Menu of the mods:
- Brighter Headlight Bulb Mod
- Carb Jetting Mods
- Free flow exhaust mod
- The Gasket Mod (free horsepower)
- The Airbox Door Mod
- Air Filter Mod
- 292 Piston kit
- Sprocket Mod
- Changing The Fork Oil
- Rear Shock Mod
- Lowering The Suspension
- Shortening The Side Stand
- Lowering The Seat Height Even More
- Adding LED indicators
- Adding a Bike Pull Strap
- Adding the Best Cell Phone Holder
- Adding a Rear Rack
- Adding a Windscreen
Headlight bulb mod
The stock headlight bulb is awful. Replace it with an H4 12V 60/55W Halogen Bulb, which is a lot brighter and will not draw too much current on the bike.
The other option is adding LED lights. I am currently using the Tusk H4 bulb replacement, which is a cheaper version of the amazing Cyclops H4 LED bulb. The Tusk bulb works well and is holding up so far (time will tell as it is a Chinese bulb). It has a low-beam cutoff so that it doesn’t blind other drivers and it a TON brighter than stock. The Cyclops is even better (I have it on my KTM 500) in terms of light color, beam pattern and brightness.
The stock steel bars bend the first time you drop the bike. Buy some aluminum bars from Protaper or Renthal at your first opportunity. The first time to drop your bike hard, you’ll be glad you did.
- For reference, the original bars are approximately 770mm wide (A) with a height of 100mm (B), a rise of 70mm (C), a sweep of 90mm (E).
- For a replacement bar that is similar to the originals, any CR-HIGH model bar by Renthal or Protaper works well. I use Renthal 717 bars and love them.
- If you’re tall with broad shoulders, Renthal 666 vintage desert bend bars are wider at 850mm (A) and 20mm taller at 119mm (B), which is comfier when standing on the pegs. The extra width also helps when attaching accessories to the bars like phone holders, USB ports and windscreen mounts. The extra width takes a little getting used to and makes me feel like I am riding a 70s scrambler :-). For me (average build 179cm 5″10), the Renthal 717 bars are more comfy.
- Any pegs for a Kawasaki KLR650 fit fine. I immediately replaced mine with oversize KLR pegs. Pit bike pegs don’t work, so avoid those cheap ones on eBay – they break when you drop the bike.
Carburetor Jetting Mods
Unless you’re experiencing a loss of power or have replaced your exhaust, modding the carb may result in lower power. However, if you’re traveling to high altitudes, you may need to change your main jet for a smaller sized one.
For reference, Tornados have a KEIHIN VE carburetor. 2006 and onwards Tornados come with a 132 size (Keihin) jet stock. 2005 and before Tornados come with a 138 (Keihin) jet stock.
They use jets with the part number 99101-393-xxxx, where xxxx is 1320 for a 132 jet, 1250 for a 125 jet, 1200 for a 120 jet etc…
Here is a list of the main jet sizes and when to use each (for 2006 and onwards Tornados):
- Your altitude: 0 – 2500m – use a 132 main jet
- Your altitude: 2500-4000m – use a 125 main jet
- Your altitude: above 4000m – use a 120 main jet
These jets are common and can be purchased at any Honda dealer and probably most decent motorcycle spares stores.
If you can’t find jets, you can always use strands of 16 gauge electrical wire to reduce the 132 jet opening. This trick was taught to me by a Chilean mechanic. Each strand of wire equals 2 jet sizes smaller. In the Bolivian Andes, I used 3 strands of wires inserted through the bottom of the stock 132 jet and wrapped the outside end around the thread of the jet so that screwing the jet in place clamped the wire between the jet and the jet holder. Those 3 strands gave me the equivalent of a 126 (132-2-2-2=126) jet size and worked perfectly for 3 months. Remember to cut off any excess wire from the bottom of the jet so that the needle doesn’t get damaged by it.
Just FYI, the air mixture screw at the bottom of the carburetor is meant to be 3 turns out (I am assuming that 3 turns is adjusted for sea level, like the jetting sizes are). When changing the jet from 132 to a smaller size, you may need to adjust the air screw as well if idling or low rev power is affected by your altitude. At higher altitudes, you need more air, so unscrew the air screw more than 3 turns. How many, I can’t say. I’d start with 3.5 turns and then experiment with increasing half a turn at a time.
If you want to find the exact jet sizes for your everyday riding location, use the chart below to determine your jet size multiplier. Here’s how it works.
Most jets come from the factory set for riding at sea level at around 20 degrees centigrade. That’s what the 132 main jet on the Tornado is set for.
Let’s say that you live at 2500m and your average temperature is 10 degrees centigrade, you’d multiply 132 by 0.95 to determine your main jet size – in this case, a 125 main jet (132 x 0.95 = 125.4).
How To Remove The Carburetor
When changing the jets, you’ll need to remove the entire carb. Here is the easiest way to remove the carb.
- Remove the side panels, seat, and tank (removing the fuel hose from the tank).
- Remove the 2 Phillips screws from the plate that attaches the accelerator cables to the carb body (right-hand side of the carb). Then remove the cable ends from the carb and place the cables out of the way on top of the cylinder head.
- Remove the black tube from the T-junction that joins the 2 tubes attached to the top of the carb on the right-hand side.
- Remove the upper black tube from the left-hand side of the carb (above the fuel hose).
- From the left hand side of the bike, loosen (the clamp on the black intake boot that attaches the carb to the cylinder head.
- From the right hand side of the bike, loosen the clamp on the airbox side of the carb by inserting a Phillips screwdriver near the rear brake-light switch.
- With a black marker, mark the 2 bolts that bolt the black intake boot into the cylinder head so that when you reinsert it, you know how much to tighten them (not a lot).
- Remove the 2 bolts that bolt the black intake boot into the cylinder head. Keep the left and right bolts separate, so you can re-install them later in their correct place and torque them back to their original markings.
- Unclip the idle adjuster.
- From the left-hand side of the bike, gently pull the engine side of the carb towards you and remove it.
- Disconnect the black drain tube connected to the bottom of the carb.
- Remove the 4 screws on the bottom of the carb to access the main jet.
- Reassemble in the exact reverse order. If you do it any other order, you’ll get air leaks. Ask me how I know :-). NOTE: Make sure that the airbox side of the carb is fully inserted in the airbox boot before tightening the clamp.
Here is a video of a guy changing his jets on a KLR650, which has a very similar carb to your Tornado (I’ve owned a few KLR650s).? The process is identical on the Tornado carb. Just ignore the part in the video about removing the (black) top of the carb and changing the needle, because you’re not going to do that on your carb. Next time I change my jets, I’ll make a video for you guys.
Free-flowing Exhaust mod
Adding an aftermarket exhaust is a common way to get some extra power out of your Tornado and also shed some weight (the original exhaust is heavy).
It seems that direct replacement Tornado exhausts are only available for sale in Latin America. You can make other brands work, but you’ll need to take the silencer to a machine shop to fabricate a pipe just the right shape to connect to the Tornado header pipe.
I’m told that Santa Cruz in Bolivia has a ton of bike shops with really cheap Tornado parts. If you happen to be passing through Bolivia, make a mental note to buy an exhaust there.
Below is an example of an exhaust made by Carlos Campos in San Isidro, Costa Rica. If you speak Spanish, you can call Carlos on +506-8794-8744 and get him to make one for you.
An expert opinion on jetting for a free-flowing exhaust
I interviewed Toby Shannon of Around The Block Moto Adventures in Peru. He rents Honda Tornados and preps them for touring Latin America. He is also an engineer, so he knows what he is talking about (unlike me).
He buys free flowing exhaust silencers and then fabricates the connecting pipe in his workshop.
He told me that when using a free-flowing exhaust setup, he changes the main jet to a 136 at sea level.
If you never want to touch your jets again, Toby recommends a 125 main jet with a free-flowing exhaust system. He says that this setup can be used all the way from sea level up to 5000m, but works best between 2000m-2500m. If you do run this setup at sea level, it will run lean (too much air in the mixture), which will overheat your engine. To counteract the overheating, Toby runs Motul Fully Synthetic 20w50 oil, which he says helps cool the engine more when you’re riding at sea level. This setup will also run rich (too much fuel in the mixture) at high altitudes, so (assuming that you don’t live at high altitudes) Toby recommends replacing your spark plug every month at high altitudes instead of rejetting, only because it’s much easier than removing the carb and rejetting.
The Gasket (free horsepower) Mod
I recently met a guy in South Africa with a Honda Twister (same engine as the Tornado). He told me about a The Gasket Mod which he claims gives the Tornado Engine 10% more power by increasing the engine compression.
Essentially, you reduce the thickness of the cylinder head gasket like this…
The cylinder head gasket consists of three layers:
1. a top gasket layer
2. a spacer
3. a bottom gasket layer.
If you remove and break apart the cylinder head gasket into its three layers, you can then just reinstall one of the gasket layers (top or bottom). The new gasket is now thinner and effectively reduces the volume of the expansion chamber, increasing compression.
Your bike will run worse with a higher compression if you are using very low-grade bad fuel.
The Airbox Door Mod
If you remove the door to the airbox, you may experience an increase in power if your Tornado is jetted a little rich (too much fuel in the air/fuel mixture). Removing the airbox door is completely safe. All it does is increase airflow, thereby adding air to the air/fuel mixture.
The only way to know if this mod will work for you is to try it. Fortunately, it only takes 2 minutes to find out.
I often remove the airbox door when above 2000m when I’m too lazy to rejet the carb or am not planning to be at altitude a long time.
The Air Filter Mod
While the stock air filter is great, a foam filter has several advantages…
- It flows more air.
- It’s washable and reusable.
- If you drown your bike in a river, you can just dry it out and continue riding. With a paper filter, you have to throw it away if it gets wet.
Michael Winger from Costa Rica sent me some pics of his foam air filter with instructions for how to make it.
Here are his instructions:
I bought 5/8′ Uni Filter foam. I had to cut some plastic ribs out of the air filter cage to make space for the foam filters.
Carefully cut the seal from the original paper filter. Glue into place with CA glue, make sure it’s seated in the correct position.
It only needs to hold the seal in place until it is installed, the seal will have a snug fit once snapped into the airbox.
Cut 2 pieces of the Unifilter foam slightly larger than the cage. I also run the original foam pre-filter. You’ll see in the pic that I cut holes in the second layer of foam. It doesn’t need 2 layers of foam for filtration so I opted for less restriction with the holes.
292 Piston Kit Mod
When I interviewed Toby Shannon of Around The Block Moto Adventures in Peru, he told me that a 292cc oversize piston kit is for sale for the Honda Tornado in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. If you have friends there, you might investigate them shipping it to you to get some more power out of your Tornado.
Breaking in your new piston and rings:
It’s critical that you break in your new piston correctly. Toby Shannon recommends using Motul 3000 – Fully Organic Oil for the first 100km.
Ride the bike hard on the pavement for its first 100km revving up through each gear until you max out at top speed.
Then let the bike coast down through the gears until you’re back in first gear. Do this for 100km if you can.
At 100km, change the oil filter and the oil to Motul Full Synthetic 20w50. Use that from now on.
Please don’t email me about running in the bike gently. There is a lot of controversy on this topic, but some of the world’s leading mechanics swear by this method (as does Toby), so read up on it first before you tell me I’m crazy (which I may be)!
Changing The Sprockets For More Torque
The XR250 Tornado comes stock with a 13 tooth front sprocket and a 38 tooth back sprocket linked with a 104 link chain.
An easy way to get 7.7% more torque (without having to change the chain length) is to just change the front sprocket to a 12 tooth sprocket (JT Sprocket Part #: JTF1321.12 – buy on Amazon). I personally change to this setup whenever I’m going trail riding and love the difference it makes.
If you want even more torque, you’ll need to change the rear sprocket and buy a longer chain (or add some links). Use sprocketcalculator.com to figure out the length and % power increase.
Changing The Fork Oil
I’m not going to describe the procedure here. Just look on YouTube for any video on how to change fork oil.
When I interviewed Toby Shannon, he said he uses Belray 10w Fork Oil for male riders and Belray 7.5w Fork Oil for female riders.
After draining, the fork oil capacity is 586ml.
When filling with new fork oil, fill until the oil level is 128mm from the top of forks tubes (with springs out and fork tube compressed fully).
When reinstalling the forks, tighten the lower fork clamp bolts first (to 32 N.m). Then install the front wheel, speedo and brakes. The front axle clamp nuts get tightened to 12 N.m (the top two nuts first, followed by the bottom two nuts).
Then tighten the upper fork clamps to 21 N.m.
Rear Shock Mod
The XR250 Tornado rear shock is perfectly adequate for someone of average weight. I weight 75kg and have ridden all over the world loaded up with luggage on the standard shock.
However, it does not provide any adjustment other than preload. Fortunately, the tornado uses the same shock as the Honda CRF230F, so aftermarket parts for the CRF230F will fit. Yay!
Here are the links you want:
Disclaimer: I have not tried any of the above shocks, so your mileage may vary. Please let me know if you end up buying any of the above shocks. I’ll add your feedback to the site.
Lowering your Honda Tornado
Lowering the bike takes about 45 minutes and will lower the bike 40mm and make the bike handle a bit better (as the center of gravity will be lower). It requires a few spanners or sockets (14mm, 17mm, 19mm) and an 8mm Allen key.
There are two parts to the process of lowering the bike:
Part 1: Lower the rear suspension
- Close the fuel tap and lay the bike on its side.
- Remove the two screws that hold the black plastic mudguard part (see pic below) that sits between the rear wheel and the rear shock.
- Locate the rear shock linkage attached to the lower end of the rear shock. You’ll see three nuts and bolts. From top to bottom, let’s refer to these as nuts and bolts #1 (highest), #2 (middle) and #3 (lowest).
- If you don’t have a torque wrench, take a marker pen and mark the position of each nut and bolt head (and mark their mounting surfaces – see my pics below), so that you can re-tighten them later to the same positions.
- Remove the nuts #1 and #3 first and then their respective bolts. Then move the linkage down to reveal nut #2 and remove nut #2.
- Remove bolt #2 from the rear shock and reinstall it in the hole above where it originally was (see pic below).
- Reassemble the rear shock linkage in the reverse order that you disassembled it. Be sure to line up the nuts with their permanent marker marks first and then tighten the bolts to their marks (or use a torque wrench). The correct torque settings can be found in the workshop manual on this site.
- Screw the black plastic mudguard part back in.
- You’re doing great!
Part 2: Lower the forks
- If you don’t have a torque wrench, take a marker pen and mark the position of each of the 8 fork bolts.
- Locate the clip wrapped around the top end of each fork, just below the top yolk.
- Loosen the clamp around the rubber fork boots just below the lower yolk. Pull the boots down.
- With the bike on its side stand, loosen the 8 fork bolts.
- Push on the handlebar until the forks slide up in the triple tree. Slide them up until each clip is flush with the bottom of each fork clamp.
- Tighten the fork bolts back to their marked positions.
- Pull the fork boots up again and tighten the clamp around them.
- You’re done!
Shortening The Side Stand
You can optionally also shorten the side stand so that the bike leans over more when parked. For months, we did not shorten the side stand and lived with having to park carefully or leaning the bike down a slight slope. Eventually, I had the stand cut 4cm from the bottom of it and welded on a base plate. Perfect!
Lowering the seat even more
I cut some foam out of the seat of my wife’s Tornado to lose an extra 40mm or so of seat height. This mod will make the seat a little harder, but it seems to be even more comfortable for my wife than it was before. Go figure. One one of our lowered seat Tornados, we didn’t bother recovering the seat, and that worked fine too (even if it didn’t look very professional).
First, I removed the seat cover. Then I used a marker pen to outline where I wanted the seat cut. If you can, use a XR150L seat as a template. I used a rasp (I think that is what it is called) to file away the foam until it looked the way I wanted it. Be sure to round off the seat edges. Now, when I press on the foam, my finger can push down about 40mm I guess.
Adding LED indicators
Unless you have good reason, I recommend sticking with the original indicators and bulbs. LED indicators require using an indicator relay for LEDs. If you use the original indicator relay, the LED bulbs will flash too fast to be useful.
In most bikes, swapping the relay is simply a process of replacing the old relay with a generic LED one. However, the Tornado relay is built into the digital dash and replacing it requires cutting wires. However, should you still want to go ahead and use LED indicators, you can buy generic LED relays at most bike shops or eBay.
One of our readers, Michael, made this video explaining how he replaced the indicator relay.
Here’s what he wrote about it:
“It involves running a wire from the gray wire in the instrument panel harness (and cutting the wire so it doesn’t go into the instrument panel), wiring that to the Load side of the blinker relay, then running a wire from the B side of the blinker relay (B stands for Battery) to the red/yellow wire right before the fuse box (so it gets power and is protected by the fuse). I bought a LED blinker relay for 2 bucks so it is much cheaper than going the instrument panel route.”
Bike Pull Strap
Trying to pull your friend’s bike out of the mud or sand is hard work. Pull on one fork and the steering pulls to the left or right.
My solution was to get some strap webbing from my local hardware store and get a local clothes repair shop to stitch two loops, each with a diameter of 45mm. I then dropped the forks (using a similar procedure to the one above) and fed the loops over the top of the fork.
Add the Best Motorcycle Phone Holder
Having tried many, the RAM Mounts Quick-Grip Phone Mount With Handlebar U-Bolt Base is by far the best cell phone holder for motorcycles I have used. It’s much better than the RAM MOUNT x-grip holder because you don’t need the rubber band. Inserting and removing your phone is a 1-second process. And if you’re using your phone for navigation and taking pics, you’ll know how much time this saves removing and reinserting the phone. It’s also bomb-proof. I’ve crashed the heck out of mine and it keeps on going. Make sure that you buy the METAL (not plastic) RAM balls attachments. I mount a piece of rubber between the phone holder and the ram ball to act as a form of vibration dampening for my phone’s camera. These day’s I use a dedicated rugged phone for navigation duties and keep my Samsun on my jacket pocket.
Adding a Rear Rack
I have only ever seen rear racks for the Tornado sold in Latin America. Most clip on to the passenger handles.
This company makes lovely Tornado accessories (including rear racks, side racks and bash plates) in Columbia. They do ship internationally.
Alternatively, I’ve read many great reviews of the Green Chili soft rack. It will fit on any dirt bike.
I have seen people improvise rear racks by taking their bikes to a local welder and getting one made. Here are some pics of the simplest one I’ve seen. It’s bolted on to the sub-frame, just in front of the rear indicators. A top-box was bolted to it. Seemed very sturdy to me. Click each pic to enlarge it.
Here’s another option from a reader, who took a rear rack from a scooter and welded it on to the passenger grips.
And here’s another:
Adding a Windscreen
I bought a great handlebar mounted windscreen in Chile for $20 on Mercado Libre. It lasted through 10 pretty bad crashes before it collapsed, but it worked so damn well that I am going to buy another. I had to be creative with the mounting. Here are some pics.
I think that any screens for the CRF250L will fit just as well.