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Old 01-09-2014, 04:28 PM   #1
ThirdBestFriend OP
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Question Where to start on building a Desert Sled?

I've been toying with the idea of buying an old Triumph or Honda or something and rebuilding it as a desert sled. But since I have almost no experience with bike mechanics, I'd appreciate some advice from the group.
  1. Where do people get old Triumphs, etc? Is there a good resource out there that usually has good deals, or does it come down to being vigilant and scouring everywhere (eBay, Craigslist, etc)?
  2. I'm seeing lots of old Triumphs in the $5k+ range (in decent condition), but I'm more thinking sub-$2k so that I can spend $$$ on parts and stuff. Realistic? Would Honda be a better option? Or even (gasp) another BMW?
  3. No real tools to speak of and, while I am handy with housing electrical/plumbing/etc (as mentioned above), I'm no mechanic. Piston & Chain looks like an interesting option, however. Thoughts?
My hope is that by the end I'll have an awesome second bike and will have learned enough about moto mechanics to do more on my 1200GS than just add skid plates/crash bars/HIDs/etc. Many thanks in advance.
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:48 AM   #2
jesusgatos
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When you say desert sled, what do you really mean? Tell us more about what you want to do with it, where and how you imagine you'd like to ride it, and you'll probably get a lot more in the way of helpful input/advice.
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:48 AM   #3
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(the short answer is: go buy an old XR600 and enjoy)
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:50 AM   #4
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Yamaha XS650 could be a good option if you want an old school project bike; it's the best Triumph you can buy for under $1k.

Here's and example from the web:


They would need to major weight loss and suspension upgrades to become a real performer, but wouldn't that be half the fun?
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Old 01-10-2014, 05:05 PM   #5
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Yep ,the XS is close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades.
The days of cheap Triumphs has passed.
Back in the 70's I bought a TR6R with no papers and a smashed front end for $200. If I'd had multyples of $200 , I could have picked up more of them. Oh, I bought a basket Bonnieville hacked up to some stoners idea of a chopper for $75.
Now even 70's Japanese bikes are getting respect and prices to go with them. it doesn't help you that you're in the Bay area. Cl prices for bike are much higher on the werst coast than in the Mid-West.
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Old 01-10-2014, 05:20 PM   #6
benjamin1031
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When you say "desert bike" there is only one bike to consider IMHO and that is the XR. Cheap to work on and the king of baja.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:20 PM   #7
villageidiot
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desert bike, and desert sled are 2 totally different things.......

desert bike



desert sled



poke thru this for a little more inspiration

http://advrider.com/forums/showthrea...ht=desert+sled

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Old 01-10-2014, 08:25 PM   #8
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IMHO, a desert sled......

triumph, bsa, harley k model, matchless, greeves, ossa, montessa, etc etc...... could be faked with a xs650, cb450, bmw, etc

best place to look would be a moto swapmeet, or scour craigslist or the like...... most the "hipster jerks" will likely have driven up the prices considerably for anything unmolested/easy..... so its likely youll be starting with a basket case situation. (not really a bad thing, but before you get crazy on spending money, verify your numbers are legit)

theres a shop by me, Classic Cycles, in orange, ca that has a lot of stuff for sale, in various stages of the game, 95% of its british.
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:34 AM   #9
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Hello there,
talking of desert sleds, could anybody show a pic of a nice first-series Norton P 11 to the thread-opener (and us all), please. I think that no other bike could beat it on looks and power (at it's time!). Even my 1981 Triumph Tiger Trail, a scrambler in the old meaning, is just a far cry compared to that Norton-twin-powered Matchless-frame.
Please if you do so, don't show a hastily cobbled together example, show one in nice and good shape.
Thank you for doing so, I don't have a picture in my own collection!
Kind regards, Bambi
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Old 01-11-2014, 04:14 PM   #10
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learning about moto mechanics + currently don't have tools + on a budget... don't get a Triumph.

go Japanese for your first build. Yamaha or Honda. parts are generally somewhat available and cheaper than Triumph parts. I've got a desert sled Triumph project and have had a few BSAs. I really, really like them, so I'm not saying this with any negative feelings towards Trumps.

as far as where to find 'em? craigslist & having friends that are into motorcycles and/or know you're into them.

whatever you do, have fun and post pics!
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Old 01-11-2014, 05:14 PM   #11
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If you are no good with mechanics find some local friends that are, quickly. You can learn a lot watching and asking the right questions. Finally when you are good friends then you can ask them to help you with their builds.

I had a neighbor that moved in one weekend. The next weekend he was pulling the motor out of an old 72 Chevy. I went over, we chewed the fat, I got him wrenches, tools and held junk. After 7 hours we where pretty good friends. We did a lot of projects together.
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:53 PM   #12
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I know it's not a twin, or even anything vintage or special really, but I for one think something like a suzuki savage/S40 would make a really good beginner project bike for something like what you are looking to build.

They are dirt cheap, stone reliable, parts are cheap and easily available and not hard to swap over from other bikes such as shocks/forks and stuff, plus the big thumper has plenty of power for blasting the crap out of some gravel, not a whole lot less than those really old twins.
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Old 01-11-2014, 09:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jesusgatos View Post
When you say desert sled, what do you really mean? Tell us more about what you want to do with it, where and how you imagine you'd like to ride it, and you'll probably get a lot more in the way of helpful input/advice.
By desert sled, I mean a classic standard motorcycle (ideally pre-1980) that I could rebuild and trick out to ride in the desert, just the way guys in southern Cali were doing it in the 60s.

By "trick out," I mean beefed up suspension, strengthened sub-frame, reduced weight, performance carb, and/or whatever else I can dig up or figure out to do with it.

I have a 1200GS for super slab, fire roads, and camping, so I'd want something lighter than that to take out to Reno, Death Valley, or wherever.

Definitely not looking for a dirt bike, but something more classic, with more heritage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whereabouts View Post
Yamaha XS650 could be a good option if you want an old school project bike; it's the best Triumph you can buy for under $1k.

They would need to major weight loss and suspension upgrades to become a real performer, but wouldn't that be half the fun?
Whereabouts, that is an awesome option and exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. The Triumphs I've been seeing are just way to pricey for the shape they're in. Or they're mostly restored and priced accordingly.

As for tools and such, I'm not worried. As long as the price is right, I'm willing to take the risk and learn. That's really what the fun will be about anyway. Having a cool bike at the end will just be a bonus.

You guys are awesome, keep the ideas coming.
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Old 01-12-2014, 06:21 AM   #14
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I have to think there are cafe clubs around like piston and chain that would be a great resource and sounding board for some of your ideas. Guessing the members probably have great lines on all sorts of unadvertised bikes too.

http://www.pistonandchain.com/collec...q=Subscription
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Old 01-12-2014, 07:09 AM   #15
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Here ya go. Very nice for fire roads.etc. photo 126cb136-409f-4679-bcf4-70e846f261cd_zpsb9f3d2b0.jpg

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