For those who caught the list of bikes in my previous post, you’ll likely see a pattern. Outside of maybe the SOHC 750-4, most of the bikes I’ve rebuilt and chosen to love have been also-rans. Not necessarily high in popularity. Sometimes hard to source stuff for (especially the ’82 650 Seca and the ’72 GT380). Many were frequently considered lost causes (why would someone care about that pig of a 1992 KDX250 when the 200 was better and more common?).
I’ve made my choices for a few reasons. As afterthought-bikes, they could usually be picked up at bargain rates. They had enough common parts to other bikes that they’d require a minimum of parts-bin searching if there wasn’t something specifically made for them. I also liked learning details about the design decisions and experiments that happened in the lesser-known chapters of motorcycling history. Come on, how many people know that Suzuki was the first manufacturer to mass-produce liquid cooled street bikes with the “water buffalo?”
More important than those points, though, was that I wanted to find the potential in what was there. That is why I adopted the moniker King Moon Racer of motorcycles. I am drawn to the Island of Forgotten Toys for the two-wheel set.
These bikes usually have significant intangibles referred to as “character.”
We’ve all heard “it is the rider, not the bike, that makes the difference.” With less-than-perfect bikes that means the rider/owner must learn to give the bike what it needs. One must ride the bike the way it wishes to be ridden. Learn and adapt to the personality of what you’ve made, rather than demanding a bike that always accommodates you. This creation of a relationship with a machine seems to have been somewhat lost, just as it has with today’s cars compared to the scary-best of American Muscle. Curiously, it is also what seems to be missing in how many people approach relationships with other humans as well. Can you adapt to a bike? Can you adapt to a person? Learning to live with the essence/personality of a person or a machine can be a great learning, wisdom-providing, experience.
Another piece of the pattern, at least for me, is working from obviously neglected bikes. While I’ll get into my technical reasoning and justification for this in a later chapter, there is an emotional, principled component that I need to get off my chest. This is a section that I hope becomes a character-building point for my own children. A person should care about what they’ve committed to, especially when the going gets tough. Though far from a perfect analogy, our family has rescued dogs from the local shelter. Outside of one escape-artist, it has worked out very well. Most look at puppies. I’ve had shelter employees describe people who surrender an older dog but are back the next week to adopt a puppy. When it is not easy or emotionally satisfying, they bail.
My wife and I make it a point to look at older dogs. They have usually been trained, they usually respond incredibly to getting the love that they once had, but that faded when life was no longer easy. Great lessons are learned, and strength is found from connecting in this way. If we ever do take in a puppy, it is some sort of cross-breed or "oops litter" result.
There is a mechanical parallel, especially in the world of non-competitive riders. They don’t need the latest, as they will never be the fastest. Yet they throw away the possibility of learning lessons, about bikes...and themselves...by “buying the purebred puppy” …and providing it no care or upkeep. Within a couple of seasons, they toss the scrap or sell their problems to someone else in pursuit of the next “puppy.” I understand those who just flat-out bought the wrong bike out of ignorance (e.g.: a first-time rider buying a 450-F MX bike for trail riding after watching experienced buddies). I also understand those with means pursuing the best options that can be afforded…especially for professional reasons, like with Kyle at The Dirt Bike Channel. However, I have no respect for those who do not respect and care for what they ride or who walk away from fixable problems.
I truly believe that a rider should become mechanically intimate with their ride (clean minds, please). If you are unwilling to get over the fear factor of mechanical repairs, or if you were really born without the “handy gene,” I’d suggest you have a ton of money and a second bike on hand. Shop time is far more expensive than parts and tools. Wait times for an open mechanic can be long during (or right before) peak riding season. If something breaks, you want to be able to get it resolved yourself, so you don’t waste trail time or money. A one-bike guy who relies on a shop to do everything above changing a spark plug can expect to be down for a significant amount of any given riding season.
So…given this mindset, a very limited budget, and kids who desire me to ride with them sooner rather than later, I began combing the classifieds. Rather quickly, I found the project that drove me to write this piece.
A very neglected, abused, but basically intact 1997 Honda CR250R for under $700.