQueen name. So story changes a bit. It is defiant that McQueen built this bike but he built it for himself before the customer approach McQueen with upgrade.

What appears McQueen did, was that he took this custom bike, painted over the nickel plated frame and put the customers 250 tank on the bike and gave him the bike. I spoke with the customer. He had no idea the frame was nickel plated under the paint and never gave the strange frame number a second thought.

It's still a mystery who actually did the frame modifications.


Even though Steve McQueen has been gone since 1976, thereís still a tremendous amount that people want to know about him and his bikes. There are a number of bikes out there that have never been owned by Steve McQueen but have been offered for sale as such.


Any tips for the hole shot on a GP style "run to a dead engine start"?
Thanks Hunk!
Chris Walline

You donít see many runs to a dead-engine start nowadays except in some desert races and the occasional Grand Prix. I always did the following when there was a run-to-your-bike start.

1.  Cock the bars to one side to allow for clearance when you swing your leg over the bike.

2.  Build up the dirt on the ground as much as you can, even if you can only get it from 6 to 10 inches taller, it makes it that much easier to get on the bike.

3. Make sure you have a fresh plug in the bike.

4. Always start the bike in neutral. No matter how smooth your gearbox and clutch works, thereís always a bit of drag on it when you try to start in gear.

5. Make sure the kick starter is out and ready for a kick.

6.  Use a piece of string to hold the kick starter back in the starting position. The string will break when the kick starter returns to its home position. Do all these things and you can save maybe a second or two and that means a lot on a dead-engine start.


Sometimes the worst thing to change is nothing. And something me and a buddy have been trying to figure out/brainstorm/imagine... (imagine is the key word):
"The Unlimited Class" - The movie that never happened. We know how many 500cc 2 Stroke bikes are out there. We know former factory/race bikes are still out there. We know you can have a 'Service" / or "AF" 2 stroke now also. We know 300cc 2 strokes are as modern as anything now, and/or have always kept up development in Europe. (right?) We know that ATK had to sell at least a 'few' 500cc, 600cc, and 700cc bikes before they quit. (and hopefully Maico).
And, we know guys put awesome streetbike motors in dirtbike chassis. (imagine an RD400 or TZ750 that would/could land triples)
Why can't there be a "Can-Am" Unlimited Class? (Call it what you want-figure it out later, theoretically open to 4 strokes also-since/because the 2 stroke world isn't afraid of anything. Right?)
The first race we agreed should be in Vegas 'right' before the 250's and 450's finale. (it would never work I know, but the 'buzz' would be huge). Theoretically there is going to be a track that will let a race like this be held there. Money talks.
The 1st 10 races (or so) 4 strokes will be strictly BANNED.
The "Buzz" will perpetuate itself.  Imagine. A 'huge' prize of $10,000 will be granted to the "International Can-Am Unlimited Open Class" winner. (Sounds cool right?) Then something like golf, spread another $10,000 throughout the rest of the field. Everyone gets paid. (or top 10?)
Hopefully the race will cover its costs in the end. Shoot for one race in say 2014. Let 4-6 months build to the race with advertising in all the mags who dare, and all the outlets we have.

Hopefully the purse will get bigger during that time and be advertised during. KTM, Husqvarna, Fantic, TM, Ossa etc will want to be represented there for sure.
Rules. ?. Classes. ?. 500cc - 500cc and up etc - that would mean more than 1 race...?. Ages. ?. I don't know. Fastest bike to the end wins the race? Yup. Sounds about right.
One of my points of this imaginary race is the fact that the Magazines have already said that the 450cc 4 stroke is going to be faster on the track than the 500cc 2 stroke 2001 CR, 2003 KX, AF/Service or not.
So then, what can the AMA or anyone else be afraid of now in 2013?  The 4 strokes have surpassed the 2 stroke in most eyes period. The slap in everyones face is the FACT that the "OPEN CLASS"... CAME BACK IN THE FORM OF 4 STROKES.
The 'holy grail' of racing as I've heard it spoken of, and watched as a child to my teens, was taken away from the racers and fans in an AGENDA. Then a few years later in the '250' class, sneak in 400cc 4 strokes, and when that wasn't fast enough, 450 cc 4 strokes, never adressing anything. Wasn't the cc drop for 'safety' at one point/in the 1st place?
At the very least AMA should bump up the 2 strokes to 300cc in the (250!)450cc Class.
Carl in Bakersfield, California
Huge Big Bore 2 Stroke Fan.
Some of your ideas are worth considering except for one alarming fact: Motocross and Supercross racing at the upper levels are controlled by the AMA, and they have never been accused of being very intelligent. Honda pressured them to literally get rid of two-strokes in competition, and they very quietly pull their pants down and said take me.
Rick, what happened to "full floating rear brakes"?

If I go back in the old Dirt Bike Mag tests, this was always mentioned, and it was desirable to have this on the machine.

These forces are still present, and with long travel suspension, it sounds as if a floating rear brake would be a big deal.  Even my street bike, with a powerful rear disc, has an anchor point on the swingarm.  I can very much feel the rear suspension "lock" once the brake is applied.

Did this suddenly become no big deal?
Roland J Cannon
It became a non big deal when just about every dirt bike made nowadays has a disk rear brake. If you take a look at the way a disk rear brake caliper is locked into place, youíll see that it eliminates the need for the full-floating setup. If you have a bike with a drum brake, thereís a good chance it does have a full floater. But if you have a disk brake, the need for that is gone.

Got the posters just fine. What is the history and circumstances regarding the Magoo bike?  No tank or seat?
Richard Chepey

Youíre referring to our poster that we have for sale of Danny Magoo Chandler on the so-called invisible Maico. The bike was an Ď81 Maico 490 and we shot it at Indian Dunes. I wanted something a little bit strange for the photo and came up the idea of taking all the plastic off the bike including the gas tank. I found a baby bottle and filled it up with gas and ran a small line from it to the carburetor and taped the baby bottle to the frame rail, so there was the invisible Maico. The shot caught a lot of attention, and as the years go by more and more people remember it.


I dig your "Stay away from any Chinese..." comment. I get many customers that almost break out in tears every time I tell them, "This is made in China. Unless you hike around China until you find the factory, you're out of luck on parts."
Kids bring in Chinese scooters, adults bring in Chinese generators. They just didn't know.

Now they do...You'd be better off piling your cash up and torching it. I remember seeing Chinese mini crotch-rockets advertised for I think, $99. Fine print mentioned something about $299 freight.
David Fruhling
David is right on the money regarding the many Chinese dirt bikes for sale at outrageously low prices. The price might be low when you buy the bike, but when you go to find parts for your bike, itís like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Do yourself a favor and stick with Japanese bikes that are around, have been around, and they are something for which you can find parts.
Hey, just got a mx motor bike don no if its a 80 or 100 the serial number it 3to- 104992 if u could get back to me to let me now wat one it is that would be good so I can start rebuilding it cheers.

According to my voluminous files, your bike is a 1980 Yamaha MX 100 G. The engine number starts with 3T0Ė 000101. And the next time you write, show some respect, and itís Mr. Hey to you.
Re: the Husaberg that won't start above. Owned a '94 and I'll bet something of value that his stator is cooked. Fairly common with that bike.
W. B. Lyttle
Youíre probably right on with your diagnosis, as we received a good half-dozen emails saying about the same thing. Apparently they have not resolved all their electrical problems completely as of yet.

I have a 1978 DS100C. Engine runs great with black oil pouring out of exhaust silencer. I suspect the oil pump flow rate is set too high. Carb is a Mikuni. Can you give me the procedure to set the oil pump flow rate for this bike?

The oil pump cannot deliver that much oil. A bit too much oil and itíll have heavy white smoke. Smoking is because of bad seals, low compression, bad ignition, oil added to fuel in the gas tank, or the wrong oil in the oil tank. Test compression at the plug hole; it needs more than 90 psi. Check your crankcase pressure. It needs to hold 6 psi for a couple of hours. If thereís a crank seal in contact with tranny oil, change it and install the other crank seal. Put new oil into oil tank (use oil with a different color to see it move through the system) and new fuel into the tank. Or do what most people will do anyway and that is remove the oil pump and run oil in your gas like a good two-stroke should.

Hi Rick,
2 strokes are expensive to run. I would like to set the record straight on the debate about modern 4 strokes being expensive to run.  Well so are 2 strokes. Now back (wayyyy back) in the day I had a TS 185. That thing did over 20,000 miles without being touched. Then came the modern high maintenance 2 stroke. I know. I have one and this is what itís like.

Due to a shameful state of affairs I hadnít ridden my í92 WR250 for just over 3 years. I pulled it from under the pile of accumulated rubbish at the back of the shed and headed out for a ride. Wouldnít start. Had to completely drain the carby and put fresh fuel in the tank before that sucker would run Ė and after only 3 years. Can you believe it, almost $2 in gas straight down the drain.

It gets worse. Only had it 4 years and had to do a $260 piston and ring kit. What a pile.

Anyway out on the ride and a mate had the latest EXC 300 orange thing from some foreign country. Had a few drags and pulled that 300 through the gears every time Ė but only by a couple of bike lengths. This is serious. Only 2 bike lengths ahead calls for a major investigation. Turns out the old WR compression is down again, so here goes another piston and ring kit.  Strueth, only got 6 years from the last one. That works out to over $45 / year in engine maintenance, not including having to change the tranny oil every second year.

Think theyíll ever get back to the good old reliable days? Should I buy a new YZ 250 2 stroke, or is the top end just going to crap out every 5 years?

Some advice would be appreciated.

Thanks, Dave.

In the argument about two-strokes versus four-strokes in the reliability department, itís no contest. For example, in the manual for the new Honda CRF250F, they tell you that the bike is ready for rebuild at 15 hours, or if  youíre an expert itís 30 hours. Think about this: the bike turns about 14,000 RPM to make its power, which is just about the limit for piston speed. And when it comes time to rebuild it, plan on about $3000. When it comes to two-strokes, a lot depends on the quality of the bike. For example, I had a 1990 KDX 200 that I rode for 12 years and never put any thing mechanically in it. Sure, I used chains sprockets tires at a regular basis, but those are high-wear items and you expect to replace them. But as far as things like pistons and rings, no way. I kept my air filter scrupulously clean and used good gas in the bike.

One of my bikes in the garage right now is my race bike, a 1983 490 Maico and it comes with a Mahle piston and rings. These are virtually indestructible and itís not uncommon to go for several years without changing rings. And I can do a top-end job in my garage in a few hours on the Maico with no problem whatsoever.

A friend of mine needed some help with his 450F Honda and it took us 20 minutes just get the spark plug out. And if you do a valve job on one of the new Hondaís, plan on several hundred dollars for that at the dealer. No thank you, the new four-strokes are nothing but a hand grenade looking for a place to explode. A very expensive place. Iíll take a two-stroke any day.      

Dear Rick:
I love your column, as I am sure so many do. I hope you realize that you can never end your column, as all of us are going to be here for a while and we all love you, despite some of the dumb emails that you receive.

I'm sending some pics of my first toolbox that was a Christmas present when I was 15. Per your sage advise long ago, I ordered a lot of stickers through the mail, and then after I had a huge pile of stickers, I carefully planned how they would look and then applied them to the toolbox.  I guess a lot of those companies are gone now, but the memories remain. It's almost 40 years, and I still have it. I'm taking it to the nursing home when I have to go.

Sometime I'll send you some pics of the bikes that I have no time to ride but keep in the hope that someday I'll have the time. I have 8 Honda CR125's (74 thru 78) one CR125R (1979) one Husky CR125 (73-74) a Husky CR250MAG (74) and a Yamaha YZ250H (81), all but two are running. Restoring them is like having a kid, bringing them back to life. Oh yeah, I have a GP cylinder for one of the Hondas, with a set of Konis on the back.

Your thoughts on the YZ250H 1981 model?  It seems like a fire-breathing monster after most of my experience is with 125s. Any mods-adjustments on the CR250MAG that are good? Thank you and please please never stop. A man of your wisdom and integrity is hard to find in this world.

Your toolbox looks like a toolbox should, with almost as many stickers as tools. Congratulations. On the Yamaha YZ 250, I can tell you that I raced a 1980 YZ 250 for the entire year and it was a great bike. However, when the Ď81 came out, it lost a gear, was much heavier and it was not even close to the Ď80s far as performance goes. Keep your eyes peeled for a 1980 and youíll find a huge difference in the bikes.


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 (or $5 for Priority Rush mail) and for more information, the email is:,

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