“Budget” and dirt bike riding usually don’t go hand-in-hand, but there are many ways to make it more affordable. This tip is something so simple that will make your clutch last longer. You may already do it some of the time without even knowing it, but you may be able to improve upon it. It is a problem that I see quite often (I see a lot of guys/gals on street bikes doing it as well).
By now you’re probably thinking, just tell me what it is! Okay, I don’t like reading much either so I won’t waste time. When you come to a stop, put the bike in neutral and let out the clutch if you are going to idle for a period of time. That’s right, all you have to do is remember to keep the transmission in neutral with the clutch engaged (lever released/out).
If you’re still reading this, you may be wondering, “But why?” That is a valid question, so let me explain. When you pull in the clutch, even when the lever is all the way to the handlebar, the clutch fibers and friction plates are still spinning against each other ever so slightly. Even at idle, the friction of the plates rubbing will cause them to heat up. This will result in them warping over a shorter time period if you regularly do this on rides.
So, how do I know when and where to change this habit? Simple; if you come to a stop and know you’re going to sit there for more than a couple seconds, shift it in to neutral. You may forget to do this more often that not at first, but if you make a habit of it, it will become just that.
I hope this quick tip helps. Free free to post a comment, question, or a suggestion.
Looking for a budget supermoto helmet that will turn heads, yet be stealthy at the same time? Yes, I know that sounds like a contradiction, but that is what I was going for when I decided to buy this AFX FX-39 Dual Sport helmet. I already had street and dirt bike helmets, but none of them would cut it, in my opinion, for supermoto duty. I needed an entirely different helmet for this kind of riding. What do I do when riding my street legal supermoto? Pure hooliganism. These bikes aren’t meant to go fast, so I don’t need a high-tech aerodynamic motorcycle helmet, and a dirt bike helmet with goggles for eye protection just doesn’t work for me.
I would say that I have a pretty average or round-shaped head and this helmet fits well. I normally wear a size medium, which is what my FX-39DS is, and would say that it fits true to size. The chin-strap, unlike a D-ring style, is easy to adjust and works great. It’s a ‘set it and forget it’ feature that’s very easy to clip in and out of, and it has yet to come loose while riding. However, the end of the adjustment strap has nowhere to go but flop around while riding. It is annoying if I don’t tuck it into my jacket or helmet.
A helmet that fits properly is more than likely going to be comfortable because… well, it just fits! This AFX lid is no different. The cheek pads and lining are soft, and form well to my face without any noticeable pressure points. I haven’t done any day-long rides because I don’t tour with my supermoto, but I have ridden for a couple hours in an evening and didn’t have any discomfort.
If there’s one major thing I don’t like about this helmet, it would be the wind noise. Yes, it’s pretty loud, especially with a naked supermoto (no fairing). But, that’s not that big of a deal for me since I wear ear plugs.
Riding up into the high 80s and lower 90s (Fahrenheit) my head didn’t have any problem staying cool. It has a vent on the chin bar, which, in my honest opinion doesn’t do much since air is already coming up underneath the helmet. It also has vents for the forehead, on the top, and the rear for letting hot air out. I do not live in an extremely hot climate, but I would imagine it can cope as well as any other full face helmet with all the ventilation.
I previously mentioned that the new chin-strap retention system functions very well for quick fitting and removal. The shield works well and stays in place. It would be nice if it retracted a little bit higher, but that is a minor complaint. The only time I flip it up is occasionally when I stop. As far as vision goes, some people complained about distorted vision due to the extreme curvature of the shield compared to a standard motorcycle helmet shield. Most, if not all, of those people said that they got used to it after wearing it for some time. I did not have this problem, even from the beginning.
I am using the Mirrored Silver face shield with the FX39 that I bought as an accessory. After I figured out how to swap the shields it was pretty easy and can be done in about a minute or less. I didn’t realize that the new shield came with its own components so I don’t have to swap them out from the original shield.
For as cheap as this helmet is, the quality is really pretty good. I have only used it for one season, but nothing has broken or fallen apart like some of the motorcycle helmets have that I own. My AFX FX39DS is flat black, and the paint looks great. It looks similar in quality to $300+ helmets in its category. I have nothing to complain about in the quality department.
Other than the price tag, the styling was probably the biggest reason why I bought this helmet. It looks like some of the most expensive dual sport helmets while keeping the price low for us “budget-minded” riders. Combined with the mirrored silver shield, the FX39 looks straight-up “Boss”. I looked at other dual sport helmets in this price range, and some of them I would not even want to wear because they look hideous.
Last, but certainly not least, are the safety ratings. The AFX 39 dual sport helmet is DOT and ECE-22.05 certified in all sizes except 3XL and 4XL(which are only DOT rated). DOT is the rating that is commonly used in the United States, while the ECE standards are based in Europe and are used in over 50 countries across the globe.
New chin-strap feature is easy to use
Vision is nice and wide
DOT and ECE certified
High quality for its price-point
Loose chin-strap end flops around
Shield doesn’t fully retract
I will continue to use this helmet for my supermotard riding days because it fits well, looks awesome, and protects my noggin. Maybe some day I will upgrade to an almighty Arai or Shoei Dual Sport helmet, but right now I’ll stick to my Bang-For-Buck gear.
A broken dirt bike sitting in my garage is not a happy sight. What’s even worse is when I haul my dirt bike out to the track or trails and it breaks down shortly after my riding session begins. There will always be those kind of days sooner or later, but I have learned how to prevent most mechanical gremlins from occurring just from experience over the years.’
I started taking maintenance seriously when I had an incident that fried a top-end when it probably could have been prevented if I had only checked the coolant level prior to riding. I have now taken the time to figure out a maintenance routine that will keep my bike running better and longer. This list of items to check are the most common things that break or cause a bike failure.
First thing to do is check the oil level and cleanliness. Running out of oil will not only end your day, but also result in a major engine failure. Some dirt bikes have a sight glass on the side of the crankcase to check the oil level, while other bikes require you to check the dipstick. Certain bikes may also require the engine to idle for a minute to circulate the oil before checking it. Always remember to check the oil level with the bike standing straight up in order to get an accurate reading. If you have a four-stroke dirt bike with an oil filter, replace it (or properly clean it if re-usable) every 1-2 oil changes.
The next common part to cause problems is the air filter. A dirty air filter can make the bike run rough due to lack of air-flow. A dirty filter will also allow dirt to get past it and into the engine. Having a clean air filter will prolong engine life. Foam only lasts so longer until it starts to degrade and literally fall apart. Strong cleaning chemicals, such as gas, will speed up this process. While filters are meant to be cleaned and reused, do not reuse one if it has any rips, damage, or if you can easily pull chunks out of it.
A low-performance engine, such as an air-cooled four-stroke, may not be finicky with the gas you run through it. However, old gas will eventually cause problems because it degrades with age and will gum up in the carburetor or throttle body. If you run race gas or mixed gas in a motocross bike, I suggest using it all within a week or two, if not the same day. The longer it sits out, the more it degrades. I have personally had complications using mixed race that was several weeks old; the result was me rebuilding the top-end on my 125cc 2-stroke. If your bike is not running right compared to the last time you rode, there’s a good chance that the gas is either bad, or the carburetor is dirty because it has sat for too long.
There’s three things that an engine needs in order to run; air, fuel, and spark. Once you confirm that it’s getting air and fuel, the next thing to check is the spark plug. First of all, are you getting spark? If yes, then inspect the spark to see if it’s black and/or wet. If yes, then the plug started to or has already fouled. A proper color to see on the tip of a spark plug is tan or light brown. This means that the air-to-fuel ratio is correct. However, gas these days can be pretty lousy with all the additives and give you inaccurate readings. For more information on testing spark, read This Article on Diagnosing a No-Start.
Have you ever been on a ride and felt the front-end get a really mushy feeling? Sort of like a…. flat tire!? Getting a flat stinks, and it’s even less fun to change it on a dirt bike rim. Always check the air pressure of both tires before riding. The pressure will change with temperature as well, so you may need to add, or even reduce the pressure throughout the day.
If you have an air-cooled engine, you lucked out on this one (the disadvantage is lower performance, but that may not be a necessity anyway). Before starting your bike, pop the radiator cap off and look to see if the coolant level is at or near the top. If you need to tip the bike over far to see it, you may want to figure out why the coolant is low before riding. If it was full on the previous ride and now it’s noticeably lower, it’s probably because the engine started to overheat. It could be a minor problem caused by riding too slow for too long. If you’re continuously losing coolant then you have bigger problems.
A properly adjusted and clean chain will ride smoother and last a lot longer. Signs that the chain needs to be replaced are: kinks, excessive wear or side-to-side play, rust, or stretched beyond the length of the adjusters. You can remove links and continue adjusting it, but there is a much higher risk of snapping a link if it is stretched that far. It’s good insurance to bring a couple spare master links with you in case you do have a mishap. You’ll need a chain-breaker as well.
This is often overlooked by riders due to lack of experience or just plain ignorance. Some bikes vibrate more than others, and bolts can and will come loose overtime. Loose triple clamp, subframe, or engine mount bolts may break or fall out and cause a catastrophe if you have a hard impact. It may result in broken parts, and quite possibly a bodily injury if it causes a crash. You shouldn’t need to check every single bolt for every riding occasion, but you should make a routine habit of checking all of the critical bolts and torquing them to spec every 5-10 hours of ride time. If you put a lot of hours on a dirt bike, you will start to get the feel for how long things last and when certain parts or bolts need attention.
The faster you ride, the faster you will need to stop in order to turn or dodge an upcoming obstacle, such as a tree. A quick peak at the life of the pads can prevent an accident such as this from happening. If the pad is almost to the end of the wear bar or metal then it’s time to replace them. It’s a fairly simple job on most dirt bikes if you follow the manual. Yes, I know that if you are a guy then you probably don’t want to read instructions, but an OEM manual is a very valuable tool to have if you want to save money by wrenching on your bike(s) at home.
When is the last time you have checked the tension of the spokes on your set of wheels? If you can’t remember then now is a the time to check. If any of them feel loose, tighten them until they are snug. Spoke wrenches come in many sizes for all of the different sized spokes to make the job easy. Just don’t go too far when wrenching or else the spoke will pop the tube.
Last, but not least, you should test and make sure all of the controls are properly functioning. Is there proper play in the clutch lever (1/8″ to 1/4″ of travel at the end of the lever)? Are the front and rear brake strong; meaning they don’t have a spongy feeling? If they feel like mush or are weak and the brake pads are good then you should bleed them to get any air out that could be in the system. This is assuming that both brakes are hydraulic. If you have drum brakes, check the tension/play in them and adjust if necessary for optimum braking performance.
Any cables that are starting to feel stiff should be lubed. Check for any fraying in the line. If any visible damage, it’s best to replace right away or else it may break when you’re 20 miles into a trail ride. As for hydraulic brake (or clutch) lines, inspect for any rips or tears in the hose. If it’s leaking at the master cylinder or caliper, there’s a good chance that the crush washer or banjo bolt has failed. Do one thing at a time when attempting to fix a part or you will get in over your head in a hurry.
While virtually any part can fail, a regular inspection and servicing of all the items on this list will give you a much better chance of riding all day without a bike problem. Preventative maintenance may not always be fun, but 30-60 minutes of scrutinizing your bike beats losing a whole or even half a day of riding. Just remember that an OEM manual is your friend. Whenever you are wrenching, always check your bike’s specific manual for proper torque and adjustment specs.
Honda XR’s aren’t known for being high-performance dirt bikes. That’s a given… In stock trim. If you read Part 1 on XR200 Mods, you will know that there are a lot of parts that you can replace for better performance, such as: suspension, intake, and exhaust. Part two we’ll look at the parts that can be removed or replaced for the purpose of reducing the bike’s overall weight. One of the reasons why the Honda XR200R is so popular for trail riding is its simplicity and low weight compared to other bigger four-stroke trail bikes.
Wait, hold on! Why in the world would I spend all this time, effort, and hard-earned money to put this ‘outdated’ dirt bike on a diet? That is a good question, but I will answer that with another question… Have you ridden one that is properly set-up? It won’t win you many bets in a drag race, but if the race is up and through the gnarliest of terrain, this bike will putt to the top with less effort, all the while having a grin on your face (not that riding any dirt bike shouldn’t do that anyway). It’s just a complete package of being a mid-sized bike that is easy to ride, requires little maintenance, and having engine characteristics that make it desirable while still being big enough for many larger riders with some simple mods. Not to mention the fair amount of weight that you can subtract off of the XR200 that just makes it even more fun to blaze through single track trails. As long as there’s oil in the engine and gas in the tank, there’s very little chance of these bikes breaking down. But enough praise of this simplistic and less than eye-pleasing dirt bike; let’s get to the point!
Depending on the year XR200, the curb weight (meaning wet with fluids and ready to ride) is about 230 pounds, or just under 220 without gas. Many people have tried to get that number below 200. While it is possible, it starts getting expensive the closer you get. Getting under 210 without gas is pretty easy if you have some mechanical abilities and motivation. The difference that 20 pounds makes will be like riding a new bike. If you think it’s flickable in stock form, wait till you start removing some major weight, especially the un-sprung mass! More on this later…
The XR200 engine is close to 60 pounds, which is almost one third of the total weight. There’s not much you can remove from it other than a few ounces from the flywheel while staying on a budget and keeping it reliable. Instead, we will have to look at all of the chassis and suspension components to shed the weight. In reality, you can remove weight off of or replace almost any part with something lighter, depending on how creative you can get and how much cash you want to spend. Lightweight parts comes at a price. If you want a completely aftermarket chassis and titanium nuts/bolts for your XR200, you could probably get under 190 pounds, but the cost per ounce saved will be much higher than the first 15 pounds.
Sprung weight or mass is anything that is supported by the suspension. This includes the frame, engine, plastics, etc… These parts aren’t quite as critical as un-sprung parts when it comes to handling performance, but everything adds up (or subtracts if you’re taking weight off). Having a low center of gravity is also very important, and lowering the CG will make the handling characteristics feel like the bike is lighter. So, even if you can’t necessarily remove weight from a certain part, re-locating it to a lower spot (without being obtrusive, of course) on the bike can improve handling by making it “feel” like you removed weight because the bike doesn’t feel as top-heavy.
Yes, now it’s time for some numbers. Below is a list of parts that can be removed or replaced with lighter components along with their weight estimates in pounds and ounces…
Handlebars – Swapping to aluminum bars alone will save about 1 pound. It’s the highest part on the bike, so this is a very easy weight reduction mod. If you don’t like the stock bars anyway, this is a great time to pick out a handlebar with the right bend, sweep and width to suit you. Every rider is a little bit different, which is why there are so many bars available.
Snorkel cover – The top snorkel cover on the airbox is not needed unless you are riding through waterholes or in very sandy conditions. This is worth almost half a pound.
Muffler – The stock muffler is fairly heavy. An aftermarket silencer can save 1 to 2 pounds. Otherwise you can pull the stock baffle out of the muffler for close to the same reduction.
Case guards – The stock engine case guards aren’t very effective. If you don’t ride in rocky terrain, you can take them off for a 1.5 lb savings.
Kickstand – I don’t know of any aftermarket aluminum kickstands, but if you can weld one up, that could shave another 1 pound or so. Otherwise just take it off.
Steering stem – A mid 80s XR250R aluminum steering stem can be made to fit in addition to the inverted forks (see below) to replace the stock steel stem. This is worth about half of a pound.
Seat – Drilling out some holes in the seat base will take off some ounces. Everything adds up in the end…
Plastics – Trimming plastics can save a few ounces here and there. Besides, if you do it right, they can make the bike look better too.
Shifter – Switching to an aluminum shift lever can save several ounces. If you ride in rough terrain or tend to hit your shift lever on objects, you might want to consider sticking with a stock steel lever. This won’t make much difference as far as handling goes because it’s relatively low on the bike anyway.
Pegs – The stock steel pegs are heavy compared to aluminum ones. If you can find some cheap aluminum pegs off a Honda MX bike and adapt them, that can drop another pound or so.
Tabs – If you really want to get crazy, grinding off any unneeded tabs from the frame will save a few ounces here and there. Just remember that it will start to rust if you leave the metal bare. This is a good excuse to strip the whole frame down and get it re-painted or powder-coated to make it look like new.
Total Sprung Weight: 6 pounds
Removing any kind of weight is good, but if you can shed un-sprung weight, the results will yield significant results as far as handling and performance goes. Un-sprung mass is all of the suspension components, such as the forks, wheel assemblies, shock, swing-arm, linkage, etc. Removing weight from these parts is more effective than if you were to remove the same amount of weight from sprung mass because it is the rotating and moving with the ground surface and suspension.
Lightweight aluminum rims are highly sought after compared to steel rims because they can reduce a great percentage of rotating mass. A lighter wheel will be a light more responsive when going over obstacles and bumpy terrain because it doesn’t take as much force to move it. This allows for greater traction and improved handling. I don’t want to go too in-depth on this subject or else you’ll be sitting here all day. There’s no set equation that determines how much un-sprung weight removed that would equal the amount sprung weight. Just know that un-sprung mass has a greater effect on handling performance.
Now we’ll look at the key parts for removing weight from the suspension and wheels to make the XR200 the bike that Honda should have made…
Swing-arm – The stock swing-arm on XR200R’s are steel and can be swapped out for a XR250R aluminum swing-arm (’86-’89) with little modification. It’s about 3.3 lbs lighter and can be found on eBay for under $100. Look for one that still has everything on it if possible, such as the chain guide, slider, and axle adjusters.
Linkage – Another fairly easy weight savings is switching to an aluminum swing-arm linkage (1984-’85 XR250R). It’s just over 2 lbs lighter, but is debatable on being sprung or un-sprung mass. For less than 50 bucks, this is another good mod. However, the grease fittings may be broken off, and new bushings may be required.
Forks – The biggest fork mod for weight savings is switching to a CRF150R or CR85R front end (depending on what size front wheel you use). It’s about 6 lbs lighter, but is a little more work and costs several hundred depending on how hard you look. This is by far the most expensive mod on this list, but yields good results on both the weight and performance side of things. A servicing and re-valving will make this bike handle any trail you throw at it, especially if the rear suspension is dialed in as well.
Wheels – A late 80s RM125 rear wheel is a good 4.5 lbs lighter than the stock XR200 wheel. It can be modified with new spacers and some bearings that match the XR axle size. A complete wheel can be had for 100 bucks or less on eBay. Late 80s RM125 rear wheels are 18″, which is easier to find tires for. Many people swap over to 18″ XR250 rear wheels for the better traction you get from a bigger diameter tire. However, this will have some effect on gearing.
Sprocket – The rear sprocket is one of the easiest weight saving mods. The stock steel sprocket is about 1.7 lbs heavier than an aluminum sprocket. You can buy an aftermarket rear sprocket or certain bikes that have the same bolt pattern will work. Some examples are: mid to late 1980’s XR250, ’99 and newer YZ125, ’01+ WR/YZ250F, or ’01+ WR/YZ400/426/450F.
Tires – This depends on what size wheel you have and what kind of tire you want. The size that a tire shows may not be exact. Trials tires give good traction, but weigh more than standard off-road tires. If you want the lightest tire, go with something that’s narrow.
Total Un-Sprung Weight – 18 pounds
If you put all of these savings together (assuming you haven’t added any weight), you should meet the goal of having a sub-200 pound XR200R trail bike without gas! I could go on about every little part that you can replace or make a custom lightweight replacement for, but that’s when a simple and budget-minded project turns into a full-fledged hobby and pocket burner. Other than the CR/CRF front-end on the lists above, all of these parts or mods are relatively cheap and easy for a DIY person to do.
I can’t take all of the credit, as some of this information was from founded from members on ThumperTalk. If you have personally done additional modifications to make your XR200 lighter, please feel free to post your results or email me so I can add it to this article. This information, like all of the articles on Motocross Hideout, are for the benefit of other riders that want to learn more about their dirt bike and be able to work on it themselves.
Having starting or running problems with your TTR125? There’s a good chance that the stock carburetor is your problem. Instead of spending hours trying to fiddle with it, a carb swap can save you a lot of headaches and make your bike start easier and run much cleaner. Here’s a step-by-step video tutorial on how to convert to the Mikuni VM24 carburetor. If you’re unsure about this conversion or have questions on why you should do it, read all the details on swapping out the stock carb HERE.