Thursday, April 5, 2007


I'm no stranger to mechanical things, especially vehicles. I've spent a good portion of my life lying on my back on a piece of cardboard on concrete. I know the difference between a flat-tappet and hydraulic roller cam, and I think my fingernails are permanently grimy. I was the president of the Purdue Automotive Performance Association in my college days (back when it was about good friends and fast cars, NOT the bling-bling competition it is now), and have helped to build more than a handful of road-going rockets. I even spent a portion of my career with a professional race team, building racecars and chasing horsepower. It's pretty safe to say that if it's got an engine, I'll like it.

Last fall, I bought an old motorcycle as a project for super-cheap. It's a 1975 Yahama RD250B, US model. When I picked it up, it was pretty beat up, rusty, and older than I was. It's tiny by today's motorcycle standards and it sounds like pissed-off weedwhacker on steroids. But, it was so darned cool and with only 2000 original miles, I just had to put some wrenches to it.

However, it's provided me with some challenges so far, mainly because it's very different from what I'm used to working on. First, since it's older than I am, it's carbureted and I'm a fuel injection guy. I'm more comfortable adjusting injector pulse widths than I am changing jets. Now don't get me wrong, I fully understand how carbs work and how to adjust them, it's just not something that I've ever had to do.

Second, this bike is a two-stroke. A smoker. It's a high-revving, oil-injected, cam-less wonder, which is also new to me. Running down the road, it spews healthy blue smoke out the tailpipes and sounds absolutely vicious. Apart from my weedwhacker, I've never touched a two-stroke engine. I'm most amped about this aspect. There's just something completely appealing about a loud, fast, polluting, smoking, relatively unsafe, 30-year old, rolling piece of history. It's just so, um, irresponsible. I absolutely love it.

Third, it's a serious restoration project. I'm not a restoration guy. I'm more a modern-day, horsepower-building, racecar guy. This bike needed to be stripped to the frame and completely redone. That is very different from what I'm used to doing.

So, it's definitely going to be a challenge.

As of today, the bike has been completed stripped down to the frame, and the frame itself is ready to be sand-blasted and painted. I meticulously documented and photographed every part and bolt that came off, so I know exactly how it's supposed to go back on.
I've measured every single fastener that has come off the bike and have kept a log of their location, thread size and length, so that they can be replaced with new ones. I've kept a notebook with more notes that I care to remember, and have lots of labels all over every wiring harness and connectors.

It's going to take me a while, and I'm sure I'm make some bonehead mistakes, but so far, I'm having a blast working on it.


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