Time Rider - Vintage Dirt Bike Restoration Tips - Dirt Rider Magazine

Many Dirt Riders, young and old alike, often reflect back to `the good old days', fondly remembering that first really cool (or even not so cool) dirt bike, riding area or magazine ad that hooked us to becoming life long moto-heads.

Accompanying those recollections, we often regret selling that old race bike, riding gear or other memorabilia that made our riding careers so much fun. Well, quit wishing and get busy!What better way to revisit your past than finding and restoring your first motorcycle, cool race bike or simply the ride you would have killed for were it not for lack of funds and overly cautious parents.The idea of a project like this is to link us to our past. Don't worry about how collectable or desirable your particular project is to the masses. The focus is to have fun, get dirty and maybe learn a thing or two that might even help you with your modern ride. The new skills you learn and the pride in workmanship you take will be evident in your completed project.

The unit selected for this project was a fairly rough but, more importantly, complete 1974 Yamaha YZ125A.


Before you tear into your project, make sure you have the basics to successfully complete your resurrection. Lack of planning can lead to frustration and loss of interest in short order.Some of the following items listed you more than likely have around your garage, others you may need to purchase, beg, borrow etc.


-Zip Lock plastic bags

-Sharpie felt marker

-Rags, paper towels

-Digital Camera

-Cleaners (solvent, Simple Green)

-Boxes (cardboard or plastic)

-Sand paper

-Paint, primer

-Masking tape

-Scotch Brite

-Steel wool


-Air compressor

-Media blasting cabinet

-Air tools (right angle grinder, cut off tool)

-Solvent tank

-Bench Vise

-Shock spring compressor

-Bench GrinderSome items (media blasting cabinet, for example) are not exactly standard shop items but make a project like this fun and much easier. The Eastwood Company has some affordable units.


This is wear your digital camera will come in handy. Photo document all parts of your project upon disassembly. You can reference later for color, reassembly etc.Remove parts as assemblies and label the bags they go into. This will insure a trouble free reassembly afterwards. Make any notes regarding color or other comments.


The secret to a great restoration is careful attention to detail, and this becomes fully evident in how you strip, prepare and paint (or polish) the various parts of your project.This is wear the solvent tank and media blasting cabinet will save you a lot of time and aggravation. Be careful! You can also ruin delicate finishes by using a too aggressive media. Patience is your best allie.


Small parts can be successfully painted using spray paint. The trick is to use the correct color and shade for the specific parts.Satin finishes are common on engine cases and exhaust systems, gloss finishes are popular on frames. If you can't find an exact match, you can have a custom color mixed and put into a spray can.A great source for the more common colors is PJ-1.


Many parts (rims, spokes, sprockets, levers) can be replaced with NOS (new old stock) parts. You can often renew these parts if you are unable to find replacements, provided the original is in good condition.Again, attention to detail is key. Aluminum can be brought back to life with sandpaper, scotchbrite and elbow grease. Use your bench grider with a buffing wheel to bring back the shiny finish of control levers and other shiny or polished parts.Powder coating is a good option if you intend to ride the bike and want a more durable finish.It is is usually a little harder to get a OEM like color match, though.


Other items that will likely need attention are cables, seats, tanks and plastics. Cables can often be made to work and look new with a cable luber and clever use of heat shrink tubing. Motion Pro is the place to go for new cables if you can't find NOS.

Seats can be repaired to new condition, provided you have a workable seat base. Reproduction foam and covers are available for popular models.Plastic, fiberglass and metal body parts are often available as reproduction parts for more popular bikes. They can also be repaired using common auto body supplies and techniques.


Now is when all your hard work and attention to detail will start to materialize. Be patient and methodical in this stage of the project. Taping off areas that may get scratched or make contact (putting the engine in the frame, for example) will save you some headaches.New tires in the original sizes and patterns will give your bike a more authentic look. Cheng Shin offers inexpensive

old school' tires that usually fit the bill.**THE WOW FACTOR**It's finally done. Projects like this often take many weeks or months, but the results are often stunning. Share your hard work with others. Gather your riding pals together for a nostalgic trip to the past. This is often the biggest pay off when all is said and done!**RESOURCES**Paint: PJ-1/VHT [www.PJ1.com](http://www.pj1.com)Tools & Supplies: Eeastwood [www.eastwoodco.com](http://www.eastwoodco.com)Reproduction Parts: Vintage Iron [www.vintageiron.com](http://www.vintageiron.com)**DR Tested****ZIMMER Model 602 Leg Splint**It's inevitable! You're going to crash. It's just a matter of when and how hard. Having spent more than my fair share of time in casts, slings, crutches and the like, I feel that this product evaluation is long overdue.You won't find this gem while wondering the aisles at Chaparral or flipping through the pages of your favorite moto magazine. In fact, you'll likely be the recipient of a Zimmer model 602 (

Zimmer Splint' in hospital speak) after successfully impaling your tibia into your femur, as I did a few months ago testing the KTM525SX.Weighing in a at mere 6 ounces, the only piece of gear lighter than the model 602 is the awful hospital gown that you were in when you got the news that you and Zimmer would be on a first name basis for the next 6-8 weeks. Over this period of time, however, you will come to appreciate the advantages of this unit versus plaster or fiberglass.At 23 inches long, with five metal stays and 6 Velcro closures, the Zimmer resembles an old school Gold Belt on steroids. The velcros offer lot's of adjustability to suit a variety of leg diameters, and the soft foam cast is hypo allergenic-it won't smell too rank after several weeks of use. Easily removed for showering, the model 602 main advantage over other leg immobilizers is that you can `exercise' your leg and avoid the dreaded atrophy that accompanies the conventional hard cast.Pricing varies, and is often covered by your health care provider or insurance company. You won't win any style points with this unit, but it sure makes those weeks spent channel surfing and dreaming of your next moto somewhat more bearable. —Mr. Green

Our project: A 1974 Yamaha YZ125A. This was the very first year for the YZ line and the only year these machines had two shocks.