This post is going to be mostly about prepping the bikes rather than the actual ride, but itís a decent part of the story so I figured Iíd include it.
My aforementioned bike is a 1986 Yamaha XT350 with 6300 miles on the clock. I bought it with a failed timing chain tensioner, which had allowed the chain to flop around and grind about a quarter inch out of the inside of the jug, filling the engine with metal. Luckily it didnít skip time, but the metal in the oil had completely destroyed the rings, and the bike smoked worse than any 2-stroker Iíve ever seen. All it needed was a new timing chain, guides, rings, and a hone. It turned out to already be bored .50 over. I converted the failure prone tensioner to manual since $50 seemed a bit steep to buy one, put it back together, and broke it in. The bike ran great, and I used it mostly for commuting for the 500 miles I put on it before this trip. It also spent a bit of time in an OHV park. For the trip, I addressed as many shortcomings as I could on a modest budget. 520 chain conversion (16/45 for lower highway revs. Itís a 6-speed), new mirrors, new clutch cable, checked carb boots, added a voltmeter and cigarette lighter, a Shinko 244 on the front and 705 on the rear, an oil change, and generally checked everything over. I also opened up the airbox some and rejetted the carbs, both of which this engine responds really well to. I think it turned out pretty well, as I only needed to adjust the chain once over the course of the trip, and the bike cruised fine at 70 mph at 6000 revs in 6th
gear, and I could downshift to pass if needed.
The KTM was a little bit of a question mark. It had been in storage for a year, and the first time we tried to get it to run was a week before the trip. Of course, it wouldnít start. After charging the totally flat battery and putting some oil in the cylinder and cranking it slowly with the kicker to make sure it wouldnít score the bore, we eventually determined that the carb was full of crap gas. We drained the bowl, put fresh gas in the tank, and a bit of starting fluid later it fired right up. And idled at 4000 or so rpm. Great. We both had things to do, so we left it at that for the time being.
Among other things, the KTM needed a new license plate mount (a cop didnít like the one that was on there, which was part of why the bike was in storage), an oil change, air filter, and possibly tires. Pretty simple stuff. The rear tire was also woefully out of balance, so we needed to take care of that. On the 9th
, the weekend marking the start of break, we got down to business. George had taken the wheels off to have them balanced during the week, and during that day or two, the bike was lying on its side. We got it upright again and got to work. Most of it went pretty well, and we installed heated grips and a few other small improvement bits as well. The local shop hadnít been able to balance the rim, though they told us that it needed something like 6 oz. of weight. Thatís a lot for a motorcycle. Of course, no one would sell us weightsÖand then George remembered that he had a massive stash of used stick-on automotive weights in his trunk. Go figure. A little epoxy later and we were in business. This actually worked really well and quelled most vibrations, until one set of weights broke off when we were loading the bike into the truck. We discovered that the high idle was caused by the oversize gas tank pinching the throttle, as well. When we started the bike, the amount of smoke was incredible (remember, it had been on its side for a day. Lots of oil to burn off.).
At this point there were a few problems that we never did end up fixing. The forks leaked quite a bit and the water pump started to leak pretty profusely. Both will be fixed soon, and neither really caused an issue on the trip. We went for a quick ride at 2 in the morning to make sure everything was working, and called it a night.