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Old 09-30-2004, 10:22 AM   #1
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Joined: Apr 2004
Location: Boulder, Colorado
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It's gonna be an adventure

After years on the street, I finally acquired an off road bike. Adventures to begin shortly.

It's a 1979 Honda XR250. It had been sitting under a tree in my buddy's yard for the past 4 years. Prior to that, well, let's see...the license plate that's on it expired in 1988. He bought it from a neighbor who was moving. It was ridden a few times two years ago, and is reported to run well. It was free.

I've wanted a dirt bike since forever, and this one fit my budget. Call it a fixer upper. I'm neither knowledgeable nor skilled, but I like a good project as much as the next guy. This thing only has one cylinder, kick start, and is air cooled. It has cable actuated drum brakes. It doesn't even have an oil filter. How difficult can it be?

I've read that the XR engine has not changed much since its debut in '79, and it's considered bullet proof. I suspect it will handle and stop like a 25 year old bike. Guys rode bikes like this back in the day, so I imagine I can, too.
Here's a pic:



Big Shirtless Ron and Terry the Mullet came over last night and we tore into it. Okay, neither they nor the rest of the Hee Haw! extras was here, but I did put it up on a milk crate.

I drained the tank and it was surprisingly clean. A mouse had been living in the airbox, and had chewed up the foam filter element. I hate rodents. Pulled the carb and the float bowl, jet and float were shockingly clean.

Had some trouble getting the front wheel off. The drum brake assembly was awkward. Not much to these drum brakes. The shoes and drum cylinder actually look really good. The hub bearings are perfect. I'm guessing this thing's never seen a water crossing.

Pulled the forks. They have smooth action and do not appear to be leaking at the seals. Triples are straight and the head bearings nice and smooth.

The odometer indicated 7005 miles, but when I removed it I found the drive cable broken. Who needs a speedometer or odometer anyway? Horses don't have them, and plenty of people took adventure rides on horses in the previous century (about the time Honda engineers were working on this model).

The exhaust silencer is rusted about in half, so I'll need a fix for that. The brake lever is curled further than Rollie Fingers' mustache, so that will need replacement. The brake cable is almost frozen, so that has to go, too.

The clutch lever feels awesome! If I can get the rest of the bike feeling as good as the clutch lever, I'll be a happy man. Love that clutch lever.

The chain is currently soaking in a can of gasoline. I tried to pull the rear wheel, but the axel nut didn't want to budge. Hit it with some PB Blaster and will try again. I can feel that the forks have damping, but I'm not expecting much out of the rear strutes.

Appears to be leaking around both main gaskets, so I'll need a replacement set.

There's some info on the bike at ThumperTalk.com. Anywhere else I could turn to for resources? Any advice or insight is appreciated.

My wife still wants to know how much this free bike is going to cost.

-Doug in Colorado
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Old 09-30-2004, 11:14 AM   #2
Tim McKittrick
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Location: Wasilla Alaska
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My first bike was a '78 XL250s- very similar to your bike but with turn signals, a battery, and a larger instrument cluster that was easily smashed. This engine was completly revised somewhere around 1984 with the addition of the RFVC engine family. I recall the best improvement I made to the bike was replacing the rear shocks and swingarm bushings. The forks on your bike have a bit more travel but could be helped with careful oil selection and aftermarket springs- my XL was very soft and bottomed too easily. Then there is the weird 23" front tire- I think there are one or two tires still available, but none of them are very good. If you plan to keep the bike for the long term you may want to lace in a 21" hoop in order to improve your tire selection. Or, if you have a bike scrapyard nearby, replace the entire front end with a newer and better unit from a early 80's CR.
Beyond that, the 250 is a very tough engine that can survive tremendous abuse. The weak link is the cam chain adjuster- keep an ear out for any chain "slap" noise, and fix it right away if you hear any.
Good luck and happy riding!
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Old 10-01-2004, 10:58 AM   #3
Doug Grosjean
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Joined: Feb 2004
Location: Northwest Ohio, USA
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Just went through a lot of the same things getting an 11 y/o Suzuki DR-350s back on the road, after it had spent 4-5 years in a barn.

Carb is the biggest thing to worry about, IMO. Gave me fits. Would clean and clean it, assume it was all clear, and find poor running when installed.

Since many people replace the stock carb on the DR, a vendor had a bunch of the original units slightly used, and I finally just bought one for cheap. Cured almost everything.

My DR aslo has HIGH mileage (over 41.5k miles when stored), is up to over 46,000 miles now and will turn 47,000 this coming week. So engine is quite worn now. But I've got everything else working quite well.

Hang in there. It's satisfying when you get it right.
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Pemberville, Ohio
douggrosjean@gmail.com

1992 R100gs - 102k (62k are mine)
1993 DR-350s - 52k
2000 Concours - 91k

A slew of others, come and gone....

Author of "Wheels"...
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Old 10-01-2004, 08:42 PM   #4
dirtydeeds
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Last year I did horrible, horrible things to one of those bikes. I kept up to (and sometimes was infront(!)) of a CRF 450 and a CR 500. That was the last weekend that bike had. It "died with it's boots on."

I will never forget the beating that bike took. It did still run at the end of the weekend, it just needed a new top and bottom end, clutch, gear box, exhaust, front and rear suspension, plastic, a few days with the frame in a press for straightening and a little welding and the little things like levers, bars, grips, chain/sprockets, seat, brakes, gas tank etc. The tripmeter was smashed when I got it.

Did I mention I dropped it a couple times? Started first kick every time too, except after it was under 6 ft of water for about 20 minutes. It took 23 kicks then.

I would definately get another one.

Dirty
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Old 10-03-2004, 04:20 AM   #5
Vance
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Way to go Doug! When you want to trade up...let me know. I'll up the price by 100%
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Old 10-04-2004, 11:43 AM   #6
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Vance, "trade up"? You kidding? Didn't you see dirtydeeds' post about how capable and durable these things are?

For anyone who cares, here's the update:
Makes strong spark.

Needs new rear shoes. Drums are nice and round front and rear. Needs new sprockets and chain. Rear springs still seem to provide damping. New bushings are in order for them though.

Pulled the frame. Everything is straight and clean. Hit it with some Rustoleum. Plastic has 25 years of UV wear, but there's still red under it if you scrape deeply enough.

I found a skidplate and some nice Renthal bars at the "breakers". Priced out new cables and bushings, chain, sprockets etc. comes to about $430.
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Old 10-04-2004, 11:58 AM   #7
Doug Grosjean
Writer, Photographer, Dad
 
Joined: Feb 2004
Location: Northwest Ohio, USA
Oddometer: 281
Quote:
Originally Posted by dougrender
Vance, "trade up"? You kidding? Didn't you see dirtydeeds' post about how capable and durable these things are?

For anyone who cares, here's the update:........ Priced out new cables and bushings, chain, sprockets etc. comes to about $430.
Funny, that's about what it cost to get my DR-350 back on the road after sitting 4-5 years.

If my experience is a guide to yours, you'll find another $200-$300 worth of things over the next two months. Given the low-miles of yours, you'll probably have a nice old dirtbike.

Mine had so many miles, I'm having to spend more than that if I want to keep it going and going and going.... but that's cool.

Just a heads-up, so you're a bit prepared.

And I can't say it enough: Carbs. They do gunk up from sitting...
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Best,
Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio
douggrosjean@gmail.com

1992 R100gs - 102k (62k are mine)
1993 DR-350s - 52k
2000 Concours - 91k

A slew of others, come and gone....

Author of "Wheels"...
Owner / Operator of 1919 #10 Cirkut camera
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Old 10-12-2004, 09:04 AM   #8
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Joined: Apr 2004
Location: Boulder, Colorado
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Just placed a Partsfish order for all my required pieces. Interestingly, the front and rear brake cables and rear brake shoes were about the only thing not available.

Ideas on getting these cables? They have some doodads and ends that seem to mate to nooks and crannies on the frame. How about shoes?

Thanks!
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Old 10-12-2004, 09:57 AM   #9
Tim McKittrick
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Barnetts should be able to make you some cables. As for shoes, I'd call XR's Only or White Brothers and see if they can help. If that fails, you may be able to re-line the old shoes with new friction material. If there is a specialty brake shop in your area they may be able to help you with this- it would require bonding (or riviting) new material to the old shoes and you need to come up with the correct glue, friction material, and perhaps even turn down the resulting shoes for a proper fit. I would also look in Classic Bike or a similar magazine as there are usually some brake specialists listed in the adverts in the back.
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Old 10-12-2004, 02:50 PM   #10
Doug Grosjean
Writer, Photographer, Dad
 
Joined: Feb 2004
Location: Northwest Ohio, USA
Oddometer: 281
Quote:
Originally Posted by dougrender
Just placed a Partsfish order for all my required pieces. Interestingly, the front and rear brake cables and rear brake shoes were about the only thing not available.

Ideas on getting these cables? They have some doodads and ends that seem to mate to nooks and crannies on the frame. How about shoes?

Thanks!
I think Motion Pro is another cable supplier.

For the brake shoes, old car guys go through this too. If the post before mine doesn't pan out, start doing some google searches on brake shoe re-lining. *Somebody* will do it for you.

Good thing it's the back. You don't use the rear much, right?

__________________
Best,
Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio
douggrosjean@gmail.com

1992 R100gs - 102k (62k are mine)
1993 DR-350s - 52k
2000 Concours - 91k

A slew of others, come and gone....

Author of "Wheels"...
Owner / Operator of 1919 #10 Cirkut camera
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Old 11-01-2004, 02:13 PM   #11
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Joined: Apr 2004
Location: Boulder, Colorado
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It's alive!

Got it running yesterday. That first start up was tough, but once hot, it started first kick every time.

To say that it accelerates is an overstatement, but it was able to drag me around some dirt roads and single track yesterday before the snow hit heavy.

Some pics:






The seat says "rat bike" but the rest of it screams "vintage". I guess I'll spring the $35 for the seat cover, now that I know it runs.

Needs heavier springs in the forks. Works, Progressive and Racetech don't make 'em. Any ideas?
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Old 11-01-2004, 05:10 PM   #12
Tim McKittrick
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I'm glad to hear you got it to run. If you haven't sorted out your brake shoe situation yet, I see in my new JC Whitney catalog that they list shoes for the old XR250. The front set lists for $16.99 (base # agl55233w) and the rear go for a whopping $13.49.(base # agl555237x). They will want to know exactly what bike they are for- I think the base #s refer to pricing more than application.
Their phone # is 800 853 4227.
Keep us posted!
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Old 11-02-2004, 09:28 AM   #13
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Thanks for the heads up, Tim. I was able to get a set of the rear shoes I needed, so I'm all set now.


Only thing I really need is the heavier fork springs. I have a line on a used '79 CR 125 fork for $100. Should bolt in.
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Old 11-02-2004, 09:56 AM   #14
dougrender OP
Bike Polo is not a Crime
 
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Joined: Apr 2004
Location: Boulder, Colorado
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Alternately, Progressive does make a spring for the '79XR500, which has a fork identical to the 250. $79. Which would you recommend (directed towards no one in particular). The CR front end or Progressive Springs?
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Old 11-02-2004, 11:04 AM   #15
Tim McKittrick
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Location: Wasilla Alaska
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If the CR front end comes complete with a front wheel I'd go with that- there are a lot more choices of tires available, you will have a little more travel, and the brake will probably work better. I would make sure the CR set-up isn't significantly longer than the XR unit (remember to include the change in tire diameter) as that would rake out the front end and slow the already lazy steering.
You could also add a little preload spacer to the stock springs if they are just a little soft- or shorten the spring (It sounds odd, but removing coils makes the spring stiffer as it takes more pressure to compress it a given distance) and make up the difference with a spacer. PVC pipe works pretty well as a spacer material- it's easy to cut and cheap. You can also play with fork oil weights, and fiddle with the size of the holes in the damper rods if you feel really adventureous.
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