What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using flat handlebars on a motorcycle

Flat bars are probably the best compromise.

Clipons allow you to lie flat on the tank, making you more aerodynamic which is why they are fitted to most race bikes.

Higher bars are more comfortable as the rider stays upright in the saddle. They also allow the rider to move his weight backwards and forwards more, which is why they are fitted to off road bikes.

Ape hangers are mainly for show, and can be painful without a back rest.

Is the new Yamaha R7 a good first large capacity bike?

Yes, having ridden a Press bike last November at Blyton Park.

It can be restricted so can be ridden on an A2 licence in the UK.

It handled really well, the engine has good mid range power making it easy to ride, and the brakes are very good.

You can adjust the suspension, so we dialled in some more preload on the front forks, which significantly improved the handling on the track, but might be a bit harsh on our poor potholed roads.

A really great good looking mid range comfortable sportsbike.

You can hire one on our track training days if you want to put one through its paces before you buy.

Should I use premium fuel in my motorcycle?

Modern motorcycles are designed to run on low octane fuel, so there is probably little benefit and more cost using premium gas.

You might get a little more performance and mileage, but probably not significant.

However, some older motorcycles can be damaged by using the new standard E10 fuel which has 10% biofuel which can attack plastic parts in the fuel system.

Check with the manufacturer.

Premium fuel would overcome this.

Classic motorcycles tend to need premium gas to stop detonation which damages the engine, and may also need an additive to prevent valve wear.

Will using car oil ruin my motorcycle engine?

The main problem is if your motorcycle has a wet clutch which is lubricated by engine oil, as modern low friction oils will probably make it slip.

Motorcycle oils are different and more expensive than car oils, so many riders use car oil in their bikes. I’ve never had any issues using car oil in road bikes, but I would suggest using proper competition motorcycle oil in racing and trackday bikes.

Semi synthetic oils won’t affect the clutch, nor will normal fully synthetic oils.

It’s important to use the correct viscosity, and change regularly it to the manufacturers instructions.

How do I know if my motorcycle needs valve clearance or adjustment?

You can sometimes hear the tappets rattling at the top of the engine due to excessive clearance caused by wear, but some particularly old design engines rattle anyway when the clearances are correct.

However, the real danger is the valve clearance closing due to valve seat wear, which you cannot hear, and only becomes noticable when performance drops off and the engine can be dificult to start.

By then its too late and the sealing faces on the valves will be burnt and no longer sealing properly, requiring a major strip down and rebuild.

So it’s important to check valve clearances regularly according to your workshop manual, which involves removing the top engine cover and checking with a feeler gauge. It’s an expensive job to have done due to the skill and time it takes, as many engines require re-shimming rather than adjustment, but you can do it yourself with care.

All the old carbureted 2-strokes I’ve used tended to run very rich at low rpms, some to the point where if you didn’t rev them often, the plugs would foul. Was this common/necessary on some/all carbureted 2-strokes, and why?

Plug fouling was a common problem with two strokes. They always needed to be changed more often.

Old racing two stroke engines fouled very easily at low revs, as they were set rich to enable them to start and run at low revs, below the designed power band at high revs where they ran efficiently.

It depends on the design, reed valve engines tended to have less problems than piston ported or rotary valve engines.

Modern synthetic oils at a higher mix ratio often helps to reduce soot and fouling. Please note you can’t mix vegetable oil (Castrol R etc) with synthetic oil.

The other problem is worn or badly setup carburettors, particularly worn slide needles and jets which produce a richer mixture.

FI/DI was tried in the past without mainstream success, and development largely stopped due to the difficulty of meeting emission regulations.

However, KTM make fuel injected off road two stroke bikes, so it can be done.

Is 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds fast acceleration? How does it compare to common sport cars/motorcycles?

It’s quick – about half the time of an average car nowadays.

Motorcycles can get down close to 3 seconds, which on road or race bikes is limited as the bike will flip over backwards.

Drag bikes have extended swing arms which allows them to accelerate even faster.

It’s a square law, you need 4 times the power to reduce the time by a half.

What does a camchain problem sound like on a motorcycle?

It’s usually a rattling from the top of the engine at tickover.

It’s a common problem on some models due to a worn chain, tensioner or guides.

You’ll need to look online for the likely solution on your model.

Sometimes a new or manual tentioner can be fitted, occasionally it’s a new chain of guides that is required.

How long can I ride with blue grey smoke coming out of my exhaust.

It depends if it smokes all the time, or just on the overrun – when you close the throttle.

If all the time, it is burning a significant amount of oil, so if this isn’t topped up every few hundred miles, it will run out of oil and be wrecked.

If just on the overrun, it will need topping up less frequently.

Also, you are producing a high level of pollutants.

It is also unlikely to pass your yearly MOT test.

The piston, rings and probably cylinder bores are worn and need replacing

Should I buy another motorcycle?

Difficult question to answer.

I assume you are looking at returning to motorcycling after a break, which many do later in life when the family has grown.

Firstly you have to be aware of the risks.

You are 66 times more likely to have a fatal collision than driving a car, and you will take a while to get used to riding again, so you need to be very careful.

The DVSA launched ERS a special training scheme aimed at ‘born again bikers’ some years ago, due to the extent of the problem.

But, there is nothing quite like riding a motorcycle, the experience is life affirming and intense, and for many well worth the risk. There is an overwhelming sense of freedom for many, for some strange reason, which is addictive.

Be prepared for it initially to be quite scary and not as you remembered, until your competence returns with a little practise. Then remember to always be alert.

Consider taking some advanced training, or using a local bike school for a refresher.

Take care.

Patricia Stiemke, one of our customers writes:-

I still remember deciding to get back into motorcycles after a near to 30 year absence. Being completely ignorant about what kind of bike I should have, I went and bought a Deauville, one of those 240 kg beasts. The dealer was a very kind man and he explained everything and then went away as he realised I was super nervous. I sat in that parking lot for nearly 20 minutes before I actually felt able to ride the bike off it and into general traffic. I was a bit on the wobbly side for quite a while and yes, I did realise I would need help so I started with our local BikeSafe, which in Essex, is called FireBike and is, as the name implies, run by the Fire Department. I joined an advanced motorcycle group and started training for the ROSPA test and I signed up for a coaching track day. That last experience sealed my fate because I had found exactly my style. Challenging bends and being comfortable at speed. I have not looked back and the Deauville got traded it pretty quick for a ’99 ZX-6R. 🙂