Crack-free frame and it feels so good

Kyle Smith

Time in the garage, at least for me, is typically time well spent. I always relish the chance to get something done, and my Six Ways to Sunday XR250R project has been needing some attention. Despite the first race being in May, I’m trying to avoid coming up against that spring deadline looking at a bike still in pieces. Now that I have inspected the frame with the enthusiasm of Squints preparing for his kiss with Wendy Peffercorn, however, it’s starting to look like the eventual payoff might be worth the prep.

My initial plan for the XR was to get it in minimal working order for me to ride and compete safely. As I spoke with more and more experienced experts, along with researching the speeds and conditions I would be encountering, my tune changed. This was going to be a bit more involved than I had thought, so I started clearing off storage space in the garage. Space would be essential to lay out many, many parts..

And so I tore the XR down. All the way down. I don’t intend to restore the machine or replace everything conceivable, but spending a few dollars here and there really makes sense. The last thing I want is to make a fool out of myself by loading up and traveling to an event, just to break down and turn the trip into a giant waste. A few smart swipes of the credit card are necessary to ensure reliability, but overall performance is also on my wish list.

For starters, the engine in the frame is questionable at best. The piston has a valve crashed down through its crown, and the cylinder head is worse. Since the piston has now come in contact with the cylinder head twice, the connecting rod and rotating assembly need at minimum a thorough inspection before being run again. Whether this engine will be rebuilt, or if I will have to call up the “spare” that currently resides in another project bike, remains unclear.

Yanking out that grimy mess was no big issue, and once that initial Band-Aid ripped off the parts started trickling onto my workbench. I consider myself especially lucky, because there was one bolt that haunted my nightmares leading up to this teardown: the swingarm pivot bolt.


The issue that commonly pops up concerns the swingarm, which has a spacer tube that runs the width of the frame spacing, and the bolt that rides inside that tube. There is a grease zerk in the center of the swingarm, and most folks will simply apply an occasional squeeze of grease thinking it will stave off potential issues. The problem: that zerk only pushes grease in the outside diameter of that spacer tube, towards the needle bearings that support the whole rear end of the bike, leaving the spacer and bolt to slowly corrode together and become one inseparable mass of rust and old, accumulated grease. I prepped my Sawzall, knowing that careful surgery to cut the swingarm pivot bolt might be necessary.

However, Luck shone down on me instead. I went with the shock-and-awe approach first, loosening the nut on the right side of the frame but leaving it loose to protect the threads on the NLA bolt. Then I grabbed the biggest hammer within reach and hit it with all the strength I could accurately command. It took three hits, each ringing hard enough that my fiancée asked if everything was alright when I later came back inside the house. Alright? Everything was great! With the heavy neglect this bike shows, I was amazed that this let go with such relative ease.

swingarm in parts washer
Kyle Smith

Swingarm removed, all that was left was cleaning and inspecting the frame. I pored over the faded and weather white metal skeleton with a discerning eye, looking for any compromises in structure. A crack wouldn’t be a dealbreaker, given the steel construction and my wide selection of friend-owned welders, but thankfully there’s no need to go down that path. Reassembly can begin, which means this whole operation is going to start coming together the coming weeks. New bearings and fresh grease are in my future and boy does that sound like a strong start.

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