Two stroke on a budget – doing the right deal.
First let me say this – buying an old motorcycle is an emotional decision devoid of logic. Nobody knows why any particular person finds any particular thing appealing or unappealing, therefore most of what I am going to say is totally pointless – you will do your own thing anyway. Half of the things most of us own are simply because we like them, we all have cupboards and rooms or garages full of spur of the minute purchases that we never use but can never quite bring ourselves to get rid of.
All I can really do is attempt to guide you so that if and when you make the decision to go for it you will have the best possible advice to ignore.
So let me begin:
Rule 1. decide what you want. Pick a model, make sure it floats your boat – stick with that decision.
Rule 2. Learn everything you possibly can about that model – search and join every forum you can find. Lurk the forum – work out who the dick heads are – they will always be there, work out who are the ones that really know what they are talking about are. Do not be put off by all the faults that seem to haunt whatever model you have chosen. This is an internet forum, people don’t go on them to tell others how well their bike is going – they go there because it isn’t going and they need to know why not.
Rule 3. Research prices and availability – the latter being probably the most important thing – just ask anybody that needs a set of clocks or a standard size barrel for an RD350, for example. The bikes we will be talking about here will be 10, 20, 30 or more years old and some parts could be rare – the rarer they get, the pricier they get. Don’t forget to check out parts compatibility either – some parts may seem hard to get but they could possibly have been used on other bikes too so it’s well worth knowing when you come to that hard to find doohickey that the main dealers stopped stocking 20 years ago.
Rule 4. Build what you love. The going can get tough sometimes, your heart has to be in it.
Rule 5. Flowers. Always treat the Mrs right, there will be times when you spend far too much time up to your elbows in oil, WD40 and that instant gasket that sticks like shit to an army blanket – maintain domestic harmony and future spending indiscretions are much easier to get away with:-)
Anyway enough of that – I’ll assume you have inwardly digested my words of painfully earned wisdom – on to assessing the bike, I will use my Aprilia as the example. It was pretty clear that there was plenty wrong with it, the problem I had was there was no key so a full assessment was impossible. However given the bargain price I wasn’t too worried if the engine needed a rebuild. These bikes use the Austrian made Rotax 122 engine – parts are plentiful and cheap. Lots of tuning parts are available too, which is a bonus, some of which are cheaper than going with the OEM parts.
I was concerned about the exhaust, this one was rusty and buying a new one would eat up about 185 of my hard won drinking vouchers. Fortunately it’s only surface rust so some hard work and a tin of decent high heat barbecue paint will have that looking splendid in no time, so that’s one big expense hopefully dismissed, I can’t be certain until I get it off and give it a full inspection.
The two seats were missing but they are easily available on line – you have to watch out for quality though, they wear quite badly. The prices people ask usually reflects the condition, you can get a grotty one for under a tenner or pay up to £35 for a really decent one – remember there are two on this bike. I got a pair in decent nick for about £35 so I can live with that.
The battery was obviously beyond saving, you should always budget for a new one, these little batteries have a hard life at the best of times but one that has been stuck in a shed for several years is bound to be as much use as a chocolate fire guard. They are about £25 new so not a major consideration, always worth mentioning in your price negotiations though.
The chain was obviously very rusty and will need replacing, as will the sprockets.
Tyres – if you are looking at any bike that has tyres on it that are more than about 5 years old they will need replacing even if the tread looks good. The rubber decays over the years and even if they look good they can not be relied upon to maintain integrity at speed. In other words they are likely to fail and cause you to plant your face in the tarmac – it ain’t worth the risk. Tyres can be really expensive and some bikes have tyre sizes that are hard to get hold of now. The early Honda Hornets for example have 16 inch wheels and there are only a few tyres that fit them, all tend to be quite expensive. Lots of the early Hornets have had later CBR wheels put on them which are 17 inch and so a much greater range of tyres is available at a much better price. As a bonus handling is improved too – a fine example of what I was rattling on about earlier – knowing as much as you can about the bike you want can pay dividends and put you in a better negotiating position. Anyway, the tyres on my RS are so bad it doesn’t take a genius to work out that both need replacing – best deal I have found so far was £108 for a pair – I checked this out before I went to see the bike.
The rear brake disc is very rusty and beyond redemption – £35 buys a replacement, the front is fine.
The brake caliper on the front is actually fine even though it needs a repaint. However as it has rubber components I will still be stripping it and replacing the seals – same with the rear caliper. A set of seals is not a lot of dosh and when it comes to braking it’s not worth taking chances. Just about every bike I ever do has the calipers serviced. One thing you can’t really check is the bleed nipples. The little bastards always seem to seize in the calipers – they are steel and the caliper bodies are aluminium, which is a bad combination. Just bear it in mind and use it as a negotiating point were appropriate.
The wheels are peeling quite badly – they are going to need stripping and redoing – time consuming and / or expensive depending on what route I take. Not decided yet but I know a bill is coming as I don’t have media blasting capability and they will probably need that. Powder coating looks good but is expensive, painting is cheaper but not so long lasting. You could be looking at £100 bill easily so bear that in mind. Don’t forget the wheel bearings – only £20 on the Aprilia but it’s another bill to think about, it’s starting to add up a bit now. It’s hard to check them with the bike on the floor and without removing the calipers so you can give the wheels a good spin – assume the worst, mention it to the seller in your negotiations if appropriate.
With a dead battery it was not possible to check the electrics. I could have taken a jump pack along but as all the electrical bits are easily available I didn’t bother. You can get a set of clocks for £25 and a cdi will set you back about the same so nothing electrical is going to break the bank on this one. Incidentally by comparison I saw a set of clocks for an RD350LC recently sell for £375 – do your research, folks.
The wiring loom looked fine from what I could see.
The keys were missing – this is a major bummer as you need the keys for the seat lock, tank and ignition, you can’t test a lot of you can’t turn the bike on. On later bikes it’s a much bigger consideration as they have the immobiliser function built in. I would think very carefully before spending a large sum of money on any bike that has an immobiliser and no key – it always means a big bill. On the Aprilia it’s no big deal, a lock set is fairly cheap and it’s easy to hot wire for testing. Watch out for second hand prices, before I went to see the RS I checked lock set prices – brand new from £45, second hand ones were anything up to £80. Aprilia sell a set of 3 barrels with two keys which is a much cheaper option – research again, folks.
Tank – mine had a rather nasty brown stain on it, something had been spilt on it I have no idea what it was. The visible part of the tanks on these are plastic and are only about £25 second hand so again it was not a big concern, I was pretty confident I could use it – worse case scenario is that it would need a respray. Most other bikes have metal tanks and they can rust badly. Treatments are available but some are beyond redemption. I have a Kawasaki Zephyr 550 in my workshop, I can’t get a tank anywhere for it because they all rust really badly. I saw one but it looked like it had been run over by a lorry and the seller still wanted over 100 quid for it.
Engine – a big unknown as I said earlier, neither I nor the seller knew if it was good or not so I had to assume the worst. These are available second hand but they attract really good money – anything up to about £400, parts for them on the other hand are quite cheap – a complete bottom end rebuild kit with all the gaskets and bearings is about £140, for example. The unknown state of this example is the biggest gamble for me and it could come back to haunt me but having done my research I think I will be pretty unlucky if it needs much more than piston and rings. Time will tell.
Frame all looks good.
Forks need the seals doing – back to the issue of rubber parts perishing again, the set of seals is about £12 – don’t go for the cheapest, there are some nasty crappy ones out there that will last a year if you are lucky, spend a bit more on a well known make.
Rear suspension – the expensive bit is obviously the shock / spring assembly. Prices on the Aprilia range from about £40 for a new Chinese one – no thanks – up to about £250 for a top notch YSS one. Second hand they can be had for as little as £20. I will budget about £60 for mine and if I get lucky when I come to buy one I might get one for much less. Don’t forget the linkages / dog bones, they can add a good few quid to the bill. If you can put the bike on the center stand and have a good old wiggle about to check everything is good and that there is no movement where there shouldn’t be. Watch what the MoT man does and that will give you a good idea of how to check it all.
General condition, just check everything, lights indicators, fairing panels, clocks, seat – everything. It all adds up.
Weigh it up, offer the right price and pray to the God of restoration that you haven’t missed anything – another quick anecdote to end this article:
When I first started doing this I bought an imported Honda Magna that had been rotting in somebody’s garden for god knows how many years. I bought it on line and got it for what I thought was a good price. I was told it had the keys – it didn’t so I got a discount – fair enough. It was almost complete but was missing the side panels. I had done a search on a well known web site and found panels for sale for about £30 so I wasn’t worried – big mistake! After I bought the bike and I came to look for the panels I noticed that while there were loads of left hand panels available at about the thirty quid mark there was not a right hand one to be had anywhere. In the end after about 3 months of trying I found one in the USA. I knew I had to act fast so I bought it. With the purchase price, postage, import duties and respraying that one single part cost me £270. Some idiot didn’t do his research properly. Fortunately you can learn from my stupidity.
Next time I will be looking at the engine and seeing what we have. TTFN, Dave.
Article provided by David Powell of Boston Bike Bits.