Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Friday, January 7, 2005

Box of Shame #5: Check your oil often…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

In the summer of 1998, my buddy Todd invited me to join our freinds Jim Bessette and Steve Johnson for a second trip around the White Rim trail in Utah. Todd and I had done the White Rim the summer before and I thought it would be fun to do it again. Besides, this time we’d have Jim’s R100GSPD and Steve’s TDM850 along to carry extra fuel, so we wouldn’t run out and be stranded like our first time. We loaded up Todd’s XR250 and my trusty ‘82 XR500 and headed out for Utah on a Friday evening after work.

Our little group did the White Rim Trail on Saturday, starting early and having a great ride with the usual awesome scenery, easy trail and few people. Todd and I both (again) ran out of gas but were able to siphon some off the big GS. We got back to Moab in the evening, after a 100 or so miles of dirt riding, in time for dinner and to relax.

The next morning, we got up and headed out to make a quick run up Pucker Pass before loading up and driving back home. This meant another relatively high speed ride out Potash Road and then a climb up the Pass. As we had the day before, we kept up a brisk pace. The road was a breeze and near the top we stopped for a photo shot.

When I suited back up and got on the XR, I noticed it was pinging and thus was obviously pretty hot but it was when I went to kick start it, and discovered the kick starter was jammed, that I began to realize I had bigger problems than just a warm motor. Now let me explain that the ‘82 Honda XR500 was a great bike. Reliable, stone simple and easy for a beginner to ride. However, any 15 year old dirt bike will require special attention and this plays into one of the weaknesses of the early XR design…a very small oil pan. Specifically, it only holds one quart of oil. Can you see where this is going?

The melted XR head

After the long day on White Rim, the aging motor had burned off some of its oil. Later measurements would show that it was down about 1/3 of a quart. Combine that with a couple of hours of high rpm riding on the asphalt and you get a seriously cooked motor. Another weakness of the XR was that the cam doesn’t ride on bearings or even bushings. The cam instead rides in machined cut outs machined into the aluminum head. Aluminum doesn’t like getting hot. In fact it tends to melt…and when it cools, it welds things together.

I ended up coasting about four miles back down Pucker Pass and parked the bike at Potash Road. Todd rode his XR250 on into Moab, picked up his truck and retrieved my poor bike. I had a spare motor at home, so I tore down the fried motor to find the bottom end was happy. I installed the head and cam off the spare motor and the XR lived again. I also got a brutal reminder about how important it is to check the oil before every ride. Now the ruined head sits in the Bog of Shame to remind me, should I forget that vital pre-ride task.

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