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G2mk3 11-22-2009 10:38 AM

Messing around with a Virago
First I would like to say that everyone should feel free to talk about their viragos in this thread, please don't worry about hijacking what will ultimately be a somewhat slow build thread. For a bike as common as viragos are it is somewhat surprising the lack of a community for them on the internet. Yes there is viragotech, but for whatever reason that place doesnt tickle my fancy (people can't post big pictures? wtf mate. and the info in that forum is sometimes somewhat hard to retrieve). So as I said, feel free to post whatever virago related stuff you want in this thread.

I have only just recently got into motorcycles, my only other bikes were a yamaha gt80 i messed around with and reviving a 81 xl185s, the thread on which is somewhere buried in old school. I have always had a fondness for cafe bikes, my friends that have RD's haven't helped much. When I saw pictures of the "zerocafe" virago that are around the net I started to like viragos for all the same reasons I like impreza's that are turned into rally cars. Ok, it is not so reasonable to turn a virago into a race bike like a impreza can be turned into proper rally car, but I do believe the virago can be made "decently" sporty and unique while remaining a cheap and dependable motorcycle.

As it turned out, after a few months of researching them a close friend from highschool offered me a 81 xv750 he had acquired from a coworker. He has a few projects going on and eventually realized he just wasn't going to get around to it and passed it on to me. :freaky

After making sweet love to the hitachi carbs (and I thought hitachi primarily specialized in ruining audi's...), unclogging a few jets and emulsion tubes and replacing a torn diaphragm, it finally runs. It still needs to be synced and the floats adjusted, but I think I am on the up side of that battle.
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I doesn't exactly rip yet, but considering it's my first 'substantial' bike I'm not so worried. I have ridden a few gsxr's and decided I prefer to get those sorts of thrills from my rally car, so this will stay more on the sport tourer side of things.

Realizing that a lot of the handling differences between the 920 and 920r's is due to the 18" rear wheel on the r, I decided that was a good place to start out, however I was not to crazy about the design of the wheels and decided that the wheels from a xj900r would fit my sporty theme a bit better. I found a local person on CL parking out a 900 seca and ended up taking the majority of the front end off of him as well.

I have test fitted the rear wheel, which only requires a mount for the brace to be welded on the swing arm and a bit of work to make the MC jive with the brake pedal, otherwise a bolt on affair :clap.

The larger rear wheel looks like it will raise the rear axle about 3/8-1/2" once a new tire is on. A simple side to side comparison makes it look like the xj forks and wheel will drop the front end about 3". Any input on all the handling changes that might/should occur is appreciated, but I am pretty sure the front end will be going on regardless.

benwiggin2 11-22-2009 12:34 PM

Good for you on this project! Do keep us posted!

G2mk3 12-14-2009 12:27 PM

I don't have too much to update; After rebuilding the carbs for the 2nd time (the first time was just blasting carb cleaner around them) the bike starts and runs on both cylinders. It starts easily but has some hesitation reving off of idle. I have set the float levels and balanced them with a home built manometer (I got them very close, but there is just enough play in the linkage that at idle I can not for the life of me get them to be exactly even). It could be tci issues that the bikes are somewhat known to have, but first I am gonna throw in a new set of plugs and adjust the valves. Any imput on the situtation would be great.

Since my xj900r front end didn't come with front brake calipers I picked up these r6 calipers on ebay for dirt cheap. I can't wait to offer them up to see how much work it will take to them them on...

(none) 12-14-2009 12:43 PM

Love the Stig doll. Good luck with the build.

JimVonBaden 12-14-2009 12:46 PM

I had the damn carbs out of a Virago 5-6 times trying to get it to run right. Those things are a bitch coming and going!:bluduh

I hated that bike, and wished I had never agreed to work on it for a friend!:deal

Jim :brow

G2mk3 12-14-2009 12:54 PM

I've at least gotten good at taking them on and off. I find it is a lot easier to put the carb mount on the rear cylinder, slid the carbs in and onto the rear mount, then twist the carbs and push on the front mount. When both mounts are already on it really sucks...

I'm really hoping it is a bad TCI unit, but I wouldn't be surprised if new plugs made the difference considering how long it only ran on one cylinder and all the chemicals I shot in there to get it to start.

JBMorse 12-14-2009 01:33 PM

My first summer of riding was on a Virago 500, an early 80s model that my dad got from a friend for a whopping $400. It was silly looking and had retarded ergos (made for very very short people I guess), but I loved it! That little 500 V twin was a great engine. Plenty of oomph for me and the girlfriend to take day trips to the lakes and mountains. We had a great time on that bike. With the reliability and shaft drive, I never did a lick of maintenance on it, but it ran great until one day the CDI gave out. My older brother fixed it rode it last summer. I got my own bike now :thumb
Good call on the rims. Man those stockers are silly looking! Good luck on the rebuild, I'm interested to see what you do with it.

AzB 12-14-2009 01:53 PM

FWIW, the CDI unit failure is a common problem on all Viragos. Generally, they either won't run at all, or just as commonly, they'll run on one cylinder. The extra fun ones only run on one cylinder some of the time, making it even more time consuming tracking down the problem.

And the CDI units are getting hard to find.

Good luck.


JBMorse 12-14-2009 02:55 PM

There's a guy somewhere that rebuilds those CDI units. My brother had it sent out to him and it cost around $100 if I recall correctly. I don't have the name of the business on hand.

dyna mo 12-14-2009 04:46 PM

nice! i enjoyed my virago 700 when i had it.

Nemosengineer 12-14-2009 05:08 PM

Great thread, I have a soft spot for Virago's.

: Mike

2tallnwide 12-14-2009 07:23 PM

My first cruiser...

'83 Midnight Virago, good luck with yours...:thumb

G2mk3 12-14-2009 11:13 PM


Originally Posted by JBMorse
There's a guy somewhere that rebuilds those CDI units. My brother had it sent out to him and it cost around $100 if I recall correctly. I don't have the name of the business on hand.

I have seen one website offering a rebuild service, but it said they can't do the early ones like on my 81...

I've tried researching the TCI (it actually isn't a cdi) problems, lots of people seem to say they are actually just the electrical connections getting corroded, but all of mine looked great (I hit them with a fiberglass brush and then some diaelectric grease). One or two sources say that they are bad when they run weird only below 3500rpm or only above, apparently it must switch mapping then.

Hopefully I'll be able to start swapping the front ends soon and post some pics of that. Now that the streets are all snowy out I'm not as concerned about the engine :augie

G2mk3 12-16-2009 09:23 AM

I didn't get a chance to start swapping the front ends, but I did offer up the new calipers to the xj fork, and I'm happy to say it looks very promising :clap

I'll need to mill a little off of the mounts on the calipers and then make a adapter to get to the upper ear on the caliper. The offset is only off by 2-3mm, they are starting to look like the best 31 dollar ebay purchase ever (yeah I know, the master... I'm just gonna see how the xj one does, and if it isn't up to the job I'll pick up a r6 one later).

G2mk3 01-13-2010 07:51 PM

Today I started swapping the front ends, which is nearly a bolt on affair :evil

P.S. I have no clue how someone could have ridden the xj900 to the point where the front tire got that bad... I'm thinking I'm gonna go with avon roadriders to replace those wretched things once I sell off some of the unused xv bits.

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