Don’t Ask: Rick Sieman Answers Your DirtBike Questions

Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman tackles everything from faulty clutches to vintage bike values in this installment of Don’t Ask. Anyone remember the Harley Baja?

SiemanI’m Rick Sieman, and Sieman says, Don’t Ask!

Go ahead, but if your question is stupid, you’ve been warned…

If you choose to email a question to this forum, then you must conduct yourself accordingly. Therefore, the following rules are in order:

1. Do not write your email to me IN CAPS. If you do so, I will print out your question and do terrible things to it.

2. Do not request a personal e-mail response. Since I get thousands of questions each month, trying to answer them all would cut deeply into my leisure time, which I value more than your current state of confusion.

3. Try to spell at least in a semi-correct fashion. If you choose to mangle the English language, expect no mercy from this quarter. You might be mocked severely.

4. Do not ask for me to send you copies of my many manuals and literature. I am not in the library business, nor do I want to spend the bulk of my day at the copy machine just because you’re too lazy to ask your dealer, or look around a bit.

5. Don’t bother me with truly stupid questions, like how to get 50 more horsepower for a buck and a half

6. Now that you know the rules, think carefully and have at it!


I’m looking for parts piston, pin wrist pins, needle bearing for a 1975 YZ 360B Yamaha do you know any source I could use?

Thank you,
Chris Loiudice

You can certainly look on the Internet via eBay for the parts you need, but here’s a source that seems to work pretty good based on our feedback:
• General: 1-888-676-8853
• Dirtbike: 1-888-676-8853
• ATV, Utility, UTV: 1-866-667-6288

–Rick Sieman




I have a Honda 1983 XR200, and I was wondering if it is possible to put a newer bike’s (2000s or higher) plastics and seat on it?



You are going to have to find a Honda dealer who has a whole bunch of models in stock, including the 83 XR 200 you mentioned. Then he’ll have to take all the parts from the various new bikes and position them on the old bike. Lots of luck finding out who might take on such a task. Let us know if you do.–Rick Sieman




SiemanFirst, thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy email regarding my vintage bike. Now, to answer your questions the best that I can:

1. I don’t know the percentage of engagement of shift dogs in each selected ration. I never saw the bike’s transmission apart so I really don’t know. From an overall clinical perspective, the bike shifts flawlessly in all gears, in all directions, except for 3rd to 2nd. And, it never kicks out of gear. It’s solid in all gears. I’ve never had it give me a false neutral or pop into neutral, ever. Other than that darn 3rd to 2nd bypass into neutral thing, the bike would still be the perfect vintage racer.

2. “What measurement was used in setting the selector indexing?” If the selector indexing is the adjustment located behind the clutch on the end of the shifter shaft (that you can adjust via screwdriver using the eccentric screw head adjuster), I placed the adjustment directly in the middle after seemingly endless measurements on that little thing, to make sure it was precisely in the middle. When the 3rd, and final, mechanic tried to fix it the first time,(4 times he “thought” he had it fixed) he said he tried placing the adjuster all throughout the adjustment range and it didn’t help. It still did the bypass-into-neutral thing regardless of where the adjuster was placed in the adjustment range.

3. The engine does not have the omni-phase balancer on it. I still have the one from the donor bike (which looks new, by the way). I didn’t realize the original chain, etc., had been removed until the bike was disassembled by the mechanic the first time. So, initially, despite having the balancer/chain removed, it shifted perfectly, for probably 10-15 races over 2-3 yrs. Then, it started randomly doing the bypass of 2nd, into neutral. After the transmission parts were changed out, it continued to shift exactly the same way. Sometimes it’d shift normally, and about 50% of the time it’d bypass 2nd as described. So from never doing it, to random, rarely doing it without the balancer on it, to doing it about 50-70% of the time, still without the balancer. And there was never a crash or collision of any kind, involving the shifter, prior to this all starting.

4. “What ignition/magneto is being used now?” It currently has the entire ignition from a 1979 YZ400F in it. It was a direct swap. It was having issues with the bike randomly not running well-cutting out and running terrible from the mid to top end. On long starts, fast straights or long uphills it acted like it had a rev limiter on it. I talked with a local “older” but still working- Yamaha mechanic that worked on these when they were new. He told me the “pulser coils were notoriously bad on those.” He recommended finding a NOS pulser coil set for it, or find an entire ignition that will bolt up that has a proven track record. He also said the CDIs were a first generation CDI and were prone to problems. Two friends with ’73 CR250s told me the PVL ignitions are unreliable as they’ve both had problems with them. So I did a little research and discovered that the ’79 YZ400 unit was a direct swap, including the CDI. I found one, and I put it in. It fired first kick and has run well ever since. I still have the entire original ignition however.

Again, thank you for taking an interest in my bike. It truly is a fun bike to race and it, being almost entirely original, gives that same feeling we all had back in the day when we saw one of these, or the original YZs (gray/red-stripe tanks) for the first time. (The ’73 XR75 also fits that category, in my opinion) I’m hoping to race it again, but I’m afraid I won’t consider it without the tranny fix.

I hope I answered your questions correctly enough for you to make a diagnosis and hopefully steer me in the direction to getting it fixed.

Thanks again for all your help. It is much appreciated.

Tim Rines

We got the information on your shifting problem from Keith Lynas, a man we trust heavily we trust heavily. You can reach Keith at for more information.–Rick Sieman



Hello ,
I am emailing you about my Honda XR100R. Not to long ago I was revving it and didn’t pay attention come to find out the fuel switch was set on (res) it ended up piping and wouldn’t start back up. I went to take apart the top end today, and I was missing a valve screw. I also notice that one of my sprocket screws for my timing chain would not budge whatsoever, so I’m gonna work on it more tomorrow. I was wondering if you could give me any suggestions on how to get my top end off. Hope to hear from you soon. Have a good day.

Nathan Gadbderry

The only suggestion I could give you that makes sense is to give your bike to a real mechanic and a shop to get the work done. From what you told me, you don’t have a clue on where to work on the bike or how to work on the bike. I’m sorry to be so rough on you, but based on the scribbling massive misinformation that you gave me, I have no choice.–Rick Sieman



I am having an issue with my 2012 KX250F motocross bike. I started up my bike at the track today, pulled in the clutch, kicked it down into first gear and it stalled. This happened another 10 times until I got the idea to put the bike up on the stand and start it. I started the bike on the stand, pulled in the clutch, and kicked it into first gear with no problem at all. The bike shifted smoothly into first gear. Now, I thought there might be a problem with the clutch, but the fact that the bike shifts smoothly into gear while on the stand makes me think that there isn’t an issue with the clutch at all. I am stuck and any advice or suggestions would be awesome!



Even though your bike shifts apparently okay when it’s on a stand, chances are very real that you have bad clutch plates or a clutch hub with a badly worn or broken part. When your bike is on a stand, there is no load on the rear tire. The exact opposite is true when the bike is on the ground. Time to take that clutch out and see what’s really wrong.–Rick Sieman



Hey Rick,
SiemanSo I just received an SL350 from a buddy, and it’s not in the best condition. I’m not as mechanically inclined as needed to rebuild this bike. The engine turns over but hasn’t started in six years. I was wondering how much these bikes are worth in non-starting rusted condition. I’ve heard they are collector’s items! Any info would be greatly appreciated!

Chris Makowski

Recently restored SL350s are selling anywhere from $2500 to $4000 on eBay, depending on the quality of the restoration job. A bike like you have is probably more of a parts bike than the subject of a restoration. Parts are not cheap or easily found for these bikes, so you better start with something a little more complete and little less rusty than what you have.–Rick Sieman



Of course you remember Harley’s “…rehashed Italian street bike with no redeeming values”, the Baja 100.

I was looking though my old dirt bike-related magazine collection and found something from Modern Cycle, July 1970. From “Letters From the Troops” came a letter from a “Byram Ward” (no relation to Jeff I take it) where he stated: “I enjoyed your article on the H-D Baja 100 very much, and according to your description it must be a fine machine indeed.” He went on to state that the Baja does indeed have a 5-speed, not a 4-speed as stated in the article.

They responded with: “Your doubt is well founded! Your sharp eyes caught an error that slipped past our doddering old proofreader.”

Now, I don’t have the particular magazine test but sure would have liked to read the test. I was only 15 years old when the Baja was introduced and when I saw it in the magazines of the day, I was smitten! I thought: “Man, would I be King of the Field behind the House” with that little screamer!”

Did Dirt Bike Magazine test it? I own all the D.B. & Mod. Cycle CD’s from you but don’t recall seeing the test. Is it on my Dirt Bike or Modern Cycle CD’s I’ve purchased? If so, which one(s)? (month/year) I’d love to read your scalding report on the little pile and Modern Cycles raves.


Here are the last few paragraphs from the test:

The Baja is happiest when negotiating medium deep sand and moderate whoop dee doo’s. With the Baja in stock condition, anything else gives the rider an uneasy feeling. It is not a confidence inspiring motorcycle.

Bits and pieces on the Baja: the rear brake is cable operated and nearly useless. After repeated adjustments, the cable stretches until all the adjustments are used up; then the brake arm contacts the foot peg, rendering the rear brake inoperative. Front brake works just fine.

The hand controls poke out an awkward angle, and should be replaced with some sort of conventional items. On the edge of the gas tank, near the seat, one finds a loop of metal. This is strategically placed to make an instant soprano of the hapless writer who gets caught on it in the crotch area.

The front fender is of the low-mounted variety, but the rear edge is much too close to the tire. A wayward rock or stick could jam the wheel.

The Baja comes standard with a Filtron air filter, which is a definite plus. It would be even better mounted in a still airbox. Gear shifting was crisp and easy. Neutral was no sweat to locate. Overall finish in detail he is better than average, with the gas tank looking particularly outstanding. The gas cap did not leak. Footpegs need some redesigning and the bike comes without a kickstand.

The Super Rat emerges as clearly the better of the two bikes, both as an overall package and on a dollar for dollar basis. On acceleration, the Hodaka will simply run away and hide from the Baja. The Baja has better low end power it is more tractable. The Hodaka uper Rat is the end result of the long developmental process on a basically sound design. The Baja is a rehashed Italian street bike that needs more work before it can claim to be race ready.

Properly set up, the Baja is a winner. That has been proven. The question remains: is the rider willing to go through all that work just to ride a Harley?–Rick Sieman


I’m reading the Dirt Bike Magazines on CD. Good stuff. Anyway, in the 10/72 issue, you guys weighed motorcycles and did the front and then rear wheels on a calibrated scale then “…add the figures together” and swear by that way of weighing. However, a few years ago, I wrote you and said I tried that and could never get an accurate or same weight. I think my 348 pound bike ended up weighing like 450 pounds or something. That “348” is stock (dry) weight. I’ve since lopped off about 16 or so pounds.

You still swear by the “weigh one wheel at a time” or what?

Oh, in the article, do you remember the picture of you and that “turkey” Honda XL with the caption: “Two heavyweights”?

David “276 Pounds” Fruhling

We weighed the bikes on each wheel to get the front/rear distribution. We also weighed the bike normally to get the real weight. I should have been more clear on that.–Rick Sieman



SiemanMy new book, THE LAST RIDE, is at now out. It’s fiction and starts in 1969, when an 18-year-old kid just out of high school gets a chance to ride his Yamaha 250 DT1 from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles … all off-road. His adventures are truly amazing. The book then jumps 40+ years where the same person, now in his 60s, wants to get that old Yamaha back in his possession and return it home by riding it all off-road across the country again. The book is $15 plus $2.75 for mail anywhere in the US and for more information, the email is:
Paypal address: