Transalp Engine Strip (part 1)

Step-by-step with notes on the strip down of my Honda Transalp engine. Never a happy-event (usually because of the reasons why the rebuild was necessary)

After the crack in the RH crankcase, near the oil pressure switch became a failure, and that the attempted fix with Devcon F2 Aluminium Putty was exactly trustworthy, decided that it was time for the strip down of the engine, in prep for a weld to be used.

In preparation, I done a quick read of the Haynes manual and made a note of the correct order of doing things. Also, I’d found all the plastic trays I had ready to ensure the parts were laid out in the correct order.

In terms of specials tools required, the only thing I had to obtain was an M22/1.5p RH thread flywheel puller. I ordered a Sealey 10pc flywheel puller set, which includes this size, as I’ve other bikes and usually have to locate the right size puller. You may also want to get a tool to hold the flywheel when removing the primary drive bolt and the flywheel bolt; there is a way of doing it without (see below), but I’ve also order a cheap and handy tool

|ssl21909.jpg|Engine removed from the bike and on the bench ready for work.
.Removal from the bike is straightforward and with the use of a jack can be done on your own.|
|Remove the oil pipes|Carefully removed the oil pipes from both cylinders, before removing the cylinder head covers. They seem pretty fragile, so was careful|
|Cylinder Head Covers Removed|Cylinder head covers removed, fairly straightforward. I did both at the same time, then worked on the front cylinder for the following steps, before starting on the rear cylinder|
|Parts carefully laid out|Although the different parts are marked, like the cams, I carefully put the front and rear cylinder components in different containers. I did the front cylinder first before moving to the rear. |
|Removed the rotor cover|The inspection covers and the crankshaft rotor bolt cover are well mangled so had to remove the whole cover to turn the crank|
|Measuring camchain wear|Prior to removing the cam and camchain sprocket, needed to slacken the camchain tensioner. To check wear on the camchains, you need to measure the height of the large wedge on the top of the tensioner. According to the Haynes, if the wedge sits up higher than 20mm then there the camchains are worn, and this was the case on my engine.|
|Cylinder Head and Camshaft|Cylinder Head with Camshafts|
|Cylinder Head|Head with camshaft removed|
|Head and Barrels|Removing the head and barrels|
|Pistons|Removing pistons|
|Clutch Cover|Clutch cover removal|
|Loosening the clutch nut|Clutch removal|
|Clutch removed|After the clutch|
|Gear selector| |
|Gear selector plate removed|Gear selector|
|Gear Selector (another view)| |
|Removing the dowel| |
|Primary drive bolt|Primary Drive bolt/sprocket removal|
|Flywheel bolt| Flywheel / rotor bolt |
|Dead Beta Strap Wrench| |
|Flywheel bolt off| |
|Cleaning up the wound| The problem and reason for strip|

Gremlin Found….eventually

Either side of a trip to Paris, I managed to resolve the electrical problem with the Transalp I encountered the previous weekend

After the pushing the bike back the mile into the workshop, I though it was going to a fairly trivial exercise in finding the problem connector and getting the bike running again.

Running round with multimeter didn’t locate any problems and it still wasn’t clear while I wasn’t getting a spark on any of the 4 plugs. Whilst in Paris, I located the official Honda manual for 1989 VK models and downloaded it. It provides more information of the electrics that in the Haynes manual, though the latter does have a colour wiring diagram.

Back in the shed, it seemed to me that the ‘safety’ features (neutral, stop switch etc) were the likely cause. Its not explained in the Haynes clearly, that the for the 1st two years, the models (VH, VJ ) came without the sidestand switch, so at least that removed it from equation. The neutral switch and been intermittent for a while and meant the bike would only start with the clutch pulled in, so a new one was ordered from David Silver Spares along with the much needed plug spanner.

Fitting the switch and checking this circuit still didn’t resolve the problem, so moved onto the rectifier / regulator. Whilst not part of the ignition circuit, it might be a problem. Using the chart in the Honda manual infact condemned it, as where there was meant to be continuity there was none. However, bit wary of these results and moved.

The dodgy connector

Checking the input to the CDI units revealed an interesting result. The black/white feed (via the stop switch) should have provide battery input with the ignition on, but only showed 2v, rather than 12v. The voltage at the switch was correct on both sides, and with assistance fro m Gavin who come round to assist the problem solving proved this, as taking an independent feed from the battery to one of the CDI units produced a spark.

It then took another 30 minutes or so to locate the offending connector, underneath and to the right of the instrument block. It was leaking to earth and after a clean-up and spray with contact cleaner, the bike was back running.

CDI units

So the moral of this tale:
– the electrical connectors on a 23 year old bike, do need checking and cleaning, even if it is a Honda
– than even on a fairly simple circuit like the Transalp, there is still of work needed to track down problems.
– both the Haynes and the Honda manual do not provide enough information on the electrical system for your bike; the rectifier tests in particulatr are misleading and could induce the unnecessary purchase of a new unit
– get it there: the only way to understand the electrics is to use the wiring diagram as a map and work your way around

Transalp electrics

Over the last couple of weeks, I decided to work on the Transalp in an attempt to find out why I was getting ‘drop-out’ at certain times on what I think was the front cylinder.

As with all these things, Pandora’s box was opened and a few other gremlins were located and not all currently fixed.

As I’d found out on North Uist with damp, cold conditions the bike would get cylinder drop out. On my KTM Adventure, this is down to carb icing and the factory recalls/mods have added electric heaters to rectify it (sort of).

The early XL600V’s like my VH don’t have any carb heating, but I wasn’t convinced of this and after reading through the Transalp Forums I though it could be electrical, or with the carbs needing a service.

No Spark (1)

Put the bike into the shed and decided to give it a service and also started to check the wiring. After looking at a couple of connectors, cleaning them contact spray and 1600 grade wet-and-dry, I found that I’d got no spark. I went back through the connectors I’d just cleaned and the connector from the alternator to the reg/rectifier (3 yellow wires) seemed to be the culprit and after 20 minutes or so, had got a spark back. Seemed to justify continuing to go through the electrics


Decided to run through and check the plugs and whilst the rear cylinder plugs were slightly black, indicating running rich, the front plugs had slightly white tips, ie running lean. I’d changed the plugs 2500 miles earlier, but not too bad.

Front cylinder spark plug

I decided to remote the air duct and carbs, mainly to check the inlet rubbers, but also cleaned the choke at the same time. Decided not to disassemble the carbs at this point. The intet rubbers were fine, but the air duct round the front cylinder carb had cracked around the connector for the carb mouth, so fixed that with some impact adhesive.

Air Filter

I’d bought a K&N Air Filter having read about the positive effects on fuel consumption and the running rich syndrome that my Transalp, like a lot ot others, suffers from. At £32 including postage it wasn’t too bad, and the supplier on ebay, ybfilters was very good.

Carb Balancing

The carbs were balanced once warm, though I notice the front carb was running weaker when cold and when the choke was out; Therefore may need to re-visit the choke mechanism on the front carb.

Carb balancing

Heated Grips

I also decided to fit a pair of Motrax heated grips, as I’d never had a bike with them before. Anyway took about 90 minutes to fit and took the supply from the ignition feed, therefore solving the problem of running the battery down if I left them on.

There a lot of wire and the connectors from the grips and the control box to the fuse box and then to the battery all seemed to be in the wrong place; that is just behind the headstock. Anyway all sorted and they seemed to work well

No Spark [2

I ran the bike up in the workshop whilst balancing the carbs and after putting the bodywork on, decided to take it on a short test run round the lanes from the house. Unfortunately about a mile from the house, it just stopped, which what initially looked like a recurrence of the electrical problem (above). With the assistance of a neighbour out walking his dog managed to push the bike up the hill to the house.

Basically, the starter motor will turn, there are lights and other electrics, but there’s no spark at the plugs.

Back in the shed, checked the connector and seemed ok, but still no spark at the rear cylinder, left-hand plug. Checked the front right plug also, and no spark their either. Then started to do some more systematic checks:
– using the fuse holder for ignition (Fuse D on the Haynes wiring diagram) checked the continuity to the RH CDI unit (black-white cable) and this was ok
– checked the continuity for both the alternator->rectifier connector block and for the rectifier -> ignition blocks and seemed ok
– the neutral switch has been intermittent since I’ve had it and works only sometimes if the bike is warm and on the sidestand (?). I guess this is why i have to depress the clutch to start, even when the bike is in neutral (?). Checked and removed the switch and it does seems knackered (ie no continuity to ground with neutral engaged)
– stripped and cleaned the kill switch. Interesting, I’d notice before, with “kill” selected, the starter motor will still turn, rather than killing all the electrics.

So a puzzling problem, which will have to wait till Thursday as I’ve got to France for work (not by bike this time). At one point during the run through, I did have no electrics, but this was in turn due to a loose connector by the headstock for the live feed (red wire) from the ignition.

Fettling the Transalp

Since its inaugral run to Cardiff, done some mods and tuning to the Transalp

After the run to Cardiif and the subsequent false start on a London trip decided to do some further work on the Transalp.

Carb Balance

I got one of the trials bike petrol tanks and extended the fuel lines
I hadn’t used the Carbtune balancers since I has my Tenere, but easy to use with the Transalp, once I’d found an adapter for the front cylinder; unscrew the blanking plug and use the the vacuum inlet nipple for the rear cylinder.

Carb balancing

With the Transalp you need a long screwdriver to adjust the balance through the hole in the air inlet duct. It wasn’t too far out, but was to adjust to get them to the same level.


Speedo: km to mph

Also tracked down on ebay was a set of original VH model clocks, in mph. As I think the bike is infact a French import and that some how it had got an MOT on the km/h clocks.

When the clocks arrived they were in a sorry state, with a crack in the glass and looking a bit scruffy. Also someone had chopped the cable block and fitted lots of bullet connectors instead. I should have asked some more questions before procurement, ah well. Decided to strip both my km/h and the mp/h clocks and just simply swap the dial and mechanism for the speedo.

It is actually easier than it looks and the casing comes apart fairly easily. The only problem with the new mp/h is that the trip odometer seems to be knackered, but at least I can report accurately that the Transalp has a cruising speed of around 70 – 75 mph, as well as pass the next MOT

Front Brake Line Replacement

I bought a Goodridge hose set from good old ebay and somehow, got both front and rear brake lines for £23. Given that the bike is pre-1990, I now have a spare rear brake hose.

The early model Transalps have an interesting layout for the front brake hose, with two flexible sections connected together by a fixed pipe attached to the bottom yoke. Took all this out and replaced it with the single piece of braided hose from Goodridge.

There are a host of threads (and suggestions) on bleeding brakes on the Transalp forums . Interestingly enough, well only if you are seriously into early transalps then the original master cylinders do have a bleed valve, probably to allow for the possibility of getting air in the [horizontal section of solid line ->] which seems to have caused some debate.

Brake Hose Renewal

For me what worked was using a 60ml syringe and an old piece of plastic tube and pushing the fluid in from the bottom up. After a quick look at the Haynes and various threads on websites, the traditional ‘pump-like-a-wally’ method was going to take a while. 10 minutes of trying it anyway proved unsuccessful, so once I’d clean out the bleed valve on the caliper (good advice to do this), it took all of 5 minutes to have a fully working front brake.

Top tips (from me and others) when changing brake lines or servicing the brakes:
– bottom up with a syringe full DOT4 brake fluid works best. Make sure you cover the bike around the master cylinder as you are likely to push fluid out of the top. The overall volume of caliper, hose and cylinder is pretty small
– use the traditional method of 4 pulls on the brake lever and then slacken off the bleed valve on the caliper to get a firmer feel. Ensure that the plastic tube end from the bleed valve is submerged in brake fluid.
– another good trick, is to tape the brake lever back to the bars overnight; this also (slowly) gets air out of the line and is a good emergency measure if you do get some air in the system (say from low master cylinder level). Thanks to Roger for that top trick.

There is still a little too much play in the brake lever before moving the cylinders mightly towards the single front disk, but with look at this further, At over 5mm, the front disk has plenty of life in to for the moment. The pads are wearing evenly and not down to their wear indicators, but potentially need replacing a 1000 or some miles


The bike now has Metzler Sahara 3 tyres front and rear. Yep, I know they are a little more off-road focused but the front and rear do tend to hold the road pretty well. On a recent trip the rear did skip out on a white line when going round the roundabout at the bottom of the A419 in Gloucester, but then lots of tyres do. Personally think they’ll be ok, but will keep an eye on the tyre wear.

Have a trip out into mid-Wales in a couple of weeks so will give them ago across to Tregaron and see how they perform on gravel and in the dirt. I do like a chunky tyre though.

Soft Panniers

Acquired some nice Belstaff soft panniers from eBay, prior to the planned trip to Scotland. The only issue being the stock exhaust and its location on the right hand side. Whilst it may get swapped out at somepoint, for now decided to put a plate over the exhaust to prevent the exhaust and pannier bag meeting.

With some scrap galvanised, managed to paint it up and fit it between the RH side panel and the rear indicator. Have left a large air gap between plate and exhaust, partly for cooling but to also ensure that the weight of the panniers doesn’t force it onto the exhaust.

Crankshaft End Cap

The cap is completly knackered, and well rounded off. An attempt to remove it with a flat head fitment to my impact driver also wasn’t successful. I managed to do the valve clearances on the rear cylinder without it, but going to need to think of a way of removing (and potentially replacing it) before working on the front cylinder.

Honda Transalp

For some reason, I’ve always liked Transalp’s, that is the early 600 models

So, the combination of Sunday afternoon and itchy ebay finger meant I ended up with a 1987 XL600VH Transalp, from the first year of production.

Transalp at Storey Arms

The combination of 80’s trail bike looks, reasonable size and something different to ride on the road has been great. For £700, I think I’ve got a pretty good bike for a blind buy. It was imported (I think from Italy) in 2004 and the panels, frame and engine are all corrosion free and still have that Honda quality finish.

Work done

Since I’ve had the bike, I’ve done the following:
– engine oil change; I’ve gone for Motul 20/40 semi-synthetic which was about £20 and came with a free Hiflow filter from LM Spares
– valve clearances: as this is the original model, the clearances are a lot finer than on the later engines; there wasn’t much adjustment required
– tyres: the front Pirelli Scorpion A/T has perished walls, so needed to be changed and the Bridgestone BT45 Trailwing on the rear is coming to end of life. I fancied something different on tyres and after reading the extensive thread on the Transalp forum I went with some Metzler Sahara’s (I know, I know….) as planning to some of the off-road bits round home. The front went straight on and once scrubbed in, ran really well on a trip to Cardiff in the wet with good feel. The rear is yet to be fitted, but has less rubber/road contact than the front

To be done

There are some niggly bits to finish
– the clocks are in Kmh (its an import) and have no stickers or mods which therefore surprises me how it has an MOT certificate. Will probably go for one of the Motrax mechanical convertors but still waiting to see how the bike performs. There are some original MPH clocks at David Silver Spares which are pretty reasonable (the VH ones being cheaper than the later 600 models).
– the brake master cylinder cap screws are rounded off and will need drilling out and replacing. Also, as its an early single front disc model I am thinking of replacing the hoses with replacement Goodridge hoses .
– front spindle clamp has a broken stud on the bottom of the fork. This needs extracting and replacing
– carb balacing. On the list of things to check, something I do a lot since frying a piston on a Yamaha XS500 I once had.

So whats it like ?

Really as expected. Not too quick, but solid, stable and great in traffic. The test run of a 120 mile round trip to Cardiff (with detours) was a good start for the bike. The engine thumps along and pulls ok from 4000 rpm and above. All in all, excellent for a 21 year old bike.