Virago 250 exhaust – low cost 2-to-2 conversion

I just converted my Virago 250 exhaust from  2-to-1   to   2-to-2.

[for details. please see the  “Exhaust”  page]

2-to-2 for XV250 - the fake chrome pipe is not fake anymore

2-to-2 for XV250 – the fake chrome pipe is not fake anymore

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The best new bike for you might be parked outside already

The last part of my route home from work is I-95 North (from exit 15 to exit 33). Around Bridgeport (exit 26/27) the highway goes to 4 lanes – even 5 lanes in spots.  I think I learned how to survive on a motorcycle here – it goes from high speed to stopped, lane changes from any direction, a few aggressive drivers – on a motorcycle you need to be a really wide-awake driver, or your name shows up in the newspaper.

When the wind blows the bike around, I like feeling the power of mother nature – it reminds you who is in charge.  It’s fun, and only maybe once out of a 100 times, I feel like I am in danger.  Around exit 29, you can get the bad wind – the kind that goes from side to side. After I go over the bridge in Bridgeport, I always instinctively brace myself – I even do it when I am in my car.

On my commute home (I-95 N), after the bridge in Bridgeport, the speed finally picks up – 70 to 75 mph or more.  Now that I have 17/38 sprockets, I have been running faster through there than I normally do. From exit 30 to 32, the highway has lines of ruts that are not good for small motorcycles.  Going home Thursday, I think I hit every one of them.  I love my Virago 250, but my logical side immediately started with the “Why are you putting yourself through this?”

When I got home I found myself looking online at used bikes that I thought would ride better than mine. I want my next bike to have at least some of these: ABS, fuel injection, shaft drive, easy to work on, less than $4,000, and be interesting and sound good (so I’m excluding singles and most vertical twins for now). In order, my list was:  1) later model Moto Guzzi 750 Stone in white,  2) K75,   3) Triumph T100.

Moto Guzi V7 Stone - 2013 - white--   1987 BMW K-75T


By the end of the weekend, I had come to my senses and realized I already had a great bike.

The Virago 250 has a weak rear brake – I call it “poor man’s ABS” .  I recently put on new rear brake shoes, and last Thursday I heard a chirp on a hard stop on a bridge.  It is the  first time I ever locked the rear wheel, and it was just a quick chirp – the kind that cars with ABS sometimes make on sudden stops.  Cars with ABS do that.

[fuel injection]
The Virago 250 has one fairly simple carburetor – mine has always started easily and has had no issues with performance when cold (or hot).  For me the single carburetor has been more trouble-free than twin carb bikes I have owned.

[shaft drive] 
The Virago 250 has chain drive – I have a cheap o-ring chain – it has been problem free and seldom requires adjustment.

[easy to work on]
It would be very hard to find a motorcycle easier to work on than a Virago 250.

[be interesting and sound good]
The sound a Virago 250 makes is hypnotic/unbelievably cool.

[comfortable ride]
For the bumps and ruts near I-95 exits 30 to 32, I need to slow down and try harder to avoid hitting them. I can make my bike ride better by not hitting the bumps.

The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Les S.'s 2002 Virago 250

Les S.’s 2002 Virago 250

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17/38 sprockets made my Virago 250 faster – higher gearing is not always slower

I just changed (from 17/40) to 17/38 sprockets and drove it to work today with 17/38 for the first time.

As expected, it ”moves up” the speed range for each gear.  If you used to go 35 to 50 mph in 4th gear, for example, now you would go 40 to 55 mph.  A lot of my commute is 50 mph and hilly, so I was in 4th gear a lot where I used to be in 5th gear.  Fourth gear is more comfortable than before at 50 to 55 mph – 5th gear is less comfortable at 50 to 55 mph.  Fifth does not climb hills as easily as before.

So basically with 17/38 you stay in lower gears than before and use 5th more for highway use.

In my opinion,  17/38 is the proper stock setup, and 17/40 is good if your carry a passenger, have heavy accessories, or your engine is not running at it’s best.

Sunstar[divider]   steel 38T Virago 250 rear sprocket $31.46 shipped step 1 (lumin wild) - Copy--

Not expected – Here is what I found out that I did not expect:

17/38 makes the Virago 250 slower faster

It would be easy to think that higher gearing (17/38) would result in slower acceleration – it does not, since you are usually in a lower gear. Since I was driving in lower gears, the bike felt like it had more acceleration today – it felt like it had more horsepower. I was driving in lower gears than normal, revving the engine more, and driving harder than normal.  I got 71.7 mpg the first day (includes some test rides) and 77.2 mpg the second day (my recent average was 79.1 mpg)

1 HEADER step 8 - vincent


With 17/38 sprockets, 5th gear on the Virago 250 is most usable above 60 mph.

Torque Curve chart - Virago 250 (stp12)

Miles per hour
The Virago 250 greatest torque (between 4500 and 6200 rpm) is this road speed (indicated) in 5th gear:
17/38/130/stock front tire         59 to 81.1 mph

17/38/130/larger front tire         56.4 to 77.6  mph

17/38/140/stock front tire         60.9 to 83.7 mph

17/38/140/larger front tire         58.3 to 80.1 mph

Kilometres per hour
The Virago 250 greatest torque (between 4500 and 6200 rpm) is this road speed (indicated) in 5th gear:
17/38/130/stock front tire         95 to 130.5 kph

17/38/130/larger front tire         90.8 to 124.9 kph

17/38/140/stock front tire         98 to 134.7 kph

17/38/140/larger front tire         93.8 to 128.9 kph

    [stock front tire  3.00×18     —    “larger” front tire   100/90-18]   

1 HEADER step11 royal_enfield    _v-twin_exhaust


That ↑ was the good news.

Now here is the bad news.

17/38 works so well because you can be in a lower gear – except over 65 to 70 – when you are in top gear.  Fifth gear does not climb hills as easily as before and strong headwinds affect the bike more – this is expected, but is still a downside of 17/38 – “less power” over 65 to 70 mph (because you can be only in 5th gear).

Fifth gear with 17/40 is a little stronger that 17/38.  A six-speed transmission would be cool – on the highway, you could choose to travel in either 5th or 6th gear – depending on the wind, hills, and other conditions.

For me, with 17/38 I have  more power less than 65 mph (because I can be in a lower gear) and  less power over 65 mph (5th gear).

The Virago 250 is still very good on the highway for a 250cc bike – and it has a great midrange torque for  a 250.

  Update August 5, 2013 – This morning there was a strong headwind coming to work.  Now that I have a 38 tooth rear sprocket, in 5th gear, it was bogging – reminding me of my CB160.  When I got to work, I kept thinking that I should have gotten a 39 tooth rear sprocket instead…………..


Virago 250 rear sprocket data

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Out of gas – but now I know how far I can go on reserve

I95 southern CT--

Today I let my Virago 250 run out of gas on purpose.
I carried some spare fuel so I could do this.
If you were on I-95N in Norwalk, CT, (in bumper to bumper traffic) about 5:00 PM today – yes, that was me.

Virago 250 gas tank - Les S (cartnpic2)

If you refill to a level about one
inch from the top, the usable capacity
of the Virago 250 tank is 2.34 gallons.

Tank capacity   2.34 gallons total
1.68 gallons Main         .66 gallons Reserve

I do not always fill the tank that high – so keep in mind that if you don’t fill to about an inch from the top, it won’t hold as much.  For example, your usable capacity might be 2.2 gallons.

Virago 250 range in miles (chart2 - paper01 border)

Virago 250 range in kilometers

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Virago 250 speeds-in-gears charts 17/38 and 17/40

  See end of post for  paper tachometer overlay  you can print out and put on your Virago 250 speedometer.

I was driving to work this morning and I just happened to notice that my exhaust note was an “E” pitch at an indicated 50 mph in 4th gear.

The “E” is 82.407 Hz; multiplied by 60 equals 4,944.42 rpm.
(Hertz multiplied by 60 equals rpm.)

Using this information, I made new Virago 250 speeds-in-gears charts.

(Speeds-in-gears charts already exist for the Virago 250, but I did not know if these charts were corrected for speedometer error.  My 2002 Virago 250 speedometer is 6.8% optimistist, and these charts reflect that.)

XV250 speeds in gears - 17 Front - 38 Rear


XV250 speeds in gears - 17 Front - 40 Rear


Once you have the above chart for your sprocket combination, it is easy to “make your own tach” by carefully sticking tiny numbers on the face of your speedometer.  You can fit gears 3 and 4 below the mph area, gears 1 and 2 above the mph area (on the left side of the chrome trim ring) and gear 5 above the mph area (on the right side of the chrome trim ring).  Having the 5 gears in three different sections of the speedometer make it easier to follow, as opposed to have all 5 together.  You need only numbers 4 and 6 (for 4,000 rpm and 6,000 rpm) and then you can just put in dots for the 3, 5, and 7.  How does it work?  I don’t know yet – it rained today……  (edit – it rained tomorrow, too).

Two methodsindividual numbers, or an overlay. You can stick-on individual numbers, or you can add an overlay – see below.  The individual numbers are probably better if your vision is not so great.  The overlay is not as easy to read, but if your vision is really good, you might like it.  The overlay would be better is the numbers were bigger and if you put it inside the speedometer – that way, it would not hide the speedometer needle and it would be out of the elements.

My theme for this bike is “low-budget functional” – so I could not buy a tach.  I try to make parts whenever I can.  Sometimes my experiments work out and sometimes they don’t.  If it does work out, I might take the speedometer apart and put the tiny numbers on the actual faceplate.  This would be easier to do and easier to read – since now I am putting the numbers on the glass, which is maybe 10 mm above the faceplate so with different viewing angles, you get slightly different results.  (The term is “parallax error” – I just try to avoid using big words.  When I lived in Kentucky, I got a job at an electronics store, and Tim and Mark made me sell cameras instead of the “fun” stuff – that is where I learned that.)

Most people would just buy a tach if they wanted one – this idea is for someone who is short on funds.  It is easy to read (once you get used to it) and is accurate.

XV250 speedometer marked for rpm

XV250 speedometer marked for rpm


white tach face for xv250 speedo 17-40 stock front tire (step8-220x192)

(Oh, I did not know about gauge overlays until a few minutes ago…..)
Here are two overlays for the Virago 250 speedometer for 17/40 sprockets and stock front tire.  The outside numbers are 1st gear rpm.  The innermost numbers are 5th gear rpm.
I have to print it from “Paint” to get the right size – the printed area should measure 2 1/16 inches or 53 mm wide.

(same scale as above jpg)

(same scale as above jpg)

Cut off the blank areas so all that all that is left is mostly the numbers.
Yellow highlight the 2nd gear range.  Green highlight the 4th gear range (don’t cover up the numbers).  At this point, it will look something like this:
white-tach-face-for-xv250-speedo-17-40-stock-front-tire-step8-220x192-- --
If you tape it on the glass of your speedo in just the right position for your sprocket combination, it will be accurate.  For example, for 17/40, position it so that 5,000 rpm in 3rd gear lines up with 40 mph  (17/38 would be 42 mph).  After I use it a while, I will post a more accurate one, but this one is fairly accurate.

(If your friends laugh at it, tell them the no-cost paper tachometer is more accurate than the bike’s speedometer.)


  edit 6/13/13 – The idea above ↑   is for someone who is short on funds or just wants to have a tach’s function without paying for it.  Of course, a real tachometer – a round one –  would be better…..

Bobster’s Virago 250 with tach

Bobster’s Virago 250 with tach

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First ride of the year

2002 Yamaha Virago 250 - Les S.

2002 Yamaha Virago 250 – Les S.

09 March 2013 – First ride of the year

• Today I went for my first ride in a few months.

38 inches of snow - the two big lumps are cars (09 Feb 2013 blizzard Stratford CT)

38 inches of snow – the two big lumps are cars (09 Feb 2013 blizzard Stratford CT)

I live in the northeastern US – we got 38 inches of
snow a few weeks ago – so I am really ready for spring.
It started right up!  I have been cranking it every
month or two, but I was still impressed.  I have
to remind myself not to bother to pull the plugs or touch the carb this year.  I added a thermometer last year  – a cool thing to have on a bike – and it read  56° or 57° on the ride.  I have a carb heater indicator light and the carb heaters were “on” the whole time.

Virago 250 - rear carb heater wire is marked red-purple - front carb heater is red-yellow

Virago 250 – rear carb heater wire is marked red-purple – front carb heater is red-yellow

The Virago 250 carb heater  sensor functions like a simple on-off switch and is set to turn “ON”at about  52° F or 11.1 C  and “OFF” at 58° F  or  14.4°C.  So at  52°F and below  the carb heaters are “on”   – and at  53° F (11.7°C) or higher  they are “off”. My bike has two carb heaters – combined they use about 50 watts – my voltage meter drops from 13.3 volts to 12.8 volts when the carb heaters are “on”.

 • I just put on a smaller tire, but I do not think I could tell a difference on this first ride. With the 130 tire, the bike should be faster due to the 4.5 lbs less weight, 3% lower gear ratio, plus the weight is  rotating weight – which is the most beneficial weight-reduction thing you can do.  It felt solid – I think some people are hyped by a larger tire (I was) and they believe that it gives a better, safer ride, but I am not sure – the 140 has maybe a 13mm [1/2 inch] wider footprint, but the load weight per inch would be lower, so you might not necessarily get a better, safer ride.  This might not be a valid comparison, but sometimes when you go from a narrow tire to a wider tire, on muddy roads the wider tire actually makes things worse, because the skinnier tire gets more weight per inch.

130/90-15 Kenda on Virago 250 wheel

130/90-15 Kenda on Virago 250 wheel

• The ride felt  “just like old times” – maybe I felt “safe” because I drove it a lot of miles last year.  Sometimes when I ride a bike for the first time after a long winter, it feels a little strange.
•  For a test ride, I usually turn around at the commuter lot before Rt 15.  But when I got there, I just kept right on going.  I kept heading north on Rt 110 until I got to Shelton, then I turned around.  That’s what happens, when you ride a motorcycle……

• Before I got this bike, I wondered if the 250 would be too slow for me.  The weird thing is, about  95% of the time, the Virago 250 never feels slow or underpowered to me.  Maybe because of the good mid-range torque, or maybe because the engine is so responsive, or maybe because I subconsciously (unconsciously?) cut it a little slack for being only 250cc.  I am  almost never at full throttle, and it always seems like I am just an  easy twist away  from speeding.  On my CB160 at age 16, I had it wide open all the time.  I am a lot heavier now, so my Virago 250 is only about 10% faster than my CB160 was.

Big Bike vs. Little Bike – opinion.   Here is my opinion on the big bike vs. little bike question.

Safer – lower top speeds
1).. Little bikes are safer than big bikes in that they won’t do the really high top speeds, which is dangerous.

Less safe – stability
2).. Little bikes are more dangerous than big bikes when you compare the stability of most larger bikes.

More challenging to drive – less acceleration
3).. Little bikes are more challenging than big bikes to drive because you don’t have a lot of power to get you out of situations – you have to plan ahead when wanting to pass someone. (In the olden days I drove 36hp and 40hp Volkswagens, so I had to learn about planning ahead and building up speed and using your momentum when you want to pass another car.)

Virago 250 power:  challenging but not frustrating
4).. The low power of the Virago 250 is challenging, but not low enough to be frustrating – it does 0-60 in 10.5 to 11 seconds, so it is about as fast as the average car – so if you are driving aggressively, and the person in the car is not, you can usually out-accelerate them.

Virago 250 power:  not under-powered enough to be dangerous
5).. The low power makes it more challenging to drive, but not more frustrating, and not more dangerous – 11 seconds 0-60 does not make a vehicle more dangerous, and 100 hp does not make a motorcycle safer.  Some people use the “powerful bike is safer” as an excuse to get a big bike, but in my opinion, it is not a valid argument.  I am guilty, too – and I have to use that excuse when/if I get a different bike in 3 ½ years ….

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TOP TEN TIPS FOR 2013 (for Virago 250 motorcycles)

TOP TEN TIPS FOR 2013  (for Virago 250 motorcycles)

(important stuff I learned in 2012 – not just  “paint your master link white”  tips – some of these could save your life.)

1)  The magic reflective vest – about $7 or $8.

In March of 2012, I got an orange reflective vest for $6.39.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Immediately, people starting giving me more respect.  For the most part, people stopped pulling out in front of me and also stopped tail-gating.  I have seen many drivers start to change lanes, and then they see me and do not make the lane change.  You should consider wearing a light-colored vest (yellow, orange, or green) when you ride a motorcycle.

reflective vest - it's magic           motorcycle_reflective           ????????

I do a few more things that can make drivers notice me better:  I wear a white helmet, and I have a white front license plate (black letters) and two front auxiliary driving lights (white, but yellow is better).

Two very important ways to avoid collisions on a bike is to increase your following distance and wear a reflective vest.

Get a vest – you will be amazed – and your spouse/significant other will rest a little easier when you are out on the bike………

2)  The weak rear brake on the Virago 250 is actually a safety feature  (“poor man’s ABS”).  I have never locked up the rear brake on the XV250, but on my other bike I have locked up the rear brake (and sliding/fishtailing) several times in emergency stops on I95.  In most motorcycle accidents, the front brake is applied too lightly and the rear brake is applied too hard.   If you have a Virago 250, practice using the front brake more effectively.

3)  On low-powered bikes like the Virago 250,  weight reduction makes a big difference in increased performance  (improved acceleration and reduce stopping distances), especially with wheels and tires which reduce rotating weight and unsprung weight.
I took some seats out of my car this year (weight 90 lbs – I noticed a huge difference in low speed acceleration and hill-climbing ability), and my wife had to yell at me for a month until I put them back in.
Please see this posting:    “Make your Virago 250 faster – take off the weight”

4)  Blind spot flashers – aimed forward and to the sides – at about a 45° angle – I believe that they help prevent cars from pulling into your lane when you are in their blind spot and they can’t see you.  They can be used two different ways –
a) leave them “on” continuously when in heavy traffic, or
b) turn them on for only a few seconds when you see a car looking to go into your lane, and then immediately turn them off.

blind spot flashers face forward at a 45 degree angle---

5)  It is  easy to grease wheel bearings yourself.   This works for my bike, but your bike might be different.
1)  Carefully remove the rubber grease seals with a small screwdriver.
2a) Remove wheel bearing, remove old grease, and pack bearing with new grease, OR do it the easy way –
2b) With grease seal removed, remove the old grease from the metal bearing cover. The cover has holes, so you can use the rubber grease seal to force fresh grease through these holes into the bearings.  Put fresh grease on the metal bearing cover, then carefully push the rubber grease seal to make a little hydraulic pressure which will force the grease through the holes. Do it maybe 3 or 4 times until you see grease coming out the other side.

wheel bearing and seal_                                           wheel bearings and grease seals

6)  “Partially expose front sprocket” by removing lower part of front sprocket cover.

Advantages of this mod:
1) You can remove the front sprocket or chain without having to remove the front sprocket cover.
2) You can polish the front sprocket and you can keep that area clean. On the bikes that I have owned, that area always has lots of dirt and grease.
3) You get the  more mechanical “look” of having an exposed front sprocket, but with some safety since the top part is retained.

delete L side plastic cover, polish + waterproof volt reg, expose front sprocket by removing lower part of cover-p-c

I do not recommend this mod as it reduces safety. (If you do it anyway, make sure your chain is in excellent condition and you always wear boots when you ride.)

7)  If your air filter has a foam element, use only  real air filter oil. (I used olive oil and the wind blew it all over me and the bike.) You can lose a lot of power and your air filter won’t even look dirty – so clean or replace it once a year.

air filter oil                air filter oil2

8)  The voltage regulator runs too hot  on some Virago 250’s – I measured the temperatures on mine and listed some of them below.
Basically, mine stays cool if the bike is moving, but gets too hot in stop-and-go traffic or idling.

delete L side plastic cover, polish + waterproof volt reg, expose front sprocket by removing lower part of cover-closeup persp lum crv lbl

Common reading of voltage regulator:
106° F to 109° F (at 79° F ambient – on the highway at 65 mph)

Highest reading:
125° F (when moving over 50 mph – ambient 88° F)
152° F (in stop-and-go traffic – ambient 88° F)

Lowest reading:
86° F (when moving over 50 mph – ambient 66° F)
Do not idle the Virago 250 for more than about a minute, if possible.
The voltage regulator will get too hot – idling for 3 minutes it will go up to 142 degrees F or more.

Common reading:
41° C to 43° C  (at 26° C ambient – on the highway at 105 kph)

Highest reading:
52° C (when moving over 80 kph – ambient 31° C)
67° C (in stop-and-go traffic – ambient 31° C)

Lowest reading:
30° C (when moving over 80 kph – ambient 19° C)
Do not idle the Virago 250 for more than about a minute, if possible.
The voltage regulator will get too hot – idling for 3 minutes it will go up to 61 degrees C or more.

(I know, I know – I need to work on my math skills)

Hope you have a very good year in 2013  – Les S.

PS   Just found this today.  Rubber hood latch – it is normally used for semi trucks but it looks like it could be used for something on a motorycle.  I’m just trying to figure out for what.

Rubber Hood Latch Bungee Latch Battery Latch w Bracket & Pin


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