Saturday, December 18, 2010

1984 Suzuki RM125

The RM125s of the early 1980s had terrific rear suspension, cleverly named the Full Floater because the shock was isolated from solid connection to any hard frame parts by a linkage and a "dog bone" strut that was attached to the forward part of the swingarm. The strut pushed up on a pivot which transferred the forces down to the shock and toward the ground. This was one ground-hugging set up at a time when the motorcycle companies were still experimenting with different suspension systems.

I had been watching these bikes in races over the last couple of years, and even though their motors were not the fastest 125s at the time (I believe the Yamahas were king) the handling and suspension were great. I remember seeing Doug Dubach racing his 1981 Full Floater at Manning in a pro race. He was known for using his 1981 bike for several years after it was introduced, even though there were newer bikes out. Dubach was a journeyman pro paying his dues, and would go on to become a successful Yamaha factory rider, and would eventually reach the pinnacle of the sport with his win of an AMA supercross.

I had been admiring the Full Floaters from afar, and riding my Maico. I had a soft spot for the little yellow bikes, and wanted to get back to riding 125 after several years of riding 250s. So I went out and bought a new 1984 RM125 from Jack Overfield at State Sport. Excited for the maiden voyage on my new sled, I went up to one of my favorite tracks at point of the mountain, down below Widowmaker in the foothills. I was happy and pumped but I had no idea what I was in for with this bike.

It was trouble from the very beginning. I think it was the first ride, to be fair, that set the course for many mechanical problems that totally drove me crazy—riding was my thing, not wrenching.

What transpired on that first ride was I was just getting going around the rolling track and liking the killer rear suspension. Yes it worked with controlled precision just like I imagined. But, as I went through one particular G-out on the course, a dip with a small jump after, the back wheel suddenly stopped solid. Skidding to a stop, I saw that the chain had wrapped itself around the countershaft sprocket and doubled up in front, the dreaded chain suck. It was wedged tightly between the engine cases and the countershaft, so much that I had to pry it out with a large screwdriver, praying I would not crack the pretty magnesium cases.

Shortly after this first mechanical glitch, the transmission started acting up, missing gears and generally causing headaches and grief. I had the transmission rebuilt, but right after that work was done I experienced a heartbreaker of a blow up when I was going through the gears and suddenly the entire gearbox just completely lunched. I could feel the metal grinding and grating

between my feet... what a sad m
oment.

There were short periods where the bike would run fine, and tease me with the fun factor of slamming through whatever bumps might be on the track. I had some fun races on the bike, including racing at a cool track at Mt. Carmel Utah (shown). But the motor never ran well, and the bike was never fast. I have had some bikes that were just naturally good running and some that were faster than others of the same model and year, but I would say that this one was not happy from the start. Probably had something to do with the maiden voyage and that chain suck incident.

The last time I rode this bike was at the same track at Widowmaker I started the whole sad affair at. It was not running well and as I rode it just started to get slower and slower. I was having to use the clutch to keep it cooking enough to even make it up some of the small hills on the track, but I was having fun riding and I was disgusted at the same time. I should have had some mercy and stopped, but I just didn't care. Any amount of affection or pity I would usually feel for one of my beloved motorcycles was not there that day as I just rode her into the ground. The motor eventually lost all compression and I was forced to push it back to the truck. A sad ending to what was probably a better bike than it ever got credit for being.

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