Spannerman July 2015

Date 01.7.2015

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader


Letters this month:

– Air leak on a Yamaha FZR1000
– How much for a 1982 Suzuki X7 250?
– What’s a comfortable tourer option for a pillion?
– LAMS bike choices
– Does my Harley Sportster 1200 Custom CA need a dyno?
– More on oils



Air leak on a Yamaha FZR1000


I have a Yamaha FZR1000 which has recently started playing up. It used to accelerate smoothly but, of late, it’s started to hesitate when I snap open the throttle. It feels like I’m flooding the engine and, when I back off, all is good again as long as I only accelerate slowly. Once I get there, it’s fine at full throttle.

Is this likely to be an electrical problem or is it somehow related to fuel and the carburettors? I think this is unlikely as I had them removed recently for a complete clean and there were no obvious issues with them.

Derek Phillips

Something is happening with the mixture when you crack open the throttle, Derek. The obvious suspect here is air entering the inlet manifold. Did you replace the intake rubbers when the carbs were cleaned? Is it possible they’re loose on their mounts?

These rubbers are subjected to tremendous heat because they’re behind the engine and get stiff and brittle over time. It’s possible they’re leaking even if the mountings are secure. There’s this spray can called ‘Start ya Bastard’ available from automotive shops which you can use to see if the big Yam’s mixture is being affected by leaking air.

Start the engine, let it warm up and then spray this stuff around the intake area. If the revs increase, it means air is getting in somewhere it shouldn’t.

Find where it is leaking, fix it, and it’s likely you’ll get the throttle response you used to enjoy.

Oh, if you can’t find ‘Start ya Bastard’, WD40 or CRC will do much the same job.

How much for a 1982 Suzuki X7 250?


Five years ago I bought a tidy, 1982 Suzuki X7 250 for just over a grand. I used it to gain my full licence, thought about keeping it and then inherited a 1982 Katana 750 from my overseas-bound brother.

What’s the value of the X7? It’s done 35,000km and has been well maintained with the paintwork freshened up.

I’ve been checking websites and I have not seen another one, although the prices for older two-strokes seem like madness to me with seemingly no limit to what people will pay for some bikes.

Have I missed something here? The values seem to be out of whack with the reality of what these bikes are like to ride. I don’t want to give the X7 away but, at the end of the day, it’s a slowish, noisy, smoking, 33-years-old commuter bike. Any thoughts?

Shane Rowe

Sure, Shane, I have some thoughts. Suzuki’s X7 was the last grasp of the nettle for air-cooled two-strokes and was arguably the fastest, mass-produced two-stoke ever available from Japan. The country built its motorcycle history on two-strokes from 1958 until liquid-cooling took over with Yamaha’s RD250/350LC in 1981.

The X7 was introduced in ’78 and demonstrated what Suzuki had learnt from racing two-strokes since the early ‘60s. It had a sharp power band and initiatives including production expansion chambers which, in the right circumstances, gave it a top speed around 160km/h.

With some shaving of the head, barrels and the addition of Yamaha LC carbs (write and ask me how to do it), it could be coaxed to 180km/h.

Not bad for the time.

I know this sounds nothing like the bike you’ve described (slow, noisy, smoking) but your X7 is, at least, a survivor.

Here’s what happened to air-cooled two-strokes from that era. Most had a life expectancy of 40,000km. Performance deteriorated as the engines wore and, because the whole engine deteriorated, not just the top end, a top end refresh didn’t restore the original vibrancy of the power unit. In fact, what often happened was refreshing the top end increased the pressure in the crankcases and the seals would blow. Over time, these two-strokes got progressively slower.

Here’s the thing about your bike: it’s done its life’s work and it’s not original (repainted). Fortunately for you, there are 60-year-olds out there who remember it as fondly as they remember their first girlfriend. They’re not going to buy it to do 100mph again but they’ll be keen to attempt to re-gather that part of their past – hence the higher-than-expected value.

A really good X7 in original condition is probably worth five grand. A pale imitation which at least looks like the original could easily be worth half that. It’s a good situation for both the buyer and the seller – take advantage of it.


What’s a comfortable tourer option for a pillion?


I’ve been riding consistently for more than 40 years and now find I have time for touring. The boss would like to join me more often but, due to a back injury, she cannot ride pillion for very long and finds boarding my Suzuki Bandit a mission in itself. She’s 5’2”.

Can you recommend a bike or bikes that could be more suitable for a pillion and, preferably, something under $20,000. It would be good if it had a lower, more comfortable touring seat and was suitable for a backrest.

Dennis MacLachlan

I’m a bit jealous of the big cruisers, Dennis, as the pillion is usually a lot more comfortable than the rider and I’m the one usually doing the riding.

Do you actually need a new bike? Slightly older Honda GoldWings are in your price range and they have excellent, cocooned pillion spaces. ’Wings are good second-hand buys as they’re very hard to hurt and are usually, initially bought by caring owners.

Hardly any ‘sports-tourers’ like your Bandit are likely to be more comfortable but Honda Blackbirds are among the best for pillion comfort, along with BMW R and K-series sports-tourers. The backrest you think is important may restrict you to a cruiser. Don’t fret if that’s the case – you’re still riding.

Here’s a tip for a comfortable mounting experience for your pillion. (Even when I was typing that I realised I could have phrased it better…). Leave the bike on the sidestand, get your pillion to mount the bike from the front footpegs and then push herself back to the pillion seat. It can make it a tiny bit more difficult for the rider to get on the bike but it’s a small price to pay for a less-traumatised passenger.

Bikes from the ’80s were way more comfortable for pillions because designers didn’t care much about seat height and cornering clearance. It’s possible the best sports-touring pillion bike ever made was the Suzuki GS1000G but it’s hard to find them now with low kilometres.

LAMS bike choices for a new learner rider


I have not long had my learner’s permit and am looking at buying a new bike. My knowledge of bikes is not great but on reading different reviews I have narrowed my choices down to these learner models – Suzuki Gladius, Yamaha MT-07, Ducati Monster and Harley XG500. Which of these do suggest would be the best to consider? Are there any others that you think may be more suitable? Thanks for your advice.


We got this email about 20 seconds before we pushed the ‘send’ button on #295, Heather, which had a comparison of almost all the bikes you’ve nominated and a ‘Buyers Guide’ covering all the LAMS bikes (read LAMS the review here).

You’ve probably read it by now, but here are a few other things to think about.

We didn’t name a winner as your letter demonstrates admirably that the best bike for you will be the one that fits you best, not the one we thought was superior according to our old standards of handling, performance and the like.

The H-D XG500 wasn’t included because we were focussing on 600cc-plus naked bikes that were LAMS-approved, although we covered the Harley in #291. Honda markets three 500cc LAMS bikes that you haven’t mentioned but would also be in the mix.

In terms of overall value-for-money, it would be hard to go past Yamaha’s MT-07. As you’ll read in Karen Anderson’s ride review in this issue, there isn’t a lot wrong with it for the price. You haven’t mentioned your height, which may be an issue. The Ducati Monster has the lowest seat height but is also the most expensive.

I’m actually still riding the Gladius we had on that test as it’s so good as a commuter bike that I’m reluctant to give it back. It’s a bigger bike than the Ducati, though, so that has to be taken into consideration.

The H-D 500 is a cool bike for the money but lacks some of the dynamic grace of machines like the LAMS Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

What it boils down to is what you want to use the bike for. You want to look good – consider the H-D or the Ducati. You want to use the bike as safe, reliable transport – select from the Yamaha, Kawasaki or Suzuki. Sit on them all, though, to see what feels the most comfortable.

Oh, you actually want a recommendation? Read Karen’s report on the MT-07 in issue #296. As long as you can actually fit on it, you’ll never be disappointed.


Does my Harley Sportster 1200 Custom need a dyno?


I had a bike that needed valve clearances adjusted every second day. So, late last year, I bought a new Harley Sportster 1200 Custom CA. It has an air-cooled engine with hydraulic valves, belt drive, EFI, braided brake lines, ABS, keyless fob, alarm system, gear indicator and tacho on the digital/analogue instrument gauge. It’s a really cool blend of old and new.

Of course I got the Screaming Eagle Stage 1 kit with S&S slip-ons and performance tuner. The sound was way too loud though. A visit to Redline Exhausts made her growl. When I throttle off she really snap crackles and pops, which I love, but is this doing any harm? Should I get it dyno tuned or just leave it to the regular service, which is due in 3000 kilometres?

Gavin Breese

The breakfast food noises you’re hearing when you back off the throttle, Gavin, is air being sucked into the slip-ons and mixing with unburnt fuel before igniting on the hot inner-surface of the mufflers. To make the noise go away, ensure the header pipes and slip-ons are well sealed.

It doesn’t hurt the engine so don’t lose any sleep over it but, over time, you’ll find it annoying. It’s nice to know it can be fixed so easily, isn’t it?

More on oils


Thanks for your reply last month concerning the cost of different oil brands. One more question and I’ll stop annoying you.

The cost of motorcycle oils as opposed to car lubricants has been attributed to, in part, the additional properties that are required in motorcycle oils to cope with shear stresses because the oil lubricates the gearbox as well as the engine.

My Harley-Davidson has three different oil lubrication systems – engine, primary chain case and gearbox. Harley specifies different oils for the engine and primary case/gearbox. I’m using Castrol 4T 20W50 in the engine.

My question is can Castrol 4T be used in the primary case and gearbox as well as the engine or should I use different oils? The bike is an ’03 Softail Heritage with130,000km on it.

Bruce Thompson

God protect me as I enter the nest of vipers which is H-D lubrication. Everyone has a view which, of course, includes H-D. Its branded lubricants are safe to use but are relatively expensive and available usually only through Harley-Davidson dealers. H-D’s message is confused in that it says to use Formula+ for the transmission and primary chain and a different lubricant for the engine. It also says you can use Syn3 20W50 for all three, suggesting that an engine oil is suitable for the engine, primary chain and transmission.

H-D is shy about what’s actually in Formula+ so it’s difficult to match that oil’s specifications with an alternative product.

You’re currently using a mineral oil in the engine, Bruce, and it’s fine as long as you change it regularly. Current thinking is fully synthetic oils are a better alternative as they last longer in use. This is particularly important if you follow H-D’s service interval advice which asks a lot of the lubricant.

When you consider Japanese cruisers share their oil between the engine and gearbox and put up big distances, it’s clear that it’s possible to use engine oil in gearboxes and expect reliable results. Better, I think, is to use specific gearbox oil.

Mobil 1 V-Twin 20W50 engine oil has a proven reputation among the more mechanically-minded H-D community and, since its specifications match Syn3 and H-D says it’s fine to use that in the primary, you can use the same Mobil 1 there as well. For the gearbox, Mobil 1 Syn Gearlube LS 75W90 will give you peace of mind.

I don’t doubt that the same level of protection would be available from, say, the equivalent Motul, Penrite or Castrol products but what you’re after is smooth, quiet shifting for the length of the service interval and some experimentation is occasionally required.

Having said all this, Mobil 1 products can be a little hard to find. Burson’s stock them, and, somewhat surprisingly, 7-Eleven often carries the V-twin 20W50.


If you’d like some motorcycle advice, write to:

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