Last time we talked about the walk around, this is just a general over view of the condition of the motorcycle. Now we are going to begin to look closer.
I always start a mental checklist of what will need to be done and what it will cost. I also note if the repairs are things that I can do or will I need to pay a mechanic.
Some of the things you find will tip you off to other repairs that will be needed I.E. rust in the tank means the tank will need to be cleaned and the carburetors will need to be cleaned or rebuilt.
It's easy to put more money into an old bike than it's worth. This is fine if it's a classic and you just want it back on the road but I have ran into many sellers who try to justify a way too high price with "all the money they paid a mechanic to get the motorcycle running again."
Ok With that said let's get to the list.
1 Do the lights work (all of them including brake light and turn signals)?
2 Horn working?
3 do all of the switches work are they the correct switch?
4 Does the throttle work, are the levers straight or broken?
5 cables work smoothly?
next time we'll get into inspecting running gear.
This is the first in a series of short articles on how to assess a used motorcycle.
Anyone that has read this blog understands that I am a big proponent of buying used motorcycles. When buying used motorcycles it pays to know what you are buying.
I try to find a forum on the internet that covers the make and model that I am considereing buying. This is a great place to find out about problems this model might be prone to and how difficult it might be to fix that problem. In short there is a wealth of information and help in these forums.
When you go out to inspect the bike here are a few general things to check on the first walk around.
1 Is the bike complete?
2 is it in running condition?
3 Is it a rider?
4 Do the serial numbers on the engine and frame match (some vintage bikes have won't have matching numbers. Members of the forum can advise you if this is normal).
5 Does the seller have clear title?
6 What is the general appearance of the bike. Are repairs cosmetic or are they more serious.
In the next article we will take a closer look.
Just a quick tip. This is a neat trick if you have an oil leak that you are having trouble locating. First clean your motorcycle engine. Then spray the area of the engine that you suspect contains the leak with foot powder. Next step go for a ride. When you get back the oil trail should be simple to trace.
One of the most popular upgrades to an older motorcycle is the suspension. Many owners add stiffer fork spring and/or cartridge emulators. These upgrades are easy to do and truly improve the handling of the bike.
How ever they may change the amount of oil that should be used in the fork. Following the directions that come with the emulators it may tell you to fill each fork tube to 8 inches (this will vary with your model of bike) of oil. Ok most of us are used to filling fork tubes with a set number of ounces or CCs of oil. What the heck does 8 inches mean. It would be a safe guess to think it means 8 inches of oil in the fork tube, hmmm you would be wrong. The inch measurement referers to the distance from the top of the fork tube to the surface of the oil.
The video below will show you how to make a cheap tool that makes getting the correct measurement easy.
It is important to remember the measurement will be unique to your make and model of motorcycle.
This is done without springs and with the fork leg collapsed.
I could write an entire blog on motorcycle tires. There are so many factors that come into play,bias ply or radial, tread design, rubber compound, the list goes on and on.
Everyone has a favorite tire, and so does your motorcycle. I'm not just talking about size but tread design and construction. Most motorcycles will have a sticker under the side panel that will give you this information some will even give model and brand. This is not just a deal the motorcycle manufacturer work out will a tire company but the handling of the bike is designed to work with the certain aspects of that tire design.
As an example you should never fit a radial tire on a motorcycle that came off the showroom floor with bias belt tires on it. I know I can hear you say but radials give you better traction. On the proper bike that"s true but a bike that was not designed for that flexible of a sidewall you may screw up your handling. The reverse also applies.
Check Your Tires Often
Proper inflation is a must, not only to get the maxium mileage out of you tire but also for your safety ( a blowout on a motorbike is much more exciting than in a four wheeler). A under inflated tire builds up much more heat and that heat will melt the adhesive that is holding your tire plies together and you may lose whole chunks of tire at highway speed (hmmm sit back and picture what that would look like from the handlebars). Proper inflation will also give you the best traction in the rain. Low pressure will cause the tire to trap water under the contact patch.
Check your tread for wear. Do not use a tire that is worn below the tread wear indicators. These are the little bump that you will find in the groves of the tread (some tires have a small triangle on the sidewall to indicate where in the tread these will be found). Don't ride tires with cracked side walls this is an indication the rubber has dried out and is stiff. One good jolt could result in a blow out.
Tires are one of the most expensive consumables on your bike but the failure of a used up tire can really ruin your day.
If you are a motorcyclist you know the name BSA. But do you know what those initials stand for?
BSA was founded in 1861 as a arms manufacture. Birmingham Small Arms co. They produced Air guns and shotguns for the military and sporting market.
When the military contracts ended the company got into the motorcycle business. At their peak BSA was the largest motorcycle producer in the world.
These bike are highly prized by many vintage motorcycle riders and collectors.
A down turn in sales coupled with bad investments which included Triumph motorcycles brought the whole group down in 1973.
My Kawasaki Concours project (like many used motorcycles) came with a badly torn up seat. New seats for a bike are shall we say pricey. So that means this is going to be a reupholster job. Talented reupholsters are again not cheap.
That left little o'l me to do the job. Now my skill with covering seats peaked when as a kid I built a seat for my mini bike out of a piece of plywood and pillow that I covered with a burlap feed sack.
I needed to do some research.
I found out that many of the motorcycle saddle makers also sell replacement covers .
This was good news. Mustang make a cover for the Concours that sells for around $70.00 (beats 400.00 for new a seat) so I ordered one. While wait for it to arrive I peeled off the old cover and all of the duct tape. To my surprise the foam under the cover was in pretty good shape. This is important because if your foam it torn up the seat will never look right and it can be down right uncomfortable. Mustang can rebuild your old seat with new foam for a price.
The instruction that come with the cover are pretty straight forward and the only tool needed is a good heavy duty staple gun. Start at one end and staple the cover to the under side of the seat pan and stretch the cover as you work your way to the other end stapling as you go. This is not a difficult job and it looks great.
Maybe I didn't peak as a kid after all.
Many a would be rider has purchased a used sport bike or touring bike with a cracked or broken fairing. The Idea you see, is to just buy a replacement part and viola! looks just like new. After all it's only plastic how much can that cost.
The truth is the ABS plastic that wraps modern motorcycles is very expensive. Many motorcycles have been totaled by the insurance company because of broken plastic. The top section of the fairing (not including the windshield or headlight) on my concours (see my earlier post on saving a windshield) cost almost a grand brand new and that's only one piece out of 7 plastic panels on that bike.
That's the bad news The good news is that ABS can be repaired . It requires the proper technique and supplies but if you are mildly handy with tools and sandpaper it is not out of the realm of the average rider. One of the best books on the subject is Kurt Lammon,s How to repair plastic body work.
This book covers everything from, is the part worth repairing, though various methods of joining plastic including proper glues and adhesives to plastic welding. Don't start your project without this book by your side.
Read more about this book in our new motorcycle book tab.
In my effort to highlight people doing really killer things with older bikes I have gotta show you Brent Clemmons CB 350 Cafe.
While the motor is bone stock, The tank is off a CB200. When I asked about the switch Brent said "I just like the shape and size"
And it looks great.
This bike truly looks fast from any angle.
The word hydrolock strikes fear into the hearts of motorcycle owners. Some have never heard of it until their mechanic gives them the bad news and my friend it is BAD NEWS.
It is a insidious condition that happens when the bike isn't even running. The unobservant riders first clue will be a bike rattling CLUNK when the starter button is pushed. In that moment the piston will try to compress a cylinder full of liquid gasoline, and if you remember your basic physics you know liquids cannot be compressed. Something has to give and that something is the connecting rod under that piston. (Read that as Major Rebuild). It hardly seems fair.
There are clues that will help you avoid this sad event.
1 Strong odor of gasoline after the bike has set for a while;
2 Puddle of gasoline under the bike or dripping out of the airbox or carburetor.
Blow these signs off at your own peril.
You see there is a chain of failures that have to happen to cause hydolock.
First is a leaking petcock on your fuel tank. If yours bike has a vaccum petcock it can become clogged, fouled or it may have been left in the prime position. A manual petcock may have been left in the on position. This allows gasoline to leak to the carburetor filling the bowl.
Next is a clogged or partially clogged overflow this allows gasoline to overfill the carburetor.
The last thing is a stuck float or float needle. This will allow liquid gasoline to fill the cylinder instead of the mist of gas and air that your motor runs on.
These three things normally don't happen all at once, but as an example, the overflow hose gets kinked. The bike sits over the winter with gas in the float bowls and degrades and makes the needle stick. Then one day you park the bike and leave the petcock on and volia you have real trouble.
So how do You avoid this sad outcome?
1 If you have a manual petcock always shut it off when you park. A vaccum petcock shuts it's self off until it fails.
2 drain your float bowls when you put the bike up for the winter and use fuel stabilizer.
3 Be sure your overflow tube is clear and has no kinks in it.
If your bike has a puddle of gasoline under it after being parked don't try to start it.
Pull you spark plugs (take them off of the wires so they don't spark) then bump the starter. Be careful if a cylinder is full of gas it will spray out of the plug hole. This will give you a clue as to what you need to do next.
If you have a four cylinder and gas sprays out of # 2 then you know that you need to rebuild #2 carb. also check the overflow and find out what went on with the petcock.
Hope this saves you some heart ache