Our resident mechanical guru has given out a great deal of advice over the years. Let’s check out some of his incredible work…

A reader once sent me an email asking why his Honda Deauville 700 would run fine on either Shell or BP unleaded but to get the same engine response from other brands (including Caltex), he had to run on premium unleaded. He’s been in touch again asking if my silence on the issue was because “the fuel companies have got to you”. I wish!

Fuel quality is an on-going issue for all riders. Many of us would have noticed that our bikes occasionally ping (suffer pre-ignition) from certain batches of fuel often from the same outlet. INFO MOTO is a global website and the issues can differ from state to state and country to country. I am on the case, but what I say needs to be right for everyone, not just for that singular writer.

Bob Forster asks…

I have just gone through a pick-up stage and, as a result, have added three bikes to the stable.

One is a 1979 GS1000S in very good, original (except for a four-into-one exhaust system) condition. The other two bikes are a 1978 Honda CB750F2 in good, standard condition and a 1977 Honda CB750F1 with a big-bore kit. It’s a bit tatty but will be turned into a café racer.

They all came with a truckload of spare parts except for the exhausts. What do you think is a reasonable agreed value for the Suzuki for insurance purposes? Do you know of anyone who can supply exhaust systems for the two Hondas?

I’ve sourced many new and old parts from the web but I haven’t come across any four-into-one or four-into-two exhaust systems.

Spannerman: As with all things old Honda Four, Bob, contact Andrew at Pud’s Four Parts. His shop is in Yarram in Victoria and his telephone number is (03) 5182 5704.

He has brand new original exhaust pipes for the K series fours (350, 500 and 750) and he has aftermarket four-into-one systems for the F1 and F2 models. Don’t expect them to be cheap, though, and that’s not Pud’s fault.

You got quite a haul there. For some reason, the F1 and F2 single-cam Fours haven’t appreciated at the same rate as their K brothers so they’re currently a cheaper way of getting into the collector scene. Recognition of their value will come, though.

The GS1000S is the most desirable of all the Suzukis from that period and good, original examples are fetching between $15,000 – 20,000. I think they’ll probably peak at around $30,000 but you might have to wait a few more years for that.

Garry and Michelle Sutton ask…

My wife and I are in our fifties. We’re fit, intelligent and still possessing good reflexes and concentration. We spent the year of 2004 backpacking around the world so we don’t mind a bit of a challenge.

We would now like to learn to ride motorcycles having never ridden before. As expected, we have received mixed reviews from those who believe we have a death wish to others who have wished us luck.

We commence our NSW pre-learners course soon but I have booked us into a Queensland QRide course with AMA to provide extra tuition before we commit to a bike (we live on the border).

Others tell us to get a cheapy to start with but AMA believes that after we complete its competency – based course we should be competent enough to climb aboard a better bike. What are your thoughts on the most sensible way of attacking our new challenge?

Spannerman: My job isn’t to convince you to start riding, Garry and Michelle. There is risk involved and it’s a decision you have to make yourselves.

The risk doesn’t come from your age – clearly you’re both more than physically capable of picking up the skills necessary to ride well. The risk comes from inexperience in roadcraft and that you’ll be sharing the road with largely incompetent drivers.

Many argue, of course, that a risk-averse life isn’t really worth living and you won’t be the first in your age group to have been seduced by the pleasure of riding.

To your advantage is your border location where you can probably put up plenty of kilometres on relatively traffic-free roads.

The two-course option is worthwhile as well and will give you enough of a taste to know if you want to continue. Email me your postal address and I’ll send you a booklet of tips I helped write for VicRoads in Victoria which covers all the obvious danger areas.

It was compiled by a group of us who spent an evening reflecting on how we’d survived ourselves and I think it would be very helpful.

With luck, one day we’ll see each other on the road.

Ask Spannerman bike mechanic

Brodie Smith asks…

After much research I have recently identified an old “barn find” – a bike my father used to ride in South Australia – as a 1964 Yamaha 125 YA-6.

I have managed to buy a workshop manual for the bike from the internet and, while many parts are still available, very little is known about the bike. Can you shed some light on it?

Spannerman: Geeze, a YA-6. Yamaha’s first bike was a YA-1 which was a 125 single, based (as was the BSA Bantam), on the German DKW RT125.

The YA-6 was a development of this bike but included an astounding system where a pump mixed the two-stroke oil automatically into the combustion mixture so you didn’t have to do it yourself at the garage.

Some of you youngsters reading this won’t have any idea what I’m talking about because two-stroke road bikes disappeared around the same time as glam-rock but they were the spine and flesh of motorcycling during the boom years.

Between 1960 and 1965, Japanese manufactured bikes, mostly two-strokes, went from 20 per cent of the market to 80 per cent.

Australia has a special place in the history of Yamaha in that Milledge Yamaha in Victoria was the first distributor of Yamaha bikes outside of Japan.

They came here before they went anywhere else in the world. If your father was a South Australian, Brodie, he would have had no option but to buy the YA-6 from Pitman’s in Adelaide and he would have been among its first Yamaha customers as it didn’t start with Yamaha until 1964.

It’s amazing parts for the bike are still available but they’ll probably all be engine parts. What you should look after is the tank, sidecovers, guards and bodywork as they will be irreplaceable.

The early small-capacity Japanese bikes had fairly unattractive styling but the pace of development was astounding.

Your bike was only a few years before the forever beautiful Suzuki T20. Half your luck, though – plenty of people reading this will be wishing they’d found it first.

Kevin Notting asks…

I am seeking your advice on some steps I could take to restore my ride to its former glory.

I am the proud owner of a wonderful but neglected ’85 model Kawasaki Z1300 with 97,000km on its clock. It’s the fuel-injected model and has been a trusty steed since purchase in ’94.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control (as usual, work and family) the bike was parked up and not started for four years.

I can handle things like fork seals, fuel lines and the like, but my brother saw a website that was insistent that the cam chain tensioner needed to be changed, preferably with a stronger one from another Kawasaki model, before cranking it over. Is this really necessary? What would fit from another model?

What would you see as my priorities to get the bike running smoothly down the open road again? Hopefully, your insights might help other wayward riders out there looking at their old bikes in the shed and wondering what the first step should be.

Spannerman: Step one, Kevin, is a good, external clean.

Next, remove the plugs and squirt a little engine oil down each cylinder. Then take the valve covers off and squirt a little oil around the valve stems. All good?

Now turn the engine over by hand (a long spanner on the bolt at the end of the crankshaft – it should be fairly easy to do with the spark plugs removed). What you’re checking is that all the valves open and close.

One of the problems with leaving engines unused for any length of time is that valves can stick. If you try to start the engine with a valve stuck open, a piston will hit it, bend it and major surgery will be required. Check each one to ensure it goes up and down.

Drain the oil and replace it. You’ll have to do this again once you’ve got the bike running as the first drain will be with cold oil and you won’t capture the sludge in the engine. The fresh oil will give the engine a flush, though, so it’s worth the effort.

Empty the fuel tank and refill it with 98 RON fuel mixed with a bottle of injector cleaner.

You might have some problems with fuel supply as the old fuel in the injectors will have vaporized and left hard, gum deposits. If the bike runs but badly, this will be the most likely problem.

If the mighty Kwaka was running well when you parked it, there’s no reason why it won’t start now.

The battery will be cactus so hook up a car battery and turn the engine over a few times before you put the plugs back in. New plugs would probably be a good idea.

Your letter brought back memories of trying to find a Z1300 cam chain about five years ago. There wasn’t one available anywhere in the world.

I note that ZPower Australia (www.zpower.com.au) was selling them for around $170 so someone must be making them again. I’m not sure if they are still doing them, but you can find out pretty easily.

The cam chain tensioner on the Z1300 wasn’t the high point of its technical excellence and quite a few owners replace it with the tensioner from the ZX-11.

You need the gasket as well but it’s a straight swap. The American aftermarket company APE makes a manual tensioner for the big Z (KT1050) which is cheap and very functional if you’re prepared to check it every time you change the oil.

If your current tensioner got you to 97,000km, leave it there for the time being and attend to it once the bike is running again.

After you get it started, let it get to normal operating temperature and leave it there for fifteen minutes or so. Then dump the oil again and change the filter.

If all works out so far, you’re only at the beginning of the re-establishment adventure (brakes, other fluids, valve clearances, coolant flush etc) but at least with the engine running you know that the rest is worth doing. Let me know how you get on and best of luck.

Ask Spannerman bike mechanic

Chris Roach asks…

I have a 1979 Yamaha XS650 Special. The bike had been sitting for eight years after it was mostly restored before I got it.

After I finished putting it together I sent it off to a mechanic I know who races vintage bikes – he knows a thing or two.

When I got it back, the bike was running sweet and it was easy to start. It sounded tight and I was told the top end had been reconditioned.

After a while it developed a sound I would describe like a loose cam chain. It became hard to start and very fuely. Once it backfired while I was trying to start it and now it won’t start at all – not a hint of life except for the spark which seems okay.

I’m not sure what direction I should take from here as the bike was running well, if only for a short time. It still has all the original electrical components, although the wiring harness has been replaced.

Any help would be appreciated.

Spannerman: You need to take the methodical approach, Chris – one thing at a time.

I’d start with the ignition timing because the symptoms you describe could easily be related to this. Timing correct? Valve timing would be next as the symptoms also sound a little like the camchain jumping a tooth or two on the cam sprocket.

If both these things shape up well (and you haven’t bent any valves as a result of faulty cam timing), strip and service the carbs to ensure they’re working properly.

If you have fuel, spark and all the valves are closed on the compression stroke, you’ll get action.

If you’re new to the dirty hands game, your original mechanic sounds like he knew what he was doing and would probably follow the procedure recommended above.

Diagnosing the problem is the cheap part but at least you’ll know what’s going on.

Chris McIntyre asks…

I have an old 1982 Honda VF750 Sports (a shaftie) which has sat in the shed for years.

I crank it up and take it for a quick ride every three to six months as I work away a lot and can’t pay it much attention.

I’m constantly amazed at how reliable it’s been considering the lack of care it receives. Oil, filters and plugs are all I’ve ever done.

I’m curious about the model’s history. I know it was the beginning of the VFR range but how was it considered in its day? Is it ever going to be collectable?

Spannerman: You won’t read this in any official Honda history, Chris, but my view has always been that Honda had its eye off the ball in the late ’70s and early ’80s when it was more focused on developing its car range.

The twin-cam 750, 900 and, eventually, the CB1100F which replaced the venerable single cam Honda 750 Four weren’t competitive with the products from Suzuki, Kawasaki or Yamaha.

When word got out about a new, V-four engine, the motorcycle world held its breath. The empire was striking back.

The VF750S turned out to be a complete surprise with its blunt styling, 18” front wheel (considered small then!) and, gasp, shaft drive.

What was it? A sports bike? A tourer?

The long-distance boys didn’t warm to it because of the upright riding position it demanded, its relatively small fuel tank (17.8 litres) and its uncomfortable seat.

The sports riders liked the strong mid-range power but it was down on top-end compared with its peers and the handling was average at best. It didn’t matter much because the bike was swamped almost instantly with other Honda models making arguably better use of the engine design.

The VF750S probably had America in mind as a market and quickly passed into history here. It did, however, seem to escape the camshaft pitting problems that bedeviled the VF1000 and turned many potential buyers off the V4 concept.

You can see remnants of that now with the technically inferior CB1100R model with its old, in-line four engine fetching far more money then the significantly more sophisticated VF1000R that replaced it in production racing.

Collectable? Well, they’re certainly becoming rare and it was the introduction of the V4 engine Honda has persevered with.

It will always have some curiosity value and, when you ride it, you’ll get involved in lots of petrol station and pub conversations. That’s almost better than money, isn’t it?

I have a few road tests from the time if you’re interested, including one from a national magazine which titled its test, “V-flawed”.

Shamefully, I was involved in the original test in one of the magazines. How old does that make me? Get in touch if you don’t have them already and I’ll send them on.

Got a question for the great Spannerman? Email greg@infomoto.com.au and we’ll make your problem, and you, famous!

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Andy Erskine
Andy Erskine
3 years ago

That was great thanks. I really miss MC Trader for such useful articles.

3 years ago

Fabulous. Spanner answers our queries once again. Normality is restored… 😎

Kim McSpadden
Kim McSpadden
3 years ago

As per usual, a great article from the Spannerman…. And as per other peoples comments, I do miss the monthly MC Trader magazine, the articles & stories that were told – In my opinion, it was the best Australian Motorcycle Magazine!