My brother moved recently and needed a place to store his motorcycles while his family was between houses. One of his bikes is a 1978 Yamaha XS400 2E done up like a street tracker. It suffered a maintenance mishap at our hands a couple years ago – when trying to replace the oil filter, we snapped the bolt that holds the oil filter cover. We tried a bolt extractor with no luck. At the end of that day, we just kinda gave up, and the bike sat in his garage for years.

When I picked up John’s bikes in preparation for his move, I offered to try to fix it. I ended up snapping the bolt extractor. That sucker was really stuck. The good folks at Elli’s Cycles saved my bacon by welding another bolt to the stuck one and freeing the now shredded fastener.

But the bike had deteriorated while it was dormant. It needed a new battery and it needed thorough carb cleaning. I took on both tasks – the battery replacement was actually pretty hard – the entire tail section of the bike had been modified to accept the dirt tracker seat, and getting the old battery out was like solving a Chinese puzzle. Somehow I figured it all out, replaced the battery and got the seat and subframe re-assembled.

Next was the carb work – one of the carbs was so gummed that the throttle wouldn’t even return. I pulled it apart, and the emulsion tube was mummified. Additionally, one of the constant velocity slides was gummed pretty bad and would stick and hang. I replaced the needle valves, cleaned everything up, and was satisfied to have it fire up within the first few kicks.

Today I took it out for a ride around the neighborhood. It had three problems: 1) the idle is too low after it warms up. 2) it backfires through the carbs at low RPMs. 3) The kick starter apparently only engages in my driveway, NOT when I stall it in traffic. For a few minutes I thought it was going to be a long push back home, but I found a hill and got it bump-started, and got to ride around the neighborhood for a bit. It accelerated crisply, ran surprisingly quiet (mechanically – not counting the obnoxious reverse megaphone “mufflers”) and was actually kind of fun. Also, apparently during that ancient oil change, some oil got on the exhaust wrap on the left header – it smoked like a poker party when it got hot.

It’s not a perfect bike yet, but it’s got potential.


Hope this can be fixed

This post isn’t terribly interesting – it’s a place to put photos of the damage to my Husqvarna TC449’s muffler. I’m posting this for the benefit of Bret at so he can tell me if this damage is repairable.

Here’s an overall view of the muffler:

the whole muffler

the whole muffler

Here are two views of the two major creases in the pipe, right at the point where the muffler mounts to the frame:

two creases in the pipe

two creases in the pipe

another view of the two creases in the pipe

another view of the two creases in the pipe

Here’s a view of the bent mounting bracket. The mounting surface should be flat, and the bracket should have two clean angles in it. Instead, it is now curved.

the bracket for mounting to the frame got bent

the bracket for mounting to the frame got bent

So what do you think, Bret? Can you fix it? Should I box it up?


Roman Numerals

I finally personalized my new Husqvarna TC 449 with some Decal Works custom backgrounds. I really like the way it turned out. Decal Works’ pre sales service was fantastic. They emailed me some images of what the bike would look like with various options. The stickers themselves were great, and fit perfectly, a nice achievement given that many of them wrapped over corners, or went on creased surfaces.
I chose one of their simpler options, the “Super” series graphics to show off the radical lines of the big Husky. I also went with a Italian “tricolore” scheme, which I have always liked on Italian exotic motorcycles. I was worried that it would come out looking like a pizza delivery scooter, but I think the green is subtle enough to not be too silly.



**UPDATE** for Gilles who commented below asking for a better view of the side number graphics:

Left side view of Decal Works decals for Husky TC 449

Left side view of Decal Works decals for Husky TC 449

Decal Works for Husky TC 449 Right side view

Decal Works for Husky TC 449 Right side view

Shock Collar

View of entire shock with remote preload adjuster installed

Nice new preload adjuster (red) for my Husqvarna

I ordered a remote preload adjuster for the shock on my Husqvarna TC 449 from the Husqvarna performance parts catalog. It arrived yesterday. What a pretty piece of equipment it is!

Remote preload adjuster from the Husqvarna performance parts catalog

A beautiful piece of kit

The point of the adjuster is to replace the lock rings that come on the shock so one could adjust the rear sag of the bike with a 8mm t-handle wrench after only removing the seat. The rings that come stock on the shock are only accessible after the right side plastics are removed, and then to adjust the sag, one must use a drift, as there still isn’t enough clearance to use a shock spanner.

OEM lock rings on a KYB shock

Lock rings? What are we, cavemen?

Shock removal went exactly as the Husqvarna service manual said it would, pretty simple. Removing the spring was harder than I expected. The shock body isn’t long enough to allow the clevis to be removed even with the lock rings moved all the way up the threads – I had to use a spring compressor to get the requisite clearance.

The adjuster threaded on easily, and adjustment pin loosened up nicely just from the installation.

Remote preload adjuster installed on shock


Putting the shock back on the bike was a chore – the adjuster fits nicely in the space provided, but doesn’t allow enough clearance to the gas tank to fit the top eye of the shock into its space on the frame. I had to loosen up the muffler clamp and the bottom bolts of the subframe, and then remove the top subframe bolts completely so I could tip the gas tank back far enough to install the shock. That worked, and isn’t too much of a hassle for future servicing.

The adjustment collar fits nicely and works very well. It should make trackside sag adjustments a snap.

Pretty On The Inside

Wiseco standard compression piston for YZ426F


My venerable race bike is going to a new home. I am lending my 2000 Yamaha YZ426F to my little brother, in the hopes that he will come racing with us. To make sure that he can’t weasel out of it with a mechanical complaint, I helped him put a new top end in it.

The plan was to replace the stock piston with a Wiseco standard compression unit, replace the timing chain, and check the head. All the parts arrived a week or two ago.

We started with a valve inspection. Everything was spot on. That’s great, because it saved us a trip to the dealership to get new shims, and because it means the valves haven’t moved at all since the last time I did the top end.

Then we pulled the head, cylinder, piston, flywheel and stator. John did all the work on cleaning up the gasket surfaces on the cylinder while I threaded the new timing chain onto the crankshaft. We had lunch and a beer, and then took the cylinder to Elli’s Cycles for a quick hone.

Back home, everything went together easily. Assembly is harder than disassembly; you have to clean everything before you reassemble it, many parts need to be lubricated before you install them, and everything needs to be torqued carefully in sequence.

Once it was all together, I filled it with fresh coolant and oil, and let John start it up.

It fired right up and ran at a nice idle, with no funny noises, smells, or leaks. Yay! Another oil change, and it will be time for a break-in ride!

Broken spokes

Two broken spokes on the left hand side of the rear wheel of a Yamaha TT-R 230


I planned to go riding with my buddy Walter last weekend, but had to cancel at the last minute. Just as I was about to load my trail bike onto the trailer, I found that I had multiple broken spokes from my last outing. Drat!

I bought a full rear wheel spoke kit from Yamaha last year for my TT-R 230 because, frankly, it breaks a lot of spokes. I don’t know whether to be mad… Dang Brazilian dirt bikes! What are the spokes made out of? Candy? Cheese?

…or be circumspect about it. Since so many have broken, I went through the rear wheel last year and replaced every spoke that couldn’t be adjusted. Now, when another original spoke breaks, it’s a bit like when your kid loses a baby tooth… inevitable, and mildly inconvenient, but just a part of life.

Anyway, today was the first day of “Garagemas” for me… a festival of fixing things. I pulled the wheel off, removed the tire and tube, forced two new spokes in, and put it all back together. About 2 hours of work, I’d guess.

Let’s hope it doesn’t break any more rear spokes for a few rides, eh?

All Forking Day

I had the house to myself all day. My wonderful wife and kids had their own plans, and I had no appointments. I decided that since applying the numberplate graphics to Helen’s bike starting with the hardest body panel worked out so well, I would tackle the hardest, messiest job in the garage this morning: Rebuilding the forks on the YZ. Everything after that would be cake, right?

It was destined to be a big job. I had new springs from Cannon Racecraft, and new bushings and seals from Pivot Works to install. And of course that also means a change of fork oil – I chose Maxima Racing Fork Fluid.

Fork Springs, Oil, and bushings/seals

Fork refresh supplies

Part way through the job, my 2 year old son visited the garage, and was alarmed by the missing wheel on the front of the YZ. I told him I would fix it. He checked in on me regularly to monitor my progress.

With the music blasting, I spent the whole day in the garage, using every wrench, fabricating a cartridge holder out of PVC, and cleaning up my filthy forks before replacing all the seals and bushings. My forks went together just fine with brand new springs (a lighter rate for my size and my style of riding) and new fluid.

Assembled YZ426F Forks

Fresh forks

I was pleased to tell my son the bike was fixed. He jumped up from his play and told me he would check it. We went to the garage and he surveyed my work. The wheel was back on. Daddy did a good job.

It was a day well spent, since it rained pretty much all day. I finished a big job, and won the approval of my two year old son. I can’t ask for much more than that.