February 2008 11
My Adventure to KY on this Old Beat Up Suzuki GS550L Part 2
You can read part 1 by dropping down a few posts.
So I was under way and headed towards Kentucky on the GS. It was a cool late fall night and the weather was good. I figured that by leaving at such an odd hour I would avoid traffic, but I wasn’t so lucking. Around 1:30am I entered into the NYC area and immediately got stuck in a construction zone. The traffic was backed up as the highway merged into one single lane. The motorcycle quickly died on me. It didn’t like to idle, and it was hard to keep it running at any reasonable rpm, so it stalled. Repeatedly. The bike was hard to start when warm due to a small air leak in the intake manifold. Most warm motors will fire right up with a little throttle, but this one didn’t. The choke had to be on full and it took some cranking to nearly flood the motor, at which point it would roar to life and rev to the moon.
I stalled and restarted the bike many times and eventually made it through the construction zone and back to open road. The highways in the New Jersey area are terribly rough and not ideal for motorcycling. Hitting pot holes and bumps is unavoidable. The luggage behind me would shift forward with every bump pushing me up onto the gas tank. I should have tied it down better. But there was no time to stop and make adjustments, I was in New Jersey, and no one has ever wanted to stop in New Jersey if they didn’t have to. So I just rode with one hand on the bars using my other hand to hold back the luggage as best I could. It was tiring and difficult to say the least. Who knew a small case full of clothes could be so heavy!
As soon as I hit Pennsylvania it started to rain a little bit. I pulled over at a gas station to refuel and I went inside for a plastic bag to put my camera and phone into so the water wouldn’t ruin them. My leather jacket is of no protection in the rain and in fact, it soaks up water like a sponge. The attendant at the counter was a nice older gentleman who warned me “I hope you aren’t traveling west.” To which I replied, “Actually, I am.” “There is a big storm coming through right now, you might want to wait it out,” he advised.
I thought on the mans words for a brief minute, then grabbed the bag, threw in my electronics and hopped back on the bike. Hey, I’m not afraid of a little rain!
A few miles down the road the rain began to get heavy. It was now about 4:30am and I was beginning to get a little chilled. The rain quickly soaked through my jacket and fleece shirt. I could feel the water pooling in the seat. I began to get cold. At this point however the biggest problem was visibility. I was on the highway in the dark and in the rain, and the little GS headlight put out barely enough power to light my path.
As I entered Maryland the rain became torrential. Sheets and sheets of rain pounding the street and filling it like a river. I was now entering the mountains, I would not see another major town for several hundred miles. The roads were empty, no lights anywhere, and my headlight was too dim to read the signs as I drove past. At higher speeds I could feel the front wheel begin to hydroplane, which is terrifying. I did my best to find a good balance between driving safely and making good time – after all, I wanted to complete 1,000 miles in 24 hours so I couldn’t slow down too much.
The key to driving recklessly or in awful weather on a motorcycle is to be extremely on edge but NEVER make any sudden movements. Every muscle in your body needs to be tensed ready to compensate for sudden hydroplaning effects, corners, or gusts of wind. You never want to touch anything with more than the lightest pressure. Acceleration, braking, and cornering should be the most methodical movements you’ve ever made. Gentle and easy. It is also more important to prepare your body to absorb debris and potholes rather than planning to avoid them. Always keep your front wheel facing directly forward.
The early morning winds and drenching rains made me completely freezing, but there was no stopping. As day broke I prayed for sun. After a couple fuel stops the sun eventually came and the rain began to soften. I emerged on the other side of the storm cold, wet, on edge, and exhausted – but triumphant!
More to come. . . . . it gets worse and the story gets better! The most dangerous riding I have ever done in my life is yet to come.
1973_Suzuki_TC125 Vintage Ad
1974 Suzuki TC125 Prospector
The Suzuki TC125 is a really cool little bike. I bought this as a project to fix up but decided to sell it because I have too much going on in the garage right now.
Suzuki made this bike in a number of different sizes and gave them all interesting names like “Prospector”. I am blanking on the other models, but I believe it was a TC100, a TC125, a TC185, and a TC250.
These bikes are very cool, great little reliable 2 smokers that pump out a reasonable 13 horsepower. They are extremely easy to work on, get great gas mileage, and they are even able to cruise at highway speeds. This TC 125 has an 8 speed gearbox. It’s actually a standard 4 speed transmission with a reduction gear which can be put into use to create a High and a Low operating range. It’s designed that way to match the demands of both off-road and highway use.
Really, the only downsides to this bike are that it uses a 6 volt electrical system. The perfect bike for running errands and cruising around back roads and trails. I love it.
Finished Updating the KTM 300EXC
I’m DONE! Sort of. I took both the 3003xc and 250sx bikes down to the frame and swapped everything over from the 250sx onto the 300. I swapped the entire front end including Tag risers and fatbars, entire rear end including brake and shock, most of the levers and controls, the kickstart shaft and lever, the clutch basket and engine cover, the reeds and reed cage (boyesen), and a few nuts and bolts. The 300exc is completely assembled and ready to roll. I put a brand new full exhaust on it and a couple odds and ends. I am VERY happy. . . . . .However, I am going to tear it down again and thoroughly clean each part and replace all the rubber grommets and a few bushings. I want this thing running and looking like new!!!
Replacing Kickstart Shafts
Well, I’ve got the two 1994 KTM’s. It’s time to do something with them!
I completely tore down the 250sx to the frame and then continued digging into the motor to get the kickstart shaft.
Next I tore down the 300exc motor in a similar fashion to replace the shaft. It’s a fairly simple process but is certainly time consuming. The only special tool you need for the job is a tool to hold the clutch basket in place while you take off the retaining nut. Instead of buying the tool (which is often expensive and not model universal) you can do a makeshift job easily. First, you’ll want to lock the inner clutch with the outer basket, this can be done by taking a friction plate and a steel plate, drilling a 1/4″ hole through them and filling the hole with a bolt. This will lock the plates together. Put the plates into the basket and the inner and out will now be locked. The next thing you’ll want to do is stop the crank from rotating. I do this by feeding a length of rope into the spark plug hole. The rope will prevent the piston from reaching TDC and will do absolutely no damage to anything.
Anyway, I made the switch successfully and I now have a stock kickstarter on the 300exc.
I also switched over the front end to hold the conventional Marzocchi forks and put on a set of Tag bar risers. More to come on this!
1986 Yamaha TT350
These old Yamahas are built like a tank. They are very similar to Honda XR400’s in both size, durability, and longevity. As long as you keep them in good condition they will run forever and never let you down. A single cylinder air cooled bike is in my opinion the ultimate all around off road machine.
What interests me about these bikes is their use of dual carburetors. Dual carburetors were added to single cylinder bikes during a transitional period when 4 valve cylinders began being used. Engineers needed to find a way to better control and atomize the fuel going in through the dual intake ports. At the time they had difficulty accomplishing this task using existing single carburetor technology.
What surprises me is that these motors did not use the YICS technology that Yamaha incorporated into it’s streebikes of the early 80’s. The Yamaha Induction Control System was essentially a tube which internally connected all of the cylinder intake ports to balance vacuum pressure and eliminate symptoms of slightly unsynchronized carburetors and even out combustion across 4 cylinder engines.
It seems to me that the best way to approach intake development of a single cylinder motor is to do the same thing. Think of each intake as its own cylinder and balance intake pressures internally prior to combustion. Today’s modern 4 stroke singles do this.
The funny thing is, YICS technology is no longer used on multi cylinder engines. Advancements in carburetor technology as well as fuel injection systems (obviously) counter the need for internal intake balancing. The YICS system also made carburetor adjustment difficult. However, I’ve owned lots of YICS motors and have tuned them to perfection despite the difficulty.
The Snow Just Keeps Falling!
I am growing tired of living in the North East. The snow just keeps falling in Boston. I can barely get a bike out of my driveway, let alone up into the presidential mountain range (as in this photo).
I’ve always been a tough weather biker. I’ll ride in the cold and rain, but snow is another story. We just had a snow storm last night, so I guess the bikes will have to say in the garage for another week or so.
1994 KTM 250SX
I was able to find a 1994 KTM afterall! I bought this bike a few days ago from Cycles128, the local dealership. For an older dirtbike it is in surprisingly great shape. The previous owner definitely took good care of it. I however will be completely stripping it down. In fact, I already did! I’m swapping the Marzocchi forks (and whole front end) onto my 300exc. I will also be pulling a few parts off of the motor to keep as spares. There are lots of great parts on this bike that I won’t be keeping. Most of the parts will interchange with 1993-1996 KTM models and you can find a complete listing of what is available in my thread over at KTMTalk.com.
My Adventure to KY on this Old Beat Up Suzuki GS550L Part 1
This proved to be my most intense motorcycle adventure to date. 1,000 miles one way in 19 hours on a busted old bike that I hadn’t owned for even 1 day. It breaks down, I almost die. I get frozen and drenched and stall out at every toll booth. Great times! Here is part 1 of the story.
I started talking about this bike and my extreme road adventure on it but never really extrapolated on the details. Well, here it goes.
I bought this bike for a lean $250 up in New Hampshire. When I went to pick it up I was told it ran, but got there only to find it did not start. I took the guys voltmeter and found the electrical short on the spot and got the bike started. At the time it fired right up but ran rough and bogged when given throttle. I paid the cash and towed the bike home.
I was planning on drive to Kentucky the following day (about 1000 miles) and really wanted to take a motorcycle instead of my Jeep. So, now that I had this GS 550 I needed to get it ready for a 2000 mile trip, pronto. I fired it up and took it out for a drive. It bogged fairly bad at low revs but once opened up it seemed to run OK. I tossed some seafoam in the gas tank and let that drift through the system a bit while I worked on other areas.
I knew the Suzuki had some wiring issues because I had found a bad connection prior to bringing it home. While looking through the bikes harness I found that nearly every connection had some form of corrosion on it. So I ended up disconnecting everything and cleaning them up with sand paper and steel wool. Flat connections can be sanded, but pin connections are harder to clean. I use a wire brush and some determination on the pins and female ports.
Once I got the wiring all fixed up to where I was reasonably comfortable I moved on, but not before packing some spare wire and connectors into my tool kit.
I flushed the oil in the motor (without putting in a new filter), inspected the brake pads, and gave my cables a quick inspection. Once I was done with that there wasnâ€™t much more I could do. I began loading the bike up for the trip to Kentucky. Did I mention the bike had 29,000 miles on it?
I managed to pack an enormous amount of stuff onto the back of the bike. Thankfully I have a great set of Honda saddlebags that I got for free with my Honda v65 Magna. I ended up overstuffing them with tools and spare parts so that the straps began ripping by the end of the trip, but I digress.
So the following night I left for Kentucky. I left around 10pm because I didnâ€™t want to hit any traffic anywhere along the way. I also wanted to drive straight the entire way to become a member of the Iron Butt Association. 1000 miles in under 24 hours was the goal. I fired up the bike and let it warm up a bit, it didnâ€™t idle so I had to massage the throttle the entire trip. The bike was very difficult to get under way in first gear due to bogging, but once up to speed it ran well. I made it a point to stop every 30 miles or so for the first tank of gas to look for leaks and wheel bearing failure. Who knew what kind of problems this bike might present over the next thousand miles.
I quickly discovered a few downfalls of this bike for a hurried highway trip. Number 1 â€“ it doesnâ€™t zip along all that fast. In order to maintain highway speeds of about 70mph I had to really wring the motor out. I held the throttle wide open almost the entire trip. Number 2 â€“ with the throttle pinned this bike didnâ€™t get very good gas mileage. I only got low 30â€™s which for a 550 is pretty low. Number 3 â€“ the fuel tank is tiny. I hit reserve at about 2.7 gallons, so I really couldnâ€™t go far between fuel stops. I ended up stopping every 80 miles or so, which proved difficult in the wee hours of the morning on deserted highways. Lucky I carried a 2 gallon gas can with me in one of my saddle bags just in case, and Iâ€™m glad I did because it ended up saving me on one occasion.
More to come . . . The best parts are yet to come. I nearly died. The bike breaks down. Adventure!
Venting About Bad Sellers
Yesterday I found what I thought was a great deal on a 1993 KTM 300 for $500. I have a 94 and they share most parts, so it would be great to have some spares. I talked to the owner briefly and learned that the motor had just been overhauled, but the bike needed a throttle tube and a kill switch to be on the trail. The owner stated that otherwise the bike was in good condition. Sounds like a deal to me!
So I grabbed my $500, put the trailer on the Jeep, and drove 2 hours out into the middle of NH to buy the bike. When I arrive a teen (the seller) opens the garage door. His friend is crouching next to the bike and a space heater. It is clear they were just working on it in preperation of my arrival.
Before I even get up near the bike I know I was dooped. The bike is not a 1993. I walk right up to it, turn the forks to the side and read the the Vin plate. Manufactured in 1989. What shocked me more was that the owner knew. He knew it was an 89 but puposefully listed it as a 93.
Well, I came up to look at the bike, I might as well look at it. And afterall, a 1989 300 in good condition is worth $500 anyway.
It very quickly becomes clear to me that this bike has been absolutely ridden into the dirt. Wheel bearings are trashed, chain and sprockets are junk, brakes are toast, all the plastics had been spray painted multiple times and were flaking and chipping and falling off. The seat cover had been redone with fabric and was wet, soggy and sagging. There was no clutch perch or lever, no kill switch, no throttle assembly or cable. The wheels had flat spots on them. The rear fender sat a mere 3 feet from the ground because the rear shock was clearly ruined and ridden to death.
I told him “This bike isn’t worth $100.”
I didn’t bother checking the engine or hanging around. I got back in the car and headed straight home. That was the UGLIEST “good condition” dirtbike I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them.