A 1997 CR250R? Really? They supposedly handle terribly. They supposedly vibrate horridly. They have a tiny tank and a 19” rear wheel when you’re going off-road. You’ll spend more than what the bike is worth before you’re anywhere close!
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
It is time, once and for all, to end the line of argument about the “value” of ANY bike regarding maintaining, restoring or improving it. This is not a disposable commuter-car that you’ll drive until it explodes. We’re not watching an episode of “flip this bike.” This is a dirt bike that you are riding, and keeping, for passion. It will hurt you badly if things go wrong on the move, so you must make things right. This is a relationship, and you don’t start a relationship with plans on how to end it.
With any used bike, you are effectively buying someone else’s problems (see my previous post about neglect and “puppies”). Any used bike purchased from someone you don’t personally know should be expected to cost you additional hundreds to thousands if you are responsible about it, especially at the 15-20-year age mark.
Old radiator hoses could burst. Most people haven’t looked at their clutches unless they fried them. The cases should eventually be split for transmission inspection. At the very least all bottom-end seals should be considered suspect after more than a decade. Even if the PO didn’t shatter a piston or break off rings before, there will be wear on 20-year-old nikasil plating, or a bore/hone needed for a pressed iron liner. Electrical components need attention (when was the ignition coil last tested for output strength?), and for some reason many people are just flat-out scared of their electrical system.
That is only to get the motor operating. Time to think about everything outside the motor. Is that tube material on the inside of the tire, or tire carcass fused to the tubes? Brake lines age out. Suspension linkage and steering bearings/bushings need to at least be disassembled and inspected…likely replaced. Have the cables been regularly lubed? Are the rotors in spec for thickness? Do you want to take a bet on the condition of the fork bushings/internals/oil? Do you think the shock has ever been opened for a servicing with fresh oil?
Remember, everything I just asked only gets someone to the point of reliable functionality. Anyone who is going to make a bike “theirs,” even if they start with a brand-new bike, will end up spending thousands more. No matter what someone starts with, they are in for hundreds in suspension re-springing and re-valving, not to mention customizations like fuel capacity, bark busters, skid plates, proper rubber for their riding style, a bar bend that suits them, and so on. Has anyone kept track of the specialized tools associated with the last three paragraphs? Of course, many put a sick set of graphics ahead of all these more important items…sigh…
Think you’re safe buying a bike that was never raced? Well, that’s usually even worse with old bikes. Race bikes need regular maintenance to remain competitive. Recreational bikes can be abused to the point of near-death if they still move an owner down the trail. Numbers on the pates can actually be a good sign on an older bike.
The sum of all this is that any rider, if they are at all honest about owning a dirt bike…new or used…will realize that looking at return or resale is ridiculous. Looking at “value” is all about the experience rather than a sale price. Anyone looking to really own a bike needs to forget about resale and focus on the outcome. Of course, since so many things need to be touched, and so many things could be suspect, it seems to make the most sense to me to buy the obviously-neglected specimen for the lowest price…as long as it is all there and repairable.
As for the performance envelope of the 1997 CR itself, well, I’m not worried. The motor is known to be a reliable fire-breather, and it can be tamed down with a flywheel weight and other minor tweaks. In the handling department, I’ve heard that proper suspension work fixes many woes. Lacing up an 18” rear wheel, plus running a high-profile front tire, with both ends at low pressure, should help with some of the jarring. There are many options that have come about in the last 20 years to handle the stiff chassis, both in hand/foot shock control and vibration isolation. Even a light-pull hydraulic clutch…or a recluse…is not out of the question since a 20-year-old clutch will need attention anyway.
Also, let’s be real about me. I’m an older guy. I weigh 225 before gear. I’m not competitively fast, and never will be. I have a few years where I’ll need to be able to go slow while my kids adapt, grow and learn speed. If they eventually outrun me, I’ll gladly sport for the next bike at that point if I can physically handle it. If I can’t handle it, well, I’m happy to become their crew chief.
Before digging in, though, I made sure to find my online resources. Curiously, I haven’t been able to find a “CR Two Strokes” board or forum...until I found the sub-group within Thumpertalk itself (thank you again, Thumpertalk). With my old IT, I found the Vinduro group in Australia. With the Kawasaki, KDXRiders board was a huge help. The lack of a really large “CR Community” surprised me. However, while there wasn’t a dedicated site, I did find multiple social media fan groups.
The biggest find, though, was a site called FixYourDirtbike.com . The admin of this site decided to use a first-gen-aluminum CR as the base for many DIY Repair videos. With this virtual gold mine of support content available, I knew I shouldn’t really get stuck anywhere on this project.
So…looking at the CR…good parts availability…strong motor…unloved but with potential…reliable when owned with respect…tons of guys bagging on the choice in flame-forums…generous online repair tutorials to rely upon…to me, the 1997 CR250R seemed the perfect King Moon Racer bike.
…and so it began…