Project Lowbucks Yamaha YZ250: Cleanup on Wheels and Triple Clamps

Sep. 08, 2014 By Rick Sieman and Wes Holmes
In this Project Lowbucks feature, our goal is to turn this beater (left) into something like this (right).

Our goal in all of our Project Lowbucks bikes is to buy a bike for little money and turn it into something great to ride and decent to look at.  We are not attempting to do a 10-point restoration here; instead we want to end up with an affordable dirt bike that will look good in your garage.

If you go out and shop for a new 250 or 450 MXer, you can pay as much as $8,000-10,000. This is all well and fine if youíre making lots of money, but if youíre like most of us, budgets are tight.

At this point we were ready to take on the wheels. Both wheels had a heavy layer of rust on the inner hub.

All it took was some medium-grit sandpaper and a bit of hard work to get the rust off (left). When the liner was sanded clean, we sprayed it with contact cleaner (right).

It wasnít that long ago most of us rode reliable two-stroke motorcycles. Back then, you could take a motorcycle and repair the entire top-end for low dollars and do-it-yourself in a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Then, my friend, you were ready to go riding on Sunday.

What weíre trying to do is make fun riding and racing on dirt bikes within the reach of the average budget. To get the dirt bikes for any of our Project Lowbucks series, we went through  Craigslist or the local classifieds. With a little bit of patience, we will come across a decent dirt bike that needs some work, or a bike that started out as a project build and was a little bit beyond the skills of the current owner.

We then turned our attention to the rims, which looked like they were 200 hundred years old. A wire brush on our electric drill got most of the crud off (left). While we had the wire brush handy, the rear sprocket and sprocket bolts got the same treatment (right). The crud disappeared.

Looks like new!

If you use your head and arenít in a hurry, chances are very good that youíll be able to get some sort of a decent bike to start with. Donít get anything strange. Itís all well and fine to have a little bit of fun with an exotic Italian dirt bike, but when it comes time to find parts for it, itís a virtual nightmare.

While we had the wheels off, it seemed like a good time to get the spoke wrench out and check for proper tension. We found a half dozen spokes that were loose and tightened them up properly.

Wheel cleaner was sprayed on the hubs to get the accumulated grit off (left). A little bit of soap and water later and we had the wheels looking great (right).

The brakes needed attention. Rust from the hub was all over the brake lining. More sandpaper and elbow grease was needed.

The backing plate looked bad. The black paint was off in spots and crud was everywhere. Rather than trying to repaint the backing plate, the old faithful wire brush was incorporated.

Voila! After 20 minutes with the wire brush, the backing plate looked better than new.

Instead, look for Japanese two-strokes and look for the more popular models.  Consider Yamaha YZs, Suzuki RMs, Honda CRs and Kawasaki KX models. Also, there are a bunch of great bikes in the Enduro line like the Yamaha IT and the fantastic Kawasaki KDX.

A bit more time was spent on the inner part of the backing plate to get little bits of rust off, the springs were checked and a little tiny dab of grease was put on the actuation arm of the brakes.

Quite often, you can find these bikes not running, with a simple thing like a stuck piston as the culprit. One of our project bikes was a Suzuki RM and all it needed was a set of rings and some small pieces in the power valve setup to get it running again. Total cost to get this bike up and operating was about $100.

The top triple clamp needed paint, so it was time for a coating a gloss black.

The lower triple clamp needed some attention, too. First the clamp got a liberal dose of contact cleaner. This got the grease from the steering head bearings off of the triple clamps.

If you get an older bike, like something from the mid-70s, itís a good idea to get a beater bike for spare parts. By a beater bike we mean something thatís not really worth fixing up but could be used a good source of parts. You can get a bike like that for very low dollars and itís a good source of nuts, bolts, axles, triple clamps, wheels and a multitude of odds and ends that will keep your other bike running.

The steering head bearings got a piece of duct tape on to keep the paint off (left). While we were at it, the bearings were checked for wear. As it turned out, they were within tolerance. Once painted, we had our lower triple clamp looking like new (right).

One of my friends bought a YZ 250 for $500, spent another $200 make it work right, and bought a beater Yamaha for $100. So for $800, he has a decent vintage racer and a parts bike in reserve.

Reliability? You get something like a 250 stroke thatís 20 years old and you can put hundreds of hours on it before you need a fresh piston. And when you need one, the cost is low, the availability is there and you can do your repairs yourself in a short period of time.

So whatís stopping you from doing your own Project Lowbucks? Newsletter
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