1972 Honda CL350 Scrambler

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Honda CL350

  - Introduction
  - Paperwork
  - Cleaning
  - Key to it All
  - Fuel System
  - Engine Teardown
  - Clutch
  - Transmission
  - Engine Rebuild
  - Suspension
  - Mechanical
  - Electrical
  - Start and Tune
  - Life After 30


1972 Honda CL350 Scrambler - Rebuild


July 28, 2001
This is how the bike looked after we got it home from my girlfriend's family farm. It had been sitting in a barn for almost 20 years. Apart from a few mouse holes in the seat, a cracked tail light lens, a broken turn signal mount, and A LOT of rust, the bike was in pretty good shape externally.

As far as I knew there was nothing mechanically wrong with the bike when it was put away, but years of neglect might have left things in pretty sad shape. We fully expected to have to replace all the gaskets and seals on the motor and the gas line, but other than that we didn't know what to expect.

My goal is to use this page as a record of everything I did so I can learn from my mistakes...and I'm going to learn A LOT!


July 28, 2001
The first step was to order a repair manual for this model. $27 got us a Clymer manual for 1970's era Honda Twin Motorcycles. Also, the guys on the Yahoo! Honda CL Club had a wealth of information, especially since some of them had rebuilt this exact model of bike (with excellent results I might add). Using his handy-dandy identification guide, a fellow CL350 owner in the club informed me that the bike was in fact a 1972 Honda CL350 K4. That didn't really help much, but it did finally put that "What year is it?" question to rest. Still don't know what's special about the K4, but no matter.

August 7, 2001
Realizing the folly in restoring the bike only to find I could not get it titled, I decided to make sure I could get all the paperwork stuff settled BEFORE I put any time or money into the bike. Since the bike was abandoned, we had to jump through a few hoops to get everything squared away. After talking to the folks at the Minnesota DMV, I found out we had to fill out a "Statement of Facts" for the bike. That basically involved explaining how we came about getting our mitts on the bike, where it came from, and why there wasn't any existing paperwork on it. I didn't think that would be a problem since the original owner left it almost 20 years ago and had not come back for it. After the DMV decided everything is kosher, we had to get the bike bonded so we could get the title. Then the fun could begin.

Update: 8/27/01
We took in the Statement of Facts sheet for the bike, four photos, and paid for license and registration. Then we had to wait for the state to let us know if we needed to get it bonded. According to the lady at the license bureau, we'd either get a title in the mail or a letter explaining how to get it bonded.

Update: 10/27/01
The State of Minnesota apparently decided that a $200 motorcycle was not worth the trouble of getting bonded. They sent a shiny new title in the mail and the bike is now officially "owned" by someone. Whether or not that's anything to be proud of remains to be seen.


July 29, 2001
Although superficial, this helped buoy my confidence that this was a project worth undertaking. A quick washing shined up the chrome, helped get rid of the "farm" smell, and generally made the bike look almost presentable. There were still some rust spots, the seat was still mouse-eaten, and it didn't run yet, but since we'd bathed it we were a little more attached to it.

Key to it All

August 14, 2001
Pulled off the seat lock so that I could take it in to have a key made. Got to the two bolts that held the seat latch post onto the saddle and only had to slightly mangle the seat. After that, I removed the two screws that held the lock itself onto the frame. There is a spring inside the lock, so once I got all the pieces picked up that came shooting out when the last screw was removed, I got everything back together and into the locksmith. A few hours and $17 later and we had a working key for the bike. Some WD-40 and a few colorful words got the key working in the ignition. The fork lock was still stuck, but at least it was stuck open so it didn't keep us from doing anything.

Fuel System

Gas Tank
August 17, 2001
The rust on the inside may have been all that was keeping it in gas-tank shape. Actually, once cleaned the tank didn't look as bad as I thought, but it was pretty dirty with lots of surface rust inside. Got the petcock off, no problem. The next obstacle was a small section of hose that runs between two spigots on the bottom of each side of the tank. The hose runs under the upper frame bar, so it had to be removed in order to get the tank off. WD-40 to the rescue again, but the hose was so stiff and brittle, it still had to be destroyed to get it off. After removing the tank, I discovered that the hose allows fuel flow from the left side of the tank to the petcock on the right side once the level of gas drops below the "hump" in the middle of the tank. I hadn't seen anything like that before, but that's not saying much. Anyway, tank was off and was ready to begin the cleaning process.

Update: 9/17/01
Well, after the events of September 11th, working on an old bike didn't seem all that important so I spent much of the time watching the news. But life must go on, so I spent that weekend finishing up the gas tank. I used a product called POR-15 that I had heard others recommend. The kit comes with three containers of chemicals that are used in sequence to clean, prep, and line the tank. The first stage is a degreaser, followed by a metal etching solution that dissolves rust and preps the tank for the liner, which is the final step. This was a very tedious and fairly boring process. If you are a true masochist, you can read about it here.

Update: 2/23/02
After sitting for several months, it was time to evaluate my lining job on the tank. I dumped in a little bit of fuel to check the flow from the two spigots under the tank. It seemed my previous attempt at clearing the clog I created in one of them was not as successful as I had hoped. I again set to trying to clear the clog by jamming a thick piece of plumbing solder into the spigot and that seemed to clear things up a bit. I am now afraid that I may have damaged the liner inside the tank, which means it will most likely begin to peel and find its way into the rest of the fuel system. To prepare for this eventuality, I am going to install in-line fuel filters to both of the supply lines from the petcock. Hopefully, this will protect the carburetors and the rest of the engine from any debris that tries to invade.

August 17, 2001
The petcock looked to be in bad shape. I expected the gaskets and diaphragm would need replacement, but I hadn't been able to get it apart to check. Without getting it apart, I didn't know if I could repair the valve or would just have to replace it.

Update: 8/28/01
After getting the valve apart and relatively clean, I found out that it needed a new rubber gasket that goes under the lever as well as a screen that filters the fuel before sending it to the carbs. While at the cycle shop, they were looking up the part numbers for the two parts when I mentioned that the supply tube was cracked. The tube is what separates the regular intake from the reserve. With the crack in the tube, the bike would essentially have no fuel reserve, which is not a good thing when there isn't a fuel gauge. So I just had them order a whole new petcock for $38.

August 23, 2001
The carbs were filthy but other than that everything was in good shape except for the O-rings and the bowl gasket. I found a place in New York that had carb rebuild kits for $15 so we ordered those.

Update: 9/8/01
Once the kits arrived from the guy in New York, I realized they were not the right kits. There were too few O-rings, jets were not present or were the wrong size, and the idle mixture screw was the wrong one. Basically, the only things that I could use were the bowl gaskets, the float valve and valve seat. Since I only really need the O-rings (all the rubber bits), I took a trip to the local bike shop and they were able to give me everything I needed for $12.

The only remaining problem with the carbs was that on one of them, the little spring that holds down a little flap on the choke plate was broken. This is apparently a feature on these carbs that allows the engine to suck in more air once a big enough vacuum is created. Since it seemed I would have to buy a whole new carb to fix the problem, I simply glued down the flap. All this means is that we will have to be a little careful when using the choke now, but nothing more than most bikes require.

Update: 2/23/02
With the engine in, it was a simple matter of popping the carbs into the manifolds and tightening the clamps. Then I attached the throttle cables and the choke linkage and made sure everything worked properly. All that remains is to attach the air filters to the intake side and connect the fuel lines.

Fuel Lines
August 17, 2001
All the fuel lines on the bike are brittle, clogged, or worn enough to warrant replacement. So a complete overhaul of the fuel lines is in order. Not expensive and easy to implement so I am not concerned.

Update: 2/23/02
After picking up several feet of 1/4" fuel line from the local hardware store I set to work slicing it up into the proper lengths. The original fuel line is, of course, in metric dimensions and since the 1/4" is slightly larger, I also used some screw-type hose clamps on each end of all the fuel lines to be sure none of them work their way loose. As soon as I get the in-line fuel filters installed, the fuel system will be ready to go.

Engine Teardown

September 18, 2001
Removing the engine was fairly easy. After pulling out all the mounting bolts, I placed a floor jack under the engine to make sure the bottom cleared the frame, and then wiggled it out the right side. Luckily the engine was small enough that I could heave it around without too much trouble.

Engine Covers - Lower and Upper
September 19, 2001
This was pretty nerve-wracking. Not that it was complicated, but the screws that held it together were all pretty tight. Even though I used an impact driver on all of them just to be safe, I still managed to strip the heads on eleven of the screws. Those all had to be drilled and pulled out with screw extractors. This was a very tedious process, and not just because I didn't have any drill bits for metal. If the drill isn't lined up correctly, you may damage the threads on the engine case, and that means you then have to drill and re-tap the case, which is difficult to say the least. But I managed to get all of the screws out successfully in the end.

September 19, 2001
After removing a few screws and nuts, I was able to dismantle the cylinders. That went fairly easily. Each section required some "gentle" finessing to get them apart, but everything worked out. The cylinder walls all looked good and didn't require any work. The piston heads were dirty, but otherwise in good shape. The rings looked okay, but I decided to replace them just to be safe. Other than that, a new set of engine gaskets took care of the top end.

Engine Case
September 24, 2001
The next problem I faced was getting the oil filter cap off the filter housing. These had to be removed in order to remove the clutch hub, which has to be taken off to split the engine case. However, the cap was seized up and would not come out. After letting it sit and think about what it had done for a couple days while soaking in WD-40, the cap still wouldn't budge. I gave the cap up for lost and drilled two holes in it to run some rope through to give me a better handle, but that didn't work either. So after throwing a few tools and reciting a few of my favorite words, I politely grabbed the hacksaw and proceeded to rip my way through the end of the filter housing. This worked although it cost $55 to replace the housing and cap. It was worth every penny.

After sawing my way inside, I found the special locknut that holds the housing on. Imagine a circular nut with four small square notches cut ninety degrees apart. Now put it at the back of the oil filter housing, which is a 3 inch deep (pre-sawed length) metal cylinder, that is mounted horizontally on the engine. Now try to imagine the tool in my toolbox that will fit in there and allow me to get it off. I couldn't do it either. So when I was ordering parts to replace those that some maniac had destroyed with a hacksaw, I asked how I should go about getting that nut off. Since the filter housing itself prevented me from getting at the nut with the hacksaw, I was hoping the answer would involve some sort of jackhammer device, or possibly explosives. Unfortunately, it turned out that there is a special tool made by Honda specifically for this nut on this engine. I was further disappointed to learn that there would be no destruction involved at all. Can't win 'em all I guess...

Update: 10/5/01
Well, the "special" tool came in and it worked like a charm. After pulling the filter housing off I was able to get to the clutch off. Once that was off, the shift lever was next to go and then it was on to the other side of the engine to remove the alternator rotor. That was a little hairy. The alternator is attached to the crankshaft by what I believe is called pressure fitting. That basically means that it is just pressed onto the shaft VERY firmly and there is a little notch that holds it on. Needless to say, this little notch was more than I could overcome with my own brutish methods. Being a rather sensitive, if not delicate, piece of the bike, I didn't want to damage the rotor by using anything to pry it off. So I quickly concluded that it was time for a new tool!

I ran up to the local Sears (I just hate doing that) to pick up a gear puller. The gear puller looks like it might be a metallic cousin to the little face sucking monsters from the Alien movies. That seemed to be the proper tool for the job because the rotor had three little indentations for each of the three arms on the puller to fit into. By turning a wrench on a bolt that goes through the puller, you end up pushing on the crankshaft while the arms pull on the rotor.

This worked and went rather smoothly, even considering the sickening metal popping sound when the rotor finally let go, combined with the surprise of the whole spiny contraption, with the six pound rotor still firmly in its grasp, landing on my foot. There was a brief Maalox moment when I thought I detected the sound of several small, metal objects landing at various locations on the shop floor. It turned out to be three roller bearings and their corresponding springs - at least I think there were only three.

Once the rotor was off I removed the 14 bolts that hold the upper and lower engine cases together and gently ("gently" meaning I pounded the hell out of it with a rubber mallet instead of a sledgehammer) separated the two halves. From the top half, I removed the shift drum and shift forks, then stared in wonder at the rows of gears that make up the transmission.

Update: 10/10/01
My next brilliant idea was to figure out how to clean all the interior parts and surfaces of the engine. The reasoning was that it would be much easier to put everything back together if it was all nice and shiny, not to mention helping to snazz up the more superficial aspects of the bike. That thinking was true to some degree: It would be easier to put all the pieces back together if they were clean, as long as someone ELSE does all the cleaning!!!

The next several days after splitting the case were spent proving the old adage that water and oil don't mix. Specifically, the bucket of soapy water I was using to try to wipe down the casings with ended up with a nice film on it, while the cases simply became wet and dirty. After picking the brains of the folks on various motorcycle forums, there was no single method that stood out, at least none that I had the means of doing without investing some cash. But someone had mentioned kerosene, and while I had no intention of sloshing around in flammable liquids while sitting in the close confines of my single stall garage, I recalled that WD-40 had kerosene in it, so I decided to give that a try.

WD-40 is my new best friend! I rank it right up there with Duct Tape and Crazy Glue. While it still involved quite a bit of labor, the WD-40 penetrated the grease enough to break it loose and allowed me to wipe it out/off/up. So armed with a couple magical blue and yellow cans and a 1000 count box of medical style 6-inch cotton swabs, I sprayed and swabbed most of the dirt and grime away. The best part of using the WD-40 is that after you get through about half a can with your face right down near the engine parts, tiny little sparkly pixies come out and carry away chunks of dirt by the armload as you begin to slowly float up and up, higher and higher, without ever leaving your chair and what's that you say Mr. Peanut about the wonder where it all goes after they get some next caller you're on the air for all your insurance needs oops missed a spot throw it away now..........


October 6, 2001
In the course of ripping apart this poor motorcycle, there have been several instances when I have come across something that is so elegantly simple in concept yet complex in design that it has made my head spin (and no, the WD-40 fumes have nothing to do with it). My inspection and examination of the clutch was one of these moments. I'll go into a long-winded explanation elsewhere trying to describe how this mechanical piece of art works so as not to bore you with it here.

Besides the cable, the only part in the clutch that ever really needs replacing are the springs, clutch plates and/or friction discs. After checking each disc for wear and warpage, I was pretty sure that they were all in good condition. But since I had already ordered a new set of discs to install, I went ahead and put the new ones in. I kept the old set around for spares, or to possibly make use of them by trying to throw them over a beer bottle in a drunken handyman's version of a ring toss game.

The springs were all within the specs listed in my repair manual, so they all stayed. The clutch lever system that pushes on the clutch lift rod was cleaned and repacked with grease. Everything else was cleaned, given a good looking over, and set aside to be put back on when the engine starts going back together.


October 8, 2001
The transmission was another head-spinner. The short version of how it works is that as you shift through the gears, you turn a small drum that spans the width of the engine. The drum then moves three shift forks, which in turn slide the gears along the counter and main shafts, engaging whichever gear you select.

During the time the case sat open while I worked on other parts of the engine, some various bits of dirt and debris found there way onto the transmission gears. I decided to give all the gears a good cleaning before putting the whole contraption back together so I removed each gear and let it soak in a bath of Simple Green. After a good rinsing and drying, I then coated each gear with oil to help prevent any rust from forming while it sat waiting for me to get the rest of the engine back together. Then I carefully put everything back together. As complex as this system is, it's fairly easy to work with provided you have some VERY good diagrams of where everything is supposed to go. Without good diagrams, I wouldn't even want to look at a transmission for fear of hosing something up.

Engine Rebuild

Engine Case
October 22, 2001

"The only thing more dangerous than an idiot is an idiot with tools. We're just as dumb and can do far greater damage." - Me, reflectively.

"@#&$)%*#&*@" - Me, in the midst of the events described below...

Once everything was clean and seemed to be in good working order, I put it all together for a dry fit before applying the gasket compound to the engine halves. All went smoothly except that the forward guide pin on the upper half of the engine didn't seem to seat properly. I figured it was just a little tight and would be cured once the bolt was tightened (this is the part where you shake your head condescendingly), so I declared the engine ready for reassembly.

After the gasket compound was applied, I set the two halves together and began tightening the bolts. I decided to start with the bolts that would seat the guide pins and began tightening the front. Before the two halves came together, the bolt started to get very hard to turn. Not to be defeated by such a tiny little bolt, I continued to tighten until I heard the nauseating "PINK!" of the bolt breaking in half. After making repeated loud references to the bolt's maternal lineage, I then proceeded to fail miserably at several attempts to remove the broken bolt from the engine case. Logically, I concluded that there were still plenty of good bolts remaining to hold everything together and continued reassembly.

Soon, I was ready to install the alternator rotor to the crankshaft. Remembering that the rotor was pressure fitted to the crankshaft, I assumed that I should set the rotor onto the shaft as tightly as I could then use the rotor bolt to "pop" it into place. Well, after I got the rotor on as far as I could, I saw there was still about an inch to go before the rotor would be fully seated next to the engine. It was at this point that I should have checked to make sure I had all the parts together correctly. Had I done so, I would have noticed that I had neglected to put the flywheel on the shaft. Oblivious to this fact, I began cranking on the rotor bolt until it too was destroyed by my superhuman strength (the breaker bar probably helped - see quote regarding idiots with tools). Since the rotor bolt was a key component and I had nothing to replace it, I was stuck until I could get a new bolt ordered. It was then I decided to try to go back and remove the first broken bolt from the engine case.

The bolt in question starts from the bottom of the engine, feeds through a plain guide hole on the lower half, into a threaded hole on the upper half. The hole goes completely through the case so that I had two ways to get at the broken piece. This should have made things easier, and probably would have if it weren't for me. I tried every non-destructive method I could think of but nothing worked. So I decided to drill out the bolt. Again, should have been easy. However, in my profound laziness, I decided that I would just leave the engine together instead of taking it back apart and having a nice, easy, approach to the bolt. As it was, the vertical sides of the engine case prevented me from getting the drill bit to line up exactly with the bolt. Did I let this stop me? You should know the answer to that by now.

I began my attack from the bottom of the engine and was surprised when the drill bit smoothly went through. For a brief second, I began to feel that this would be easier than I had feared. That thought was quickly dashed when I turned the engine over and saw the bolt, completely intact, grinning up at me, and a nice perfectly round hole through the case right next to it (once again, please refer to the quote above - either one).

And so the long wait began for some metal filler putty to arrive so I could fill and tap the case again.

Update: 12/15/01
Well the Lab-Metal putty arrived and after a quick test application, I got to work on the engine case. I drilled out the case so the hole I was filling was perfectly round. The instructions recommend layering for use over a 1/4" thick, so it took three or four applications to fill the whole. Then I gave it a little over a day and a half to set up.

Apparently, that wasn't long enough. When I tried to drill through to tap the hole, I as able to simply push the drill bit into the putty. So I refilled the whole and let it set for a week. When I was ready to try again, it worked perfectly. The only problem I had was that there was a little flaking when the drill bit broke through the top, but other than that it was very solid. I carefully turned the tap by hand and checked to see that the threads on the bolt would catch. Everything went smoothly and I was once again ready to attempt putting the case back together.

After installing the shifter arm and kickstarter assembly I reapplied the gasket compound. Then I lined up the shift forks and fit the halves together. This time I installed the four larger 8mm bolts first and saved the seven 6mm bolts for last. Last of all was the bolt that went into the "surgically repaired" hole. I carefully ran in the bolt by hand, then very gently tightened with a socket. My final impression of the Lab-Metal filler is that while the product description says that it can be used for drilling and tapping, I don't think it is dense or rigid enough to use in any case where there will be a lot of stress on it. In my case, I think there are plenty of other bolts holding the engine together that I am not worried about my repair failing. However, I wouldn't feel very comfortable using it when it is the only thing holding something together.

Once the case was back together and the excess gasket compound was cleaned off, I got to work on the clutch and oil filter. This was a little tricky because the clutch shell, oil pump, and primary drive gears are all intertwined. First of all, I slipped one of the two primary drive gears onto the crankshaft. Then, while keeping the oil pump piston inserted in the oil pump, I put the clutch shell onto the mainshaft and slid the shell and pump into place and made sure the rear gear behind the shell locked up with the drive gear. Once secured, I then slipped on the second primary drive gear and locked it into place with the forward gear on the clutch shell.

After that the rest was pretty simple. Once the clutch hub was on the mainshaft, I put in the clutch plates, push crown, and pressure plate. Then all that was left for the clutch was to put in the springs and tighten the bolts. Next I put on my brand new oil filter housing (some fool hacksawed through the old one), lockwasher, locknut, and filter cap and that was it.

Then it was time for the alternator rotor. After remembering to put the flywheel on, I lined up the rotor and slid it onto the crankshaft as far as it would go. Then I tightened the replacement bolt (Honda quit making the exact bolt I needed so I found a suitable replacement at the hardware store) and that was that. To check for balance, I turned the crank over a few times and everything seemed to go pretty well. I love it when a plan comes together...

December 22, 2001
Since I was replacing the rings, I talked to a few people about whether or not I should hone the cylinders. Everyone said it's a good idea so I set about seeing what it would take to get done. Sears sells a cylinder hone for $21 so I could have done it myself, but my main concern was screwing something up. Yes, yes, it's true. I do occasionally screw stuff up. So I called the guys at Cycle Pros, my local cycle shop, and asked them what all was involved in honing cylinders. They said there's not much to it as long as you're careful not the take too much off. Luckily I asked how much they would charge to do it and they said $5 a cylinder. Problem solved. It feels blasphemous to say it, but there's no sense buying a $20 tool that I'll only use once when I can get it done for $10. Bless me Tool Lord for I have sinned against thee...

Update: 12/22/02
The rings came in so I was able to get the engine back together. The rings are a little different than the ones I took off. Instead of three rings, there are five. The lowest ring has been replace by three. There are to thin, flat rings that sandwich another wavy ring. After a few attempts, I figured out that the wavy ring goes in first, then flat rings are installed on either side of it.

Once the new rings were installed, I put the pistons back on the rods. Then I coated the cylinder with oil, put the new gasket in place, and ever-so-gently began feeding the pistons into the cylinders. I got the first ring set against the bottom of the cylinder then used a small screwdriver to work my way around the piston, pushing the ring into the piston groove until the entire ring was up into the cylinder. Then I did the same thing on the other piston, and continued the process on the other rings until the pistons were fully into the cylinder.

With that out of the way, I put the head gasket on followed by the cylinder head. After securing the head with two bolts, I put on the next gasket and cam base. Then it was time to get the camshaft and rocker arms installed. Something easier said than done. While the process in itself is straightforward, it is very important to make sure it is done properly. The camshaft must be synched up with the crankshaft to ensure that the valves will operate properly. To top it off, on one end of the cam is a housing for the points assembly, on the other is the housing that connects the tachometer cable to the camshaft. Since these each support one end of the shaft, they must be put on at the same time, otherwise when you install one the resulting tilt in the camshaft prevents you from installing the other. These are both a very tight fit and require quite a bit of "finesse" to install, while at the same time trying to make sure that the crank, camshaft, and cam chain do not slip out of alignment. Imagine a large, greasy man with a goatee holding a small engine in a gentle embrace which strikingly contrasts the look on his face that suggests he is trying to make violent, non-consensual love to it and you have a pretty good idea of how I spent my afternoon.

With that unpleasant task out of the way, I installed the final two gaskets and the cylinder head cover to complete the engine reassembly. The only complication here was that I had to cut a few holes in the final gasket to allow for some small protrusions on the head cover that would otherwise have rammed the gasket down into the cam base.

Update: 2/23/02
After finally getting the tires put back on the bike, I set to work putting the engine back in. The only difficult part here was wrestling the thing around as I tried to line up the holes for the mounting bolts. Once the engine was secured, I set to work on the chain. Since this is my first experience with a chain driven bike, it took a couple attempts to get everything routed properly, but it was still pretty easy.

Update: 2/25/02
Before I put the starter on, I hooked up its power supply to make sure it was working. I was rewarded with a fit of sickly clicking from the solenoid. I don't know if this means the solenoid is bad, or the starter motor is bad, or if it just wasn't working because it wasn't fully installed on the bike and thus not properly grounded. Regardless, it's something I can look into later. When I finally attempt to start the bike, I am going to use the kickstarter. First of all, it will save draining the battery should the bike not jump to life instantly. Secondly, I've always thought using a kickstarter is a helluva lot of fun!


January 5, 2002
From the very beginning I knew the forks would have to be worked over. There was dried oil up and down the forks so my razor sharp intellect led me to conclude that the forks were leaking. That would mean new seals at the very least. As my repair manual suggests, I began be removing the front wheel and headlight assembly. No problems there. Then I opened up the plugs at the bottom of the forks to drain the oil, of which there wasn't any so that was over quickly.

The next step was to loosen the fork tube clamps on the steering head. After that, I began the arduous task of wrestling each of the forks out of their respective clamps. Tugging and cussing seemed to have no effect, so I went for good old Plan-B. To keep things simple, I always use the same Plan-B for every problem I face. Plan-B involves grabbing the nearest hammer and pounding randomly at whatever is causing the problem. Don't worry, I don't have any children so there's no need to notify Social Services. Anyway, in this case I had to revise Plan-B in order to direct my pounding to the tops of the forks in order to drive the tubes down an out of the clamps. This was accomplished by setting a breaker bar on the fork cap and pounding, then putting a rag in between the breaker bar and the cap in order to stop marring it up.

Before long the forks were out and taken apart. To get the fork seals out I tried several methods, the best and last of which was to heat the tube with a propane torch then pry the seals out. Once everything was out, I soaked all the parts in a bath of Simple Green. After everything was clean, I checked for any bending or signs of wear and it all checked out. One of the dampers wouldn't travel freely through its full range of motion so I ordered a new one along with two new seals. The damper cost about $60, which I thought was pretty expensive until I compared it to the $330 cost to replace the fork.

**Special Tip: Since the fork components are oddly shaped (long and narrow) use a plastic wallpaper water tray to soak the components. It only costs a couple of dollars and is the perfect size. You can completely immerse the parts without having to use several gallons of solvent.

Update: 1/24/02
The parts came in along with my piston rings so after a quick cleaning to remove any debris that might have gotten in the parts, I set to work putting the forks back together. I put the seals in the freezer for a couple hours to get them good and cold, then used a propane torch to heat up the top of the lower slider where the seals go in order to make it easier to install the seal. Even so, I still needed to use something to seat the seal far enough in to install the circlip that keeps the seal from coming out of the slider. This is tricky because you have to be careful not to damage the seal while driving it in.

**Special Tip: To do this, I used a 2-foot piece of 1.5 inch PVC pipe with 2 inches on the end filed down so that it would fit into the lip on the slider. With the seal, damper, and fork tube set in place in the slider, I slipped the PVC over the upper tube and onto the seal. Then use a rubber mallet to drive the seal in the last 1/4" or so. This works pretty well because after filing it down, the PVC is the perfect size and isn't hard enough to damage the surface of the seal.

Once the seals were set and the circlips in place, I tightened down the screw in the bottom of the fork that secures the damper. Then the spring seat and spring went into the tube, the spring locknut was put on followed by the fork cap. The next step was to put the forks back on the bike, but I decided to wait a few days before doing that to be sure that there wasn't anything I needed to do that would be easier to accomplish with the forks off the bike.

Update: 1/26/02
The forks went back in much more easily than they came out. My first instinct was to assume that I was becoming a highly skilled mechanic, but I suspect the copious amounts of WD-40 I applied to the forks and pinch crowns had something to do with it. Regardless, after installing the fork covers, which also serve as headlight/turn signal/reflector mounts, it was a simple matter of gently working the forks into position and tightening the bolts that hold them in place. Now all that remains is to add oil and tighten the fork caps, but that can wait until just prior to the maiden voyage.

Update: 2/25/02
In a rare act of foresight, I decided it would be best to try putting the fork boots on before adding fork oil while it was still easy to compress the forks. Even so, the rubber boots were a challenge to install. They are supposed to simply slip over the top of the lower slider, but years of neglect made them significantly less supple than they once were. The right one went on easily enough, but the left one hadn't been on properly when we got the bike and one edge had sort of folded under. Every time I attempted to pull the folded edge over the lip of the slider, it caused the other side to pop off. Through an elaborate system of screwdriver-prybars and a pair of pliers, I eventually wore the boot into submission. After a quick victory dance, I used a 60cc syringe to add the specified 110cc of 10W oil to each fork. Then it was a simple matter of tightening the fork caps and my work on the forks was done.

Mechanical Controls

January 26, 2002
The throttle sleeve consists of a slot and groove to which the throttle cable is connected, and a thin plastic tube which fits inside the right handgrip and allows it to rotate on the handlebar. To remove the old sleeve, I first had to dismantle the right handlebar control unit, which houses the engine stop switch, start button, and headlight switch in order to unhook the throttle cable. Then I slipped of the grip and sleeve and used a small screwdriver to help in applying lots of WD-40 between the two. After that the old sleeve slipped right out. The new sleeve slid right into the grip and was soon back on the handlebar. Somewhere during the course of this activity, the front brake switch popped out. It's attempted repair is listed below in the Switches section.

January 26, 2002
This was by far the easiest step so far in the process. Everything went smoothly. The only thing I may go back and do before I consider this step complete is to lube the cables with something to help prevent any rust and ease any friction from operation. However, since oiling cables is a routine maintenance procedure for any bike, I will most likely wait until I awake my own slumbering beast from hibernation and tackle both bikes at the same time.

Update: 2/25/02
With the engine back in, I was able to hook up the throttle and tachometer cables. After doing so, I remembered I forgot to lube them, so I disconnected the top end of each and squirted some WD-40 in until I saw some drips from the bottom. That should take care of that.

Electrical System

Switches & Wiring
January 26, 2002
The first thing to fix was the front brake switch. It had pulled out while I was working on the throttle sleeve, scattering a spring and two small copper plates, which I was lucky enough to find. I re-soldered the two wires for the switch to the plates and tried to super glue the plates in place so I could reinsert the whole thing to its proper location. Unfortunately, the switch looks like a relatively precise piece, so I doubt my ham-fisted attempt at rebuilding the delicate components will be successful.

After getting the front brake switch as close to fixed as I could manage, I decided to check the rest of the handlebar controls by measuring the resistance of whichever leads where implemented by their respective switches. The headlight, start button, and horn button all seemed to work fine. However, the turn signal switch seemed to be a bit sporadic so I tore it apart to see if I could discover the problem. I was greeted by a shower of springs, a tiny ball bearing, and a microscopic copper plate. I managed to recover all the pieces, which I then proceeded to drop repeatedly on the floor as I tried to reassemble the switch. As luck would have it, I finally lost the spring that pushes the copper plate into contact with the switch pads. I replaced it with the spring that pushes the ball bearing into a small notch in the case in order to hold the switch in the center position. So now the switch is a little free form as to which position it is in, but I feel this will help to bring the bike and rider closer together.

Note that I forget to check the front brake switch altogether...

After checking things out to my satisfaction, I started the arduous task of reconnecting all the wires into a respectable rats-nest of clamps, crimps, and connectors. The entire mass, which I named the "Little Ball of Hate" in honor of NHL star Pat Verbeek, was crammed into the headlight housing and secured by two screws.

I surveyed the rest of the wiring harness around the bike and could find no obvious frays, breaks, or wear points. That, of course, means nothing. The only way to know for sure if everything works properly is to connect the battery and perform a systematic examination of each electrical circuit. Or as we used to say in the Electrical Engineering labs at MTU, "Turn it on and see what smokes!"

Update: 1/28/02
That certainly was interesting. The good news was that all of the bulbs work. The bad news was that everything seemed to just shut down at random intervals and required me to toggle the ignition several times before anything would come back on. That suggested to me that there was either a bad wire/connection somewhere in the power supply or in the grounding circuit. On the bright side, everything seemed to function apart from the front brake switch and possibly a bad relay in the turn signal circuit. I was able to get everything to come on, however briefly, with my ignition switch shuffle. I was even able to get the headlight to go from low to high beam. The turn signals would come on, and I think they even tried to blink a few times. The brake light got brighter when I engaged the rear brake switch but not the front (which I forgot to test earlier). The horn even tooted a few muted, sickly notes. Time to see if that BS in my Electrical Engineering degree really stands for "Bachelor of Science" or for something else...

Update: 1/31/02
It seems that the ignition switch was at the root of the erratic behavior of the lights and signals. You have to hold the key in a certain position to get in order get it to work. To say this would be bothersome while trying to ride the bike would be a gross understatement, especially since the switch is mounted on the frame under the gas tank. Rather than try and tear apart the old switch to try and fix it (which I don't think is possible), I ordered a new one along with a new front brake switch. Now I just have to wait for the new switches to come in before I can finish checking out the rest of the wiring.

Update: 2/16/02
I installed the new front brake switch. I also picked up the new ignition switch but could not simply plug it in. The switch connects to the wire harness on the bike via a 4-way plug connector. It looks like the power supply wire going into the bike pulled out of one side of the connector and the previous owner did a rather sloppy job splicing it back together. The connecter on the frame side of the bike is ruined, so one of the guys at Cycle Pros said he would let me borrow a connector kit to hook up a new 4-way plug. That went pretty smoothly and the new ignition switch worked like a charm.

Update: 2/22/02
Now that I have a new front brake switch, I was able to use the spring from the old one to fix the turn signal switch. After dropping the tiny parts several times and being lucky enough to recover them all, I got everything together and the turn signal switch works properly now. I love it when a plan comes together...

January 27, 2002
We have had a battery for the bike sitting around for several months now. I had been waiting to fill the cells and charge it up until I was close to having most everything else completed. Well, that time has come. After having lots of fun in the garage squirting battery acid around, I had a rare intervention of conscience and followed the manual's instructions to let the battery sit for a while to let any gases escape.

While waiting, I went to play a friendly game of volleyball and proceeded to throw my back out. After limping home and putting on a manly face for my fiancee (she may not have seen it behind the tears) I spent an hour on the couch with an ice pack. Then I remembered that I had an open battery sitting in the garage that needed to be dealt with. So I leapt off the couch and fell promptly to the floor. Then, following a 30 minute reenactment of the entire evolutionary process from globulous invertebrate to upright Homo-sapien (complete with whatever grunts and howls might have passed as language for ancient primates), I shuffled out to the garage and brought the battery into the house where it could be charged in peace and warmth.

Starting & Tuning

February 27, 2002
After finally obtaining and installing two inline fuel filters, I gave the bike a once over, added oil to the crankcase and dumped a little into the cylinders through the spark plug holes. I turned the bike over a few times and was just about ready to hit the switches and pounce on the kickstarter when I remembered that I hadn't set the ignition timing.

Setting timing was something I had never done before so I went over the procedure several times to make sure I understood what I was supposed to be doing. Once I felt secure enough, I hooked up a circuit testing light and started trying to adjust the timing. Things were off quite a bit and no matter how far I advanced the points, they were still firing a quarter of a rotation late. After double, triple, and quadruple checking my steps, I began to go back through everything that might be causing this situation. The only thing I could come up with was that I had not lined up the cam timing chain properly and it might be off by a link or two. If that were the case, I would have to pull the engine to fix it so I decided to sleep on it and try again the next day.

Update: 2/28/02
The next evening I once again went over the ignition timing and came to the same conclusion: It was just to far off to be anything but a misaligned cam chain. I reluctantly gave in to the fact that I would need to pull out the engine and slowly got to work pulling off the fuel tank. After getting the tank off, I decided to try and remove the cam and valve cover to see if I could confirm my suspicion about the chain. Alas, I was foiled by some Brilliant Japanese Design Team who managed to position the frame just close enough to the top of the engine so that you cannot remove the cover without pulling the motor. However, I was able to peek inside just enough to determine with absolute certainty that there was a slim chance that the chain might possibly be misaligned.

Once again, I prepared to pull the engine. I decided to slowly work my way through each component to make sure I had eliminated every possibility before trying to monkey with the cam chain. My first step was removing the points along with the small cam on the end of the main camshaft that opens and closes them. After fiddling with it a bit, I realized that I had not installed the points-cam properly. Hoping against hope, I re-installed the points and put everything back together before checking the timing once again. With a very slight adjustment, the timing was set up perfectly! OH JOY! Once in a great while, a lucky few are party to some experience that makes them feel as if God were with them, guiding them through their trials. This was not one of those occasions because if God ever had been with me, He probably would have left quietly at some point during the profane tirades of earlier that evening. Nonetheless, I felt enlightened. My elation grew as I put all the pieces back together and slowly, calmly, began hopping on the kickstarter. I was rewarded with a puff of smoke and a happy PUTT-PUTT-PUTT of the little engine coming to life. It seemed to be running a little rough, but I figured it was nothing a little fine-tuning couldn't handle. As I turned off the engine and put away my tools for the evening, I was overcome with lightheadedness from a combination of the euphoria of hearing the bike purring along and also from all the exhaust fumes trapped in the garage with me. I stepped out into the night air with a smile on my face.

The next day I fired the bike up again (outside this time!) and began trying to fine-tune the engine. That's when I realized that the bike was only running on one cylinder. No matter what I did I could not get the left side to fire. Disheartened, I began the task of trying to find the culprit. I noticed some fuel leaking from the intake of the carburetor on the left cylinder. Having had some experience with stuck floats, I tapped the float bowls but there was no change. Thinking that if this were the problem the left cylinder might be flooding to the point that it would not fire, I decide to remove the carb and make sure the floats were functioning properly. Somewhere in Japan, a Brilliant Design Team chuckled quietly as I realized I would have to completely remove the exhaust in order to gain access to the pesky carburetor.

After finally getting the carb removed and the float bowl off, the float and float valve met my approval and I began putting everything back together. Sadly, this had no effect. I then decided to check the valve height and after a slight adjustment on the left intake, the cylinder still would not fire. The spark plugs were the next suspect, but both produced a fat blue spark at just the right time so there was no problem there. That was the last check I have done. I am beginning to fear that there may be some problem with the valves, which would require removal of the engine to correct. I will begin by checking the compression on the left cylinder. If this does not indicate any problems, I may be back to checking out the carburetor. I doubt that the carbs are the problem since they were thoroughly cleaned and rebuilt last fall, but there may be a clog in some small passage that escaped my attention. Any ideas are welcome!

Update: 3/7/02
Using a compression tester I discovered that the bad left cylinder (#1) barely registered on the gauge. The "good" right side cylinder read 90 p.s.i., which was low, but since the engine was cold I figured it was about right. I squirted a little 80W90 oil in the #1 cylinder and the reading came up to 30 p.s.i. which is still extremely low. I sent a few messages off to some folks that have some experience with motors and tried to get some opinions. No one seemed to be able to say with any certainty what the problem might be. So I once again resigned myself to pulling the engine to double check everything. My new fear was that there was a problem with the piston rings or valves, either way, a lot of work.

Update: 3/8/02
Ever have one of those days where something good happens, but you don't quite trust it, so you can't really feel good about it? Well, the day after I concluded that I would have to dig back into the engine, I decided to warm the bike up to recheck the compression before I started tearing everything apart. For some reason, the bike was running on both cylinders. I hadn't done anything that would all of a sudden cause this so I was wary. After warming up, I checked the compression, which read 150/140 p.s.i. in the #1/#2 cylinders respectively, well within the average range. I looked skeptically at the bike and decided to check the compression again for the next few days and see if anything changed.

The next day, Saturday, I warmed the engine again, and got compression readings of 120 p.s.i. in both cylinders. This is low, but I attributed this to the fact that I hadn't quite warmed the bike as much as I had previously. I left everything alone and when I checked compression on Sunday, I let the bike get very warm and the compression was back up to 150/140 p.s.i. Same thing on Monday. I still don't know why everything seems to be working now, but I'm not complaining. I'm waiting for something catastrophic to happen, but I'm not going to go looking for trouble.

Update: 3/13/02
IT LIVES!!! I took the bike, which I have taken to calling "Pup-Pup" for a spin around the neighborhood today. The speedometer cable and new mirrors haven't arrived yet, so I stayed to the neighborhood streets. The bike seems to go pretty good, but I can sure tell it's not my 1100 Virago. Those 750cc's make a big difference, but Pup-Pup is still a fun bike. The rear brake is a little soft, but other than that, everything works fine. Now the only thing remaining to do is get my girlfriend around to getting her Learner's Permit and signed up for a MSF class so she can get her license. That should make ripping the bike into tiny pieces seem like a piece of cake. Once we can put the bike through it's paces, I'll update this page with our adventures, but I'm going to wait to make sure there aren't any surprises.

Life After 30

August 20, 2002
Well, the summer is almost gone. Melody has ridden Pup-Pup a total of three times and her MSF class starts tomorrow. They don't ride until Saturday, so she may get a couple more practices in yet. So far she is doing well. She can take off and stop just fine. She has a little trouble with the tight 90-degree turns, but just needs practice. The bike on the other hand has been giving me fits all summer.

After the initial run in March and all my fiddling with the compression testing I thought everything was working properly and it would be a summer of riding and laughter. After all, I am not a total idiot. I mean if you're careful, and go through every step properly and methodically, it's really not that difficult to find and fix any problem you might have...right?

Wrong. Sometime in April, we decided to get Melody on the bike for her first ride. She got all her gear on and we got ready to head out to a parking lot. I pulled Pup-Pup out of the garage to warm it up and again only the right cylinder was firing. I let it run on one cylinder for a while to warm up, thinking that might get things working, but that was not the case. I checked compression and everything looked good, the plugs were shooting out a good spark and there was fuel. I had no idea what was wrong. We gave up trying to ride and I set to work chasing ghosts.

The simple stuff all seemed to check out, which made me think about compression and cam timing. If that timing was off, the valves might not be working right, and if it was off just the right way, it might be something that only shows up under the right circumstances. But to check that out would require pulling the engine and I wasn't quite ready to do that yet. A few weeks later I decided to tear into everything again. Just out of curiosity, I tried a slightly hotter set of plugs and all of a sudden both cylinders were running! I checked out the plugs and noticed that the new ones had a slightly longer insulator tip, just enough to put the spark a little farther into the chamber. Maybe this was all that was needed. I double checked the gaps on the plugs and got ready for a testing session. This was when the kickstarter stopped working.

Now, the bike does have an electric starter, but with it running so poorly it takes a lot of trying to get it going and the battery doesn't have enough juice to keep the starter going very long. So the kickstarter is absolutely vital for getting the bike started. Unfortunately, to get to the kickstarter components, I not only had to pull the engine, but had to split the case as well. Not a fun thing to do. On top of that, I still had no idea whether or not the new plugs would solve the problem. But the kickstarter was essential, so the engine had to come out.

The only problem with the kicker was that a small clip popped off the end of the shaft and had to be put back on (more securely this time) before the kickstarter would engage. While the engine was out, I dug into the top end and verified that the valves were opening and closing properly. After getting everything back together, I fired it up and it seemed to run just fine. By now it was May and the weather had turned crummy, so it was a while before we had a nice weekend for Melody to go for a ride.

Every couple days I went out and ran the bike to make sure everything was still working and it seemed to be fine. Then the weather cleared and we were getting ready for Melody's first ride. That was when the left cylinder quit working again. This time I was sure there was something electrical pooping out. That's the only thing I could think of that I hadn't checked that would explain the intermittent nature of the problem. I started with the plug wires. I wanted to swap them to see if the problem followed one wire or stayed on the same cylinder. However, the plug wires are permanently attached to their respective coils, so swapping them around was a bit of a chore. I finally got it rigged up, but the problem stayed on the left cylinder. Still not convinced, I put the plug wires back and started looking at them more closely.

As I was trying to peel back the rubber cap on the end of the left plug wire, the entire cap came off in my hand. Thinking I had seriously destroyed the plug wire, I peeked into the end of the cap and saw the connector. It consists simply of a stiff coiled wire, with one end extended out and bent at a 90-degree angle. The coil is what slips over the spark plug tip and that seemed all right, but the other end seemed a little goofy.

At the end of the elbow, the wire is sharpened to a point that just pierces the plug cable and that is all the connection there is. It seemed like a very chincy design to me, and I could plainly see how it would be very possible to have a bad connection. So I trimmed the plug cable back a little bit and shoved the pointy end of the connector back through. VROOM! Both cylinders fired right up. I took off for a quick test ride and that was when I noticed that I couldn't shift into 2nd gear.

I was certain that I had screwed something up when I split the engine to fix the kickstarter. Either I unintentionally did something to the transmission, or maybe I hadn't put the shifting assembly back together properly. I decided to call it a day, and it was a week before I was ready to get back into the engine. Just before I started pulling off engine parts, I thought to myself, "You're an idiot. You probably just did something very simple and very easy to fix and you won't realize it until the engine is in pieces." After pondering this point for several minutes, I decided to start at the shift lever and work my way back. I found the problem right away. Somehow I had knocked the adjusting nut on the shift linkage out of whack when I tore the engine apart to fix the kickstarter, and it wouldn't let the shift lever move the linkage enough to reach 2nd. A few turns of a wrench and the problem was solved.

After a few more days of testing, everything seemed to work. It was now July and Melody's MSF class was fast approaching. She really wanted to get some practice before the class. We decided to start small and her first ride on her bike was in the alley behind our house. She practiced starting and stopping and did just fine. She putted up and down the alley for about an hour and had a big grin on her face the whole time. That weekend, I rode the bike out to a small parking lot and she followed in her car. Once there, she got back on and started working on turns and shifting between 1st and 2nd gear.

A few weeks later and we were getting ready for another practice session. Once again, she was in her riding gear and I went out to warm up the bike. And once again, it was only running on one cylinder. However, this time it was the right cylinder that wasn't cooperating. A string of well-rehearsed profanities did little to fix the problem, so it was back to the garage for Pup-Pup and me. I decided to start with the wiring and redid the plug connector right away. This time it didn't seem to make any difference. I decided it was simply time to replace all the ignition wiring and be done with it.

I spent a week searching the Internet for a set of NOS wiring but couldn't find any. Melody's class was coming soon and she still wanted some more practice. I got back in the garage and started going over everything again. Compression was good. The ignition timing was a little off, but resetting it didn't do any good. There was still nothing wrong with the fuel system.

For a few minutes, I sat on the bike, running on only the left cylinder, contemplating what I could possibly have missed. I started fidgeting with the throttle levers on the carbs. Then I started pulling the right side plug wire on and off. I noticed that when I put the wire back on the plug, I'd get a little spurt from the right side. I pulled the wire back off and slowly moved it towards the plug. Just as the tip of the plug went into the cap, I could feel a little tick as the wire arced to the plug and the cylinder fired. I played around for a while and found out that the cylinder would fire as long as the plug wire wasn't pushed too far onto the plug.

A few more days of testing and it seems to be working, but I've said that before. I am hoping that the problem all along has simply been some bad connections in the plug wires. If I ever find a new set of coils that should take care of the problem. Until then, who knows what will happen. At any rate it is working well enough that Melody went on her third ride yesterday (8/19/02). So far she is doing fine, but she's still nervous about taking the class. Regardless, she'll be done in a few days and hopefully a fully licensed rider. It would be great if she had a reliable bike to ride, so I am not giving up on Pup-Pup by any means. He's part of the family now.

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