Classic Motorcycles: Most Popular Articles
Carburetor problems generally fall into three areas: rich mixture, lean mixture, and incorrect adjustment. Diagnosing carburetor problems is relatively easy and follows some telltale symptoms.
Protecting the various components and systems during long periods of storage, such as winter time, ensures a motorcycle will be in good condition when it is time to ride it again. However, if a motorcycle was winterized, it will need some basic checks before it is ready to ride.
Some motorcycles just handle badly! But which classic bikes make the top ten for worst handling bikes of all time?
Rebuilding a motorcycle engine can be very easy (a single cylinder 2-stroke) or complex (a multi-cylinder 4-stroke). But the same basic rules and procedures apply, regardless of the type or size. However, the sequencing for doing an engine rebuild is very important to the ultimate success of the project.
Bleeding motorcycle brakes is not difficult, but as this task is obviously safety related, it is very important to follow correct procedures.
Building a café racer today is even easier than it was in the 60s. With such a well known style, specialist suppliers can be found for almost every item.
For someone not familiar with working on a carburetor, the notion of dismantling one can seem daunting. But by following some basic procedures, the task is relatively simple and of course rewarding when the bike runs well later. See a step by step guide to fixing motorcycle carburetors.
Most motorcyclists have heard of cafe racers. But what are they, and where did the name come from?
There are few more satisfying tasks when restoring a classic motorcycle than buffing and polishing the engine cases. With some basic tools, and a few hours work, the surface on a case can be transformed into a chrome like finish.
For information about a specific make or model of a motorcycle, the owner must have the frame (chassis) and engine numbers. Locating a frame number on an early machine, especially one that is dirty and in need of restoration (barn fresh for example), can be challenging.
Personalizing riding gear by painting helmets is something motorcyclists have done since the very beginning. The home mechanic, with access to basic painting equipment, can transform a standard helmet into a custom designed unit.
To come up with a list of the ten best handling classics of all time, it is necessary to select one considered the best. Most riders who have experienced a Norton Featherbed’s handling will use this chassis to judge all others.
Putting clothing on during hot weather seems crazy. But for the classic motorcycle rider who wants to be safe and cool, there are some specially designed pieces of riding gear to consider.
For most street riders, the handling of their motorcycle rarely comes into question unless something is worn or broken. However, occasionally the suspension settings will need adjustment.
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Knowing the timing system before disassembling or reassembling an engine is critical, but one aspect of timing comes before all others: crankshaft position.
Done properly, a bobber is a motorcycle that has had unnecessary components removed (unnecessary in the opinion of the owner) and is styled to the owner’s taste—no rules. Page 2.
The Yamaha Virago was the first Japanese V-twin cruiser. Model code XV, the Virago was a serious attempt by Yamaha to claim some of the market share of Harley Davidson.
Riding a motorcycle for the first time is often exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. If the bike happens to be a rare classic, the owner will be very nervous too. But there are some basic riding rules that the first time rider must adhere to that will alleviate some of the potential problems.
There are two common ignition types associated with classic bikes: contact points and fully electronic. One of the shortcomings of the contact point ignition system is the tendency for the heel on the points to wear, which has the effect of retarding the ignition.
How often should you change oil on your classic motorcycle? What is the correct grade for your bike? Should you use additives? An oil company expert answers these questions and more.
Making a motorcycle control cable is relatively easy and requires few tools. If the cables are to be made from scratch, the mechanic must first establish the length of the outer cable. Page 2.
The first indication that a motorcycle engine requires a rebore, and/or new rings, is when the rider or mechanic notices the engine emitting smoke. This applies primarily to 4-strokes. On 2-strokes the rider will notice a drop in performance and difficulty in starting.
By far the most popular clutch design is the multi-plate layout. Depending on the rider and type of riding he or she does, most multi-plate clutches will last for many thousands of miles. Typically, the first indication that the clutch is in need of maintenance is when it slips under heavy acceleration.
There are many individual components on a motorcycle that can, if broken or damaged, stop the engine from starting. But in essence, an internal combustion engine needs three things before it will run.
How much should you pay for a classic motorcycle? Let’s face it: sometimes your heart rate will be the determining factor. But if you’re concerned about practicality, it is essential to do a little research when considering purchasing a classic motorcycle.
Replacing the wiring harness, or loom, on a motorcycle is a relatively easy task but can be time consuming.
An internal combustion engine needs three things to operate: gasoline and air (compressed), and a spark. Optimizing the combustion is the tricky part. The spark must occur at exactly the right moment, and the gasoline/air mixture and ratio must be in the correct proportions, neither rich not lean.
To completely rewire a motorcycle, the owner or mechanic must have considerable previous experience, or at the very least, the ability to read a schematic wiring diagram. That being said, it is a relatively easy task.
As motorcycle engineers gained more knowledge of the 2-stroke and its working principles,it became obvious that to increase power they needed to have a method of varying the exhaust port timing. The invention of the 2-Stroke Expansion Chamber was the result.
Carburetor balancing on twin-carb engines is very important. Each carb must supply the same amount of mixture (fuel and air mixed) for the engine to run smoothly, develop good power, and maintain fuel economy
The Kawasaki three cylinder 2-strokes were unique motorcycles. For street bike performance, the H1 was unrivaled; at least as far as acceleration was concerned.
There are few more useful modifications to do to a motorcycle than replacing the rubber brake lines with braided stainless steel lines. For the home mechanic, this task is relatively simple.
Balancing a spoked motorcycle wheel is a relatively easy task. By following some basic guidelines a competent mechanic can ensure his wheels are balanced.
Carburetor balancing on multi-carb, multi-cylinder engines is very important. The most accurate method of balancing these types of carburation systems is by using vacuum gauges. When attached to the inlet systems, the vacuum gauges measure the amount of vacuum drawn on each gauge as the engine is running.
The 4 stroke engine powers most of the classic motorcycles over 125 cc. There are three designs of valve layout available for 4 stroke engines: over head valves (OHV) operated by push-rods, overhead camshaft (OHC), and side valves (SV). But what are the differences between the three designs? Page 2.
Many classic motorcycle owners change their bike’s gear ratios. This is particularly true on racers, but it does apply to street bikes too.
John Alfred Prestwich is famous for a number of designs including cinematography equipment. But he is best known for his motorcycle engines known as J.A.P. engines.
Motorcycle engine changing, or swapping, has not been limited to café racers. Many motorcycle owners have created their own versions of the ideal motorcycle by replacing the stock power unit—some out of necessity, some by choice. However, although it sounds simple to do, fitting an engine into another manufacture’s frame is not easy and there are many safety implications to consider first.
For the home mechanic who may be restoring a classic motorcycle, there are some plating kits on the market designed specifically for home use or do-it-yourself plating.
For all mechanics, learning how to undertake mechanical work must be done in stages; it starts with basic jobs and progresses, as the knowledge base increases to more challenging work.
The design of brake bleed nipples makes them prone to seizing and braking, particularly in older motorcycles. Luckily, removing a broken brake bleed nipple is relatively simple.
Many motorcycle parts are painted. Owners may want to repaint them for restoration, but inexperienced mechanics should follow basic rules of spray painting.
Restoring a classic motorcycle seems like fun, on the face of it. It is, however, a long process requiring dedication, organization, mechanical skills and some tooling. But, for the most part, it is not beyond the average owner with good mechanical skills to restore a classic motorcycle.
European motorcycles are characterized by their styling, handling, and in the case of classics, by their unique riding experience. We take a look at ten of Europe's best. Page 2.
History of the Vespa scooter. The first Vespa's were designed by aeronautical engineer and inventor Corradino D'Ascanio, with the first machines being offered to the public in 1946.
The Yamaha XS 650 has a large following all over the world. This basic robust machine has been used in almost every conceivable form of motorcycle style. From commuter bikes, to road racer, drag bike to café racer, the XS has been a great success.
The Yamaha DT was not only a perfect fit into a gap in the motorcycle market, the timing of its release was also perfect.
Checking the internal condition of a motorcycle engine with a cranking pressure tester is a simple task the home mechanic can undertake. We follow the process through.
Over the years, all of the major motorcycle manufacturers have produced beautiful classics and some ugly brutes, too. This list of ten ugly motorcycles represents the views of many riders as to which motorcycle deserves the title of ugly.
Ignition timing lights or guns offer an invaluable way of checking the ignition timing dynamically. Most modern gauges also offer RPM reading and dwell angle checks on LED screens.
Throughout the history of the motorcycle, sidecars have been attached to most solos at one time or another. But learning to ride these machines takes a special skill set.
The working principles of a 2 stroke are the simplest of all internal combustion engines. They have the least number of moving parts and are becoming popular amongst classic bike collectors.
The GS Suzuki’s were very popular in the late 70s early 80s. They were good all round bikes, being capable of long distance touring on the one hand, or production and superbike racing on the other.
Of all the paint finishes on a motorcycle, the fuel tank is the one that most people will be drawn to. It is, after all, the most prominent item on a motorcycle. In the case of a motorcycle restoration or in a situation where a fuel tank has received damage in an accident, the tank should be repaired and resealed on the inside first.
There are many ways of transporting a classic motorcycle, but the main priority is to safeguard the bike during the road trip. Page 2.
With a few exceptions, all parts on a motorcycle have undergone some painting or plating process; the most well known of plating processes is, of course, chromium plating. The highly reflective bright finish of chrome has long been a favorite of manufacturers and owners alike. But what is chrome plating?
Of the many performance enhancing items to be made for the Japanese bikes, none were more popular than the 4 into 1 exhaust systems.
Motorcycling is not without its dangers and incorrect use of the brakes can make it a whole lot worse.
The name Excelsior was used by three separate companies, one in the UK, one in the US and one in Germany. Excelsior USA was famous for their board track racers. They used racing to promote their machines, and even had a race track on the roof of the factory!
All of the components on a motorcycle wear. One of the first items to need replacement is the drive chain and/or the rear sprocket.
For many classic bike restorers, having the seat recovered is a must. Removing the old cover is relatively simple. However, before paying to have the seat professionally re-covered, the owner should check to see if there is a cover available, or a complete seat, as a spare part.
Although the job of replacing rims and spokes on a motorcycle wheel is somewhat complex, it is not beyond the competent home mechanic.
The electrical system on a classic motorcycle is a typical example of a system that requires special attention for service and inspection. Electrical system or component failure can, in most cases, be avoided by these simple checks and some basic maintenance.
The TS250 is a reasonable all round classic motorcycle. Prices for an early example in excellent condition are relatively low at $2,000 compared to an equivalent Yamaha DT1 at $4,200 which would suggest the Suzuki is due for a price increase.
The vast majority of steering head bearings used on motorcycles are of the tapered roller variety. The free play in this type of bearing is controlled by the amount of torque applied to the clamping nut—the greater the torque, the tighter the steering. Checking these bearings is a simple task.
Motorcycles have been used in combat from the beginning. Classic motorcycle enthusiasts looking for a reasonably priced classic, with a plentiful supply of parts, should consider ex-military motorcycles.
The Norton Commando was introduced in 1967 to replace the aging Atlas. The early Norton Commando is, and always has been, a favorite amongst collectors and enthusiasts alike, but it does have a number of quirky issues that the rider needs to be aware of.
First introduced in 1972, the RD range of 2-stroke twins were developed for street use from the Grand prix racers of the 50s and 60s, firstly in air-cooled form, then later with water cooling (known as the RD LC range).
Occasionally, a motorcycle will develop a noise that is not typical and needs serious investigation. For the most part, noises can be both traced, and the root cause diagnosed, without disassembly.
Identifying a classic or vintage motorcycle is generally easy, but every now and then, a motorcycle comes up for sale with none of the telltale pieces intact. How to identify a classic or vintage motorcycle.
The Suzuki RG500 Gamma is based on the factory racing machines. It is more of a racer replica than a straight street bike. With a power to weight ratio of 95 hp:340 lb's these classic fast 2-strokes are highly sought after.
Adjusting the free play of motorcycle control cables is a relatively simple job, but there are safety issues that must be considered.
Many classic motorcycles use drum brakes. These simple, reliable brakes have been around since the beginning of motorcycling. Adjusting and maintaining them is also relatively simple.
If you own a twin, or any multi-cylinder 2-stroke, and the clutch side exhaust system begins to smoke more than the others, this is an indication that the crank oil seal on that side needs replacing.
Disassembling a motorcycle engine can seem a daunting task, but with careful preparation, this is a relatively easy job.
Servi-Cycles were manufactured by the Simplex Manufacturing Corporation in New Orleans. The little 2 strokes were produced from 1935 to 1960.
Learning to ride a motorcycle with the gear change on the opposite side to what a rider is used to takes time and practice. However, once mastered, it will allow the rider to transition from one system to the other easily.
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Definition of: Before Top-Dead-Center (BTDC)
From the 1960s onwards, Japanese motorcycles dominated the world’s markets. Of all the motorcycles designed and produced in Japan, the following four were highly significant for differing reasons when offered to the motorcycle market.
During a motorcycle engine rebuild, it is good practice to replace the bearings and oil seals. The cases will need to be heated to expand them (away from the bearings and seals) and in so doing will make it easier to drift them out.
The early bicycle frames used the lug construction method of frame assembly. Later motorcycle frames used various welding types including brazing, shielded metal arc, MIG and TIG to join the various tubes.
During the service of a cylinder head, the mechanic is often faced with the question of whether or not to replace the valve guides. The good news is that by following the correct procedure, replacing guides is relatively easy.
Kawasaki produced the longest manufacturing run of street bikes with a six-cylinder engine in the Z1300. Today these six cylinder motorcycles are amongst some of the most desirable, and affordable, classic machines available.
The main advantage of the 2-stroke was its power to weight ratio and its reduction in moving parts compared to the 4-stroke. Alas, with emission legislation getting tighter all over the world, the days are numbered for the 2-stroke.
Classic motorcycle owners are unlikely to have problems with noise outputs as many countries exempt older machines from the current laws. However, to keep a motorcycle period correct, classic restorers must ideally find NOS (new old stock) items or modern replicas for their machines.
When rumors began to spread of a unique touring motorcycle being developed by Honda, many speculated that it would be a failure. They couldn’t have been more wrong!
Established in England in the late 1800s, the name Royal Enfield is still used today on motorcycles made in India. The company can rightly claim to have one of the longest running production runs of any motorcycle with their Bullet model.
To counter the problems associated with hot weather motorcycle riding, a number of companies such as Moto-D, Fieldsheer and Alpinestars have developed undergarments specifically designed to make hot weather riding more pleasant.
Special tools are essential for certain jobs on classic motorcycles. One job in particular is removing the flywheel from the end of the crankshaft.
If a rider is experiencing handlebar shake, before fitting a steering damper it is essential to inspect and repair as required the motorcycle first.
The largest selling motorcycle of all time, the Honda C series.
Although the Vespa’s have proven to be reliable machines, during a restoration a scooter must be fully disassembled to check for damage or cracks on the chassis which may need welding.
Motorcycle manufacturers have tried many different types of carburetors on their machines since the beginning. But it was the CV (Constant Velocity) type carburetor that ultimately became the accepted carburetor for motorcycle (and scooter) use.
To ship a classic bike internationally, there are companies that can arrange collection from the seller, transportation to airports or docks, and all of the associated paperwork. However, there are some do’s and don’ts to consider.
Checking the wheel alignment on a classic motorcycle is relatively easy. Although this is not part of a regular maintenance schedule, it should be undertaken on an older machine, especially during a restoration.
Although each classic motorcycle will have different specific items to service (see owner's manuals where available), they will all need some general service. For instance:
High mileage engines generally need their valves re-seating and their seals (where fitted) replacing. For the home mechanic, servicing the cylinder head will generally be limited to decoking the combustion chamber and re-seating the valves.
Measuring the amount of wear on pistons and rings is relatively simple (once an engine has been disassembled) and requires few tools, primarily a feeler gauge.
Examination of a spark plug can tell a lot about the conditions within a cylinder. From worn rings (oily deposits) to incorrect jets, the spark plug's condition is representative of the workings of a cylinder
For the owner/rider who does not want to work on his or her classic, finding a good dealer is important. Arriving at a fair price for service or repair is important for both dealer and owner.
To ensure safety and longevity, motorcycle chains must be correctly tensioned and lubricated. For most classic bike owners, this is a simple task. But there are some important aspects to consider. See a step by step guide to motorcycle chain adjustment.
Follow the history of the famous Italian motorcycle manufacture, MV Agusta. Founded by Italian Count Giovanni Agusta, the original company was initially involved with the early days of the aeronautics industry before making motorcycles.
For classic motorcycle restorers, repainting and then pin striping a classic motorcycle is the last part of many weeks of work preparing the various parts. But is this a job the hobbyist can undertake? Yes.
Some motorcycles used a common lever for the gear change and kick start. This latter design was common on eastern block motorcycles such as the CZ and Jawa (two companies that eventually came together).
For the classic bike owner who performs service and repairs on their bikes, the ability to identify bolts is essential.
Before getting into classic motorcycles, there are a number of important things to consider. Classic motorcycles are often considered investments. But just like stocks or shares in a company, values can go either way—up or down!
Many classic motorcycle owners will face the possibility that their engine needs to be rebored. However, a compression cranking pressure test and a leak-down test will determine if a cylinder (and its associated components) requires attention.
Classic motorcycle tire changing is something the home mechanic can undertake with a few tools and an understanding of the intricacies of the job. Page 11.
For a complete classic motorcycle restoration, an extensive list of replacement parts will almost certainly be required. Establishing this list at the outset will save a lot of time.
Threads in aluminum engine cases are also prone to damage or wear due to continuous use or over tightening. In most cases damaged threads can be repaired, or more precisely, replaced.
Classic motorcycle collections often start out by acquiring a single machine, the owner soon finds the experience so enjoyable that he purchases other similar machines, typically from the same manufacturer.
Classic motorcycle tire changing is something the home mechanic can undertake with a few tools and an understanding of the intricacies of the job.
Motorcycle fenders, arguably, are subject to the most abuse from the environment, from riding (trials and MX bikes in particular) and from mechanicing. Sooner or later they will a repaint. With a careful approach, this job is relatively easy.
Early Japanese 4-cylinder 4-strokes were equipped with contact points. These points systems controlled the ignition timing. Although setting the points gap and the ignition timing are critical to the performance of these machines, it is a relatively easy job for the home mechanic to do.
Riding on when a problem arises on a motorcycle can be dangerous. Sometimes it is imperative to pull over and check.
In the vast majority of fork designs, the oils seal are located in the legs. They are typically held in place with a circlip or snap-ring and protected from dust and road dirt by a rubber cover. Replacing the seals is a relatively easy process requiring few tools.
For the classic bike owner with a motorcycle that does not handle well, there are some changes (even modifications) that will improve the handling of his machine. However, before making any changes, it is very important to establish what is causing the handling problem and in particular when did it start?
Sooner or later a classic motorcycle owner will need to replace a control cable. Replacement may be part of a restoration project or due to a breakage, but either way, routing and following the correct procedures is very important.
Combined with direct oil injection, the Suzuki GT750 was a sophisticated motorcycle in its day. It was produced from 1971 (GT750J) to 1977 (GT750B) after being shown to the public for the first time at the Tokyo motor show in 1970.
Sooner or later, the classic bike owner will come across a left-hand thread. But can you identify a thread by just looking at it? Yes, by following this simple tip, you will be able to glance at the threads and know straight away which type they are – left or right handed.
For the new owner of a barn find classic motorcycle, there is a great temptation to put fresh gas in and attempt to start it. However, considerable damage can be done to an engine without some basic checks being done first.
Weather conditions can make all the difference to enjoying a motorcycle ride—or not. Few people venture out during the wintertime, depending on the climate, but spring and summer normally offer the best riding conditions for man and machine alike. However, in some climates (typically the southern states of the US) the weather can be too hot for riding during the summer months, unless you are prepared.
There are many popular classic Hondas around, but the early 250 and 305 models (CA71 and C76) are particularly popular due to their reasonable prices and part’s availability.
Although the early 2-stroke race bikes were not easy to ride, they were, and still are, great fun to race. But before going onto a race track for the first time, the rider must do some research.
Measuring motorcycle engine components is a task generally entrusted to a technician or an engine machine shop. However, when checking for wear, or when compiling a list of parts, the owner/mechanic will often be required to make accurate measurements of a component.
The Trident finally hit the show room floors in 1969; the company producing more than 19,000 units before production ceased in 1975.
When setting valve clearances or ignition timing, the mechanic must first set the crankshaft in the correct position—typically at a set distance or angle BTDC (Before Top Dead Center).
For the average mechanic with a set of good quality tools, the restoration of a classic motorcycle should not be beyond his or her capabilities.
Two Japanese companies motorcycle dominated the 500 GP class between them from 1975 until the introduction of MotoGP in 2002: Suzuki and Yamaha. Both built replicas of their racers: the Gamma and the RZ500R or RD500LC.
Setting the points gap on motorcycles with contact points type ignition is essential to ensure correct ignition timing. Luckily it is a relatively simple job.
Buying a motorcycle at an auction is easy, and sometimes way too easy! Auction houses have very specific rules to protect buyers and sellers alike.
The first motorcycles consisted of an engine bolted or clipped to an existing cycle frame. However, development was rapid. Within a short time there were single and double loops, monocoques, backbone, frontbone, and many variations of these designs, being used for frames.
Some of the early classic and vintage motorcycles required special skills to ride and, in some cases, to start.
On the face of it, rotary engines are ideal for motorcycle applications. Unfortunately they have a number of inherent problems. Included in these problems are apex sealing issues, overheating and the exhaust emissions.
Periodically (depending on the mileage) or during a restoration, a motorcycle gearbox should be checked for wear. In addition, if the gear change is not working properly or if the oil contains large amounts of swarf, the gearbox must be inspected.
Situated in the Italian province of Lecco near Lake Como is the town of Mandello del Lario, the home and birthplace of Italian motorcycle manufacture’s Moto Guzzi.
In 1958, Ariel introduced their Leader model and its sporting version the Arrow. The machines were an immediate success, so much so that in 1959 the company decided to stop production of all their 4-stroke machines.
For many riders, a 250-cc 2-stroke was their first experience of a performance street motorcycle. In particular, three Japanese machines had a large following when new, and are being collected now as classics. The three in question are the Kawasaki KH, the Suzuki X7, and the Yamaha RD.
Ask a non-motorcyclist to name a classic bike and they would probably pick a British bike. Early Nortons, Triumphs and BSAs are considered typical classic motorcycles. But for someone considering buying a classic British bike, where do they start looking?
A tank slapper (handlebar oscillation) is a front end handling problem that can be caused by a number of issues, including air flow affected by a rear top box (tail shaking the dog), heavy rear luggage containers, loose head-stock bearings and buckled wheels.
Replacing motorcycle brake shoes is relatively easy. However, there are some important safety issues to consider.
Worn ignition contact points can cause a number of problems for a classic bike owner. From poor starting to misfires, a worn set of points will make the bike run badly. Typically, points performance deteriorates due to two issues: a worn heel, and/or a buildup of metal from one contact face to the other.
Classic motorcycle clubs are a must for new owners and enthusiasts. Clubs members can help with restoration tips, give advice on mechanical repairs, or just be there to swap stories.
Dave Degens started producing frames under the Dresda name in the 60s. Returning to their roots, the company now makes Dresda Tritons for the booming café racer market.
The early 1900s saw an outbreak of new motorcycle companies. In the US, a company whose name would reflect and embody the country’s history was also established. The Indian Motorcycle entered the field.
When fully disassembling a motorcycle engine, most of the work should be done in the frame (to hold it steady). However, the final phase (complete disassembly) must be done on a suitable work bench.
Massimo Tamburini is a legend. He was chief designer on two of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made: the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4.
It is essential to get the jetting correct on a 2-stroke racing motorcycle for performance and safe running conditions. Evaluating the plug color will give a reasonably accurate indication of the running conditions inside the engine.