Where to start on building a Desert Sled?

Discussion in 'Some Assembly Required' started by ThirdBestFriend, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. ThirdBestFriend

    ThirdBestFriend Explorer

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    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.
    #1
  2. jesusgatos

    jesusgatos fishing with dynamite

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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.
    #2
  3. jesusgatos

    jesusgatos fishing with dynamite

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    (the short answer is: go buy an old XR600 and enjoy)
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  4. Whereabouts

    Whereabouts Been here awhile

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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:
    [​IMG]

    They would need to major weight loss and suspension upgrades to become a real performer, but wouldn't that be half the fun?
    #4
  5. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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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.
    #5
  6. benjamin1031

    benjamin1031 Adventurer

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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.
    #6
  7. villageidiot

    villageidiot Long timer

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  8. villageidiot

    villageidiot Long timer

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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.
    #8
  9. Bambi

    Bambi Been here awhile

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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
    #9
  10. dhallilama

    dhallilama Been here awhile

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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!
    #10
  11. r60man

    r60man Been here awhile

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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.
    #11
  12. RedRaptor22

    RedRaptor22 Been here awhile

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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.
    #12
  13. ThirdBestFriend

    ThirdBestFriend Explorer

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    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.

    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.
    #13
  14. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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  15. norton(kel)

    norton(kel) vintage

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    Here ya go. Very nice for fire roads.etc.<a href="http://s1157.photobucket.com/user/jhkellyjr/media/126cb136-409f-4679-bcf4-70e846f261cd_zpsb9f3d2b0.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1157.photobucket.com/albums/p582/jhkellyjr/126cb136-409f-4679-bcf4-70e846f261cd_zpsb9f3d2b0.jpg" border="0" alt=" photo 126cb136-409f-4679-bcf4-70e846f261cd_zpsb9f3d2b0.jpg"/></a>
    #15
  16. Bambi

    Bambi Been here awhile

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    Hello norton(kel),
    that's about what I asked for. Just to give ThirdBestFriend an idea of the best-looking desert sled. With lights, it would look more complete to me, but except from that, it's exactly what I asked for. So he's got a blue-print for his project.
    Thanks a lot, kind regards, Bambi
    #16
  17. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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    Jehu started a thread in Old's Cool,Desert Sleds-post em here !...
    The thread started 3-25-08. Lots of sleds there.

    [​IMG]

    American
    [​IMG]

    British

    [​IMG]

    Japanese
    #17
  18. ThirdBestFriend

    ThirdBestFriend Explorer

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    That's what I'm talking about!
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  19. snake89

    snake89 Been here awhile

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    I got a 2000 Kawasaki W650 that ive had as a Cafe Racer for years. Im about to start the conversion to Street Scrambler/Desert sled. This is what ive always wanted to do with it, Its just been too fun as a Cafe.
    #19
  20. Tin Shack

    Tin Shack Adventurer

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