I hope everybody has been getting some riding in this spring! I haven't gotten on the bike yet myself but that will surely change once things dry out a bit more here. I wanted to take a moment to give an update on our Four Stroke Engine Building Handbooks. As some of you may have found, they're currently out of stock.
I've spent the past several months searching for a new printing partner for our engine building handbooks. While our old printer did a great job they started going through some business management issues that I didn't want to be part of so we decided to look elsewhere. Our books are unique in their size, number of color pictures, and the fact that we don't produce at high volumes by book industry standards. I'm happy to report that we have a new printer lined up and books are being printed as I write this post!
Books will be back in stock in early June
I want to thank everyone for their patience and reassure that we will continue to print and publish books into the future. I'm very excited about our new printer and believe they will have the capability to do great work for us moving forward.
I’ll be the first to admit my presence online and involvement in DIY Moto Fix has been down this year compared to years past. While I had wanted to do more this year, the reality was that my wife and I were busy executing a strategic plan to sell our house, leave my job, and move closer to our families. I’m happy to report I’m on the backside of all that and recuperating from a long and stressful 2020 (along with the rest of the world!).
As a quick recap, five years ago the opportunity to work at a startup aviation engine company was too good to pass up and I moved to the Milwaukee area to develop a two-stroke compression ignition aircraft engine. Developing the engine and the numerous jobs I held within the company was great from a learning perspective, but ultimately consumed most of my energy and created the majority of the stress in my life. These feelings only worsened as I climbed the company ladder. I ultimately resigned from my position as Director of Engineering in early October and handed over the reins of the program to one of my former employees.
When it comes to leaving a good-paying job, the choice can leave many scratching their heads. While my reasons are many, what I feel most comfortable sharing here is that my need to eliminate stress, pursue new growth opportunities, live closer to family, being able to afford more acreage, and live in a rural area all pushed me to make the choice to leave.
My wife and I had actually started hunting for property in northwestern Wisconsin in September of 2019 and even made an offer on a place back then, but we weren’t able to agree on a fair price with the sellers. We ended up doubling down on our place in the Milwaukee area that fall and began a full remodel. We decided while we waited for the right place to turn up, we’d work to increase the value of our current home so that we’d get a little more when it was the right time to sell.
As it goes with most renovation projects, it snowballed. I ended up remodeling everything - kitchen, living room, fireplace room, two bathrooms, exterior window repair, sidewalk and front stoop construction, and finishing off the basement. I spent nights, weekends, and vacations working on the house from October 19’ to mid-August 20’. We skipped Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families last year so that we could maximize the amount of time we had to work on the house. Despite giving up the holidays with our families - they were not absent from our lives. Both our parents contributed and helped us a ton and for that, we cannot thank them enough.
We eventually got the remodel finished and it turned out great! Check out the slideshow below:
Those of you who have had the privilege of purchasing a home, shop, etc., will know it’s seemingly impossible to find the perfect place. You always have to compromise something you want along the way. For me, I was grappling with trying to pair a decent house with a bigger shop and have it on a nice chunk of land, all at a price I wanted to pay. During our hunt we looked at everything from turnkey to vacant land, allowing for lots of different scenarios to play out.
My wife and I ultimately decided that I should just build a shop if we didn’t find a place that had one that conformed to my specific “want list” and focus on properties that were in need of work so that we could keep upfront costs down.
The right property for us turned up in February, just not at the right price. We watched our future house sit neglected and over-priced until July when we started negotiating. We ultimately came to an agreement and bought ourselves 80 acres of dirt biking paradise with a pond, a mix of pasture and woods, plus lots of elevation change. I should note my wife is equally excited about the land because she has been dreaming about moving beyond our current flock of chickens and getting goats and other ruminants. So while I say dirt biking paradise - she translates that to farming paradise.
The house is built into the side of a hill with an unfinished walkout basement and a finished main floor. The property also came with a dilapidated cabin, single car garage (tiny by today’s standards - also in need of work), barn (needed work), large open-ended Quonset structure, and overgrown trail system. All in all, we got a great starting point to expand upon.
Leaving my 24’x36’ heated shop behind and transitioning to a temporary basement workshop is definitely a downgrade, however, I’m committed to making the most of it. I put the priority on getting the barn fixed up before winter settles in but have already made good progress on getting the basement shop organized and operational. I’ll likely share more about my basement workshop situation in future posts, stay tuned.
Looking ahead, I’m incredibly excited about the future, both personally and from a business standpoint. I know there is going to be a lot of change and growth for me on the horizon. For DIY Moto Fix we will be publishing content I’ve been sitting on (CRF250R project bike updates), continuing to build out the site, and creating a bigger presence on social media.
One of the challenges I’ve been contemplating how to deal with since the onset of creating DIY Moto Fix has been how to share my other interests and passions. My engineering mind is called to aviation, remodeling, snowmobiling, metalworking, woodworking, and unique projects. These subjects can all be DIY in nature, but certainly aren’t 100% moto related.
To solve this problem and allow me the freedom to branch out into other areas, I’ve created the Workshop Chronicles. The Workshop Chronicles will be a place where all of my passions and interests outside of dirt bike-related content reside. A place where you can watch, learn, and contribute, while I tackle all kinds of fun and challenging projects.
First on the docket is a DIY standing desk that I hope to create plans for, snowmobile mods, building the garage/addition for my house, and designing and developing a snow bike. If any of this stuff interests you please sign up for my Workshop Chronicle updates (see below)!
I hope you all have fared well this year despite COVID, and appreciate your continued support and patience. I’m incredibly grateful to be in a much better place now and am super pumped to unleash the plethora of ideas I’ve been sitting on, not to mention get back to riding more regularly! I doubled down on winter this year and bought a snowmobile and will be setting up the bike for ice riding, wherever you live, I hope you have a great winter full of powersports ahead of you!
Thank you for all your support over the years!
THE WORKSHOP CHRONICLES UPDATES!
So with all the hubbub to get online and shop this holiday season, we figured we would make it simple at DIY Moto Fix and just have one big sale.
Whether you're the one getting up at 5am to get the best Black Friday deals, or you're the one driving 90 minutes north to go ride in the dirt all day (that would be us), today through December 2nd everything on the DIY Moto Fix site is on sale.
Our print books are discounted by 30% and all our video manuals and ebooks are discounted by 20%. We normally don't go this steep with our discounts, so you definitely want to jump on board for this one before it's over.
Below we have a list of our top selling products with links so you can learn more. Scroll through and make your wishlist.
If you are taking off for a weekend of riding, then be sure to share this post with your significant other so they know what to put in your stocking this year!
The TWO AND FOUR Stroke Dirt Bike Engine Building HandbookS
SHOWA & KYB SHOCK BUILDING INSTRUCTIONALS
The Honda CRF 450 Full Engine Rebuild Video Manuals
Do you want more suggestions? Check out our entire store at this link. Happy Holidays!
Have you ever ridden a buddy’s bike and walked away wishing that you didn’t have to get off because everything just clicked as you were riding it? On their bike, you could rail every corner, absorb every bump effortlessly, and feel completely stable at high speeds. Once you got back on your bike it feels slow, riding over rough terrain wears you out, and taking corners is best described as unpredictable. To make matters worse, you and your buddy could have the exact same bike! What could possibly account for the huge gaps in handling between the two machines?
By design, numerous tweaks can be made to significantly influence how your dirt bike handles. Some of these alterations are as simple as turning a few adjusters, while others require more involved labor such as disassembling forks to swap out springs and dampers. Today’s focus will be on introducing all the different variables that can be adjusted, which ultimately impact how your bike handles. This is the start of an in-depth series on motorcycle handling where I’ll be going into extreme detail on how to make adjustments to individual areas on your dirt bike.
For the sake of clarity, I’ve broken out all the things that we can consider adjusting into two categories: geometry variables and suspension variables. What is challenging about tuning the handling of a dirt bike or motorcycle is that all the different options available to adjust are in one way or another interconnected. This means that geometry variables often influence suspension variables and vice versa.
Piston replacement intervals are typically outlined in your machine’s factory service manual. Using dirt bikes as an example, many manufacturers outline a piston and ring replacement schedule of every six races or 15 hours for a four-stroke powered machine. If you’re new to the sport or have never looked at your factory service manual these service intervals may seem shockingly short. The service intervals are based on the service schedules required to maintain a factory level racer’s machine. Unfortunately for the average rider more often than not the outlined service intervals end up being conservative. In reality, piston replacement intervals should be established based on how the individual owner rides and maintains their machine. Engine displacement, engine make, air filter maintenance, environmental conditions, riding style, and the type of riding the machine is used for will all have an effect on how long the engine should be operated before servicing it. Monitoring the engine’s health through periodic checks such as compression and leak down tests is the best way most riders can appropriately time major service tasks such as piston and ring replacement. Due to the number of variables that affect engine wear it is simply not possible to specify a replacement schedule that fits everyone’s needs other than a very conservative schedule.
Piston wear will typically occur in four key areas for both two and four-stroke engines which include the piston skirt, wrist pin bore, ring grooves, and piston crown. The next time you disassemble your top end keep an eye out for these wear points.
Piston Skirt Wear - The piston skirt is the portion of the piston that gives it its cylindrical shape. Nowadays on four-stroke engines, the piston skirt is very short and limited to the major and minor thrust faces of the piston. For reference, the thrust faces typically correspond with the intake and exhaust valve sides of the cylinder head. Two-stroke pistons use the same nomenclature but feature much longer more pronounced skirts.
Piston skirt wear occurs because of the thrust loading that results from the inherent geometry of the crank mechanism as the engine fires. Peak combustion pressure occurs slightly after top dead center which causes the piston to thrust into the cylinder wall.
“Splitting the cases” is often referred to as a daunting or undesirable task, but if you are well prepared and properly equipped then it can be a straightforward job. To alleviate any concerns you may have with the task, I want to discuss best practices and share some tips that you may find useful when dealing with crank bearings that utilize an interference fit with the crankshaft. We’ll get started by discussing preparatory items and work through to completing the job.
This week’s post is dedicated to an engine part that is often overlooked, its importance not totally understood, and its service specs minimal. I’m talking about the timing chain. I want to discuss and share with you some signs that the cam chain is worn out.
Just like the drive chain, timing chains elongate, fatigue, and wear out. Luckily, they are not subject to dirt and mud, are bathed in an oil bath, and their overall environment is much better. Before I get into it, one misconception I want to clear up right away is that the timing chain doesn’t technically stretch. Instead, the pins and rotating elements of the chain wear. When the pins wear they become smaller and their mating holes grow larger leading to increased clearances and chain length.
When an engine is run with a worn timing chain engine performance is compromised and the likelihood of related failures is greatly increased (think chain tensioner). The three main problems are less precise valve control, cam timings that are off, and increased chain slack within the valvetrain. On stock engines where clearance between the piston and valves is plentiful less precise valve control normally won’t be a problem nor will severely out of spec cam timing. However, on performance engines set up with aftermarket cams which reduce the clearance between the piston and valves, lack of valve control and incorrect timing can lead to valves that befriend the piston.
Every year I’ve shared my goal’s for DIY Moto Fix, myself, and provided an update to you guys. This year is no different, albeit a bit later than usual. My delay isn’t reflective of how the year is going to go, and I’m actually super excited for many of the things that are in the works. Hopefully, you will be too so let’s dive into the details!
2018 had many ups and downs for me personally. Due to knee surgery late in 2017 (which involved harvesting cartilage from my knee, growing it in a petri dish via stem cells, and gashing my knee wide open and gluing the new cartilage back in place), 2018 was the first year I was on a strict no off-road motorcycle diet. I didn’t think not riding my bike would be too impactful, however, in hindsight I was wrong.
What I quickly realized is that I lost one of the few meditative outlets I had (and found effective). To make matters worse my day job as an engineering director turned into an all-day, everyday job from March to July because of a ridiculous deadline we were supposed to meet. By mid-year, I was stressed and drained like never before.
On the upside, I got engaged to my girlfriend (and business partner: she makes all the photo and video magic happen here) last June, and we’re getting married this June. I also bought into a plane share (I own 1/10 of a 1973 Cessna 172) and started flying again. I’ve found flying to mimic dirt biking in some ways and am currently pursuing my instrument rating.
Whenever purchasing a used dirt bike, no matter how well inspected, there is always an element of chance involved. The possibility of an engine failure is what worries everyone the most and is a costly disaster to deal with. For those mechanically inclined, seeking a blown up bike can be alluring because it allows the new owner a fresh start. While this may seem like an ideal situation how often does it financially make sense and how do you decide to make the purchase?
At DIY Moto Fix we just picked up a 2006 Honda CRF250R “Project” over the weekend, and I want to share the financial reasoning that went into the purchase as well as discuss the critical inspections we made which led me to pull the trigger. Over the next several months we’ll see if I made a good decision!
The criteria I intend on using to determine if my purchase was justified or not will depend on a couple things. First, if I sell the bike will I net more money than I have into it, or at the least, break even? Second, could I have spent an equivalent amount of money elsewhere and gotten a bike that has a freshly rebuilt engine, which to me, equates to a machine that will provide countless hours of trouble-free riding?
The bike will also be the subject of several blog posts and perhaps videos. However, these uses will not be factored into the valuation of the decision. No corners will be cut throughout the rebuild, and the end result will be a robust bike that I would be proud to keep, should I choose to. That said, let’s take a look at what I picked up!
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