The expensive rev

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Written by : Rudi Strydom

They say an intelligent man learns from their mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes others make. I hope you may learn something from this tale.

Having ridden a Suzuki Bandit 400 for over a year, I started itching for something a bit bigger, possibly something a bit more scary. As coincidence may have it my friend was looking to upgrade from his Yamaha R6 to a Yamaha R1. So the talk began and a short 2 weeks later I was the proud owner of a Yamaha R6. At first I was a bit tentative, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise the bike felt light, nimble and easy to control.

Sure enough, should you twist the throttle there is a certain rumble followed by a howl. A howl that stirs certain manly bits, and makes you want it to last a little longer. Luckily enough the anything from 8000rpm upwards yields this result. Time past and kilometers were being added to the odometer faster than I could count, having done over 1000km in the first month I had it. With every km I felt more at home and fell in love that much more with this magical machine.

If I could give you any advise, it would be not to ride your pride and joy when aggravated, because this is where the story really starts. As per a normal Sunday, I took her out for a ride over Durbanville Hills, albeit being pretty hot under the collar. I found myself riding sections of road over and over, each time trying to feel exactly what she was doing under me. Trying to make more sense of the madness which is riding a motorcycle. Hunting the growl that came from the air-box, and the imminent scream that followed.

Now I am not sure whether there was something wrong with the motor prior to this, but in my quest for the scream and the growl. I climbed on the N7, heading out to see some friends ride their motocross bikes, and I pinned the bike. The first gear felt long, as I got close to the end, I grabbed second gear. Now sure there are 6 gears to choose from, but she only screams when you are pushing hard. I held second, determined to reach the dreaded limiter. However it proved to much. I felt the bike slow down just before getting ready to turn of and as I tapped off, I heard the dreaded knock. A knock that made my heart sink into my boots. I slowed down but, kept going hoping that it was a passing noise. It was not…

After saying hi to my friends, I slumped over my loved bike and started the dreaded limp home. The motor sounded worse for wear to be sure. Heart broken, my suspicion was confirmed after a friend said that I had indeed over revved the motor. The worst case scenario started me in the face, a “new” imported motor only coming in at around R22,000.00. But we still had to strip it down to see the extent of the damage my minute of madness has caused. A couple of days later we started the long and arduous task of taking it apart. I have to say there are a surprisingly large amount of parts, screws and bolts that keeps these bikes together. It took a good few days, but we soon had the motor on the floor and we were ready to start taking it apart. There’s this little trick my friend taught me which gave me hope at the end of the tunnel. You remove all the spark plugs, and you stick a long screwdriver down until you reach the piston. If you are to push down on the screwdriver, it should not sink at all, not even a iota. In my case, we heard a good thud on piston no 4 when conducting the testing. Not a good sign, but also not a bad one. If I could give you some more advise, it would be: Try and get your service manual for the bike and read it. And secondly mark stuff. If you are not sure where it goes mark it, different color where possible. And thirdly, keep things tidy and together. All the fairing bolts and screws when into a jar. All the frame screws went into a separate jar. I am sure you can see where I am going with this. It also helps to take photos of what you are busy with before taking thing apart. And lastly, buy new gaskets! The last thing you want is to have to do all the work and end up with an irritating oil leak.

Many more screws followed, more coke, more beer and soon enough we saw the damage. A crank and set of main bearings which has seen better days. We packed everything away, and wrapped all the parts in cloth to ensure that Mr. Rust did take hold. The list was drawn up and the following week I was at Droomers to start the process of getting the parts. Sure enough, these parts were not regularly ordered, so it was on back order from Japan. So began one of the longest months I have experienced in a long time, eagerly awaiting a call to say they were here. So the list of parts were as follows:

  • A Conrod
  • A Crankshaft
  • Main bearings
  • Big-end bearings
  • Conrod Stretch bolts
  • All the various gaskets

Once the part had arrived I took the engine pieces in and Droomers did a sub assembly for us, a requirement from them to retain the warranty of the new parts. A further week passed and I once again was eagerly awaiting the call to say I could collect the motor. Sure enough the phone rang, and I went to collect the motor. Forked over my hard earned cash and set off home to start the fitment process. I rang up my friend and I don’t know who was more excited between the two of us. We were to begin putting it together the following week.

Monday came, and that evening we started. All the while the manual at hand for the torque specifications and to make sure everything is in its place. When the evening was done we had most of the work done. All that remained was the fitting the head. Making sure the timing is right and putting it back into the frame. Seemed easy enough but, this took the rest of the week to achieve. Good thing for the marks we made earlier. The time came to start it up and hear if our work was for naught. It took some time for the fuel to reach the injectors but when it did, it did not sound like it wanted to. After some tinkering and contemplating the possibilities we settled on a dead spark-plug on the 2nd being the cause. The next day I went out, got the pesky spark-plug and we tried again. Sure enough the problem was still there. My friend said it could only be the valves. Again my heart sank, hoping that it wasn’t something serious. We started stripping again, luckily for my fingers it was not the entire motor again. As we unscrewed the cam-shafts the problem became obvious. Through the process of stripping and re-fitting some of the shims had come loose and caused the valves to loosen. Luckily we were able to put everything together short of one R14 cotter which bent during the process. Off we popped to Droomers again, and the next day I had the pesky part in my hand.

Praying that this would be the last time we re-assemble the motor, we started. Once again ensuring that the timing was correct. All the bolts were fastened. And with every part we fastened the tension grew, until we were ready to turn the key. I flipped the cut-out switch, paused for a breath or two. And pressed the starter button. IT WAS ALIVE ONCE MORE! It was a joyous moment, which led to smiles all round and high fives were soon to follow. I couldn’t believe we were done, all the tension and anticipation washed away. I am glad to report that she is purring once more, and I swear it has a bit more power. It took a month and a half, R14,000.00 and allot of sweat, but she was back.

It’s safe to say, the limiter would not see me anytime soon.

About the author

Buks has had a passion for two-wheels since childhood. After his first motorcycle, a fire-breathing two-stroke Yamaha TZR250, he realized he was hooked. When Buks isn't writing for UltimateVelocity he enjoys practicing martial arts, gardening and spending time with his family.