No more broken levers...

Nov 18, 2003
I am the King of Cheap, so I am always looking to bypass the middle man (and top man, too.) So, here's some tips that are fresh on my mind tonite:
#1---To prevent levers from breaking, unmount your perches, wrap plumbing teflon tape around the bar, then remount.
Works unbelieveably well.

#2---Many bearings/seals/etc are interchangeable among all the Jap bikes; however, for some unknown reason, Suzuki will sell them considerably cheaper.
Even better, most American machine shops now carry NTI bearings now, which are Jap and often the same maker as your bike's bearing/seal.
In this case, carry the old one with you and buy the parts guy a Coke, and he will look up a cross-reference/match for you. If he finds one--likely--it will be either cheaper or MUCH cheaper. He will have different grades/strengths, and if he is savvy, all you will have to do is hand him the old one and explain the bearings particluar use/job application.

#3---The auto world has considerable stuff that we can use, from hard parts to soft parts to very trick tool ideas (that you can subsequently make yourself.) I regulary make my own non-critical paper gaskets from Felpro gasket stock; once you mike the thickness/es that you need, then go buy this stuff by the sheet at a FRACTION of the bike price.
There are several methods to "drawing" the gasket shape, but the easiest for me is to smear a film of grease on the part's edge, lay it face down on the gasket-sheet, and voila---you know can take your scribe and cut it out.
es, Herman, you do want the gasket to have grease rubbed inot it on both sides to allow you to remove it w/o tearing it next time. No, it will not leak, unless you have irregular surfaces.
I do use yamabond/three-bond for magneto covers... Yes, posterboard makes pretty darn good gasket too, or your kids' construction paper, but Felpro is def best.

#4---Pipe-to-head junctions: Auto parts stores will have sheets of "high temp gasket material". This is not dirt cheap, but much cheaper than buying it in liquid form, and a heck of a lot easier to work with, and reusable to boot! Cut out a doughnut of it and sandwich it inbetween the pipe and jug. (You may spray it liberally with silicon spray to help ease the pipe in, but you already knew the value of that stuff for air boots/etc anyway, I am sure.)

#5---Shimming an old bike with bronze shims can add many hours of life to it, not to mention tightening up the old bird. The se can also be had at an auto machine shop; you may buy them by the handful or by the set/kit (even cheaper.) Buy a metric kit if thay offer it, and it will be loaded with different ID/OD?thicknesses of bronze shims.

#5--If you are loop-out prone, remove the two lowest rear-fender bolts' washers. I am from the old school that still belives that a slow, controlled wheelie is a danged nice trick, so...This allows the fender to get ripped off w/o ripping it up, as these two will just pull thru. I even go so far as to cut out the upper mounting holes on their 7 o'clock thru 5 o'clock positions. A nickel-sized automobile fender-washer ensures proper grab, yet the fender will pull off once the tire grabs ahold of it...

#6--That Plastic-renue product does indeed work pretty darn well; tho I prefer to jsut work some overtime and then just go buy a fender instead, usually, as I am not fond of sanding.

#7--Radiators/Pump seals!!: do not use antifreeze containing silica, ie, SAND! The sand does indeed keep everythign scrubbed clean, but also scrubs your seals, too! Jap auto makers do not put this stuff in their cars, as they understand that if a person uses ONLY distilled water in their system, and then annually changes the fluid, there will BE no "buildup". Once again, you can buy this silica-free coolant at auto stores and it is MUCH cheaper than a jap dealer, auto or otherwise.

#8--The biggest tip I know: Go to your local AMA Qualifier race, and you will find perfectly good plastic/tires/etc being thrown in the trash barrels. Most of these guys have heavy sponsors and so change their tires after two motos, bars after one crash/tweak, etc, etc. They will even throw away 75% good brake pads if it is a mud race, b/c they dont want to get stuck with overheating/thin pads in the next moto. They are also a wealth of inside info about your particular bike, when you pick a "with it" rider/team. Even if it is a few years old, they usually remember what the did to set it up. Their knowledge can save you a bunch of heartache.

#9--Tire changes: Did you know that there was once an American ISDE team that could change rear tires using NO tools but their hands?? And inside of 9 minutes at that. They said their main key is to keep the tire's 12 o'clock beads in the CENTER (ie, the deepest) part of the rim. (Since the trough's circumference is much smaller than the tire's, you have instant slack created.)
This allows you to pull it toward you further, creating a much larger gap for the 6 o'clock beads, so you can get it over the rim's edge.
I go so far as to put 2 small C-clamps on the tire at 10 and 2 o'clock, enabling me to keep the tire in the rim's deep trough. I def use dishwashing soap on the tier, and even leave it out in our nice 100-degree sun for an hour to soften up, too. Also, use rim protectors to keep from marring up your rims. They are plastic, clip-on covers aobut 3 inches long,Auto tire shops use them for nice aluminum wheels as well (cheaper to get from them.)

#9---Acrylic home floor wax makes a fine bike-shine, as does plain old silicon spray to a lesser degree. The floor wax must be applied with a sponge, and in one direction, else you will see lines in it once it dries. Once you wash your bike it comes off, but will def take Simple Green/etc to get off.

#10---If you will spend $60 for a Karcher electric power washer, and then NEVER run it longer than 1~2 secs w/o spraying, it will last forever as a fantastic bike washer. (If you do not keep water running thru the pump, ie, keep spraying, the little pump gets too hot, causing it to fail prematurely. This is about its only flaw.)
Oh yeah, most home hot water heaters have a readily accessible drain valve, already threaded to accept a water hose! Imagine that... And we all know that hot water evaporates much much faster than cold, thereby preventing a lot of potential problems associated with water retention in various places...see also #18 below.

#11---If you do not have the cash, buy an old-fashined, QUALITY, broom. This and a 5gal bucket of hot soapy Dawn will do literally almost as well. Hang the broom when done of course, or it will dry in a bent form.

#12---Auto Wrecking yards and scrap metal yards frequently have dirt bikes/skeletons in them. I have gotten some fantastic winter projects for peanuts this way. Sadly people get divorces a lot nowadays, and when they move, many times the bike that they inteded to fix up for umpteen years suddenly is a problem: do they store it or just get rid of it? Those free want-ad papers are ripe with deals as well, for this very same reason...

#13---Take your electrical connections apart while they are still clean and apply some dielectric grease to them. Years down the road you will be very very glad; jap electrics still basically stink after all these years, so dont weaken an already marginal flow with corrosion/poor contact.

#14---Needle bearings/bushings: I know we should all grease our linkages every time we wahs our bikes, etc. But since we barley have time to ride, I assemble mine with automotive engine assembly lube, which is very high in moly and graphite. This means that after many abusive rides and washings, there is usually still some forme of lubrication in there, though thick and pasty it may be. No, you will not feel any difference in your shock linkage's action; if you think that you do, then you need to just go a tad faster, Mr. Spode.

#15---Go here for stuff that even I don't know. Super Hunky is crustier than Eric Gorr, but maybe even craftier...'s another that I forgot, especially if the bike is new/been 100% cleaned up:
I also remove the throttle assembly, remove all liquid lube from the inside of tube and bar w/contact cleaner, and lube w/locksmith's powdered graphite; ESPECIALLY if running handguards where the throttle-end grip has been cut out. (To avoid retaining grit).
#17---And one more: Never will a bike be as clean as it is new, so I take this chance to go ahead now and mark crucial-but-seldom-removed bolts/nuts w/a paint pen to facilitate confirming them visually, and remove the tank and spray the elec parts/connections w/aerosol di-electric protectant. (And spraying the rest of the bike under the tank/area w/aerosol silicon or WD40 will go a long way in making it easy to clean with just a spray hose and no scrubbing once its coated w/dried mud.)

#17---...and one more, for all you tall guys (and gals): TO raise your bars w/o having to spend a lot of ca$h, procedd to your local friendly bike salvage yard, find a couple bar clamp "caps" that match/align with the ones currently on your bike already.
First, as with all clamps and caps, take a rat tail file and grind off any sharp edges, to prevent them from cutting into/weakening your aluminum handlebars over time.
Now take off your bars, place this 2nd set of clamp-caps upside down beneath your handlebars, but on top of your existing bar-clamp.
Now put your existing clamp-caps on top of that.
Buy some new, longer clamp bolts to make up for the added thickness of the added clamp-caps, and "voila", your bars are now the same familiar bend but ~1/2" higher, and wa-a-ay more comfortable while standing!
If they are too high, grind them thinner and retry.
I do this to all my bikes that don't have aftermarket clamps/high bars, as I am 6'2" and also suffer from bone spurs in my neck, so bending over while looking up is darn painful, not to mention slower...ttfn.

#18---And yet another: there is no comparison to using S2000 / aka Honda's bike wash, but a pleasantly suprising 2nd place is Mr.Clean. This is what Carmichael's Kawasaki mech showed me at a Dallas SX in '98, and he is right, as long as you rinse it well as with all effective cleaners...I am a big fan of Simple Green, but Mr.Clean seems a tad stronger.
Once the bike is clean, buy a QUALITY spray bottle from your local friendly janitorial/auto detailing supply store for about $3, fill it from a gallon jug of WD40, and proceed to spray the bike all over, sans bars y seat. Spray even under the tank and belly. (You must use a quality spray bottle, as no other spray bottle will spray a fine enough mist, ruining the whole trick.)
Now, towel dry the plastic if u so desire, and you will be amazed at this stuff's effectiveness at both protecting everything and repelling stains (we have red clay here). Your bike will be stain-free after years of this practice. A gallon of WD40 will last years. There you go, have a factory-clean scoot for pennies on the dollar.
Honda's silicon spray bike-detailer is great stuff for detailing/shining, but I rarely use it when I have already wiped the plastic down w/WD40, unless the plastic is white, in which case I have found no equal cleaner for getting dirt out of scratches w/o damaging the plastic.
#19---Silencer packing:
Caveat: In my experience, there is no equal in performance to good ol' PROPERLY packed silencer using regular fiberglass house insulation. BUT, unless you wrap it a tad too densley, it will have to be re-packed every ~6hrs, and you will both hear the need, and FEEL the need, esp in your top end power.
BUT, seeing as how most people have such little time to ride/wrench, the below method is 90% as effective in power-vs-quietness, and yet lasts 30% longer...
Expect me to be Uncle Scrooge, but on a 4T that I do not want to re-pack often, I have great luck out of just heavy steel wool, torn into ~jaw-breaker sized pieces, stuffed into it piece by piece, "firmly-but-gently", per above.
I use pieces/stuffing on oval-shaped silencers, b/c it is otherwise impossible to both fill the apexes of the can, w/o OVERfilling (ie, being too dense) at the sides of the can (when using wrap-style insulation).
It is not "quite" as quiet (pun intended) as house insulation, but darn close and as well lasts muuch longer in that 4T heat.
ps---I do not have good luck in trying to wrap the core with steel wool, even when encircling the final cocoon with a piece of baling wire. It does not like to wrap, it separates.
pps---This baling-wire trick is a tremendous help in allowing you to "set the density" on your cocoon for round-shaped silencers, so that the final cocoon is not too dense, yet not too thin.
Masking tape works pretty well in a pinch, but is much harder to adjust/judge the final cocoon's size. You have to rip off the tape until you get the tightness right, rather than merely tug on the baling wire to loosen it...
A quiet bike will not only keep your riding places open, it is one of the main things I do to a beginner's bike to spawn confidence---a quiet bike can be hauling a$$ but yet not sound so intimidating. I will even go so far as to choke a bike some, just to get it even quieter than stock, for a girl/kid/beginner...
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Nov 17, 2001
Nice post!

How a bout a good source for replacement nuts and bolts that actually match wha our bikes have?