Don’t Ask: Rick Sieman Answers Your DirtBike Questions

Ever found false neutrals in your Yamaha transmission? Need to know which Maico to buy? Remember when? Rick Sieman’s monthly Don’t Ask installment offers answers to these and more.

I’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!


Hey, Rick!
I hope all is well. It must be starting to cool a bit in the dez, eh?

I’m sure you remember the Hiiesalu air shocks that came and went about 1977-79 I guess. Well, I have two pairs and no instruction manual. I cannot afford to burn out any more brain cells trying to suss out how to properly fill and charge the goddamn things. I plan on posting a help ad on mark`s swap but thought giving you a shout was worth a go. Thanks for any help you can offer, Rick. You are number one in my book

Kenny Nickerson

Here is the latest bit of information I could find on the shocks. I have no idea whether the company is still in business, but here is the starting point. Good luck; I think you’ll need it.–Rick Sieman

Hiiesalu Mfg. Co.
Hiiesalu air shocks have bodies fabricated from cast 356-T6 aluminum, then anodized for greater wear resistance. The shafts are 1-in. diameter 20-24 aluminum with 0.028-in. thick chrome plate. The reservoir is cast to the main body and total fluid capacity (230-250cc) is said to be nearly twice that of competitors. Hiiesalu shocks don’t use springs. They have dual air chambers that control movement both ways. Damping is externally adjustable, using an Allen wrench. Oil weight and volume can be varied as can air pressure. They contain an aluminum/silicon/ bronze bearing for long life and are rebuildable. Hiiesalu shocks carry a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a 6-month warrantee against failure. Price is $249. A nitrogen bottle for filling shocks and forks is also available for $65. If ordered together the bottle is only $45. Contact Hiiesalu Mfg. Co., Dept. CW-11, 120 W. Cypress Ave., Burbank, Calif. 91502. Telephone (213) 845-7161.



I have a YZz250F and it is just to loud for my neighbors to listen to. I was looking for a way to reduce a good amount of sound. I don’t mind buying an exhaust or something. Just not quite sure what to do?

Nick Tringale

2017 Yamaha YZ250F

First off, make sure that all the stuffing inside your stock muffler is not oil soaked or blown out. Putting fresh stuffing in will quiet things down a whole bunch. If that still doesn’t do it, you can get another muffler that is longer and bigger around than the stock one as long as the bore of the muffler is the same. You may have to fabricate a new hanger or two to get it to fit, but I checked and there is a fair amount of room on the YZ250F for a larger muffler.–Rick Sieman



Remember when dirtbikes weren’t covered with “splash graphics” and “tribal flames” and had chrome gas tanks and fenders?

How about number plates that actually looked like number plates, not a mutant Dorito?

Remember when you could remove your bike hauler’s heater core in 15 minutes, not 15 hours and not have 15 left over pieces of plastic and hardware when done?

Remember dirtbike-related magazines with 90 pages of text and 8 pages of ads as opposed to today’s magazines’ opposite?

Remember television pain relieving ads with a cartoon of a hammer hitting a brain with lightning bolts coming out instead of today’s 3 minutes of “side effects” that “…may include rectal bleeding, cancer, tuberculosis, depression, tax increase, thoughts of suicide, diarrhea, chronic cough, fever, death, headache(!) etc?

Remember when First Ladies didn’t make your jaw drop to the floor and your eyes bug out? I mean, I thought Laura Bush was hot! Jeez…

Remember when you could drive somewhere and not see someone texting while eating a bowl of Froot Loops?

Remember when moths didn’t pass you during rush hour traffic?

How about today’s cars that all look like clones of each other?

Remember when getting your motorcycle endorsement only involved riding your Harley or Triumph in a figure ‘8’ in the DMV parking lot, not a two-week, $200 “rider training program” that included riding wimp-cycles with a bunch of zit-faced nerds who crash their brains out while coming to a stop from 5 mph?

Remember MX tracks with trees and a hill climb?

How about dirtbike stands that doubled as camping chairs?

Anyone remember getting “Waffle Butt” as a result of those M/C stands?

Remember splitting the big city Friday afternoon for a two-day and night Mojave Desert campout and ride, and dreading that return drive Sunday evening?

How about “Bench Racing”? Anybody remember that?!

Remember your garage’s “ashtray,” the floor?

Recall those “garage flies” that seemed to swarm around each other for hours on end and never, ever land?

Remember when “radical” meant “holding extreme political views” and not a dirtbike’s horsepower?

…when “awesome” meant “awe-inspiring”, not landing a triple jump?

…”bogus” meant “sham; fictitious & spurious”, not coming up short on that triple jump?

How about when a “dude” was a city slicker vacationing at a western ranch?

Didn’t you hate hearing those kids who used all four of those words in one sentence?!

Remember when “Earth First!” was something you hollered while endo-ing, not burnt-out ecotastic hippies causing you to crash with barbed wire strung across your path at neck level?

Remember when these same eco-terrorists stuck to smoking pot and driving around in an old oil dripping, smog-monster school bus conversion?

Remember kidney belts?

Remember wanting to wrap your kidney belt around these eco-terrorist’s necks?!

How about the first time you saw an electric garage door opener back in 1970? You thought the owner was rich! Looking back, they only cost $99, and they still cost $99 today! What’s up with that?!

Remember buying a top of the line, practically race-ready 125cc dirt bike for less than a grand?

Anybody old enough to remember the “Visor Vu”? (sometimes spelled “Vizor”) Remember how cool Steve McQueen looked wearing them on his visor?

Speaking of “The King of Cool”, anybody remember when Triumph motorcycles outnumbered all other brands in the desert? (man, am I old!)

Speaking of helmets, remember when helmets were white, not looking like the survivor of a paint factory explosion?

Ever recall having to kickstart your dirtbike?

Remember when you could walk in the Yamaha shop and ask for a spark plug for a “TT500” and not be greeted with a blank stare by some stupid, zit-faced kid: “What’s a ‘TT500′?”

Remember MX tracks that didn’t have “whoop-de-dos”?

Remember when the term “MX” didn’t exist and races were called “scrambles”?

Anyone ever heard of the “Westlake Grand Prix”? Craig “Croak” Alden still has a Westlake Grand Prix T-shirt that his older brother, “Steve” (RIP), scored there while racing his Hodaka Ace 90 back in ’68. (DNF- broken chain)

Remember when doing a “top end job” took an hour and fifteen…bucks?

Oh, the memories of seeing a dozen or more other dirtbike-laden pickup trucks full of whooping riders headed the same direction as you on a Friday evening. Remember that? (sob)

Remember bringing nothing but beer, motorcycles, firewood and a ramp on those treks? “Ramp? Who forgot to load the %#@*&*% ramp?!”

Remember riding into town for some sit-down grub looking (and acting) like a bunch of outlaws? “Where’s the women folk?!”

Anyone remember “Red Rock Canyon” and nearby “Jawbone Canyon”? Both still open, folks! Hit ’em up for cryin’ out loud!

Who can remember what make of dirt bike is up on that steel pole at Jawbone’s entrance? (Bultaco with bald street tires, up pipe and yellow tank)

Remember when Jawbone Canyon was wall to wall dirt bikes during Thanksgiving, Easter & Fourth of July holidays? (Easter was always the best)

Remember being able to rent a dirtbike at motorcycle tracks? Remember them having no brakes but not needing to with a clapped-out 1.2 hp Suzuki 120?

Remember motorcycle tracks? The nearest one to me is now a paintball field where adults dress up and act like rabid terroristic combat soldiers and run around screaming like little girls? Unbelievable…

I could try to remember more but like they say, “The memory is the second thing to go.” I wish I could just remember what the first thing is…


David “TT500” Fruhling




Dear Rick,
I have a 1973 MX360 Yamaha that I use as my Vintage class race bike. The bike worked flawlessly for several years. Ran like a champ. But then, occasionally, it would, while downshifting from 3rd to 2nd, skip 2nd and go into neutral. The first few times I thought it was just me being tired and accidentally bumping the shifter an extra nudge. But then the problem worsened progressively until it began doing it nearly every time.

Sometimes it downshifts correctly without issue, but at the most inopportune time, it skips 2nd gear and goes into neutral. It got to the point that I would begin downshifting once, then upshifting once, knowing then it would then be in second. Then, in a corner before a small jump, I downshifted from 3rd as I was rolling into the corner. I went to accelerate up the face of the small jump, realizing too late that I was in neutral, and about threw myself over the bars due to lack of anticipated momentum.

Sadly my feet came off the pegs at that moment of loss of forward pull and now my bike dropped off the top of the jump with me in the modified “flying W” position. I landed pills-first on the tank with that nauseating thud that all male riders have felt at least once in their lives. At that moment I decided I would not race this bike again until this tranny problem was fixed.

Safety first! I’ve taken it to three professional mechanics, one a former World Superbike champion factory mechanic, and no one can fix this darn thing. I bought an entire engine/transmission from a friend, to use as a parts cache. It still had the original piston in it and the bore looked perfect. I assumed the transmission was in as good as shape. All three mechanics had the benefit of an entire donor transmission. Still none of them could fix it, or even find anything that clearly defined what the problem was.

The last one thought it might be that the detent spring was too weak, so he added a spacer to it to increase the preload. He also said he milled the end of the detent shaft as there was some wear on it. Still, the bike, about 50-75% of the time, continues to go past 2nd into neutral when downshifting from 3rd. I’ve tried gently shifting it, “purposefully” shifting it, with clutch, without clutch, uphill, downhill, every possible combination of ways to shift it in an attempt to diagnose “the” situation or combination of reasons causing it to shift this way.

All other shifting is flawless. Upshift and downshift, all gears, all normal except for downshifting from 3rd to 2nd. The bike is otherwise the perfect Vintage class bike. It’s entirely stock except for the bars and the silencer. Any help in this matter would be very much appreciated.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me.

Tim Rines

It could be one of five things and likely a combination of all, really need to see engine apart to properly diagnose…there is no easy external fix, it must come apart…

I have questions first:
What was the percentage of engagement of shift dogs in each selected ration?

What measurement was used in setting the selector indexing?

Does this engine still use the omni-phase balancer or has it been removed?

Which ignition system/magneto is being used now?–Rick Sieman



So my friend and riding buddy, Don, had a heart attack last Saturday. (BTW, that’s HORSES these days, NOT motorcycles.) He was driving and figured that it would take too long for an ambulance to get there so he called his doctor and asked him to just meet him at the hospital. Well a couple of days later, Tuesday I think, they put in a couple of stents and sent him home on Wednesday or Thursday. Well, he calls me last night (Friday) and asks if I’m up for a ride for earlier today. I say sure, but want him to know that I’m not doing that mouth-to-mouth shit in case something happens.

I tell him the story about a desert motorcycle ride back in 1968-69… (Any old District 37 desert riders, especially any of my fellow “Invaders MC” people might remember this story.) (Maybe Eric Bergquist or Super Hunky (Rick Sieman will remember…)

Anyway, we we just out cow trailing out by what is now Apple Valley, when nature called, so my buddy goes off and squats down behind a bush. Pretty soon, I hear a horrible shriek! and find that he’s been bitten on the a$$ by a huge rattlesnake! I have no idea what to do, but I remember that as we came through the little town (not really a town back then, just a gas station, store and a small cafe’) that I’d seen a sign for a doctor… (It may have been a veterinarian, but, hey… better than nothing…) (Remember, this was WAY before cell phones and modern technology…)

I jumped on my bike and headed cross-county to a pole-line road, put my Bultaco up-on-the-pipe and made a dask for town. When I got there, the doctor WAS in, and I asked him what I could do. He asked if I had a snake bite kit? (In those days they sold a “Cutters Snake Bite Kit” that consisted of an exact o blade, a piece of string to be used as a tourniquet, and three or four pages of instructions (in ENGLISH only), and it all came packaged in a rubber case that served as a suction cup.)

I said no, so the Doctor looked through his stuff, but couldn’t find one either. He said “Look… here’s what you need to do… Cut a small “X” at the bite, and suck out the poison!”

I jumped back on my bike and raced back to my buddy. He asked, “WHAT DID THE DOCTOR SAY?”

I told him, “He said, SORRY… You’re gonna DIE!”

Jim Meyer



Hey, Rick,
I’ve been riding for a long time but not racing. There so much vintage class racing going on that I think I’m going to try it. I’ve been reading all the stuff there is to find out about vintage racing, and I’m leaning towards getting a Maico. I don’t care for 250s very much so I’m thinking about an open class bike. I’ve been looking all around and have found a real clean 400 for sale, a 440 for sale and a 490 for sale. I’m not a great rider and haven’t had a chance to take any the bikes for more than right up and down the street, but others tell me that the 490 would be too much bike for me as well as a 440. They say that a good running 400 is probably enough especially since I have not really raced before. So what do you think?

Austin Texas

Maico 400
Maico 490

If you can find a good clean 400, that would be more than enough. The first time I rode a 400, I was literally stunned with the horsepower. If you think that was impressive, the 490 would give you nightmares. While the 400 has plenty of power, what you need is to concentrate on getting the suspension dialed in. That’s the key to making the bike more fun to ride. Nothing is more difficult to ride than a 490 with the suspension all wrong.-Rick Sieman



I’ve been riding street bikes for about 20 years, and my current bike is a 750 Honda four. I don’t know much about dirtbikes, but there are two for sale real close to my house. One is a Honda XR500 four-stroke and the other is a Suzuki RM400. I don’t know the year. Both bikes are going for a real low price, about $200 each, and I’ve been told that they do need a lot of work to get them running. So which would be more difficult to work on? I don’t want to go racing or anything like that. I just want to go out and have some fun. I’m a reasonable mechanic.


1982 Honda XR500R
1980 Suzuki RM400

This Suzuki would be very simple to work on and repair, while the XR500 Honda is a much more complicated four stroke. You’re also going to run into a lot more on parts costs with a Honda. Also, you have to take into consideration that the Honda weighs about 75 pounds more than the Suzuki. This translates into a lot more work just to do a simple thing like play riding.–Rick Sieman



Just where in the hell do you get off ragging all over these new four strokes? They’re great bikes, and I know because I’ve got a Kawasaki 450 and it’s just amazing. Maybe you ought to try to ride one of these and you change your stupid mind over.

No name given
Reno, NV

You might not be such a big fan of your 450 when it comes time to rebuild it. And that would be after about 30 hours of riding. At that point, plan on spending about 3000 bucks. When you figure that your bike costs about $10,000 and you can add another $3000 to it, it takes a lot of fun out of owning a bike. That’s why I’m such a big fan of the older bikes, especially two-strokes.–Rick Sieman



I’ve been riding bikes from my friends for a few years now and got the bug real bad. So I went out and bought a Suzuki 125 that runs real good. The only problem is I don’t know where to ride. It seems like all the places within an hour or so have been closed down. What should I do? By the way, I live in Los Angeles.

Reseda, CA

It’s been getting really bad in and around Los Angeles to find any place to ride. About the only thing you can do is go north and east of the city of Palmdale in the Mojave desert. There you can still find a bunch of open land. Some of it will be legal riding and on some of the land you take your chances. Your best bet is to hook up with a club and find out where they go.


My 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: [email protected]

Paypal address: [email protected]
Website: www. [email protected]