Ian's RG rebuild enhancement project..Part 1
After several days of waiting the bike finally arrived. I had neglected to tell the wife who at the time was not a fan of motorbikes and had anticipated being home for the delivery. Something came up at work and I had to ask her to sign for it… that was an interesting conversation Happily there were no major surprises with the bike…
Unfortunately, despite starting up after a few kicks a ride was out of the question. By virtue of the long journey from Adelaide to Sydney via Melbourne the leaking forks had deposited oil all over the front disks and calipers. In fact, after a strip down in the ensuing weeks it turned out that the calipers were also leaking brake fluid.
front forks, which apart from the age of the bike were likely to be the cause
of the leaking fork seals, were duly sent to RadHard Chroming in Qld for a
refinish and they came back perfect for a very reasonable $300. In the meantime
I had ordered new fork seals (cheap) and a caliper rebuild kit from Suzuki (not
Since I had also made the decision that I would not ultimately keep the bike standard I contacted Rick Lance of Lance Gamma in the US (awesome guy who has been an enormous help over the last few years) and ordered a few goodies: Racetech gold emulators for the forks and custom blanking plates for the antidive, Ricks tripod filter kit along with ball valves to replace the woefully inadequate needle valves (which lead to the trademark petrol leakage), supplementary petcocks to further reinforce against petrol escaping from the tank and a ride height adjuster. I also later picked up a set of in-line Yamaha oil check valves to fit to the oil feed lines to address the other Achilles heel of the RG, leaking oil check valves in the carbs. I prefer the Yamaha ones to a similar part supplied by Suzuki because the Yamaha ones are aluminium versus the plastic Suzuki ones.Whilst waiting for the parts to arrive I set to and tidied up the bodywork, removed all the stickers (came off easily) and took the damaged front nose fairing to a local plastic welding guy who replaced the missing piece and resprayed it so well that I still can’t see the join! Almost four years on and it is still perfect.Before I could go for a ride I also had to source a new back tyre as the one on the bike, despite being virtually unused had started to perish quite badly in between the treads; I daren’t risk it. The front was fine. Ebay came up trumps and I picked up a brand new BT45 for a very reasonable price. Once everything was back together it was time for the first ride.
I had completely stripped the carbs and ultrasonically cleaned them, when I installed the LG float valves, and based on advice from Rick had changed the main jets to #240. New plugs were also introduced to replace the mismatched set in the bike when I got it. I also synced the carbs etc. based on the tutorials on Rick’s website. After a few kicks the bike sprung to life and settled to a clean idle fairly quickly. I rode around the block a couple of times just testing brakes, gears etc. but didn’t want to go too far as at this point I was yet to have the bike registered. I needed to get it to the point where I was confident I could ride it the 10Km to the nearest garage who could complete the paperwork. The bike was a bit smoky particularly out of the #3 cylinder (more on that later) but I put that down to many many years without use and residual oil in the pipe/cases from Dave's introduction of ATF for preservation purposes. Whilst waiting for the parts to arrive I set to and tidied up the bodywork, removed all the stickers (came off easily) and took the damaged front nose fairing to a local plastic welding guy who replaced the missing piece and resprayed it so well that I still can’t see the join! Almost four years on and it is still perfect.Before I could go for a ride I also had to source a new back tyre as the one on the bike, despite being virtually unused had started to perish quite badly in between the treads; I daren’t risk it. The front was fine. Ebay came up trumps and I picked up a brand new BT45 for a song. Once everything was back together it was time for the first ride.I had completely stripped the carbs and ultrasonically cleaned them, when I installed the LG float valves, and based on advice from Rick had changed the main jets to #240. New plugs were also introduced to replace the mismatched set in the bike when I got it. I also synced the carbs etc. based on the tutorials on Rick’s website. After a few kicks the bike sprung to life and settled to a clean idle fairly quickly. I rode around the block a couple of times just testing brakes, gears etc. but didn’t want to go too far as at this point I was yet to have the bike registered. I needed to get it to the point where I was confident I could ride it the 10Km to the nearest garage who could complete the paperwork. The bike was a bit smoky particularly out of the #3 cylinder (more on that later) but I put that down to many many years without use and residual oil in the pipe/cases from Dave's extremely thoughtful introduction of ATF for preservation purposes.
It was a
nervous ride when the time came to ride to the garage for registration, though
I needn’t have worried, it performed flawlessly (as it continues to do). A few
kilometres into the journey and with the engine properly warmed up I was able
to have a few quick squirts and was rewarded with that familiar change in
engine note and rush of acceleration when the engine hits the powerband. I
didn’t push too hard as I was mindful that I had still not spent enough time
with the jetting to be certain I wasn’t running lean. The registration went
smoothly, with no issues and after an hour or so I was back on the road to home
via the RTA for a number plate. In the ensuing days I clocked up about 200km
and the bike was going well though #3 cylinder was still smoking a bit even
when warm. I checked the compression and all were reasonably good at between
110 and 130psi, carbs were clean etc. so I turned my attention to the ignition
coils, and HT leads. A quick check of the resistances etc. against the RG500
manual I got from the RGV250.co.uk website (another awesome place where I have
learned a lot) quickly revealed the problem; the HT lead / plug cap for #3 was
shot. A quick visit to the local bike shop for a metre length of HT lead and
some appropriate NGK plug caps and the problem was fixed. Basically #3 hadn’t
been sparking properly. Engine ran more smoothly and I was finally able to
properly set up the jetting. After much fiddling the bike set up settled at
#240 mains with standard 25 pilots, pilot screw out 1 5/8 and needle on the top
(leanest) clip. Happy Days.
After a several hundred more kilometres the fuel tank started to leak. I was aware before I bought it that the tank had been repaired in numerous places but it ultimately turned out to be beyond repair. I went for a ride one day and noticed a small leak at the seam near the fuel tap. When I got home I pressed the leak with my finger and it leaked more quickly so I drained the tank and pressed gently with a large screwdriver. The screwdriver went straight into the tank! After cleaning up the hole to get rid of the rust I was left with a hole about 10mm in diameter. Bugger! I sealed the hole with permatex which left an ugly grey lump on the outside but it appeared to be sound and set about finding a replacement tank. It took a while but I eventually got a very good one from France on ebay delivered for $500. In the meantime I also filled the old tank with a sealant to give a bit more security against leaks. It lasted until the new tank came which was a relief.
Another thing which very quickly and unsurprisingly revealed itself to be in need of replacement was the chain. Undoubtedly the original fitment, it started shedding o-rings as soon as I started to clean it with paraffin and a chain cleaning brush. An easy fix though. I bought a new Renthal chain and the appropriate tools to remove the old chain and re-rivet the new one and all was well again. In fact, touch wood, save for the indicator relay packing up two weeks ago nothing else has gone wrong with the RG since then.
With the bike now running well I was able to start thinking about upgrades. On advice from Rick I had set the front forks down 15mm in the yokes and raised the rear ride height by 10mm. With the front fork cartridge emulators and stiffer front springs the bike certainly handled ok but the next thing on my shopping list was a new rear shock. The standard rear shock was crap even from new (I had a new RG500 in 1988 and it was downright dangerous!) so this one at nearly 30 years old was bound to be rubbish. After a bit of research I settled on Shock Factory in UK and ordered a new one from Mike Capon, pre-set up for my weight and riding style. At GBP350 delivered to Australia it was an absolute bargain and transformed the bike! The handling was now excellent even on standard wheels and tyres; not that I left it like that for long.
............Next on the list was a wheel and brake upgrade and some Jim Lomas Stainless Steel spannies.
After much research and question asking on the RGV250 Forum I sourced some Suzuki GSXF600/750 wheels complete with excellent disks and new 120/150 tyres (eBay bargain from Tasmania), GSXR750(1989) front calipers with custom mounts, Kawasaki ZX636 rear caliper and GSXR750 rear disk (all from Rick Lance). Once they all arrived I measured up for the spacers required to fit the rear wheel and headed to a local machine shop with the blanks Rick also supplied. The machine shop also skimmed the necessary 11mm off the sprocket carrier required to get the chain alignment spot on. The front fits in with no modifications required. In the meantime the new pipes arrived from Jim Lomas and the bike as it now is, began to take shape.
I wanted to get the bike resprayed so bought a complete decal set from Canada and whilst I waited to decide where to get it done I bought a cheap set of aftermarket panels from a guy called Drew “Mori-Man” Jonsen. Based in Japan and active on the RGV250 Forum, Facebook RG500 group etc. Drew can get pretty much anything you want and just charges a finders’ fee on top of the actual cost. All very reasonable and very reliable. I rode the RG for quite a while in this state, with the aftermarket Chinese panels before getting the respray done by a friend of a friend. In hindsight not the best idea but what’s done is done. The paint job is reasonable for the price I paid but sadly not in the correct white that I specified. He matched the white of the original tank which had become very slightly yellowed with age rather than the bright white mudguard which I also provided. Consequently the white of the bodywork doesn’t quite match with the white of the decals. Maybe one day I will have it done again as I don’t see me ever selling the bike.
Other things I have tweaked over the years include: New rubber hoses everywhere, new wheel bearings when I replaced the wheels, Mark Dent ignition advancer set to plus 5 degrees, Nology coils (nothing wrong with the originals just fancied new ones), slightly more modern rear indicators to replace the blocky looking originals and a KOSO digital dash, again just for looks.
Next step when I can get parts for the right price is a big bore to 455cc and mild porting or a full upgrade to 500cc if I can find a used engine or cylinders which don’t require me to part with a kidney.
The bike has been awesome fun to work on and I have learned a great deal. I persuaded the wife to come with me on a charity ride (bikers for kids toy run in Newcastle, Australia) a few years ago and she loved it. I can honestly say she is the best passenger I have ever taken on a bike; I barely know she is there. She now often pesters me to go for a ride, so much so that I bought an intercom so we can chat on longer trips… and so she can tell me to slow down when I get too carried away. She’s even talking about getting a scooter and taking her test.
Anyway, that’s it for now, I will update again when things change or if I have a picture / video to share.......