Don’t Ask: Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman Answers Dirt Bike Questions
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.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, Attn: Don't Ask.
Previous Don’t Ask Column
SUBJECT: WILL’S DYNO SHOP
I used to hang around Will Pfitzenmeier's (sp) shop on San Fernando RD in Glendale. He built his own dyno and flow bench and had the factory service work for Montesa Motors. You even came by a time or two to do some testing. Brian Fabre did a lot of work there before he built his own dyno. We used to solve a lot of problems there, the 501 maico wasn’t one of them.
I lost track of Will when Western Airlines merged with Delta and I was transferred to Dallas TX, was also the end of my dirt riding carrier. I will be 70 years old next month and am riding a WR250R, now split my time between Las Vegas in the winter and Marysville WA in the summer. Good to see your still active, I was a Dirt Bike subscriber for years. It was the only magazine with truth in it.
John Young still in Las Vegas
We used to test all of our bikes at Will’s shop back in the good old days. He was never too busy to get the work done, and many is the time we spent long evenings at his shop and drinking lots of beer after work
SUBJECT: WHO NEEDS FOUR-STROKES?
Hey Super Hunky,
My cure to the four-stroke revolution is race a 2 stroke or go vintage racing. 2-strokes are alive and well here in the Midwest. Were seeing more & more 2-strokes at the modern tracks and I for one race a 03 CR 250 that I bought new. It’s 11 years old but still very competitive, and yes I’ve kept it updated at a modest cost. I race vintage with MOVMX which is one of the bigger vintage venues in the country. Part of the fun in vintage as you know is building and maintaining the bike and ease of maintenance….if you can assemble a baby stroller you can maintain a 2 stroke.
A few years back I traded a rifle for a 04 CRF 450. I spent about 5 hours on the bike going thru everything getting it race ready. Took it to the track 4 or 5 times and it was a very good bike that did everything well. It was very nice looking and race prepped but the problem was trying to sell the dam thing. Nobody would give me $1500 measly bucks for it so I traded it to a guy for an 86 CR 500 and a 81 YZ 465. Hell yes! So if you think you cant afford to go racing any more you ought to check into your local vintage scene. The competition is there, people are great for the most part, you can choose between about 25 bike manufactures for your steed, very cost friendly and maintenance can be done in your garage.
Our sport has gone from one that you can afford to get into at a low-cost and enjoy for years, to one that costs thousands of dollars for each top-end rebuild every 30 or 40 hours of racing. Those so-called wonderful four-strokes are nothing more than a black hole to sink your dollar in. It used to be that you could rebuild your motorcycle on Saturday evening in a few hours and be ready to race on Sunday. Forget that.
SUBJECT: YAMAHA JT1
I have my dads old dirt bike that I am trying to fix for my kids but have some questions about the separate oil tank and the oil dip stick on the motor case.
The bottom part on the crank cases with the dipstick going to it holds transmission fluid. The upper part holds the oil that mixes with the gas. Couldn’t be simpler.
SUBJECT: SHOCK FACTS
Hello Mr. Sieman,I have a Hodaka....but that's not why I'm writing this.
The reason I am writing this is because you are the only source I trust.
I am wondering if you would tell me the real story of Gil at Works Performance
and Charlie Curnutt.There is a guy on Mark's page that rebuilds Curnutt shocks.Says he worked for Chuck Sr. back in the day.Any truth to the story that Gil "borrowed"Curnutt's specs right down to the obscure thread sizes Curnutt used?And that Chuck was NOT happy about this.I know you knew Gil at WP,and I'm guessing you also knew Mr. Curnutt.
Please do tell.This will be just between you ,me and the fence post.It goes no further.
As for the Hodaka mentioned above,it came with ancient Works shocks,PRE GAS,there is a flat spot on them for a valve,but no valve there.Mounted on an original,but no longer chrome plated,Swenco swingarm.The chrome plating was long gone when I got it, and the frame was cracked at the loop behind the seat.So,after welding the frame,it,the brake pedal, footpeg mounts and the swingarm were sent off to be powdercoated.The forks,actually ,the entire front end was replaced with an early 250 Elsinore unit.This means the forks actually work,and the brakes also,even when wet,something I'm certain you'll agree was not the case with the Hodaka brakes.
Any way,what's the real story behind Curnutt vs.Works Performance?
Thanks for reading this,Tim Carpenter in Missouri.84v on a Hodaka in MOVMX
P.S.,I bumped into your old buddy Tom a few years ago at a MOVMX race.Come back to the midwest,Rick and ride with us on real,natural tracks,covered with grass,(just like God and Roger De Coster intended.)
Here are the facts as we know them. Gil started making spare parts for the Curnutt shocks when they not did supply the parts to various owners. After a period of time, about three years, Gil was making so many pieces that he decided there was a market out there for dirt shocks. If you’ll take a look at Curnutt shock, it has a tapered needle in it. Gil’s shock has a check ball inside and a completely different damping approach. Of particular interest is the fact that Gil’s shock is still around and the Curnutt is long gone. If you want to reach Works performance, here’s the info: Works, 21045 Osborne St. Canoga Park, CA 91304, 818/701-1010.
SUBJECT: YET ANOTHER MISSIVE FROM DAVE
Somebody owes me a damned keyboard! Before I realized it, all my drooling over the bike had flooded my keyboard and shorted it out! Smoke and sparks everywhere…
SUBJECT: IN SEARCH OF CABLES
I got a couple of 73's that I'm trying to put back together and am having trouble finding clutch cables. I know there has to be another one that will work, but I don't want to waste money on trial and error. Do you have any idea of which other one will work?
You can get cables for a vintage bike to a new bike at Terry cables: TERRY CABLES 17376 Eucalyptus St., Hesperia, CA, 800-854-4691
SUBJECT: FEEDBACK FROM BOISE, IDAHO
We missed you at Boise this year. The weather, track and event were awesome. Although he's no Super Hunky having Lyle Lovett show up and play at the Sat night party was a good consolation prize. Anyway - I was watching the very public tail between the legs slinking away of the BLM in the face of public opposition in that Nevada grazing rights conflict this weekend and it made be think about you. I'm sure you enjoyed it immensely. Take care and be well.
I sure would have liked to have been there, as the people were great, the racing top quality and track very demanding. Perhaps next year.
SUBJECT: WATCH OUT FOR THE ENVIROS
First it was dirt bikers, now it is cows. The wackos are out in full force. Long live the Phantom Duck! Hope this letter finds you feeling well. Dirt biker in Louisiana.
Damon and Mel
We tried to warn the AMA about the dangers of the environmentalist wackos many years ago. We were completely ignored, yet history proved us right on the button.
SUBJECT: TWO-STROKE VS. FOUR-STROKE – END OF THE STORY?
If that was the end of the story, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
We know how you feel, smoother to ride, faster than the 2 strokes. The MX zines and Pros etc. say the same thing, the 4 stroke 450 is faster than any 500cc 2 stroke.
So what are you or they afraid of anymore? (do you care? If you had a vote, would you let equal cc 2strokes with the 450s?)
The 450 is faster than a 500. So why an outright unfair 250cc 2 stroke limit against the 450? Can the 4 stroke MAFIA keep this up forever?
I’d love to see 20 year old 500cc motors on the track with 4 stroke 450s.
Or how about what I said before, at the very least, the AMA should bump the 2 stroke cc limit up 50cc. 300cc 2 strokes against 450cc 4 strokes. Seems FAIR right?
If you or anyone else is faster on a 450, and has that clear advantage, it seems unfair to keep equal cc 2 strokes out of the lineup. I’d be willing to bet at least one guy would take the AMA up on that and buy an equal cc 2 stoke to lineup against the mighty 450s.
Well here the simple facts. Big bore two were not selling and had not sold in significant numbers for 15 years. so development stopped and in many cases the manufactures stopped building 500's completely (Yamaha and Suzuki) or simply went out of business (Most of the European manufactures). 450cc motocrosser sell like hot cakes because they are fast and easy to ride. End of story.
FYI average 450cc four stroke 50 to 52 Hp, average 500cc two stroke 54 to 57 HP, 10% bigger and about 10% more power. (525 KTM 58HP) Same as same. The four strokes are smoother running and have a far wider power band. Easier to ride and race.
The real question you should be asking is how many 4 strokes do you see racing where they are not given a huge displacement advantage against 2 strokes.
The answer is zip zero nada none zilch. Without a massive displacement advantage, a 4 stroke is a heavy, complex, expensive, tall, bulky, underpowered, hard to work on nightmare to compete with compared to a 2 stroke.
When the four-strokes took over in the racing courtesy of the AMA and Honda, our sport changed forever. The days of affordable racing are long gone and the AMA will simply not allow the two strokes to race against four strokes of the same size. They know what will happen.
SUBJECT: YZ125 CRANK PLAY?
Hi Rick, hope life is good and treating you well. Things in Slat Lake City are finally warming up.
I am restoring a 1980 YZ125. This was a bike I raced in my youth and loved it and found one in decent shape. It is going to take tons of work but it will be enjoyable. Everything stock is there and in good shape which is great. However, when I took the cylinder off to bore it, I noticed the connecting rod has a tiny bit of play moving up and down. I know it is not supposed to have any up and down movement at all, correct? I cringe at having to split the cases and the expense of new parts, if I can even find them. The question is, is there any tolerance for up and down movement at all or is zero play mandatory? I don't want to not do it, and then have the bike explode on me.
One other question. I need to find a throttle cable and am having difficulty and am hoping you can steer me to a solution.
Thanks for all you have done for the dirt biking community over all these years.
No play up and down. Period. You can have side to side OK. Before you do a rebuild, squirt some oil on the con rod and see if that eliminates the excess. You can get a Terry Cable that’ll work just fine.
SUBJECT: SMOKING KX 250F
Dear Super Hunky,
I have been a faithful reader for almost 30 years. I have rebuilt a bunch of motors both two and four stroke but I have one that stumped me. I inherited a 2006 KX 250F from an acquaintance here in town. He said it had been sitting in their shed for a couple years and if I could get it to run I could have it. I did all the usual checks and found the real problem was the pilot and needle jetting to be way off… Long story short it runs great but it spews oil from the crank breather hose. I figured that it needed rings so I tore down the top end. Then I found out it had a 270 big bore kit in it.
I went ahead and bought a new piston and rings due to the fact the skirts were well under service limit, honed the cylinder and put it back together. I did notice that the cylinder did have a grove wore up and down in one spot. Not deep but just barely enough to feel with your fingernail. When I got it all back together It still blows oil out the breather tube.
My question is: is blow by the only way that the crankcase will pressurize?? I wouldn’t have thought that the mark in the cylinder would allow enough blow by past to spit oil out the hose like it does. Is there anything else I should check?? Or am I buying a new 500.00 dollar cylinder…Yuck..I have looked at the vent circuit in the shop manual and there is a reed valve that is suppose to stop this from happening but I have also read in forums that the 2006 KX is famous for this. What is the best fix? Vent the motor from the valve cover like Yamaha??? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Kay C. Caldwell
There’s one other spot that you should check, and that’s the crank seals. If those are worn, that’s going to cause the problem that you described. A simple groove or scratch on the cylinder wall will cause a little blow-by, but not a huge amount. So before you spend a lot of money or time, check those seals.
SUBJECT: THE GOOD OLD DAYS
I just saw your moniker on the net and I had to check and see if it was actually THE Superhunky from Dirt Bike in the '70s. All the times I read and re-read that mag and waiting for it to come out every month so I could buy it at the grocery store before it sold out!!
You, Janene Pennington, the articles and then 'On Any Sunday" ... I would think about what I had read and then try to ride fast on my Kawasaki 100 Trail Boss, just like you guys did in the pictures.
Thanks for the GREAT memories and your hard work- dirt bike riding came a long way in a short period of time with your guidance.
Many thanks for the kind words. When Dirt Bike magazine was started, we tried to write to the readers as if they were riding buddies and friends, instead of the usual crap found most of the magazines of that period. To say that it was successful is an understatement. Within a few years, our magazine was number one in newsstand sales.
SUBJECT: CZ400 VALUE?
I hope this message reaches you. I would like to know if you can steer me to a buyer for a vintage mx bike. To make a long story short. My brother has a 1974 CZ 400 dirt bike that he needs to sell. What is the current market value for this bike? The bike is in a current non running condition.
Thank You in advance if you get back to me,
It’s really difficult to get your price unless I know what the condition of the bike is. If the CZ is all together and in poor condition and not running, you would still get $7---$800 for it. If the bike is in average condition and not running, you can add a few hundred dollars to that price. If the bike itself looks pretty good and is not running, add another few hundred dollars. However, you have to take a look at why the bike is not running. If the motor is obviously wasted, subtract a few hundred dollars from that price that I gave you. It is just not running because someone had the spark or jetting off, that’s not a real problem. I would say that the average CZ 400 of that year without any real major motor problems is going to go for about $1200-$1400. That’s assuming that everything is there.
SUBJECT: MONKEY BUTT COULD BE DANGEROUS
My name is Brent Josling, I live at the very top of Australia and I’ve just re-read “Monkey Butt” for the third time.
I got interested in bikes in about 1972 and saved and bought my first bike in 73-74. The first bike mags I bought were usually Popular Cycling although there were a few issues of Dirt Bike in there until Motocross Action came out. That mag shifted my focus for a while.
Can you believe Motorcycle mags helped me to read? I used to buy them to look at the pictures. My parents were becoming frustrated at my single minded interest in bikes and nothing else. My dad, being rather insightful, started reading the mags when I was in bed (even though he had no real interest in bikes) and discussing various tests and articles. I suddenly realized I actually knew nothing about bikes so had to read the articles myself.
I’d seen “Monkey Butt” advertised for years but I only bought the book about three years ago. What a blast, what memories, Thank you.
I grew up in New Zealand and anything to do with motorcycles was scarce and somewhat behind the times. I didn’t appreciate the way “Dirt Bike” was written back then but now looking at old issues I start to see the person behind the writings. I often buy new mags but I find there is no such thing as a bad bike anymore. Even a shootout reads like a mutual appreciation society meeting with no one going home up set. Sure the bikes are better now and much more even but I miss reading that such and such is crap and not worth riding! I miss a person’s impressions rather than a run down on “mid stroke harshness” or some other thing that the average rider will never have to worry about.
Reading “Monkey Butt” and early “Dirt Bike” I see a certain irreverence and desire to tell the truth regardless of who gets up set. I identify with that and like you (I’m sure) it’s ruffled feathers over time.
I’ve never written to a magazine before and this is as close as it gets. I felt like writing this when my Dad read “Monkey Butt” and said I was a bit like you in my attitude and outlook.
A read of a recent “Dirt Bike” or MXA had a list of birthdays including yours.
We are born on the same day, 20 years apart. It’s a bit late but happy birthday Mr Sieman!
The stories of some of the bosses that were brought in to “streamline” the magazines bought to mind a situation recently where I was told by my boss that I have problems with authority. I told him I don’t have any problems with authority at all, I have problems with f*ckwits
And a happy birthday to you, my friend. Like I said earlier, Dirt Bike magazine was started like one friend talking to another. I sort of referred to it as conversational journalism.
SUBJECT: WHICH WAS THE FASTEST BIG BIKE?
Just reading through some old DB magazines from the early eighties, reminding myself of how exciting it was back in the day, going to my local newsagents to see if the latest copy was on the shelves! I was about 12 years old at the time. I remember the look on my mother's face when I asked her what "scrivners per nert" meant (in reference to the incredibly accurate DB scales, of course!).
Being a typical impressionable young boy, I was fascinated by monsters (still am!); so you can imagine how I felt when reading the test of the 1982 KTM495! That scared the heck out of me, plain and simple; I didn't realize these behemoths existed, let alone such violent ones. The biggest bike I had heard of before reading DB was something like a Husky 360. I had a '74 Maico MC125 at that time.
Right now, one of my bikes is a 1984 495MX with an '83 engine. I just had to own one. What an amazing machine; supposedly a lot tamer than the '82, but boy does that thing put my heart in my mouth at times! I'm sure it would loop out if I was a bit reckless.
Which brings me to an inevitable question - hopefully one you're not bored with hearing: Just which was (or is) the, most violent, hardest accelerating MX beast? Can the old '82 495 hold it's own? I wonder if it was as quick through the gears as, say a KX500 or CR500, or maybe even a 490 Spider? If I remember right the YZ490K was rather savage too....
It would be great to hear your opinions / experiences with these monsters!!
James Mackenzie, Scotland.
All things considered, the 1983 490 Maico was hardest accelerating bike of all those bikes that you mentioned. While the 1981 490 was a good bike and really powerful, the ‘83 was even more so. In fact, I put a big Mikuni carb on my ‘83 490 and that gave it even more low-end power and midrange. The 490 YZ was fast, but as a functioning motorcycle, a real joke. The KX500 was another very powerful motorcycle that was also a heavily vibrating piece of machinery. The CR 500 Honda was extremely fast, but the handling left a lot to be desired. The 495 KTMs were great bikes and very reliable, but a bit heavy compared to the Maico.
SUBJECT: MORE IMPORTANT STUFF FROM DAVE
Good Morning...I think.
I just...gasp...for the hell...wheeze...of it, started the...pant...Yamaha SR500/650.
It only took...huff-puff...about 8 kicks.
I'd call...gasp...wheeze...911 but I forgot the number.
SUBJECT: REX STATEN’S USGP CZ
Just wanted to send you a long overdue thank you for Klemm's piece you ran on the CZ he built for Rex Staten. As a tip of the hat to Harry Klemm and you, I should tell you that I watched that race at Carlsbad on TV up in Calgary, Alberta. I saw it with my best buddy and business partner ,Ivo Bortl,a Czech motocross rider living in Canada.
Ivo and I had a little dirt bike shop at the time (Happy Trails Motorcycles) in Calgary. We were CZ dealers,among other things-and we had been building our own in -house CZ's to try and hold off the Japanese.
In those days, in Canada anyway , a trick CZ was a stock bike with a 38mm Bing and Koni shocks....we couldn't give away a new CZ 250 Enduro so Ivo decided to put the 5 speed into the 400 instead. We fooled around with the porting and used , I think ,a Bassani pipe. Gil from Works Performance sent us some shocks which worked rather well. I think we put a Motoplat in it.too Anyway,if it makes Harry feel any better,we did quite well with the bike,running in Alberta ,BC and Montana especially, with the same reception from our pals @ Jawa CZ Motors in Montreal that Harry & Rex got from CZ USA..
Ivo was very fast, had been racing in Alberta since 1968 when he had arrived. He was fleeing the Russian tanks when they rolled into Prague and well...re-hung the Iron Curtain. He had also been a very good ambassador for CZ and sold a lot of bikes for them. Mysteriously, at the time, they always treated him like crap.
We broke our asses trying to keep the (once)very good CZ name going in Western Canada but we hit a brick wall with the clowns from Jawa CZ. After the whole Soviet thing collapsed,the truth, of course,was that it all was political. The only Czech's that got to live in Montreal or maybe the US were the total ass kissers to the Communist Party back home. They,just like the bikes were beyond criticism. That was the party line. A quick one way ticket back to Czecho would be the reward for any employee telling the factory the bikes were becoming noncompetitive.
For the record,the Czech people were great as people,bright funny, and very,ah, dynamic, shall I say... I met Vastimile Valeck , some of the Czech Six Days guys,and a host of others as I am sure,you did too. They were great.
Ivo and I were nursing our ice cold Pilzners in front of the TV when Staten pulled the holeshot and took off that magic day so long ago. I am not embarrassed to tell you we jumped up and down and screamed like little kids for the 7 laps or so until he couldn't hang on anymore. We had no idea whatever happened to Staten and the media never said anything. We just figured he over did it and got tired. God knows,riding a 400 CZ as fast as you can for 45 minutes would kill just about anybody including Ivo, Me? I had my hands full on just a 250.
There was a time,Ivo taught me,when the engineers from Jawa CZ took a back seat to nobody and showed me pictures of the V4 rotary valve all alloy road racer prototype they built back in 1967,not to mention the Jawa (not CZ) motocross four strokes or the speedway ESO bikes etc. As a dealer, I got a new Six Days 350 Jawa off of the guys in Montreal in 1976 and while it was heavy,it was brilliant in many ways,I loved it. It was ,somehow ,street legal,and it was a wild and crazy Dual Sport ,back before they called them that.
For myself anyway, those days were a golden era and I loved reading your stuff in Dirt Bike magazine laughing myself sick,I never missed an issue. I even read them to my wife, the one about you welding up something on your Maico the night before the race and you somehow getting trapped under the fallen bike? and the torch near the leaking fuel tank? My wife even laughed herself sick. And then of course, Aqua-varna, or something like that... thanks for all the memories,back when you had to be a little bit nuts to ride a dirt bike,when other guys went to play golf,we thought nothing of driving for hours to take perfectly good machines, and beat them and ourselves to a pulp,out in the desert, or in the woods, or up in the mountains. I did it until old injuries and new ones would'nt let me do it anymore.
I am working on some old memories of those days and I might send you some ,to get your opinion, one day.
Thanks for everything,
Best Regards from Squamish,(yikes) BC, Canada
I was there at that race and like you, I was thrilled when Rex got the holeshot and led the race for a while. After a half dozen laps or so, he got passed and then faded. I talked to him after that Moto and found out that the motor mounts had cracked on the CZ 400 and the entire bike had turned into a vibrating machine.
SUBJECT: NAME THAT BIKE
I am trying to figure out what this bike is. I inherited it and I am trying to locate a kickstarter so I can get it going, maybe restore it.
Any help identifying it would be greatly apprecaited.
That is a Rickman Hodaka. A Japanese engine (100cc) in an English frame. Restored they go for around $2,500.00. Search the net for more info: http://www.strictlyhodaka.com/ and you can get all the parts you'll every want, or need. Even a new Rickman gas tank. Neat bike, why can't I inherit stuff like that? Instead of old shorted out electric drills, and other worthless crap.
SUBJECT: MAICO I.D. CONFUSION
I have a 78 mc 400. The frame #s state 3361592 and mc400 on the tag. And the engine starts with 337. You list a matching # bike as beginning with 337. Can you tell me what im missing, im confused about the frame stating the 1st 3 #s as 336 and frame being 337. But the frame also mc 400?. Thx can you explain?
What you have here is a mismatched pair. Frame starting with 336 tells us that it’s a 1978 250 frame. The engine number starting with 337 means that it’s a 1978 400 motor. So what you have is a 400 powerplant stuffed into a 250 frame, which was not unheard of at the factory.
SHAMELESS PLUG - DIRT BIKE MAGAZINE CD SET- THE EARLY YEARS
This includes every issue from June of 1971 through all of 1974. That June ’71 issue was the very first issue. I worked on all of these magazines until that last issue in 1974. You’ll see a big difference in content in that last issue and the ones that preceded it.
Every issue has every page included. All the color pages are reproduced in color. You can print out every page if you want to, since the issues were produced in Picasa 3 format. Or you can put it in your computer (or CD/DVD player) and simply enjoy a slideshow of each and every year. There are seven discs included in the package. Each disc contains one-half of a year (six issues) in order. This comes to about 4400 pages total.