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I'd check the carbs first but there's a good chance you were on the right track about timing. The older outboard motors had a throttle setup that advanced the timing mechanically while opening the carb throttle plate. I had one come disconnected once so the advance worked but the throttle plate didn't open and it acted a bit like your bike. It was too lean with the advancement speeding up the rpms and it would develop more power with the choke on. In that case it was a matter of hooking up a link rod which came off. I know the bike's mostly electronic, but the symptom is similar.
 
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