Basket Case Bike - Should I do it?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by jacktwitch, Nov 16, 2020.

  1. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

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    I grew up driving a POS truck offroad and have continued the tradition of being a Truck/ Jeep guy who fixes his own stuff. Everything from replacing clutches, to power steering pumps to suspension. I have bought and "flipped" a few vehicles successfully. Im no mechanic but I can read a manual and turn a wrench.

    As work and family is cutting into my free time I am basically leaving the jeep world and trading it for a more boring reliable suv, I simply dont have the time to deal with chrystler reliability. I am growing into the 2 wheel dirt world instead, after having ridden on road for years.

    I really want to learn to wrench on bikes even more than I know how to work on cars. I swapped the clutch on my new (to me) 07 Yamaha YZ250 and was amazed at how simple and fun it was. No using big jacks and crawling under vehicles, relatively simple system with minimal electrical work ( my nemesis).

    A guy local to me is selling a completely dissembled YZ250 that is a couple years newer. Looks like he bit off more than he could chew when he bough a bike with a seized lower end, bought all the parts to fix it. For just under a grand I could buy it from him and put the bike together myself, while using the experience to learn how every nut and bolt on the bike works.

    At the end I could probably sell it at a decent enough price, maybe not to make money but to at least cover any specialty tools or missing parts I need to buy. I have the shed space and decent set of basic tools, so I think I could make a good run at it. I just dont want to inherit a train-wreck that just takes up space and makes the wife angry. Also it will make a significant dent in my saving for upgrading from my xt225 to the wr250r I lust for.

    Any thoughts or shared experiences? Anyone done something similar and hated or loved it?
    Will it ruin my marriage lol.

    TL:DDR: Is it worth it to buy a completely disassembled project dirt bike for the purpose of teaching myself to wrench on bikes without really focusing on profit
    #1
  2. KirkN

    KirkN Long timer Super Supporter

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    Re: Your question at the end: absolutely! Learning with no pressure, gotta love it!!
    #2
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  3. 250senuf

    250senuf Long timer

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    Seized bottom end might need the assistance of a competent machine shop.
    #3
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  4. Ray916MN

    Ray916MN Dim Mak

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    $1K for a disassembled YZ250 with a "bottom end problem" is too much. The problem is the underlying assumption that everything else is good, which you can't tell since the bike isn't running. These bikes are fairly maintenance intensive. Valves and pistons should be replaced after ~100 hours of use. The bottom end however takes a lot of use or abuse to fail. Bottom end failed? I'd consider it a sign of poor maintenance or wild abuse. I'd expect the top end to need a complete rebuild too. What about the suspension? When was it last rebuilt? The risk here is you don't know what else might be wrong till you get it going again, and there might be a lot more work to do than just the bottom end.
    #4
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  5. MattLikeyBikey

    MattLikeyBikey Been here awhile

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    Buy a runner and tear down. Time is money. Why waste on someone else’s ride hard put away wet hooptie. Been there.
    #5
  6. MotoChris521

    MotoChris521 motominded

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    YZ250 or YZ250F? Big difference.
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  7. Sal Pairadice

    Sal Pairadice Captain Obvious Supporter

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    Much prefer them stock together when i start. Could be parts missing, almost certainly there are problems not known and all will cost money. and worse yet your time.

    Not for $1000.
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  8. rd400racer

    rd400racer Long timer

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    I have a 96 YZ250 that I was given for free. Damn thing even ran when I got it but barely. Ends up the cylinder was scored (along with the piston). Guess how much I'm into this YZ for now? Close to $1000. And that's me doing the majority of the work. Of course I had to send the cylinder out for work, which I'm almost 100% positive the OP will have to do too. I've built motorcycles for the last 30 years, including a number of road race bikes. The best bike to purchase is one already completed. The only reason to resurrect something is because it's a labor of love for you. DO NOT expect to make any money off it.
    #8
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  9. ddavidv

    ddavidv The reason we can't have nice things

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    Sounds steep.
    But, why listen to me?
    $1200
    [​IMG]
    Several months and another grand in parts later:
    [​IMG]
    So I'm into it for about what it's worth. My time, of course, was 'free'.
    Two points, however. First, I didn't intend to sell it when I got it done. Second, the journey was the entire point. The education I got stumbling through this project was invaluable. Some people pay money to go to school for this sort of thing. I did it with a manual and a laptop on my workbench.
    Granted, this type of motorcycle can be fixed with a rock and a pocket knife but it was a lot of fun. And I have something else to ride now!
    #9
  10. c_m_shooter

    c_m_shooter Ninja Warrior Supporter

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    It can be expensive and tough to find certain parts for those old bikes. If you get an old one, get something like the Honda XR line that was made for many years without changes.
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  11. Meriden

    Meriden Yea whatever

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    A basket case is more of a lesson in searching for obscure parts than building mechanical skills. Find a complete bike and rebuild it. Take a lot of photos as you take it apart so you have a document for that bike, not that series which is what a manual will have.

    Anybody have a set of motor mounts for a BSA A65 mated to a P39 frame?

    m
    #11
  12. Bar None

    Bar None OLD DUDE Supporter

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    I say walk away and find a running one.
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  13. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

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    I'll go with what I think is the majority here. Basket case projects are almost always a PITA. An old basket case project on a bike that has no exceptional value when running even more so. Spend a grand right up front before the headache even begins? That would be a hard pass for me. For half that I might be foolish enough to take the leap if I really wanted to do it and the $500 dollars did not represent a significant investment.

    A non-running, non locked up bike (for CHEAP) that's still in one piece would be a better base to work from IMHO.
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  14. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

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    I love working on basket case projects. Probably too much. I typically have 3-4 of them waiting on the right opportunity. They can be a really fun way to flex your creativity and mechanical/fabrication skills.

    That being said, I think the most I have ever paid for a basket case was 200 bucks and that was only for something really special. Typically, i get them for free (I did trade a case of beer for one once because it had a nice exhaust system on it)
    When I do a basket case,
    -I expect to have to wait around for the right deal for parts (for instance a new bottom end from another derelict project).
    -I expect that there is a chance I will have to walk away from it (I better be pretty close to having everything I need for it, before I put any real money into it)
    -I try to be more picky about what I will do this with. There really are a lot of these deals to be had for free or next to free. If it is going to be worth my time it better be something pretty special when done. I find this keep my interest better and makes the stuff you are not going to get away from cost wise (like tires/gaskets/plastics) a lot more tolerable.
    #14
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  15. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

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    I will add, full basket cases are not always required for you to develop motorcycle mechanical experience. For instance, I just bought a 2017 ninja with a blown motor for 500 bucks, but the rest of the bike was solid. An Ebay motor with low mileage from a reputable person, was 900 bucks. I expect I will find a few other issues, but at 1400 in total investment for something new enough to part easy, it felt like a win.
    1 afternoon motor swap, confirmed a good running bike, of course the wife wanted blood red powder coated wheels on the black bike (it is for her to replace her old Ninja) so I will still probably lose money on this by the time I am done to make it look the way she wants, but she is worth it :)
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  16. Huzband

    Huzband Team Dirt

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    Ten or so years ago I bought an '89 RMX 250 for $325. It needed a top end, but said top end was already off & everything was there. After I had the cylinder re-coated & put it back together with new piston, rings, etc, I learned the bottom end was bad. After addressing that I learned the entire tranny was shot. $2200 later I had a great running & overall pretty nice RMX. By then I had lost interest & sold it for $1200. I was lucky to get that.

    I'll never buy another "project bike" again.
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  17. twerth

    twerth Adventurer

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    I have to agree with most of the input here, but the OP's situation sounds an awful lot like a project I did a few years ago. I was looking for a dirt bike and found a WR450 that had a bad big end rod bearing. The PO had disassembled the engine, purchased an ebay crank/rod assembly and then lost interest. I'd been wrenching on resurrection projects for 15-20 years but never had to split cases, so this was new to me. I bought a manual, studied, researched and made sure I had all the parts and knew where they went. I was meticulous about cleanliness, torque values etc. during reassembly and was eventually able to get it together and running.

    I rode the bike for 4-5 years without a single problem. Dead reliable and a really fun bike. I finally sold it this summer so I could buy a street legal dirt bike. I actually broke even, maybe even came out ~$50 ahead. This is probably the exception to the rule. A lot of things (several of them mentioned in posts above) could have gone wrong but didn't. Knowing that, I wouldn't take the chance a second time.

    One lesson for the OP. Whatever you expect the rebuild to cost, double it. Maybe more. This goes for any old bike project, but especially basket cases. There will be dozens of things you didn't think of.

    Either way you go, good luck!
    #17
  18. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    "TL:DDR: Is it worth it to buy a completely disassembled project dirt bike for the purpose of teaching myself to wrench on bikes without really focusing on profit"

    I started out learning how to wrench on basket cases when I was about age 12. It was a great invaluable experience that has stuck with me the rest of my life though I do not consider myself by any means an expert mechanic. (and now, in retirement, since I can afford it, I often pay someone else to do stuff I could do myself but don't want to take the time or trouble). When I took on basket cases they were very cheap (couple hundred $$) and I did so with the expectation that they would be "learning experiences" and quite likely would not result in a rideable bike. I'd hesitate to spend $1K on a bike with a bad bottom end (with more $ anticipated on parts and tools) if I just wanted to learn how to wrench OR of I expected to build a runner out of it.
    #18
  19. rd400racer

    rd400racer Long timer

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    My current basket case build (although it was complete). It's been hanging like this for 5 years. I did drop the engine back in this summer (after Ed Toomey did some head work for me) and my wife actually picked up a tail section I found while she was in Pennsylvania this week. I figure in 6 months I may even paint the gas tank:D

    Like others have said, be prepared for it to be a long process (hopefully not this long!).


    rzhang.jpg
    #19
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  20. Turtletownman

    Turtletownman Been here awhile

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    The most expensive bike you'll ever buy is free one-this one's not even free!

    Bob
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