All was not well with Steve's new ride. There were a few niggling problems
with the bike, mainly related to running at idle. It ran rough and stalled
regularly for no apparent reason. Steve almost managed to fix most of
the problems by his usual method. He bashed everything in sight with a
large rock until the offending bits worked properly, broke or fell off.
With new throttle cables, intake manifold and main jet, the XR ran much
bettererer (er), but it still wasn’t right.
Just as Steve thought he was getting most of the bugs ironed out
of his new toy, he had a rude shock. The front tube (unknown vintage,
possibly OEM) decided that it had had enough and went pop. Normally, tyres
deflate in a slow and gentle fashion but this one literally exploded. Steve
was halfway around a corner on a dirt road doing 70km/hr at the time. It
wasn’t hugely fun, but he did manage to hold the bike upright and on the
road (more luck than skill, obviously. Either that, or he was actually trying
to crash). Apart from the tube, the only casualty was Steve’s underwear,
which had to be thrown away. No way those stains were coming out. Steve
wasn’t impressed. Studded leather G-strings aren’t cheap.
Shortly after the exploding front tube incident, the
XR spat the dummy in a much more serious way. The motor seized, but contrary
to our hopes and expectations, it didn’t lock up at high speed and throw
Steve over the handlebars and into something solid. It was a pretty tame
seizure as seizures go, and the only good thing about it was that it happened
miles up in the scrub and Steve had to push the bike home. We laughed long
and hard about that one.
Once he’d recovered from the unexpected workout, Steve
called the usual suspects and we all grabbed large rocks and proceeded
to disassemble the motor. It all came apart pretty easily, and much to
our surprise there wasn’t a great deal of internal damage. The culprit
was quickly identified – the big-end bearing had gotten tired of being
whacked on the head by 630cc of high-compression mumbo and self-destructed.
The bits flew out at high speed and bounced off the crankcase and the bottom
of the piston, leaving some pretty impressive impact craters in the process.
Despite the damage, the case and piston were fine.
In fact, everything inside the engine was fine except
the big-end bearing. It had been reduced to a handful of rollers and jagged
debris scratching around between the crankpin and the rod. As you’d expect,
with no bearing the rod didn’t rotate smoothly, and this was obviously the
true cause of the idling problems that Steve had been struggling with. Everything
else – gears, bearings, shafts, seals, cam, valves, timing chain… was all
A quick phone call to Ballards Offroad, and a new rod kit
was dispatched by overnight courier. Ballards are great. They’ve got heaps
of go-fast bits for all kinds of off-road bikes, and their service is
excellent. Their sales staff are piss funny, too, although I’m sure they
don’t mean to be. Steve was exhorted to have a bike shop fit the rod kit
instead of letting the Feral gang loose with the V-blocks and sledgie.
“You can do it yourself or you can have it done properly” was the comment,
and in hindsight it was hilariously off the mark. Unless, of course, they
were talking about destroying the crankshaft.
Steve trundled off to A Certain Honda Dealer (no names,
to protect the guilty) located somewhere in South-East Queensland with
whom he’d done quite a bit of business. He asked them to fit the rod kit
and they assured him that it would be no trouble. When he went to pick it
up, however, he discovered that the crank had been sent to A Certain Engine
Building Specialist (again, no names). Somewhere, somehow, the crankshaft
was dropped or bashed into a workshop fitting and the counterbalancer drive
gear was damaged. Much arguing and blame-shifting ensued (a million variations
on “It’s not our problem, it’s the subbie’s problem” playing counterpoint
to “Nah, mate, it was like that when we got it”), and the bike sat around
in bits for three months while an agreement was reached. That took the efforts
of the Qld Office of Fair Trading and the threat of legal action. All jolly
good fun, and not at all frustrating. Honest.
Anyone who works with customers
on a day-to-day basis, please take note of the following: When you piss
off a customer, they DON’T come back and do more business with you. They
DO, however, tell all their mates about their bad experience. These mates
then make up their own minds, and usually they don’t come back either.
Customers don’t enjoy being taken for a ride or being treated like idiots
and although most of them are upstanding, law-abiding citizens who will
refrain from torching your house with your wife, kids and family pets inside…
can you really afford to take the chance? Have a good think about that
if you’re ever tempted to rip someone off or duck out of your legal responsibilities.
While the motor was in bits and waiting for a new crank, Steve took the
opportunity to spend even more money and packed the camshaft off to Waggott
Cams in NSW (4 Hugh St, Alstonville, NSW, 2477 Ph:02-6628 3795, Fax:02-6628
1620). Peter Waggott grinds cams for a whole variety of vehicles, including
aircraft, Ballards-enhanced XRs and the odd V8 Supercar. Peter's workmanship
and service are second to none. Steve had his camshaft back in a week,
all shiny and new-looking and lumpier than a troglodyte with mumps.
When an agreeement was finally reached with A Certain Honda Dealer, a
replacement second-hand crankshaft was sourced from Al’s Bikes & Bits
and Joe Marshall pressed on the new crankpin and rod. Joe has an impressive
collection of 8- and 9-second Suzuki drag bikes and spends a lot of his time
repairing the damage done to crankshafts by A Certain Engine Building Specialist.
Joe is a great bloke and he does superb work. Steve’s new crank was no exception,
and even though it was completely butchered during the reassembly process,
it was perfectly factory-spec for a little while.
The XR mill went back together fairly easily, all things considered.
It was especially easy for two-thirds of the Feral team, ‘coz we just
left Steve to get on with it. It was really amusing listening to his frenzied
phone calls for help:
“Can you pop over and give me a hand, guys? I’ve just
dropped the gearbox and there are bits all over the garage floor. I think
Richard pulled it apart and I’ve got no idea how it goes back together…
“Neil, pick up if you can hear me… I’ve kinda got my hand jammed
in the block while I was trying to get the barrel on and I can’t get it
out… and it really hurts. I don’t wanna call the ambos again ‘coz they’ll
probably bring the video camera this time…”
“Ahhh… Richard, can I borrow your helicoil kit again? I’ve just stripped
According to Steve it wasn’t
very easy installing the crankshaft without a press or a selection of Honda
factory tools or even a spare pair of hands, but a big hammer and persistence
got there in the end. True, by the end of the “installation” a few big
chunks of metal had spalled off the bearings, the crank and the cases,
but it was all in one piece and it rotated (admittedly with loud crunching
Eventually, the many assorted large pieces and sub-assemblies were
bolted together to form something that resembled an engine. Steve was able
to collect all the left over parts (four nuts of different sizes, a spring,
half a dozen washers, two gears, a bearing and a strange rod-type thingy
we couldn’t identify), tighten the last bolt to our special “Feral-spec”
torque (until it strips, then back off half a turn) and kick the XR in the
guts. It took a while and generated some distressing noises (some from Steve,
some from the bike) but eventually the wheezing, swearing and occasional
pop-splutter were drowned out by that distinctive thumping ‘zorst note and
a loud hashing sound from the top end. That’s only to be expected when you
forget to put any oil in there. Oops. With the addition of some slippery
stuff, the nasty grinding-type sounds slowly faded and the thumping got even
louder. The mighty XR was back!