Project Lowbucks: Buying a Dirt Bike for Dirt Cheap, Pt. 2

Nov. 10, 2011 By Rick Sieman
Here's what the bike looked like when we bought it.

In Part 1 of our Project Lowbucks Project, we told you how and where to look for a dirt cheap dirt bike. We also told you what kind of bikes you should be looking for and what bikes to avoid. Also, there were solid tips on how to troubleshoot a non-running bike.

Now letís take a look at what we bought for $100. Itís a 1994 Suzuki RM250. Yep, I said a í94 RM250. How did we get it so cheap? The owner just moved to Arizona from Idaho and had dragged the Suzuki with him.  Naturally, it was not running and had a few missing things. The bike gathered dust and leafs and looked pretty bad Ö to the untrained eye. 

Luckily, being a crusty old codger, I had a trained eye.  There was no gas tank and the piston was missing.  The top end was off the bike and lots of crud had found its way into the exposed bottom end. 

All the plastic and the saddle was covered with dirt and leafs.

Still, the bike was mostly complete. All the plastic was there, as was the saddle. Both wheels looked solid, the forks werenít showing any leaks, the shock looked good and all the cables and controls were there. Wonder of wonders, there was even an aluminum stand that went with the bike. At that point, I realized that I could sell the bike parts on eBay for a tidy profit if the engine was dust. The owner even had a clear title. So I whipped out the $100 bill so fast it almost set my wallet on fire.

The bike was stripped down and given a bubble bath.

As soon as I got the bike home, it was time for a thorough cleaning. The chain was removed and the bottom end was covered; then it was lots of soapy water and elbow grease for an hour or so. The plastic all cleaned up nicely once the grit was gone; the saddle looked almost new once it was cleaned. When the wheels were done, they looked great! Both wheels were anodized gold Exel Takasagos, worth at least $150 each on eBay. Some degreaser took care of the engine and frame. Amazingly both sprockets looked good and the chain was definitely usable.

It started to look like a decent bike when cleaned.

All the plastic panels and shrouds looked good with the crud removed.

When all the cleaning was done, it sure didnít look like a hundred dollar bike any more.

Now for the important part; was it mechanically sound? A crate was put under the bike and the chain put back on. Then the bike was put in neutral and the rear wheel spun. A push down on the shift lever engaged first gear, then the lever was taken from neutral to a half dozen times. Each gear got the same treatment and all five gears were cleanly engaged. So far so good.

That rear wheel alone was worth a few hundred on eBay.

Both brakes were checked; the front was fine and rear brake pedal went all the way through the stroke without slowing the wheel down. Some brake fluid was put in the reservoir and the brakes bled. Voila, we had brakes again.
The bike was then taken off the stand and some premix was poured into the bottom end. A bunch of crud floated up and out of the cases, including a few dead spiders and bugs. It took a few gallons of gas to get the lower end properly clean, then the bike was turned upside down to get all the premix out. A blast with the air hose finished the job.
Back on the stand, the bottom end was checked. The crank rotated nicely with no funny sounds heard. There was the proper amount of side play and no up or down play in the rod. The top end was checked closely and the liner seemed good, with no marks or aluminum deposits. Since the RM250 has a coated liner, it was checked for wear. Luckily it checked out at a 67mm bore, the correct stock measurement.

Complete cylinder-less piston.

Since there was no piston to check, a brief inspection showed that the power valve had come loose and thatís what smoked the piston. Oddly, the power valve itself didnít seem badly damaged, but a closer look showed that the linkage on the power valve had failed, letting the edge of the valve make contact with the piston. There was no damage on the head.
No damage was visible on the liner.

The head was clean and had no dings or dents.

Lower end checked out OK.

A piston, rings, gasket set and some new power valve linkage parts were obtained the $88.45. A gas tank (aftermarket and with more capacity than stock) was found on eBay. A new petcock and gas cap were mooched off a buddy who just happened to own IMS.

A used aftermarket gas tank was purchased for $50.

With all this out of the way, the spark was checked and turned out OK.  The trans oil was drained out and the fluid checked for aluminum residue.  It looked good.

The cylinder was bolted home.

Here the head is in place.

So at this point, we had a total of $238 invested.  Not too shabby for a 1994 RM250. Heck, even the tires were in decent shape. In Part 3, weíll try to get a bunch of the bike put together and maybe even get it started. Maybe.

If you missed our first section of Project Lowbucks, check out that out here. Newsletter
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