‘81 Honda XL185s - Input and Suggestions (just purchased)

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by gpack, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Hi all,
    I just purchased a 1981 Honda XL185s. I am hoping for some input/suggestions regarding items that appear to be missing, non-original, or are good things to modify. My first bike and first time riding.

    In short, I am looking to do a fairly detailed restoration to the bike. I will also modify the ride height parameters to accommodate my tip-toeing while seated on the bike. I can handle shaving the seat a tad. Any suggestions regarding the suspension? If I could somehow lower the bike evenly front and rear by about 2” total, I will be set.

    Feel free to input based on the photos attached. Thanks - Gary
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  2. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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  3. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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  4. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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  5. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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  6. Onederer

    Onederer Crunch Nugget

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    That's a really nice bike.

    Yes, it's not perfect, but it's very complete and looks mostly unmolested.

    I'd leave the seat alone other than a new cover. Regardless of what suspension mods you do, that thick seat takes a lot more of the small stuff out than you may realize. Besides, cutting the seat down changes the distance to the pegs and makes transitioning from sitting to standing more tiring when riding offroad for an extended time.

    All of my suggestions include not modifying the stock parts, but removing them and storing them. No permanent modifications to the original parts.

    Rear is easy. Install shorter shocks. Do the leg work, there's plenty to choose from.
    Front is easy. Buy new springs or used ones, cut them down and install spacers under the damper rod top out spring. You'll want to buy spare damper rods and change the orifices on them.

    If you can't handle these mods, simply send the parts to a suspension shop and tell them what you want. Other than labor, it's low cost.

    Those engines are also shared with the ATC's. That intake manifold is still available (last I checked). The silicone is scary. Replace that intake.


    Those bikes are actually very capable. Not the fastest, sure, but very capable of getting there and very reliable.
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  7. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Onederer - I really appreciate the input you provided. It does seem to be complete for the most part minus lighting and horn. Additionally, the handlebar does not seem to be original as it is silver and I keep seeing photos of black bars on these bikes. The grips have been changed which is obvious and the crossbar is an actual Renthal labelled bar (and pad). I have not begun disassembly yet.

    1. Regarding the battery...where is it located on the XL185s? Under the seat? How do these seats dismount? The battery is not directly behind the side covers.

    2. The forward sprocket/chain cover with the blue RTV seen at the seam - is that cover original? Looking closely, the protruding metal portions do not match up at the seam as well the lower edge as it appears they should.

    3. Any preferred rear shock brands out there to start searching?

    I do like the idea of removing the stock items and replacing with what I would 'need'.
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  8. Onederer

    Onederer Crunch Nugget

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    The handlebar isn't stock. There are many generic steel aftermarket bars to choose from, so you should be able to find a set that's close to stock in appearance (the crossbar is welded in place). Check out some of the Moose brand steel bars.

    It looks like the ignition switch is missing.

    1. You just need to get a manual. If you have questions about those things, it's just going to get much more complicated. Someone may have removed the battery components, so the cover and related parts may not even be there anymore. Missing key switch, missing rear lights, missing front turn signals means it's very likely missing the battery. It's not needed to run. Rudimentary electrical systems are far beyond most peoples skillset, so they just remove things they don't understand and pretend they fixed it.

    2. Maybe not original, but certainly stock. That' silicone squeezed out from the sprocket cover is a little concerning. Maybe it chucked a chain at some point and damaged the case. They bought a new cover and doctored the hole with silicone. Again, don't be surprised if that turns out to be true. Every shadetree's #1 tool is RTV.

    3. You don't need anything high dollar. Measure everything and replace it with something shorter. Those shocks are very basic, so very basic shocks of a shorter length will work just as well, with just less travel. If you want, go nuts and get some cheap Chinese shocks that look fancy and maybe have an external nitrogen reservoir (piggyback). Check out some of the shocks for Chinese brand 150cc scooters on Ebay, maybe they'll be long enough.

    Luckily, used parts for those bikes are pretty darn inexpensive. You could buy extra wheels and keep two different (street and dirt) sets of tires mounted and ready to go, although the tires it already has on it are very representative of what it came stock with.

    I'm not a fan of those external, sintered brass fuel filters. As long as the internal standpipe filter is good, they're not needed. The whole OEM petcock or just the filter are still available. I've never used an external filter, just the OEM one in the tank on any of my Hondas, and I've never had issues with debris in the carb. If you live or ride somewhere with questionable fuel, it's best to filter it before it goes into the tank anyway. A bunch of trash in the tank will just keep plugging up whatever type of filter a person uses.
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  9. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    I really appreciate your help with this.

    I did pluck off the gray JBWeld that is seen. The top portion of that screw hole is busted off - no hole in the case though. The bolt is in, but maybe 2/3 of the circumference of the bolt is biting the casing and the rest is exposed due to the broken top piece. The blue RTV appears to be just sealing a gap due to the incorrect cover installed.

    I will check out basic shocks and investigate the electrical components later. I am waiting for a service manual in the mail at the moment. I will work on registering/titling first then get started with the hands on work.

    Is restriction a concern for these small cone fuel filters?
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  10. Onederer

    Onederer Crunch Nugget

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    That sintered brass filter shouldn't be restrictive, but if the one in the tank is plugged up, it doesn't matter.

    I don't like those filters because they just use the porosity of the metal and don't have much surface area (plug up quickly).

    The pancake style (little red flat ones) use a mesh screen, much like the one already in the tank. I don't know which one flows better, but you could probably find specs online if you're so inclined. I just use the sock one in the tank because I know it works and I make certain what I'm pouring in is clean to start with.

    If you wanted to try, a petcock from a XR650L may work. It has an extra filter in it and a sediment bowl. Sediment bowls do work, if they're serviced at regular intervals. It's kind of like a water drain on a diesel fuel filter.
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  11. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Makes sense. I have seen those pancake filters before. I can explore that too. The XR filter sounds like a winner with it's design.
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  12. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Do the eBay carb rebuild kits do well? Or does anyone have a brand suggestion?

    How about drive chain brands as well?
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  13. Onederer

    Onederer Crunch Nugget

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    I think the Keyster carb kits get good reviews. I'd definitely stay away from the cheap Chinese carbs, they are very hit or miss and if they are a miss, it causes all kinds of headaches. It's best to rebuild an OEM one or buy new OEM.

    One thing for certain on the chain is if it didn't come stock with an O-ring chain, make certain one will fit before ordering one. You may have to stick with a non sealed chain if an O-ring one won't fit. Other than that, whatever brand name you like for the price you like. It's not a high powered bike, so any quality chain should hold up well.
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  14. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    I have located some Keyster kits - thanks for that recommendation. I was only looking to rebuild anyway - not replace unless an issue arises.

    How many miles are people going on non-O-ring chains and when do sprockets typically require a change? I have found plenty of standard chains. What signs/symptoms lead to changing sprockets?
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  15. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Anyone?
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  16. JCool

    JCool Long timer

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    Sprockets and chain are generally replaced at the same time. As a chain wears , the pins get farther apart , it won't mate up well with new sprockets. A new chain on old sprockets has the opposite problem. Worn parts will wear out the new ones unusually fast if everything isn't replaced at the same time. It's more cost effective to do all three at the same time. Don't buy cheap parts either , they won't last , unless you plan on getting rid of the bike soon.
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  17. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Good input. I found a D.I.D brand chain. Any good?

    As for sprockets to replace, no clue of decent brands other than a new Honda sprocket...
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  18. JCool

    JCool Long timer

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    DID is a great brand. Pick yourself out any brand name countershaft sprocket and pretty much any steel rear sprocket will do.
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  19. gpack

    gpack Yamaha-er

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    Good deal. Thanks for that useful info.
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  20. Bowber

    Bowber Been here awhile

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    Do the chain and sprockets together, the sprockets were shared across much of the Honda trail bike range of the time so don't just look at XL sprockets. I'm not sure if the US version was different but the UK bike had a tacho as well as the speedo.
    Personally I'd stick with the Renthals if you're going to be riding it, way stronger than any steel bars you'd find and it was the first thing we changed on these bikes, the Honda steel bars were famous for being made from cheese.

    ALWAYS check the oil level, the motor used a steady amount and once it ran low you'd lose the top end, these later motors were better as they had a steel bush at one end rather than the earlier direct to Ali bearing, the slightest loss of oil pressure resulted in the cam seizing in the head.
    Change the oil regularly (1000 miles?) and take the gauze filter out and clean it every change, it's behind the big hex bung in front of the gear lever.
    I used to run some oil in with the CDI advance/retard as it made it a lot quieter and the CDI pickup wasn't bothered by it (inside the cover on the head)
    Make sure the cam chain is tensioned correctly, it's a manual thing you undo and run the motor at a steady rpm then lock back up.

    All of the normal maintenance stuff will be in a manual if you can find one but be paranoid about oil checks until you're used to how much it uses.

    Steve

    P.S. They were great trail bikes and we used to get them everywhere, not fast by todays enduro bike standards but more than capable, in fact I've just remembered one trail ride where the then current British enduro champion on his XR350 struggled keep up with one of our very good local riders on his XL185s ;-) he was an ex white helmet display rider though.
    #20