ADVrider

Go Back   ADVrider > Bikes > Old's Cool
User Name
Password
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 08-17-2014, 05:30 AM   #1
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
1981 XS850 resto-mod

Hi all,

I am relatively new to the forum and though this is not an adventure bike, it seems like you all appreciate a good story and I'd like to go back and tell it from the beginning. I've posted most of this on a model-specific forum but it was not always cohesive, and was peppered with me asking embarrassingly basic questions, since this is my first time doing this sort of thing.

I've had plenty of time wrenching on cars, atv's, lawn mowers, tractors, and other 4-wheeled vehicles, but I'd never really done much on a motorcycle. I've wanted to build "my own" motorcycle for years. Partly because I just wanted a bike, and partly because motorcycles seemed like a great way to enjoy the hobby of wrenching and "light" customization. Cars are too big, expensive, and complicated to be fun for me any more.

So, rewind to early last year and that desire turned into lurking on craigslist and cruising back roads looking for a bargain. I figured I'd end up with a Honda CB-something since they seemed like the cheapest, most plentiful platforms for this kind of project. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with a bike, I just wanted to get one and start working on it and see what happened.

Tune in next time to see how the journey started...
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2014, 06:08 AM   #2
B80
TOURING ADVENTURIZOR
 
B80's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2014
Location: AN XT 600 NE England
Oddometer: 106
Cool2

Sounds all good to me.
B80 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-18-2014, 05:25 AM   #3
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
Early last August, I was about to leave work and my wife sent me a note saying that she was at an appointment and the kids were with Grandma for the evening. I suddenly had time to kill. I popped open Craigslist and figured I'd at least waste some time browsing, or see if there was anything worth actually looking at.

There it was, the classic example of a poorly written posting. I've found when buying things online that poorly written posts almost always result in at least an interesting story, if not a concealed bargain. So when I see them, I usually respond. The listing said this (yes, all in caps):

81 YAMAHA 850 SPECIAL. TITLE IN HAND. OIL LEAK. MUST SELL QUICK, LOST JOB. $250 OBO

That was it, no photos, no map or address. I called the number and it rang for a loooong time before a rough grovelly old voice answered. I said I was calling about the bike and could come see it right now. The person on the other end proceeded to tell me that they were a junk dealer, and they had picked this bike up from a kid who lost his job. The junk dealer was so incredibly talkative that I was having a hard time hanging up so I could drive there and I ended up getting the entire "backstory" while sitting in the parking lot. At this point in time, while on the phone, I had assumed I was talking to an elderly gentleman, but when I finally got there, it turned out to be a woman (who has a chain-smoking habit, hence the old man voice I guess).

I'll condense the story here. A young guy had called her in a desperate situation, needing money because he lost his job and had kids to feed. This Poor Kid says he had a bunch of bikes and a car he was trying to sell. Junk Lady tells him she doesn't buy good running vehicles, just scrap junk. Poor Kid gets all desperate and tells her he'll sell this one bike he has for scrap, because he just needs the money today, kids have no food, no diapers, blah blah blah. He tells her he had taken the bike apart to fix an oil leak. So she goes and looks at it, and tells the kid it's only worth $75 as scrap, and he should sell it to someone who will value it as a fixer-upper, because it'll be worth more that way. However, apparently the Junk Lady felt bad and decided she has a soft spot for bikes. Junk Lady's neighbor is a bike mechanic (we'll call him Bike Neighbor), so she figures she'll buy it and have him fix it for her. So, she pays the kid $200 for it and has him deliver it to her.

Next, Junk Lady gets the bike home and has Bike Neighbor come look at it. Bike Neighbor agrees with the woman that it's worth fixing and that everything's more or less there (if not intact). Bike Neighbor tells her he'll put it back together for $250 but this is his super busy time of year and he can't get to it until over the winter. At the moment this seems great to Junk Lady. She figures she'll let it sit in the garage for 6 months, then get it fixed and sell it for a profit.

But then the trouble started. It turns out that Junk Lady has an autistic grandson living with her (the kid looks like he's maybe 8). Junk Lady has a hard time keeping track of the kid and he doesn't have much self control. He decides he loves the bike and is constantly trying to climb on it. Junk Lady decides it's too dangerous to have the bike in her garage because the grandkid is likely to tip it over on himself or otherwise get hurt. So, up on Craigslist it goes, for the price of $250.

I got that all over the phone before finally convincing Junk Lady to let me hang up and drive there. At this point in time I had never heard of a "Yamaha 850 Special" but I figured it was at least worth looking at. I mean, at least it had a title, so it seemed like it would be hard to go wrong. Tune in next time to see how that turned out for me...
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-18-2014, 07:21 AM   #4
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
Junk Lady had told me she was just off the highway so I figured I could get there quick and still be home for dinner. It turns out she was just off the highway in the next city over, and not really close to the highway. I felt my spidey senses tingling as I pulled in - the house was run down, all alone, junked truck in the yard. There was even what appeared to be a big pile of dirt next to a shallow hole back behind the garage - perhaps a shallow mass grave in the works? It was definitely the kind of place they'd go to film the opening scene in a horror movie.

I pulled in and got out, and the grandson ran out and stared at me. I told him I was there to see the bike, and he went to find Grandma. Grandma came out and instantly resumed her extremely talkative pattern from the phone call. She basically told me the whole story again, right there in the driveway, before I even saw the bike. 20 minutes later she took me into the garage, and there it was.

Well, there most of it was. There was a frame with most of an engine in it, fenders, controls, things like that. The seat, carbs, tank, battery, air box, parts of the valve train, and a bunch of other important things weren't on the bike. I asked and she pointed to a big box and a big plastic coffee can. I started digging and I was pretty surprised that it looked like everything was actually there.

The alternator was off the bike too, so I could put a wrench on the end of the crank and feel that the engine would turn, at least a little bit. The head was kinda off, so I didn't want to turn it too far.

I had in front of me what appeared to be a mostly complete, disassembled bike, with a good title. While I was there looking at it, she took a handful of other phone calls on the bike. It seemed like it would be gone in minutes if I walked away, so I gave her $50 cash, and she wrote out a bill of sale. I told her I'd be back on Saturday to pick it up.

On my way home I was asking myself if I knew what I was getting in to. I got home and announced to my wife that I had just bought a bike. SHE then asked me if I knew what I was getting in to. Then I called my friend with a trailer (everyone's got a friend with a trailer, right?) and told him the story, and HE asked me if I knew what I was getting in to. I spent the rest of the evening crawling the internet looking for information on the bike, at which point I determined it was an XS850 Special, the successor to the XS750, and one of only a handful of three cylinder bikes out there. It seemed like I had stumbled into a fairly ideal bike - it's old enough to be simple and have the "old" coolness factor, but new enough to be a reasonable ownership experience - triple disk brakes, electronic ignition, shaft drive. The research was helping me feel a little better after having some doubts.

It was certainly going to be a "project" but I was (for better or worse) looking for a project, not a finished bike. I figured I could go spend $1500 and buy an older UJM that was being sold as road-ready, or I could go spend $1500 buying a junker and going through it myself - which would make me feel a little more confident that it actually was road-ready. Plus, although I wasn't interested in anything outrageously custom, I did want a bike I could imprint my own creativity on, vs just driving a bike that some factory had spit out. So this $250 basket case was starting to look pretty ideal.

Up next: The trip home and the initial evaluation in my own garage...
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-18-2014, 10:54 AM   #5
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
I wish I'd taken some photos of the bike on the way home, for the sake of posterity.

That Saturday my trailer friend called to tell me the brake lights were wrecked. I didn't want to complicate things by getting rear ended or pulled over, so I stopped at the hardware store and got new lights on my way to his house, put them on, and took off to get the bike. I brought my brother with me to provide some muscle to get it up the ramp onto the trailer. We got to the junk lady's house and spent 20 comical minutes trying to get the trailer down her driveway, then got out to load up. The junk lady came out, and seeing my brother as fresh meat, proceeded to give him the whole back story, complete with embellishments. A 10 minute transaction slowly stretched into almost two hours by the time she was done talking at us. I felt a little bad for this woman, and she was obviously enjoying her story telling, so I didn't rush things. I think that paid off, because when I went to pay her the balance I owed for the bike, she told me to keep fifty bucks of it. OK, I'm not gonna argue with that.

We loaded up and had an uneventful trip home. I unloaded the bike, rolled it into the garage, muscled it onto the center stand, and there it sat for 9 or 10 months.

Enough of the text, time for the first photo. This is the bike, later that evening, after I'd had a few hours to poke at it:



Next up, my initial findings...
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-18-2014, 06:48 PM   #6
k-moe
Beastly Adventurer
 
Joined: Jun 2012
Oddometer: 2,196
Why that's mostly assembled. I expected worse from your story. You have a bike with a soildly engineered engine, and better-than-decent parts availability (Yamaha loves to re-use parts over several models, and for several decades). You made a good buy. Have fun, and be thorough.
Rushing makes for and .
Do the bike justice and it will with you forever.

This link might be of some help: http://www.yamahatriples.com
__________________
Mixing metaphors is like killing two birds with a dog that won't hunt.
k-moe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-19-2014, 05:31 AM   #7
B80
TOURING ADVENTURIZOR
 
B80's Avatar
 
Joined: Jun 2014
Location: AN XT 600 NE England
Oddometer: 106
Sounds a cheap bike you have there
I dont know the yamha tripples myself, but had loads of old triumph tridents back in the day, the tripples sound so nice in my opinion.
Look carefull at the bike check everything twice when you take on a project like this, you just dont know wht they have done with this .
Rushing you could miss something that could end up costing you more than your initial purchase price.
B80 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-19-2014, 07:30 AM   #8
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
I don't have time to post a "real" update right now but let me point out that this story is mostly in the past, I got the bike in August of 2013 and am currently riding it daily. I'm re-telling it here for kicks and giggles.

Would still appreciate any and all feedback or helpful suggestions of course, but just wanted everyone to make sure they knew the time context.

k-moe: what you can't see in that photo is that the head is only sitting on the motor, it's not actually attached. There's LOTS more you can't easily see that I'll detail later. Let's just say I reached a point within a week or two of the purchase where I was really regretting it. EVERYTHING I touched on the bike needed to be replaced, rebuilt, repainted, whatever.
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Yesterday, 05:48 AM   #9
Krantz
Adventurer
 
Krantz's Avatar
 
Joined: Feb 2013
Oddometer: 83
Interesting story.I think i read it on yamaha triples.Did you figured how to set up carbs?
Krantz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Yesterday, 07:58 AM   #10
sjc56
Beastly Adventurer
 
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: Broad Brook CT USA
Oddometer: 1,132
I gave one of those away years ago after I found out what the parts would cost to rebuild the carbs. Great to see someone take the time to do it.
__________________
Steve
sjc56 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Yesterday, 09:12 AM   #11
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
At the risk of spoiling the story, yeah eventually I got the carbs sorted. They were in very bad shape and required some creativity. I found rebuild kits on ebay from a seller named georgefix that were high quality and WAY cheaper than most sources, I think it was something like $75 for all three (vs most sellers wanting $40 - $50 each).

Yamaha used Mikuni carbs on the 750 version of the triple, but switched to Hitachis for the 850. Lots of people hate on the Hitachis but now that mine are working well I really have zero complaints.

And yes I posted most of this as it happened on yamaha-triples. Great community. Don't think I would have finished the project without that forum.

Back to the story.

After haphazardly poking at the bike for a few days, getting my hands on a shop manual, and finding some resources online, I figured I needed to do an overall plan of attack, and start that with a high level evaluation of the bike, end to end. I think I did a reasonably good job of evaluating the bike prior to sale, given my relative lack of knowledge, but things were starting to sink in that I probably should have noticed. I doubt my decision to buy it would have changed, because, honestly, it's 200 bucks. Worst case, I figured I could part it out and count it as a learning experience, getting my hands dirty taking something apart that I didn't care about.

This was when the joy of doing this as a hobby started to set in and counteract the distress at the long list of problems. I didn't NEED to have this done on a certain timeline. Part of what has sucked the fun out of working on cars is that my cars are typically my primary mode of transportation, so there's a sense of urgency - I need to troubleshoot and fix the problem NOW because I need to get to work tomorrow! And of course cars are expensive. I've spent more on brake pads and rotors than this entire project cost me. With the motorcycle, I had something mechanical and tangible, something I could tinker with and see some immediate progress, but no pressure from a transportation or financial standpoint. The best of both worlds.

I'm going to give the full rundown of problems I found. In the next post I'll talk through my strategy decision. This is roughly the list of problems I noticed right away - there were plenty more problems that came up later on, I'll try to put them in the right spot in the chronology.

Here goes.

I will start with the engine - It turned, at least a little. The cams were out and the head nuts/bolts were off. The head gasket was gone, but the head was not removed from the bike - the timing chain was still intact and since it has to be broken to remove the head, the head was just sorta "perched" on top of the studs. To top it off, it looked like an ape had removed the head. There were broken fins and evidence along the interface that a screwdriver had been wedged between the head and the jugs. Clearly a big huge no-no on soft aluminum parts, but none of that looked terminal.

There was a little oil in the pan but not a full fill of oil. It smelled really faintly of gas. Common on these due to leaky petcocks and leaky carb floats. Fingers crossed that this hadn't caused any terminal damage. Looking at the cams, it didn't seem like there was any evidence that the bike was ever run low on oil or on thinned oil, so I am predicting the gas got into the oil after the bike was parked.

Once I had broken the chain and pulled the head off, I could see that the number three cylinder was full of rust. Not good. More investigation needed later.

After checking the engine, I dove into the coffee can of engine parts that were off the bike, and sorted them out.



Problem is, those parts had all been rattling around together, which meant the cam caps were pretty wrecked (more abuse of soft aluminum):

dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Yesterday, 09:25 AM   #12
dwizum OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2014
Oddometer: 52
The gas tank was off the bike and had some pretty good surface rust, inside and out. Didn't appear to be leaky, and a quick fill with water confirmed that. The tank was also dented in a few places, and the OEM paint (black metal flake) was sprayed over with flat black paint.

I started to piece together some trends which helped me guess at the prior life of the bike.

The right side of the gas tank was the worst for rust and had the biggest dent. The right mirror was bent, and the right headlight ear was bent and rusty. The frame had surface rust on the right side. And so on. There was mud in weird places on the right side - the end of the handlebars, the turn signals, and so on. I'm pretty sure the bike sat on the ground, or maybe in a puddle or muddy field, on it's right side, for probably at least a few weeks or months before I bought it.

And that flat black paint? It was REALLY pervasive. Someone put a LOT of effort into a really, really poor paint job. On the one hand, I hate the person who did this because it meant a lot more work for me. On the other hand, hey - they had a bike and they probably enjoyed "customizing" it. As mentioned, the tank was painted, but it had been painted right over the rust, with ZERO prep done to the rust. So it bubbled right through. Also, it looked like gas had been spilled down the right side of the tank, because there was a big patch where the flat paint was nonexistent.

The exposed portions of the frame were painted flat black too, which is ironic, because the frame was black from the factory.

Lots of the bike's original chrome and small parts had been painted too - front and rear fenders, the kick start lever, brake pedal, mirrors, control levers, headlight bucket, side covers, the rear brake master cylinder, rear shocks, Yamaha badge on the forks, and a whole lot more. It looked like someone had just clumsily masked and sprayed stuff right on the bike, because there was overspray everywhere.

I really wish I had taken more photos early on in this process, because the bike was a sight to see in this condition. Rusty, clumsily painted, and really hurting pretty bad in pretty much every possible way. In addition to the cosmetic and engine issues, it was clear that the forks were both leaking, and oil from the forks had contaminated the front brake pads. The pads looked pretty new, and were barely worn, but were totally oil soaked. This was not the only impediment to good braking, because it seemed like the front brake hydraulics were toasted too. The lever would create a bit of braking action but it wouldn't really return, so applying the brakes meant the front wheel was locked even after you released the pedal. The rear brake seemed OK. At least now.

The forks were clearly low on oil, and they were REALLY sticky. The electronics on the controls and idiot lights were temperamental. It seemed like they'd work one second then not a second later. The "original" fuse box had been badly butchered and it seemed like a fuse popped every time the electrical system came to life. The turn signals didn't work. The headlight didn't work. The tires had air when I got it, but the rear was flat the next day, and the front had age cracks. The clutch seemed to work but was really stiff. The battery that came with the bike was completely empty of water.

Did I mention the rust and mud? It would make things really interesting later on - like, say, when I got into the carbs. But I'll save that for another post. I have to go take a brake now after the mental trauma of going back through all the bike's problems.
dwizum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Today, 10:35 AM   #13
10ecjed
Adventurer
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Frederick, MD
Oddometer: 99
Xs850

Looks like abig project. My buddy has one. It runs real good.
Good luck. Keep us updated.
__________________
10ecjed
10ecjed is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Share

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

.
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


Times are GMT -7.   It's 11:24 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2014