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Old 10-21-2008, 05:40 PM   #1
pckopp OP
Aged Adventurer
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Joined: Feb 2003
Location: Seattle, WA
Oddometer: 1,311
1974 Xl250

This bike has had an interesting life. I first saw it leaning against my neighbor's shed when I bought my house 22 years ago. After a couple of years of looking at it, I asked him about it and he gave it to me. We had to cut the chain off to get it to move, but at least it was out of the rain. He eventually found the title and I got it registered and licensed. When I was getting it running the second time, I noticed the frame and engine numbers don't match. My neighbor said he loaned the bike to his brother for a couple of years. Looks like it had more misadventures than I first realized.

I got it running and rode it around some and even took it to an OHV park. This was my first dirt bike and it was great fun to ride. I even wrote a story about it. Then I bought an XR400 and discovered what a real dirt bike was. So it sat again for a few years - inside.

I sold it to a friend who wanted something inexpensive for his son to learn on. Turns out the son wasn't interested, so it sat again for a few more years. Unfortunately, it was back outside. Eventually, the friend I sold it to decided to clean house and called me to see if I was interested. I was and I got it back. Since the paperwork never got transferred, it was still in my name. $35 later I have a new plate and current paperwork.

Here's what I started with this time. Which is pretty much what it looked like the first time I got it.

Getting it stripped down for the pressure washer.

Back from the car wash. It's starting to look like a bike.

The original gas tank.

Car wash

Getting it home happened in the late afternoon and evening, so I didn't really get a close look at what I was in for. Ouch! I stripped it to the engine, frame and wheels and took it to the car wash. $5 in quarters later I'm beginning to feel a little better about this project.

Clean the carb

My heart sank when I pulled the float bowl. The bowl was nearly full of orange goo! The inside surfaces were pretty uneven and it wasn't clear if it was even going to come apart. I worked carefully and managed to get it disassembled and clean. The biggest issue (which turned out not to be one) was the spring tab that holds the main jet in against the bottom of the float bowl. There was almost none it left. I bought a piece of thin metal sheet thinking I might give a shot at making one. I haven't yet.

Change oil, spark plug, clean connectors

I drained and replaced the oil, changed the plug and cleaned a couple of connectors that would get me a spark. My friend had replaced the coil when he had it saying it really made it start much easier. When I kicked it I got a spark. Not as bright as I'd have liked, but a spark.

XR400 tank

The tank was going to be a major project in itself, so I set it aside and took the plastic IMS tank off my XR400 and using a couple of tie downs, tied it to the handlebars to use as a temporary tank. Worked pretty well, you just couldn't turn the bars much with it in place.

I tried starting it and soon wore myself out kicking it. Even starting fluid only produced a weak pop or two. My plan was to not spend a dime I didn't need to until I knew whether the motor was going to run or not. So far, I was only out the registration fee and a few bucks at the car wash.

Finally it runs

One of my racing friends loaned me his starting rollers. With my wife behind the wheel of my pickup, I spun it up several times with no result. Again, even starter fluid only generated a few pops, but nothing more. Even getting the rollers to spin the rear tire was a challenge. The old knob on the back was so hard it would just bounce up and down on the smooth rollers rather than actually spin. Finally, my neighbor came by and helped push down and we got the wheel and motor spinning. Still no joy.

We gave that up and rolled the bike off the rollers. I decided to try kicking it one more time before putting it away for the day and to my amazement, it started! Smoke and black exhaust and rust bits flying everywhere but it was running! No evil noises, no oil gushing out anywhere so I was a happy guy. It wouldn't idle very well and it wouldn't rev real hard, but it was running. I've got a project!

Rear wheel, suspension, brakes

I set the tank and exhaust aside since they were in terrible shape and worked on some things I could do. I started with the suspension.

The back was the easiest to work on first so I started there. The new Works shocks I had bought just before I sold it had been installed and then the bike got left outside in the rain so they promptly rusted quite badly. I pulled them off and set them aside while I worked on the other parts.

I don't think the rear axle had ever been out, at least not for a very long time. It took me almost two hours of hammering and oiling before it finally popped free. Whew! I cleaned up the rear wheel and sprocket and carefully sanded the rust off the axle so it would slide in and out freely. What a mess. The rear brake was full of rusty gunk, but it cleaned up nicely and went back together with no problems.

Then I pulled the swingarm. Another session of hammering and oiling but only about 30 minutes this time. This is better than aerobics! The bushings were a tiny bit worn, but I'm doing this refurb on a budget, so I cleaned and greased everything and put it all back together. The swingarm moves nice and smoothly now with only the smallest side to side play. Plenty good for this project.

The biggest pain was getting the rear brake cable and brake lever apart and de-rusted and clean. I cleaned it all and lubed the cable and put it all back together. I'll save final adjustments until after its rolling under its own power.

With the rear of the bike finished, I turned to the shocks. I pulled the springs off and sprayed WD-40 on the shock shafts and let them sit overnight. The next morning I carefully sanded the shafts until they moved freely. They seem really stiff to me, but they are virtually new, only suffering in the weather all these years. I don't think they have 5 minutes of actual ride time. Cleaned everything up and reinstalled the shocks.

Front forks, wheel and brake

The front went pretty smoothly. There was a pair of new fork seals in the box of spare parts I got with the bike, so that's where I started. I must say, this was the easiest pair of fork seals I have ever changed. I spent some time cleaning the fork tubes and carefully removing some nicks and as much rust as I could. They cleaned up pretty well. Apart from making a big mess in the garage, they went back together with no drama. The biggest issue again was the axle, just like the back. Plenty of rust but a little careful sanding and plenty of lube and it all went back together fine. You can not imagine what drained out of those forks. Ugh!

The front brake was just like the rear; full of mushy, rusty gunk. I cleaned all that and lubed the cable really well and it seems to be ready for use. A half hour later the bike is back on its wheels.

Exhaust - first try

When my friend had it, he managed to acquire some extra parts. Another exhaust

system, spare fenders and a few other bits. Both exhaust systems were total rust buckets, so I picked the one I thought was best and started cleaning it up.

After working on that for a couple of days, I learned that a friend of a friend had a nice big sand blaster cabinet in his shop and a couple phone calls and an hour later I had a nice clean exhaust.

One of the employees of the shop is a fan of old bikes, so we got to chatting and he showed me his Sportser project hiding under a tarp in the corner. I immediately noticed the welded tank and he said he'd done that. I held up my exhaust and and asked, "Can you fix this?". "Sure." The next day it was done. Sweet!

So I bolted up the exhaust and fired it up again. It fired on the second kick and it was nice to have the exhaust going out the end instead of the sides. It ran poorly though, so I have more work to do with the points and timing and I'm sure the valves need adjusting.

Final carb rebuild

Since I'm far from an expert mechanic, I always assume what I fiddled with last is what's messed up, so I have spent two weeks (on and off) working on my carb. I read every old XL bike thread I could find. There are several old Honda forums and folks there were a big help.

First problem was the classic; running too rich. The concensus seems to be that the shiny parts inside wear out over time, so I went looking for new jets and needles. Found them on ebay. Some place called 'Rusty Riders' (something like that) sells kits that include all new jets, float valves, needle and some gaskets. Cheap too, at only $15.

I carefully installed all the new parts and put it all back together. The bike starts easily but still no power. Anything off idle and it ran rough and seemed to be loading up. And it seemed to be chuffing as much out the carb as the exhaust. And really loud!

Points, timing, valves, spark plug, connectors

I went over everything else that was easy to get to. New plug, checked the point gap, set the timing (it was off a little), checked the valves. All fine except for the small error on timing. I even pulled the advance mechanism and made sure it work. Greased the points pivot and put it all back together.

Now finally it needs a little choke when its dead cold. Second kick and it's idling as smooth and quiet as can be. But still no power. It won't even pull me up my very slight driveway.

Exhaust - the rest of the story

It finally occurred to me that it had never run well since I put the newly restored muffler on it. So I took that one off and installed the other one. In addition to all the rust, it has a big hole in the bottom just above the clutch cable mount.

I kicked, it started and ran great! A little loud with the extra hole in it, but it revs and has tons of power. Hauled me up and down the driveway with no problem at all. Did it three times it was so fun.

I had no idea what's wrong with the other muffler, but it sure is plugged up somewhere. I thought if my welder will do it cheaply enough, I may have him open it up so I can see what's going on.

Well, it didn't take long to figure that out. I took the exhaust by the shop and we shined a bright light down the pipe and it looked like someone had dropped a big cigar in it. It was just at finger distance down the pipe so it was hard to figure out what it was. And covered in black exhaust soot, of course.

So we band sawed it apart. Wow! I guess the picture here tells a thousand word story. There is probably the volume of a #2 pencil for the exhaust to flow. How hot must it have gotten!

Anyway, I sand blasted the other muffler, the welder did his magic on the holes and I painted it with hi-temp paint and put it all together. Looks great, no leaks, and best of all the bike starts and runs as good as ever. Probably better.

Gifts out of the blue

So I have a running bike with no gas tank. Ebay and craigslist aren't giving up any solutins, at least none in my price range.

Then one morning out of the blue, I get an email from someone who lives not far from me. He says there are two bikes sitting on a front lawn with a FREE sign leaning against them. The address is four blocks from my house.

I throw the bike ramps in my truck and head over, figuring they are probably long gone. They aren't. And the Goddess of Old Bike Restorers is smiling on me. One of the bikes is an old XL250 with a nearly perfect tank, rear shocks, front forks and various other bits. I can't get it in my truck fast enough. The other bike is a mid 70's Honda 550 and I have no interest in that so I leave it. One of my friends wanted that one, so I went back and got that one too. Free is good!

The gas tank is nearly perfect! Painted oddly, but well preserved and almost no rust inside. I pull the petcock apart and its clean and works fine. A few minutes later I have a gas tank with new fuel line and filter. I kick it alive and go for a ride around my neighborhood! Life is good!

Final clean up

Now that it's running I can spend a little time and money getting it rider friendly. The free donor bike also had a set of nice rear shocks, a kick stand and a bunch of fasteners that were way less rusted than mine. My friend the welder added the kick stand and what a difference that made. Now I can park it anywhere. I do need to get a couple inches added to it.

I sand blasted the seat pan, cleaned up the foam and found a cheap cover on ebay to finish it off with.

There is currently no wiring harness in the bike, just the bare minimun to make it run. I bolted on the headlight and taillight (not connected) and went for a ride. Of course, I got stopped for not having a working headlight, but the cop was cool and he just pointed out that there was an auto parts store just up the street. No ticket and I quickly headed for the back streets for the rest of my little trip.

I think I will try and adapt some kind of LED light assembly into my original headlight so I can at least ride it around without getting stopped.

I didn't try and make this bike a museum piece. My wife wants to use it to learn to ride in the back country and others may find it useful for that also. It's relatively light weight, has a low seat and unintimidating power. And since its just got the essentials, it can't really be hurt much by falling over. Perfect learner bike and yet still fun for me to blast around.

Last thing I did was change the rear tire. The old one had a beautiful pattern of cracks all over it. I think it was the hardest tire I ever changed. Getting it off the bead was a killer. I finally gave up and used a sawzall! I had a slightly used MT-21 sitting around so that's what it's wearing now.

Here it is now.

I'm not selling this bike. After all this history, it deserves a good family and a clean and dry garage.
Phil in Seattle, WA
Europe 2014

pckopp screwed with this post 10-21-2008 at 10:27 PM Reason: typos
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Old 10-21-2008, 06:07 PM   #2
prominent underachiever
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Joined: Dec 2004
Location: Alabamski Oblast, Redneckistan
Oddometer: 3,733
looking good so far....
how about some more pics tho?

My bike hotel in Bulgaria. ADVriders get 1st beer free!

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Old 10-21-2008, 07:04 PM   #3
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Joined: Apr 2008
Location: Road Island
Oddometer: 6,055

XS650 becomes a VT BackRoadRunner
Loving the 80ST
I love projects that take twice as much effort as should be needed. Should be an Airhead motto. (disston)
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:39 PM   #4
Joined: Dec 2005
Oddometer: 8,245
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:28 PM   #5
pckopp OP
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Joined: Feb 2003
Location: Seattle, WA
Oddometer: 1,311
Originally Posted by rtwdoug
how about some more pics tho?
Doug is/was right. I took a few out.
Phil in Seattle, WA
Europe 2014
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:31 PM   #6
Old buzzard bait
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Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Kingston ON Canada
Oddometer: 3,854
Great job for small bucks. I love to see old bikes rescued.
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Old 10-22-2008, 07:13 AM   #7
Wacky Bongo Boy
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Joined: Nov 2006
Location: El Segundo, CA
Oddometer: 7,651

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Old 10-22-2008, 08:09 AM   #8
spinning the wheel
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Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Oddometer: 805
Don't worry about the numbers not matching. They don't match on my CL350 either. Honda did not bother matching them back in the day, or so I've read on the interweb.
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:37 AM   #9
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Joined: Jul 2006
Location: SoCal
Oddometer: 289
Congrats on the real nice job on the resto. Keep the bucks low.

I love keeping the old bikes running. Old tech is good tech.
Be skeptical and a critical thinker. Don't be fooled by fake patriots
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:54 AM   #10
vagrant philosopher
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Joined: Feb 2005
Location: rural WI
Oddometer: 387
And they lived happily ever after, until the end of their days.

Thank you.
enjoy every sandwich

'75 R90/6
'78 R100/7, well really, R80/7
'87 Radian/fj600
'81 C70--IT'S ALIVE !!!!
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Old 01-19-2009, 04:10 PM   #11
the darkness
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Joined: Aug 2007
Location: Boulder, CO
Oddometer: 4,083
Great story!
Rebuild threads:
'92 XT600, '87 XR250R
Lighten up, Francis.
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Old 01-20-2009, 10:29 PM   #12
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Aug 2007
Location: Seattle
Oddometer: 225
Glad to see you've pulled off a successful rescue of a legendary machine.
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Old 01-20-2009, 10:42 PM   #13
Ceteris non Paribus
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Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Elizabeth, Colorado
Oddometer: 3,353
The first pic of that bike makes me feel fortunate that I live in the desert. We can leave bikes sitting out for decades in Wyoming and they won't rust like that!
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Old 01-25-2009, 12:28 PM   #14
cheap bastard
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Joined: Apr 2006
Location: Riverside , CA
Oddometer: 3,376
holy handlebars batman ...are those off a BMX bike?? j/k to see another old bike saved..i just did the same for a TY175 Yamaha.
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Old 01-25-2009, 01:42 PM   #15
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Location: Nebraska
Oddometer: 988
No motorcycle left behind!

Great job!
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