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About this blog

The ramblings and discoveries of an old(er) father with a habit for adopting orphaned, unwanted bikes...who remembers King Moon Racer and the island of forgotten toys?  That's me, but with grease, knobbies and kids to ride with...

Entries in this blog

Chapter XV: Progress, but there's always something...

This will be short on text, but will include pics of the current bike state...cleared one obstacle to reach another with King Moon Racer #1. The new carb is in place, with the Y2K Boyesen Rad Valve.  Nice fit and a cleaner look to the engine. New top-end is on the bike...and the compression seems crazy high when kicking it over.  Looking forward to a three-heat-cycle break in. Replaced every oil seal on the engine.  It was another one of those jobs that sounds intimidating until you actually do it for the first time...this seems to be a consistent and recurring theme with almost everything on dirt bikes. Adjusted the pressure plate on the Rekluse Core EXP3.0 to give myself the proper amount of play...I'll report back after a few rides on this Now, for the hurdle... When I got out to the bike in the morning to complete assembly, I noticed very clean oil on the garage floor under the bike.  My first thought was that I had a bad seal somewhere from my replacements, I checked the bottom of the motor, and the drain plug was wet...of course it hadn't been torqued down.  I snugged it, cleaned it and left for two hours to see if there was something else going on. Unfortunately there was, but it wasn't what I would have thought.  More oil on the ground, but all the motor points (seals, drain, gasket surfaces) were dry.  I hopped on the saddle and felt something I never had before.  The compression stroke on the shock felt light, but that could have easily been the new valving.  The rebound told a different story.  Half-way through the rebound stroke I felt a "clunk."  Did the bounce test again with the same result.  It actually felt like a very loose bolt in the linkage or something.  A second set of eyes from a good riding friend helped me pin it down.  The base of the shock shaft was wet with very thin, very clear, new shock fluid.  The "clunk" was the shock stroking through air on the rebound until it hit the remaining oil in the shock body.  Dammit... I'm going to assume that the shock shaft seal was damaged during assembly, even though I used a shock bullet.  For once on this project, I'm going to pay to get work done.  The shock will go to 812 suspension here in Austin for a rebuild and inspection.  I'm not going to have him revalve yet, since I just re-shimmed with a new Gold Valve as per Race Tech's specs.  However, I will let him go through and tell me what was done wrong.  This is payment for education more than anything else. Ugh...so back to disassembly and a few more weeks before riding.  I'll keep you all posted.  In the mean time, I've attached a gallery showing the state of King Moon Racer before discovering the shock issue.

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

Kid Bike Chronicles: Little Speedsters Dirt Bike School

Yes, yes…for those of you following King Moon Racer #1 (my CR250), an update is coming quickly.  Work, life and weather got in the way a bit.  Fortunately, I have a subject that will hopefully be of interest and use to a few of you while you wait. My last three posts involved a look at answering the “big what” question…what bike should I get for my kid?  Yes, all dads focus on the gear… There is a bigger question that needs to be answered FIRST for a great many parents. How.  How do I get this started?  I have no easy place to ride that is kid-friendly. I don’t know if I’m skilled enough to teach riding at a level that won’t scare my child.  I don’t have access to bikes in his/her size without committing thousands of dollars in cash or debt.  I haven’t fitted (or paid for) protective gear for my kid.  I don’t want to drop that kind of cash until I know the activity will be loved by them. How do I get them started without a risky outlay of time and money, while still getting them started “right?” It is easy to forget how daunting the barriers are for people who are not already dirt bike addicts like myself.  Even with my background, these questions really hit me.  I now live in Central Texas, away from the plentiful trail systems and riding areas of Michigan that I learned on.  Here it is all about private land or motocross tracks.  I’ve never spent any time on the track, and I don’t have connections with owners…yet.  I’ve never coached, and kids always seem to learn better when the coaching crew doesn’t include mom and dad. Fortunately, my wife and I found Little Speedsters in Austin, Texas. THE SCHOOL Christophe Hardenne is the founder and lead coach for Little Speedsters.  He rode from a young age in Belgium, racing at higher levels in Europe before he came to the states.  Little Speedsters was started at the time when he wished to teach his 2.5-year-old son, Sebastien, how to ride. Little Speedsters provides a fleet of training bikes.  The lineup consists exclusively of Yamaha trail models; PW50’s, TTR50’s, TTR110’s and one TTR125 for big beginners.  Training wheels and throttle limiters are ready to go when needed.  Everything is kept clean and well maintained, and the students are expected to be trained on the school’s verified-good equipment.  In fact, I had to have the JR50 I built for my son go through Christophe’s tech inspection before he allowed it to be used for follow-up lessons.  Once riders have a history with the school, they can train on their own equipment…but it must be in good condition. Before getting on the bikes, Christophe and crew fit out the new riders with riding gear from FOX.  They take care of helmets, goggles and gloves.  You just need to have your little one show up in a long-sleeve shirt, sturdy long pants and footwear with ankle protection/support. Training areas start with a flat, open section for teaching start/stop/slalom drills.  The youngest students use the training-wheel-equipped bikes with tether leashes for one-on-one coaching.  From there, students graduate to the flat oval for a bit more experience with bike speed, brake control and proper corner positioning. The main track for the school is a generally flat peewee track layout with a few built up “hills” and easy turns.  Tires and ribbon/tape is used to mark off corners and such.  All turns are flat (no berms or rut training at this level).  Everything is wide enough to allow easy, safe passing of the slower kids on training wheels.  Anything remotely intimidating, or that would be too difficult for training wheels, has bypass routes available. All of the trainers know what they are doing. The school’s coaches are certified by the USMCA, United States Motorcycle Coaching Association.  They work not only with the riders, but also the parents.  I giggled when a couple of parents were “instructed” to let the coaches handle the kids during inevitable tip-overs.  Christophe and crew have a specific approach for everything, including recovering from a crash and getting back to action. For less than the price of an adult bike rental at local riding spots, a child can get a 90-minute session with a bike, gear and instructors…free from intimidating obstacles, goon riders, and race-level aggression.  Given the age and attention span of most youngsters, that is effectively a full day.  For those needing special focus, or looking to get a bit more advanced, private lessons with one-on-one coaching are available outside of the normal class schedule. I couldn’t be happier with the experience my kids enjoyed.  In fact, it impressed me enough to buy lessons for nephews and kids of friends as gifts. THE CLUB Once a few waves of students and parents cleared the basics in a few classes, another need…and opportunity…arose.  Parents were sharing contact info to arrange “ride dates,” and kids were outgrowing the basic courses.  Christophe was forward-thinking enough to create the Little Speedsters Riding Club as an extension to the school. A monthly fee secures club membership (with or without use of a school bike, which alters the rate).  This membership gets your little rider access to club rides three Wednesdays and three Saturdays a month. All Wednesdays are at the school, as well as two Saturdays.  The third Saturday meet-up is regularly scheduled at various local motocross parks with peewee/kid tracks.  Weather can be an issue anywhere, even here in Texas.  Fortunately, the club shifts dates if kid-friendly riding is impossible, so six dates are always available in any given month.  Times shift with the seasons…later in the morning during the winter and earlier during the summer to avoid the triple-digit afternoons that come with this location. The club provides not only riding skill advancement, but also mechanical skills.  Member kids are asked to bring their basic toolboxes to events, and coaches work with kids & parents on basics like chain maintenance, tire checks, oil changes, filter cleaning, etc. Little Speedsters Club is currently exploring expansion to include race-day trips, with guidance for first-time race entrants.  How much better would exposure to racing be, for how many families, if they had a network like this in place before they even got to the track? Member riders get a club shirt on their second month, and private social media groups have been set up to help member families in hand-me-down gear exchange, bike purchases/sales, travel coordination, etc. This is exactly what parents new to this community need when those first classes are done, their kids are hooked, and dad is standing there saying, “what do I do now?”  Little Speedsters is not just training riders, but is facilitating the family-riding scene like nothing else I’ve seen in years. THE CONCLUSION Little Speedsters is the kind of program that the industry…and the community…should get behind in full force.  If Christophe is not getting sponsor-level recognition from Yamaha, Fox and other equipment providers, those companies are dropping the ball and other OEM’s should jump in.  I’ve heard of at least one local dealer including a Little Speedsters lesson with purchase of a TTR50…not sure if this was a seasonal thing or a standing offer, but it is definitely the kind of opportunity dealers should be leveraging. Frankly, if I had the means and bandwidth, I would love to help Christophe franchise the school, formalize OEM/apparel sponsorships, and take Little Speedsters to the regional…then national…scale.  I see endeavors like Little Speedsters as a needed lifeline for off-road motorcycling in the United States. Christophe, and the school, can be reached at littlespeedsters.com

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

Kid Bike Chronicles: TaoTao DB10

This is the third installment of my kid-bike posts, written while setting up for the next evaluation ride of King Moon Racer #1.  Pictures will be added to galleries for these posts as soon as possible. The past two entries have been around bikes for my son.  Well, my daughter decided she was willing to try riding after a few family trips to Little Speedsters for my boy.  She took to it immediately.  Christophe and his instructors made it really fun, and I was asked by her to arrange her own bike by the end of the first lesson. She’s a bit taller than my son, so I was thinking about possibly going past a TTR50.  Besides, the market of abused/neglected beginner bikes is rather thin in this area.  Most used bikes were in good shape and were hovering at about the $1000 mark.  Given this, and based on some curiosity I had, I decided to go a different route for her. A local bike shop called Team Scream carries TaoTao trail bikes, from the DB10 up through the DB27.  The DB10 caught my eye: Honda clone parts for the motor, body and frame. I can easily find non-Chinese spares for upgrades Scooter-style automatic transmission, so my girl didn’t need to think about shifting when learning Electric start always available due to the auto trans (still missed the kick-start) 110cc motor, so it could grow a bit for/with her, power-wise Thoughtful accessories, like a skidplate, included stock Out-the-door assembled and properly prepped by a guy who has worked on bikes for decades at $650 This ended up being the ticket.  I made only four accommodating aftermarket purchases for my daughter on the bike: Pink-and-white plastics kit for $40 Senge Graphics (sengegraphics.com) kit for the 01-06 CRF50 Pink grips My evaluation of the bike is going to be geared towards those many dads out there who are considering these as alternates to the mind-blowingly high prices for new 50cc beginner bikes.  Once all the shenanigans of “dealer prep” and “paperwork” are added in, a new CRF50 is just about four times more expensive than this TaoTao DB10, and a KLX 110 is even more dear.  So, I’m going to approach this from the perspective of overall value/quality, while mixing in the perspective of a “beginner’s bike” versus a “pit/trailer bike.” First, the positive points: Full-sized supporting gear.  The pegs were knock-offs of adult-size IMS Pro Pegs, though in a lesser steel.  the brake pedal matched to proportion, making finding it easy for a beginner.  The bars were full 7/8”, and of a taller profile than standard mini-fare.  These were really nice touches that worked well even with a child, and the allowed for easy upgrades/replacements down the line if needed from a crash or for growth. Solid engine and electrical.  It was better than the 70’s-era bikes I started my wrenching on way back when.  Yes, the battery wasn’t a Yuasa, but it never failed to crank the motor since I kept it on a trickle-charger when not riding.  The wiring wasn’t modern-Japanese level, but the wire gauge was fine, and I never had a short or break during a full season of use.  No mechanical failures, no shavings during oil changes, and the valves stayed in spec. Easy customization.  CRF stuff is available from mild to wild in any color or variant you can think of.  If she wished, I could get motor dress-up kits or any type of plastic, rims, tires, suspension mods, etc.  CRF motor stuff is interchangeable over decades.  I could even drop a complete manual motor into this chassis cheaply when it is time for her to start shifting.  I could even add an oil cooler to keep this protected during the unbearable Central Texas summers, though I don’t think she’ll want to be out riding when it is well over 100 degrees. Now, the negatives… Many street-oriented components and design decisions.  Yes, TaoTao has this street legal in some parts of the world, so they use the same steel tank on everything.  A plastic tank would have really helped the top-heavy feeling of this bike.  Also, the steering stops on the frame and triples were street-bike narrow.  At-lock turning radius of this bike was more than twice that of the TTR50. Poor metallurgy, plating and paint.  The 11-year-old frame on the TTR50 looked better than the new frame on the TaoTao.  There were minor, under/through-paint corrosion spots on the frame, the skidplate and the rims as it came out of the crate.  Keeping the bike long-term would mean blasting and painting…or powdercoating…key components after the first season.  Fasteners were of the same frustrating quality as 1970’s-era Japanese bikes, meaning a garage mechanic would live and die by the impact driver…or would need to buy a ton of stainless fasteners No limiters/governors.  I know this sounds crazy, but the mellow nature of the TTR50 and JR50 were engineered in for a reason.  Once my daughter got a bit tired, I could see her head snapping back and forth with the torque from the 110.  There were a few times when the bike shot out on that torque, causing her to move back and involuntarily whiskey-throttle the bike.  Since there was no throttle stop, she had to let the bike go, since pulling herself forward while NOT rolling the throttle was beyond her muscle control as a complete beginner. Full-sized supporting gear.  Yes, this was a positive for the most part, but having an adult-hand-sized, un-adjustable brake lever on a kid’s bike is inexcusable.  It was only $12 to fix, but it would have only been $4 to fix at the factory. Super-lean, non-adjustable jetting on a cheap carb.  I had to warm the bike up forever, blipping the throttle the whole time, on a bike stand due to the automatic transmission.  The wheel wanted to spin/engage while giving the bike enough throttle massaging to get it up to operating temperature, and it is a cold-blooded girl from the factory. So, is the bike worth the price? Is it a value?  I would say definitely, yes…but not for the role of a beginner bike, and that was a correctible shame.  This bike is built with the mindset of al the other TaoTao (and dare I say, Chinese in general) minis.  It is a pit-bike that someone pared down for beginner use.  It would be a great fun-bike for kids who already know how to ride.  It would be a great pit bike or camper-bike (though the DB14 may be better for the latter), it would be a great foundation for a pit-racer or backyard-track bike.  It is a TON of bike and performance for the dollar. However, it is NOT in the same arena as the TTR50, CRF50 or DRZ50/70.  Those bikes are tame for a reason.  They have ½” diameter bars for a reason.  They have tiny levers for a reason.  They are quiet for a reason. They have limiters/governors for a reason.  They are only 50cc for a reason.  They are built to hold value so they can be sold, or handed down, for generations…for a reason. With a bit more thought at the factory, TaoTao could have made this a fantastic beginner’s bike at an incredible price-point that would sell like hotcakes.  Instead, they built a pit bike that is too much for a first-time rider under the age of 10.  My experience with this, and seeing my daughter’s reaction to the extra power, made me rethink thoughts of trying the SSR-70C or Suzuki DRZ-70.  In the case of beginning children less intimidating (less total) power is a good thing. Ultimately, kids need to be able to grow out of a motorcycle, rather than being forced to grow into one, if they are going to have fun from the start.  It is a shame that nobody has figured out how to do that for cost-conscious families with multiple riders who don’t want to use debt to ride. The TaoTao DB10 has since been sold to a family with three boys over the age of 10, who will use it for what it is good at, and intended for…pit bike thrashing by older, more aggressive kids.  My daughter has commandeered my son’s TTR50, and I’m in the market for a CRF50 for my younger/smaller boy

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

 

Kid Bike Chronicles: The Yamaha TTR50E

This is a continuation of the kid-bike posts I decided to write while setting up for the next evaluation ride of King Moon Racer #1.  Pictures will be added to galleries for these posts as soon as possible. After selling my son’s JR50, we decided to pick up the same bike used as a base trainer by the staff at Little Speedsters.  We set out to find a good deal on a Yamaha TTR50.  It took a while to find something I was willing to buy, but after a few weeks of combing ads I had the right opportunity pop up.  It was a fairly neglected 2006 model.  No aftermarket modifications, and almost no work done to it.  White-creased plastics, with scratches and destroyed graphics from multiple drops and goofs, flat tires, dead battery, torn grips, rusted chain…everything you’d expect from an unloved…or not-respected…kid bike.  It went in the van for $500. I was glad it was a 2006.  The single-cable carb was simpler, and nothing else had really changed, though the seller didn’t know that.  I used the model year of the bike as a leverage point in our negotiations without mentioning the evergreen status of the model. This one was a piece of cake to bring back to life.  Of course, like with all used bikes, there was the mandatory strip to the frame and thorough cleaning/greasing during re-assembly.  The shopping list included new tubes, tires, chain, sprockets, battery, grips and a front brake lever.  For cool-factor, and to avoid breaks on future drops, I added a folding-tip Tusk shift lever.  The exhaust got blasted and re-painted with high-temp black.  I added a billet end-cap for $10 of bling, but left the stock baffle in…no reason for the noise with a beginner who isn’t racing. With the plastics, I only had to replace the front fender.  All other pieces sanded down nicely and were covered with a great graphics package from Senge (sengegraphics.com).  The motor got fresh fluids, a valve clearance check, a replacement air filter, a complete electrical system clean-up and a good carburetor cleaning.  The only real questionable addition I made was putting on a blue-anodized BBR skid plate.  I wasn’t sold on the protection from the stocker.  The BBR keeps the bottom of the bike cleaner as well, as the swiss-cheese-holes in the stock steel let everything get where you don’t want it. Once again, as with the JR50, it caught the eye of other kids and other dads, which my son loved.  A few thought it was a 2019 model, and were flabbergasted to know it was just an ‘06 that was treated properly. Our thoughts on the bike itself?  The TTR is a bit heavy in the eyes of my son, after having the JR and swinging a leg over the CRF.  The electric start is nice, but I don’t like losing a backup kick start, and I don’t like fishing for neutral if my kids drop and stall in the middle of a track/trail.  Sure a dad can bump/spin start in gear, but that is more time/effort/inconvenience in the middle of a ride. The bike is as stone-axe reliable and simple as anything I’ve ever ridden or worked on, but making it “better/faster” for my kids to grow with becomes a bit limited compared to something like the CRF.  The pit-bike industry around that model means more options in bars, grips, wheels, plastics, graphics, seats…all the stuff that would give it a longer “life” with non-racing kids.  The TTR is best kept relatively stock and sold to the next eager owner when your kid outgrows it. Right now, my daughter has sort of commandeered this bike as hers after getting started with a TaoTao DB10 (my next post), and my son is asking for the CRF due to his size and the lighter weight/stature of the Honda. Regardless of which way we go in the future, I have to give the TTR50E a solid thumbs-up as a child bike.  The local school uses them for a reason, and I can see why well-kept units basically never depreciate below the thousand-dollar mark.

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

Kid Bike Chronicles: the Suzuki JR50

Since King Moon Racer #1 is waiting for the next evaluation ride, I figured I’d share some experiences and opinions related to some supporting gear and the bikes I’ve put together for my kids.  Pictures will be added to galleries for these posts as soon as possible. This chapter will cover the first bike my son really got to experience no-training-wheels riding on, a rebuilt 1995 Suzuki JR50.  Honestly, I wish Suzuki still produced this bike for the little ones. This was truly a basket case.  I purchased a pile of parts, held together mostly by rust, for $75.  Why would I pick something like this?  Three key points made me pick this for my boy: Physical dimensions.  The frame was narrower between the pegs than the PW50.  In the 90’s configuration, it is a bit lighter than the PW.  It is longer in wheelbase, so it would be more stable at speed.  Best of all, it had the dual mount points for shocks on the swingarm, allowing for a ridiculously low 18” seat height in “tiny mode.”  My son is, at best, at the median for height and weight for his age, so size, weight and manageability when “paddling” was critical for his learning experiences.  The fact that I could grow the bike for him by raising the shocks, changing the seat mount position and shimming up the handlebars meant I wasn’t going to have him “age out” of the bike quite so quickly. Parts availability.  I’ll be honest.  There is nearly zero performance aftermarket for this outside of silencers and chambers available from FMF.  Fortunately, there is a HUGE availability of reproduction parts, including complete fork sets, for this little bike.  Since the motor was also used for very popular Pacific-rim scooters for decades, everything needed for the engine is still available at incredibly low prices.  I was able to get a new piston, cylinder, head and sparkplug in a package kit for $50.  Replacement forks were less than $75.  I was even able to lace up gold aluminum rims to the stock hubs for $60.  A complete replacement frame was picked up on eBay for $40, because the frame didn’t change from 1983 until 2006. “Look at me” factor.  Every tiny kid seems to be on a PW50, because that is all that’s really out there.  Being able to put my son out on an old-school, yellow/blue/gold bike that made every dad smile and every other kid talk was an extra ego-boost that made the experience of riding that much better for my son. Now, I did not go crazy with this bike: Since the frame had the peg mount completely torn off from a case-landing, I bought the replacement frame, which was sandblasted and painted in late-80’s Suzuki blue. I cleaned out, sand-blasted and repainted the stock chamber in aluminum paint, then paired it with an FMF TurbineCore muffler for the reduced noise and spark arrestor.  I laced up those gold rims and put on some other minor bling (gold shift lever, gold oil filler plug).  The top end was replaced in about 30 minutes.  Rear spring-only shocks were disassembled, cleaned and repainted for blue springs. Forks were rusted solid, so replacements were purchased I bought a seat cover, and I gave all the plastic the heat-gun/razor blade treatment The same training wheel kit that’s available for the PW and CRF bolted right on for under $100, so he could get brake and throttle experience before going two-wheel-only. I replaced all of the soft phillips-head bolts on the bike with Allen-head bolts from my old parts bins for nothing. I put on a basic chain/sprocket set and new Dunlop rubber. All in, I spent less than $450 on the bike.  Total time, even with the extra detail work was less than a complete weekend.  For those who always think faster = better, you’d be disappointed in me.  Outside of pulling the secondary pilot jet limiter and removing washers from the pipe header, I made absolutely no performance modifications.  I didn’t even grind open the shift mechanism to access the ultra-low first gear that is blocked out in stock form. Why didn’t I take the opportunity to upgrade the bike?  For the same reason that I wouldn’t hot-rod a CRF50 or TTR50.  This is not some mini-toy for a fourteen-year-old. This would never be competitive if my son really wanted to race against something greater than a sea of PW50s.  The goal for this bike, as for any reasonable “learner bike” is a positive experience for a little kid.  If he ever gets to the point of racing, I’ll move to a race bike.  How many kids are put off from riding by being given too much too soon?  Experienced dads always love more/bigger/faster in their own bikes, but that approach can intimidate true newbies. By the time my son started showing skill on the JR50, we had identified one specific issue with the bike that may have been solved somewhat with the year 2000-onward models.  It was an ergonomic dinosaur.  The bars were too low to even think about standing on the pegs, and that was with a ½” rise from shimming with nuts.  The pegs were far back, and the seat was angled weirdly if the height adjusters were used.  He could never “get forward” on the bike the way that I, and the trainers at Little Speedsters, would have liked him to do. I ended up selling the bike off for $550…nice that I could buy it, build it, and run gas through it for a year for what I got back out of the bike.  My boy and I would have liked to have kept the bike for sentimental purposes, honestly…but some other little guy needed the right bike, and we needed to plan for his next ride. Up next, my thoughts on the TTR50 we purchased for “round two.”

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

 

Chapter XIV: Ride #2- Tweaks, Meltdown and Protection

The mechanical projects began again.  I went back to RaceTech products and ordered a Gold Valve kit, along with all the necessary seals and fluids required for a shock re-valve.  The process was simple…simpler, in fact, than rebuilding one of my forks. You know what was NOT simple, though?  Paying for all the specialty tools that really make these jobs possible.  Shock bladder puller…shock shaft bullet…3.5mm super-fine drill bit for the required bleed hole on the Gold Valve.  By the time the project is done, and by the time I can really do all the challenging tasks, I’ll likely spend more on my garage than I will on the bike. The shock was set to go, so I got to work on finding a Rekluse clutch kit.  Fortunately for me, Rekluse recently listed a new model their Core EXP 3.0 for this bike.  Joy!  The only downer on this job was finding more “glitter” in the oil.  Either this bike is shedding from steel clutch plates or something with a chrome surface was coming off of somewhere in the motor. My kids were ready to go for another ride, so we packed up all three of our bikes and headed to Murphy’s Motocross Park just outside of Austin.  I gave them a few hours on the kids track, then I went to fire up my bike, which had gotten HUGE amounts of interest just sitting on the trailer.  I pulled it down and fired it up…man, kicking this thing over seemed to have been getting easier and easier.  Was I getting more comfortable, or did I lose some ring life with that past runaway?  Hmmm…. Took the bike out on their “night track”, which was shorter and close to the kid’s track.  It was weird getting used to the Rekluse, but I was liking it.  The bike shifted well off power, and I just couldn’t stall in corners, but the bike was feeling down on power.  It was still blubbering/stumbling in the midrange, and that tail pipe smoke wasn’t blue…it was white. Before I knew it, the bike died on a straight…I went to kick and my foot went straight to the peg.  I had lost all compression.  The bike went back on the trailer, and I got ready for another forensic review at home and spent the rest of the day enjoying my “dad-time” with the kids on the pee-wee track. The answer to what had happened became clear when I got the head off the motor back in the garage.  That ultra-lean runaway had started to melt a hole in the top of the piston, leaving a super-thin spot.  Running for a few hours between my two test-rides was enough to allow it to finish the melt-through.  The cylinder showed no wear and miced out at the same diameter, so I ordered the exact same Wiseco piston for round two. I was also confident that the jetting response didn’t match the smoke and black oil out of the tail pipe.  I was sure I had a compromised wet-side crank seal, and I didn’t trust the stator-side.  There was also a minor leak as the shift-shaft, so it was engine seals all around.  I wasn’t going to split the cases yet, but I’d replace every seal I could reach from the outside of the motor. While I was there, I saw the mess my boots had made of the frame spars above the pegs, and I thought about how I had been slipping around.  My first thought was to put skateboard tape on that area, but I’d heard it destroys boots and would look terrible after about a one-day ride.  The solution I came up with made me happy.  I found a set of made-in-the-90’s Acerbis plastic frame guards for the bike.  They were white plastic, and they showed their age.  I coated them in spray-on bedliner and attached them with black zip-ties.  Better grip, better protection and a far better look on the bike. I had received some Holiday bonus pay, so I used that to purchase myself the 2000 OEM PWK carb, the matching Rad Valve and everything I needed for control ergos.  I decided to jet the carb to FMF-recommended specs before installing as a baseline. The control stuff consisted of Renthal FatBar Charmichael-High bends in black, softer polyurethane mount cones for additional vibration control and a set of Boyesen FlexGrips, which seem like the precursor to most of today’s bolt-on grips, but with a bit of engineered cushion for the left side. Everything is back together.  Everything checks out.  Time for the next evaluation ride next week.

dingerjunkie

dingerjunkie

 

Chapter XIII: Ride #1 - Finally

I had finally reached a point where I could begin a true evaluation.  The bike was running, though I knew the carb jetting was still miles off.  Fortunately, a good neighbor had taken interest in the project.  When this stage was reached, he invited me out to a local private riding club called CTOR, or Central Texas Off Road, for a half-day shakedown.  In addition, he allowed me to run the same trails on his 2004 KTM 200 EXC for comparison, which allowed me to gauge what was really going on.  I had realistic expectations and a good attitude.  The result of both was better than I expected. The first positive out of the trip involved vibration, or in this case, the anticlimactic lack of it.  Many detractors told me to expect nasty vibes from the 1997 CR with the thick aluminum frame.  Though initial startup had me worried, I was pleased to notice that the vibration was not a problem for me in the 20- to 30-minute runs I used for testing.  Switching to the rubber-mounted triple seemed to be enough at this stage. The second minor point of notice was the ergo package with the CR-High bend bars.  These felt WAY too low when standing.  Of course, I was “old-man standing” like a trials rider rather than an attack-crouch motocross rider.  Regardless, a higher-profile bar hit the must-have list…glad I purchased cheap bars and grips to test with. The suspension was a victory of sorts.  I intentionally left all damping fully backed out, so I could evaluate just spring rates.  The bike never bottomed and behaved far better than it should have.  The shock was pure pogo-stick action…a rebuild was in order. This led to a general issue regarding handling that I’ll need to spend time pinning down.  The front-end on the bike was the equivalent of reading a speech after having Novocain…you just had to trust that things would come out.  There was no sense of feedback from the front-end at all…I mean zero feel.  It jumped out of a line once, but this was with an older, overweight, stale-skilled rider on a new bike in loose, grapefruit-sized rocks.  My hope is that getting the rear rebuilt, setting sag properly and having the damping properly dialed in will help greatly, as will lowering air pressure in that front tire to assist with a bit more grab. Gearing was fine…I found I had no issues with running out of top-end.  The more technical kind of riding I’m doing, and the more relaxed pace at which I’ll be riding (not racing) felt just fine with the bike.  All shifts were drama-free. Braking was also drama-free, though the rear pedal setup was not to my liking.  The rear brake was a light-switch to locking with the pedal in stock-height position.  Lowering that pedal position is a requirement, and I almost wish I could lighten the ratio a bit to get a more progressive application.  That could have also been the stale rider with stiff boots, so no points lost there. Motor power was entertaining.  I really liked the character of the mill.  This was with atrocious jetting.  Splooge was everywhere on the back of the bike.  It smoked horribly, even when running 50:1 with Amsoil Dominator.  It had a horrible stumble before cleaning out on top, which was bad enough to feel like ring flutter, though I knew it wasn’t.  Given the unsupported state of the PJ carb, I knew I had to give in and purchase either the Lectron or a new, properly set-up, Keihin PWK Air Stryker unit. A flywheel weight was absolutely ruled out for two reasons.  The first is that I loved the nature of the motor so much that I’d hate to kill that free-revving character with fourteen ounces of steel added to the crankshaft.  Yes, I did stall the bike twice (recovered once by dumping the clutch while rolling…easy bump-start with no lost momentum), but there are other remedies to that…which I had the pleasure of experiencing on that 200 EXC. Though the goal was to not go nuts on this bike, I have found my first truly large-scale expenditure I must indulge.  The KTM had a Rekluse Core auto-clutch.  All I can say is that is was like cheating.  With that clutch to eliminate the stall risk, and the ability to still stab at the lever if I wish to spin up the mill, spirited (but not competitive) riding became far easier.  The Rekluse will allow me to keep the free-revving nature of the motor while doing everything I would have attempted with the flywheel weight. On other fronts, I was able to stop worrying about the cooling situation.  We were out on a 100-degree day and the CR never even got close to overheating.  I’ll never work this bike hard enough with my preference for 80%-max “flow-riding” to worry about aftermarket impellers, thicker radiators or any other gimmicks.  There was huge relief with that knowledge. Given what the outcomes could have been, this first shakedown run was a delight.  The list of must-do items has dropped radically, though the budget has just been blown wide open.  Such is always the case with bikes like these.

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Chapter XII: False Start #3 – Runaway!

I had finally reached a point where I could fire the girl up.  It had been a few years since I kicked over something with such high compression that was this tall, so the bike went on the stand. Fluids…check.  Oiled filter…check.  No visible leaks…check.  Spark at the plug…check.  Time for the moment of glory. First kick…nothing.  Second kick…a burble…YES!  Third kick… …and a nightmare began to unfold in my garage… There are many younger riders, or mechanics from the four-stroke era, who have never experience what I am about to describe but believe me when I say this is all real.  On that third kick, the bike revved up on that natural blip you give when kicking a bike for some reason.  Unfortunately, it kept revving…and revving…and revving. Before I had time to think, the bike was at a mechanical rev-max. The throttle was down.  Was the carb stuck? No.  Almost breaking my thumb on the kill switch…nothing.  Did I mis-wire it?  It was time for drastic measures.  I pulled the spark plug cap, taking a few shocks as I did it…and nothing changed. At that point I knew I had an air-leak-induced, ultra-lean runaway.  Some readers will want to throw the BS-card on that, but in an ultra-lean condition, the spark plug (or a carbon deposit in a worn engine) can super-heat to the point of supporting ignition like a diesel, so pulling the ignition wouldn’t help. With an older, less compact bike, I’d reach in and put my palm over the carb mouth, but there was no way to do that here.  I also didn’t want to slam the bike into gear on a stand when the bike was beyond what I would have though of as a “redline.” I shut off the fuel, waited for the carb to run dry, and prayed I wouldn’t get hit by flying parts from a motor-grenade. The bike finally stopped.  Nervously, I slowly kicked the bike through and sighed a shaky sigh of relief.  The bike hadn’t seized.  I joked to myself about break-in.  So much for a three-heat-cycle intro on this new top-end.  It just got three hours of wear in about 90 seconds. Once the bike cooled down, and my adrenaline spike passed, I assessed the data I could gather.  There was quite a bit of smoke in the garage and of course the bike didn’t seize.  Perhaps there was lots of old premix down in the crank cavity?  That air leak had to be somewhere, and it was likely somewhere I touched. I trusted the level of the base and head decks for the recently-serviced cylinder, as well as the recently-cut head.  The gaskets at those points were good, and all torque settings were right.  Then I found it.  The bottom center bolt holding the rubber manifold to the reed block was loose.  The air leak had come in past the reed block.  Not torquing the bolt was my fault, but I also didn’t like the two-piece setup of the manifold and the reed block assembly, with the two gaskets needed.  I decided on that alone to eventually replace that intake tract with a one-piece Boyesen Rad Valve whenever I replaced the carb. I re-drained the oil and got another “hairy” drain magnet and glittery drain pan.  At least this allowed a good trans flush. Nervously, I checked everything out again…fresh oil.  Good coolant level.  No leaks.  Everything torqued properly.  Fresh plug, just in case the insulator had cracked or the electrode was compromised by that heat. I kicked again…feeling a little less compression (figured it was just break-in).  On the second kick, the bike started up with a normal idle and responded to very timid/ginger throttle applications.  The bike and I had dodged a bullet, and we were both ready for the next step.

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Chapter XI: Finishing the Triage Build – False Start #2

Three days after finishing up the suspension work I received a box at the front door.  It took five weeks, but the top-end work by Eric Gorr was flawless.  Out of paranoia, and at the request of some doubters on one forum thread, I had etched a marking on the cylinder casting to ensure I got the same part back.  There should never have been any doubt.  There was also a new number stamping/etching by Gorr’s shop, letting me know they keep notes on cylinders that come through their business. I knew it was the original head only because there were still a few minor pits in the freshly-cut head from the prior ring-shrapnel damage.  Everything looked better and cleaner than new.  Everything went together with absolutely no issues.  From the looks of it, this cylinder should last me another decade if I treat the bike properly.  Since everything else checks out on measurement/inspection, I hoped to avoid any other work to the motor for now.  This left me with only one other note of interest…The Other Oil Question.  On a two-stroke, case oil bathes the gears, the seals and the friction plates of a clutch.  No cooling or lubricating of a top-end comes into question.  Well…this list of items/internals sounds very much like another familiar system…an automatic transmission with gears, seals and friction plates.  Given this, the price of lubricants and how often I intend to check/replace fluids, I’ve decided I’m going to run something made purely for this kind of mechanical environment…transmission fluid.  Specifically, I’ll be running ATF Type-F.  Many have used it in this application with no issues for many years, and nobody has given me a strong explanation why I shouldn’t.  I’ll have to report back on any issues if they arise, but I don’t foresee any at this stage and with my prior experiences. The motor was complete, the suspension, wheels, brakes, running gear and body repairs were all done.  The countless rubber bushings and isolators had been replaced.  Electrical systems were back in place.  The cooling system was refilled.  Fresh fuel was in the tank, feeding the original (but cleaned) carburetor, on the jetting from the previous owner, breathing through a new filter in a clean airbox…but then there is always something, isn’t there? I noticed that the kickstart shaft was laying heavily against the FMF pipe.  If I moved the kicker back one spline on the shaft, the kicker contacted the frame and wouldn’t fold in.  Pictures of stock bikes showed the kick-starter exactly half-way between the two available positions I had.  Grrrr…   This led me to believe that internal components were misaligned by the PO when working in that area, or that the mechanism was somehow worn.  I was thinking I’d put a rubber shrink-tube on the kickstart shaft…I wasn’t about to pull the clutch and dig into the kickstart mechanism for a spline alignment issue.  However, it was just another potential problem shown by a minor external detail pointing to prior mistreatment by an owner who either didn’t care or wasn’t a solid mechanic. After parking the bike and leaving it for a while, I came back to a nickel-sized coolant spot below the motor.  Once again, a sad but expected issue.  The previous owner said he had rebuilt the water pump.  He did it incorrectly and damaged a coolant seal.  The leak was small enough that it was likely being absorbed into the dirt and grime that had built up under the pump weep hole.  Just like with the fork seals, a clean bike would have exposed more problems.  This didn’t surprise me, given the mis-aligned kickstart shaft and the missing flange bolt on the flywheel.  Since I need to pull the clutch…again…to realign the kick start shaft assembly, it will be very little additional work to rebuild.  If it were just the kick shaft, I’d let things pass, but I don’t want to go riding with a failing coolant pump seal. So…into the motor we go…again.  Of course, this uncovered even more joy.  You may recall that when I put the first fresh ATF-F in the gearbox, I also installed a high-gauss magnetic oil drain plug to the bike.  Remember now…the bike hasn’t really been run yet.  All I did was the work described, followed by filling with fresh fluids, kicking the bike through a few times, rolling it around the garage, and shifting it through gears on a bike stand while spinning the rear wheel by hand. The drain plug came out in a manner that reminded me of that iron-shaving beard/moustache/hair game some of us old-timers may remember from our younger years…the same game that can still be purchased at Cracker Barrel waiting areas.  The magnet was completely covered.  I’m talking about a layer standing out easily ¼ to ½ of an inch in every direction.  I cleaned the silver mess off onto a shop towel, then looked at “sparkling” ATF coming out of the motor.  Either his gearcase had never been flushed, or I inherited a major/imminent component failure in the gearbox.  Since the motor had been far enough apart for someone to replace the clutch basket, misalign a kick-start assembly and botch a water pump seal, I’d have to assume fluids were changed.  Regardless, the heavy magnet pulled huge amounts of debris out.  I also wiped more silver mess out from under the clutch hub when pulling both covers for the water pump rebuild.  If this much came out with a single fluid change and no motor run-time, I had to assume there was similar debris just sitting in the transmission bearings and chewing away at internal seals.  The thoughts that came to mind with this created a knot in my stomach, but I had to press on at this point.  If a major transmission failure mid-season is avoided, I’ll have to assume that a case-split and detailed transmission inspection will be needed over the winter. Well…the kick starter was now properly aligned, the water pump no longer leaked, and I removed a bunch of shrapnel from the gearbox…getting closer.

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Chapter X: Fuel, What Kind, How Much & How to Deliver It

This component of the project is far-reaching.  The decisions here impact areas way outside of mixing fuel, oil and air.  How much fuel will I need to carry with a given setup?  How much will that weigh?  How will it impact ergonomics and suspension?  What will the maintenance burden be for the motor or for the fueling system itself?  How will environmental variances impact setup and maintenance issues? This is where systemic thinking is required.  All components of a system interact, and one must look at the entire composition when evaluating a single point. So…first thing is first, but it may not be what you’d expect.  Where am I riding?  Here in Central Texas, we have extremely rapid, unexpected changes in temperature, barometric pressure and humidity.  Mid-summers will be in the high 90s-100s during the day with super-low humidity.  Spring and Autumn are volatile.  I’m writing this in April…yesterday was a humid 85 degrees.  This morning it is 46 and dry, with the temperature expected to drop all day to an overnight low of 36.  Tomorrow, the high is expected to be 70 again, and we’ll be in the mid-eighties and dry for the remainder of the week.  I’ve seen 30-degree temperature swings in a single afternoon over less than three hours.  What one jetting setup will work in all of that?  How ready are you to re-jet, sometimes mid-day?  If compromising, rich is safer than lean, and that may mean a lot of fouling or blubbering. I’ll be riding off-road, not on a track, with loops that can reach 50 miles.  I’m on a 250 two-stroke, so fuel consumption needs to be accounted for.   Either I need to increase capacity or I need to somehow increase economy.  Also, off-road riding means far more partial-throttle riding at lower revs…only occasional bursts into the peak of the power curve.  Oiling needs at partial throttle and lighter loads are not as extreme as track riding, so I can likely go with a lighter premix ratio to avoid smoking, pipe spooge and load-up…which will also cause a revisit to jetting specifications. The 1997 CR came with an early Keihin power-jet.  The servos had been known to fail, and jetting can be inconsistent as the performance of the electronics degrade over time.  For the sake of simplicity and maintenance, a new carb is in order.  I could go with a Keihin PWK Quad-fin Air-Striker, which would set me back a few hundred before jetting experimentation.  Man, though…a Lectron or SmartCarb look like really sexy options. Where does this fit in the bling equation?  The Lectron is supposedly self-adjusting for temperature and altitude.  The High-velocity variant is designed for better partial-throttle performance.  Most important, non-endorsed riders have regularly reported 30-50% improvements in fuel consumption numbers.  I have better ways to spend time than fiddling with jetting.  Increasing my fuel consumption by 30-50% would be like adding an extra gallon of fuel to the tank, but without the ergonomic compromises or impact to suspension setup.  That is all far from bling. However…price…man, that is huge.  The price tag alone sent me back to the forums, and I read post after post of how good the Keihin PWK Air Stryker did once properly set up.  A review of online OEM parts sources allowed me to find a new-in-box OEM Keinin PWK Air Stryker for the 2000 CR250R for right at $200.  Smaller diameter than many are putting on aftermarket, but I’m looking to trail ride and run partial-throttle in off-road events while living in the bottom and midrange.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  I’ll still wait to see how things work with the stocker at first, but if a replacement is a must-have, or if I end up with some bonus cash, this will be a quick purchase. Regarding air quality and filtration, Central Texas is far dustier than what I was used to in Michigan.  In the mitten, it was loamy dirt, mud, sand or water-crossings.  Here, it is far drier, rockier and dustier.  I was floored by the amount of dust on my little boy’s JR50 after only two hours of riding in the Austin area.  I’m getting ready for far more regular filter exchanges and cleanings.  I can tell right now that I’ll be using a fresh filter skin with each ride to try to safely extend that service window a bit. When the current Boyesen reeds start to age and fail, I’d consider a Moto Tassinari V-Force-3 cage setup, based on reports of improved low-end response with no jetting changes.  However, if I’m satisfied with performance before then, I’ll likely stay with the stock cage and quality reeds.

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Chapter IX: Mastering the Front Suspension

I was ready to give in and trust a local suspension guru with this.  Experience with tuning suspension goes beyond repair.  A specialist, with special tools, has their place.  That is why I sent my top-end to Eric Gorr for corrective work.  Even simple suspension stuff can be difficult to coordinate…ever try to measure race sag on a bike without two other people, or a hugely expensive, computerized tool?  I’ve never re-valved and tuned suspension like this on my own.  However, I have rebuilt and re-sprung single-chamber, cartridge-style USD forks with no issues.  Would I go it on my own or trust a professional? The flip-side was wanting to know this bike better and wishing to learn the skills related to suspension work.  This was a golden opportunity to take on the challenge.  Intimidation may be more of a hindrance than anything, and I’ve chided others for being fearful of learning.  Hmmmm…. In this case, what it came down to was price and time.  I’d need to pay for parts regardless of who does the work.  Could I buy tools and learn to get a good result in a shorter period and less cash than what I’d get taking ancient, damaged suspension to a local tuner who does this for a living?  Am I likely to break or botch something that will cost me more time and money than going with a pro?  Will the improvement I can make be good enough for me as a non-racer?  How much money do I really have to do this, regardless of the benefit a pro would bring? This took a quote from the suspension shop here in town.  The baseline was $1000 before they even looked at it.  On my own, being frugal on eBay, all the required parts for the front and rear, including oils, came in at about $750 for rebuilding, re-springing and re-valving both ends of the bike. I thought I would start with a first-stage partial fix.  The back got a rear shock spring, but with no rebuild.  The front needed all the attention and budget, so it got a bushing kit, seals, springs, a Gold Valve kit and fresh oil. What was the big barrier?  Fear.  Was it warranted?  Absolutely not.  I learned how things worked by following instructions provided by RaceTech to the letter.  The hardest part was sanding down two pieces of PCV to get 4mm preload spacers in the proper size for both forks.  The valving just took patience and the right tools.  Yes, old oil is messy, and filling/bleeding new oil can be almost as bad if one is not careful and methodical.  However, I have a far better understanding of what is going on with the mechanics of this system now, and I’m glad I took on the work…even if the result ends up being a few percentage-points below what a pro tuner could have given me. So, both ends went back together and immediately felt smoother and far more balanced with the “bounce test.”  The fork experience made me eager for the time that I can take on rebuilding the shock myself.

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Chapter VIII: Working on The Rider

I could tell that this bike, once done properly, should surpass me.  I also know from instinct that my kids will physically surpass me sooner than I’d expect.  There is no reason to magnify those two gaps by working with the kids, working on the bikes and not improving myself. Years of working at a computer, sitting behind drum sets in clubs and eating the wrong things have left me beyond “pudgy.”  So, what does my personal assessment look like? I need to shed fat, not weight.  So, as much as I know I’ll be grouchy to start, I’m going to fast, then go into a ketogenic diet.  I’ve seen it work wonders for my brother.  The concepts behind it and traditional Paleolithic diets just flat-out make sense.  For me, personally, there will be two challenge points with the diet change.  First is my life-long sweet tooth.  Sugars are out, and the majority of sweet substitutes are neuro-chemical nightmares that still cause insulin spikes…the one thing you need to avoid with Keto.  As much as I dread the initial craving hit, it is time for me to man up and abandon the habit of sweetening stuff.  I’ll need to remind my wife and children how much I love them before I start, because they’ll likely hate me when I’m in transition. The second diet hurdle for me will be drinking my calories.  I do not drink much alcohol (beer regularly skunks-out in my refrigerator), but I have lived an “anything but water” life.  Juices, sweetened teas, sodas, milk, junk in my coffee.  I’ll consider it a personal milestone if I can go three weeks without taking in calories from a cup. As far as muscle goes…bulking up usually means stiffening up.  Inflexibility is the biggest inhibitor to performance, as well as the fastest route to injury.  I don’t need stronger muscles until I have longer muscles.  I’m going to start with body-weight resistance and muscle stretching exercises as taught by Matt Fury in his Combat Conditioning program, which I subscribed to at an earlier age ( fureyfaithful.com ).  I’d consider cross-fit, but I’m not a “team sports” kind of guy.  The whole crowd motivation thing is a piece that annoys me. Once the fat is off, once the flexibility is improved and once my core strength is back up, I’ll evaluate endurance ability and consider focused cardio.  There is enough to do before I reach that point.

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Chapter VII: “First Ride” Revelations – Interrupted

Working through a bike in “evaluation state” can be rewarding, frustrating, draining and entertaining all at the same time.  The key to keeping your sanity is remembering that the goal of these first few rides is not to figure out how long you can delay doing more work to the bike.  It is also not about fine-tuning or dialing in. This is where you hope to see what the character of the basic bike is, so you know how to approach making it a long-term fit.  However, many times this stage is all about identifying how you need to prioritize your next emergency surgery.  Is that crank as in-tolerance as you thought (rod knock)?  Is that “slightly stiff” clutch beyond slightly stiff?  Does the bike need to be taken back to the start for jetting?  Did you miss anything huge, like an unexpected air leak?  Did the oil get milky on the first run?  Oh, the joys of “just getting it running to see what’s up.” In this case, a few things popped up before the “running” phase hit.  As discussed earlier, I cleaned up the whole bike, serviced the front and rear bearings/bushings, put new rubber on the rims, rebuilt the brakes, rebuilt the clutch, added the new seat cover, plastics, graphics, cables, controls, kick-stand…and stopped.  I had gotten ahead of my top-end repair order with Eric Gorr Racing.  I am fine with waiting for good work to be done, especially in the rush-season at the beginning of Spring. So, time to jump on the saddle and drop myself onto the seat hard to check initial suspension balance.  The rear-end dropped way faster than the front…need to add preload to the existing spring for the time being.  In the front, however, I had an initial rapid drop, followed by mid-stroke resistance that felt like binding.  After getting the forks through a deeper stroke with the front brake applied, I checked the sliders.  There was not just a residue line, but a long drip running down more than three inches from the bottom point the seals reached on one side.  The oil drip was dark, and it smelled rancid.  I was positive the seals were totally shot.  All that filth on the seal surface and sliders was actually stopping the bleeding…would that be considered clever neglect?  The bushings were obviously worn out.  I’m sure the fork oil was never changed and was likely running low enough to damage the fork.  I hoped the internals and the slider surface were not too badly damaged.  I was also sure the shock was just as bad.  Regardless of what else I would find with the carb, the clutch or anything else, the suspension made itself the first project after the motor.  I couldn’t afford to let the front forks get damaged, so they needed care first.  The only question would be whether I could go forks-then-shock, or if I’d have the time/coin to tackle both at the same time. This also let me know that the one area I was thinking about most when tearing down…the frozen spokes, 19” rear wheel and beat-up rims…would need to drop on the priority list.  Fortunately, I didn’t plan to be riding aggressively enough with my little boy in our first season together to shred the existing wheels, so this seemed a safe project to schedule for Winter 2018. Other, minor thoughts came to mind upon reassembly inspection.  The stock-shape front fender just kissed the plastic guards on the radiator…and blocked quite a bit of surface area airflow-wise.  I’ll need to look at a slotted/vented/short-back front fender to improve cooling, especially if/when I go to a deeper, double-row radiator.

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Chapter VI: Operational Madness…Bringing Her to Life

In the last post, I went over everything I found during a half-day triage-pass on the project bike.  It wasn't pretty, but it lined up with about what I expected for this project at my starting price. So, given my project-approach rules (covered in a previous post), I reviewed each area of the bike and made my decisions on first purchases and first actions to, at least, be ready for a legitimate evaluation ride.  Here is the grocery list as I wrote it in the first post-triage night. Motor Work Purchased a Wiseco forged piston in stock sizing, then sent it, and the entire top-end, off to Eric Gorr racing for re-plating, repair, power valve service and head-cutting for pump gas. Cleaned and inspected electrics, which will run as-is for now during my first few assessment rides when the top-end is back Purchased an FMF Gnarly Torque pipe along with a TurbineCore-II silencer With bottom-end in spec, I’ll leak-down test the bike as-is, with plans to tear into the motor completely after evaluations  Tires/Wheels Stock rims and spokes usable for evaluation, though I needed to clean up rim inners with a wire wheel to eliminate residue and corrosion caused by use of duct tape in place of real rim strips Replaced rubber with Shinko 505 Cheater & 546 front, plus heavy tubes Will plan on re-lace to new rims, spokes and Tubliss on future phase Drive & Brakes Primary Drive steel sprockets in 13/51 combo with base O-ring chain for initial testing. Chinese Wave Rotors in Stock Diameter, ordered with sintered-metal pads Caliper & master cylinder internals serviceable…inspected, cleaned & rebuilt Pins showing some wear, but serviceable for evaluation Russell steel-braided brake lines installed front & rear with new crush washers All swingarm & clamp guides/clamps for brake lines needed to be replaced, as nylon had become brittle over the years.  All OEM replacements for those. Controls Tusk 7/8 bar in CR-High bend, with Tusk grips and Tusk grip-levers to start evaluation Replaced clutch and throttle cables Replaced 1997 triple with 1998 unit that had rubber-mounted bar clamps, making for easier future modifications and (hopefully) less hand-shock before additional mods Stock brake pedal used, but replaced tweaked pegs with used set of IMS Pro-Series, and TUSK shift lever Suspension All existing bearings serviceable (inspected, cleaned, re-greased) Shock & Spring cleaned, but not opened yet.  All clickers set to full-soft as baseline, with sag to be set on first ride.  Planning on rebuild after assessment Forks cleaned up & all clickers set to full-soft as baseline.  Planning on rebuild after assessment Body/Graphics Complete plastics kit from Polisport was out of stock and radiator shrouds were okay, so I purchased both fenders, side covers and front number plate from Polisport Pro-Bolt replacement bolts (only used where old stuff was not serviceable) Moose Gripper Seat Cover in Black...I may change color in the future if I decide to go bling/graphics-crazy when the project is more or less complete Factory-FX Shroud-only graphics, since the original shrouds are showing age (though usable)   Okay, so many out there would be swallowing their tongue at a work/shopping list of this magnitude...but I'd bet you'd find almost as many things that need touches on most private used bike purchases if one were to really dig in and look at what they purchased, even for bikes at triple what I paid (which still wouldn't be much).  Let's also be honest about these items.  Almost everything I've listed would have been done and paid for over time on this bike by someone who owned it from new.  I consider many of these to be "consumable expenses" with realistic use of a dirt bike. So, yeah, lots to do, but I was ready and motivated.   

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Chapter V: The Many Faces of Neglect, or “My God…What Have I Done?”

The bike came home, and tear-down began.  Everything I found would be expected by anyone to takes the care and feeding of old dirt bikes seriously.  Anyone insisting a two-decade-old bike NOT have most of these issues at purchase will spend as much on that bike as they would on a new machine (they are called “vintage shop restorations”). Craigslist pictures are always taken to hide problems.  Horrors, or amusing jokes, always come during the visit to see the project.  Even if externally clean, you will still find a significant portion of these items hidden upon a real inspection.  Of course, such a complete inspection is never allowed when negotiating a purchase.  How many sellers will be comfortable with you pulling out a compression tester or voltmeter in their driveway? Because of this, one must anticipate, and budget for, common problems when planning a purchase.  Some of what I found me laugh.  Some just made me shake my head thinking that a person was willing to ride the bike in this state.  As with most of my bike projects, the triage process brought me a level of sympathy and understanding for the bike.  I started to see her history.  I began to care.  I began to realize she deserved better. For brevity, I’ve kept the triage results in a bullet-form matching what I scribbled on my workshop notepad as work proceeded…   In Pursuit of Clean This is the time-consumer and the scar-revealer.  All that funk all over the place can sometimes make a gem of a bike look bad.  Other times, it really acts like makeup on the last-call chick at the bar…yeah, it was bad enough to need beer goggles, but man, the reveal is even worse.  Time to see what is under the sediment. Oil-encrusted dirt/funk everywhere No junction-rubber between silencer & exhaust, so mid-bike coated in black dirt-magnet slime Chain-sling funk caked everywhere you’d expect Sun-faded/weakened plastics covered with graphics in lieu of needed replacement. Tweaked bars, spray-painted over faded anodizing, with matching bent levers and hand-cut foam to replace the original clamp-pad. Torn/faded/stained seat cover, but the underlying foam was good. Air filter just looked dirty but started to disintegrate as soon as I touched it. Original coolant hoses were present, with all their bloating and rotting, but with perfectly fresh coolant? Angled/tweaked radiator (unnoticed until off the bike…minor), no fin damage Brake Maladies Wow.  I can’t figure out how people can let brake systems get so out of hand.  Hydraulics are less intimidating than electrics…at least to me.  What, if they don’t lock up immediately, don’t fade completely and don’t scream like a banshee, they must be good?  I can see people being intimidated by suspension internals or by major electrical hop-ups but being able to stop reliably with good modulation seems to be something everyone should put high on the list of must-haves. Heavily-scored front rotor, with thin, unevenly-worn front pads Thick pads in back, but a noticeably warped rear rotor…possibly from impact?  Would stock guard still be intact with a hit hard enough to bend that? Original brake lines, with no marks on caliper/cylinder banjo bolts (never cracked or bolts replaced) No marks on front cylinder screws Brake fluid like medium-roast coffee when cylinders opened up Suspension Condition Okay…I sort-of get a lack of maintenance in this area for many.  If they move up and down, don’t lock out and don’t pogo-stick the rider off the bike, suspension components are usually feared by the mass of riders out there.  How many bikes with potential were thrown out or passed over just because their forks and shocks were never maintained, much less tuned, for the rider/style/skill using it? Dried dirt/grease funk from stem bearings, but not from linkage bearings Pushed-down filth on fork sliders…old dirt, or fresh leakage from bad seals? Corrosion spots on rear spring, likely from stone impacts and lingering filth No marks/scores on shock spring preload rings All clickers work front and back…and show no signs of being touched Motor inspection This is always a crap-shoot.  Fortunately, with a two-stroke, there is very little to complicate repairs outside of almost-intentional neglect.  This is the part of the bike that also gives the best insight into the ownership lineage of the bike. Stock silencer…never repacked, spray-painted black to hide scars Exhaust chamber crushed & leaking…one rotted elastomer Carb looked to be in good order Reeds in good shape (Boyesen dual-stage in place) HUGE gouge in back skirt of Namura piston Welded-in and broken rings Acne on inside of head and piston top from ring shrapnel Wear to Nikasil, plus aluminum deposits (cold sieze?) with stock porting Two small notch-gouges in a transfer port and an intake port from ring-eating Small oil puddle (green) under flywheel…bad/old crank seals? No play in crank bearings No vertical-plane play in rod, and side thrust in spec Missing Stator flange nut! Corrosion on electrical components & bolts behind magneto/flywheel PO claimed to have replaced coolant pump seals Coolant looked fresh Notchy, stiff clutch with first lever pull... Will need to replace cable by default Stock pressure plate (flat) Hinson basket, plates (friction & steel) and springs, all EC (YAAAAY!) Stock inner hub seriously grooved, which is the price of steel plates on a stock hub.  I will buy Pro-X replacement for budget purposes Push rod showed no end-dimpling or wear Testing arm/rod motion with cable pull and end-pressure showed no notchy/inconsistent travel, end heavily corroded, though…will replace. My conclusions from looking at the motor provide at least two life-stages for this CR.  There was a first-owner to really cared.  They installed a Hinson clutch.  They rebuilt the water pump.  The second owner was a kid or someone who was seeking minimum input.  The power valve was gummed up.  They ran a cheap Namura piston without checking cylinder tolerances.  They ignored worn cylinder plating.  They went to pull the flywheel but go so scared that they didn’t even replace the flange nut they removed.  This second owner, realizing the damage from the eating a cheap piston, decided to button the cancer patient up and sell her off or part her out. Wheel Inspection In my experience, very few people even think to look at their wheels outside of replacing worn tires or fixing flats.  If a bike is lucky, it may get an owner who taps spokes to listen for rattles whenever a tire is changed.  How much power is lost to shot bearings?  How many wheel hubs are destroyed due to absent spoke maintenance?  How much bad handling or high-speed “nervousness” is caused by wheels that are sloppy, misaligned and way out of true?  When will riders learn that a wider-than-stock rear tire won’t necessarily improve traction…and will likely worsen handling? Sprockets and chain shot, as expected Duct tape is never an appropriate replacement for a rubber rim strip Every spoke nipple not just seized, but rusted solid onto spokes Glue-residue from tape impacting tire bead surface Filthy rim-locks…need a cleaning before I can confirm integrity Pristine rotor bolts, but destroyed sprocket bolts Bearings and seals serviceable for initial ride-testing…nothing rusted or notchy   ...yeah...this bike is going to be fun...

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Chapter IV: THE RULES – Guidelines for This Project…Or Any Project

This chapter is really a set of guidelines that I’ve learned to apply in just about any project, whether it be working on a bike, repairing lawn equipment, writing software, re-engineering a product for a company, handling handyman jobs around the house…you name it. These are here as a framework to refer to when working through my King Moon Racer.  Thinking about these rules when tearing down keeps me from being overwhelmed by a project.  They keep me in controlled stages with my budget.  They allow me to enjoy myself in the shortest amount of time. If my son shows as much interest in the garage as he does in riding, I’m sure this will have to become a laminated poster on the shop wall one day. Follow the “software order of operations” Make it work…Make it fast…Make it pretty Do NOT be afraid to disassemble and inspect This fear makes as much sense as not going to the doctor when you have symptoms of a heart condition or cancer.  You’re avoiding dismantling a clutch pack because you’ve never done it before and you’re afraid?  Overcome that fear by doing it.  Don’t’ want to do it because you’re afraid of what you’ll find?  If so, why are you even doing this?  Many times, an actual problem found is less expensive than the damage done by not looking. Ride and test in an operable state before committing to big changes. The bike may not be what some online opinions/flames suggest.  What is bad for a track racer may be fine for a semi-aggressive off-road fun-rider.  What is “too soft” for a 200+ pound guy may be just fine for the 150-pound dude. If a component needs eventual replacement, don’t make tightly-related upgrades there If you’re considering conversion to an 18” rear, don’t put Tubliss on the existing 19” rim. Weight loss on the bike is not important until there is weight loss on you Four-ounce difference from titanium bolts?  A 10% lighter set of foot pegs?  Wow…oh, did you remember to drop a deuce before riding?  No?  You just blew all that expensive “weight savings.”  The exception here is comparing weight when a change MUST be made.  Is a Tubliss install lighter option than a Rim Saddle with heavy-duty tubes on a front-rim that you’re keeping? Plan your changes around what cannot change Does your bike have a close-ratio transmission, with a tall first-gear and no replacement options?  Time to plan on ensuring the best low-rpm control and stall avoidance…or gear it knowing you’ll never go over 45mph on top. Only add “bling” if… Guessing is done.  Don’t go buy twin-ring/Z-wave sprockets or the most expensive chain until you’ve settled on your gearing for 90% of your riding. Price hurdle is justified.  Is the aftermarket billet chain guide really $35 better than replacing the nylon blocks in the straight, undamaged stocker? Significant upgrade in protection or performance.  Cool new glide-plate with a linkage slider?  Sure…but how does a billet oil-filler cap improve your bike if the stock hard-rubber cap is not broken? Cheapest option to provide a solution.  Let’s say I’m worried about overheating here in Central Texas. Do I go with a trick, high-flow, anti-cavitation water pump, or do I go with the heavier-duty, double-row radiator that cools better…and won’t need impact braces…for the same price?  The better radiator should win.  However, remember that both may be needed in “phase two” mods based on results. Separate “simple” from “easy,” and both from “correct” Bad fork performance that you can’t pin down?  “Easy” would be to tweak clickers until it is not horrible.  “Simple” would be to replace the fork oil and maybe the springs…though it is not “easy” for the mechanically fearful.  “Correct” would be to replace the bushings/guides/seals with the oil and springs, and consider proper re-valving for your riding style, since you are already that far along in the process. Go after “good” before going after “popular” Need to replace a shifter?  That forged or carved-billet shifter sure looks sexy and will get cred in the pits.  However, do you expect to be slamming the bike into rocks and tree stumps?  Then perhaps a softer steel, bendable shift lever is better, as it won’t snap mid-ride, 30 miles from the truck…and it also won’t transfer the impact load into expensive internals like a shift-shaft. Be willing to try generic or “store brand” when available Function over fashion.  The same suppliers make components for many brands.  Do you think there is a functional difference between a generic hour-meter and the one boxed and labeled for your favorite/familiar brand name?  This mindset also allows for consolidation of suppliers to reduce logistic/shipping/timing issues.  Because of this, I have become a big fan of Rocky Mountain ATV and their “house brands” like Tusk and Primary Drive.  They stake their reputation on the quality of their house brands, the prices are lower, and I can get most of my components from a single source.

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Chapter III: THE OBJECTIONS – Why the **** Would You Choose That?

A 1997 CR250R?  Really?  They supposedly handle terribly.  They supposedly vibrate horridly.  They have a tiny tank and a 19” rear wheel when you’re going off-road.  You’ll spend more than what the bike is worth before you’re anywhere close! Yeah, yeah, yeah… It is time, once and for all, to end the line of argument about the “value” of ANY bike regarding maintaining, restoring or improving it.  This is not a disposable commuter-car that you’ll drive until it explodes.  We’re not watching an episode of “flip this bike.”  This is a dirt bike that you are riding, and keeping, for passion.  It will hurt you badly if things go wrong on the move, so you must make things right.  This is a relationship, and you don’t start a relationship with plans on how to end it. With any used bike, you are effectively buying someone else’s problems (see my previous post about neglect and “puppies”).  Any used bike purchased from someone you don’t personally know should be expected to cost you additional hundreds to thousands if you are responsible about it, especially at the 15-20-year age mark. Old radiator hoses could burst.  Most people haven’t looked at their clutches unless they fried them.  The cases should eventually be split for transmission inspection.  At the very least all bottom-end seals should be considered suspect after more than a decade.  Even if the PO didn’t shatter a piston or break off rings before, there will be wear on 20-year-old nikasil plating, or a bore/hone needed for a pressed iron liner.  Electrical components need attention (when was the ignition coil last tested for output strength?), and for some reason many people are just flat-out scared of their electrical system.  That is only to get the motor operating.  Time to think about everything outside the motor.  Is that tube material on the inside of the tire, or tire carcass fused to the tubes?  Brake lines age out.  Suspension linkage and steering bearings/bushings need to at least be disassembled and inspected…likely replaced.  Have the cables been regularly lubed?  Are the rotors in spec for thickness?  Do you want to take a bet on the condition of the fork bushings/internals/oil?  Do you think the shock has ever been opened for a servicing with fresh oil? Remember, everything I just asked only gets someone to the point of reliable functionality.  Any­one who is going to make a bike “theirs,” even if they start with a brand-new bike, will end up spending thousands more.  No matter what someone starts with, they are in for hundreds in suspension re-springing and re-valving, not to mention customizations like fuel capacity, bark busters, skid plates, proper rubber for their riding style, a bar bend that suits them, and so on.  Has anyone kept track of the specialized tools associated with the last three paragraphs?  Of course, many put a sick set of graphics ahead of all these more important items…sigh… Think you’re safe buying a bike that was never raced?  Well, that’s usually even worse with old bikes.  Race bikes need regular maintenance to remain competitive.  Recreational bikes can be abused to the point of near-death if they still move an owner down the trail.  Numbers on the pates can actually be a good sign on an older bike. The sum of all this is that any rider, if they are at all honest about owning a dirt bike…new or used…will realize that looking at return or resale is ridiculous.  Looking at “value” is all about the experience rather than a sale price.    Anyone looking to really own a bike needs to forget about resale and focus on the outcome.  Of course, since so many things need to be touched, and so many things could be suspect, it seems to make the most sense to me to buy the obviously-neglected specimen for the lowest price…as long as it is all there and repairable. As for the performance envelope of the 1997 CR itself, well, I’m not worried.  The motor is known to be a reliable fire-breather, and it can be tamed down with a flywheel weight and other minor tweaks.  In the handling department, I’ve heard that proper suspension work fixes many woes.  Lacing up an 18” rear wheel, plus running a high-profile front tire, with both ends at low pressure, should help with some of the jarring.  There are many options that have come about in the last 20 years to handle the stiff chassis, both in hand/foot shock control and vibration isolation.  Even a light-pull hydraulic clutch…or a recluse…is not out of the question since a 20-year-old clutch will need attention anyway. Also, let’s be real about me.  I’m an older guy.  I weigh 225 before gear.  I’m not competitively fast, and never will be.  I have a few years where I’ll need to be able to go slow while my kids adapt, grow and learn speed.  If they eventually outrun me, I’ll gladly sport for the next bike at that point if I can physically handle it.  If I can’t handle it, well, I’m happy to become their crew chief. Before digging in, though, I made sure to find my online resources.  Curiously, I haven’t been able to find a “CR Two Strokes” board or forum...until I found the sub-group within Thumpertalk itself (thank you again, Thumpertalk).  With my old IT, I found the Vinduro group in Australia.  With the Kawasaki, KDXRiders board was a huge help.  The lack of a really large “CR Community” surprised me.  However, while there wasn’t a dedicated site, I did find multiple social media fan groups.  The biggest find, though, was a site called FixYourDirtbike.com .   The admin of this site decided to use a first-gen-aluminum CR as the base for many DIY Repair videos.  With this virtual gold mine of support content available, I knew I shouldn’t really get stuck anywhere on this project. So…looking at the CR…good parts availability…strong motor…unloved but with potential…reliable when owned with respect…tons of guys bagging on the choice in flame-forums…generous online repair tutorials to rely upon…to me, the 1997 CR250R seemed the perfect King Moon Racer bike.  …and so it began…

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Chapter II: The Hunt - Finding My Starting Point

For those who caught the list of bikes in my previous post, you’ll likely see a pattern.  Outside of maybe the SOHC 750-4, most of the bikes I’ve rebuilt and chosen to love have been also-rans.  Not necessarily high in popularity.  Sometimes hard to source stuff for (especially the ’82 650 Seca and the ’72 GT380).  Many were frequently considered lost causes (why would someone care about that pig of a 1992 KDX250 when the 200 was better and more common?). I’ve made my choices for a few reasons.  As afterthought-bikes, they could usually be picked up at bargain rates.  They had enough common parts to other bikes that they’d require a minimum of parts-bin searching if there wasn’t something specifically made for them.  I also liked learning details about the design decisions and experiments that happened in the lesser-known chapters of motorcycling history.  Come on, how many people know that Suzuki was the first manufacturer to mass-produce liquid cooled street bikes with the “water buffalo?” More important than those points, though, was that I wanted to find the potential in what was there.  That is why I adopted the moniker King Moon Racer of motorcycles. I am drawn to the Island of Forgotten Toys for the two-wheel set.  These bikes usually have significant intangibles referred to as “character.” We’ve all heard “it is the rider, not the bike, that makes the difference.”  With less-than-perfect bikes that means the rider/owner must learn to give the bike what it needs.  One must ride the bike the way it wishes to be ridden.  Learn and adapt to the personality of what you’ve made, rather than demanding a bike that always accommodates you.  This creation of a relationship with a machine seems to have been somewhat lost, just as it has with today’s cars compared to the scary-best of American Muscle.  Curiously, it is also what seems to be missing in how many people approach relationships with other humans as well.  Can you adapt to a bike?  Can you adapt to a person?  Learning to live with the essence/personality of a person or a machine can be a great learning, wisdom-providing, experience. Another piece of the pattern, at least for me, is working from obviously neglected bikes.  While I’ll get into my technical reasoning and justification for this in a later chapter, there is an emotional, principled component that I need to get off my chest.  This is a section that I hope becomes a character-building point for my own children.  A person should care about what they’ve committed to, especially when the going gets tough.  Though far from a perfect analogy, our family has rescued dogs from the local shelter.  Outside of one escape-artist, it has worked out very well.  Most look at puppies.  I’ve had shelter employees describe people who surrender an older dog but are back the next week to adopt a puppy.  When it is not easy or emotionally satisfying, they bail.  My wife and I make it a point to look at older dogs.  They have usually been trained, they usually respond incredibly to getting the love that they once had, but that faded when life was no longer easy.  Great lessons are learned, and strength is found from connecting in this way.  If we ever do take in a puppy, it is some sort of cross-breed or "oops litter" result. There is a mechanical parallel, especially in the world of non-competitive riders.  They don’t need the latest, as they will never be the fastest.  Yet they throw away the possibility of learning lessons, about bikes...and themselves...by “buying the purebred puppy” …and providing it no care or up­keep.  Within a couple of seasons, they toss the scrap or sell their problems to someone else in pursuit of the next “puppy.”  I understand those who just flat-out bought the wrong bike out of ignorance (e.g.: a first-time rider buying a 450-F MX bike for trail riding after watching experienced buddies).  I also understand those with means pursuing the best options that can be afforded…especially for professional reasons, like with Kyle at The Dirt Bike Channel.  However, I have no respect for those who do not respect and care for what they ride or who walk away from fixable problems. I truly believe that a rider should become mechanically intimate with their ride (clean minds, please).  If you are unwilling to get over the fear factor of mechanical repairs, or if you were really born without the “handy gene,” I’d suggest you have a ton of money and a second bike on hand. Shop time is far more expensive than parts and tools.  Wait times for an open mechanic can be long during (or right before) peak riding season.  If something breaks, you want to be able to get it resolved yourself, so you don’t waste trail time or money.  A one-bike guy who relies on a shop to do everything above changing a spark plug can expect to be down for a significant amount of any given riding season. So…given this mindset, a very limited budget, and kids who desire me to ride with them sooner rather than later, I began combing the classifieds.  Rather quickly, I found the project that drove me to write this piece.  A very neglected, abused, but basically intact 1997 Honda CR250R for under $700.

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Chapter I - An Introduction to King Moon Racer

Many of you reading this will get far different things from what I write.  Some will see this as a bike-specific technical project.  Others will see this as reflections of a father indirectly teaching lessons to his son.  Many will take the contents as a general primer on how to…and how not to…approach the reclamation of a neglected motorcycle.  I’m sure a good size group will simply chuckle into their coffee at the ramblings and failings of an aging goof in his garage. Regardless of what you get out of it, I hope you enjoy yourself. Before getting into the project at hand, a bit of back-story is owed to you who take the time to read.  I’m a late-forties guy who spent his teen years in lower Michigan, learning to love life on two wheels and anything motorcycle-related.  First, of course, was the love of riding itself.  This was done mostly in the woods and trails that spread across “the mitten.” I fancied myself an eastern-woods enduro rider of sorts, with dreams of the six-days and GNCC glory that stayed safely nested in my imagination.  In all honesty, I was at best a relatively quick woods rider who rarely got both wheels off the ground.  What may be different from some is that I never spent any time on a motocross track at all…even to this day.  You couldn’t pay me to attempt a triple or rail a berm in my youth. The second level of love for motorcycles was mechanics.  I had moved to Michigan from California, and dirt bikes were a first distraction to soften the impact of the move at age 12.  My father refused to pay for mechanics if they could be avoided, and he’d help me learn to fix something…once.  If the same problem came up again, it was up to me to take care of it.  To this day, I believe this training did more to sharpen my mind for systemic thinking than any schooling I ever experienced. The short-day, super-cold winters that Michigan provided were the bane of my existence.  Sure, there were a few winters where I shot knobbies full of sheet metal screws and scared the snowmobiles on frozen lakes, but that was short-lived.  Most of my cooped-up winter existence was dedicated to repairing or improving whatever dirt bike I happened to have at the given moment…and there were a few.  Starting with my first XR75, then a big move to a ’78 Husky 250CR, a Yamaha MX360, a KDX250 and an ’85 Yamaha IT200 (my first-ever new bike), they all got my attention, and each taught me different lessons regarding repairs, maintenance, design decisions, mods and raising bikes from the dead. After that, I moved into street bikes for my college and adult years.  The bikes were all over the place, Honda 350/360 twins, Suzuki 380 triples, an RD350, an SOHC 750-four, an ‘82 Seca 650, an ’88 Concours 1000…you name it.  Across all of these, though, a consistent pattern emerged.  I’d buy a very-neglected mess as the autumn color change began. I would then spend my winter researching and bringing the parts pile back to reasonable shape. As soon as ice was off the roads, the bikes would be thoroughly enjoyed for one or two seasons.  Finally, I’d find these bikes their next owner and sell them off to fund the next save-me-from-winter project.  Through these, I came to enjoy the process of reviving the bikes as much or more than the actual riding. Fast-forward more than a few decades of this repeating pattern.  I now find myself living in a great Central Texas town called Liberty Hill. I’m a father to a seven-year-old son and an almost nine-year-old daughter, with a wonderful wife who understands…and sort-of appreciates…my mechanical passions.  Given my boy’s natural display of skill and aggression on battery-powered toys and bicycles, I decided to buy a $75 pile of parts that was once an early-90’s Suzuki JR50 to see if he would also take to riding.  I took he and my daughter, along with the completed bike, to a great kid’s motocross training school in Austin called Little Speedsters (littlespeedsters.com).  At this point, I need to break away from my story and shine some light on the school.  Christophe, the owner of Little Speedsters, along with his instructors, provide an incredible service.  Any parent will know that most kids occasionally need someone other than dad to be coach.  They provide properly-maintained, properly-sized, properly-governed bikes, with all the gear that parents aren’t ready to invest in, so that a child can explore a passion before spending tons of money.  Thanks to great teachers, great equipment, and a quality learning facility, both of my kids caught the dirt-bug.  We paired this school with a trip to the vet-track at Del Valle Motocross Park near Austin Inter­national Airport.  At the time, Del Valle hadn’t built a dedicated pee-wee track (now complete), so the vet track doubled for the kids.  Alexander was getting the front-end off the ground over the old-man jumps, even when he was still on training wheels.  He’s even faster now.  His preferences in riding are peculiar, but it may just be his age.  He wants to ride with a bunch of people (doesn’t like being alone on the track) but insists that he doesn’t want to race.  He also tells me he really wants to go on the trails with me, yet he’s never been in single-track, and doesn’t seem too turned on by GNCC or enduro footage. Regardless, my son loved riding the JR, but has grown out of it.  He's pining for a newer, but not necessarily faster, bike.  My daughter has taken to riding a restored 2006 TTR50 as well, both through Christophe's school and at Murphy's Motocross park just South of Austin.  This puts me in a wonderful situation.  My son and daughter want me to ride with them off-road as much as possible.  So, I’ve sold my most recent street bike (a pristine 2005 Yamaha FZ1) and have chosen to abandon street riding for many reasons: First, I can avoid a tree more easily than I can avoid a “cager” on a cell phone, which makes my wife breathe easier.  Second, I can’t think of better riding partners than my own family.  Third, this is a solid excuse to get myself in better physical shape.  Finally, off-road bikes for the family means high-priority tinkering…and a need to build myself a primary dirt-ride. ...time for the projects to begin again...

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Welcome To My Island

Glad to see you here.  I hope you find what I fill this place with to be enjoyable, entertaining, educational and at least a bit familiar. This blog is actually a re-direction of writing I've been doing during a recent restoration project.  It had hit about 14 chapters and, rather than try to publish a book or start my own website, I decided I needed to find a place to share that others could administer. Thank you to Thumpertalk for providing this space...looking forward to giving you some intriguing reading. Please note: many of you will want pics to go with these posts.  I'll go back and add them to individual entries after I've posted up what I have written to-date, which may take a few days.  Thanks in advance for your patience.

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