Project Lowbucks: Building a Dirt Bike for Dirt Cheap, Part 5

Feb. 22, 2012 By Rick Sieman
We left Project Low Bucks in the back of the pickup truck just in case we couldn't get it started.

In part four of getting a dirt bike for dirt cheap, we ran into the real world of taking care of details. Untold hours were spent in chasing down nuts and bolts and fasteners of various sorts. Then we had the problem of a leaking gas tank and an unruly fuel petcock. 
As you might recall, we started out life with a 1994 Suzuki RM 250. It was found underneath a pile of leaves and dirt and inhabited by a bunch of insects. Still, it sold for $100 with a clear title. The filthy pile of debris started to look more like bike after we spent the better part of the day cleaning all the accumulated crud off the plastic, frame and engine. Almost everything was there, except the gas tank and the piston.
Wes and Kevin gassed up the bike and carefully checked to see if everything was okay. It wasn’t, as we had leaks from the float bowl of the carburetor and a leak from our repair in the gas tank.  Still, the leaks weren't that bad and we decided to start the bike anyway.  It fired up and we made some basic adjustments on the carburetor until it idled properly.

It became rather clear to us why the piston was not there when we saw the all the loose ends dangling from the two-stroke exhaust power valve, with marks on the valves where it they made contact with the piston. Apparently the piston was so badly damaged that the owner just gave up and left the open cases to accumulate all the spiders and bugs.

Other Project Lowbucks Stories:
Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1

The absence of the gas tank was understandable in that many of the Suzukis experienced a leaking tank and most owners didn't have a clue how to fix it. We purchased a tank on eBay for $50 and it was a larger than standard tank, which was justified in our book, in that it gave us a much greater range than the stock fuel tank.
A new piston, rings, gasket set and some missing hardware for the exhaust valve set up cost us $88. So there we were, with under $250 total in the bike. All we had to do was put it together and get it running. This was not as difficult as that might seem, and the assembly of the motor was rather straightforward. For a while, we couldn't find any spark and this was traced back to a bad spark plug cap, which is inherent in the design of the Suzuki.
Kevin got the nod for the first ride on the bike. At this point, the RM 250 would start on the first kick, which was a good sign.

On the plus side, the sprockets seemed just fine, the chain was reusable, the shock was not leaking and the forks appeared to be in good shape. We did a basic check on the gears, and the transmission seemed to be functioning. The plastic cleaned up amazingly well and even the saddle cover was in good shape. By the time we got everything together and bolted up, the bike looked pretty good.
In order to get the bike started, we decided to get help from our friends Wes Holmes and Kevin Bradley. The RM 250 was loaded in the back of a pickup truck and carted off to Mesa, Arizona. We decided to get the bike started in the back of the truck in Wes’s driveway. That way, if it didn't work, we would simply take it back to the garage. 
It took us about 20 minutes of fiddling around before the bike started, and when it did, it revved way too high. The throttle cable was adjusted and the idle screw on the carb was turned way down. Eventually, the carb adjustment was about right and we actually got the Suzuki to idle properly. At this point, we noticed that the gasoline was leaking from the overflow in the float bowl a bit and the fuel tank repair that we had was also weeping somewhat. Wes made a note that we should never make a silicone repair where gasoline was going to be present. Instead, he said that we should have used a good epoxy repair, or use a plastic heat gun.
Leaks aside, we've got the bike to where it would start easily on the first kick and sit there patiently and idle. Kevin got the nod and became the first person to ride the bike. So with his baseball cap on backwards, tennis shoes and shorts, he took the Suzuki RM 250 motocrosser down streets of Mesa, no doubt breaking a multitude of laws in the process.
Kevin made a few passes up and down the street and the bike ran okay. When he blew his baseball cap off, we figured the bike was running just fine. Kevin commented that it was much stronger his KX 250.

It took about a minute until the bike started running cleanly, but when it did, the Suzuki sounded really strong. Kevin ran through the gears and blew his baseball cap off rather quickly. He came by us with a big grin on his face and the bike sounded really good. He turned around and went the other way and proceeded to rev the bike out a bit. Then he came at us again and popped a nice wheelie. The grin on his face got even bigger.
After a few minutes of this, we waved him down and loaded up the bike quickly before any black helicopters came down out of the sky and arrested us for a dozen years or so. 
Kevin was ecstatic about the bike. He had a KX 250, the same year, and noted it was nowhere near as strong as the Suzuki. To say that the RM 250 was a raging success is an understatement. We ended up with a bike that was worth about $1500 to $1600 for under $250. And that, my friends, is hard to beat. All that remained was for us to get some proper gear on and take it out in the dirt and wring it out.
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