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.


Blazin’ Oldies

My neighbor Shawn Buckingham and I rode to the July Vintage Bike Night at the Saint Louis Moto Museum. The turnout was less than last month, due in no small part to the extraordinarily hot weather we’re having in Saint Louis. It’s a good thing they have an excellent (air conditioned) restaurant and motorcycle dealership at hand. Shawn and I had a nice dinner, toured the Moto Europa Ducati, Triumph and KTM dealership, reviewed the vintage bikes gathered outside, and then took a tour of the Moto Museum itself. It was still terribly hot on the ride home well after dark. Not the best night to be out on a bike.

Triumph Bobber

A Triumph bobber parked outside Moto Europa

BSA 650

BSA 650cc Thunderbolt single

Harley Sportster 1000 cafe bobber

Kris Williams Harley cafe bobber

Shawn tries out a new Bonneville

Shawn imagines life on something other than his Heritage Classic Softtail


Helen and I rode to the “Vintage Bike Night” at the Saint Louis Moto Museum. We were happy to see many beautiful old bikes, and many people we knew.

Helen with her dad's Kawasaki Z1000

Arriving at Vintage Bike Night

Helen and a classic Triumph

We found a classic Triumph right away

Several Japanese twins from the 70s

A bevy of Japanese twins from the seventies

Helen was drawn to a beautiful old (very old) Harley Davidson sidecar rig, owned by Rick Schutt, the president of the St. Louis Gateway Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.
Helen and an Antique Harley Davidson Sidecar rig

Helen could tell this one was special

Rick caught us admiring his antique machine and offered to take our picture ON his bike! We were thrilled!
Helen and Bill get their picture taken on the antique sidecar rig

What a machine!

Helen and I had a snack at the Triumph Grill, and reviewed all our pictures. We had a great time.