Early figuring

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Motorcycle Update – 31 October 2013

I’ve decided to sell my little Suzuki TU250X. I’ve got no business being on solo bikes anymore so there’s no reason to hold onto it. KBB is $3200 and I’ve literally done the break-in miles and that’s all, so I can actually ask that price without feeling bad. I think this makes the 2nd or 3rd motorcycle I’ve sold out of the 40ish I’ve had. I’m more in the habit of giving away, trading, or dismantling things than selling them. But alas, I need the money.

Some of it will go into the sidecar rig. The BMW conversion to a solid extent will be next to free. I can bore my own barrels to 750cc, I can machine my own adapter plate to fit the Russian gearbox to the German engine. I already own the /2 clutch plate, I already own an R75 wire harness.

I will however be needing some little things, and wanting other things. I have a pair of R75 heads – but they do not have valves. The valve guides I can machine in the lathe.

What I NEED to make this work followed by if I need new or used.
R75 Valves – used should work
Pistons – used
Rings – new
Top end gaskets – new
Carb Jets – new
Tires – new

What I Want:
BMW handlebar switches – used
Upgraded alternator – new
Electronic Ignition (if I can’t use the Power-Arc) – new
BMW speedo with tach – used
Keyed ignition switch – new

Thats about it. Having the option to do all of this at once so that the only hold up for doing this conversion is how long it takes me to bore out the engine and mate it with the transmission would be damn near magical.

Also quite frankly my monthly income is enough to live on, but just barely, I tend to be scraping by come the end of the month – for example I have $26 in the bank as I type this. Having a bit of savings and thus some cushion month to month would be pretty epic.

So sell the Suzuki, FINISH the sidecar rig, and have some savings. Win win.

The whole point of the Suzuki was as a spare set of wheels for those days when the Russian bike decided that it hated me, my family, and all of my ancestors. Once the BMW engine is in there I don’t have that problem anymore – especially if I upgrade the 40 year old Bosch electrics with new stuff. The rig already has new wheel bearings, new steering bearings, new shocks, and almost has new alloy fenders, new paint, etc. By Finishing the rig, and I mean Finishing it there isn’t a need for a “spare”.

Finally to end this, the other reason for upgrading the alternator is because next winter I want heated clothing, not only will this be my last winter on a 38hp semi-reliable engine, but I want this to be my last winter in Carhartt thermal lined coverals – not because I dislike them, but because when I visit friends and have to take them off they take up their own corner of the room. Also I want heated grips.

BMW Conversion Finally Defined – 01 November 2013

As I was tallying up the totals earlier today for the BMW conversion I was planning to do things began to dawn on me that changed the plan. Shocking, I know. But this time I think it’s all nailed down, all I need to do is sell the TU250 and then I will be buying the parts I’ll name in this post, and bank the rest for my rainy day fund.

So as you may know if you’ve been following my posts I’ve got an early 70s BMW R50/5 engine that I traded the Ural Tourist sidecar for. It’s in excellent repair and has an output of 32HP which is identical to the engine output of the sidevalve engines that Urals originally came with back in the day.

My plan was to convert the 500cc engine to 750cc giving it 50HP, which is 22 more than the 650 Ural engine makes (38). My reasoning for this move is that I have always loved 50HP machines, 50HP is my favorite engine output, all of my favorite bikes that I’ve owned have made 50 – both ’73 750cc Triumphs, the smallblock 750cc Motto Guzzi, and the BMW R65 came pretty close. Mom’s 750 Ural also makes 50.

But here’s the thing, I’ve been riding the 650cc 38HP bikes for the last few years, I even toured on the one. The 38hp engine will do interstate speeds, the last 3 days of my summer trip in ’12 were spent on 84 and 80 East. It’ll go 65mph if the tub is gone, it’ll do 60mph if the tub is present. But I don’t like riding on the interstates anymore, I much prefer state highways and I have to believe that if a 38hp engine can do 60 then the 32HP engine will do 50 without eating itself.

Now I can see where your head is going so let me continue. Even if I bore my own cylinders, make my own small end bushings, make my own valve guides, and buy used pistons – I for peace of mind HAVE to buy new OEM valves, and I need to buy new rings. The cost of 4 BMW valves for the /5 engine + Rings = $750.

Now with that taken into account I can hear you saying “But you’ll have the money now, so why not do it now?” My answer to that is this, for the rest of 2013 I’m not leaving central MA. For all of 2014 I won’t be leaving central MA on my bike, if I do leave it will be on the 750 Ural that makes 50HP. So why should I spend $750 now for 22 extra horsepower that I won’t need for at least a year and a half? Why spend that money for something I don’t need when I can put it in my rainy day fund? If I want to I can buy a valve a month using my monthly income and then on the fifth month buy the rings – which I don’t have to do for over a year. There is absolutely no reason to spend that much money right now for something I don’t need right now.

So the BMW conversion just got a whole lot simpler. Instead of doing top end work the engine is just about ready to go. All I need to do to make it fit is make the adapter ring and a clutch rod.

But there will be things purchased with the TU money for the rig. Important upgrades that I have wanted to do for some time and simply could not afford to do. Upgrades that would need to have been done either way (500 or 750). They are 99% Electrical and 1% Maintenance.

We’ll start with maintenance because its easy and just 1 thing. I need new tires. I need 4 of them. So I will be buying 4 Duro tires from Heindl Engineering in Ohio.

On this chassis I have upgraded all the bearings and all the shocks, soon the engine will have been upgraded. The paint is and will be new, and GOOD. The gastank I want to use is going to be cleaned up by a friend and modified to accept 2 fuel taps and have a sight gauge on one side so I can see the fuel level. The fenders will all be aluminum, the turn signals on the bike Lucas, the tail light also Lucas. All of that is ready to go.

The remainder things will be the gearbox (I have decided for now to use the Dnepr gearbox instead of the new Ural box), Final Drive, and Sidecar Differential – those will need rebuilt at some point but for now they are low mile items and have a good reputation for being rugged.

Now, the Electrical side which is what makes up the other 99% of stuff to be bought with TU money.

I already own a brand new reproduction /5 wire harness for the chassis and engine, my goal is to outfit the bike with electrical equipment that is plug & play for that harness. I don’t want any more tying in of things designed for other machines. Mostly because I suck at electrical and my friend who doesn’t lives in New Jersey and while he is DEAD reliable if something fails while he’s flying helicopters in NYC I’m fucked – unless I can buy a plug & play replacement at which point I am fine. The only exception to this rule will be the tail light because I love the Lucas light and its excellent quality and will be fine.

First is the ignition. The 500 has points which I have never had a problem with but I’m getting too weary to have to adjust things and they are in a pain in the ass location (for me) so I’d just assume they be good and gone. Hopefully I can just mount the Power Arc ignition I already have, it’s magnificent and since it’s designed to work on a boxer twin I really cannot see why it won’t work – but on the offshot that it does in fact not fit, I will need to buy a Dyna Electronic Ignition for the bike.

Next is the Alternator and the Regulator/Rectifier. In terms of the current alternator it’s max output is 20amps which isn’t much better than the Ural 650’s, not enough for heated anything, not enough for a powerful headlight, not enough. Second the rectifier/regulator has a failure rate and is 40 years old and well fuck that noise. So the solution here is a Endura Last high output alternator that comes with a solid state regulator/rectifier. This new alternator puts out enough for strong lights, heated clothes, and accessories. So its pretty much perfect. Not cheap, but perfect – cheaper than the Ural alternator upgrade by $250.

With all of that I’ll need better spark plug cables than I have now, and the folks who sell the top two items sell a set that look like the vintage type but with modern seals and proper strength at about the same price I’d have to pay for any set that’d work with this system.

Now for the controls.

First up is an ignition switch that is made as a direct replacement to what is my favorite switch ever but they all take the same key which costs $10 which means that it would be REALLY easy to steal my bike and I don’t want to make it THAT easy. Its design as a direct replacement is what makes me happy with it (besides the actual key) because it includes parts I don’t have and is made to tie into the harness I do have.

(also costs $140 less than my favorite switch)

Last but not least are the handlebar controls. I have spent years looking for my ideal switches and I found them when Jon rolled in his 1973 R75/5, they are everything I ever wanted and they even look pretty close to the way I imagined proper switches should. They are not cheap, but they are so worth it. With them I will also be buying the actual handlebar controls – the levers they mount to.

So here is the left set of controls (clutch side)

#9 is a wedge shaped piece of plastic or metal that mounts to the control bracket and is what the switch drops into. It’s $15 and I need 2 of them. The rest is pretty self evident.

Right side (brake & throttle)

The throttle is built into the bracket and is a pull chain operation with the throttle body being geared. Very Nice design.

Last but not least the switches themselves:

The design is quite simple. The switch levers in that position are “off” and they can be switched upwards and downwards controlling turn signals & high beam. They also have momentary switches built in if you push on them, the right side being the electric start switch, the left side being the horn. Easy & Classy.

This next image doesn’t do the bike justice as it was taken long before the alloy fenders came into play, and the gastank has not yet been cleaned up and repaired so its just a general sense, but this is the profile of what it’ll look like to some extent chassis wise:

And here you have my R50/5 engine, showing off the 20amp alternator and regulator/rectifier up top – points down at the bottom (also the TU making all this possible is visible):

And here is the rest of it:

That’s it. End result will be BMW engine, BMW controls, Upgraded electrical system, gas tank from the 40s, tractor seat, alloy fenders, Dnepr gearbox, Dnepr 2WD in the rear, Ural wheels, Ural front end, classic chassis, Dnepr exhaust pipes feeding Ural mufflers. She’ll be a rugged old machine that’ll perform (for now) exactly as you would think she did from the looks of her – which is fine by me, I’m not a speed demon.

She’s going to be Spectacular.

So this winter it’ll be running the Dnepr engine with communist made electrical system while I set up the conversion. After this winter she’ll be as described above and I will begin modifying the Dnepr engine in several ways – most interesting will be fitting it with a MagDyno. For a year or two it’ll just be a project engine but when it comes time to convert the BMW to 750cc I’ll put the modified Dnepr engine back in for a while which is a neat goal – see what I can do with it before then using what I have in the machine shop and what I can get locally (bearings for example).

BMW Parts – 8 November 2013

So the Suzuki has pretty much sold, I took a downpayment on it and the woman buying it will be back later this weekend to pick up the bike and hand me the rest of the money.

I’ve currently got 3 auctions going on Ebay that I am the high bidder on, and I outright bought something else.

I bought an airbox for a BMW /6:

I will probably have to modify the base a little bit to allow it to fit on top of the Dnepr gearbox but the end result will be good. I want as much BMW as possible in this bike, and I have never liked any of the airboxes that have come on any of the Russian bikes I’ve had, I did however love the one that was on my BMW R65 which was identical to this one.

The other bits that I’m bidding on are /5 handlebar controls and a /5 headlight bucket with ignition switch and headlight wire harness. I am really hoping that I get them because it would be cheaper to buy these than it would be to get them new old stock – which is my other option (cept the headlight which I can’t get NOS).

So, once the Suzuki is gone and I have my conversion fund I will be buying the following:

/5 handlebar levers, switches, throttle.
High output alternator
Dyna Ignition with spark plug cables and maybe coils.
4 new tires
Speedo with tach (if I get the headlight I want)
Ignition switch (if I don’t get that headlight)

I am thinking about scrapping the idea of using the ’40s Ural tank and cleaning up the Dnepr tank, I haven’t decided yet.

I want this machine to be all BMW /5 electrics except for the turn signals & tail light which will be reproduction Lucas (already have them).

I am thinking about scrapping the idea of milling out the back of the crank case to accept the adapter ring, I think I might just use an adapter ring and accept the slight loss of grab inside the flywheel, I don’t see it being an issue unless I was running a lot of HP and I won’t be, I’ll be running less than I had before for the time being.

Winning the ebay auctions would shave enough off the build price to buy the speedo/tach (also thats the /5 headlight):

They are surprisingly expensive in good shape. But it would be brilliant to have a tach, and also awesome to be able to use a headight/switch/speedo that weren’t made in China as knock-offs of the real thing. Would also make wiring a hell of a lot easier. I mean I bought a NOS /5 wire harness and /5 engine harness but you can’t get the /5 headlight harness, and this headlight I am bidding on comes with that harness. So everything should just be plug & play which is what I want most.

The reason I am thinking about using the Dnepr gas tank:

Instead of the Ural M72 tank:

Is because my knees line up with the Dnepr tank better than they do with the Ural tank. Its not as pretty, its actually sort of ugly, but its more comfortable and in the end that matters more than looks.

Once built this bike is not going to be fast (at all) for a couple of years with an output of 32HP but it WILL be reliable, it WILL be a bike I could get on and ride cross country if I was so inclined with an engine & electrical system that will perform exceptionally well. With the airbox on top of the gearbox and sitting up against the back of the engine case it’ll give it that proper BMW look.

So here is your standard BMW engine conversion in a Dnepr:

But I want more than that, I want it to look as close to THIS as possible:

And with some work on the airbox I just bought, it will look quite a bit like that. Also frankly I think that the airbox design on the BMW works better than the Dnepr/Ural and the filters will be easier to buy – as will be the hoses that connect the carbs to the filter.

I’m not using BING carbs mostly because I can’t afford them, I am going to be using my JRC carbs, probably won’t even need to rejet them as they are jetted for an engine that makes 38hp and I don’t think the loss of 6 will effect anything. I might be wrong, time will tell.

I am so excited I can barely think straight, its going to come together pretty quickly now.

I have to figure out how thick I want the adapter plate to be so that I can order the plate and then I’ll cut it out and finish it with grinders and probably the dremel tool. The clutch rod I will figure out first using drill rod and once I have a length identified I will machine one in the south bend lathe and that’ll be good.

I’m still flipflopping on the badges, part of me wants to use the brass IMZ ural badges I’ve got and the other half of me wants to use BMW badges. Honestly not sure yet. Might use a Brass badge on one side and a BMW badge on the other since it is half and half. Might not use any badges at all and just get someone who is good with stencils to make one so I can spray “King Ralph” on the tank someplace.

At any rate, everything is as it should be.

Score – 11 November 2013

I’d forgotten how much I love Ebay for getting motorcycle parts. I had this unfortunate habit for a short time of buying motorcycles when I saw one I liked that I could technically afford. Now that I don’t have any money in my savings and barely any in my checking I don’t think that’ll be a problem ever again haha. That being said, do to those same reasons Ebay is immensely useful here to do this. I’ve got a very specific budget for this build and I can’t go over because if I did that I’d have no money to buy food.

My original plan had a few items that weren’t exactly what I wanted but the best I could afford based on the budget. I REALLY wanted the /5 handlebar controls so I was willing to sacrifice on the other stuff a little bit. In other areas – like the headlight most of it was simply outside my price range to use BMW original parts so I was going to settle for the cheap knock-offs I’ve got that were made in China. This shows a solid example of what I’m talking about with the headlight:

No shit, they want $567.74 for just the headlight lense with rim. $200 for just the switch plate.. That $25 bit isn’t even all of the rest of the switch! The switch works out to costing about $300 if you tally all the parts up. So I was going to get a less pretty version for $65. I know I talked about making it hard for people to steal the bike, but thats bull, I’ll just hide a cut-off switch someplace. I just couldn’t work out a reason to pay that much money for that switch. This is progress – 5 years ago I’d have bought it without batting an eye and lived on Ramen noodles for the next 3 weeks.

The headlight I won on ebay cost the same as the switch plate and includes the switch, headlight harness, original Bosch lense, and all those little internals in the diagram up above.

I also managed to get all the handlebar controls for $425 less than I would have paid to get the new.

Clutch lever & Switch (its upside down which is why it looks like a brake lever)

Brake lever, Throttle, and Switch

^ Both include their proper wiring. All three items came off the same motorcycle and these switches tied to the wires in that headlight where they also would have met the OEM wire harness (which I have). So this really will all just go together. Everything works, everything is in good condition (for being 40 years old). Just fucking excellent.

Now That savings is going to do two things. Its going to pay for the Speedometer/Tach I talked about in my last post. Its also going into the ignition budget. I have told you about the super duper high output alternator I’m getting for the bike:

Which’ll go here:

Well that company also makes a super duper ignition system. Its $100 more than the Dyna III ignition I was going to have to get since the PowerArc I have won’t fit this engine. I don’t have much bad to say about the Dyna ignition – its really quite good, it just relies on a lot of things to be in top repair for it to function perfectly and I don’t know how good all of those things are, and won’t know until I’m running the bike and having an ignition thats not functioning properly because the camshaft is worn (I don’t think it is, but it could be) would make diagnosing shit twice as complicated.

Now THIS ignition:

Which goes here:

It’s crank mounted, doesn’t care how the camshaft is doing, doesn’t care how the battery is doing, has better spark than the Dyna, etc. Also unlike the Dyna it’s not relying on pre-existing ignition parts to function, and unlike the Dyna the points ignition can (and will) be left completely intact so if it ever does fail I just change one wire and I’m back on the points instead of stranded. Also unlike the Dyna it functions with the original coils – that part isn’t a win because I don’t have the coils, but I had to buy coils no matter what I did because it turns out the coil I’ve got wouldn’t have worked with the Dyna either.

After I buy the Speedometer I’m done with Ebay, everything else can be bought from the same company which is even in New England.


Progress.. – 11 November 2013

The Suzuki is gone. I’ve sold the only new vehicle I ever bought with my own money. Something tells me it was probably the last new vehicle I’ll ever buy. I was sad to see it go, but at the same time happy to reclaim a little bit of garage space. Its now a hell of a lot easier to get to the other garage door and a lot easier to get to Jon’s Harley.

With the bike gone I then had the money to complete the purchases I needed to make for the sidecar rig. The last thing to buy on Ebay was of course the Speedo/Tach which I did, I bought this one:

I know that the 6 light sockets on the back don’t quite match the 4 lights visible on the front. There are two hidden under the divider that I assume are on whenever the headlight is on to light up the gauges at night. The Moto Guzzi is the only bike I’ve ever owned that had a gauge you could see at night, it’ll be interesting to see if BMW pulled it off.

Ebay proved very useful in this project, on it I was able to buy: Speedo/Tach, headlight with ignition switch, speedo & tach cables, speedo bracket, airbox, and all the handlebar controls. I was able to buy all of these things for $100 more than it would have cost for just the handlebar controls new. Thats pretty fucking good if I do say so myself.

Now on the scale of things I did have to buy new I know I’ve repeated myself a dozen times about the alternator & ignitions. What I haven’t really shown is the bits. This is where 1/3 of the budget went:

Budget easily broken down
⅓ = The bits in the above
⅓ = Ebay
⅓ = Engine electrics

While I was exploring other things today I came across a super clean /5 that as a result shows almost exactly what my handlebars & controls will look like. I say almost because this is Super clean and I’m not sure anything I own will ever look as pretty as this:

I did bid on a Speedo with a white face but that went for $400 and I wasn’t going to pay $400. Thats my headlight, my speedo, and my handlebar levers/switches.

I am thinking that I am going to ask my friend Brent if he remembers what color he painted my sidecar tub and when the gas tank is finished I will paint it to match. I’m considering painting the fenders the same color, I haven’t decided yet. They’re all aluminum and I dig the bare aluminum, but I also dig painted fenders. They aren’t aluminum for the look, they are for the fact that they won’t rust. I don’t know yet.

On a closing note I figured out the mirrors. Usually on bikes I put bar-end mirrors on but on this bike I’m going to try something new. New for me that is, this idea is at least twice as old as I am.

I rather like that, and also they wouldn’t be effected by the hippo hands:

Which is good because while I am committed to heated clothing I’m not yet committed to heated grips.

Also that red BMW is for sale, it’s $17,000. Thats why I have a Russian sidecar rig that I am slowly adding BMW parts to instead of just buying an old BMW sidecar rig. Besides, all the crazy shit I’ve done with and to the Russian rig… I’d never be able to live with myself had I done that stuff with/to a 50’s BMW.

Now we wait for the parts… *sigh*

Couple final parts – 12 November 2013

Did a very quick and simple shop at Arbalet which is a company in Kiev that sells Ural & Dnepr parts exceedingly cheap. Shipping with these folks usually takes about a month which would work out to be absolutely perfect.

The first part is a splitter to change the exhaust from two mufflers to just one. Getting rid of the muffler on the sidecar side for simplicity’s sake. The splitter cost $15 and looks like this:

The other part is the stock tractor seat, they cost $250 new here in the US. In Kiev they cost $70. The annoying bit is you can not order the driver’s saddle complete from any of the companies over there. But you can order the passenger’s saddle complete for that same $70.

As it happens the only difference between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat is the bracket, and I happen to already own the driver’s saddle bracket. They look like this:

Since I can comfortably ignore the 1 month wait to get these parts considering I’ve got to build the bike and get it running before either of these is at all important and I have bits that can get me through if there is a delay and the bike is running before my parts get here… Including shipping & handling my parts cost $130 less than just the stock seat would have cost had I bought it from a US Ural dealer. Which is a decent look at price gouging since the $70 seat is made in the same factory as the $250 seat considering they are the same seat.

Anyway, the airbox arrived today. The rest of the parts will be arriving between the 13th and the 15th. Then we get to start putting shit together.

The parts are beginning to arrive – 16 November 2013

A couple days it felt like Christmas as all the parts began to arrive at once. I’m still waiting on a few items including the coils, but for the most part I have what I need to go to work.

The airbox arrived, I can’t begin to mount it until after the gearbox has been united with the engine. The plan is to mount it directly to the starter cover on the engine then build up a base off the gearbox to meet it’s bottom edge. I will probably screw down the right side of the box to that built up section on the gearbox with the idea that unless I am pulling the gearbox off there is no reason to remove it. Then the left side of the box will screw to it when it goes together and that’ll be it.

The headlight, ignition key, and speedo all showed up at the same time. Headlight was as described including some pretty scary spider skeletons in webs. So dismantled that and vacuumed everything. The inside of the light not only included the wiring but all the little bits from the connection strip to the flasher relay. The speedo/tach is just lovely.

The levers with switches aren’t quite as good as I’d hoped. Don’t get me wrong, the savings between what they’d cost new and what I paid for these was about $400 so I’m not upset. But the push button part of the switches is fucked. So I’ll need to replace them in the near future. Probably in the start of December.

Spark plug cables with the metal caps do look pretty sharp =)

Super duper 450W alternator is looking Good. I want to install it and the ignition before the engine goes in the frame because I want them to tie into the harness before things get cluttered.



Here are a lot of the little bits that I had to buy, some are missing and will be arriving with the coils:

Among some of the little things that I’d bought was a new bolt & key for the tank toolbox. I already had these but I used the last one to replace the alternate version that had been put on the Ural 750’s toolbox. The Russian version was a 2 pronged key that you had to keep in 2 holes on the bolt surface to unthread it. The German version is a bolt with round hole through what would be the head that becomes a square hole at the end of it. The key has a square head to it. SO much better. So I bought another replica of it for the tank:

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