Basket Case Bike - Should I do it?

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

  1. 87warrior

    87warrior Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2020
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Kansas
    It sounds like the OP and I have a similar background, with the exception that I still have a couple of basket case Jeeps I drive everyday. My favorite Jeep is a 2003 Wrangler I bought in 2003 with two rods through the oil pan that I still own and drive.

    I didn't think this complete DT250 would be a basket case, but it sure is. It has been a $400 mistake that has consumed at least that in parts over the past couple of years and it is still in pieces in the shop. Something in its previous life fried every piece of electronic equipment on it. Bulbs, switches, points, condenser, coil, even the horn was fried. Sourcing parts has been an exercise in patience and daily scouring of the web...and I haven't pulled the jug off the case.

    Here is a twofer. Basket case Jeep hauling basket case Yamaha.
    upload_2020-11-17_9-0-56.png

    It is fun working on these things with no deadline since there is no stress. However that can also result in a project that takes up a lot of space for a long time. You also have to come to terms with the fact you will have more invested in the bike that it is worth when done.
    #21
    chainslap likes this.
  2. Lorretto

    Lorretto City Dweller Crushperado Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    548
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    OP there is a learning curve to everything and you didn't get the benefit of the tear down. If the bike was free and you have the space to have at it, great. It would be a fun project but as others have said may turn into a rabbit hole for money and parts. At $1K you can do better and not have to start quite so deep on the wrenching side.

    My first foray into a project bike was an XT250 that only had 1700 miles on the clock with a dead battery and gummed up carb. New battery and carb and it ran like new. It was clean bike the motor wasn't locked and had been sitting for at least a year under cover. The surprise was the air box was full of corn kernels from the chipmunks of something else using it as a winter retreat. Whatever project you end up with there will be unseen issues that you will have to deal with - hopefully whatever surprise you encounter is solved with elbow grease rather than spendy parts or machine work.

    Good luck with whatever path you take.
    #22
    jacktwitch likes this.
  3. dirt hokie

    dirt hokie Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,622
    Location:
    Eastern shore of MD
    1. Its better to find a complete assembled bike to learn on, running or not. Manuals assume you saw it together, and you took it apart. Lots of little important details get left out
    2. two strokes are easier, and usually cheaper to work on. They simply have less top end parts.
    3. Anything under 10-15 yrs old is often easy to find parts for. The more long lived the model, the better. Honda XR' s are a good example.
    4. If the problems with a bike were easy or cheap to fix, or it was maintained well , it would not have ended up as a basket case.
    5. you best "non running" used bikes deals, that can often be flipped for profit or at least to break even are kids bikes. Many times they get bought new, ridden a few times and parked in the back of grandpops garage for a few years. Gas goes bad, carb gets gummed up.....You can often get them running for next to nothing.
    6. Be honest and accurate with your budget estimates. A true basket case will soak up $1000 bucks quick, on top of what you pay for it. And for 1500 to 2000 you can buy a decent running bike...
    7. You will not save any money, your only upside is learning and enjoyment of working on stuff.
    #23
    Meriden and jacktwitch like this.
  4. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,172
    Location:
    Irving, Tx
    To be fair, the PO already does old trucks and jeeps, so he is probably pretty aware of the wrench vs buy pristine relationship. All of the “you will never get your money back” (even though I usually do; just takes more patience)

    what he needs is the difference between doing this with old trucks and doing it with bikes.
    The positive, is the ratio or wrenchers to riders is more in your favor than with old trucks. That is the reason I think you can do better than that deal. Especially with dirt bikes. They sit more, stop running, and become something taking up space really fast. I have seen bikes that just need carbs cleaned go that cheap (or cheaper) when the owner is not mechanically inclined. Fewer shops work on bikes, as well. This also helps the supply vs demand ratio in the wrenchers favor with bikes.

    the bad is parts are going to be harder than your old trucks. No real wrecking yards like for your old trucks. Some online ones like Bates. Dirt bikes are better than Japanese street bikes. European and American bikes are easier to get parts for as well.
    Like someone mentioned with the XR earlier, like your Jeep’s, the models they made for more years the same will have more part availability.

    one note of caution, with the bikes. The consequences of something breaking on you on the bike can be more severe than on an old car or truck. When a four wheel vehicle dumps oil on a tire, or locks up a motor, ect., your face will likely not become a projectile headed for the ground. Like when I was just going to ride a bike with a mild rod knock a few blocks away instead of using a trailer when I was taking it to the shop to swap the motor out. My friend pointed out the fact that I was literally straddling a potential grenade, and asked me if I really thought it was a good idea. I quickly realized it wasn’t.

    otherwise, mostly it is like building old cars and trucks, and most of the rest of the same rules apply.
    #24
  5. motomike14

    motomike14 Thumper Crusader Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2010
    Oddometer:
    3,495
    Location:
    Florida
    Used dirt bike prices are through the roof lately. The plus side of a YZ250 is parts are easy to find, and 2005+ plus are all the same minus some plastic changes. Those mid 90s YZs had all sorts of weird crossover and "gap year" bikes with one off parts and part numbers.

    If you ever wanted to dive head first into one, that's a good one to start with. Two strokes are mind numbingly simple compared to cars. If the rod is jacked up, there's a good chance you'd also be looking at some cylinder work, whether a nikasil replate or new replacement.

    As others said, $1200 is probably steep, but some of that depends on what "parts" he said he has for it, and how organized things are. I've bought basket cases with every part diligently labeled, and others where a dude just tosses all the parts in a random box.

    At minimum, even if you got it for say $850 and decided you're over your head, someone would buy the frame, swingarm and suspension for at least that.
    #25
    jacktwitch likes this.
  6. chainslap

    chainslap BlessedarethesicK Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,987
    Location:
    The Dirty South
    I think you've already been given reasonable advice.

    Nothing wrong with wanting to learn. But the only lesson I think here is that you'll learn how to throw away a thousand dollars.

    No way I'd spend a grand on unknown parts. That's essentially what you're doing.

    If it were free and you had the time, desire and some extra coin to get it working then maybe. But as others have noted they are time consuming, and you'll most likely spend way more than it's ever worth. And that might be ok with you.

    My simple opinion is you could find a lot better starting point for a grand and still learn and not have a ton sunk into it when you're done.

    Either way have fun with your new hobby.
    #26
  7. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    Thanks for the input everyone, I appreciate it.

    I think the idea of starting with a (mostly) running XR, breaking it down to address issues and learning step by step might be more reasonable.

    Now that I type it out that is a lot of money for a box of parts.
    #27
    MattLikeyBikey likes this.
  8. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    Thats a good idea, I am a die hard honda fan anyway
    good to know
    excellent points, I was distracted by the "new" parts and didnt consider the others.
    YZ250
    yeah I am being too trusting for sure.
    good perspective, thanks
    dang, that doesnt sound like fun.
    kind of what I was going for, but best case scenario
    #28
  9. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    I went to vegas ONCE, and proved I already know how to throw away money, not that much though

    I like what your saying, patience makes sense.
    #29
    chainslap likes this.
  10. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    thanks , this is exactly what i was looking for. I get that its not a way to make a ton of money, break even at best.
    good to know

    i am very aware of the failure cost, whatever it is would only be ridden on dirt <20 - 30 MPH
    #30
    Big John Sny likes this.
  11. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    Darn near spot on on background. My current jeep is a 98 TJ that I bought with a blown transfer case, broken cheapo lunchbox locker in the front, and a bad fuel pump. What took me and a buddy a saturday and a case of beer saved me $3k. Looking to sell her now that I need four doors thanks to the little one.

    Electrical is the bane of my existence, just about the only thing on four wheels that I will pay for .

    That DT looks like fun, but I really dig the Commanche, labeled the MJ right? I wish the new jeep truck resembled it more.
    Nothing like a beater pickup that takes XJ parts available in every junkyard in america ( well at least before cash for clunkers)

    I like the idea of a project with no deadline to work on during the winter months, but I think I just need to be more patient and discerning.

    Thanks again everyone
    #31
    87warrior likes this.
  12. twerth

    twerth Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    37
    Location:
    Parkville, MO
    To follow up on my previous input, I mentioned that I wouldn't take the chance again (i.e. spend~$1k on a box of parts), but I did gain valuable experience. I'm not afraid to blow an engine apart if necessary, and I'm confident that I can put it all back together successfully. Since that project I've had the opportunity to split cases on two more project bikes (both Ducatis), and they both turned out great. One is my daily driver.
    #32
    jacktwitch and Big John Sny like this.
  13. 87warrior

    87warrior Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2020
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Kansas
    The whole XJ/MJ/ZJ/TJ/WJ line up was great because a lot of the parts interchange like Legos. Comanche is also known as the MJ and is becoming a hard vehicle to find. They were easier to find parts for 15 years ago when a nice rust free 2wd 4cyl was selling for $500 and a parts XJ could be had for $100. Those parts and deals have sure dried up today!

    Sourcing parts for the DT is kind of like sourcing parts for the MJ. Some parts are readily available and others are made of unobtanium.
    #33
    Big John Sny and jacktwitch like this.
  14. Dayypete

    Dayypete Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    84
    That is a really good well thought out response to the question IMHO. There is always something.
    #34
    jacktwitch likes this.
  15. jacktwitch

    jacktwitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Northern AZ
    those were the good old days. id love to find one of the ZJ's with a V8 in half decent condition
    #35
  16. small_e_900

    small_e_900 Amanda carried it

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,395
    Location:
    Map 27 Mudpuddle Maine
    Buy the bike.
    What else are you going to do with your time? Sit in front of the TV?
    I'd want to pay less than a grand for a box of parts though.
    #36
    jacktwitch likes this.
  17. Andyvh1959

    Andyvh1959 Cheesehead Klompen Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    4,414
    Location:
    Da frozen tundra eh? 1.5 mile west of Lambeau
    Buy it cheap enough and if nothing else you'll learn from it. Back in 04 I bought a complete 1980 XR200 Honda for $60, with the intent of setting it up as a dirt bike for my then wife. Bike was really beat up but all there. I torn the engine down (not my 1st) and found a beat up piston/con-rod, busted piston rings, pieces broke off the piston skirt. The "oil" in the engine looked more like gritty grey silly putty, and acted like it too. Took some time, ebay parts searching, etc, but got it cleaned up and updated with a Wiseco overbore high compression piston, new con-rod, other parts. Still have to finish it (divorced in 07), and I suspect a bent shifter fork as it doesn't shift through the gears. But should make a fun little classic dirt bike.
    #37
    jacktwitch likes this.
  18. ricksax

    ricksax Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2013
    Oddometer:
    93
    Lots of good advice here. But before you buy a clapped-out Honda RFVC XR (200, 250, 350, 400, 500, 650) go look at the parts fiche for the top end. They are very complex engines, and maybe not the best place to start. The Radial Four Valve Design uses counterbalancer, cam chain, cams, cam followers, and valve lifters. Lots of pieces that must be put back together right. Just a thought. You want one that has not been abused and has had good air filtration and regular oil changes. If you can rebuild one, you will end up a master mechanic. Ask me how I know.
    #38
    jacktwitch likes this.
  19. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    4,778
    I’d bet it was hooked up to a big cheap battery charger, set on high amperage. Voltage gets stupid high on those settings, and will fry/blow damn near everything.

    Not that I’ve ever made that mistake!
    It’s...just something I’ve heard of. :lol3
    #39
    87warrior and ktmgeoff like this.
  20. 87warrior

    87warrior Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2020
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Kansas
    That was my guess too. Probably a cheap 12v charger. The bike has a 6v electrical system and battery.
    #40