Monday, June 22, 2015

In Memorium.....Mariposa

Right now it is hard for me to imagine myself laughing...or making love...or taking pride in anything that I have ever done. It's hard to talk...It's hard to write...It's hard to sleep. One of my very best friends died yesterday. She is the silver grey weimaraner above. Her brother is above on the couch next to her. He...just like completely lost. Rest in Peace girl dog

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CR250M-More Problems Solved

In my last note I indicated hope that my carburation/ignition problems had been solved. I was simply hoping that by changing my spark plug cap all would be magically transformed...silly boy!

In fact, the problem was with the carburettor. It took a bit of sleuthing but I finally figured it out. I went for a very short ride right after I installed my new plug cap. The problem re-appeared within one mile. It was clear from that ride that as long as I used at least 3/4th throttle the bike would run pretty well...not perfect...but useable. Once I slowed down and tried to idle the bike it immediately began running very rich and would only run if I held the throttle wide open. With that setting it gave a very rich idle...four stroking or rather eight or sixteen stroking...but it did keep running so I could get home without pushing. Clearly massive amounts of gas were flowing into the engine.

After significantly straining my brain, I devised a test. I was beginning to mistrust the float level. Once home, I shut off the fuel tap and kept on running the engine. Slowly but surely the rich running cleared up and the clearly nasty and argumentative tone of the engine returned. By running with the fuel tap closed I was simply lowering the level in the fuel bowl.

The next step was easy. Open up the carburettor for the fifth...or sixth...time and take a long look at the float. Had I installed it upside down. it turns out installing it upside down was impossible. Was the float at the wrong level? again...not really, at least according to my Clymer's Manual. It specified 19 mm from the bottom flange of the carburettor to the bottom of the float at just the point where the float was starting to close the needle valve. That is what I had. Something was wrong...probably Clymer!

Maybe this settling would work on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but it didn't work for me. I am rarely at full throttle and never for more than five or six seconds at a time. The rest of the time I am at no more than half throttle. So, I lowered the float by a significant amount...about 5 mm. Put it all back together again and went for a ride. This time I went about four miles with a lot of idling and part throttle and minimal full throttle. Each blast of full throttle produced an improvement in the engine's responsiveness. I may lower the float a bit more and I am going to be experimenting with plugs.

So...for now all is well and I'm looking forward to a longer ride later today. So, I'm off to mix up some fresh gas and gather up some tools. See ya!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

CR250M-Many Problems Solved

Over the past couple of weeks all of the issues with the CR have been sorted. First of all, the rear tire was finally mounted about two weeks ago. All tolled, I mounted the tire six times before I finally got it done. The forth time that I mounted it the tire did hold air, but when I went for a ride the tube blew out. I had repaired it...obviously not well enough. The last time I mounted the tire I used an extra heavy duty tube...which was even harder to mount, but I suspect that it will be with the bike until I die or sell it to someone else.

The next issue to present itself for solution was the right side cover...see above. After removing the cover to take a look at the clutch, I remounted the cover only to discover that the kick-start shaft was binding in the side case cover. I tried numerous strategies to solve the gasket...old gasket...nothing really worked. So I proceeded to very slightly enlarge the opening for the kick-start shaft in the side case with my Dremel tool. I had no worries about creating an oil leak because the opening the the side case has an oil seal, and the oil level in the side case is well below the opening. Right now...everything is cool.

The next issue was the rear suspension. When I finally received the bike, it was clear that the right rear shock absorber had received a mighty blow. It was bent inward at least 2.00cm...a little less than an inch. I was going to replace the shocks so this discovery was not a heart breaking event. I ordered some Betor shocks from Spain. Delivery was promised in mid-March. By early May nothing had arrived so I had to look at my options. My first thought was Falcon Shock Absorbers. The guy there is Robin Packham. I have used Falcon shock absorbers on my TLR for many years and I am very happy with them.

You get very personalized service with Robin. We ended-up talking on the phone for a long time finalizing all of the specifications. Every shock is custom made at Falcon . My shocks turned up on my door step about two weeks after we completed the order. They are beautifully made.

Unfortunately my Betor shocks showed up shortly after I placed my order with Robin. One of the nice things about the Betors is the fact that the body of the shock is the same color as the bike. Take a look at the picture below. Leaning against the rear sprocket are the Falcon units.

Less fortunately, the Betors needed a lot of work to mount. Grinding was necessary and some hacksaw work was required. On the other hand, the shocks seem to hold up the swing arm just fine. I am looking forward to trying the Falcon shock absorbers. I ordered the Falcon shock absorbers with 70 lb. springs, and I am sure that the Betors came with 100 lb. springs. I expect to prefer the lighter springs.

After all of these successes with the CR I had to go for a ride. Things did not turn out perfectly. I rode out about ten miles from my house along some dirt roads and the beach. At my turn-around spot the CR did not seem particularly interested in idling. I pressed on keeping the revs up. About three miles from home, I was left with nothing about a very rough idle. I made it home and the next day I took the carburretor apart expecting to find a thoroughly blocked main jet...that was not the case. I did a ultrasonic clean and put everything back together.

On the trail the day before,  I had discovered that the plug cap was very loosely attached to the spark plug. Back home I replaced the original cap with one of my NGK units which I much prefer. It appears that the plug cap was the problem. I had discovered that there was nothing wrong with the carburretor, and when I started the bike after going through the carburretor and replacing the plug cap...all was well. One more long ride will give me an answer. What I really do not want to do is start chasing some heat related ignition problem. We will see.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Art of the Bultaco-Restored

To those of us of a certain age there is an expectation of what a Bultaco is supposed to look like. And, I think a lot of us, are of the belief that is is the prettiest motorcycle engine ever. There is the clean egg shaped cases...the upswept exhaust with the rich chrome finish... the relatively crude expansion box...and finally the very clean inlet tract with the screw-on air filter. You can easily picture the mixture entering the engine...combusting...and exiting the high mounted exhaust.

I was forced to toss the original Monobloc Amal Carburettor which came with the bike. And, by the way, that carburettor was not original to the Campera. It was originally equipped with a Zenith which was not only ugly but also prone to wear. The Monobloc and the intake manifold which came with this bike when I bought it was from a Mercurio. It was over jetted and worn out. My solution was to install a Chinese copy of a Mikuni which was originally intended for a wide range of Japanese 175 cc trail bikes and MX machines. This installation involved two different adapters bolted on to the intake manifold. An air cleaner was eventually discovered which would fit between the carburettor and the frame. It was not a pretty picture. You can see the installation on one of my earlier posts.

The Chinese Mikuni worked well but I could not bear to look at all of those mismatched pieces. It was absolutely disrupting the graceful lines of the Bultaco engine. The solution was provided by .British Bike Bits. I was able to source a Amal (Wassell) carburettor which is intended for a 175cc BSA Bantam. It is a Concentric and its concentricness means that it is somewhat longer from top to bottom than the Monobloc which it replaced which in turn means that I had to find a spacer to move it out just a bit from the mounting studs to create some clearance. If you check the picture above you will see that there is on a tiny clearance between the bottom of the carburettor and the case. The spacer, between the carburettor and the intake manifold is also clearly visible. That little spacer raised the carburettor up just enough so as to clear the cases.

I have gone out on two test rides and it works perfectly. For me if a motorcycle starts easily and idles I am about 80% perfectly happy with it. The Wassell/Amal carburettor makes the Bultaco even easier to start than the Chinese Mikuni. Just use the tickler to run some gas down the intake manifold and off you go. Never more than two kicks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Tire...New Chain...New Grips...New Levers...Things are Moving along Nicely...

From time to time I post and ask questions on a Vintage Motocross Forum which is based in the United States. It is not a particularly active site and so I am not getting my questions answered but there are some interesting folks on the site that can offer some help. It is a pity that there are not more and better sites for vintage motocross information. There are incredibly helpful sites all around the world for vintage trials people...but not much for vintage motocross. I digress.

On my forth try at mounting this new tire, I finally succeeded. This is a very stiff tire and my hands are not as flexible or as strong as they used to be. Now I can look forward to mounting the another new Maxxis to the front.

I have received some criticism for cutting off the original Bridgestone tire which was mounted on this bike when I bought it. Apparently the tire was specific to the CR250 and prized by collectors. Oh Well...I really need a good tire if I am going to ride this thing. I believe this Maxxis Desert knobby (4.50) will keep me hooked up...unlike the worn-out Bridgestone which came with the bike.

As you can see from the picture above I have a new chain in place as well. Again, much to the dismay of collectors and performance enthusiasts it is not especially "correct". It is an o-ring chain and it does sap some power from the drive line. I am not especially worried. I am sure that I can get myself into some very significant trouble given the power of this bike and I do like the security of knowing that my chain is not going to break ten miles from my house in the Baja Desert.

Above is a nice shot of the OEM muffler. It is a very heavy piece...completely out of keeping with the rest of the bike. At the time this motorcycle was introduced, California had recently introduced laws requiring spark arrestors on all off-road motorcycles. This was Honda's rather inelegant solution. The assumption must have been that the buyers of this bike would remove this piece at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, I am stuck with this "solution". None of the forums that I have visited...nor any of the manufacturers of two stroke mufflers have been able to offer me any alternatives.

When I received the bike, the front mounting bolt on this muffler had been sheared off in the frame and the rear mounting bolt simply was not there. I had to drill out the frozen bolt and clean-out the rear muffler mount for a couple of new bolts. Not a huge project...but it had to be done and it felt good to get those pieces properly mounted. Now all I have to do is get some high temperature paint for the muffler and the side case covers.

The clutch side case cover has been a bit of a project. The very good news is that it had never been removed. The phillips head screws which attach this cover to the crankcase were in perfect condition. There was absolutely no evidence of the screw heads being torn-up in any prior attempts to remove them and the screws themselves were in "like new" condition. The clutch was likewise in "like new" condition. I was primarily interested in checking out the clutch because I have been lead to believe that the clutch baskets on these bikes were subject to excessive wear if abused. This clutch basket was perfect.

A problem arose when I re-assembled the side case cover. As you can see, it is a tight fitting and relatively thin piece. The first time that I re-assembled it...with a new gasket...the kick-starter shaft was bound-up tight. I could barely move the shaft. I took it apart several times and made it a point to carefully check the kick-starter assembly to insure I did not put anything back together up-side-down or backwards...but everything checked-out. It appears that when re-assembling this cover you have to pay very close attention to the order in which the screws are tightened.

Right now the kick-starter shaft is slightly bound-up. What I am going to have do is remove the cover once again and very slightly relieve the bushing where the kick-start shaft comes through the side case cover to create some additional clearance. As things stand right now I can not completely tighten the screws which surround the kick-start assembly. I am not particularly worried about this "modification" because the oil level inside that cover is considerably below the point where the kick-start shaft exits. In the picture above you can see the small bolt which is below and to the right of the kick-start shaft. That is the oil level inspection hole. That is the appropriate level for oil in that side case. It is obviously well below the kick-start shaft. In addition, the kick-start shaft has its own oil seal. So I am not worried about oil coming out of that bushing.

So...what's left? Well, quite a few things. My shocks that I ordered from a Spanish supplier (that shall remain nameless) never arrived and so eBay credited me back the PayPal funds that I had paid to the supplier. So now I am back to my English suppliers looking for a reasonable set of replacement shocks and I still need a front number plate. As mentioned above, the new front tire still needs to be mounted and the forks flushed. I am waiting for a new throttle assembly. One of the previous owners fell over a little too hard on the right side and the original throttle assembly is a little rough.

Watch this space!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

First Ride...In a Very Long Time

About a week ago I finally finished up the assembly of my long dormant TY. It has been almost a year since I started this project. And it was a week before I could work up the courage to start it up.

I know that the usual story is that the restorer...or mechanic works day and night to complete his masterpiece so he can see it running. In my case I procrastinated at least a week before I pushed down on the kick starter. My problem was a simple lack of confidence. When I put the engine together first time it ran poorly and it took me a month or so to figure out that I had done a very poor job of installing the seals on the crankshaft...and so the engine revved wildly when I gave it some gas. I did not know then and I still do not know now how I screwed up this relatively simple installation.

Consequently I was not convinced that I had gotten it right this second time. The very last thing that I would want to do would be to repeat the rebuild a third time. At any rate...the thing fired up perfectly on the second kick. I rode it around the back yard for a couple of minutes and then parked was time to celebrate with a couple of rum and cokes. The next day...yesterday...I went over the bike from front to back to tighten and adjust everything...then I was off for a short ride along the beach and dirt roads of my little community. Everything worked just fine!

I re-discovered that this little TY is a genuinely great bike. The little TY deserves its reputation. Even though the design pre-dates my TLR by about ten years, the TY is a significantly better bike. It is lighter and the engine is just plain amazing. It pulls easily in top gear from almost any speed. Any of the first three gears would have plenty of torque to tackle any sections that I could ride. On top of that...because of my love of bean ride is flavored with the scent of castor oil (Blendzall to be exact) I could not be happier. It was nice to get re-acquainted with my little friend.

Of course there are always more things to do. My clutch cable is worn out. It stray wires or is just stretched to a point where there is no more adjustment possible. I will either have to get a new one from my friends at TY Trials or I will shorten the one have with bits and pieces left over from making throttle cables for my Bultaco and the TLR. I have a lot of cable ends which can be put to use.

After the clutch cable, I am going to have to get after the front tire. It is at least twenty if not thirty years old. I have a nice new Dunlop trials tire ready to mount. I have been slow to undertake this project because it is a major pain in the ass. My Honda CR250 project is presently stalled  because I have mounted the rear tire three separate times and on each occasion I have managed to pinch the inner tube causing the tire to deflate immediately. Each of those three attempts to mount the rear tire took not less than two hours. That is a stiff tire. The idea os spending another six hours fighting with the front tire of the TY is not appealing.

Stay tuned more to come on the TY and the CR.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Finally....The CR 250 has landed...

Last weekend everything came together at Aduana (the Mexican customs agency) Apparently the right guys were manning their workstation and so...the 1976 CR 250M with the sketchy paperwork made it through. Saturday afternoon it finally arrived. Above it a picture of one of the guys who assisted with the delivery.

Upon further inspection the bike has proven to be in better shape than I anticipated. From the ebay pictures it appeared that the seat and tank were close to perfect. The wheels also appeared to be undamaged. In fact the tank is just about perfect. The seat is absolutely undamaged and apparently unused. The side panels are both in good shape and show no evidence of ever having numbers applied. No adhesive...nothing! The tank has three very small indentations. I would not even call them dents.

I quickly got the bike up on my workstand to take a closer look and snap a couple of pictures. Below is a picture. The only thing which is obviously missing is the front number plate. I'll have to look around for one of those. I also noticed that the brake lever is black plastic and quite short.

Below is a picture of the gas tank. If you look closely you can see the very slight indentations. I will not be painting it or attempting any repair. I like it just as it is. These pictures make it look a bit redder than it really is. The nice Honda red is slowly (almost 40 years..) turning to a dull orange. The frame is the same way, i.e...more orange than red.

Below is a picture of the bike from the front quarter. As nearly as I can tell everything is there (except for the number plate) and everything is in good shape. Cosmetically I will just clean it up and mechanically I will be going through the ignition system, the carburetor, and I will be taking a look at the piston. I am hoping that I can get by with just some rings...We'll see.

My first mechanical project started yesterday. I took off the rear wheel and the left side crankcase cover so I could get a good look at the sprockets and chain. I have ordered a new chain and both sprockets. The rear tire was pretty well worn down along the center but the side knobs still had their little tits in place. This bike has never been used in anger. It really does appear that the bike was just occasionally fired up and ridden around some very gentle trails.

Working on the rear wheel was a bit of a revelation. First of all, the rear axle appears to never have been removed. The threads of the axle were perfectly clean and shinny under the axle nut, The wheel rim itself is perfect and bore no scars of any contact whatsoever with rocks. The finish on the rim was still factory fresh, a beautiful unmarked silver/grey paint. The edge of the rim had no marks that would have been present if the tire had been changed. I am pretty sure that the tire was original to the bike.

My last project on the wheel was to remove the tire. Never an easy project, but a 40 year old tire makes it even more difficult. Tires get really really hard sitting around for 40 years. I was able to get one bead off, but getting the second side off was just impossible. I fired-up my grinder and just cut it off. My next treat will be to install a new tire, but at least it will be soft and pliable. Below is a shot of the wheel before removal.

That's all for now folks. After I get the new tire on I will wheel the bike away to make room for the TY. All it needs is a little more assembly.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Elsinore...before it was a bike it was a race

As I wait expectantly for the delivery of my (1976) Honda CR 250M I took a quick look into the "way back" machine to revisit my youth. Attached are several pictures from my entry in an  early 1970's Elsinore Grand Prix. On this occasion I rode my Suzuki Twin Pipe. I am the handsome devil in the exact center of the work shirt...very cool at the time. 

One of the striking things about dirt bike racing in the 1970's was the incredible number of manufacturers. Races today draw no more than four manufacturers. 

Before the race...actually the day were required to park your bike overnight...something like a Six Day Trial event. I think it was a ploy to get more people to spend the night and hopefully drop some money in the local restaurants and motels. My recollection is that this did not happen. In those days the racers were much more likely to camp out in some illegal area and drink themselves to sleep. This is probably not what the organizers had in mind.

The pits...If you needed to visit the pits during the race...this is what you saw. Utterly disorganized and vaguely dangerous. It was a 100 mile race. Ten laps of ten miles each around a course which encompassed both the city of Lake Elsinore and the surrounding countryside. Dirt bikes of that era had smallish tanks so virtually everyone had to come in. In my case I had no clear idea how long my gas supply would last. The fuel tank was stylishly small (and beautiful..) on the RH. I ran out of gas in the middle of the third lap. I asked one of the spectators to "loan" me some pre-mix. The guys were happy to do so. I made it back to the pits and refueled. By the way my refueling "rig" consisted of multiple one gallon wine bottles filled with premix. I was lucky to survive the 1970's.

The Finish line...again yours truly on the Twin Pipe Suzuki. This is a nice shot of the locals...consisting primarily of friends and family. This shot does should not remind anyone of the Goodwood Festival of Speed.  This was a very different kind of crowd, although it must be said that they were in period costumes. actually did race right through the town...on motocross bikes...with knobbies...with expansion chambers (sans mufflers..). It was just a little surreal. I discovered that the curbs were not a hazard at all. On knobbies you ended up doing a fair bit of sliding on the asphalt. The plan, at least for me, was to start a little slide near the middle of the street and use the curb as a berm. It was more than a little above my skill level, but it was a why not!

Fashionable hair...a little bit dismayed by the attention of the photographer (first and now ex-wife)...clearly a "Before" picture.

Just as clearly this would be an "After" picture. I do not look quite so I? I was happy to call it a day and try to decide if I wanted to do this again. As it turns out, I did it once more.

Once more into the breach...As it turns out, I could not stay away. This was the next year riding a Kawasaki Sidewinder. Slower than the Twin Pipe...just as loud...and the suspension was utterly unforgiving. This was the last year of the original Elsinore Grand Prix. It was revived in the late 90's and I did that event once on an older single pipe TM250. The atmosphere was different. Lots of very expensive Japanese Motocross bikes emerging from large well equipped vans...etc.., etc..., etc...You know the scene. I am pretty sure that it is now gone forever.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Man can not live by dirt bikes alone...

For the past twelve years I have been living in Baja California. This has given some of my friends on Google the impression that I live only for older dirt bikes. In fact my mind is a bit more open as can be seen in my last post about my dormant F1. Above is one of my street bikes from the 80's and 90's.

It was a very straight forward Suzuki GS750 when I bought it in the early 80's. Since I lived in Los Angeles at the time I went over to see Racecrafters...a shop in Hollywood I see what they might like to sell me. The only thing that they had that I could afford was the GS1000 style bikini fairing. I stuck it on and happily rode the bike for the next ten years or so.

In the mid-90's I decided to do a little more. First I contacted Corbin...the maker of very nice custom seats. I sent him my seat base and a picture of Wes Cooley's GS1000 and asked him to make me a new seat just like Wes Cooley's. Obviously, they did an impressive job. Next, I picked-up some rear sets from England. Then some Progressive Shocks and a four into one header. The paint was courtesy of a custom painter who had a shop near my office. All I told him was that I wanted a GS1000 style paint job using red as the main color instead of the Suzuki blue. It worked out well. I think that at some point I installed somewhat lower bars...nicer grips, etc...

This was an amazing bike that I would be happy to build again. I used it for almost twenty years. I know that I never checked the clearances on the valves. I'm not even sure that I replaced the spark plugs. I did change the oil regularly and put in new points and a condenser from time to time. It ran like a train always.

Right now I live in a place where the roads are mediocre and drivers are just plain dangerous so I do not venture out on my street bikes very often. If/when I return to the United States I may build another one of these.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ducati F1 Barnfind......No, Not Really!!!

This is sort of a barnfind in that I remembered that I had this old beast in the back of my garage. As you can see from the wires hanging down everywhere I am in the process of re-wiring this Italian masterpiece.

Actually the wiring is not so masterful. By the time I bought the bike in the late 90's the wiring had been pretty seriously bodged (as my English friends say). Several years ago, the bike simply stopped starting. I was forced to confront the reality of Italian electrics. Mapping the human genome was probably easier. First consider the resources. I have yet to see two identical wiring diagrams for this motorcycle. Interestingly enough, none of the diagrams that I have seen correspond to the actual wires and plugs on this bike. It has been a challenge.

I was forced to undertake this wiring project because the bike simply stopped starting about ten years ago. This problem was quickly traced to the wires running from the ignition sensors to the ECU's. These sensors and the wires were provided by Bosch. To my eye they were designed to be used in a dry environment. The wires themselves were fabric covered and relatively thin. In this bike they are required to run in very hot oil. Nothing good can come of this arrangement. Replacement wires are available but the sensors themselves are not presently available from any source. So I am left soldering and hoping that everything will workout.

While figuring out the ignition problems, I discovered that the wires leading from the alternator were grounding on the more problem to fix. Then my Ducati bretheren pointed out to me the benefits of a relay in the ignition/starting another project was initiated. Then one day, I took a good look at the fuse box.  One more thing to fix. Then, after changing the battery cables on my Monster another project was laid on. BTW, if you have a Ducati, you really need to change the battery cables. You will find that your bike is massively easier to start.

Below is a picture of the bike with the seat in place. I just rested it there for this picture. Below the seat is where the new wiring and fusebox are located. The bike is complete. It is just waiting for me to get back to work on it. Maybe after the Elsinore is up and running. As I mentioned in my last post, I can't wait to irritate my neighbors with the beautiful sounds of the Elsinore. Maybe after that experience they will better appreciate the sounds of the F1. To me this bike sounds like something from NASCAR.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Back on November 12, 2014 I bought a 1976 Honda CR 250M. This was the less exotic CR for that year. Points ignition (as opposed to the CDI unit on the CR 250R) and significantly less travel front and rear. It is still sitting in San Diego waiting to come down to me.

Anticipation (see Carly Simon for a musical explanation...) whether sexual or financial or mechanical or some childhood fantasy about Santa Claus can be very exciting....up to a point. I have reached that point with this bike. I am ready to move on.

As you can see above I am as prepared as I can be. A new set of Maxxis tires, a complete gasket set (which I sincerely hope I will not have to use), stainless steel nuts and bolts, a new manual, plugs and points, a set of carburetor gaskets and a couple of sets of head gaskets and base gaskets. I know I will have to take a look at the carburetor and the piston and possibly replace the rings. Sprockets and a chain will have to wait until I see what the gearing should be for my application.

Below is a picture of the bike that I bought...for $1200. The wheels appear to be round. The tank looks to be in very good shape. The expansion chamber looks almost perfect. The muffler is in place. The seat looks good. In short, it is ready for me to put it back on the road. I can't wait to irritate my neighbors.

The problem is that the Mexican agency responsible for import and export matters (Aduana) periodically goes through a convulsion prompted by its especially abusive practices. New agents are brought in from Mexico City...reforms are promised...certain agents are removed or just reprimanded. All of this slows down the practices and procedures at the border. My freight forwarder guys have told me that they need to wait until certain agents are replaced or until certain agents come back on duty before they present this bike for importation. I am waiting and getting ever so slightly irritated and anxious. The workshop is and parts are organized...all I need is a new project. I'm hoping for the best.