Oily rag resto for me means restoring a motorcycle up to road worthy condition without huge expenditure. We get a bike that already runs and rides. A diamond in the rough so to speak. We want to keep the vintage patina, it tells a story. We also want a mechanically sound reliable, enjoyable machine.
Why the "Cossack" Ukrainian manufactured brand Dnepr?
The KMZ Dnepr MT's are cheap, probably the cheapest 650cc twin air cooled vintage/classic motorcycle on the planet. They share many part systems with Ural ( a Russian made motorcycle company still producing bikes ) so parts are readily available on Ebay and Facebook market place.
- I like them because people not in the know get them confused with older BMW motorcycles which as it happens, were what most Cossack motorcycle factories copied when first designed.
- I like them because they have spoked wheels, drum brakes, tractor seats, a very simple design and above all ~ affordable.
- I like them because the head and valve design will run modern 91 octane fuel without needing modifications.
- Many come with sidecars factory fitted
- All Dnepr MT have a reverse gear ( because of factory fitted sidecars )
- Dnepr MT10 & MT10-36 are one of my all time favourite bikes to custom build.
- Ukraine made steel at the time was some of the best in the world
Rule #1 When buying a Dnepr
- It must be made before 1986 . Rumour has it that the factory stopped all workers drinking on the job by 1986 and well, drunks seem to be happier people and built better bikes. (Actually cut backs and redesign work made the motorcycles somewhat more fragile, especially crank shafts), so as a rule, steer clear of MT11 onwards. Earlier KMZ production manufactured higher quality motorcycles with superior cranks.
- It must be an MT9 or MT10 model ( strongest crank and engine design ) The MT9 are a 6 volt system, the MT10 is a 12 volt system. It is very easy to upgrade a 6 volt to a 12 volt system, yes you can use the same MT9 earlier generators, they are good enough to handle a 12 volt charging system despite what others may say.
- Throw away your engineering tape measure. Yes that's right. These bike frames are so crooked, you will go mad trying to correct everything, they were built by happy drunks
Just know this:
- Does the bike ride? Yes
- Is the seat comfy? Yes
- Are the wheel rims true? Kind of
- Does it have a trailer load of farm dirt, rodent remains and fence posts stuck under the front and rear fenders? Why yes, yes it does.
WELCOME TO DNEPR MT OILY RAG OWNER RESTO 101
#1 Wash, wash and wash some more. Chances are this bike was handed down from generation to generation of USSR farming comrades, the bikes are tough, easy to repair so it goes without saying your motorcycle has lived a very hard life, treated like an agricultural machine, never washed and only " Macgyver " fixed when it broke down on the side of the road with whatever was lying around or crawling past.
#2 High mileage is good, it means the bike is a survivor and strong like atom bomb
#3 Have a plan.
- Do you want a bike and sidecar hack or a cool looking solo bike that you can fool folk into thinking your $500 pile of Cossack crap is in fact a $40,000 1950's BMW R51? Then let me show you how.
Ok here's our project bike. A 1975 KMZ Dnepr MT10-36
I bought this motorcycle from a seller in Latvia that I was previously purchasing parts from. At the time, no body thought Cossack bikes were any good, especially 90% of the British biking community and 99% of Russia, Ukraine and Latvia. So for $300 plus shipping how could I refuse?
It ran, had papers and roughly 19,000 km's ( 12,000 miles ) on a new speedo as the old one had stopped working at 74,000 km's ( 46,000 miles ), remember , high k's means a survivor and probably has had gearbox, pistons, repairs and parts fitted at some point or... 20 gallons of crazy glue, chicken wire, tin foil and chewing gum.
The MT9 models have the key ignition and speedometer fitted inside the headlight. The 12 volt MT10-36 model has a " modern " dash mounted speedometer and shorter 7 inch headlight. You can very easily convert the two over, as the headlight mounted speedometer is more inline with the vintage BMW R51. All you need is the headlight bucket as the glass and bulb holder are compatible from both models. The earlier headlights are readily available on Ebay and E-commerce retailers.
- Tip: The earlier headlights can have the hooded/peaked chrome covers and is the style you want, later models, the chrome ring was not hooded/peaked.
Wiring is simple and so is the engine. If you can use LEGO then you are now a fully qualified Cossack motorcycle engineer.
Wiring is literally 4 wires. We want to keep it simple so are opting for the headlight ignition and headlight fitted speedometer version. The headlight high/low beam and horn button will be a Lucas Triumph switch.
- Take photos of the old wiring, blue wire is the positive, brown wire is earth
- Install at the very minimum a 30amp inline fuse holder and blade style fuse as close to the battery + terminal as you can.
- More confidant folk, add a 6 way marine style fuse box, this way you can have multiple earth wires, it is tidy and peace of mind.
- Run a good quality ground wire from the battery - terminal to your frame and another directly to your engine. Originally only the regulator box had an earth wire.
- If you opt for a 6 way fuse box, run an earth wire up into the inside of the headlight shell.
- If you are not using a fuse box, then earthing blocks are another good choice to run multiple earth wires.
- Install a battery kill switch under the seat. The factory did have them, most were removed as they were huge things prone to rusting solid.
Headlight ignition switch is a beautiful bit of kit. Basically the key is pressed down for power on, then turning the key gives power to the headlight, very simple and you suddenly remove a ton of ugly wiring from your handlebars.
I use this setup on many bikes, even modern Triumph café racers and brat bikes. It adds a very vintage unique style and is the centre piece of our BMW ruse.
I bought an earlier model KMZ K750 style seat, Ural solo seats will also work. 2x M8 studs welded to the underside of the seat and 2x M8 studs welded to the frames existing seat mounts.
- Make sure to leave enough length that you can get the lock nuts on fully
- This is where NOT using a measuring device is important, as the frame is not symmetrical, use your eyecrometer ( your eyes ) to line the seat front up with the tank.
I used two scissor springs as they look interesting and were 1/3 the price of standard springer style chrome springs.
The front pivot mount, weld some steel tube that a M10 bolt can pass through onto the existing front seat mount. The tractor style seats already have the mount and bolt holes.
- Tip : When welding, use copper mesh to give a better grip and contact to your earth clamp.
- Earth clamp as close as you can to your weld
Next and although frowned upon by the more die hard Cossack owner group
- Buy two BMW tank badges. These are cheap, you can use BMW car emblems that come with the 3M double sided tape. Super strong and never come off.
Tip: If you want to go that extra mile on your BMW trickery, there are aftermarket Dnepr rocker covers in the R51 style.
Now, these rocker covers are lovely but, the gaskets supplied are poorly made from thin wetsuit type rubber that seals poorly, so if you can't get the paper style gaskets with them, then you will need to make your own gaskets and use a thin layer of gasket paste. They do look fantastic once fitted. Purchase a set and some 1.5mm gasket paper and gasket paste.
- Tip: When applying gasket paste, use a small modelling brush. Trim any residue off with a razor once cured.
- Do not use cork gaskets, they leak, paper gaskets with gasket paste is the best form of seal you can provide on your engine casings and rocker covers.
Fuel system and carburettors.
The original 301 and 302 carburettors are horror stories. I don't care what purists say. If you want a trouble free ride, ditch those awful leaky early designs for a set of modern Russian PEKAR K65T's or good quality Chinese made PZ28's, a set of Mikuni or BMW carburettors , anything is better than the 301 & 302 factory stinkers.
- Tip: The Chinese PZ28 carburettors as used on the CJ750 motorcycle ( China's version of the KMZ ) have a modern internal slide design, are the nicest looking, closest in style to the original K301 but you will need to change out the main jet to a #110 size. The Delorto style M5 jets work but require a re cut on the jet screw in thread to a .09
- Now days, the seller may even have the jet available, the #110 size just works better for the MT engines running modern fuels.
Speedometer in the headlight conversion.
Just remove the MT10 dash and warning lights, take note of the neutral light and power generator light wires, we want to keep these.
Earlier bikes had no green neutral light, and the earlier headlights only have a single generator power lamp and a fuse holder, so if you want to keep it, you will need to drill a hole to house it in the headlight. Or, only use one warning light, the power or the neutral light.
- Tip: You can add as many warning lights as you want. I prefer to use the 12mm modern 12 volt LED dash lights. Green for neutral and red for power.
- A Lucas high/low beam + horn switch can be used and a blue warning light also added to the headlight shell if required. Remember, the wiring is very simple on these bikes, modifications like this are as easy as it gets.
This keeps wiring simple and tidy.
Electronic ignition kits
Another great upgrade is an electronic ignition kit, readily available and instructional videos as well.
Solo final drive gearing kit
For solo bikes, I recommend fitting the solo gearing kit. It allows a higher top cruising speed without the engine labouring for it. Remembering that originally the bike would have had a sidecar fitted to it.
There it is, the how to build a solo Dnepr MT B road bomber.
Fantastic fun to ride, just remember regular oil changes every 500 miles.
Here's a list of the modifications, please enjoy the rest of the build pics and thank you for reading my blog.
- Extended sump with external car filter kit
- Magnetic sump plug
- Braided cotton water proof electrical loom
- Braided HT leads, NGK caps and spark plugs
- 6 way blade fuse box
- Ignition kit
- Inline 30 amp fuse kit
- LED headlight warning lights
- PZ28 carbs with #110 main jets
- Springer seat
- Millers style LED rear stop light
- An earlier version K750 or MT9 teardrop shape fuel tank, fits straight on.
- Fish tail exhaust or Triumph speedster tulip exhaust
Custom made wires. Fixing broken bolts
Sump extension kit with external car filter
Gearbox seal replacement and kick start return spring
Replace the kickstart return spring if the stroke is short or kick starter shaft if teeth are missing or broken
These bikes are easy to kickstart, but I can almost guarantee the spring will be past its use by date.