Reader Question: Two Stroke Issues?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Chris asks: I really enjoyed your article on the old two-strokes and it reignited my desire to have one (I almost had one back in the ’80s but never pulled the trigger) but wanted to know what the pros and cons of two-stroke bikes are. Can you help?

My reply: Two strokes are simpler; there is no valvetrain and so no valves or cam chains or “top end” to adjust or rebuild. A rebuild consists of honing/boring/replacing the cylinder barrels, new pistons and rings and new crank seals – plus a gasket set. That’s pretty much the works.

Two-strokes are also higher-maintenance, including while you ride. Because they burn oil they have a tendency to foul plugs – which is why bikes like my ’75 S1 came with an extra set under the seat. Alway carry a set of fresh plugs.

They are also finicky and you have to keep up with the oil as well as the gas, which they burn exorbitantly. My little 250 uses twice as much gas as my four-stroke 900 (kz900) of the same vintage.

Most of all, they have a vicious power curve – almost nothing at low RPM and then everything, all at once, at higher RPM. This makes them sick fun but also dangerous if you’re not experienced and harder to drive in traffic than the more tractable four-strokes.

I recommend riding one before you buy one!

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Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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