Nutting, Bolting, Renewing and Creating Luck, Ienatsch Tuesday | Cycle World

Ienatsch Tuesday

Nutting, Bolting, Renewing… and Creating Luck

Open the toolbox. Let’s nut and bolt

Yamaha FZ750 in road
Can a 32-year old bike feel new again? Possibly, and it sure is fun trying.

Nick Ienatsch

I’ve noticed something lately that has been echoed by my friends: We are enjoying working on our bikes almost as much as riding them! Can’t say this was true 20 years ago, but now at age 55, it is most definitely true. I love being in my shop with a bike on the bench and a plan for tinkering and modifying.

Sometimes the work is straightforward maintenance, sometimes simple cleaning, but the two main reasons I work on stuff are; one, safety and two, trying to make a used bike feel like a new bike.

Safety and Luck

In racing, we call it a “nut and bolt”, as in: Steve Biganski gave my TZ a quick nut and bolt after every practice. Just as it sounds, you grab wrenches, screwdrivers and any other tool needed and run up one side of your bike and down the other, tightening and checking any nut, bolt or screw you can reach. Tools get spread out all over the place and you’re constantly swapping them as you come across the various fasteners. It looks like a bomb blast, but you know what Einstein said about cluttered and clean desks.

Metric bolt torque spec settings chart
(Torque in foot-pounds)

Metric bolt torque spec settings chart

Metric bolt torque spec settings chart

Courtesy of

Proper torque spec varies depending on the material, bolt grade or if lubrication is used such as oil, wax, or antisieze. Always go to the manufacturer for proper torque specs. The chart above is approximate values and have not been validated for accuracy. The numbers above have been compiled from a couple different machine builders factory bolt spec settings.

Standard (SAE) bolt torque spec settings chart
(Torque in foot-pounds)

Standard (SAE) bolt torque spec settings chart

Standard (SAE) bolt torque spec settings chart

Courtesy of

Proper torque spec varies depending on the material, bolt grade or if lubrication is used such as oil, wax, or anti-seize. Always go to the manufacturer for proper torque specifications. The chart above is an approximate estimate of torque values and have not been validated for accuracy. The numbers above have been compiled from various machine builder specs and other resources.

Torque charts courtesy of Bikes vibrate and rattle, so your work will almost always find fasteners that need snugging. Having a bolt-torque reference chart and a torque wrench will help inexperienced do-it-yourselfers get a feel for how snug fasteners should be. If you feel you’re not “mechanical”, start with this nut and bolt and you’ll begin to realize, “If Nick can do it, I can certainly do it”. Some bikes shake, some fastener designs promote loosening and you’ll get a feel for all this when you start to nut and bolt consistently.

Case in point: A friend crashed his roadracer when a clip-on clamp bolt loosened, allowing the right-hand clip-on to rotate as he entered a fast right-hand braking corner. He lost the front and slid unharmed into the grass, but he learned a lesson about the frequency of the nut and bolt on a bike you ride near the edge of the envelope. I don’t nut and bolt my slow dual-sport bike as much as I slave over my track bikes and cars. My friend admitted, “Yep, I went through it before the last track day, but that wasn’t recent enough…I would have caught that loose bolt with a 20-minute nut and bolt.”

A note here: Biganski-built TZs never stranded me with lost parts. (Okay, we lost the tops of two pistons when we ran nitrous at Willow Springs once…)

Steve Biganski standing with his Yamaha TZ250
This guy, Steve Biganski, is a believer in the nut and bolt, the constant attention, the hands-on labor that creates unbroken bikes and great racing/riding seasons. Easy to get those single-digit numbers when the bike never lets you down.

Nick Ienatsch

Creating Luck

I just bought a very clean 1985 FZ750 that had been in a collection ( and then in a museum for over a decade. Luckily, Pete Boccarossa, who owns the SB Universe collection, discovered that the FZ needed float-bowl gaskets when he tried to start the bike prior to shipping it to me. Rather than ignore the issue and make it my problem (“buyer beware” rules), he gave the bike to Mark Olsen at Kaplan Cycles and when it arrived in Colorado, it ran like new. In the story (Back in Play) I wrote that my wife Judy was amazed because this was the first time I didn’t have to “go through” a bike I bought used. All I had to do was ride it…thanks Mark and Pete.

Yamaha FZ stripped on bench
The FZ stayed off the bench because the southern Colorado winter was slow to develop. In other words: I didn’t want to quit riding it! One issue that owners of older bikes must recognize is the increasing brittleness of the plastics; we must take care not to overtighten the bodywork fasteners. Think about adding spacers to take the load off the plastics. With the bike bare I found a few problems.

Nick Ienatsch

The areas that Olsen had touched (carbs and bodywork) were perfect but I was mere miles away from losing an exhaust-flange bolt, the rear axle nut was severely over-tightened and the front fender bolts were loose and beginning to oblong the mounting holes due to vibration. Almost every motor mount, especially the long bolts, needed to be retorqued and there were two spots where continued rubbing and vibration were wearing through wiring. The entire rear fender assembly was flopping around (which I never saw while riding), due to finger-tight fasteners and one of the two main mounts on the front fairing was broken.

We all know motorcyclists who seem doomed to buying a lemon, a bike that doesn’t stay together or simply has a lot of problems. Yes, there are lemons out there, but my FZ would have looked and felt pretty lemonish within the next 1000 miles because it would have had an exhaust leak, missing rear fender, flopping front fairing, eventually-ruined rear-wheel bearings, an “electrical issue” and a buzzy engine as the motor mounts continued to loosen. A nut and bolt would not only have prevented my buddy from lowsiding, but it makes me look like “a lucky guy who got one of the good FZ750s that never has a problem.”

valve adjusting tools and cam
The GSXR1100 that started this column came apart this winter for a valve adjustment; routine maintenance gives owners a chance to reach and torque fasteners usually hidden. In this case, I found a loose cam bearing hold-down bolt that would have gotten expensive sooner than later.

Nick Ienatsch


My jobs at YCRS and Cycle World allow me to ride new bikes all the time, but the newest bike in my personal collection is a 2008 R1 on the street/track side and a 2009 YZ250 stroker on the dirt side. Have you ridden a brand-new bike lately? Tight, taut, solid…and very motivating to me when I get back to my garage-ful of older bikes. I realized a few years ago that much of the reason I have the need to “go through” my used-bike purchases is because I want them to look and feel as close to new as possible.

So thanks to Olsen, my FZ does indeed run like new. Starts immediately hot or cold, idles perfectly and revs just right. I might tweak the needle a bit because it lives at 5000 feet and goes up from there, but Olsen’s work made the engine performance like new. I spent a few days bringing the rest of the FZ up to snuff, getting it ready for a fun summer of canyon riding.

Yamaha FZ clutch lever and red lubricant
For me and my garage-addicted friends, working on used bikes revolves around creating the like-new feel as much as possible. I added some shim stock to the shifter pivot, tightened the clutch and brake perches (literally squeezed them tighter with a large Channellock pliers), respaced the loose seat base and torqued everything I could reach. One thing is sure: reassembling clean parts with fresh grease goes a long way toward newness.

Nick Ienatsch

old motorcycle horn button
I took this switch housing apart, removed a spider web and cleaned and lubed all the little-bitty parts. But when I put it back together, it still looked old! Some quick work with white automotive touch-up paint got me the look to match the renewed action. (Horn Button photo 1 of 3)

Nick Ienatsch

old motorcycle horn button being painted
(Horn Button photo 2 of 3)

Nick Ienatsch

old motorcycle horn button restored
(Horn Button photo 3 of 3)

Nick Ienatsch

One More Thing

And of course, while you’re nut and bolting, creating luck and renewing your bike, you get a chance to clean it and learn about it. You’ll clean and check torque on something someday, like a brake-rotor carrier, and see a crack that would have put you on your head.

Nick Ienatsch with Spondon Yamaha TZ
You want to find me at an AHRMA meeting? Most of my time is spent with the Bigley Spondon TZ750 (in the Krispy Kreme Racing pit) because its violence is barely contained even when everything’s perfect. It shakes, vibrates, rattles…and the parts are already 35 years old, getting propelled around the track by an engine that Rusty Bigley has making 35 more horsepower than it did stock! I clean and examine anything I can reach, nut and bolt constantly, especially if Kurt Lentz or Rusty Bigley can’t make the race, such as at Barber ’16. I have found many, many small issues that would have eventually hurt me badly.

Read more here: Competing in the Barber AHRMA Vintage Festival on a Spondon-Framed Yamaha TZ750

Michelle Cichiello

More Next Tuesday!